Sunday, July 31, 2011

Analyzing the Trade Deadline

     The trade deadline in baseball is one of the more exciting parts of baseball, as there is a flurry of trades in a short time period. Teams looking for an extra boost exchange prospects for role players, rentals, or stars. Teams out of contention trade away guys that aren't in their future for guys that will. And some teams just sit back and relax. What I'm about to do is analyze the few trades that I think will make a difference.

1) Hunter Pence to the Phillies
     The Phillies were in obvious need of a right fielder and they got an All-Star in Pence (albeit with Houston). They were in the running for Carlos Beltran but backed out of the way because they didn't want a rental player. With Pence, he will be in the lineup for this year and next, because his contract expires at the end of next year. By then, Philly will have their right field problems solved with either Dominic Brown or Pence starting in right field, whoever Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro Jr. think is the answer. Now to what the Phillies gave up, they gave Houston GM Ed Wade top prospects Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton while also handing over Josh Zeid. Cosart, a starter, and the first baseman Singleton were the Phillies' top two prospects behind Dominic Brown, while Zeid is a 2nd-tier prospect that has struggled in the minors this year with a 5.65 earned-run average at Double-A Reddingafter spotting 2.93 in Single-A ball last year. Back to Pence, it is obvious how much the Phillies believe in the 28-year old right fielder because of his price tag, but with .307 batting average to go along with 11 homers and 63 RBI, Pence is the right-handed batter the Phillies need in their leftie-stacked lineup.

2) Michael Bourn to the Braves

     Like their division counterpart Philadelphia, Atlanta added an outfielder at the deadline, getting the speedy center fielder Bourn, also from Houston, who leads the majors in steals with 39. Atlanta GM Frank Wren was also pursuing the previously mentioned Pence, Carlos Beltran, and Ryan Ludwick. Wren decided not to pull in the switch-hitting Beltran because he didn't want to give up a top pitching prospect like Mike Minor or Arodys Vizcaino (Julio Teheran was way off-limits) because that price was not worth it "for a rental." Many Braves players such as Chipper Jones were on board with the acquisition because it gave Atlanta a much-needed pure leadoff man, which the Braves, "haven't had that kind of threat in the top of [the] lineup in a long time" said Jones, as the Braves' last pure leadoff man had been Kenny Lofton back in the 1990s. This move makes more sense than Atlanta getting Pence, Beltran, or Ludwick because it gives the Braves both a centerfielder and a leadoff man (Beltran is the only one that can play center but he prefers right and none of them can bat in the #1 slot).

3) Derrek Lee to the Pirates
     Although a shout-out goes to the Texas Rangers, who yesterday added Koji Uehara and today Mike Adams, solidying their bullpen, the final trade that will have a big influence on how the rest of the season plays out is not the Adams trade nor the Fister/Pauley trade but the Derrek Lee trade. Last night, Lee was traded to Pittsburgh for first base prospect Aaron Baker. Why is this an important trade? The Pirates are currently in third in the NL Central, but they are above .500 and have played well this season as a whole.  Most people know that whatever the Pirates do influences the Wild Card race as well as the NL Central race, as Pittsburgh is only 3.5 games out of the division lead and 7.5 back in the Wild Card. By adding Lee, the Pirates are gambling that Lee can be the playoff-experienced veteran they need to finish out the year strong and hopefully make the playoffs. However, he has been to four postseasons and the only time his team made it out of the first round (2003 Florida Marlins), Lee batted .208 with only one homer.  If Lee performs well the rest of the season and if something happens to the Brewers (I'm not considering the Cardinals as a threat because of the Pujols free agent talk and lack of Adam Wainwright), then the Pirates could have a legitimate shot at playing in October.

