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Triple Play: Matt Moore, Carlos Gonzalez, Adam Wainwright

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Triple Play: Matt Moore, Carlos Gonzalez, Adam Wainwright

Posted on 29 April 2013 by Chris Caylor

MattMoore2

Who’s Hot?

Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays’ 23-year-old lefty is off to a sensational start in 2013, going 5-0 with a 1.12 ERA and a WHIP of 0.87. If you’re lucky enough to have him on your fantasy team, chances are it is off to a good start as well. He does need to limit his walks (4.2 per 9 inn.), but he is permitting a league-best 3.7 hits per 9 innings. Expecting Moore to sustain that (and his ERA and WHIP by extension) would be foolish; however, there is reason for hope that he will be able to keep them in the 3.30/1.20 range: his swinging strike rate is BELOW the league average. Moore was fifth in the AL with 175 strikeouts in 177 innings pitched in 2012, so he has the ability to whiff hitters. If his swinging strike rate goes up, then he could be even more dominating than he’s been. That should be a scary thought for major-league hitters (and a dream for fantasy owners).

Who’s Not?

Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies

CarGo is the poster child for the Rockies’ slump. Although Gonzalez has 4 HR, 12 RBI and 4 SB in the season’s first four weeks, Gonzalez is hitting a paltry .111 with three singles in his past six games. He has not hit a home run in his past 10 games. The slump is severe enough that Rockies manager Walt Weiss gave Gonzalez the day off Sunday. While it’s obviously too early to get too concerned about the kind of season CarGo will have, it may not be too early to wonder if the Rockies’ hold on first place in the NL West is already slippling away. With Gonzalez slumping, the timing of Troy Tulowitzki’s shoulder injury might be enough to push the Rockies out of first place in the division. And once they’re out of first, the chances of them getting back there aren’t good. If you own Gonzalez, you really have no choice other than to ride out this slump.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .271/.326/.365, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 11 runs, 4 SB
Player B: .286/.307/.514, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 10 runs, 0 SB

Both of the players listed here batted cleanup for their teams on Saturday night. Player A is the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp. Player B is Yuniesky Betancourt. Yes, you read that correctly. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke actually did this. I know Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez are both on the disabled list. I know Rickie Weeks is slumping horribly. But, still, really? A guy with a career OPS+ of 83 hitting cleanup? Naturally, of course, Betancourt would go 2-for-5 with an RBI. This means it will likely happen again (although it didn’t repeat itself on Sunday). I can’t actually bring myself to suggest that a fantasy owner pick up Yuni, so I’ll just say this instead: all fantasy stats count, regardless of who accumulates them. He would be an easy drop once the inevitable regression back to his usual terrible self happens.

Player A: 0-0, 1.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 4 saves
Player B: 2-0, 0.81 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 6 saves

Player A is Edward Mujica, the Cardinals’ current closer. Player B is Jim Henderson, the closer for the Brewers after John Axford’s implosion. Mujica replaced Mitchell Boggs, who had replaced Jason Motte. A fellow owner in my NL-only league mentioned Mujica as soon as Motte’s elbow injury became public knowledge. He had the foresight to pick up him. I, on the other hand, figured that young flamethrower Trevor Rosenthal would become the closer. While that may still happen, Mujica has done an excellent job closing games. Henderson, meanwhile, may not give the job back at all. He is 6-for-6 in save chances and I would not put much stock in manager Ron Roenicke’s concern about Henderson throwing too many pitches as the closer. Axford may have had a few scoreless innings of late, but he has proven repeatedly that he cannot handle the ninth-inning pressure on a regular basis. Yanking Henderson from the job would be a terrible decision. Then again, Roenicke has shown a flair for terrible choices before (see Yuniesky Betancourt above).

