Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2014 New Year’s resolutions for every MLB team

As each year winds down, people tend to think to the future and promise to fix something in their lives. Yes, it is resolution season. Check out your team’s 2014 New Year's resolution after the jump.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

New York Yankees: A Giant Fork in the Road

What if Masahiro Tanaka is not Posted?

The worst-case scenario may have just been dropped in the New York Yankees' lap.

New York Yankees: Why the clearance rack now?

The New York Yankees turned their attention to short-term, low-cost options Tuesday when they came to agreement with oft-injured second baseman Brian Roberts and aging southpaw reliever Matt Thornton.

After spending $283 million on just three players this offseason, pushing them to the brink of the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, why the sudden move to the free-agent clearance rack in December?

New York Yankees focus on bolstering offense to offset weak pitching

The New York Yankees, despite having already spent $283 million this offseason on three productive offensive players, were still looking to add more bats as the Winter Meetings came to an end Thursday.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Free agents drop like flies ahead of winter meetings

It sure looks like Disney World might have some extra unexpected guests in amusement park lines next week. Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings are set to begin Monday, Dec. 9 in Orlando and at this rate there could be very few prominent free agents left on the market. Friday’s onslaught of free-agent signings, including the top player on the market, could put a damper on the typical excitement surrounding the meetings.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

MLB trade winds blowing

Two trades highlighted this week’s MLB Hot Stove transactions. One, an all-star blockbuster and the other swapped players of need for both clubs.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Is MLB's spending bubble going to burst?

Major League Baseball is flush with cash and teams are not being bashful with it. Teams are spending loads of money and the big names are not yet off the board. I’m not arguing the value and cost of the deals in relation to gaining wins and I understand teams will receive bumps in revenue from media deals. But, I wonder if there comes a point in time when the owners decide to scale back on salaries?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Rumors dominate slow forming MLB free-agent market

As is typically the case early on in the MLB Hot Stove season, the rumor mill is very active while the actual signings of players is slow to develop. Eventually, there will be a contract announcement which will begin the snowball effect to more. Here are some observations from this past week which was dominated by hearsay.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Five Annoying MLB Hot Stove Trends

We’re days removed from the inevitable declining of ALL qualifying offers and in the middle of the final day of the initial GM/owner’s meetings and there are some extremely annoying trends evolving with the MLB Hot Stove.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Can Scott Boras Obtain Above-Market Deals for Ellsbury and Choo?

Scott Boras is touted by many as a “super-agent” after constructing some of baseball’s most lucrative contracts. He has also been able to create deals for players well above the anticipated market several times. Near the top of many free-agent rankings are two Boras clients, outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo. Each player is looking at very rewarding long-term deals and has the right man working for them to accomplish the task.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

MLB Hot Stove Simmers on Quiet Saturday

After a flurry of transactions leading into the weekend, Saturday was rather quiet for MLB teams. Here's a quick roundup of Saturday's moves and other happenings in the game.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Lester, Jeter highlight MLB Hot Stove deals

As soon as the Boston Red Sox became World Series Champions, Major League Baseball's Hot Stove was ignited and Friday it began to get truly stoked. Over the course of the five days following the World Series, options are picked up or declined, new contracts are signed and qualifying offers will be made to several stars.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cardinals Gain Several Advantages over Red Sox in St. Louis

The St. Louis Cardinals accomplished their goal in Boston and that was to shift home-field advantage their way in the World Series. The Boston Red Sox are certainly not intimidated by playing outside of Fenway Park but there are some distinct benefits swinging the Cardinals’ way.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Balanced Cardinals will be too much for Red Sox

Two storied franchises are set to do battle in Major League Baseball’s 109th World Series beginning Wednesday night. The St. Louis Cardinals, who are in their 19th World Series and fourth in the last 10 seasons, have won 11 titles. They take on the Boston Red Sox, who are making their third appearance since 2004 and have won seven World Series crowns in 12 previous tries. The teams have met three times in the World Series with the Cardinals winning in 1946 and 1967 while the Red Sox took the last meeting in the 2004, when they swept St. Louis and wiped away 86 years of agony without a championship.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Trout, McCutchen among my Baseball Bloggers Alliance Award Selections

The Baseball Stance is a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. Each year, the BBA membership votes on a series of regular season awards. Since this blog is part of the general chapter, I have the ability to vote for both the American League and National League awards and I will take advantage of the opportunity. Below is a roundup of my votes with a short explanation for my choices.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Red Sox reach World Series, Uehara named ALCS MVP

The Boston Red Sox entered the 2013 season with a mission, grow some insane beards, eliminate the bad taste of the 2012 season and get back to the postseason. They’ve accomplished all of that in incredible fashion reaching the World Series for the third time in the last 10 seasons after eliminating the Detroit Tigers four games to two in the American League Championship Series.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cardinals “Wacha” into World Series

Michael Wacha was not part of the St. Louis Cardinals original equation for their 2013 rotation. But, injuries opened the door and now the 22-year-old rookie should be a mainstay in the rotation for years to come.

