Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Broxton’

10 Things We Learned About Baseball In October

November 3, 2009

Not only is October the best month on the baseball calendar, it’s also the busiest. Besides the playoffs, you have general managers being fired and hired, you have managers being fired and hired, and you already start to hear some free agent and trade rumblings.

This October was no different. Let’s take a look at 10 things we learned about baseball in October.

10. Kevin Towers and JP Ricciardi were let go. When a team doesn’t win two things happen. 1. The manager gets fired or 2. The general manager gets fired.

In San Diego and Toronto–the general managers were fired.

Towers spent 14 seasons as the San Diego Padres’ GM and they have won four division titles and made one World Series appearance (1998) under his stewardship.

I wasn’t in favor of this move when it happened. Towers can be the GM of my team any day of the week and twice on Sunday. He knows how to get the job done.

Ricciardi was let go by the Toronto Blue Jays after serving as their GM since 2001. The Blue Jays never won more than 87 games and only finished above third once with Ricciardi as the GM.

If you fire someone, then you need a replacement…

9. Jed Hoyer and Alex Anthopoulos will be making the decisions in San Diego and Toronto. The Padres hired Boston Red Sox assistant GM Jed Hoyer to replace the above mentioned Towers.

Jed Hoyer

Hoyer is the new GM of the Padres

Hoyer joined the Red Sox front office at age 28, where he helped to build Boston’s rosters and assisted in contract negotiations.

In 2005, when Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino had a lover’s quarrel and Epstein took a ten week hiatus, Hoyer along with Craig Shipley, Bill Lajoie, and Ben Cherington took over the GM duties for the Red Sox.

Anthopoulos takes over for Ricciardi in Toronto on an interim basis.

While Hoyer and Anthopoulos take over as general managers…

8. Manny Acta and Brad Mills were hired as managers. Mills was hired to be the next manager of the Houston Astros. Mills replaces Cecil Cooper who was fired with 13 games left in the season. Former Astros manager Phil Garner and interim manager Dave Clark were finalists for the position.

Mills has spent the last six seasons as the bench coach for Terry Francona and the Boston Red Sox.

Acta was hired by the Cleveland Indians to be their next manager. The Indians signed Acta to a three-year deal with a club option for 2013.

This will be Acta’s second managerial stint. His first one, as we all know was with the Washington Nationals from 2007-2009. Acta was 158-252 with the Nationals and was relieved of his duties in July.

As manager of the Astros, Mills will be squaring off against this guy in St. Louis…

7. Tony LaRussa will be back as St. Louis Cardinals manager. The Cardinals and manager Tony LaRussa have agreed to a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2011. The Cardinals also got good news when pitching coach Dave Duncan agreed to return to the team as well.

But the big shock was the announcement of Mark McGwire as hitting coach. McGwire will replace Hal McRae as the Cardinals’ hitting coach.

While the Cardinals were making news, the team they beat in the 2006 World Series made news of another kind…

6. The Detroit Tigers suffered an epic collapse. The Tigers had everything going for them headed into the last week of the season. They were playing at home, they were playing a Chicago White Sox team whose season was over, and they were three games up on the Minnesota Twins with four games to go.

Despite all that, the Tigers couldn’t hold on the AL Central lead. The Tigers lost two-out-of-three to the White Sox and the Twins swept the Kansas City Royals.

Those results forced this…

5. The Tigers and Twins played an all-time classic. The Twins beat the Tigers 6-5 in 12 innings in a one-game playoff to clinch the American League Central title. For four-hours and thirty-seven minutes in this epic classic there were no salaries, no free agency, no arbitration, and no steroids.

This game was about two teams playing their guts out and leaving everything on field. The Twins and Tigers not only captured the 58,088 screaming fans in the Metrodome, but they captured millions watching at home.

They captured four friends, who weren’t Twins or Tigers fan, but were so into the game that they were texting back and forth on practically every situation that occurred. We all knew we were watching one of the best games we ever saw.

This was just an amazing game. A true classic and a game which reminded us what is great about the game of baseball.

