Tag:Joey Votto
Posted on: October 4, 2011 1:28 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Cincinnati Reds

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Cincinnati Reds
Record: 79-83, 3rd place, 17 games back
Manager: Dusty Baker
Best hitter: Joey Votto -- .309/.416/.531 with 29 HR, 103 RBI
Best pitcher:Johnny Cueto -- 9-5, 24 GS, 156 IP, 2.31 ERA, 104 K, 47 BB

Coming off the 2010 National League Central title with pretty much the same team intact, the Reds were expected to challenge for the title again. However, the team could never quite get consistent starting pitching and were on the outside looking in by the All-Star break, close enough not to become sellers at the deadline and ultimately irrelevant for the last two months of the season.

2011 SEASON RECAP

Cueto took a step forward in his development and Votto showed he was anything but a one-hit wonder, while Brandon Phillips played at an All-Star level. Other than that, most every other Cincinnati Red took a step back from their 2010 performance. Bronson Arroyo and Drew Stubbs set dubious marks -- Arroyo allowing 46 homers and Stubbs striking out 205 times. Opening-day starter Edinson Volquez was twice demoted to the minors and third baseman Scott Rolen was limited to just 65 games. Lefty Travis Wood struggled in his second year and right-hander Homer Bailey has yet to find consistency. The team's gaping holes at shortstop and left field were magnified and its rotation wasn't as deep as promised in the spring. In all, disappointment was all around in 2011 as Cincinnati was unable to defend its crown.

2012 AUDIT

The Reds need to follow the lead of the Brewers, who decided to go for it in 2011 instead of worrying what would happen when Prince Fielder left. The Reds still have two more years of Votto, they need to take advantage of that and try to win before Votto goes to greener pastures, not fret about what's going to happen in two years. The Reds still need some help at the top of their rotation, a right-handed power bat for the middle of the lineup and to make a decision about left field and shortstop.

FREE AGENTS

CL Francisco Cordero (team holds a $12 million option for 2012)
2B Brandon Phillips (team holds a $12 million option for 2012)
C Ramon Hernandez
SS Edgar Renteria
LHP Dontrelle Willis

OFFSEASON FOCUS

  • Sell high on first baseman Yonder Alonso. In his first extensive big-league action, the 2008 first-rounder was impressive, hitting .330/.398/.545, displaying a keen understanding of the strike zone. That said, the Reds struggled to find places to play him, considering he's a first baseman and the guy they have there is one of the game's best players. Alonso played 16 games in left field, and aside from a rough weekend in Wrigley Field, didn't embarrass himself. He also played a game at third base without a single ball coming his way. In the end, he's a first baseman. That's where he'll thrive and that's where some team could certainly use him -- just not the Reds. See what you can get for Alonso in a package or straight up. At 24, he's young for a major leaguer, but old for a prospect. His highest value is this offseason.
  • Make a play for a true ace. Yes, Cueto has the potential to be an ace and he looked at times to be an ace this season. However, the Brewers could have said the same thing about Yovani Gallardo after last season. Be bold and bolster the top of the rotation. The Reds were second in the National League in runs scored and fifth in OPS -- there's enough offense to win if the pitching is sound. Sure up the rotation and by default you sure up the bullpen. The Brewers thought bold and they didn't have half the farm system the Reds have. You can send some combination Alonso, Billy Hamilton and one of the two catchers -- Devin Mesoraco or Yasmani Grandal -- away in a deal or two for true front-of-the-rotation help.
  • Pick up Phillips' option, but don't sign him to the long-term deal he's seeking. Phillips will win his third Gold Glove this year and is as good as anyone defensively. He also hit .300/.353/.457. However, he'll be looking for a Dan Uggla-like deal (five years, $62 million), and that's just not something the Reds can afford, especially at non-premium position like second base. He adjusted well to the leadoff role late in the season, hitting .350/.417/.573 in 39 games (38 starts) at the top of the order, but he's still a career .322 OBP guy and his .353 on-base percentage this season was a career-best by .021, aided by a career-best .322 BABIP. Bottom line is he's the best second baseman in the National League, but that comes at a price -- and a price the Reds won't be able to afford past this season.
  • Speaking of not overpaying a specific position, the team vastly overpaid for closer Cordero after the 2007 season, giving him a four-year, $46 million deal plus a $12 million club option for 2012. There's no reason to pick that option up, even though the team has reportedly been talking about an extension with Cordero. Any extension would likely be two years for more than the $12 million he'd make by just picking up the option for next year, but would include a yearly pay cut. Again, that's a move big market teams can afford, but the Reds cannot. Even with likely deferred payments (much like last season's Arroyo extension), Cordero is too costly. He's done his job well in his time in Cincinnati, solidifying a bullpen that had been in tatters before his arrival, but it's too much to pay for a closer. Follow the lead of the Rays and Diamondbacks who were able to rebuild bullpens for less than $12 million based on scrap parts. It's risky, but no more risky (and less expensive) than paying inflated prices for relievers.
  • The team held on to Hernandez even when other teams were desperate for catching. That means either nobody was that desperate for catching, or Hernandez and his agents already told the team he would not accept arbitration -- or both. If the Reds can offer Hernandez arbitration without danger of him accepting it, they'd likely receive two draft picks if Hernandez qualifies as a Type A free agent. With Ryan Hanigan signed through 2013 at a team-friendly rate and Mesoraco left with nothing left to prove in the minors, it's time to move on from Hernandez, who has been productive in his time in Cincinnati. They also have Grandal waiting in the wings, plus Tucker Barnhart, who won the Minor League Gold Glove at catcher.
  • If the Reds are going to go young at shortstop with Zack Cozart and in left field with Chris Heisey, they need to commit to it -- no messing around with another veteran shortstop that will just take up playing time, like Edgar Renteria or Orlando Cabrera. In left, Heisey needs to play and play more, even against left-hander, even though he struggled against them. Juan Francisco has improved at third base and should be the first choice if Rolen isn't healthy.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 23, 2011 10:19 am
 