Friday, October 18, 2013

NLCS and ALCS Providing Plenty of Drama

The baseball season begins in February in Florida and Arizona with each team feeling optimistic as they head into Spring Training. By mid-October there are four teams remaining. At this point each game and every inning is more pressure-packed than the last.

The National League Championship Series, which resumes with Game 6 Friday night in St. Louis, and the American League Championship Series that now moves back to Boston for its Game 6 on Saturday, have provided a little bit of everything and nothing short of drama.

As expected there has been dominant pitching in both series. The Red Sox own the “worst” team ERA of the four clubs remaining with a 3.27 mark. Ironically, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Detroit Tigers own the top two ERAs among the LCS participants at 2.09 and 2.45 respectively, yet find themselves down in their series. The Cardinals are just off the Tigers’ mark with a 2.49 ERA. There shouldn’t be any surprises here considering the top-flight names like Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Adam Wainwright and Jon Lester leading the way.

There have also been terrific displays by rookie pitchers. Michael Wacha continued his hot stretch with 6.2 innings of shutout ball in Game 2 and will hope to continue the trend in Game 6. Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Korean hurler for the Dodgers had his moment in Game 3, tossing seven scoreless innings.

Another rookie, Yasiel Puig, continues to be a lightning rod for conversation about celebrating on the field. He caused enough of a stir along with his teammate Adrian Gonzalez to prompt Wainwright to proclaim they were “Mickey Mouse” antics. Gonzalez more or less retorted, get used to it, this is Hollywood.

Virtually every game of the series has been tight and many have come down to the final out. There have been four shutouts (including three 1-0 beauties), six one-run games and of course we’ve witnessed a walk-off. Not coincidentally, the teams up front right now have dominant closers, with rookie Trevor Rosenthal (4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB & 6K) and Koji Uehara (5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB & 7 K) shutting down the opposition.

Both of the teams with home field advantage, the Cardinals and the Red Sox, are up 3-2, but it could just as easily be the Dodgers and Tigers with the advantage. Despite St. Louis and Boston “sitting in the driver’s seat” a Game 6 victory by the visitors is hardly impossible. The Dodgers have their best pitcher on the mound in Kershaw and the Tigers will lean on Scherzer, the AL wins leader.

I believe it is safe to say that whichever way the Game 6’s go down, they will be hotly contested and likely finish in dramatic fashion. We can only hope that each brings about a climactic Game 7 for a chance to play in the World Series. Is there anything better than a winner take all game to reach the World Series? Just two of them!

Logos courtesy of sportslogos.net

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dodgers’ and Tigers' bats come alive

Both sides of the League Championship Series have been dominated by incredible pitching performances. This is not uncommon for playoff series and as the cliché goes, good pitching beats good hitting in the postseason. Leading up to yesterday’s Game 5 in Los Angeles and Game 4 in Detroit, the Dodgers and Tigers were aching for some runs.

National League Championship Series - Game 5
St. Louis Cardinals (4) at Los Angeles Dodgers (6)
Cardinals lead series 3-2

In Los Angeles, the Dodgers staved off elimination with a 6-4 victory, displaying a power outburst not yet seen in the NLCS. The Dodgers rocked four Hollywood style home runs, including two from first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who added a single and scored three times. Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis hit the other bombs for L.A.

The Dodgers also received another fine pitching performance, as Zack Greinke scattered six hits across seven innings of two-run ball. The game got interesting in the ninth as Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen gave up two runs on four hits and allowed the go-ahead run to get up to the plate. He settled down and struck out pinch-hitter Adron Chambers to end the game, sending the series back to St. Louis.

Notes:

  • Joe Kelly took the loss – 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 K
  • Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday are showing signs of coming around with the bat
  • David Freese (.118) and Carlos Beltran (.176) are struggling at the plate in the series
  • Gonzalez now has four extra base hits in the NLCS
  • Dodger starters have allowed five runs (four earned) across 28 innings

Friday’s Game 6 Probables
Los Angeles – Clayton Kershaw
St. Louis – Michael Wacha

American League Championship Series - Game 4
Boston Red Sox (3) at Detroit Tigers (7)
Series tied 2-2

Detroit manager Jim Leyland sensed there needed to be some sort of change and did it with a completely new lineup card. He moved Austin Jackson from the leadoff spot to eighth and shifted the rest of his hitters up a spot. It is not unheard of to move a guy who is slumping and Jackson fit the bill, hitting .091 for the postseason entering the game. But, Leyland didn’t just swap Jackson, everyone found themselves in unfamiliar territory.

It worked.

The Tigers erupted for five runs in the second inning off Red Sox starter Jake Peavy en route to a 7-3 win. Even better for the Tigers, Jackson was on base four times with two walks and two singles. He added two RBIs and his first stolen base of the series. Miguel Cabrera, who took over the #2 spot, had two hits and two RBIs.