The Twins win allowed them to go to the postseason…

4. The 2009 postseason has given us a lot of memorable moments. Every year the postseason gives us memories that last a lifetime. The 2009 postseason has been no different.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim finally exercised their postseason demons by beating the Boston Red Sox.

Matt Holliday’s dropped flyball against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Two of the NLDS opened the floodgates for the Dodgers.

Alex Rodriguez, doing his best Reggie Jackson imitation leading the New York Yankees to the World Series.

CC Sabathia finally putting his past postseason failures behind him and being worth every penny.

Jimmy Rollins walk-off double off of Jonathan Broxton shattering the dreams of the Dodgers.

Cliff Lee carrying the Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff throughout October.

While on one end there is triumph in the postseason, on the other end there is heartache…

3. It’s been a rough postseason for closers. 10 blown saves (the 11th happened on Sunday night) in the postseason by closers through October 31st.

papelbon

Even Papelbon blew a save in this postseason

Everyone thinks closers aren’t important until they blow a game in a big spot. Huston Street, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Brian Fuentes, Ryan Franklin, and Broxton all imploded at one point this postseason.

Only Brad Lidge and Mariano Rivera didn’t blow a save through the first two rounds of the playoffs. It’s no coincidence that the teams they represent are in the World Series.

While the closers were one story of this postseason, the big story has been…

2. Bad umpiring has plagued the 2009 postseason. Major League Baseball just can’t win. It’s always something.

This postseason, the umpires have come under tremendous fire for missing calls, which has prompted many to call for more instant replay in baseball.

It seems like every game this postseason the umpires were missing calls. And these weren’t bang-bang calls–these were blatantly obvious calls.

But despite all the bad calls by the umpires, this has been a fabulous postseason. And all roads in the postseason lead to this…

1. The Phillies or the Yankees will be world champions. For the first time in maybe 10 years, the two best teams will be playing in the World Series.

The Phillies took Game One behind a complete game, 10 strike out performance from Cliff Lee. Chase Utley provided the offense with two homeruns off of Sabathia.

The Yankees evened the series at one behind a brilliant performance from AJ Burnett. Hideki Matsui’s homerun off of Pedro Martinez in the sixth broke a 1-1 tie.

The Yankees overcame a 3-0 deficit thanks to a two-run HR from Alex Rodriguez and some timely hitting by Johnny Damon to take a 2-1 series lead.

It’s very rare a World Series champion isn’t crowned in October, but this is an unusual year thanks to the World Baseball Classic. We will just have to wait to November to crown a champion.

November will be the final month of the baseball. Come back on December to get a recap of the World Series and all the award winners in baseball.

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Jimmy Rollins Gives Phillies 3-1 Series Lead

October 20, 2009

Closer Jonathan Broxton was called upon to get four outs last night for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Broxton was only able to record three outs.

Rollins' walk-off double off Broxton

Rollins' walk-off double off Broxton

Jimmy Rollins’ double off of Broxton with two-on and two-out in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Philadelphia Phillies a dramatic 5-4 victory over the Dodgers last night and sent the 46, 157 fans who packed Citizens Bank Park into a frenzy.

The Phillies now lead their best-of-seven series with the Dodgers 3-1.

The Phillies are a unique bunch because their superstars are their gamers. Their superstars are their girtty, dirtdogs, who not only do the little things to win, but get the big hits when the moment is presented.

That is very rare in baseball. The New York Yankees had that in the mid-90’s, the Boston Red Sox have it now with Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedrioia, and the Phillies certainly have it now with Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley.

As soon as Rollins stepped into the batter’s box in the ninth inning, you just had that feeling that he was going to come through. But the reality is–Rollins should have never had that chance to begin with.

With one out and nobody on, Charlie Manuel called on Matt Stairs to pinch-hit for Pedro Feliz. It’s amazing how one moment can scar a franchise for life.

Stairs is clearly in the Dodgers’ heads. He is the reason the Dodgers went out and got Jim Thome and his HR off of Broxton in Game 5 of last year’s NLCS has turned him into Ted Williams in the Dodgers’ eyes.