Random Thoughts

  • Any questions about whether Adam Wainwright is “all the way back” from Tommy John surgery? Through five starts, the man they call “Waino” is averaging more than 7 innings per start, with a 37/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. One walk in five starts. Lots of pitchers can’t get through five innings without issuing a free pass.
  • Conversely, the Cardinals’ bullpen is a hot mess right now. While it’s so frustrating to watch the bullpen ruin two decent starts over the weekend from Jake Westbrook and Shelby Miller, it is still April. Here’s hoping that general manager John Mozeliak stays true to his history and does not make a knee-jerk trade in response. It would be easy to deal a useful player like Matt Carpenter for a fungible setup man or middle reliever.
  • Doug Fister has hit eight batters already in 2013. Good thing he didn’t plunk Carlos Quentin that night or it might be him on the DL.
  • Shin-Soo Choo has already been hit by pitches 10 times this season.
  • Nelson Cruz is on another one of his carry-the-team-on-his-back hot streaks: 3 HR, 13 RBI, 6 runs scored, along with a hitting line of .440/.533/.840 over the past week.
  • Hilarious on-pace stat of the year so far: Mike Napoli is on pace to drive in 190 runs for the Red Sox.
  • Seriously, though, I don’t think Boston misses Adrian Gonzalez so far this year.
  • In the same at-bat versus Albert Pujols last week, Yu Darvish threw a 97 mph heater and a 64 mph curveball. Proving that he is human, Pujols struck out.
  • Going into Sunday’s games, Justin Upton and Allen Craig had each driven in 18 runs for their teams. The difference? Upton has 12 home runs and Craig has none.
  • Most of the hype among the game’s youngest players goes to Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, but don’t overlook 20-year-old Manny Machado in Baltimore. Machado is on a seven-game hitting streak, during which time he has compiled a .433 average, 5 RBI, 5 runs scored and two steals.
  •  Which one of these statements is true? Edinson Volquez pitched seven consecutive innings without walking a batter last week. Petco Park was sold out.
  • Believe it or not, it’s Volquez. Someone call Ripley.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Tis The Time For Bold Predictions Continued

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Tis The Time For Bold Predictions Continued

Posted on 30 March 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

How are those brackets holding up? Have they made it to the trash can yet? On the bright side, we are days away from Opening Day! Last week, the prediction jinx was placed on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to represent the American League in October’s Fall Classic. This week will be the National League 2013 preview.

TroyTulowitzki

There figures to be compelling season long races in both the National League East and West. The west features the defending World Series Champions, San Francisco Giants and also the new version of “Showtime”, the Los Angles Dodgers. While in the east, the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves both had very busy off seasons in the hopes of playing deep into October.

Starting out west, the rival Giants and Dodgers are expected to be in a season long two team race for the division championship. The Colorado Rockies are rebuilding and potentially experimenting with a new pitching model. Aside from Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies will have struggles and finish fifth with the campaign. The San Diego Padres will always compete with a solid bullpen and pitcher friendly park. However, in the end, the offense is not quite there to compete. They will finish just behind the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs, after making one of the impactful trades of the season will be a hard team to forecast. Ian Kennedy will have a nice season on the bump and Paul Goldschmidt is an emerging first baseman. Much like the Padres, they just do not have enough talent to compete.

The Giants and Dodgers have two very different philosophies. The Giants are a team first collective effort franchise. The sum of the parts is greater than one individual. Buster Posey is the offensive leader on the club and the pitching staff is one of the best in the league. On the other hand, the Dodgers brought in deep pockets to re-buy a new club. With one of the highest payrolls in all of baseball it will not quite be enough to overtake the champs in the divisional race. The Giants will be one, the Dodgers runners up.

For the first time in awhile, the Central Division has five teams competing. The division figures to be a one playoff team group with the Cincinnati Reds the favorites. The Reds have a balanced attack offensively and on the mound. How will Aroldis Chapman be utilized is the big question. The Pittsburgh Pirates have improved over the last two seasons. Led by MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates will continue to improve but fall short of the post season again.

With the remaining three teams in the Midwest, all will have very intriguing summers. The St. Louis Cardinals will compete. The offense under the arch has some pop. The club has two major downfalls however. The loss of Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse will have the starting rotation rely on young arms. Along with that, up the middle appears to be a weak spot and prevent a trip to the postseason. The Chicago Cubs have more questions then answers. The current outfield on the North side is not exactly Cooperstown bound but the Cubs however do have potential. They will be toward the bottom of the league in home runs, but quality of at bats will be a category they will be vastly improved in. The Milwaukee Brewers a week ago was a team that seemed to be viewed as an also ran. However, the surprise signing of Kyle Lohse makes the rotation much more improved. Can Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez carry the offense enough?

The National League East also figures to be a two team race as well between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves. The Miami Marlins cleaned house again and figure to have fifth place locked up. The New York Mets have young arms that could keep them relevant but sadly, David Wright will not quite have the same protection he did during the World Baseball Classic. A very under the radar team, The Philadelphia Phillies could wedge themselves into the division race, and also compete for a Wild Card spot as well. Health will be the key for the Phillies. Can Ryan Howard and Chase Utley play 140 plus games? Can Roy Hallady and Cliff Lee get back to CY Young numbers?