The Tigers win ensured this series would go back to Boston, and yes Leyland will trot out the same lineup card to the umps for Game 5. Why not?

Notes:

  • Victor Martinez is hitting .400 for the ALCS
  • Doug Fister was the winning pitcher – 6 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K
  • Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit allowed his second run of the series and has a 6.35 ERA in the postseason
  • Jacoby Ellsbury laced four hits including a double and triple
  • David Ortiz is 1-for-15 in the series, though the one hit was the massive grand slam in Game 2
  • The Red Sox are hitting a combined .186 in the ALCS

Tonight’s Game 5 Probables
Boston – Jon Lester
Detroit – Anibal Sanchez

Logos courtesy of sportslogos.net

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Containing Emotions in Baseball is Bad Business

One of the hot button topics in Major League Baseball these days is that some of the young stars of the game display too many celebratory actions on the field. For example, some young players like Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper have demonstrated great talent and also the ability to flaunt it. This irritates the old-school players, coaches and fans. I’ll argue that these types of players are exactly what MLB needs now if it hopes to contend with the NFL and NBA.

Baseball is inherently a slow sport. It’s a function of the game. So, when there is exciting action on the field in the middle of the game, why is it that the players have to “act like they’ve been there before?” What is the harm of fists to the sky, flipping the bat or admiring a long drive over the fence? Why can’t a pitcher be demonstrative after a crucial strikeout? Why is it that the only time a team can celebrate something on the field is after a walkoff hit or the final out by its closer? In the NFL, players dance and strut after every first down, even when down by 28 points with two minutes to go. In the NBA, every dunk is followed by screaming and flexing, no matter the score.

I’m not suggesting getting into the opponents face or use of verbal taunting tactics. The game has built in mechanisms for handling these situations, which seem to keep things in line most of the time. In my view, shouting at a pitcher as you trot around the bases is uncalled for and probably deserves some sort of retaliation. But, the pitcher needs to suck it up if a batter hits a ball off of an upper-deck and watches it the whole way. He should get back on the mound and go after the next batter. He needs to stop wallowing and not voice his displeasure at the hitter as he rounds the bases. The pitcher has a job to do -- get outs -- not worrying about whether he is being shown up.

It’s the same if a pitcher throws a nasty slider for the final out of the fourth inning with runners in scoring position and pumps his fists, stomps the mound and shouts, “YES!” The hitter in that situation should walk back to the dugout, grab his glove and deal with it. He was beaten in that at-bat and should use it as fire for his next plate appearance. There is no need to get bent out of shape because the pitcher is happy he did his job.

Instead, baseball “purists” get angry with professional players who are outwardly expressive. But, you know what? This enthusiasm sells. Is there anyone more exciting in baseball than Puig right now? Are Dodger fans buying Mark Ellis jerseys or Puig jerseys? Yes, youngsters may emulate Puig’s style and yes it may be over the top for a 12-year-old, but it is the parents’ and coaches’ responsibility to explain that to Little League players.

I’ll choose to teach my kids that the extra bits of celebrating are not necessary. I was always told to demonstrate my displeasure by simply being better. I’d also explain to them that they are watching professional players being paid to entertain.

The baseball traditionalist can be happy that there are many young players who exhibit the old-school mentality of containing excitement and pleasure in success. I actually like when a player simply puts his head down and runs when he knows he’s hit a home run. I used to love that about former Reds and Yankees outfielder Paul O’Neill. But you what I liked even more about O’Neill? He would tear up the dugout when he struck out. He wore his frustrations on his sleeve and I can’t see any reason why today’s players can’t wear elated emotions on theirs. No one seems to mind when a player demonstrates dissatisfaction; it means he loves the game. But displaying excitement in personal performance or soaking up the attention of fans is contrary to baseball’s unwritten code. Nonsense.

Thinking that there is a time and place for celebrating a good play has become ridiculous. As a fan if there is an opposing player fired up for something he did well on the field, deal with it. You’ve probably got a player or two on your own team that does pretty much the same thing.

Think of it this way, you’ve sat through six innings and watched your team get manhandled by the opponent’s starting pitcher and they are losing 8-0. Aren’t you going to get a little excited if your best player hits a three-run homer in the seventh? Don’t you want him to show some exhilaration as he rounds the bases? Who cares if the team is still down by five runs? He did something good to help his team, right? Why can’t he show his happiness just because they are still losing and may not win? Are you as a fan of the team going to stay in your seat because you think they still can’t win? Why should the opposition get riled up because the player is waving his index finger in the air, especially if they feel they’re going to win anyway?

I say, who cares?  I want players to celebrate their homers whenever they hit them. I want pitchers to be bombastic about a big strikeout no matter the inning. It may be the only time someone on the team does anything positive for his fans on that given day.

