Posts Tagged ‘Brandon Lyon’

Houston Astros’ Brandon Lyon Undergoes Surgery

February 11, 2010

I got on Houston Astros’ GM Ed Wade pretty hard when he signed RHP Brandon Lyon to a three-year, $15 million contract back in December. Here is what I wrote:

“This is a great day for Lyon and a sad, sad day for Astro fans.

How quickly do you think Meister and Lyon signed this contract? Five seconds? Two seconds?

This is the single worst deal of the offseason so far. What are the Astros thinking? To give Lyon three years to be their closer, when this guy can’t close is absurd.”

The contract was absurd then and it’s absurd now. It’s even more absurd now because Lyon had a procedure done to his pitching shoulder just two months after his signed his contract.

Lyon had surgery two weeks ago to remove a cyst in his pitching shoulder according to the Associated Press.

“Brandon was experiencing some weakness and discomfort in his shoulder, and we brought him in a couple of weeks ago to be seen,” general manager Ed Wade said. “At the time of his pre-signing physical, his right shoulder MRI showed a very small cyst, and when the MRI was repeated recently, it showed that the cyst had enlarged and was pressing on some nerves.”

So let me understand this and I believe I do. The Astros saw a cyst in a guy’s pitching shoulder, thought it was no big deal, signed him to a contract two years too long, and then nearly months later the guy needs surgery to remove that cyst?

Good to see the Astros are using the same doctors as the New York Mets. My lord. What a clown show.

Lyon will be ready to pitch by Opening Day. I am not sure that is such a good thing for Astros fans.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Houston Astros Sign Brett Myers

January 9, 2010

Back in January of last year (actually almost one year to the day), I wrote a post “Looking at 2010 to predict 2009.” The idea was to see which players would have a big year in 2009 based on their free agency status after the season ended.

I called this big year the “Adrian Beltre year.”

The pitcher I had targeted to have a big year or an “Adrian Beltre year” was the Philadelphia Phillies’ Brett Myers. Here is what I wrote about Myers last January:

Myers gave up a lot of HR's in 2009

“After being summoned to the bullpen in 2007, Myers had a descent 2008 by going 10-13 with a 4.55 in 190 innings. Like Blalock, there are a couple of things I like about Myers this year.

1. It seems like Myers has been in the majors forever but he is still only 29 years old. The ages of 28 and 29 is usually when a pitcher comes into his own.

2. This will be the first time Myers will be pitching for a free agent contract.

3. Myers will be pitching once again on a good team with a solid bullpen which won’t blow leads for him late in the game.”

Well, things always don’t work out the way you think they would.

Myers struggled in April and May giving up 17 home runs in 63.2 IP, went on the disabled list, ended up having hip surgery, and returned in September only to find himself in the bullpen. Even my thought that the Phillies would have a solid bullpen in 2009 didn’t hold true.

Overall on the season, Myers went 4-3 with a 4.84 ERA, gave up 18 home runs in 70.2 innings, and had his lowest K/9 ratio since 2004 (6.4).

Despite having a rough season in 2009, the Houston Astros are hoping Myers can bounce back in 2010. According to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggert, via Twitter, the Astros have signed Myers to a one-year, $5 million deal. The deal also includes an option for 2012.

One of the reasons that Myers signed with the Astros is because the Astros offered him a spot in their rotation. Myers will be the Astros No. 3 starter heading into 2010 behind Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez. Bud Norris and Felipe Paulino should round out the rotation.

I have my doubts as to whether or not Myers can improve on his gopher ball habits pitching in Minute Maid Park. However, considering the Astros started the 2009 season with Russ Ortiz and Brian Moehler in the starting rotation, Myers does represent an upgrade in 2010.

Myers is the third acquisition the Astros have made to bolster their pitching staff this offseason. Earlier in this offseason, the Astros signed Brandon Lyon and traded for Matt Lindstrom.

Despite their acquisitions to the pitching staff, the Astros still strike me as a fourth or fifth place team in the NL Central. I expect the Astros to finish behind the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, and perhaps the Cincinnati Reds in 2010.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Orioles Add Two, Sign Garrett Atkins and Mike Gonzalez

December 17, 2009

Just because the Orioles are in rebuilding mode, doesn’t mean they can’t add pieces to their team to make them competitive in 2010.

Earlier in this offseason, the Orioles added Kevin Millwood to bolster their starting rotation. Now they have added a batter and a closer.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles have signed LHP Mike Gonzalez to a two-year, $12 million contract to be their closer. Gonzalez can make an additional $4 million in incentives.

Gonzalez is the new closer in Baltimore

The Orioles also signed 1B/3B Garrett Atkins to a one-year deal. Atkins became a free agent after he was not tendered a contract by the Colorado Rockies last week. Terms of Atkins’ deal have not been disclosed yet.

Lets talk about Atkins first.

I was reading some sites around the web where some Orioles fans didn’t like this move? Why?

Has Atkins’ OPS dropped four years in a row? Yes it has. Is he the best defensive third baseman in the world? No, he is not.

But Atkins was not brought to Baltimore to be the savior. He was brought to Baltimore to be a stopgap until top third base prospect Josh Bell or until top first base prospect Brandon Snyder are ready.

Best case scenario for Atkins–he has a bounce back year and the Orioles can then trade him for prospects in July. Atkins could just need a change of scenery and Camden Yards is a good hitters park.

Worst case scenario–he continues his downward spiral and becomes a right-handed pinch hitter off the bench, who can occasionally fill in at first or third. In 2009, Atkins’ OPS was over 200 points higher versus left-handed pitching.

This is a good low-risk, high-reward signing by the Orioles.

Now on to the Gonzalez signing.

I am luke-warm on Gonzalez being a full-time, No. One closer, but for just $6 million a year–it’s a good deal by the Orioles.

Think about it like this. The Houston Astros paid Brandon Lyon $5 million a year for three years. The Orioles are paying Gonzalez $6 million for two years.

Who would you rather have?

I would rather have Gonzalez and it’s not even a debatable in my opinion. The Orioles are paying just $1 million more for clearly the better pitcher. Good move.