Pepper: Kemp is NL's most valuable

Matt Kemp

By C. Trent Rosecrans

They were wearing KEMVP shirts in Los Angeles on Thursday night -- and it's hard to argue with them.

In a season where there was little to cheer for at Chavez Ravine, Kemp's amazing 2011 season was something that never seemed to disappoint. And in the last home game of the season on Thursday, Kemp did nothing to disappoint -- with his mother in the stands, Kemp went 4 for 5 with three doubles and his 36th home run of the season.

And don't look now, but Kemp still has a shot at the triple crown -- he leads the league with 118 RBI, five ahead of Ryan Howard, he's just one homer behind Albert Pujols and he's third in batting average at .326, trailing Ryan Braun (.330) and Jose Reyes (.329).

He's also fourth in on-base percentage (.403), second in slugging (.582) and first in OPS (.985).  He also leads in total bases (335), runs (109), second in stolen bases (40) and second in hits (188).

If you like more advanced stats, according to Baseball-Reference.com, he leads in WAR (9.6) and OPS+ (171).

You may say his team stunk and he doesn't deserve the MVP -- but doesn't that make what he did more valuable? As bad as the Dodgers' season has been, they're still above .500 at 78-77 after last night's victory over the Giants. Andre Ethier had a nice run earlier in the season, but he's hardly been in the MVP discussion along with Kemp, while Braun has had Prince Fielder and Pujols has Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday. Jose Reyes' team has a worse record and Justin Upton can't match his stats. Kemp's not only the best player in the National League, he's also the most valuable.

Historic collapse: No, I'm not talking about the Red Sox or Braves -- it's the Pirates. Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, with a little help from the folks at Elias Sports Bureau, writes that in the modern age of Major League Baseball (otherwise known as "since 1900"), no team  has fared worse after being in first place at the 100-game marker. The Pirates have gone 16-40 since holding first place at 53-47 on July 25. The Pirates' .286 is by far the worst, with the 1977 Cubs coming second. That team was 60-40 through 100 games and then went 21-41 the rest of the way. You never want to be better than the Cubs at being bad.

Like his stature, Timmy likes his deals short: San Francisco's Tim Lincecum tells the San Francisco Chronicle  that he doesn't want to sign a long-term deal that would buy out his future free-agent years. Lincecum is eligible for free agency after the 2013 season.

Master storyteller: One of the great joys of this job is to meet some of the great personalities in this game. With broadcasters, most of their best stories come off the air -- and nobody has more and better stories than Vin Scully. Check out this story about Scully and Don Zimmer. [Los Angeles Times]

See you in San Jose?: Could the A's be the biggest beneficiary of the change in Giants ownership? They could be, and Mark Purdy, who broke the initial story, explains. [San Jose Mercury News]

Ichiro not ichi?: Ichiro Suzuki will likely have his streak of 10 years with at least 200 hits broken this week, and next year he may not be leading off. Mariners manager Eric Wedge is not committing to Ichiro batting in his customary leadoff spot next season. [Seattle Times]

Runs in the family: Raul Lopez, the father of the guy who caught Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit, got a souvenir of his own on Wednesday. [New York Times]

Ax mustache spray: Brewers closer John Axford made this fake commercial. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

How about the American League MVP?: Forget Curtis Granderson on Adrian Gonzalez or Justin Verlander, Robinson Cano says that if he had a vote, he'd vote himself. He doesn't. [ESPN New York]

MVP improves: Last year's NL MVP, Joey Votto, says he did "more with less" this season than he did in 2010 when he won the league's MVP. Looking at his numbers -- and the absence of Scott Rolen in the lineup -- it's tough to disagree. If I had any quibble is it'd be that he did about the same with less. Either way, Votto was impressive and has established himself as one of the game's best. [MLB.com]

Oswalt not done: Although the 33-year-old Roy Oswalt had hinted at his retirement, his agent now says he's not considering hanging them up after this season. It may have something to do with Oswalt looking around at the weak free agent pitching market and seeing he'll get paid. [MLB.com

Porter interviewing again: If the Marlins were dating, they'd just about have to put out for Bo Porter by now. The Nationals' first-base coach is scheduled to interview for the Marlins' manager job soon, the Washington Post reports. Porter interviewed midseason last season when the team fired Fredi Gonzalez and then again after the season. Porter is among the candidates to take over in Washington, too, MLB.com reports

NL dreaming: White Sox starter Mark Buehrle says he's intrigued by the thought of pitching in a new league. Buehrle lives near St. Louis and has mentioned that he'd like to pitch for the Cardinals. Add him to Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia and you'd have a pretty good rotation. Of course, the Cardinals do have other financial concerns this offseason. How about Cincinnati? It's a little longer drive to his home, but the Reds rotation could certainly use the veteran. [MLB.com]

Celebrate good times: The Astros announced their plans to celebrate their 50th anniversary season in 2012 with six different throwback uniforms they'll use next season -- including the famous rainbow jersey, one of the best in the history of the game. [MLB.com]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 19, 2011 11:56 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2011 12:26 am
 

Picking the National League's best defenders



By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Gold Gloves are one of baseball's toughest awards to decide -- and sometimes toughest to understand. Unlike many of the game's other awards, the Gold Gloves are voted on by managers and coaches, and every year it seems there's a winner or two that seems to win the award more with their bat than their glove.