It is true that winning is the ultimate time to rejoice on the field, but in this day and age of NOW, old-school baseball players, coaches and fans need to embrace change. Today’s stars want to show they are having fun, at any point in a game, regardless of the score and despite what the opposition believes. It’s the new age of baseball and you all better get used to it.

Photo courtesy of Peter Bond via Flicker

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ryu, Puig help Dodgers flip Cardinals

National League Championship Series - Game 3
St. Louis Cardinals (0) at Los Angeles Dodgers (3)
Cardinals lead series 2-1

The Los Angeles Dodgers received a boost of energy from their two rookies Monday night as the boys in blue settled business with the St. Louis Cardinals with their first win of the NLCS.

Hyun-Jin Ryu tossed seven scoreless innings allowing just four baserunners, while Yasiel Puig demonstrated his exuberance, albeit prematurely, flipping his bat in grand style after launching a run-scoring triple as part of a two-run fourth inning.

Adrian Gonzalez had opened the scoring with an RBI-double in the fourth, just the second Dodgers hit with runners in scoring position for in the series at the time. It broke a 21-inning scoreless streak for Los Angeles. After Andre Ethier, who played with a microfracture in his ankle, grounded out, up came the enigmatic Puig with two outs.

Cardinals’ starter Adam Wainwright threw a sinker that did not sink and Puig drove it the opposite way. The 22-year-old Cuban defector tossed his bat and raised his arms in delight, believing he just homered. Instead the ball hit the right field wall and Puig took off around the bases. Even with the grandstanding, Puig made it to third base standing up and the Dodgers had a 2-0 lead. For good measure, Puig celebrated again, encouraging the crowd to cheer.

Cardinals’ outfielder Carlos Beltran spoke about Puig’s antics after the game.

"I think he doesn't know," Beltran said via MLB.com. "He still thinks he's playing somewhere else, I don't know. He has a lot of passion, no doubt about that. Great ability, great talent and I think with time, he will learn that you have to sometimes act a little bit more calm. Not only with trying to show up other teams, [but also], like, umpires. It's going to take him time, but he's going to learn."

While the Dodgers finally pushed across some runs, Ryu was setting down Cardinals batters and did not allow a hit until the fifth inning. The southpaw rookie from Korea looked worlds better than he did in his NLDS performance against the Atlanta Braves and it came at the right time.

The Dodgers tacked on a run in the eighth when Hanley Ramirez, who was playing with a broken rib, blooped a single over Kolten Wong at second base. Wong neglected to see Carl Crawford charging home as he tossed the ball to second base instead. It was one of several miscues by the Cardinals defense that did not show up in the box score as errors, but did so eventually in the run column.

Wainwright pitched a very good game (7 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 2 ER, 5 K) but was also victimized by center fielder Jon Jay’s poor defense in the decisive fourth inning. Mark Ellis lofted a fly ball to right center, which Beltran gave way to seeing it was Jay’s ball. But Jay also held up and in dropped in as Ellis hustled to second base. Ellis scored the first run on Gonzalez’s double. Jay also dropped a ball off the bat of Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis which resulted in a triple, but he was stranded by Wainwright.

After Ryu's fabulous start, Brian Wilson struck out two in the eighth inning and then Kenley Jansen earned the save with a clean ninth inning.

In the end, the eccentric Dodgers got what they needed. They received some inspiration from Ramirez and Ethier, excellent pitching and the lineup finally provided some timely hitting. Puig's celebration was just a bonus.

Notes:

  • Mark Ellis is hitting .385 in the NLCS and .321/.387/500 in 31 postseason plate appearances
  • Ramirez sits at .455/.571/.864 in 27 postseason PA
  • There have been just nine runs scored (eight earned) in the entire series
  • The Dodgers team ERA is 0.92 with a 0.68 WHIP
  • The Cardinals have an ERA of 1.50 and a 1.00 WHIP
  • The Cardinals bullpen went 11 2/3 innings without allowing a run until the Ramirez’s RBI-single in the eighth
  • Cardinals third baseman David Freese left the game in the fifth with tightness in his right calf and is day-to-day

Game 4 Probables
St. Louis – Lance Lynn
Los Angeles – Ricky Nolasco

NLCS logo courtesy of sportslogos.net

Monday, October 14, 2013

Red Sox shock Tigers to even ALCS

American League Championship Series Game 2
Detroit Tigers (5) at Boston Red Sox (6) – Series tied 1-1

What a difference two innings makes! The Boston Red Sox, on the verge of getting completely whitewashed on their home field, put together an amazing comeback from four runs down to beat the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the ALCS.

Tigers' pitching had thoroughly smothered Boston’s offense as Max Scherzer continued where his fellow staff members finished Game 1. Scherzer held the Red Sox hitless through 5 2/3 innings and finished the night leaving with a 5-1 lead after seven dominant innings. Scherzer struck out 13 batters along the way.

The Tigers’ offense woke up a bit courtesy of home runs from Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila wrapped around a run-scoring double by Victor Martinez. Avila drove in three runs on the night. Boston starter Clay Buchholz allowed all the Tigers runs.

