Posts Tagged ‘Lastings Milledge’

Starting Nine: National League Central

January 15, 2010

Next up in our Starting Nine series is the National League Central. Outside of the St. Louis Cardinals re-signing Matt Holliday, there haven’t been any big-time offensive additions to this division. As a whole, this might be the weakest offensive division in baseball (yes, even passing the NL West).

Let’s take a look at the starting lineups for all six teams in this division as presently constructed.

St. Louis Cardinals

1. Skip Schumaker, 2B

2. Brendan Ryan, SS

3. Albert Pujols, 1B

4. Matt Holliday, LF

5. Ryan Ludwick, RF

6. Yadier Molina, C

7. Colby Rasmus, CF

8. David Freese, 3B

9. Chris Carpenter, P

Quick Take – Re-signing Holliday was crucial to this lineup. Despite having Holliday and Pujols in the three-four spot, this lineup will only be as dynamic as Rasmus and Freese takes them.

Milwaukee Brewers

1. Rickie Weeks, 2B

2. Alcides Escobar, SS

3. Ryan Braun, LF

4. Prince Fielder, 1B

5. Casey McGehee, 3B

6. Corey Hart, RF

7. Gregg Zaun, C

8. Carlos Gomez, CF

8. Yovani Gallardo, P

Quick Take – The Brewers sacrificed some offense for defense in 2010. This isn’t the powerful Brewers’ lineup of the last couple of years. There are a lot of automatic outs from seven through nine.

Chicago Cubs

1. Alfonso Soriano, LF

2. Kosuke Fukudome, RF

3. Derek Lee, 1B

4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B

5. Marlon Byrd, CF

6. Geovany Soto, C

7. Ryan Theriot, SS

8. Mike Fontenot, 2B

9. Carlos Zambrano, P

Quick Take – This lineup is getting old in a hurry. If Soriano, Ramirez, and Soto can come back from disappointing 2009 seasons, the Cubs could be in business in 2010. However, I still think they are going to be hard pressed to score runs in 2010.

Cincinnati Reds

1. Drew Stubbs, CF

2. Brandon Phillips, 2B

3. Joey Votto, 1B

4. Jay Bruce, RF

5. Scott Rolen, 3B

6. Ramon Hernandez, C

7. Paul Janish, SS

8. Chris Dickerson, LF

9. Bronson Arroyo, P

Quick Take – This lineup looks good for now and even better for the future. If Bruce can stay healthy, he could have a breakout year in 2010. I would like someone better than Janish at SS, but top prospect Todd Frazier isn’t ready to take over just yet.

Houston Astros

1. Michael Bourn, CF

2. Kaz Matsui, 2B

3. Lance Berkman, 1B

4. Carlos Lee, LF

5. Hunter Pence, RF

6. Pedro Feliz, 3B

7. J.R. Towles, C

8. Tommy Manzella, SS

9. Roy Oswalt, P

Quick Take – This six through nine is brutal. It’s hard to have a top offense when the bottom part of your lineup is this bad. Top catching prospect Jason Castro is not too far away, so this is Towles’ last stand with the Astros.

Pittsburgh Pirates

1. Andrew McCutchen, CF

2. Akinori Iwamura, 2B

3. Garrett Jones, 1B

4. Ryan Doumit, C

5. Andy LaRoche, 3B

6. Lastings Milledge, LF

7. Ryan Church, RF

8. Ronny Cedeno, SS

9. Zach Duke, P

Quick Take – I think in order to maximize their offense’s potential, the Pirates will play Jones at first and Church in right instead of playing Jones in right and Jeff Clement at first. The Pirates’ offense will be better in 2010, but will still have a hard time scoring runs on a consistent basis.

Last, but not least, tomorrow we will take a look at the National League West.

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

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Pittsburgh Pirates Sign Ryan Church

January 13, 2010

Here is what I wrote about Church when he was released by the Atlanta Braves in December:

“When Church was traded to the Mets from the Washington Nationals along with Brian Schneider for Lastings Milledge before the 2008 season, I thought it was a good deal for the Mets. In his first 43 games, Church made it look like a great deal for the Metropolitans.

In those first 43 games, Church hit .315 with nine home runs and for the first time in Omar Minaya’s tenure with the Mets, it looked like he pulled off a steal of a trade.

Then the night of May 20 against ironically the Braves happened.

Church slid in short stop Yunel Escobar’s knee at second base and suffered a concussion. It was Church’s second concussion in less than three months.

The Mets of course in typical Mets fashion made things worse by inexplicably making Church fly to Denver in the high altitude right after the second concussion.

Church hasn’t been the same since.

I am guessing the Braves release Church and Church shouldn’t have a problem finding a job with another team. His lifetime .813 OPS versus right-handed pitching should make him an attractive option as a left-handed hitter off the bench/forth outfielder.”

Not only did Church find a job with another team, but he might have the opportunity to start in 2010.