Gonzalez pitched a career high 74.1 innings last year and in those 74.1 innings struck out 90 batters. He was especially nasty on left-handed hitters.

Lefties against Gonzalez in 2009 hit only .194 and had a pedestrian .581 OPS. The Gonzalez-Curtis Granderson match up in 2010 should be fun to watch.

Is there some concern with Gonzalez after he pitched a career high in innings last year only a couple of years removed from Tommy John surgery? Maybe. But I don’t it’s that big of a concern.

As Gonzalez proved last year, most pitchers come back stronger from Tommy John surgery. For two years and just $12 million, it’s certainly worth it for the Orioles.

This move obviously adds some much needed depth to the Orioles’ bullpen and it allows them to put Jim Johnson back in the eighth inning set-up role, where he seemed more comfortable last year.

With Gonzalez, Johnson, and Koji Uehara the Orioles have the makings of a much better bullpen in 2010.

I like what the Orioles are doing this offseason. They are sticking to their rebuilding plan, but adding pieces with reasonable contracts here and there.

I like the direction of this team.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Houston We Have A Major Problem; Astros Sign Brandon Lyon To Thee-Year Deal

December 10, 2009

I am going to call Barry Meister this morning and ask him to represent me at my next salary negotiation at work.

Meister is the agent for Brandon Lyon and right now is the smartest guy in the room. For those of you who are not aware, Lyon signed a contract with the Houston Astros last night. Lyon signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Astros.

This is a great day for Lyon and a sad, sad day for Astro fans.

How quickly do you think Meister and Lyon signed this contract? Five seconds? Two seconds?

Lyon will be a mess in Houston

This is the single worst deal of the offseason so far. What are the Astros thinking? To give Lyon three years to be their closer, when this guy can’t close is absurd.

Here is what I wrote in my free agent primer:

“Biggest Free Agent Relief Pitcher Bust: Brandon Lyon. If a team signs Lyon as an eighth inning, set-up guy, I have no problem with that. But if a teams signs him to be their closer, all bets are off.”

And here is what I wrote about Lyon when the Detroit Tigers signed him to a contract last offseason:

“Bottom line: Brandon Lyon can’t close. There are certain pitchers who are made for the 8th inning and there are certain pitchers made for the 9th inning. Lyon falls into the category of 8th inning pitchers.  The proof is in the pudding.

All you need to do is look at Lyon in 05 and 08 when he was a closer….

Year    IP       H       K       SV       ERA       BAA

05: 29.1    44      17     14       6.44       .341

08: 59.1    75      44     26       4.70       .301

…..And when he was a set-up man in 06 and 07

Year IP      H       K      HLD      ERA      BAA

06: 69.1    68       46     23        3.89      .258

07: 74        70      40    35        2.68      .251

“Eric Karabell set the bar at over 30 saves for Lyon. I will take the under on that bet. Even if Lyon does win the closer job, the chances of him keeping it for the entire year are slim. If Lyon couldn’t close out games in the NL, what makes anyone think he can close in the AL?”

All bets are off now with Lyon and the Astros in 2010. He was signed to be their closer. Good luck with that.

I fully expect this to be a disaster and midway through the season Lyon will lose his job to the newly acquired Matt Lindstrom.

Lyon is just another bloated contract and a team full of them.

This is a bad signing by the Astros.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Arbitration Roundup

December 2, 2009

For those of you who are not aware, yesterday at 11:59 pm est was the last day at teams could offer their free agents arbitration. Once a team offers arbitration to a player, that player has until Dec. 7 to accept.

A team would offer arbitration to a player–especially to a Type A or a Type B free agent because that team then would receive draft compensation as a result of that player signing with a new team.

A great example of this is what we saw this morning.

Since Billy Wagner signed with the Atlanta Braves and he was a Type A free agent who was offered arbitration, the Boston Red Sox will receive the Braves’ first-round pick (20th overall) and a supplemental pick in 2010.

Here is a list of the players who were offered arbitration by their current clubs. This list is courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors.

Type A Free Agents (10 players)

Chone Figgins

Figgins was offered arbitration by the Angels

John Lackey
Jose Valverde
Marco Scutaro
Mike Gonzalez
Rafael Soriano
Matt Holliday
Billy Wagner
Jason Bay
Rafael Betancourt

Type B Free Agents (13 players)

Justin Duchscherer
Rod Barajas
Joel Pineiro
Mark DeRosa
Adrian Beltre
Ivan Rodriguez
Marlon Byrd
Brian Shouse
Gregg Zaun
Jason Marquis
Brandon Lyon
Fernando Rodney
Carl Pavano

Yesterday was a good day for guys like Bengie Molina, Jermaine Dye, LaTroy Hawkins, and Kevin Gregg, who are all Type A free agents. Since these players were not offered arbitration and will not cost a first-round draft pick, they become much more attractive for teams to sign.

My predictions are that Molina ends up with the New York Mets and Dye ends up with the San Francisco Giants.

Yesterday was a bad day for a player like Rafael Betancourt. With him being a Type A free agent and offered arbitration by the Colorado Rockies, he is going to have a hard time finding work.

It’s hard to justify giving up a first-round pick for a middle reliever, who has been up and down for much of his career. My guess is he ends up back with the Rockies in 2010.

After Dec. 7, we will start to see the dominoes start to fall in the free agent market.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Free Agent Primer: What To Look For This Offseason

November 19, 2009

At 12:01 tomorrow morning, the free agent signing period begins in baseball. Will you see players signing with teams at 12:05 like in the NFL and NBA? No, you won’t.

This will be a very long offseason in baseball. Just like last year, you will see some quality players still available going into the month of February. And just like last year, you are going to see GM’s try to wait out players hoping to get their version of a Bobby Abreu deal.

With the free agent signing period just a mere 12 hours away, here is a free agent primer on this year’s batch of free agents.

Best Free Agent Starting Pitcher: John Lackey. The same people who are concerned with Lackey being “injury prone” are the same people who thought Adrian Peterson was “injury prone” coming out of Oklahoma.

Kind of silly.