The Tigers bullpen, which had pitched nearly flawlessly in Game 1, took over in the eighth but could not contain the Red Sox once again. Three relievers allowed the bases loaded with two outs and in came Detroit closer Joaquin Benoit. Boston designated hitter and postseason masher, David Ortiz, launched Benoit’s first pitch over the right center field wall over the outstretched reach of Torii Hunter, who flipped over the fence and into Boston’s bullpen. One pitch and the game was all tied up.

Tigers lefty Phil Coke, who has held the left-handed hitting Ortiz to just two hits in 18 at-bats, was not used because he hadn't pitched in three weeks according to Detroit manager Jim Leyland. Leyland went to Benoit and he got burned. Yes, the same could have happened to Coke, I just don't understand the point of putting Coke on the roster if he will not pitch to Ortiz in that spot.

After Red Sox closer Koji Uehara set the Tigers down in order, Boston received some good fortune via a former teammate. Jose Iglesias, traded to the Tigers earlier in the season, was in for defensive purposes and threw away the first ball hit to him by Jonny Gomes on a tough play. Gomes moved to second on the errant throw. Tigers’ reliever Rick Porcello induced a pop foul on the first base side, but Price Fielder could not make the play against the fans. That allowed another opportunity for Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who delivered a single by Iglesias easily driving in Gomes, who was on third after a wild pitch. The Red Sox erupted out of the dugout to celebrate an improbable victory.

The series heads to Detroit for three games with the series tied instead of the Tigers holding a firm advantage. That’s postseason baseball!

Notes:

  • Detroit was the 14th team out of 473 games to lose after holding a five-run lead.
  • Ortiz has 15 home runs and 54 RBIs in 72 postseason games. The grand slam was the first of his postseason career.
  • Hunter was banged up after the play but hit in the ninth and indicated he would be fine in the postgame interviews.
  • Tigers’ starters have dominated in the series totaling 25 strikeouts. The team has 32 in all.
  • Tigers’ center fielder Austin Jackson is 3-for-30 this postseason with 16 strikeouts.
  • Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli has two hits in 17 at-bats and has just one RBI in the postseason.
  • Boston’s bullpen has not allowed a run in six innings of work.

Game 3 Probables
Boston – John Lackey
Detroit – Justin Verlander

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sanchez, Tigers' bullpen Stifle Red Sox

American League Championship Series
Game 1 – Detroit Tigers (1) at Boston Red Sox (0)
Tigers lead series 1-0

The Detroit Tigers have not been scoring a lot of runs this postseason, but when a pitching staff holds the opposition to zero runs and just one hit, it doesn’t matter. The Tigers jumped out to a 1-0 American League Championship Series lead, with a 1-0, one-hit victory, snagging home field advantage from the Boston Red Sox.

Anibal Sanchez did not pitch to his ability in the division series, but the AL ERA leader worked in and out of trouble tossing six innings of hitless ball. Sanchez threw 116 pitches due to six walks and 12 strikeouts. It may not have been pretty for Sanchez, but obviously he was effective when it mattered and the Tigers bullpen did the rest.

Sanchez put himself on the ropes in the bottom half of the sixth walking the bases loaded, only to strikeout Stephen Drew on a nasty slider to end the frame. Sanchez pumped his fists in excitement after retiring his final batter of the night.

Tigers’ relievers added five more strikeouts along the way. Closer Joaquin Benoit gave up a one-out no-doubt single to Daniel Nava to break up the Tigers’ no-hit bid.

Detroit scored their lone run off Boston starter Jon Lester in the sixth. Miguel Cabrera drew a walk, Prince Fielder was hit by a pitch and Jhonny Peralta, who listened to a chorus of “steroids” chants all night, dropped a fly ball in front of Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury for an RBI-single. Lester ended the night allowing the one run, six hits and one walk while striking out five to take the hard-luck loss.

Notes:

  • Both teams went a combined for 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position
  • Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli all struck out three times
  • The Red Sox added two more stolen bases in the postseason – they now have 8
  • Peralta banged out three more hits – he is 8-for-16 on the postseason
  • The Red Sox had five players left in scoring position with two out
  • For the first time in MLB postseason history, there were a pair of 1-0 games completed on the same day
Tonight's Game 2 Probables
Detroit – Max Scherzer
Boston – Clay Buchholz

The Tigers are in a great position now with the Scherzer, the MLB wins leader, taking the ball in Game 2. But, he’ll be facing Buchholz who was stellar this season, even at Fenway Park where he was 6-1, 1.99 ERA. Should the Red Sox go down 2-0 heading to Detroit, they’ll have a very hard battle on their hands.

Rookie Power Arms Put Cardinals up 2-0

National League Championship Series
Game 2 – Los Angeles Dodgers (0) at St. Louis Cardinals (1)
Cardinals lead series 2-0

The St. Louis Cardinals must be feeling very good about themselves as they head to Los Angeles up 2-0 in the National League Championship Series and their experienced ace, Adam Wainwright, has yet to step foot on the mound.