Not only do some players seem to win it with something other than their glove, sometimes the award can be a lot like the Supreme Court, once you get elected, you're not going to lose your seat.

That said, it's a difficult award to vote for. There are better fielding statistics coming out every year, yet most are still in their infancy and can tell you only so much. Good defense, sometimes can be a lot like the definition Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart gave for pornograpy in Jacobelis v. Ohio in 1964: "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embrued within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it." 

With that in mind, perhaps the voters for the Gold Gloves should be the scouts, but instead I'll try my hand at picking out the best defensive players in the National League.

Catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals

As tough as it is to use numbers to evaluate fielders, it's even tougher with catchers. At least the numbers with other fielders have some meaning, with catchers there's so much more to what they do defensively that it's hard not to go on reputation -- and nobody has a better reputation than Molina.

Others considered: Carlos Ruiz, Phillies; Brian McCann, Braves.

First base: Joey Votto, Reds

When Votto was coming up, people knew he could hit -- that was hard to ignore -- but his reputation at first base was nowhere near as good. Even as a rookie, he often struggled, especially on throws to a pitcher covering first. Since then, he's improved every year and this year he has proven himself to be the best defensive first baseman in the league. Votto, last year's MVP, covers more ground at first than any other first baseman in the league, which means it can be tough to get a hit if you hit it on the ground to the right side of the Reds infield, beacuse of the next guy on the list.

Others considered: Albert Pujols, Cardinals. Todd Helton, Rockies.

Brandon PhillipsSecond base: Brandon Phillips, Reds

A two-time Gold Glover, Phillips should be in line for his third. There may be no other player in baseball with as long of a highlight-reel as Phillips, who seemingly makes another amazing play every night.

Others considered: Chase Utley, Phillies, Omar Infante, Marlins, Neil Walker, Pirates

Third base: Pablo Sandoval, Giants

There are players with better defensive reputations than the Kung Fu Panda, but nobody's had a better year. The advanced stats don't tell you everything yet, but they're still pretty good. Sandoval leads qualified National League third basemen in UZR (12.3), UZR/150 (21.2) and plus-minus (20). 

Others considered: Placido Polanco, Phillies; Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals.

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

The Rockies may know a little something about drafting defensive shortstops -- they picked two of the best in the league, Tulowitzki and the Astros' Clint Barmes. Finally healthy, Barmes was outstanding defensively for the Astros, while Tulowitzki seems like the second coming of Cal Ripken. 

Others considered: Alex Gonzalez, Braves; Jose Reyes, Mets; Clint Barmes, Astros.

Left field: Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies

The voting has changed this year to award Gold Gloves to each of the three outfield positions instead of three generic outfielder awards that usually went to center fielders. Carlos Gonzalez is tough to categorize, but considering he's played more games in left than any other spot, he's the easy choice here. He's started 60 games in left, 34 in right and 28 in center. He's played all three well, which isn't easy at spacious Coors Field, committing only one error on the season.

Others considered: Matt Holliday, Cardinals. Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks. Tony Gwynn, Dodgers.

Shane VictorinoCenter field: Shane Victorino, Phillies

This is one stacked category, with several deserving players. Under the old rules it would be easy, you'd have three center fielders and give them the three Gold Gloves. Under the new rules, it's a tougher choice. Victorino has had an MVP-type year, and no small part of that has been patrolling center field for the Phillies. The Flyin' Hawaiian is as good as anyone out there and his error-less season gives him the edge.

Others considered: Chris Young, Diamondbacks; Carlos Gomez, Brewers; Cameron Maybin, Padres; Rick Ankiel, Nationals; Andrew McCutchen, Pirates.

Right field: Mike Stanton, Marlins

He may be known best for the moon shots off his bat, but Stanton is a surprisingly good defensive outfielder. Stanton has the combination of athleticism and arm strength to be the best defensive right fielder in the game.

Others considered: Jay Bruce, Reds; Carlos Beltran, Giants; Jason Heyward, Braves.

Pitcher: R.A. Dickey, Mets

A knuckleball pitcher needs to field his position well -- there are plenty of bad hits coming back to the mound off poor contact. Dickey has been very good fielding his position and helped his team with his glove.

Others considered: Jake Westbrook, Cardinals; Bronson Arroyo, Reds; Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers; Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Derek Lowe, Braves.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 15, 2011 10:17 am
 

Pepper: Finally a worthwhile 'Moneyball myth'



By Matt Snyder


In the past few days, "Moneyball" reviews have been all over the Internet, as advanced screenings are currently taking place. It's a veritable mixed bag. Some reviews have the movie an Oscar contender, others tearing it to shreds, while most are in between. I haven't seen the movie yet, but one area where people aggravate me already is bemoaning how, basically, it's not a documentary. Simply put: It's a movie. Of course it's going to take liberties and be just as much fiction as fact. It says "based on a true story," not "true story." I'm sorry is Jonah Hill doesn't even come close to physically resembling Paul DePodesta, for example. Hollywood doesn't have to cast clones.