Best Free Agent Hitter: Matt Holliday. Holliday is the best hitter in a weak free agent hitting class. I am not sold on Holliday being paid like a franchise player, but he will be.

Best Free Agent Relief Pitcher: Rafael Soriano. Soriano is only 30-years-old and is entering the prime of his career. 12.1 K/9 in 2009 is very impressive.

Biggest Free Agent Hitter Bust: Marco Scutaro. I am sorry, but I just don’t see it from this guy. He has been a scrub all his life and now at 34-years-old he is worth a mutli-year deal? No thanks.

Biggest Free Agent Hitter Bust II: Chone Figgins. This is Juan Pierre Part II. Some team is going to give this guy a four-year, $42 million deal and regret it from the first day. In the third year of this deal he will be a pinch runner off the bench.

Biggest Free Agent Starting Pitcher Bust: Joel Pineiro. Back in August I wrote about how teams should stay away from Pineiro. My feelings towards him haven’t changed. He has Jeff Suppan and Kyle Lohse written all over him.

Biggest Free Agent Relief Pitcher Bust: Brandon Lyon. If a team signs Lyon as an eighth inning, set-up guy, I have no problem with that. But if a teams signs him to be their closer, all bets are off.

If you go into 2010 with Lyon as your closer, you are pretty much telling your fan base we have no shot to win in 2010.

Perfect Match Most Likely To Happen: Mark DeRosa to the Philadelphia Phillies. When you look at the Phillies team and then you look at the type of player DeRosa is, this is a perfect match. DeRosa is a “baseball player” and on a team filled with “baseball players,” DeRosa fits in perfectly.

Perfect Match Most Likely NOT To Happen: Orlando Hudson to the New York Mets. Hudson wanted to play for the Mets last year and it didn’t happen. He wants to play for them again this year and it won’t happen again.

Hudson is just what the Mets need, but since Luis Castillo and his horrific contract are holding down the fort at second base, Hudson will need to look for work somewhere else.

Biggest Free Agent Surprise: Jason Bay will not be back with the Boston Red Sox. As I told my buddy Odie, Bay is like the girl in high school who appears all sweet and innocent, but has slept with the entire football team.

Bay won't be a Red Sock in 2010

Everyone thinks because Bay is a soft-spoken nice guy and has thrived in Boston, he will just accept whatever Theo Epstein offers him and money doesn’t matter–not the case. I think Bay gets a five-year deal from another team and takes the years and the money and runs.

And I wouldn’t fault him for that.

Player Who Will Make The Most Money Who You Never Heard Of: Aroldis Chapman. Chapman is the 22-year-old Cuban defector, who is a starting pitcher and just happens to throw 100 mph. It looks like it will be a two-team race for Chapman’s services–the Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

This is Jose Contreras Part II.

Best Low-Risk, High-Reward Hitter: Xavier Nady. Last year, I correctly predicted that Russell Branyan would be the 2007 version of Carlos Pena–a journeyman guy, who finally gets a chance to start and has a big year.

Nady is that free agent this year. Let a small market team sign him to a one-year deal, let him play 1B/DH and watch him hit 30 home runs.

Best Low-Risk, High-Reward Hitter Part II: Troy Glaus. Glaus is relatively young at 33 and just two years ago hit 27 home runs and had an .856 OPS. Can he play third at this point in his career? Probably not.

But he can probably play first or DH and still be a power threat at a very low-cost.

Best Low-Rick, High Reward Pitcher: Ben Sheets. Sheets missed all of the 2009 season because of flexor tendon surgery. But Sheets should be 100 percent healthy by the start of spring training and I think could have an impact in 2010.

Remember, Andy Pettitte had the same surgery in 2004 and he has fully recovered from the injury. A team like the Texas Rangers would be wise to sign him to an incentive laden deal.

Pitchers Who Have To Stay In The NL In Order To Be Successful: Randy Wolf and Brad Penny. American League teams should really stay away from these guys. Hopefully both of these guys know where their bread is buttered and won’t pull a Jeff Weaver after the 2006 season.

Bedard won't work in New York or Boston

Big Market Teams Should Stay Away: Erik Bedard. Bedard just strikes me as a guy who would rather pitch in Kansas City and not be bothered than pitching in a pennant race in New York of Boston.

Worst Pitcher To Be This Offseason: Kevin Gregg. Gregg is a Type A free agent and he stinks. Very bad spot to be in.

Worst Hitter To Be This Offseason: Jermaine Dye. Dye is a Type A free agent, is 37-years-old, and can’t play a lick of defense. He is a DH in a strong DH market. I think it will be a while before a team looks at Dye.

Hitter Who Should Get More Love, But Won’t: Mike Cameron. Despite being 37-years-old, all Cameron is going to do is play a Gold Glove caliber center field, hit around .265, and hit 20-25 home runs.

Something tells me because of his relationship with CC Sabathia, Cameron signs with the Yankees on a one-year deal.

Pitcher Who Should Get More Love, But Won’t: Jon Garland. Why Garland was sitting the bench, while Hiroki Kuroda was starting playoff games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year is beyond me.

I know wins for pitchers are overrated, but all Garland does is win. That does count for something. He is going to win games and pitch 200 innings. Teams could do a lot worse.

The Milwaukee Brewers would be smart to sign him.

Best Utility Player: Jamey Carroll. Great club house guy, who can play second, third, left, and right. Every team could use a player like Carroll on their roster.

Non-Tender Candidate Sleeper: Kelly Johnson. On December 12th, hundreds of players will not be tendered contracts. The sleeper out of this bunch–Kelly Johnson.

Johnson was put in Bobby Cox’s doghouse in Atlanta in 2009, but in 2007 he had an OPS of .831 and in 2007 he had an OPS of .795. He is a classic change of scenery guy.

You can find a full list of this year’s free agents here.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Kerry Wood: What’s His Trade Market?

November 16, 2009

Yesterday, the MLB Network replayed Kerry Wood’s 20-strike out game against the Houston Astros in 1998. I have been watching baseball for almost 25 years and in my opinion, that was most dominating regular season performance I have ever seen.

The Astros didn’t have a chance that day.