The Cardinals rookie power arms starred in this one as Michael Wacha tossed 6.2 innings of shutout ball and the bullpen finished off the shutout with Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal striking out the final five Dodgers to come to the plate. The Cardinals' bullpen has now pitched 9.1 innings without allowing a run in the series.

Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw was predictably very good, but the Cardinals scratched across the only run they would need in the fifth as David Freese doubled and eventually scored on a John Jay sacrifice fly. Kershaw allowed just two hits across six innings. He was removed for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning and finished with just 72 pitches thrown.

The Dodgers had their chances, but could not push across the big hit when they needed it. Their best chance was in the sixth when they had the bases loaded with one out. Wacha struck out Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe to end the threat, compiling eight strikeouts in all. Puig struck out four times on the afternoon.

Notes:

  • Wacha last three starts – 22.2 IP, 3W, 1 R, 7 H, 5 BB and 26 Ks
  • Rosenthal threw 14 fastballs in the outing ranging from 97 - 101 mph
  • Dodgers are 1-for-16 with RISP
  • Cardinals’ pitching has racked up 24 strikeouts for the series
  • Puig is 0-for-0 with 6 Ks and 11 runners left on base
  • The Cardinals are hitting just .134 for the series – the Dodgers .184
  • Dodgers were 47-34 at home during the regular season
  • Cardinals went 43-38 on the road during the regular season
  • For the first time in MLB postseason history, there were a pair of 1-0 games completed on the same day

Game 3 Probables (Monday)
St. Louis – Adam Wainwright
Los Angeles – Hyun-Jin Ryu

NLCS logo courtesy of sportslogos.net

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tigers ready to defend American League title against Red Sox

ALCS Preview: Detroit Tigers versus Boston Red Sox

The Detroit Tigers are in the American League Championship Series for the third straight season, looking to return to the World Series for the second year in a row. They have a rough road ahead of them as they face the Boston Red Sox, the AL’s regular season wins leader.

The Tigers advanced by beating the Oakland Athletics in five tight games, while the Red Sox dismantled the Tampa Bay Rays with a potent and balanced attack in four games.

The teams met seven times during the regular season with the Tigers winning four games, but Boston outscored Detroit 43-35.

The Red Sox were able to line up their rotation while the Tigers will have to make some adjustments due to the length of the battle with the A’s.

Probables

Game 1 – (DET) Anibal Sanchez at (BOS) Jon Lester
Game 2 – (DET) Max Scherzer at (Bos) John Lackey
Game 3 – (BOS) Clay Buchholz at (DET) Justin Verlander
Game 4 – (BOS) Jake Peavy at (DET) Doug Fister

Offense

These were the top two teams in the majors in scoring during the regular season with the Red Sox crossing the plate 853 times and the Tigers, 796. The Red Sox continued bashing the ball in the division series hitting .286 and scoring 26 runs in four games. The Tigers on the other hand were mostly shutdown by the A’s pitching as they slashed just .235/.299/.321 as a team.

The Red Sox are capable of scoring in multiple ways, possessing power and speed. The Tigers have power but don’t run much, stealing just 35 bases on the regular season.

The Red Sox were led by Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and David Ortiz in the ALDS, while Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta led the Tigers’ offense. The Tigers are also hoping that Miguel Cabrera’s home run in Game 5 is the start of something big. It was the Tigers third baseman’s first homer since mid-September.

Pitching

Again, both teams have very solid pitching. The Tigers rotation was arguably the best in baseball with Scherzer (MLB’s wins leader with 21), Sanchez (AL ERA leader at 2.57) and former Cy Young and MVP Verlander (217 Ks). Doug Fister is a pretty good number four.

The Red Sox top three may slightly below the caliber of the Tigers, but they are pretty good nonetheless. Lester (15-8), Lackey (3.53 ERA) and Buchholz (12-1, 1.74 ERA) combined to make a quality top three. Jake Peavy, like Fister is not too shabby as the fourth starter.

The bullpens are also pretty closely matched. Leading up to the closers each team has quality setup guys, with the Tigers relying on young Drew Smyly (2.37 ERA and 81 K in 76 IP) and the Red Sox using Junichi Tazawa (3.16 ERA, 72 K in 68.1 IP) in the eighth inning.

The Red Sox have a lockdown closer in Koji Uehara (1.09 ERA, 21 SV, 101 K in 74.1 IP), while the Tigers turn to Joaquin Benoit (2.01 ERA, 24 SV, 73 K in 67 IP) in the ninth. Those are very good numbers for Benoit, but Uehara had stretches of being untouchable during the regular season.

Managers

Tigers skipper Jim Leyland has the experience while Red Sox manager John Farrell has brought a team from last to first in his inaugural season as Boston’s manager. Each man gets the most out his team and is respected by its players. In such a tight series, decisions by the managers could be crucial and Leyland’s experience in the postseason could provide the Tigers with a slight advantage.