Why Broxton, one of the best closers in the game is pitching around Stairs with nobody on base is beyond me. I understand Stairs can tie the game with one swing of the bat and he beat you last year with a HR. But last year is last year and if you are supposed to be a top-five closer, you shouldn’t fear anyone–period.

Stairs was a .194 hitter during the season for a reason.

Worst case scenario for the Dodgers is that Stairs hits a HR and the game is tied. Now you have a runner on base and with one swing of the bat, you can lose the game.

Then things start to unravel for Broxton and the Dodgers.

Broxton then plunks Carlos Ruiz and then the crowd really got into it. The fans at Citizens Bank Park really make it hard for an opposing pitcher. They are right on top of him.

Broxton got Greg Dobbs to pop out to third and that is when Rollins came to the plate. Like I said earlier, as soon as Rollins came to the plate you just had a feeling he was going to do something.

On a 1-1 pitch, Rollins took a 99 mph fastball and ripped it into the right-center field gap. The ball rolled to the wall, Eric Bruntlet, who was running for Stairs and Ruiz scored, and just like that the Dodgers had their hearts ripped out from their chests.

This was just a crushing loss for the Dodgers. They had done everything to win this game.

Randy Wolf pitched very well for 5 1/3 innings, they got some good clutch hitting from James Loney and Casey Blake, and Hong-Chih Kuo pitched really well in relief.

But at the end of the day, Broxton couldn’t get the job done. Now the Dodgers’ season is on life support.

I think today’s day off actually helps the Dodgers. I think if they would have come back and played today, they would have been crushed in Game 5.

The day off will allow the Dodgers to catch their breath a little bit and give them a chance to regroup.

I expect the Dodgers to play well in Game 5, but I don’t see them coming out of Philadelphia with a win.

Hero for Game 4 – Jimmy Rollins

Goat for Game 4 – Jonathan Broxton

Series MVP – Ryan Howard

Game 5 is Wednesday at 8:07

Dodgers Rally In The Eighth, Even Series At One

October 17, 2009

31 pitches

Five pitchers

Three hits

Two walks

Two runs

One blown save

That was the bottom of the eighth inning for the Philadelphia Phillies. Down 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth, the Los Angeles Dodgers rallied for two runs and eventually held on for a 2-1 victory to even their best-of-seven series with the Phillies at one game apiece.

As my friend Mike always says “How do you beat Ric Flair? A small package in the center of the ring.” I say “How do you beat the Phillies? Get to their bullpen.”

The Phillies’ bullpen stinks. I know it’s harsh, but there is no other way around it. Yesterday, they ruined what was a brilliant pitching performance by Pedro Martinez.

Pedro was classic Pedro yesterday

Pedro was classic Pedro yesterday

Martinez was vintage Pedro. He had the Dodger batters off-balance all game. His performance yesterday was very similar to his performance in Game Five of the 1999 ALDS against the Cleveland Indians.

He didn’t have a 95 mph fastball that night either. But what he had that night and what he had yesterday, was his brain. And Martinez is one of the smartest pitchers in the game–if not the smartest.

Nobody is better when they don’t have their best stuff than Martinez is. He had everything working yesterday. The Dodgers had no chance against him in the hot California sun.

Of course, the classic second guess is why did Charlie Manuel take Martinez out after seven innings? Martinez allowed just two hits, struckout three, and didn’t walk a batter in those seven innings of work.

Most importantly, Martinez had only thrown 87 pitches. If Manuel would allow Martinez to throw 130 pitches against the New York Mets in a meaningless game in September, why wouldn’t he allow him to go further into the game?

“To me, Pedro was done,” Manuel said. “He did a tremendous job and took it actually farther than I anticipated. . . . He was gone. I think he was spent.”

If the manager of the Phillies says that Martinez was done, then I have to believe him. One would think he would know his players better than anyone.

Manuel took Martinez out after the seventh and that’s when the fun started.

Manuel brought Chan Ho Park into the game to face Casey Blake, Ronnie Belliard, and Russell Martin. Park, who was so good Thursday night, was the complete opposite yesterday.

Park allowed a leadoff single to Blake and then misplayed a bunt by Belliard. Park really should have fielded that bunt. It wasn’t a good bunt at all by Belliard.