Flash forward 11 years later and Wood is still throwing 97 mph in the major leagues. Did he become the pitcher everyone thought he would be after watching him pitch in 1998? No he didn’t.

Kerry Wood

Wood is a trade candidate this winter

But Wood has made a very nice career for himself. Because of injuries, Wood moved into a relief role in 2007 with the Chicago Cubs and became their closer in 2008.

Wood excelled as the closer in Chicago and in the winter of 2008, he signed a two-year, $20.5 million deal with the Cleveland Indians to be their closer.

The Indians signed Wood expecting to compete in 2009. Things really didn’t work out that way and now the Indians are in rebuilding mode yet again.

When a team is rebuilding, they really don’t have any use for a 32-year-old closer who will be making $10.5 million in 2010. We should be hearing Wood’s name in trade rumors this winter.

Let’s look at what a team would be getting with Wood. Here are the pros and cons of trading for Wood and the teams who might be interested in trading for the former Grand Prairie High School star.

Pros

Can you believe Wood is only 32-years-old? It seems like he has been around for 20 years. Even at 32 (not that old mom!!!), Wood can still throw 97 mph.

He can still blow the fastball by hitters when he needs to. Wood still struck out 10.3 hitters per nine innings last year.

Despite getting off to a rough start in April and May (6.08 ERA), Wood had a stellar second half of the year. In the second half, Wood was eight for 10 in save opportunities and had a 2.86 ERA.

And Wood is still better than half the closers in baseball. I would take Wood over a lot of the pitchers who are closing games for contending teams.

Cons

In the last 11 years, Wood’s arm has been through hell and back. He has had Tommy John surgery, a partially torn rotator cuff, a sore elbow, a strained triceps, and blisters on his fingers.

You name the arm injury, Wood has probably had it.

Health is the number one concern for any GM who is willing to trade for Wood. The other concern with Wood, would be his relatively down year in 2010.

His WHIP of 1.382 was his highest since 2000 (1.453), his strike out rate went from 11.4/9 to 10.3/9 in 2009, his walk rate almost doubled from 2.4 in 2008 to 4.6 in 2009 and threw more pitches per inning (17.6) than at any point of his career.

Has age and injuries finally caught up to Wood?

Now that we have looked at the pros and cons of acquiring Wood, let’s look at the teams that might be interested in Wood.

Atlanta Braves: Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano are both free agents and if they leave, the Braves have no internal option to replace them. Wood would be a nice replacement for the Braves.

Chicago Cubs: Could the Cubs possibly bring Wood back? It’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Wood and the Cubs had a pretty clean break and the Cubs don’t have a closer going into 2010. Carlos Marmol is much better suited to be a set-up guy than a closer on a team trying to compete for a pennant.

Houston Astros: Wood would love to follow in his idol’s (Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan) footsteps by pitching for the Astros. Jose Valverde and Latroy Hawkins are both free agents and Wood would make sense.

With Wood making $10.5 million in 2010, I am not sure the Astros have the ability to take on the salary or the prospects to acquire Wood.

I would never count out Drayton McLane though.

Tampa Bay Rays: For me, the Rays are a match made in heaven for Wood. They have the surplus of mid-level prospects and they have the need to get a deal done.

The Rays can’t go into 2010 with JP Howell and Dan Wheeler as the closers. They caught lightning in a bottle in 2008 and it’s not going to happen again.

This team needs a closer and Wood would be a great fit.

Detroit Tigers: Trading Wood within the division isn’t as crazy as it sounds for the Indians. The Indians aren’t expected to compete this year and by the time the Indians are ready to compete, Wood will be long gone from the Tigers.

I know the Tigers have said they are in cost cutting mode right now, but saying it and doing it are completely two different things. Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon are free agents and I don’t think the Tigers feel Ryan Perry is ready to close.

On the surface, Wood makes sense for the Tigers.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels are known to fix their mistakes rather quickly. Signing Torii Hunter to replace Gary Matthews Jr. is a perfect example of that.

The Angels found out first hand in the postseason Brian Fuentes might be a nice regular season closer, but he is not big time. Acquiring Wood would give Mike Scioscia options at the end of a game.

When acquiring Wood, a GM has to ask himself the tough question of which Wood am I getting? Am I getting the Wood who was rock solid in the second half of 2009 or am I getting the injury-prone closer who struggled for the first half of 2009.

My prediction is that Wood stays with the Indians through the winter and they trade him close to the July 31st trading deadline when teams are making one last playoff push.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Live Blog: Detroit Tigers vs. Minnesota Twins

September 20, 2009

Despite not having one of the best players in baseball for the remainder of the year in Justin Morneau, the Minnesota Twins are making serious late-season push towards the playoffs.

Yesterday, the Twins cut the Detroit Tigers lead in the AL Central to just three games. With the AL Central race heating up, I thought I would do a live blog of today’s game between the two AL Central rivals.

Game: Detroit Tigers vs. Minnesota Twins

Date: 9/19/09

Starting Lineups:

Detroit Tigers

1. Curtis Granderson, CF

2. Placido Polanco, 2B

3. Carlos Guillen, LF

4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B

5. Aubrey Huff, DH

6. Magglio Ordonez, RF

7. Brandon Inge, 3B

8. Gerald Laird, C

9. Adam Everett, SS

Justin Verlander, P

Minnesota Twins

1. Denard Span, CF

2. Orlando Cabrera, SS

3. Joe Mauer, C

4. Jason Kubel, RF

5. Michael Cuddyer, 1B

6. Delmon Young, LF

7. Jose Morales, DH

8. Brian Buscher, 3B

9. Nick Punto, 2B

Carl Pavano, P

Top 1st

Dick Bramer and Rod Allen calling the game for Fox today. Glad to see Fox has their D team doing the game today. On the mound for the Twins is Carl Pavano who is 4-0 lifetime versus the Tigers.

Every New York Yankee fan just threw their remote at the TV.

First pitch of the game to Granderson is fouled off out of play. Granderson’s average is down to .250. He really needs to pick up here.

Maybe some other time as Granderson strikes out looking on three pitches.

