Posted on: May 18, 2011 2:57 pm
By Matt Snyder
The Detroit Tigers signed right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit to a three-year, $16.5 million contract this past offseason to serve as their eighth-inning bridge to closer Jose Valverde.
In return, Benoit's provided them with three losses, a 7.98 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 14 2/3 innings. He's been especially dreadful in his last six outings, having allowed 12 earned runs in five innings (that's a 21.60 ERA, in case you're wondering). In turn, the Tigers have made the decision to stop using him in setup situations, at least temporarily.
"He's an important piece of the puzzle," manager Jim Leyland said, "but we're going to have to look at it and figure something out. I'll have to figure out the strategic part." (MLB.com)
Anyway, the Benoit news got me thinking. The Rays lost of a good chunk of production from last season's 96-win AL East champions, and most of those guys seem to be struggling. It's not just the big names, either, it's almost everyone.
Check this out:
Carlos Pena -- Had a .457 OPS through May 2 with zero home runs and six RBI. He's been scorching hot since, but it's only gotten his line to right in line with where he was last season, which was by leaps and bounds his worst as a Ray.
Jason Bartlett -- .675 OPS last season, .617 this season.
Carl Crawford -- He's having a good May, but still has only gotten his OPS up to .524. Basically, he's on pace to have the worst year of his career by far.
Matt Garza -- He's actually pitched well, but weather, bad luck on balls in play, bad defense and poor run support have made sure that he's just 2-4 through nine starts.
Rafael Soriano -- The man who was probably the best closer in baseball last season is already hated by most Yankees fans due to his 5.40 ERA, several blown leads and indifferent attitude. And now he's got an elbow injury.
Lance Cormier -- In two years for the Rays, he had a 3.55 ERA. So far for the Dodgers? 8.71.
Benoit -- He had a 1.34 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings last year. See the intro for how this season is going.
Dan Wheeler -- 3.35 ERA and 46 strikeouts for the Rays in 48 1/3 innings last season. This year he's given the Red Sox 10 1/3 innings -- in which he's allowed 18 hits and 13 earned runs -- and a DL-stint.
Randy Chaote and Grant Balfour are the exceptions to the rule, evidently. Both are throwing well in new homes.
Still, that's a pretty big group of people to have left and gotten worse (or in Garza's case, had less fortune) in just one season.
Meanwhile, Casey Kotchman, Sam Fuld, Johnny Damon, Kyle Farnsworth, Juan Cruz and a handful of others have helped propel the Rays into first place. Again.
This is yet another reason the Rays' front office is the best in the business. Whether it's knowing when to give up on players, when to cash in via trade, when to bring guys in at the absolute optimal time, how to develop the players or how to brainwash them into only playing well for the Rays, it's working.
If only they could generate enough revenue to get the payroll into the $80 million range. It would be interesting.
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Posted on: May 12, 2011 2:27 am
By Evan Brunell
Adam Dunn, White Sox -- Eventually, Adam Dunn's going to come through, and it's going to be glorious for bleacher creatures at US Cellular Field. He began the process of snapping out of his funk with a 4-for-5 night, scoring three runs by banging a solo homer and walking. His overall numbers still aren't pretty, but once he explodes, people will suddenly see why the White Sox coveted him. His batting average vaulted from .184 to .213 in the process. Dunn's ChiSox won on the Angels' Kevin Jepsen throwing a wild pitch on an intentional ball, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Paul Konerko then made a fantastic game-ending play to end the game -- here's the video.
Starlin Castro, Cubs -- Castro, who had never hit below one of the first three spots in the order before a recent demotion to the No. 7 spot in the lineup to snap a 2-for-25 slump, did so in fine fashion by rapping four hits, while scoring three and knocking an additional three in on the backing of a triple. It won't be much longer before Castro's back atop the order. It's hard to imagine Castro is only 21, but he's a beast at the plate and pretty soon, he'll start adding some home runs to his game. For now, the Cubs will enjoy his .324 batting average. All in all, it was a banner day for batters as all three entrants in 3 up handle sticks while the 3 down nominees are pitchers. (It must be said that Hiroki Kuroda had a brilliant performance, shutting down the Pirates in eight innings.)