Now with runners on first and second with nobody out, Martin was attempting to sacrifice bunt. However, Park wouldn’t let him because he couldn’t throw the ball over the plate.

If a guy is giving himself up and giving you an automatic out–let him. Just throw the ball over the plate. It shouldn’t be that hard to throw the ball over the middle if you are a major league pitcher.

On a 3-0 count, Park got a gift call from the home plate umpire. The pitch was about three inches inside, but was called a strike. Completely changed the AB and the inning.

With the count now 3-2 and the bunt off, Martin hit a routine groundball to third. Pedro Feliz threw the ball to Chase Utley covering second for one out and then Utley decided to throw the ball off the fence on the Dodgers’ dugout.

I know some people will say Utley’s bad throw was caused by the hard slide by Belliard who was on first. That wasn’t the case. Utley just made an awful throw.

Juan Pierre, who was running for Blake scored on the play to tie the game at one. Instead of having two outs and a runner on third, the Dodgers had one out with a runner on first.

Then came the parade of Phillies’ relievers out of the bullpen. I am surprised I didn’t see Don Carmen or Mitch Williams come into the game.

Scott Eyre gave up a single to Jim Thome. Ryan Madson walked Rafael Furcal. And with the bases loaded, JA Happ walked Andre Ethier to force in a run.

Just like that it was 2-1 Dodgers and when Jonathan Broxton set the Phillies down 1-2-3 in the ninth, the series was tied at one.

And not to be overshadowed in this win for the Dodgers was the effort by Vicente Padilla. He was matching Martinez pitch for pitch and only made one mistake (a HR to Ryan Howard in the fourth) in seven-and-a-third innings of work.

He has pitched brilliantly for the Dodgers in two starts in the postseason.

Game Three is Sunday at 8:07 ET

Hero for Game Two – Vicente Padilla

Goat for Game Two – Chase Utley

Series MVP – Ryan Howard

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

National League Championship Series Preview And Pediction

October 15, 2009

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Best-of-seven series

Game One: Thursday, Oct. 15 8:07 ET. Cole Hamels vs. Clayton Kershaw

Game Two: Friday, Oct. 16 4:07 ET. TBD vs. Vicente Padilla

Game Three: Sunday, Oct. 18 8:07 ET. Hiroki Kuroda vs. Cliff Lee

Game Four: Monday, Oct. 19 8:07 ET. Randy Wolf vs. TBD

Game Five*: Wednesday, Oct. 21 8:07 ET. TBD vs. TBD

Game Six*: Friday, Oct. 23 8:07 ET. TBD vs. TBD

Game Seven*: Saturday, Oct 24 8:07 ET. TBD vs TBD

*If necessary

Prediction: Here we go again. Last year, these two team met in the NLCS with the Phillies winning in five games. In the National League, there have only been two times where teams met in back-to-back NLCS’s. Each time, the team that won the year before, won the next year.

So history says the Phillies will once again be playing in the World Series. While some might use the phrase “history repeats itself,” I will use the phrase “there is a first time for everything.”

I believe the Dodgers will win this series.

Here are five reasons why I like the Dodgers:

Hamels hasn't been right all year

Hamels hasn't been right all year

5. Cole Hamels is not Cole Hamels. At some point we are going to have to realize that Hamels is not the same pitcher he was last year. With every start we were hoping he would turn it around, but it just never happened this year.

There is no evidence to suggest that Hamels is going to turn it around in this series. John Kruk on ESPN said that Hamels didn’t pitch well against the Colorado Rockies in Game Two because his he and his wife were expecting a baby.

Well, what was the excuse for the last six months?

4. I think Manny Ramirez has a big series. Ramirez looked as clueless as I have ever seen him look in that final weekend series against the Rockies. He didn’t do much the first two games of the NLDS either, but then had a huge Game Three against the Cardinals.

I just have a feeling that Game Three was a sign of things to come.

3. The Dodgers have home-field advantage. This postseason is shaping up to be a home-field advantage postseason. All four teams that had home-field advantage in the first round won. I think that trend carries over in this series.

The difference between last year’s series and this years is that the Dodgers will have that extra game at home. Despite the lack of fan support (I’ll get to that in a minute), the Dodgers play very well at home.