     Other notable trades that haven't been mentioned yet are: Rafael Furcal to the Cardinals, Brad Ziegler to the Diamondbacks, and Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Why the Pirates are Above .500

     This year, the Pirates have surprised just about everyone. Going into July 23 games, the Pirates are 51-46, and 2nd in the NL Central. They are on track to posting their first winning record since 1992, when Barry Bonds was the star of the team. Although there are a few notable hitters in the Pirates lineup, the key to the team's success has been pitching.
     Jeff Karstens, Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia, James McDonald, and Charlie Morton. Those are the pitchers that have made all but three starts for Pittsburgh this year. In any other year, they would probably be scrub pitchers, maybe a 4-starter at best, but this year they've formed one of the most reliable rotations in the NL. The one that has been the best and most surprising is Karstens. Never before posting an earned-run average below 4.92 (when pitching at least 100+ innings), Karstens paces the National League with a 2.28 ERA and owns the NL's third-best WHIP at 1.04, ahead of many star pitchers such as Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. According to ESPN's Average Game Score, which measures how good the average outing for a pitcher is, Karstens ranks 10th. Since Karstens' June 3 start against the Phillies, Karstens has worked at least 6 2/3 innings in every start while the most earned runs he allowed in a start was 3. In those starts, seven of them were when he allowed one earned run or less. In June and July, Karstens has been spectacular, going 5-1 with monthly ERA's of 0.78 (July) and 1.52 (June).
      Next is Paul Maholm, the workhorse of the Pirates rotation. He is one of 17 pitchers that have started an Nl-high 21 games, and Maholm comes in at 12th for innings pitched with 132.2, on pace for a career-high. Maholm has a 3.26 ERA and 1.24 WHIP to complement those, showing how his 6-10 record has been unlucky.
     Onto Correia, the last of the three overachievers, he was magnificent in the month of April and pretty average from then-on. He was one of the first NL pitchers to break 10 wins, and currently is in a tie for third in wins with 11. Although he has a 4.04 ERA, his whip is an above-average 1.26 and he has been consistently been working late into games. And although these two haven't been performing like stars, James McDonald and Charlie Morton deserve recognition. McDonald's 85 strikeouts are the most of any Pirate and Morton has gone above expectations with an 8-5 record and 3.62 ERA.
     The starting rotation can't do it all. The bullpen has done a great job, with once again three pitchers going above and beyond. First up is All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan. The former National has followed-up on last year's strong showing by converting 28 of his 29 save attempts and posting a 0.92 WHIP and 1.24 ERA. This guy's only allowed six earned runs the entire year. His two set-up men, Jose Veras and Chris Resop, have also been great. Both have ERA's under 3.50 and WHIP's under 1.25. Between the two, they have 32 holds.
     The Pirates as a team have pitched well. Their 3.36 team ERA is 5th in the NL, and their 5 complete games put them and the Dodgers in second behind the Phillies. This is a team that can overcome their woeful offense with terrific pitching to possibly take the NL Central Crown.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The National League's Got the Wrong Guy

     The "Final Vote", the process where fans elect the final player onto the All-Star squad, resulted in Paul Konerko and Shane Victorino being voted into the All-Star game after being left off the roster originally. Konerko was a great choice, as he's hitting .316 with 22 homers and 64 RBI, stats of a All-Star. But I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with the selection of Victorino. He's having a fine season, but the Phillies' centerfielder shouldn't have been selected over Michael Morse of the Nationals or fellow centerfielder Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
     In the months of May and June, Morse was arguably the hottest guys in the majors after taking over at first base for the Nats after Adam LaRoche went down for the season, Morse hit .337 with 14 round-trippers and 37 RBI. At the beginning of the hot streak, Morse's OPS was at .521 going into his May 2 game against the San Francisco Giants. After the Nats played the Orioles in the "Battle of the Beltway", Morse's OPS (on-base-plus slugging) was at .924, an increase of over 400 points.
     A lot of people were outraged at McCutchen being snubbed from the team, especially with the likes of Hunter Pence and Justin Upton being selected in front of him to satisfy the rule that all teams have to be represented by at least one player. McCutchen's batting average/ home run/ RBI line is .291/12/48 to go along with 15 steals, which is better than Victorino's .303/9/34 and 13, although Victorino had one stint on the 15 day disabled list and won't even be available to play as he is hurt again with a thumb injury. His spot is being taken by Andre Ethier (.313/7/42) from the financially-unstable Dodgers, and other than being inferior to both in batting average, I'd take McCutchen over both of them. What surprises me is that although most people that know what they're talking about placed McCutchen as the top All-Star snub before the FInal Vote ballots were created, McCutchen was passed over in favor of Victorino, Ethier, Todd Helton, Morse, and Ian Kennedy (listed in order of Final Vote standings).
     If I had to choose either Morse or McCutchen for the ASG, I'd go with Morse. Personally, I think Morse's stats are slightly better than McCutchen's, and Morse can play almost any position in the field, which would make him more appealing to manager Bruce Bochy. So to wrap it up, I would pick the final player on the All-Star team in this order: Michael Morse, Andrew McCutchen, Shane Victorino, Andre Ethier.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