Prediction
The Tigers have a better rotation, but not by much. The bullpens are more or less even. The Red Sox offense is superior to the Tigers and they did not lose a step in the division series where the Tigers have recently struggled at the plate. Leyland has an edge over Farrell. But, the Red Sox have home field advantage. Can the Tigers slow down the Red Sox bats and find their own? Is Detroit’s rotation too strong for Boston? Will Farrell’s postseason inexperience come into play? I like the way the pitching matchups set up for Detroit here and see Verlander winning Game 7 on the road to propel the Tigers to the World Series for the second straight season.

Beltran continues to build postseason resume

Los Angeles Dodgers (2) at St. Louis Cardinals (3) - Cardinals lead series 1-0

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran had a night to remember, adding to his already impressive postseason resume. The 36-year-old drove in all three Cardinals’ runs including the decisive score in the 13th inning as the Redbirds took a 1-0 lead in the National League Championship Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday night at Busch Stadium.

Beltran has amassed some incredible numbers over the course of four postseasons. In 40 games and 176 plate appearances including last night, Beltran owns a slash line of .345/.449/.750. He’s hit 16 home runs and driven in 34.

While Beltran has one moment he would like back, striking out against current teammate Adam Wainwright to end the 2006 NLCS as a member of the New York Mets, he’s since won a World Series ring in St. Louis and has the ability to carry his team to another this season.

The Cardinals found themselves down 2-0 in the third inning, after Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe knocked in a pair of runs with a two-out single. Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke looked locked in up to the bottom of the same frame.

Cardinals starting pitcher Joe Kelly reached on a two-out single and second baseman Matt Carpenter walked bringing up Beltran, who launched 3-1 fastball off the wall in right center field, evading Dodgers center fielder Andre Ethier, scoring both runners to knot the game at two.

Beltran also did it in the field last night as he gunned down Mark Ellis in the 10th inning at the plate to prevent the Dodgers from taking the lead.

The big and decisive blow came with one out in the bottom of the 13th when Beltran ripped a Kenley Jansen delivery into right field scoring Daniel Descalso who had reached on a single.

Notes:
  • Dodgers manager Don Mattingly pinch-ran Dee Gordon for Adrian Gonzalez in the eighth inning and it came back to haunt him twice as Michael Young failed to produce in the spot.
  • Greinke allowed just five baserunners in eight innings of two-run ball with 10 strikeouts.
  • Kelly turned in a solid six-inning effort, scattering six hits and two walks with 5 Ks.
  • Yasiel Puig went 0-for-6 stranding seven runners.
  • The Dodgers first four hitters (Carl Crawford, Ellis, Hanley Ramirez and Gonzalez reached base 10 times in 16 plate appearances but scored just two runs.
Game 2 Probables
Dodgers – Clayton Kershaw
Cardinals – Michael Wacha

If the Dodgers expect to take this series, they need to win each time Kershaw is on the hill. It will not be easy as Wacha has been nearly unhittable in his last two starts. The Dodgers may have missed a big opportunity last night with Kelly on the mound for the Cards. Wainwright will be the Cardinals Game 3 starter, so if the Dodgers head home down 2-0, it will put immense pressure on their starter Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dodgers' balanced attack could spoil Cardinals' run

National League Championship Series Preview

Los Angeles Dodgers versus St. Louis Cardinals

Both teams handled their business in the division series though the Dodgers had a much easier time against the Atlanta Braves. The Cardinals went the distance against a very formidable Pittsburgh Pirates team. The Dodgers won the regular season series with the Cardinals four games to three. Below is a quick breakdown of the series as I see it.

Probables
Game 1 – Zack Greinke vs. Joe Kelly
Game 2 – Clayton Kershaw vs. Michael Wacha
Game 3 – TBA vs. Adam Wainwright
Game 4 – TBA vs. TBA

Offense

The Dodgers were led by Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig in the NLDS victory over the Braves. This of course was not much of a surprise as both players carried the club through the latter half of the regular season. The Dodgers will want to back Greinke in Game 1 and try to wrest home field advantage away from the Cardinals. They’ll hope to take advantage of the pitching matchup against Kelly, easily the weakest of the Cardinals first three starters lined up.

The Cardinals need to get Matt Carpenter going so that Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina have someone on base to drive in. Carpenter had just one hit in the NLDS against the Pirates. The Cardinals as a team will also have to improve on their recent performance in the NLDS with runners in scoring position (5-for-27). The club hit an amazing .330 in such situations during the regular season. Even if they meet halfway between these extremes the Cardinals give themselves a great chance.

Pitching

The Dodgers have the household names in Kershaw and Greinke, while Wainwright is the hands down ace of the Redbirds. Ricky Nolasco and Hyun-Jin Ryu will need to step up for the Dodgers when given the opportunity, while Kelly and Wacha will need to do the same for the Cards. Wacha is red-hot, flirting with no-hitters in his last two starts, the last coming in the division series.