2. The Dodgers’ bullpen. The Dodgers’ bullpen is the difference in this series. The one-two punch of George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton can make any game in this series a seven inning game.

I also like the fact that if any of the Dodgers’ starters get in trouble early, they have two guys who can give quality innings in long relief–Jeff Weaver and Chad Billingsley. That is something the Phillies don’t have.

Kershaw will start Game 1

Kershaw will start Game 1 for the Dodgers

1. Kershaw is to the Dodgers what Bret Saberhagen was to the Kansas City Royals in 1985. In 1985, Saberhagen was a 21-year-old prodigy who led the Royals to a World Series championship.

I really believe Kershaw, who is also 21 by the way, has that type of ability. Not only does Kershaw possess nasty stuff, but I think he can carry the Dodgers’ rotation on his back if need be.

I love the fact that Kershaw is starting Game One. Kershaw had a 1.83 ERA at home this year and I expect him to pitch very well in this series.

Dodgers in six

MVP – Clayton Kershaw

Now let me talk about the Dodger fans. As of 9:21 pm ET last night, there were plenty of good seats available for Game’s One and Two at Dodger Stadium. I went to Ticketmaster, put in for best seats available, and plenty of seats were available for purchase.

That is pathetic.

You can’t sniff a playoff ticket for face value in New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, or St. Louis. Even the Tampa Bay Rays sold out in their ALCS in five minutes last year.

Just a terrible job by Dodger fans. No excuse for that.

Bullpen Saves The Day For The Dodgers In Game One

October 8, 2009

In one of the most brutal postseason games to watch in quite some time, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the St Louis Cardinals 5-3 in Game One of their National League Division Series.

This was three-hours and fifty three minutes of unwatchable baseball. Both starting pitchers–Chris Carpenter and Randy Wolf couldn’t have been worse and both teams left a combined 30 runners on base. The 30 runners left on base was a record for a nine-inning postseason game.

I thought the National League was known for fast-paced, crisp baseball?

Let’s start with the Cardinals. What on earth happened to Carpenter in this game? He looked like Carpenter on the Toronto Blue Jays, circa 2001.

I couldn’t get over how badly Carpenter was missing his spots. If Yadier Molina was setting up inside, Carpenter threw the ball six inches outside. If Molina wanted the ball low, Carpenter threw the ball at a batter’s letters.

I don’t know if it was playoff nerves or what? But I have never seen Carpenter off like that in a Cardinals uniform.

The other Cardinal I am going to get on is Matt Holliday. I know it was only one AB, but his first inning AB with the bases loaded was terrible.

We got a clear indication early on that Joe Torre is not going to let Albert Pujols beat him in this series. That means that Holliday is going to have to step up.

Bases loaded, nobody out, Wolf already on the ropes, and Holliday stands there with the bat on his shoulders looking at the same pitch–not once, but twice.

That just can’t happen in that spot.

Now let’s talk about the lesser of two evils last night–the Dodgers. Just as I suspected Wolf was, well, Wolf. Six hits, two runs, and five walks in three-and-two-thirds of less than stellar pitching.

The Dodgers’ offense helped him out with a solid 12-hit attack led by Rafael Furcal (3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored) and Matt Kemp (two-run HR in the first that set the tempo for the game). But the real stars of this game for the Dodgers was their bullpen.

Jeff Weaver (yes, Jeff Weaver), Ronald Belisario, Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill (very underrated pickup at the trade deadline), and closer Jonathan Broxton combined to shut down the Cardinals for five-and-one-third innings.

Weaver did to the Cardinals last night, what he did to other teams in a Cardinals’ uniform in 2006. Somehow, in his last 31 postseason innings Jeff Weaver has a 2.32 ERA. How is that possible?

The Cardinals did have a rally going in the ninth against Broxton. Mark DeRosa doubled home Ryan Ludwick to make the score 5-3. But Broxton got pinch-hitter Rick Ankiel looking at a pitch literally right down the middle to end the game.

Honestly, what on earth was Ankiel looking for in that situation? He really has no excuse on that one.