Polanco rips a single up the middle. One on and nobody out for Guillen. Guillen has been hampered all year by injuries.

Jim Leyland, trying to create some offense put on a hit and run, but Guillen fouls the ball off. Polanco gets to second base anyway as Pavano throws a wild pitch.

Guillen goes down swinging as Pavano throws a nasty changeup to get Guillen. Two outs now.

On an 0-2 pitch, Cabrera bloops one to center. Polanco, running all the way with two outs — scores easily. Tigers take an early lead, 1-0.

Big two-out RBI for Cabrera.

Huff pops out to short to end the inning.

The Tigers push across a run and lead 1-0 heading to the bottom of the first.

Bottom 1st

Cy Young award candidate Justin Verlander on the mound for the Tigers. He gets Span to ground out weakly to first for the first out of the inning.

Verlander pacing himself with 96 mph fastballs to Cabrera. Verlander gets Cabrera to pop up to second for the second out.

Now comes up the 2009 AL MVP and one of the nicest athletes I have ever met, Joe Mauer.

My lord Mauer is awesome. Mauer just turns on a 96 mph fastball and launches one into the upper deck in rightfield. That ball was freakin’ crushed.

Game tied at one.

Kubel rips one, but right to Cabrera to end the inning.

But the Twins pull even, and after one in Minnesota, we are tied at one.

Top 2nd

I gotta tell ya, Ordonez’s bat looks slower than Gary Carter’s did at the end of his career. The Tigers are so pleased to be paying Ordonez $18 million next year. Worst contract in baseball next year, hands down.

Ordonez grounds out to third for the first out.

Ouch! Inge gets hit right on the elbow. That’s going to leave a mark in the morning.

Laird bloops one to right for a single. Inge stops at second. First and second with one out for Everett.

Everett hits a groundball in the hole between first and second, but Punto cuts the ball off and gets Everett at first. Inge and Laird move up a base.

Granderson, not wasting any time, swings at the first pitch and lines one deep to center, but Span tracks it down to make the catch. Granderson has had two AB’s and has seen four pitches. Way to work the count Curtis.

Bottom 2nd

Awesome crowd on hand at the Metrodome. It looks like there is a sellout.

Cuddyer flies out to deep center for the first out.

The ever-so-disappointing Young hits a seeing eye single up the middle.

If I were in the Twins dugout, I would say just sit on the fastball. Verlander’s curve is all over the place and he has yet to throw it for a strike.

Verlander can’t locate his fastball either as he walks Morales. First and second with one out for Buscher.

The Twins really could use a third baseman next year. Maybe Garrett Atkins makes sense for them. Verlander just overpowers Buscher and strikes him out on three pitches.

Wow, Punto is really battling Verlander. He has fouled off pitch after pitch.

Punto hits a grounder in the hole, but is robbed by a great defensive play by Cabrera. He dove to right, caught the ball, and then made a perfect throw to Everett to force out Morales.

After two complete, it’s the Tigers one and the Twins one

Top 3rd

Pavano is a first-pitch strike throwing machine. First-pitch strikes to nine of the 11 batters he has faced so far. Yankee fans are just fuming right now.

Polanco is such a professional hitter. Pavano throws an outside fastball and Polanco just goes with the pitch and serves it to rightfield for a single.

Guillen just looks like a shell of his former self. He pops up to third for the first out. My take on the Tigers so far is that they just look like an old team.

Cabrera rips one to rightfield for a single. Polanco stops at second.

Up is Huff who is sporting a nice beard. He kind of looks like a young Bert Blyleven. Ironically, Huff isn’t going to the Hall of Fame either.

Huff becomes the third Tigers batter this inning to go to the opposite field for a single. Huff’s single brings home Polanco and the Tigers lead 2-1. Cabrera stops at second.

It’s kind of weird. Pavano appears to be pitching well, but he has given up six hits in just 2.1 innings so far.

Ordonez really does stink. He taps one back to the mound and Pavano gets the force at second. That ball was hit so slowly that the Twins couldn’t turn two on the play.

Pavano escapes further damage as Inge hits a can-of-corn to center.

But the Tigers take a 2-1 heading into the bottom of the third.

Bottom 3rd

Fox just showed Ernie Harwell’s speech from Wednesday night. What a class act he is. He looks healthier at 91 than I do at 32.

Span starts off the inning with a single to left.

On an 0-1 count, Span tries to steal second and is gunned down by Laird. Laird threw a pea to second base. Span was out by a good foot.

Verlander throws his best offspead pitch of the day and strikes out Cabrera on a wicked changeup. Two outs.

Wow, Verlander’s curve isn’t working today, but his changeup is. He strikes out Mauer on a sweet changeup down and away.

After three, it’s still 2-1 Tigers

Top 4th

Just saw a commercial for Bud Light Golden Wheat. I bet that tastes awful. If regular Bud Light runs right through you, I can only imagine what Golden Wheat will do.

Laird flies out to shallow right for the first out.

Kick save and a beauty by Pavano. Everett hits one up the middle, the ball kicks off Pavano’s cleat to third, and Buscher gets Everett at first. Pavano wins that battle of former over-hyped Red Sox prospects.

Granderson singles to left. It seems the Tigers are taking an opposite field approach to hitting Pavano.

With Granderson running, Polanco just flicks his bat on a low and outside pitch and bloops one to right for a single. Granderson continues running and gets to third.

Another opposite field hit for the Tigers. The Tigers have eight hits and all of them are either up the middle or to the opposite field.

Guillen strikes out looking to end the inning. Not sure what Guillen was looking at or for. That pitch was right down the middle.

Bottom 4th

Fox just showed a view of the new Target Field. Can’t wait till Opening Day 2010 when it’s 25 degrees at game time.

Kubel grounds out to second for the first out.

Cuddyer swings at the first pitch and flies out to center for the second out.

Verlander pumps one up to 97 mph and strikes out Young. Hey look at that. Our first one-two-three inning of the day.

Top 5th

I have no idea what just happened. Cabrera hits a little flare to rightfield and Punto actually out-ran the ball, tried to turn around to catch it, and dropped the ball.