Anyway, there have been critics for years of the book. You'll often hear someone say something like "Moneyball doesn't work" or try to explain the "myth of Moneyball." Sometimes it almost seems like the person is taking great pride is taking down some huge establishment.

One of the loudest complaints is that the A's had a trio of aces in the pitching staff, so it wasn't that hard to make the team around them good. It's fair, but it discounts the shift in offensive philosophy. But it's understandable. And it's not like Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez -- the anchors of the 2002 offense -- weren't stars. They were.

But this all still ignores the massive disadvantage in payroll the A's had against the likes of the Yankees -- and the 2002 A's won 103 games.

On that front, I finally saw a "myth" about Beane's 2002 ballclub that was worthwhile and made sense -- thanks to Jeff Fletcher at BayBridgeBaseball.com. Yes, that payroll was really low. But a lot of it had to do with how baseball's system is set up. Namely, because of young players being under club control for years and then arbitration-eligible for a few more years, there was some pretty damn good talent making relatively low salaries in '02.

Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito combined to go 57-21 with a 3.05 ERA. Zito won the Cy Young. The three aces made $1.97 million combined. For comparison's sake, Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox finished second in Cy Young voting that year and he made $14 million.

There were several other young players that made far less money than players they were outperforming and that happens every year. The A's just happened to have a handful of them. So I guess I've finally found a "Moneyball myth" I support.

Mo in center? Mariano Rivera has a simple request of manager Joe Girardi. Before he retires, Rivera would like to get a shot in center field. Rivera reportedly claims he's a "viable" center fielder and wants to play a game there (a whole game?). Yeah, that ain't happening. But Girardi has said he'd consider putting him out there for one batter in a meaningless game. Oh, and one more stipulation: “[It would be against] a guy who hits ground balls or strikes out a lot,” Girardi said (NYTimes.com).

GM already in place? It would seem that Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts is doing his hiring backwards. About a week and a half ago I bemoaned Ricketts' giving a contract extension to his player personnel director before hiring a general manager. Well, now Ricketts is set to give a similar extension to scouting director Tim Wilkin (SunTimes.com). Yes, outgoing GM Jim Hendry loved both of these members of his staff, but he's gone now. Is it possible Ricketts already has an agreement behind closed doors with his next GM, which makes these extensions OK? If not, it seems like he's severely limiting himself in his GM search. Think about it this way. If you started a business, would you hire all the mid-level employees before your CEO? Or would you hire your dream CEO and then work with him on hiring the underlings?

Great family story: The Marlins recently promoted prospect Matt Dominguez for his major-league debut. His father is a copy editor for the Los Angeles Times, and he wrote a story about the experience of seeing his son play in the bigs. (LATimes.com)

Jocketty staying put: Just as I noted in Wednesday's Pepper, the rumor that the Cubs were going to grab GM Walt Jocketty, manager Tony La Russa and first baseman Albert Pujols doesn't have much merit. Jocketty isn't going anywhere (Cincinnati.com).

Poor Dunn: This is interesting. Baseball-Reference's blog ran two posts that kind of sum up how futile White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn's season has been. He's hitting .162 with 160 strikeouts. If he gathers a few more at-bats, there's a chance he ends up with more strikeouts than his batting average points. That has only happened one time in history when a hitter got more than 35 at-bats. And it was last season: Mark Reynolds. The same blog also compiled a list of the worst full-time players of the last 50 years, and Dunn checks in at 20th.

Still chugging: Rockies starting pitcher Kevin Millwood, 36, is 3-2 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.18 WHIP since being picked up by the Rockies this season, and he wants to come back for them in 2012 (DenverPost.com). Remember, he was on the verge of retiring before the Rockies grabbed him.

Hanson improving: Injured Braves starting pitcher Tommy Hanson threw a 44-pitch side session Wednesday and felt fine. Another big step comes Thursday, as he'll see how his hampered throwing shoulder reacts (MLB.com). If anything big happens, we'll certainly be updating with a stand-alone post on Eye On Baseball. Hanson could be the difference between a first-round exit or going deep in the playoffs for the Braves.

Gracious Votto: Reigning NL MVP Joey Votto has emerged as an elite baseball player and he says that he owes "90 percent" of his success to his old coach back in Canada (Fox Sports Ohio). This isn't surprising. Votto is one of the most humble and classy players in baseball.

Happy Anniversary: Since 1980, the following All-Stars made their respective major-league debuts on September 15: Fernando Valenzuela (1980), Randy Johnson (1989), Cliff Lee (2002) and Rickie Weeks (2003). (Hardball Times)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 7, 2011 12:01 am
Edited on: September 7, 2011 1:06 am
 

Sizing up the NL MVP contenders



By C. Trent Rosecrans

During the week, Eye on Baseball will be profiling candidates to win baseball's major awards after the season. Tonight: the NL MVP.

Lacking perhaps the sizzle or controversy of the American League MVP race, the National League MVP race could be just as interesting. While there's plenty of buzz in the AL about whether a pitcher should win the MVP, the NL question of the MVP status quo may be about a member of a losing team taking the game's top honor. While the contending teams have some worthy candidates, the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki, the Reds' Joey Votto and the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen all have compelling arguments to be included even if their teams are well out of the race.