Jason Bartlett, Padres -- This game is right out of 2009 as Bartlet rapped four hits in six trips to the plate, tacking on two steals, two runs scored and two RBI as the Padres pasted the Brewers 13-6. Cameron Maybin also went 4 for 6, and also scored two runs and RBI apiece. Bartlett's stolen base totals are now up to seven, an encouraging sign after only swiping 11 last season. The game only pushes him to .257/.317/.288 on the year, so the last-place Padres really need this to be the start of a hot streak.
Gio Gonzalez, Athletics -- Man, Gonzalez must feel like one lucky dude. A rain delay and later cancellation wiped out the stats from Wednesday's game against the Rangers. That means the lefty, who blew up in spectacular fashion in the third inning, sees his ERA return to 2.68 from 3.88 after coughing up seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings with six hits, one whiff and a lousy five strikeouts. Also scrubbed from the record is Mitch Moreland's first career grand slam for Texas. "One apology I want to make is to Mitch. Sorry, buddy. I'll definitely sign you over a check or something, whatever you want," Gonzalez told the Associated Press. "I got away with one and I admit it."
Ryan Franklin, Cardinals -- Are we seeing a career go up in smoke before our very eyes? Even the most die-hard Cubs fan couldn't have imagined Franklin bloating his ERA to an unfathomable 9.49 after coughing up four runs in three innings, giving up seven hits, although he did whiff two and walk none. Still, hitters are on the nose against Franklin, who has turned from division-winning closer to outright liability. He's already become a forgotten man in the bullpen; how much further behind is a release?
Matt Capps, Twins -- Yeah, it wasn't really a banner day for pitchers, was it? Capps grabs the final spot ahead of Randy Wolf by blowing a game in spectacular fashion. He was responsible for giving up all four runs that Detroit scored in the two final innings to roar back for its fifth consecutive victory. Only three got charged to Capps as he inherited a runner, but yeah, 1 1/3 innings of three runs is no good. He's still got a pretty firm grip on the closer's spot and just has to chalk it up to a bad day at the office.
Dishonorable mention: John Lackey's terrible start and need to be removed from Boston's rotation is covered here.
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Posted on: April 13, 2011 9:37 pm
Edited on: April 13, 2011 11:24 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Could there be something wrong with Aroldis Chapman? Or is he just semi-human?
"We don't know," Dusty Baker told FSN Ohio after the game.
After he walked the first batter he faced on five pitches Wednesday against the Padres, the Reds sent out athletic trainer Paul Lessard and pitching coach Bryan Price to check on him. Chapman stayed in the game, but was then pulled after throwing out Jason Bartlett at third base on Orlando Hudson's sacrifice attempt.
There was no apparent injury, but Chapman's velocity was way down. How far down? His first pitch was 94 mph -- and it was his fastest pitch of the night. The last pitch he threw was clocked at 89 mph. All of nine of his pitches were called "changeups" by MLB.com's Gameday application.
"Chapman wasn't throwing like Chapman," Baker said after the game. "We went out and asked if he was doing OK and he said yes. [Catcher] Ramon [Hernandez] said he thought something was wrong. Chapman said he was OK, which is what they say in Cuban baseball. We took him out because he wasn't throwing like Chapman."
He has shown a tendency to slow down on consecutive nights, but he was also throwing less than 100 in Tuesday night's outing against the Padres. He threw one fastball 98 mph on Wednesday and then everything else was 94 mph or less. Wednesday's outing was his fourth in the last five days.
Before Wednesday's 3-2 loss, Baker said he wasn't worried.
"There's nothing to be alarmed about," Baker told reporters before Wednesday's game (via the Cincinnati Enquirer). "I've been saying the same thing when people want to see him everyday. He's gone three out of four days. If he goes two innings last night, it would have been even worse the second inning. We wouldn't have had him today. And there's a good chance that off day wouldn't help at all."
On Tuesday, Chapman was very good, striking out two in a perfect inning even without his peak velocity. Wednesday he only got one out and was charged with an unearned run. That run was the tying run, which led the to team's 3-2 loss to the Padres.
Maybe there's nothing wrong with Chapman -- who could be seen getting yelled at by Hernandez after a double switch took both out of the game in the eight inning -- and it's just showing his limitations, and perhaps the limitations of the human body. Chapman can throw harder the anyone in the world, but can he do it consistently?
He's already showed a big drop when used back-to-back days, but could he have to be used with even more rest to remain superhuman? That would hurt his chances of becoming the Reds' closer and also raises questions about his ability to start.
Hernandez said he called out Price and Lessard because he thought Chapman looked tired.