Dodgers lead the series 1-0. Game Two is Thursday at 6:07 ET.

Let’s hope Game Two is better to watch than Game One. It can’t get much worse.

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

Los Angeles Dodgers Clinch Playoff Spot

September 27, 2009

Two playoff teams down, four more to go. With the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 victory over the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates, they became the first National League and second team overall to clinch a spot in the 2009 postseason.

The Dodgers have the best record in the NL with a 93-62 mark. The Dodgers have done it with a very steady offense and a bullpen that is currently the best in the National League.

Dodger Stadium will be rocking in October

Dodger Stadium will be rocking in October

Despite missing Manny Ramirez for 50 games, the Dodgers rank first in the NL in batting average (.272), first in OBP (.347), third in runs (752), and forth in OPS (.763). The Dodgers can primarily thank Matt Kemp and team MVP Andre Ethier for those numbers.

But where the Dodgers shined this year was in the bullpen. The Dodgers lead the majors in bullpen ERA with a 3.11 mark. The mid-season acquisition of George Sherrill has paid dividends as Sherrill has a 0.73 ERA and 11 holds in 27 appearances.

Of course any bullpen would be helped out by having Jonathan Broxton as the closer. Despite looking as portly as ever, Broxton has 36 saves and leads all NL closers in K/9 with 13.50.

And of course you can’t mention the Dodgers without mentioning Joe Torre. I mean I can, but the national media can’t. With this postseason appearance, Torre has now reached the playoffs in 14 consecutive seasons.

I would love to know what deal Torre made with the devil. I am serious. Torre went from being a bafoon with the St. Louis Cardinals, to the most beloved figure in New York, and has continued the same success in Los Angeles.

Torre has reached a point in career where he can do no wrong. Only Bill Belicheck is on his level in the four major sports. Torre can send Chad Billingsley to the mound, tell him to throw left-handed to Albert Pujols, Pujols would fly out deep to left, and he would be called a genius.

That’s the level Torre is on.

As for the playoffs, despite having the best record in the NL, I am not sold on the Dodgers. Unless the Atlanta Braves catch the Colorado Rockies, I have a hard time seeing the Dodgers beating either the Cardinals or the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS.

2009 All-Fantasy Breakout Team

September 17, 2009

Yesterday, I did my 2009 All-Fantasy Bust Team. So of course, it’s only appropriate for me to do the 2009 All-Fantasy Breakout Team.

Let’s not beat around the bush. Here is the 2009 All-Fantasy Breakout Team sponsored by the Jose Lima Foundation… “There’s a one-year wonder in all of us.”

Honorable Mention: Billy Butler, Jason Bartlett, Adam Kennedy, Justin Upton, Ryan Franklin, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, Heath Bell, Ben Zobrist

Catcher: Joe Mauer, .373/27/85

I know it’s hard to label Mauer as a breakout player because he has already established himself as one of the game’s best offensive catchers. However, Mauer has taken his game to another level in 2009.

Mauer has flirted with .400 at times this season and has already hit more homeruns this season (27) than he has in the last two seasons combined (16).

Morales has had a breakout 2009

Morales has had a breakout 2009

First Base: Kendry Morales, .306/30/98

Coming into this season, Morales had 12 HR’s with 45 RBI and a .249 avg. in 127 career games. This year Morales has 30 HR’s and 98 RBI in 136 games.

Morales is only 26 and should be a fixture on fantasy teams for years to come.

Second Base: Aaron Hill, .286/32/86

Hill missed the majority of the 2008 season with a concussion. Hill has come back with a solid 2009 season and has given fantasy owners a legitimate power source at second base.

Hill is only 27, so he should be coming into his own at the plate.

Shortstop: Marco Scutaro, .284/12/60/.381 with 13 SB’s

Until this year, Scutaro was a fantasy afterthought. Come to think of it, he was an afterthought to most major-league GM’s. I will just come out and say it — Scutaro was a scrub until this year.

Now, Scutaro is second in the majors in walks, and has provided owners with a solid average and OBP all year.