It goes down as a hit and another opposite field hit for the Tigers.

Huff chops one to short, but the ball is hit to slowly to turn two. Cabrera is forced at second for the first out.

Ordonez hits one sharply through the hole between short and third for a single. Huff stops at second. That is now 10 hits for the Tigers — all singles.

Inge bloops one down the rightfield line for a single. Good job by Kubel of trapping that ball. If that got by him, it might have gone for a triple.

Bases loaded for Laird. Pavano will try to get a double play ball from the slow footed Tigers’ catcher.

And right on cue, Laird hits into a tailor made six-four-three double play.

Pavano dances out of trouble again. It’s still 2-1 Tigers going into the bottom of the fifth.

Bottom 5th

Jose Morales leading it off for the Tigers. Morales loops one to left for a single.

Fox just showed Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants highlights. Brad Penny is getting rocked in LA. Not surprised. It was bound to happen.

Buscher has seen six pitches and six strikes. Again, he was overmatched and struck out. One out.

Punto hits a lazy fly ball to center for the second out.

Span swings at the first pitch and flies out to rightcenter for the third out. Verlander without his best stuff is shutting down the Twins.

2-1 Tigers after five.

Top 6th

Everett swings at the first pitch and pops it up to short.

Granderson hits one sharply to second, but Punto is all over it and gets Granderson at first. Two outs.

Let’s see if Pavano can get his first one-two-three inning. He does. Polanco grounds to third to end the inning.

If the Tigers lose this game they will be really kicking themselves in the but. They have had tons of chances to blow this game open.

Bottom 6th

I love Orlando Cabrera. I wish the Red Sox resigned him. He is just a winning player.

Cabrera, right on cue, singles to right.

Every time Mauer comes to the plate, there is an electricity in the air. That is how good he is right now. Every time he is up, you expect something to happen.

Good battle here between Mauer and Verlander. 3-2 count and Mauer has fouled off a couple of 97 mph fastballs from Verlander.

Another nice play by Miguel Cabrera. Mauer hit one into the hole, but Cabrera makes another diving stop. Since Orlando Cabrera was running, Cabrera just stepped on first for the out.

Great pitching by Verlander. Knowing Kubel is looking for a fastball, Verlander pulls the string and gets Kubel out in front and Kubel grounds weakly up the middle. Everett gets Kubel at first for the second out.

Cuddyer hits a two-hopper to second for the third out. The Twins strand a runner at third. This is where not having Morneau in the lineup kills the Twins

Top 7th

I can’t believe this John Mellencamp “This is our country” commercial is still playing. It’s sooooo 2007.

Pavano still in there for the Twins. Despite giving up what seems like 20 singles, he has pitched well today.

Guillen flies to Span for the first out of the inning.

Young makes a nice diving catch to rob Cabrera of a hit. Young has the fatest face with a body that doesn’t match. He is like the anti-Kirby Puckett.

Pavano gets Huff looking for strike three. That was a sweet slider that got the inside corner. So after not having a one-two-three inning through the first five — Pavano has retired six in a row.

Pavano’s day is probably done. Who do you think Yankees fans hate more? Pavano or Jaret Wright?

Bottom 7th

Holy shnikies! What a play by Inge. He extends to rob Young of a double, but Young beats Inge’s throw to first. Still, what a great play by Inge. That ball was ticketed for at least a double.

Carlos Gomez comes on to pinch run for Young. Speaking of Gomez, how bad has that Johan Santana trade been for the Twins?

Look for Gomez to steal at some point.

Morales flies out to left for the first out.

I have to tell you. I have been beyond impressed with Laird in this game. Gomez tried to steal second and Laird gunned him down. Laird has such a quick release.

Buscher grounds to second to end the inning. On a positive note, Buscher actually made contact against Verlander.

Top 8th

Jesse Crain comes in to replace Pavano. A solid effort from Pavano. Seven innings and only two runs. I think the Twins will take that every time.

Crain gets Ordonez and his beyond slow swing to ground to first for the first out.

Inge flies to Kubel in right for the second out. Crain throwing heat. He has been in the upper-90’s all inning.

Easy inning for Crain as Laird grounds out to second.

Bottom 8th

Verlander still on the mound for the Tigers. He has thrown 110 pitches so far. My guess is Leyland let’s him throw 160 pitches today if it means a Tigers win.

Verlander still has it as he blows away Punto for the first out.

Span gets the Twins going with a single down the leftfield line. Nice play by Don Kelly, who replaced Guillen in left to cut the ball off and hold Span to a single.

I am going to admit, I have no idea who Don Kelly is.

3-2 count now to Cabrera. Do you send Span? I would.

If I didn’t know who Kelly was before, I do know. Cabrera hits a routine flyball to left, but Kelly last the ball in the roof. The ball drops and Span ends up at third and Cabrera ends up with a double.

Leyland is going to ring this kid’s neck. Poor sap.

Mauer is being intentionally walked to load the bases for Kubel.

Big spot her for Kubel. Bases loaded with one out. This is Verlander’s game. He is pumping it up to 98 on the gun.

Kubel bloops one to left for a single and what great baserunning by Cabrera. He got an outstanding jump and scored behind Span to give the Twins a 3-2 lead.

And with that hit, Verlander exits the game.

Brandon Lyon comes on to replace Verlander. I don’t care what his numbers are — he stinks.

BOOM!!! Who needs Morneau? Cuddyer just crushes one to leftcenter field. 6-2 Twins. I can’t believe there are people out there who think Lyon is good.

Gomez flies to rightcenter and Clete Thomas, who replaced Ordonez for defense makes a nice running catch for the second out.

This is the problem if the Tigers even make the playoffs. Even if Verlander gives you seven, solid innings, who is going to pitch the eighth? Lyon is going to pitch the eigth in Yankee Stadium? No thank you.

Lyon gets Morales swinging to end the inning. But the damage was done.

The Twins score five big runs and take a 6-2 lead into the ninth inning.

Bottom 9th

Jose Mijares on to close out the game for the Twins. Mijares looks like a left-handed Juan Berenguer.

Mijares makes quick work of Everett, as Everett flies out to Span for the first out.