In alphabetical order, here are the 10 candidates that figure to appear on many of ballots:

Ryan Braun, Brewers: Braun leads the league in batting average (.335), slugging percentage (.595), OPS (.999) and runs scored (96), he's also in the top five in RBI (95) and top ten in homers (27) -- and he's doing it for a team that will be headed to the playoffs. Last season Joey Votto beat Albert Pujols convincingly on the MVP ballots (31 first-place votes out of 32), if not so convincingly on the stat sheet. The two were close to even in their offensive stats, with Votto's team winning the division title perhaps giving him the edge in the very vague category of "value." The Brewers' record could be Braun's trump card on many ballots.

Roy Halladay, Phillies: Widely considered the best pitcher in the National League, if not baseball, Halladay is having another stellar season with a 16-5 record and a 2.49 ERA. However, the pitcher for MVP argument is being made with Justin Verlander, not Halladay. While Halladay may be the best pitcher in the National League and could appear near the bottom of several ballots (he does lead the NL in pitcher WAR, 6.2 according to Baseball-Reference.com), but it will take a clear-cut best pitcher in the league to win the MVP. The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw is making a late push for Cy Young with a 17-5 record and 2.45 ERA) and Cliff Lee may be having the best season of any Phillies' starter.

Matt Kemp, Dodgers: Going into Tuesday night's game, Kemp was third in batting average (.320), tied for second in home runs (32) and third in RBI (106), giving him a shot at becoming the National League's first triple crown winner since Joe Medwick did it in 1937. The knock on Kemp will certainly be his team's 68-72 record and a season in Los Angeles much better remembered for the drama off the field than anything done on it.

Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: At the All-Star break, this would have been a popular pick, but since then, the Pirates have faded and the star around Pittsburgh's center fielder has dimmed. But McCutchen is still having a fabulous year, cementing himself as one of the game's emerging stars. His stats have taken a dip, hitting .269/.372/.464 with 20 homers and 81 RBI to go along with 20 stolen bases. According to FanGraphs.com, he's seventh among position players in WAR, but much of his value comes from his defense. McCutchen won't win the MVP and won't finish in the top five, but he may get some votes based on his all-around game and the Pirates' impressive start.

Albert Pujols, Cardinals: You can't talk National League MVP and not bring up Albert Pujols, can you? Not even this year -- when so many counted him out at the beginning of the year and others thought he'd miss a good chunk of time with a broken bone -- can you leave out the three-time winner. He's bounced back from an awful start to hit .295/.367/.553 and lead the league in homers (34). Pujols won't win, not just because he failed to live up to the expectations he's set for himself, but also because the Cardinals have faded in the seasons last months once again.

Jose Reyes, Mets: Reyes' reward will likely come after the November announcement of the MVP and be in the form of a huge contract. A front-runner for the award for much of the season, hamstring injuries have hampered the Mets' shortstop, limiting him to 105 games. He's fallen behind Braun in the batting title race, but is still putting up a very good .332/.371/.493 line with five homers, 37 RBI and 35 stolen bases. 

Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: The Rockies have seriously underachieved, but not Tulowitzki, who is hitting .304/.376/.550 with 29 homers and 100 RBI while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. It seems like a matter of time before Tulowitzki wins an MVP (or two), but it won't be this year. Colorado's collapse was too great and while his offensive numbers are great, they aren't so much better than any other category that he's going to vault to the top of many ballots. He may be the best all-around player in the game (especially considering his position), but won't be the MVP.

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks: It looks like the Diamondbacks are going to run away with the NL West and their best (and perhaps only recognizable player) is Upton, the 24-year-old center fielder. Upton is hitting .296/.378/.540 with 27 homers, 82 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He's having a fantastic season and has a very bright future. That said, in what was the most important month of the season and one that saw Arizona take control of the NL West, Upton maybe his worst month of the season, hitting .260/.342/.481.

Shane Victorino, Phillies: Overshadowed by Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and even Jayson Werth in previous years, Victorino has been outstanding in 2011. He's hitting .303/.380/.529 with 15 homers and 56 RBI, while scoring 84 runs. He's won three straight Gold Gloves in center field and has been a constant for the Phillies over the years. However, on a team built around its stud pitchers, a position player may get overlooked for MVP. He finished 18th in 2009, but look for a top 10 finish this season as respect grows for one of the game's most unsung stars.

Joey Votto, Reds: Last year's winner won't repeat, but he's again having another great season, hitting .316/.428/.536, leading the National League in on-base percentage and third in OPS. He's also doing it without Scott Rolen's protection behind him. Rolen has been injured much of the season, missing 76 of the team's 141 games and his play suffering in the 65 games he has played. That's allowed pitchers to pitch around Votto, who leads the National League in walks (100) and the majors in Win Probability Added (6.9). His numbers may not quite be where they were a year ago, but he's done nothing to suggest he's not the best first baseman in the league -- and that's some pretty heady competition.

So all in all, who is the best candidate to win the MVP? We'll answer that later in the year, but you can have your say in the comments. 

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 1, 2011 2:53 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2011 11:36 pm
 

Players of the Month: Avila, Lee



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Every year August is the month when some teams pull away in the playoff race and others fade -- it's one of the biggest months of the season, even if it doesn't have the drama of September or the stakes of October. By the time August is done, there are few surprises -- what you see is what you get.