The popular pick in the National League is the Nationals. Loaded with talent, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez will lead the club all year. However, I expect even bigger things from the Braves. Chipper Jones is gone, but the law firm of Upton, Upton, and Heyward will be the “Big Three” in the ATL. The Braves lineup on paper is one of the best 1-7. The bullpen is top tier and the rotation will keep them in ball games. The Braves, not the Nationals win the East.

Once October hits the Wild Card match up will be east versus west as the Nationals will defeat the Dodgers and advance. Because of the weaker division, look for the Reds to be the team welcoming that wild card winner. However, the season will end there for the Reds as the Nationals will advance to the National League Championship. The other Divisional match up will pit the Braves versus the Giants. In an entertaining five games, the Braves will move on setting up an all east coast series.

With the two teams evenly matched in all categories, I am high on the Braves making a return trip to the Fall Classic to battle the Angels. An Angels versus Braves match up will be very entertaining to watch. The future of the game will be on display for both teams. In six games, I am giving the edge to the Angels to defeat the Braves in the World Series and make a short drive over to Disneyland to celebrate. Rally Monkeys welcomed.

When awards season hits, the East will be the landing spot for all of the major awards. Look for the Rookie of the Year to be in New York with pitcher Zack Wheeler. The CY Young winner will be in D.C. No it is not Stephen Strasburg, but Gio Gonzalez who has found a home in the National League and is the award winner. Both the Manager of the Year and MVP will be found on the same team. Once again, Atlanta could have a magical season after difficult ends to the previous two seasons. Manager Fredie Gonzalez and newcomer Justin Upton will bring home hardware. In a new uniform Justin Upton is the pick to click in the National League.

Soon it will be time to Play Ball and in October these will be lead pipe locks!

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A Look at this Year’s Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot – Meet Fred McGriff

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A Look at this Year’s Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot – Meet Fred McGriff

Posted on 28 December 2012 by Trish Vignola

Fred McGriff played 19 major league seasons with the Blue Jays, Padres, Braves, Devil Rays, Cubs and Dodgers. He is one of 37 players on the 2013 Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) ballot for the Class of 2013 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He returns to the ballot for the fourth time after receiving 23.9 percent of the vote in 2012.

FredMcGriff

BBWAA members who have at least ten years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election. The results will be announced Jan. 9. Any candidate who receives votes on at least 75 percent of all BBWAA ballots cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2013. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 28 in Cooperstown.

Born on Oct. 31, 1963 in Tampa, Florida, McGriff was drafted in the ninth round of the 1981 amateur draft by the New York Yankees. Nicknamed the “Crime Dog” in honor of his surname’s similarity to the children’s character “McGruff”, the following year he was traded to the Blue Jays. By 1987, he was playing full-time at the major league level.

In his second full season, he hit 34 homers. That was the first of seven consecutive seasons with 30 or more, a feat he accomplished 10 times. The following season he finished sixth in MVP voting and took home his first of three Silver Slugger Awards at first base. His 36 home runs led the league.

“When he comes up, we hold our breath,” said then-Rangers manager Bobby Valentine reports Samantha Carr of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 1990, McGriff finished 10th in MVP voting. He was then traded to the San Diego Padres with Tony Fernandez in exchange for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar. McGriff was not ready to be brushed to the footnotes of baseball history yet.

In his two full seasons with the Padres, he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting twice. He earned another Silver Slugger Award and made his first All-Star Game appearance. In 1992, he led the league in homers with 35, making him the first player since the dead-ball era to lead both leagues in home runs.

“He has outstanding bat speed,” said former Padres manager Greg Riddoch to the Baseball Hall of Fame. “When that ball jumps off his bat to left-center field, it’s like a shot out of a cannon.”

In 1993, McGriff was traded to the Braves. He went on an offensive tear over the second half of the season to rally the Braves to the division title. He finished fourth in MVP voting that season and won his third Silver Slugger Award.

In 1994, McGriff was named MVP of the All-Star Game and finished second in the Home Run Derby to Ken Griffey Jr. He was hitting .318 with 34 home runs before the strike ended the season. The next year, McGriff has another quality season – 27 home runs, 93 RBI – hitting cleanup for the Braves and hit two home runs to help Atlanta win the World Series title.

A quiet leader in the clubhouse, McGriff was known for his positive attitude and love of the game. “McGriff’s smile lights up a room,” said Riddoch.