     As of Friday, July 1, most major league baseball teams have played half of their games. Which means it's time to analyze the first half of the season. I'm going to go over first-half MVP's, Cy Young's, and Rookie of the Year's. After that, I'll look at the All-Star game voting, and finally, which teams will make the World Series.
     First up are the most valuable players in the first half of the season. In the AL, there are plenty of deserving candidates, such as outfielders Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, and Josh Hamilton. At designated hitter, David Ortiz and Michael Young have fought off aging and are performing as if they are in their prime. Many could argue Asdrubal Cabrera is the most valuable player because of how the Indians' lineup hit while Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana were slumping. But none of those are my first-half Al MVP, Adrian Gonzalez of the Boston Red Sox. After leaving Petco Park, a spacious pitcher's park, Gonzalez  has dominated AL pitching. Gonzalez leads the American League in hits, batting average, and RBI. He is in 2nd place in doubles and slugging percentage as well as top-five in runs, on-base percentage, and on-base plus slugging. No other hitter is that complete, which is how he beats out runner-up Jose Bautista. Gonzalez has been well-recognized for his achievements, as he is the leading vote-getter in the AL at first base.
     Now to the National League, this player is the MVP as well as comeback player of the year. He leads the NL in at-bats, batting average, hits, runs, and triples. If you pay any attention at all to baseball, that last stat gave it away. My first-half NL MVP is indeed the Mets' Jose Reyes. The New York Mets' shortstop is also second in the National League in doubles and stolen bases, while top-seven in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging. As of July 1, Reyes has 15 three-baggers and is on pace for 30 triples. Can you tell me who the last guy that hit 30 triples in one season? I think not. The answer is Chief Wilson, the only player in baseball's modern era (1900-present) that hit more than 30 triples. Almost 100 years ago in 1912, Wilson hit a still-standing record 36 triples in one season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Nobody else has hit more than 26 in one season. Back to Reyes, he might be able to break into the record books as the second player to do so as well as solidify his case for MVP.
     Next is the American League Cy Young. This race has three solid players, the Tigers' Justin Verlander, the Yankees' CC Sabathia, and the Angels' Jered Weaver. Between the three, they have the lead lead in games started, innings pitched, wins, strikeouts, WHIP (walks plus hits over innings pitched), and ERA. Verlander and Sabathia are the AL's two 11 game winners so far, and Weaver is not far behind with nine victories. While comparing the stats of the three pitchers, I noticed that Sabathia was good, but not phenomenal. The explanation for why he has so many wins but is not the best pitcher is because he plays on the Yankees, who have given him all the run support he wants or needs. So going from there, I looked at consistency, where I saw that all three of Verlander's losses were in April while all four of Weaver's were in May. The edge here goes to Verlander because his three losses were surrounded by two wins. Anyway, my pick here is Verlander because this year he has pitched three of the top 20 games (according to's Top Games) to Weaver's one, threw a no-hitter on May 7, and's Cy Predictor formula puts Justin Verlander at the top of all American League pitchers.