August's Best
Expert Batter Pitcher
Knobler Ortiz Lee
Miller Granderson Lee
Brunell Avila Kershaw
Rosecrans Votto Lee
Snyder Avila Lee
Fantasy Avila Lee

While one surprise team (Pittsburgh) fizzled, another (Arizona) sizzled. The Diamondbacks started August two games back in the NL West and now lead the defending champion Giants by six games. The D-Backs finished August on a nine-game winning streak -- they also had a seven-game winning streak earlier in the month. Kirk Gibson's club did have a six-game losing streak in the past 31 days, but the Giants have struggled all month, allowing some breathing distance for the D-Backs. 

This August has seen Atlanta's Dan Uggla go from a disappointment to, well, Dan Uggla. His hitting streak ended at 33 games, but his average increased from .206 at the end of July to .232 at the end of August. In all, he hit in 22 of 26 August games and went .340/.405/.670 with 10 homers as the Braves solidified their hold on the NL wild-card spot. 

Uggla was one of three players with 10 homers in the month, along with the Yankees' Curtis Granderson and the Rays' Evan Lognoria.

But it's Detroit's Alex Avila who gains the nod as our Batter of the Month.

His value to the Tigers lineup sealed the deal. Avila hit .360 with seven homers, 19 runs, 18 RBI and a 1.169 OPS in the August. Getting that kind of production from anywhere is incredible, but from a catcher it's just gravy. Even better, Avila bounced back from an awful July in which he hit .197 with a .584 OPS. Some may have thought his breakthrough season was coming to an end, but August was his biggest month of the season.

Meanwhile nine different pitchers picked up five wins. Some of the names (Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander) aren't surprising, while some (Ivan Nova, Ian Kennedy, Ricky Romero) were young guns making their mark. Another was a pitcher (Hiroki Kuroda) finally getting run support and the last (Bruce Chen) was a total surprise.

But Lee was The Man. He started five games. He won five games. He only allowed two earned runs, which both came in the same game. He averaged nearly eight innings per start, saving the Phillies bullpen some extra work. He struck out nearly a batter per inning while allowing less than one baserunner per inning, meaning he kept the pressure off his defense. Basically, Lee did it all for the Phillies in August, and that's why he snags this Pitcher award for a second consecutive month.

Past players of the month: April | May | June | July


Batter of the Month
Danny Knobler Scott Miller
David Ortiz David Ortiz, Red Sox
Picking a player of the month wasn't easy, but David Ortiz's big two-run home run on Aug. 31 against the Yankees clinched it. Not exactly, but it helped. Even before that, Ortiz had a 1.308 August OPS that was the best by any major-league regular. In a month where no one player really stood out, he was definitely in the mix. And then he homered against the Yankees. So it's him.
Curtis Granderson Curtis Granderson, Yankees
Granderson's August catapulted him squarely into the AL MVP running. I love the symmetry, too: 29 RBI in August, and 29 runs scored. The runs led the majors and ribbies ranked second. Texas' Mike Napoli had a higher OPS (1.094-1.016) and deserves consideration, but if I picked one player to start a team with right now, it's Curtis G.
Evan Brunell C. Trent Rosecrans
Alex Avila Alex Avila, Tigers
Avila has really come into his own in 2011. In August, he hit .372/.481/.721 with seven homers in 25 games. Did I mention he's a catcher? Avila's grip on the starting spot is so strong, he caught 18 consecutive games at one point during August. "He's been absolutely unbelievable," manager Jim Leyland told  MLive.com. "He's been tremendous. There's no question about it. Pretty impressive. Pretty darn impressive." Indeed.
Joey VottoJoey Votto, Reds 
Votto's August was much like Votto himself -- quiet and excellent. The Reds first baseman hit .347/.483/.716 with nine homers and 19 RBI in August. The Reds aren't in the postseason race, so it's unlikely Votto will get much consideration for MVP, but he may have had a better season than he did a year ago when he won the award.
Matt Snyder Fantasy -- Al Melchior
Alex Avila Alex Avila, Tigers
Have you seen his average and slugging percentage in the month? That's just sick, especially for a catcher tasked with scouting opposing hitters and working with his pitching staff day in and day out. The young backstop just keeps getting better for the Tigers, who meanwhile keep winning games and appear headed for the postseason.
Alex Avila Alex Avila, Tigers
Avila wasn't the most productive hitter in Fantasy formats, but he was probably the most productive relative to his position. He lapped the field of catchers, hitting .360 with seven homers and 18 RBI. He also helped owners in formats that reward walks by drawing 19 free passes in his 109 plate appearances. While he didn't have the overall production of Granderson or Carlos Gonzalez, Avila helped his Fantasy owners immensely by providing elite-level production at a thin position.
Pitcher of the Month
Knobler Miller
Cliff Lee Cliff Lee, Phillies
In June, Cliff Lee went 5-0 and allowed just one run. In August, he went 5-0 and allowed two. That means he was slightly better in June than in August. It also means he's had two incredible months, and that he's my pitcher of the month -- again.
Cliff Lee Cliff Lee, Phillies
This is why Philadelphia re-signed this guy. No, not to pitch in August. But to pitch in October LIKE he's pitched in August. Yeah, the 5-0 record in five starts grabs your attention, but that's just the beginning of the dominance. The 0.45 ERA over 39 2/3 innings, the 39 strikeouts against just eight walks, the 0.78 WHIP ... until Wednesday night, the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw was my guy, but Lee's WHIP and strikeouts/walks ratio even tops Kershaw's (0.95, 39/10).
Brunell Rosecrans
Clayton Kershaw Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Kershaw has been bandied about as one of the next great pitchers, but he's great right now, with a 5-1 August catapulting him into the Cy Young Award chase. Don't look now, but Kershaw has a better record (17-5 to 16-5) than Halladay, thrown more innings (198 2/3; 196 2/3) and has a lower ERA, with a 2.45 mark compared to 2.47 on the year. That's thanks to a month in which the lefty hurled 46 1/3 innings, checking in with a 1.55 ERA.
Cliff LeeCliff Lee, Phillies
Only three times in baseball history has a pitcher had two months in one season with five wins, no losses and an ERA under 1.00 -- Walter Johnson in 1913, Bob Gibson in 1968 and Lee in 2011. Lee threw 551 pitches in the month and just one resulted in runs -- a two-run homer by Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt on Aug. 17 in 9-2 Philadelphia victory.