In 1998, McGriff was picked up by the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he stayed productive for four seasons before ending his career with stops with the Cubs, Dodgers and eventually back with the Devil Rays.

McGriff finished his career just seven homers short of the 500 home run club, tied with Lou Gehrig for 26th all-time. He had a career .284 batting average, 2,490 hits, 441 doubles and 1,550 RBI. He and Gary Sheffield are the only players to hit 30 home runs for five different major league teams. In 10 postseason series, he batted .303 with 10 home runs, 37 RBI and 100 total bases. He was named to five All-Star Games, finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six times and ranks 42nd all-time in RBI.

“He had a marvelous career,” said former Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella. “He’s a classy person. He’s been a dominant player at his position for years. He played on a world championship team. If I had a [Hall of Fame] vote, I’d vote for him.”

With a ballot frought with controversy, a candidate like McGriff is refreshing. He gives legitimacy to baseball’s recent past and is more than deserving of enshrinment.

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Bike Spokes and Shoe Boxes – Free Stuff!

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Bike Spokes and Shoe Boxes – Free Stuff!

Posted on 05 December 2012 by Tim Danielson

OK, well not exactly free, but this week I will look at two very inexpensive ways to start and add to your collection.

For many collectors part of the joy of the hobby is getting cards and packages in the mail. Really, I mean who likes getting junk mail and bills? Requesting both “Team Fan Packs” and “Through the Mail” (TTM) autographs adds to your collection, gets you cool stuff in the mail and will only run you a couple of postage stamps. Every Major League team and several Minor League clubs have available items that are called “Fan Packs.” The packs will vary from team to team and year to year. A simple letter to the team’s home office requesting a Fan pack will net you something. One very important rule to remember though is that you MUST include a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE). Without a SASE you will get nothing. I usually receive a pocket schedule, a refrigerator magnet, a couple of stickers, or a pre-printed autograph card of a team player. Most of the teams I have contacted stuff the SASE as full as they can. A couple of teams have really gone the extra mile in their Fan Packs however. The Oakland A’s, New York Yankees and San Diego Padres all sent back large envelopes or a small box for their fan packs. I received official team magazines, season programs, post cards and small figurines or other left over stadium give-a-ways form the clubs above. The Padres even returned my original SASE. Please remember that past Fan Pack request success does not guarantee future success.

Most people who watch baseball wish to get an autograph of there favorite player. There are two very large and free databases available where you can get address of players who will sign and return your cards. A lot of collectors have success sending cards to a teams home or spring training stadiums. I have also had some success that way, but it is largely hit-and-miss. The player addresses databases available at The Bench and Sports Card Forum are maintained, updated, and often list the wait time to get your cards back. Some of the addresses are to a players corporate or business address, but there are a lot of home and personal addresses listed as well. There are a couple of players who will sign if you include a small donation to their charity, but those are listed in the database.

The most important thing to remember when requesting either Fan Packs or TTM autographs is to keep your letter short and polite. Use “please” and ‘thank you.” Also remember to include a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope. If it takes a player more than a minute to read your letter, sign the card and seal it back up again, your chances of getting anything back are greatly reduced.

Until next week, keep collecting, collect for the joy of the hobby and collect for the fan in all of us.

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chaseheadley

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Free Chase Headley!

Posted on 29 August 2012 by Will Emerson

In baseball, and I guess life itself,  it is always fun to play the “What if..” game. Always! What if Miguel Cabrera played for a contender, but in a hitter’s park? What if Bud Norris could pitch nearly as well on the road as he does at home? What if Tim McCarver enlightened people with his thoughts and insights? See? It’s a fun game, right? That’s rhetorical folks, just keep reading. I mean there is no real way to answer these questions, they are just posed to incite spirited debate and conjecture. Which brings me to Chase Headley.

As you know, Chase Headley plays for the San Diego Padres, who play their home games in Petco Park, which is widely known to be a picther’s park, to say the least. In 2012, for instance, only Safeco Field and AT&T Park proved harder to hit the ball out of and fewer runs were scored in only three other parks. So naturally, the home power, and generally all, numbers would be a bit on the low side for Padres hitters. Sure a very good hitter, like Adrian Gonzalez, can still do some damage there, but for most mere mortal hitters their numbers will get sapped and their fantasy value will drop. And no one’s value has been taking a bigger hit over the past few seasons because of this, than Mr. Headley.