Third Base: Pablo Sandoval, .322/21/77

Sandoval has rewarded fantasy owners who followed him at the end of the 2008 season. In 2008, Sandoval hit .345 in 41 games for the San Francisco Giants.

Sandoval has been a fantasy beast in 2009 and at only 23-years-old, he should be a force in fantasy baseball for years to come.

Outfield: Nyjer Morgan, .307/3/39 with 42 SB’s

Coming into this year, Morgan was a 29-year-old career minor leaguer, who only had 293 career AB’s. This year, Morgan has blossomed into a legit fantasy contributor.

Morgan’s greatest asset is his speed and with 42 steals this season, he won fantasy owners the stolen base category many weeks.

Outfield: Michael Bourn, .294/3/35 with 57 SB’s.

Bourn always had the speed, but the issue has always been whether or not Bourn could hit at the major-league level. Coming into 2009, Bourn was a career .237 hitter with a .299 OBP.

Bourn in 2009 has answered his critiques. Bourn has more walks in 2009 than he had in his first three seasons combined. If he is walking more, it means he is getting on base more.

Bourn is tied for second amongst all outfielders in stolen bases with 57 and tied for fifth in runs with 90.

Outfield: Nelson Cruz, .266/32/71

Cruz was labeled as a classic “AAAA” player. A great minor league player, but never could do it at the major-league level. All Cruz has done in 2009 is give fantasy owners who have him 32 homeruns.

In his first four seasons with the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers, Cruz hit a combined 22 homeruns.

Greinke has been fantasy's best pitcher

Greinke has been fantasy's best pitcher

Starting Pitcher: Zack Greinke, 13-8 with a 2.19 ERA

Greinke lost 17 games in 2005 and pitched in just three games in 2006. Those days are a distant memory for Greinke. In 2009, he is baseball’s best fantasy pitcher.

Greinke leads the majors in ERA, WHIP, and shutouts. He is also second in strikeouts with 216. Greinke should be a fantasy ace for here on out.

Starting Pitcher: Wandy Rodriguez, 13-10 with a 2.77 ERA

Rodriguez wasn’t even drafted in my fantasy draft. Now, he is a legit No. 2 pitcher in all fantasy formats.

Starting Pitcher: Scott Feldman, 16-5 with a 3.65 ERA

Coming into 2009, Feldman had a grand total of seven wins in four major-league seasons. Now, he leads the American League in winning percentage and is tied for third in the majors with 16 wins.

What were the odds of that at the beginning of the season? Five million to one?

Closer: David Aardsma, 35 saves with a 2.09 ERA

If Feldman was a surprise, then Aardsma is five surprises wrapped into one. Nostradamus couldn’t have predicted Aardsma’s season.

Aardsma didn’t have a single save or an ERA under four coming into 2009. Now Aardsma is having just as good a year as Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jonathan Broxton.

Incredible.

Baseball’s Best Bullpen: Midseason…

July 7, 2009

Before the start of the 2009 season, I did a “Baseball’s Best” series. Based on a scoring system, I graded each team’s bullpen, starting rotation, infield, and outfield to find out which team had baseball’s best in each aspect of the game.

Now that most teams have played around 80 games, I think it’s time to give an update to my baseball’s best series. We will start with baseball’s best bullpen at the midseason point in baseball.

Before the season started, I had the Boston Red Sox having the best bullpen in baseball. That was based on four categories – 2008 ERA, left-handed relievers, right-handed relievers, and closer.

Now that we have some stats to play with, we will determine who has the best bullpen with these four categories – Bullpen ERA, Holds, Save Percentage, and Batting Average Against. It’s not all about ERA. There are other factors which determine how good a team’s bullpen is.

Each category is worth 10 points. 10 being the best and one being the worst for that particular category. If a team was not in the top 10 baseball in that particular category, that team received zero points.

Here are the best bullpens at the midway point of the 2009 season…

10 – 7. Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, San Francisco Giants

4 (Tie). Seattle Mariners – 21 points

ERA – Seven

Holds – Six

BAA – Four

Save Percentage – Four

Analysis – The Seattle Mariners’ bullpen is the surprise of this group. Coming into this season there wasn’t much expected out of this unit, but they have gotten amazing performances from some of their relievers.