The Cardinals tout an effective bullpen with newly appointed closer Trevor Rosenthal at the end, where the Dodgers are riding experienced arms in Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen to close out victories. The Cardinals have modestly better arms in middle relief.

Managers

Both clubs have skippers who had no prior managerial experience before being hired (I’m not counting Dodger manager Don Mattingly's quick Arizona Fall League tour). But, each played in the big leagues and has had success early in their managing careers.

Mattingly was given a very talented club and high-salaried club and kept things on an even keel when it looked as though the season was lost in late June. He has not had to make many earth shattering decisions, but he also hasn't screwed anything up along the way.

Mike Matheny, a former catcher, has the Cardinals in the NLCS for the third straight time, the second of his two-year managerial career. Matheny likes to try and generate runs with small ball tactics and has a very good grasp of managing the pitching staff.

Prediction

Two clubs coming from different directions, but landing in a spot many predicted at the beginning of the season. Each team has a storied history and there are no glaring areas of domination for either team. The series will be close throughout, but I think the Dodgers have a bit more balance on both sides of the ball right now. Dodgers in six.

NLCS logo courtesy of sportslogos.net

Verlander takes down Oakland again as Tigers Advance

Detroit Tigers (3) at Oakland Athletics (0) - Tigers win series 3-2

Justin Verlander did it again to the Oakland Athletics. Almost exactly one year to the day he shutout the A’s in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS, Verlander tossed eight shutout innings allowing just two hits as the Detroit Tigers advanced to the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox.

Verlander outdueled rookie Sonny Gray with his full arsenal of pitches working. Verlander threw 111 pitches, 76 for strikes and recorded 10 strikeouts along the way. Verlander held the A’s scoreless for 15 innings in the series, giving up just six hits and two walks with 21 Ks. It seems as though the former AL MVP and Cy Young winner has regained his stuff at the right time.

Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer in the top half of the fourth providing Verlander with all the run support he needed. It was Cabrera's first home run since Sept. 17.

Gray was not quite as impressive as he was in Game 2 when he held the Tigers scoreless for eight innings. This time around he looked like the big stage was affecting his ability to stay in the strike zone.

The Tigers reached the ALCS for the third straight season, the first team to pull that off since the 1998-2001 New York Yankees.

Series Notes:

  • Victor Martinez collected three more hits in Game 5 and finished 9-for-20 in the series.
  • The rest of the Tigers hit just .204 for the series.
  • Brandon Moss was 2-for-18 in the series and struck out 13 times.
  • Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes each had OPS over 1.000 for the series.
  • Josh Donaldson, who hit .301/.384/.499 over the regular season, went .143/.182/.143 in the ALDS.
  • The Tigers pitchers, the MLB regular season leaders in strikeouts (1428), put up a whopping 57 strikeouts over 44 innings in the series.
  • The Tigers named Anibal Sanchez the Game 1 starter against Boston.

My League Championship Series previews will be published separately later today.

Tigers’ logo courtesy of sportslogos.net

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cardinals advance; Detroit and Oakland ready for Game 5

The St. Louis Cardinals have reached the National League Championship Series for the third straight season after taking out NL Central rival Pittsburgh. The Redbirds are set to take on the NL West Champion Los Angeles Dodgers beginning Friday, Oct. 11 in St. Louis.

While the National League participants have been determined, a Game 5 tilt between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics is set for Thursday night with the winner gaining the right to face the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS.


Pittsburgh Pirates (1) at St. Louis Cardinals (6) – Cardinals win series 3-2 
  • Adam Wainwright tossed a complete game for his second win of the series.
  • Wainwright allowed two runs in 16 total innings for the series with 15 strikeouts.
  • Gerrit Cole went five innings allowing two runs on just three hits for the Pirates.
  • The Cardinals hit just .209 for the series, but launched six homers as a team.
  • The Pirates slashed .201/.269/.312 over the five games.
  • Andrew McCutchen did not have a RBI during the series – Gerrit Cole did.
  • Matt Carpenter is in a bit of a slump – the MVP candidate went 1-for-19 in the series with six strikeouts.
Tonight: Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics - Series tied 2-2

Probables
Detroit – Justin Verlander (Game 2 – ND, 7 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 11 K)
Oakland – Sonny Gray (Game 2 – ND, 8 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 0 R, 9 K)

I picked the Tigers to win the series (albeit in four games) and will stick with the prediction. I like the A’s choice of Gray for the start over Bartolo Colon, as he was able to go toe-to-toe with Verlander in Game 2. It won’t be easy for the Tigers with the A’s getting last licks and having demonstrated a propensity for walkoff wins. However, I see the pitching matchup resembling that of yesterday’s between Wainwright and Cole – Verlander’s experience adding up to just a bit more than Gray’s upside.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Cardinals logo courtesy of sportslogos.net