Mired in this pitcherest of pitcher’s parks Headley’s fantasy and real life value can tend to be underesitmated. What he is doing in the month of August is a good indicator of what he is capable of. Thus far in August he has ten dingers, which is tied for the most in the month with Giancarlo Stanton.  He is tied with Adrian Gonzalez for the lead in RBIs this month, with 28.  His wOBA for the month is tenth in the majors at .424, and his OPS  of 1.027 is seventh.  Now obviously I am not saying that Headley can rock an OPS, or these other stupendous numbers, quite that high for a full season, but playing home games in a different park, could really raise his fantasy value. Just take a look at his slash lines (AVG/OBP/SLG) at Petco, the last three seasons:

2010- .237/.319/.315

2011- .243/.348/.326

2012- .266/.346/.412

As you can see, at least Chase is slowly improving those home numbers and this season’s numbers are actually somewhat respectable. Plus if he does continue to play for the Padres and their home park stays the same, he could have those home numbers up to above average in two to three seasons, tops! But just how above average could he be if he played half his games in a better hitter’s park? Well take a look at his road slashes over the same three seasons:

2010- .289/.334/.432

2011- .330/.399/.465

2012- .289/.387/.525

If that is any sort of indication of what he can do, freeing him from Petco’s clutches would certainly increase his fantasy value quite a bit. Waht you may not already know, because it certainly flew under my radar, is he is already ranked fifth at the hot corner and 40th overall this season in Yahoo!  The modest improvement to his home numbers appears to already be making a difference, but you have to feel like a different home park would not only keep in the top five amongst third basemen, but also cold make him a top 20-25 overall fantasy player. Just take a look at how his road slashes stack up against the overall numbers of qualifying third basemen this season:

Batting Average:

Miguel Cabrera, DET- .324

David Wright, NYM- .317

Adrian Beltre, TEX- .310

David Freese, STL- .299

Aramis Ramirez, MIL- .291

Chase Headley, SD- .289

OBP:

David Wright, NYM- .410

Miguel Cabrera, DET- .391

Chase Headley, SD- .387

David Freese, STL- .370

Alex Rodriguez, NYY- .358

 

SLG:

Miguel Cabrera, DET- .586

Chase Headley, SD- .525

Adrian Beltre, TEX- .519

Aramis Ramirez, MIL- .516

David Wright, NYM- .515

Not too shabby, huh? Now of course, this is part of the ‘What if…”  game though, isn’t it? Now, I am by no means naive enough to think there is any sort of guarantee that those numbers will be in that exact range if he were to switch to a better hitter’s park , but it is at least something to think about. As far as the hot corner would be concerned, he wouldn’t move up too much higer than number five as long as Miggy and David Wright are around, but three or four could certainly be attainable. But what if he were to switch parks and what if his road slashes, and numbers in general, were what he posted for a full season? Well, let us take a look, shall we?

Using his road numbers this season his batting average would still not be spectacular, but it would plop him in the top 50 amongst this season’s qualified hitters. A .387 OBP would be good for 13th and a .525 slugging percentage would place him 16th. Sure these are not all numbers that are used in all fantasy leagues and may not necessarily translate to fantasy goodness, so let’s go further and try and extrapolate some counting stats based on Chase’s road numbers.

Using Headley’s fly ball and home run to fly ball rate on the road and applying this to his home at bats this season, you could estimate that he would have eight more home runs at home this season. Obviously this is only an estimate based on quick and somewhat simplistic number crunching, but that would still put him at 30 homers on the year. Now, if his runs and RBIs per plate appearance on the road were applied to his home at bats, he would now have 89 RBIs and 74 runs. Now the runs and RBIs do not get a ginormous boost, but the homers would be greatly enhanced. If he were at thirty home runs at this point in the season would be good for 8th in the majors. His 89 RBIs? Those would be good for sixth in the majors . The 74 runs? Those would put him 25th in the majors. Stacked against other qualifying third basemen this season? In homers he would be 2nd, in RBIs he would be 2nd (although he is already 2nd this season) and in runs he would be 3rd.  Again, this is based on quite a few “What ifs” and certain rates staying the same throughout the season, but you can certainly see that Mr. Headley should be able to stay a top five fantasy third baseman for the future. However, if Chase can be freed from the hitter’s prison that is Petco, it could very well aslo propel him to the likes of at least a top 25 fantasy player. So I say free Chase Headley and the gaudy numbers he could put up in another home park, or at least stay classy and bring those fences in!

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