"I told him, 'you know what, I know you want to go through it,'" Hernandez said (via the Cincinnati Enquirer). "I understand that You one of the main guys for seventh and eighth. ... if you have something sore, let them know. They'll give you one or two days off. It's better that you take two or three days.'"
"He was mad he came out the game. He's young. He'll learn. It's better to miss two or three days than a month."
I don't think anyone expects him to be pumping out 105 mph fastballs inning after inning as a starter, but the stark decrease in his velocity on Wednesday was certainly alarming.
Posted on: February 8, 2011 6:13 pm
Venable is currently set to man an outfield corner -- likely right field -- in his first full season in the majors. The 28-year-old has a career .252/.325/.418 line, which isn't exactly a line that should be attached to a player leading off the game.
However, San Diego's options are limited. Of those that finished with a .325 or higher OBP last season for San Diego, two (Adrian Gonzalez and Yorvit Torrealba) are gone while Chase Headley's .327 OBP doesn't exactly vault him ahead of Venable.
However, some newcomers do have a chance to supplant Venable up top the order. Cameron Maybin will still be considered along with fellow newcomers Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson, as manager Bud Black mentioned, according to MLB.com.
Maybin would be better served to bat in the lower half of the order until San Diego knows what it will get from the former top prospect, and Hudson's OBP was .338 last season. Better then Venable, but once you add in the 29 stolen bases versus Hudson's 10, Venable probably holds the edge there. The only newcomer with a real shot is Jason Bartlett. His OBP was just .324 last season, but holds a career .345 mark and swiped 30 bags back in 2009.
Granted, a lot of Bartlett's career mark is tied up in his career year of 2009, when he had a .389 OBP. But even without that season, Bartlett's right in the thick of it with Venable for the rights to the leadoff spot.
In the end, however, this isn't quite as important as one may think. The leadoff hitter leads off exactly once per game and there have been studies showing that the best-arranged lineup is only marginally different than what normally gets trotted out. And sometimes, the best-arranged lineup looks quite odd.
Take the Padres, for example. After plugging in their projected lineup through the Lineup Analysis tool using career averages, it's learned that the best leadoff hitter candidate for the Padres is Hudson, with Venable fifth and Bartlett ninth. Yeah, don't see that happening. But even the difference between the best and 30th best lineup is 0.09 runs per game different.
Oh, and the Padres used 135 different lineups last season with no settled leadoff hitter or No. 3/4 hitter... and yet the Pads came within a game of making the playoffs.
-- Evan Brunell
Posted on: January 10, 2011 1:49 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2011 1:49 pm
The Padres avoided arbitration with their new shortstop, Jason Bartlett, by signing a two-year deal worth $11 million, Corey Brock of MLB.com tweets .
Brock adds there's a vesting option for 2013 that could bring the total to $15 million.
The Padres acquired Bartlett in a trade with the Rays in December. Bartlett made $4 million last season and was in his third, and final, year of arbitration.
-- C. Trent Rosecrans
Posted on: December 17, 2010 6:32 pm
It's been nine days since the Padres and Rays reached agreement on a deal that would send shortstop Jason Bartlett to San Diego, but the agreement never became official, with reports of a holdup possibly involving the physical exam of one of the players going to the Rays.
Well, whatever it was has been worked out, and the deal is done. It's a bit different that the originally reported trade, which would have sent Bartlett to the Padres for pitchers Adam Russell and Cesar Ramos. All that is still true, but now the Rays are adding a player to be named later and the Padres are adding two more players: Double-A right-hander Brandon Gomes and Class A middle infielder Cole Figueroa.
-- David Andriesen
Posted on: December 16, 2010 6:58 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2010 11:50 pm
There's been plenty of news today -- Josh Willingham to the A's, Kerry Wood back to the Cubs, and so on -- but there are some minor moves to take note of, too.
Posted on: December 10, 2010 9:38 pm
It's been a couple of days since a deal was struck between the Rays and Padres sending shortstop Jason Bartlett from our nation's lower right-hand corner to its lower left-hand corner.
But no official announcement has been forthcoming, and a source tells the San Diego Union-Tribune the holdup is the physical for one of the pitchers going back to the Rays, either Adam Russell or Cesar Ramos. According to the U-T, "The problem is not believed to be serious, but there are no guarantees the deal will go through as originally agreed upon."
-- David AndriesenFor more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.