Boy, someone needs to talke to Granderson. His team is down by four runs and he goes up there swinging at the first pitch. He pops up to second for the second out.

Polanco keeps the Tigers alive as he doubles to leftcenter field.

With Ryan Raburn announced as the pinch-hitter for Don Kelly, Ron Gardenhire is going to make an unneccessary pitching change. He will bring in Matt Guerrier to face Raburn.

Can Mijares not get out Raburn? I mean come on.

Well, what I think doesn’t matter as Raburn grounds back to the mound to end the game.

Twins win 6-2 and now they are just two games back of the Tigers. The Twins won this three-game series and they will go for the sweep tomorrow.

Bullpens Off To Rough Start In 09….

April 9, 2009

With a couple of exceptions like the Mets offseason blueprint working to perfection on Opening Day, the pitching out of the bullpen has been terrible so far in 2009. Blown leads, blown saves and overall just poor performances have managers reluctant to go to the pen late in the game. Let’s take a look at some of the bullpen disasters that have occurred in just 4 days of games….

Monday

Yankees vs Orioles

With the Orioles up 6-3, Chris Ray comes in and gives up a HR, a single, 1 walk and 2 runs in just 8 pitches. Score becomes 6-5 Orioles.

After the Yankees came all the back from a 6-1 deficit and made it 6-5, Phil Coke and Brian Bruney destroy any momentum they had by giving up 3 hits, 3 walks and 4 runs in just 2 innings.

Pirates vs Cardinals

With the Cardinals up 2-1 heading into the 9th, Jason Motte implodes in his 1st save opportunity. 1 inning, 4 hits, 4 runs and 1 blown save later, the Cardinals lose 4-2

Royals vs White Sox

It was all set up for the Royals. Gil Meche hurled 7 strong, give the ball to Farnsworth for the 8thand then close it out with Soria in the 9th. Things didn’t work out that way for the Royals. Farnsworth was terrible in the 8th inning. 4 hits and 1 giant Jim Thome 3 run HR gave the White Sox a 4-2 win.

Ryan blows a save

Ryan blows a save

Tuesday

Tigers vs Blue Jays

My lord is Brandon Lyon terrible. Lyon comes in trying to protect a 3-1 lead and the first batter he faces, Aaron Hill tags him for a 3 run HR. 4-3 Blue Jays.

After Aaron Hill gave the Blue Jays a 4-3 lead, Cito Gaston called on BJ Ryan to close out the game. Ryan, who looked like he was throwing the ball 50 mph gave up a massive HR to Brandon Inge. Game tied 4-4

Blue Jay fans didn’t need to worry because for some odd reason Lyon is still in the game. The Blue Jays go on to beat Lyon and win the game, 5-4.

Rays vs Red Sox

Josh Beckett looked like a man possessed for 7 innings on Tuesday. Francona then went to Okajima and Okajima promptly hits the first batter he sees and walks the next. 2 batters later it is 5-3 Red Sox.

Mariners vs Twins

I have no idea what happened to Brandon Morrow. With the Mariners up 5-3 in the 9th inning, Morrow retired the 1st 2 batters with ease. Then all of a sudden he lost it. Morrow walked 3 straight batters to walk the bases loaded. Miguel Batista came in, gave up 2 singles and the game was over. 6-5 Twins.

Yesterday

Braves vs Phillies

This was the mother of all bullpen disasters. The Braves were up 10-3 in the 7th inning!!!! In a spectacular performance Eric O’Flaherty, Peter Moylan and Blaine Boyer gave up 3 hits, 4 walks and 8 runs in just 1/3 of an inning. What a clown show by those 3.

A’s vs Angels

The usually reliable Angels bullpen imploded yesterday. After Nick Adenhart pitched 6 marvelous innings in which he didn’t allow a run, the Angels bullpen allowed 6 runs in the final 3 innings. New Angels closer, Brian Fuentes allowed 4 hits, 1 walk and 3 earned runs in the 9th to take the loss. Here is what I wrote about Fuentes in my “Key Players On Each MLB Team” post…”I always viewed Fuentes as a nice lefty set-up guy rather than a Closer for a team trying to win a World Series. For those who argue Fuentes was on the Rockies team that made it to the World Series in 07. Remember, he lost the Closer’s job to Manny Corpas during that season and he wasn’t even the Closer when the season began last year. Fuentes will have a lot of pressure on him to replace the departed Francisco Rodriguez. If he can’t handle the pressure, the Angels will have to scramble to find a Closer.” Let’s see how Fuentes handles the pressure now that he has blown a save just 3 games into the season.

As you can see this has been a rough week for the bullpens so far. There is nothing more demoralizing to a team than a blown lead late in the game. Let’s see how how these teams and bullpens bounce back in the weeks to come.

Looking At Fantasy Closers In 2009…

January 29, 2009

I have always considered closers like kickers in the NFL. There are 5 or 6 great ones, some very good ones, some good ones and then there are ones I wouldn’t draft for my worst enemy. By using this theory, I have ranked all 30 current closers into different divisions. The guys who you should definitely take and the guys you shouldn’t.  Let’s take a look were the current crop of closers will fall in 2009.

Dennis Eckersley Division

These are your cream-of-the-crop, top closers headed into 2009. These guys are #1 closer material in any fantasy league

1. Francisco Rodriguez, Mets – Krod, who broke Bobby Thigpen’s record for saves with 62 in 2008 with the Angels will now attempt to close out games in Flushing. While many people point to Krod’s diminished strike out rate (declined every year since 04) and his rising BAA (increased every year in the majors), it’s not like Krod had 62 saves with a 4.50 era. Krod’s era was still a dominant 2.24. With the Mets offering their closers plenty of save opportunities (72 in 08), Krod figures to close 45-50 games in 09.

2. Mariano Rivera, Yankees – Many thought the 2007 was the beginning of the decline for the great Rivera because of a 3.15 era (highest since he became a reliever). 2008 proved that was anything but the case. The 39 year old had one of the best seasons of his career, netting 39 saves with a paultry 1.40 era. If all is well from off-season shoulder surgery, Rivera once again will be one of the top closers in 2009.