Led by David Aardsma (17 saves, 1.41 ERA), Sean White (2.84 ERA), and Miguel Batista (3.30 ERA) this group has helped the Mariners stay in contention in the AL West.

 4 (Tie). Los Angeles Dodgers – 21 points

ERA – Six

Holds – Five

BAA. – Ten

Save Percentage – Zero

Analysis – 80 games into the season and Joe Torre hasn’t blown out any reliiever’s arm yet. That must be some sort of record. In all seriousness, what makes the Dodgers bullpen so effective is that they have a hammer at the end of the game in Jonathan Broxton.

Broxton has had a solid year so far with a 6-0 record with 20 saves and a 2.72 ERA. Surprisingly, even with Broxton at the end of the game, the Dodgers aren’t in the top 10 in save percentage.

The Dodgers have also had great contributions from 26-year olds Ramon Troncoso (1.87 ERA and eight holds), Brett Leach (3.06 ERA), and Roland Belisario (2.42 ERA and 10 holds).

4 (Tie). Milwaukee Brewers – 21 points

ERA – Three

Holds – Seven

BAA. – Eight

Save Percentage – Three

Analysis – The Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen has a 16-9 record with a 3.58 ERA at the midway point. Their success can be attributed to the signing of future Hall of Famer and a guy who should be an All-Star, Trevor Hoffman.

Hoffman has been lights out this year to the tune of a 1.93 ERA and 18 saves. The Brewers’ bullpen has also been paced by Mitch Stetter (2-0 with 14 holds and a 2.28 ERA), Mark DiFelice (4-1 with eight holds and a 1.95 ERA), and big Todd Coffey (3-1 with 12 holds and a 2.63 ERA).

Papelbon is a hammer for the Sox

Papelbon is a hammer for the Sox

3. Boston Red Sox – 23 points

ERA – Ten

Holds – Zero

BAA. – Five

Save Percentage – Eight

Analysis – Despite having the best bullpen ERA in baseball (3.18 ERA), the Boston Red Sox fell a little short of mainaining their baseball’s best bullpen status as they did in my preseason edition.

The Red Sox have power arm after power arm in their bullpen. Like the Dodgers, the Red Sox also have a hammer at the end of their bullpen in Jonathan Papelbon (20 saves and a 1.75 ERA).

The Red Sox bullpen also features Hideki Okajima (3.25 ERA and 15 holds), Manny Delcarmen (1.97 ERA), Ramon Ramirez (2.25 ERA) and Daniel Bard (3.10 and 20 K’s in 20.1 IP).

2. St. Louis Cardinals – 25 points

ERA – Zero

Holds – Ten

BAA. – Six

Save Percentage – Nine

Analysis – Dave Duncan is a master at getting the most out of other team’s castoffs. You know he is doing a great job when Ryan Franklin has 20 saves and a 0.84 ERA in 31 games. Franklin is a well deserved All-Star and has really helped stabilize the Cardinals’ pen.

Despite their ERA’s north of four, Jason Motte and Dennys Reyes have a combined 28 holds for the Cardinals. The Cardinals also feature Trevor Miller, who has held lefties to a .118 avg in 51 AB’s.

Cordero leads the best bullpen in baseball

Cordero leads the best bullpen in baseball

1. Cincinnati Reds – 36 points

ERA – Nine

Holds – Eight

BAA. – Nine

Save Percentage – Ten

Analysis – I know the Reds’ pen was having a good season, but they really ran away with this. The Reds were top three in all four categories – very impressive.

The Reds have four relievers – Nick Masset (1.67), Francisco Cordero (1.80), the ageless Arthur Rhodes (1.88), and Danny Herrera (1.97) who have ERA’s under two. That is pretty amazing this late into the season.

The Reds also have another ageless wonder in David Weathers who has a 2.63 ERA in 31 appearances. The Reds’ bullpen has helped them keep pace in the competitive NL Central.

Tomorrow, I will take a look at baseball’s best starting rotation at the midway point of the season.

* All stats were calculated before Monday’s action. The Reds’ 22-1 loss on Monday night to the Phillies did not factor into this.

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