Snyder Fantasy -- Scott White
Cliff Lee Cliff Lee, Phillies
August was the second month this season where Lee's just been lights-out. This time around, he went 5-0 with a 0.45 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 39 strikeouts in his five starts. His worst outing in the month came when Lee gave up three hits and two earned runs in a win against the first-place D-Backs.
Cliff Lee Cliff Lee, Phillies 
Lee made five starts in August and allowed zero runs in four of them, accomplishing the feat for the second time in three months. He won each of those five starts, averaging eight innings. He'll have his bouts with inconsistency, as was the case during an uneven July, but when he's on, he's arguably the best pitcher in Fantasy Baseball. He showed it again in August.

Danny Knobler and Scott Miller are Senior MLB Writers; Evan Brunell, C. Trent Rosecrans and Matt Snyder are Eye on Baseball Bloggers; Al Melchior is a Fantasy Data Analyst; and Scott White is a Fantasy Writer.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.



Posted on: August 31, 2011 1:55 pm
 

September Storylines: Kemp's season overshadowed

Matt KempBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Dodgers may have the best player in the National League, and yet he's been overshadowed by the team's ownership story and even his own teammate, Andre Ethier who has a long hitting streak and a mysterious injury that have garnered headlines. Heck, the biggest story of the year involving Los Angeles' Matt Kemp may be better known for his breakup with his girlfriend last offseason than his breakout on the field this season.

Yep, Matt Kemp may be the best player in the National League, and Dodgerland is still talking about the McCourts, Ethier's possibly injury and the return of their broadcast team. Meanwhile, Matt Kemp leads all big leaguers in Wins Above Replacement players at 8.0 (according to Baseball-Reference.com -- FanGraphs.com has him sixth overall and second in the National League at 6.6).

If advanced metrics aren't your thing, he's hitting .321/.396/.573 with 31 home runs and 101 RBI -- numbers that put him in the running for the triple crown. (He's also tied for second in the NL in stolen bases with 35, 12 behind the Braves' Michael Bourn.)

September Storylines
    • A look at the postseason races

Last year it was Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and Carlos Gonzalez challenging for the triple crown, this year Kemp has the best shot. Here's a look at his numbers, and chances.

Batting average: Kemp's currently hitting .321, good for fourth in the National League behind Jose Reyes (.335), Ryan Braun (.331) and Votto (.325) -- with David Murphy (.320) hot on his heels. A career .292 hitter, this is his best batting average since 2007, when he hit .342 in 98 games (and 311 plate appearances) as a 22-year-old. This is the best year of the 26-year-old's career, so it's not like past performance will predict production, but he has tailed off in the last month of the season in his career. Kemp's hit .264/.310/.426 in September and October in his career, while hitting .297/.354/.502 in the other months (although those numbers do include this season's production). 

Home runs: Kemp's tied for the National League lead with Mike Stanton and Pujols with 31 homers, with Lance Berkman and Dan Uggla just one homer behind, each with 30. Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder both have 29 homers, while Troy Tulowitzki and Jay Bruce each have 28 homers -- meaning the race is wide open. 

The Dodgers have 10 home games remaining on their schedule and 17 road games, which would appear to help Kemp who has 16 of his 31 homers on the road this season in fewer games, hitting a homer every 17.3 plate appearances on the road and one every 19.4 plate appearances at Dodger Stadium. However, the stadiums left on the Dodgers' tour of the National League haven't been kind to Kemp -- he has just three homers in the parks left on the team's travel schedule, with two of those coming at Arizona's Chase Field. He hasn't homered in either San Francisco's AT&T Park or San Diego's Petco Park, despite playing six games in both stadiums this season. Kemp has just two homers in San Francisco in his career (166 plate appearances) and three in San Diego (139 plate appearances). Overall, he's managed just one homer every 40.6 plate appearances in the six parks (Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Washington, San Francisco, San Diego and Arizona) the Dodgers will play in during September and 15 total, seven of those at Chase Field.