     In the National League this year, there have been two superb pitchers; Jair Jurrjens and Roy Halladay. Jurrjens picked up where he left off in 2009 with an NL-leading 11 wins and 1.89 ERA despite his 5.42 K/9 ratio being his worst since his 2007 rookie year with the Tigers. Meanwhile, Roy Halladay is having another great season after two no-hitters and a Cy Young last year. He has the most innings pitched in the NL along with the most quality starts to go along with the best K/BB ratio in all of baseball at 7.29 (next best is 5.44). He has the NL's best AVS (average game score from's Top Games), the best defense-independent ERA at 2.44, and has gone the distance an NL-leading five times along with 10 wins. This decision is tough for me since Jurrjen's threw a one-hitter against the Orioles last night, but Halladay and his 123-63 strikeout ratio to Jurrjens makes up for the 2.40-1.89 difference in ERA.
     The two Rookies of the Year were pretty easy to pick. Why? Not many rookies have performed at a high level. My two picks are the Mariners' Michel Pineda and the Braves' Craig Kimbrel. Pineda has performed at an almost All-Star level with a 7-5 record, a 2.65 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP to go along with his 99 strikeouts. The only real competition for the Dominican pitcher is Rays' flamethrower Jeremy Hellickson, who is 7-7 with a 3.18 ERA. Onto the NL, Kimbrel nabbed the closer's job right out of the gate as a rookie and quickly proved why, not giving up a run until his seventh appearance. As of July 1, he has converted 23 of his 28 save opportunities and has a 2.63 ERA. His competition has been Nationals' second baseman Danny Espinosa, who has clubbed 15 home runs.
     This year I've felt the fans have done a pretty good job with voting players to the All-Star game, with the exceptions of Derek Jeter, Matt Joyce, Jose Reyes, and Alex Avila. Starting with Jeter, he hasn't had a very good year and yet he is beating out the deserving Asdrubal Cabrera. To Joyce, he has been a star for the Rays but has gone unnoticed to voters despite a .307 batting average, 11 home runs, and .367 on-base percentage. Jose Reyes, the man I declared my first-half MVP and the player that Alex Rodriguez reportedly called the best player in the world (ESPN broke the story), is getting snubbed by voters in favor of Troy Tulowitzki. Don't get me wrong, Tulowitzki deserves to be an All-Star, but there is no doubt that Reyes should be the starter. Making a splash this year for the Tigers has been catcher Alex Avila, who has performed well with a .299 batting average, 10 home runs, and .900 on-base plus slugging while splitting time behind the plate with catcher/designated hitter Victor Martinez.
     Lastly, it is time to make World Series predictions. I think the representative from the AL will be either the Red Sox or Rangers. The Red Sox were preseason favorites to make the series, and the team has plenty of playoff experience along with a strong as well as deep rotation. Last year, when I made this same column (not on the internet), I picked the Rangers to make the World Series, and they did. This year, they aren't as good as last year's team, but they lead their division and if all of teir guys are healthy around playoff time, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington could be filled in October. But because of how streaky these two teams have been, the Yankees have a shot my my pick is the Red Sox.To the NL, I could see the Phillies, Braves, Brewers, or Reds in the World Series. My pick is the Brewers because in my mind they are just as strong hitting (Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks) as they are pitching (Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum). If the Series matchup is Red Sox-Brewers, my guess would be Red Sox in six but that could flip around to the Brewers if Greinke can pitch to his potential.
     Well, that's it for this one. If you like my work, tell your friends and spread the news. -J.A.

Jacob A would be a writer for QVC Sports if only that existed.

Friday, July 1, 2011


My name is Jacob. I just made a Blogger account. I'll be writing about sports, mostly baseball and football. Any questions?