3. Joe Nathan, Twins – Nathan, one of the most consistent closers in baseball had another stellar year in 2008 with 39 saves anda 1.33 era. You can pretty much pencil in the Stony Brook product 35-40 saves with an era under 2.

4. Joakim Soria, Royals – “The Mexecutioner” burst onto the scene in 2009 for Royals posting 42 saves with a nice 1.60 era. The 24 year old has been practically unhittable since reaching the majors in 2007 as he has only given up 85 hits in 136.1 innings. Soria should be a top 5 fantasy closer again in 2009

5. Brad Lidge, Phillies – Lidge had a season for the ages in 2008, going a perfect 41/41 in save opportunities. While I don’t expect Lidge to be perfect again in 2009, he should once again be one of the top closers in baseball as the Phillies figure to contend in the NL East.

6. Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox –The Red Sox closer set a career high in saves in 2008 with 41. Fantasy owners only concern with Papelbon would be he threw a career high 79.1 innings last year including the post season. Look to see what Papelbon does in April. If he is strong through April, then a typical Papelbon season is in order

Tom Henke Division

The next 4 are right under the great closers but will still put up solid numbers for you in 2009

7. Jose Valverde, Astros – Finished 2nd in baseball in saves with 44, high era of 3.38 but lots of K’s with 83

8. Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers –With Saito off to Boston, Broxton takes over as the full-time closer in LA. 35-40 saves with 80+ K’s is more than doable in 2009

9. Francisco Cordero, Reds –With the Reds improved in 2009, Cordero might reach the 40 save mark. Something Cordero has done twice before. Unfortunately, Cordero’s usually high era will leave him out of the top 6

10. Kerry Wood, Indians – One of the better season signings in baseball, Wood gives something Cleveland hasn’t had in a very long time….A LEGIT CLOSER. There is always an injury risk when picking Wood but if healthy Wood is certainly a top 10 closer. I like 35+ saves for Wood in 2009

Jeff Montgomery Division

The perfect #2 fantasy closer. These next 5 guys are perfect #2 closers

11. Bobby Jenks, White Sox – How does a guy who throws 98 mph only strike out 5.55 guys every 9 innings? Just doesn’t make sense.

12. BJ Ryan, Blue Jays – Ryan isn’t the strike out pitcher he used to be but he still knows how to save a game. Pencil in 30+ saves again for Ryan in 2009.

13. Huston Street, Rockies –I am on the Huston Street bandwagon this year. A fresh start with the Rockies and this being an odd year, Street should have a nice bounce back year. Street, like Bret Saberhagen pitches very well in odd years

14. Brad Ziegler, A’s – Ziegler burst onto the scene last year by starting off his career with a 39 inning scoreless streak. I expect Ziegler’s era to increase from 1.06 to around the high 2 mark in 09. With the A’s very much improved expect Ziegler to register 25-30 saves

15. Brian Fuentes, Angels –I am not sold on Fuentes as most people are. He lost his closers role in 07 only to gain in back in 08. With Shields and Arredando looking over Fuentes’ shoulder it will be interestingto see how Fuentes fairs. The Angels offer a lot of opportunities for saves so 30+ saves with an era in the high 2’s is not out of the question

Armando Benitez Division

These guys can get you saves but when you need them the most they will blow a big one in September

16. Brian Wilson, Giants – 41 saves, 4.65 era in 2008

17. Trevor Hoffman, Brewers – It will be weird to see Hoffman in a Brewers uniform. At this stage of his career Hoffman will get his saves, perhaps 25-30 with an era of around 4.50

18. Matt Capps, Pirates – Good for 15-25 saves on once again a very bad Pirates team

19. Mike Gonzalez, Braves – Had 14 saves in 36 games in 2008. High era of 4.28. Injury always a concern with Gonzalez

20. George Sherrill, Orioles –1st time closer in 2008, Sherrill had 31 saves before an injury ended his season. Lots of hits and a high era is something to be wary of in 2009

Al Reyes Division

These closers are usually 8th inning set-up types that are forced into the closers role because the team has no one else. These are the guys you only draft if you desperately need to fill a closers spot

21. Brandon Lyon, Tigers

22. Dan Wheeler, Rays

23. Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks

24. Heath Bell, Padres

25. Ryan Franklin, Cardinals

26. Joel Hanrahan, Nationals

27. CJ Wilson, Rangers

28. Tyler Walker, Mariners – With the Heilman trade yesterday, it looks like Walker might get the 1st shot at the closers role. Officially the worst closer in baseball headed into 2009.

Octavio Dotel Division

These are the 2 question marks going into the season. Great as 8th inning set up guys but are now asked to close games. Big difference between the 8th and 9th innings. These guys can either be in the Tom Henke division or the Armando Benitez division

?. Carlos Marmol, Cubs – Only 3 other relievers were in more games than Marmol was in 2008. Will the over use of last year come back to bite the Cubs this year? I am not sure if Marmol has the mental make up to be a closer, especially in Wrigleyville. I will go with 33 saves, an era in the low 3’s and a lot of tums for Sweet Lou

?. Matt Lindstrom, Marlins – As I wrote in my post about the Marlins, Lindstrom is the X factor for the team in 2009. I like Lindstrom more than Marmol because of less pressure in Florida and Lindstrom proved he can do the job by going 5-5 in September. I like 25 saves and an era in the mid 2’s for Lindstrom

Norm Charlton Division

Top set up guys who are waiting in the wings and could fill in adequately if something happened to the current closer

1. Kevin Gregg, Cubs

2. Scot Shields, Angels

3. JJ Putz, Mets

4. Ryan Madsen, Phillies

5. Grant Balfour, Rays

Mark Davis 1989 Division

This is for the one guy who I will think have that ridiculous year, seemingly out of nowhere. Good the year before and this year explodes on the scene

Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers –As I mentioned earlier, I really like Broxton this year. The Dodgers offered their closers 55 save opportunities last year, so racking up saves shouldn’t be a problem for this 24 year old. Playing in the NL West, the worst division in baseball should help Broxton dominate in 2009