RBI: Kemp enters Wednesday's game with 101 RBI, already tying his career best (2009), and just one behind leaders Howard and Fielder. Tulowitzki is the only other player with more than 90 RBI, with 94 on the season. The RBI stat is dependent on what other players do, and after struggling in July, the Dodgers had one of their best offensive months of the season in August, scoring 127 runs in the month, the most of any month and getting on base at a .322 rate, only just below its .339 OBP in June. That said, that doesn't mean much, since the Dodgers followed their productive June with their worst month of the season in July. Predicting RBI is the ultimate folly, because not only does Kemp have to deliver, so do his teammates. The same thing can be said about the others on the list, as well. 

It'd be silly to predict a triple crown or even guess at a single crown for Kemp with a month to go in the season, but it's certainly worth keeping an eye on -- and gives Dodger fans something to cheer about, something that's not been easy to do in 2011.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: August 30, 2011 9:50 am
Edited on: August 30, 2011 4:24 pm
 

Pepper: Arizona pulling away from champs

Daniel Hudson

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Giants' last stand may come this weekend -- if they're even still in it by the time the Diamondbacks visit AT&T Park.

You may have noticed the Diamondbacks are starting to pull away in the National League West, winning their last seven games and increasing their lead in the division to five games. I'm still not sure exactly how it's happened, but you've got to appreciate what Kirk Gibson and his team have done.

Whichever team wins this division will do it by winning the division -- the Giants don't play anyone outside their division the entire month of September, while the Diamondbacks have three games against Pittsburgh in September, but no other games outside the division. What that means? A lot of the Padres and Dodgers and Rockies -- teams with a combined 29 games below .500.

One thing to keep in mind if you like trends, after the Diamondbacks won seven games earlier this month, they went out and lost their next six. If that trend repeats, it'd mean a sweep in San Francisco, which would put the Giants right back into it. But if San Francisco can't score more than a run or two in a game, they won't be sweeping anyone.

Real hero: You hear the word "hero" with sports way too much -- but it's an appropriate use of the word for Emmanuel Marlow. Who is Marlow? He's a vendor at Nationals Park who saved a choking fan on Thursday. Marlow, 49, used the Heimlich maneuver to save the young fan -- then went back to doing his job. Or his second job. Marlow also cares for patients with Parkinson's in his first job. Really, a great story and a real hero. [Washington Post]

Fan scare: Speaking of fan safety, a young fan was hit in the face by a foul ball at Citi Field on Monday. The Marlins' Greg Dobbs hit the ball and said he was told the boy did not suffer broken bones or had his sight damaged, so that's good news. Dobbs gave the kid's mother a bat and Mets second baseman Justin Turner gave him his jersey -- but that's a pretty high price to pay for a jersey and bat. Luckily the boy is OK. [MLB.com]

Perez impresses: The Royals have had their fair share of hyped prospects, so it's OK if you weren't too aware of catcher Salvador Perez. You may want to get used to hearing his name. Since being called up from Triple-A Omaha, he's started 16 of 18 games for Kansas City -- and he's hitting .295/.333/.443, including a 3-for-4 performance and his first home run in Monday's victory over the Tigers. Royals manager Ned Yost said he's "hard to take out of the lineup," and expects him to play 140 games a year. Perez hadn't played above Class A until this season and has had an incredible year, ending in the big leagues. [Kansas City Star]

The new Josh Beckett: Marriage has changed Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, he said. No longer is baseball his top priority -- but he's been even better with it as No. 2 in his life. [WEEI.com]

Standing pat: Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he "doubts" the team will make a deal before the Aug. 31 trade deadline. Phillies place on the waiver line (last in the National League) and payroll limitations make any move unlikely. [Philadelphia Daily News]

Untested: Monday night was supposed to be an experiment for the Reds' Yonder Alonso. The Reds rookie received his first professional start at third base on Monday night but didn't have a single ball hit his way. While it was surprising, it was part of the plan. Dusty Baker said the team made Alonso's first start at third during a Homer Bailey start on purpose, as "guys don't usually pull Homer." They didn't, so consider the results of the experiment inconclusive. And don't expect a repeat of Alonso at the hot corner on Tuesday with Bronson Arroyo on the mound against the Phillies. [Dayton Daily News]

Carp may stay: Even if the Cardinals don't pick up Chris Carpenter's $15 million option, MLB.com's Matt Leach doesn't see the team letting the right-hander leave via free agency.

Feeling blue: The Mets will wear retro uniforms for their 50th anniversary next season and then add a blue jersey in 2013. [ESPNNewYork.com]

Garfoose is loose: The Rays released minor league right-hander Dirk Hayhurst, which wouldn't mean much if he weren't the author of the very entertaining Bullpen Diaries and a prolific blogger and Twitter user. Best of luck to Hayhurst -- because if he's out of baseball, he may be out of stories, and that would be a shame. [DirkHayhurst.com]

Stats are fun: Yahoo's Jeff Passan has 25 great, nerdy stats in his latest column. If any pitchers are reading this, for all that is holy, don't throw Joey Votto a fastball. 

Feliciano done? Left-handed reliever Pedro Feliciano may need career-ending shoulder surgery to repair his a tear in his shoulder. It will certainly end Feliciano's season, but could cost him more. He signed a two-year, $8 million contract before the season and hasn't thrown a pitch for the Yankees. He could get $8 million for just signing his name if he can't come back from this injury. [ESPNNewYork.com]

Socks appeal: There's a proper way to wear a baseball uniform and too often you don't see it -- instead you get the pajama pants look. Hunter Pence's high socks are gaining some attention in Philadelphia. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com