Church is headed to Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed Church to a one-year, $1.5 million contract today. Church can earn another $1.32 million in incentives if he reaches a certain amount of plate appearances in 2010.

While I have my doubts as to whether or not Church can ever regain his form prior to his concussions, he should be able to nail down a starting job in Pittsburgh. He should start for the Pirates in right field flanking Andrew McCutchen and Lastings Milledge.

If Church can nail down the starting job, this will  allow the Pirates to play Garrett Jones at first base–at least against right-handing pitching. This move essentially ends the Pirates pursuit of Rick Ankiel and Hank Blalock.

Who does Ankiel–and for that matter Scott Boras–think he is? He is a fringe starter in baseball and he is asking for a two or three year deal? He will be waiting for a long time if he thinks he is going to get that.

Church is a career .272 hitter with 51 home runs and a .345 OBP in six seasons with the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, Mets and Braves.

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

Philadelphia Phillies Add Brian Schneider

December 1, 2009

It’s a great time to be a backup player in the majors these days.

So far this offseason, we have seen Andruw Jones, Omar Vizquel, and Alex Cora sign contracts. Now we can add another backup player to the list of players who have signed a contract.

According to Todd Zolecki, the Philadelphia Phillies have signed Brian Schneider to a two-year, $2.75 contract to be their backup catcher to Carlos Ruiz. Schneider spent the last two years with the New York Mets.

Schneider is headed to Philadelphia

When the Mets traded Lastings Milledge to the Washington Nationals for Schneider and Ryan Church before the 2007 season, I thought it was a good trade for the Mets.

Milledge was the Mets top young player at the time, but he is a clown and I have seen hundreds of Milledge types in my day. The Mets were getting back two professional ball players and with Schneider, they were getting a serviceable major league catcher.

The Mets got what they expected out of Schneider in 2008. Schneider hit .257 with nine home runs and threw out 33 percent of the runners trying to steal against him.

However, in 2009 like most of the Mets players, Schneider suffered through an injury plagued season. Schneider missed 41 games with a lower back injury and his average plummeted to .218 and his OPS dipped to .627.

I like this signing by the Phillies. Would I have given him a two-year deal? It’s debatable.

Schneider is four years younger than Paul Bako and three years younger than Chris Coste (Coste recently signed with the Mets), who were the Phillies’ backup catchers last season. Schneider’s .345 caught stealing percentage in 2009 is also better than both of them.

Of course knowing the Mets luck with players once they leave Flushing, Schneider will hit .280 with the Phillies and throw out 50 percent of the baserunners trying to run against him.

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

Ten Things We Learned In June…

July 1, 2009

Can you believe it is July 1st already? Maybe I don’t think it is the middle of summer because it rained almost every freakin’ day in the northeast in June. What a terrible month for weather.

Despite the bad weather, there was still plenty of good baseball that was played. The month of June usually separates the pretenders from the contenders, and this year was no different.

Here are the top 10 things we learned about baseball during the month of June…

10. The MLB Draft goes mainstream. For the first time, the MLB draft was on TV and on in prime time on the MLB Network. This was a good job by baseball realizing the increased importance of the draft, and fans should get insight on who their team is drafting.

To nobodies surprise, the Washington Nationals made San Diego State RHP Stephen Strasburg the No. 1 pick in the draft. Strasburg is probably the most hyped draft pick in the history of the draft and if you are a Nationals fan (all 100 of you), you better pray this guy is worth every dime he is going to get.

Speaking of rookies and the draft…

9. Tommy Hanson is good. Tommy Hanson made his debut for the Atlanta Braves on June 7th and since then he has gone 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA in five starts.

While his walk to strike out ratio isn’t the greatest in the world (17 walks to 18 K’s), he has wiggled out of trouble, kept his composure, and looks to be the real deal for the Atlanta Braves.

Speaking of the Braves…

8. The trade winds are a blowin’. The Atlanta Braves fired the first shot of the season by trading three prospects for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ All-Star CF Nate McLouth.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were very busy in the month of June. Besides trading Nate McLouth, they traded Eric Hinske to the New York Yankees, and traded Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan.

The Pirates weren’t the only NL Central team that was busy. The St. Louis Cardinals acquired perhaps the most versitle player on the market – Mark DeRosa from the Cleveland Indians.

Not only does DeRosa give the Cardinals someone to protect Albert Pujols in the lineup, but they also prevent DeRosa from being traded to his former team, the Chicago Cubs.

While on the subject of the Cubs…

7. Even All-Stars can be benched. The Chicago Cubs benched Milton Bradley, the Philadelphia Phillies benched Jimmy Rollins, and the Detroit Tigers sat down Magglio Ordonez. Kind of a rough month for these former All-Stars.

Did someone say something about former All-Stars being benched?

6. The demise of David Ortiz was premature. David Ortiz hit just .143 in May and everyone thought the Red Sox needed to trade for his replacement. Not so fast.

“Big Papi” wasn’t going down without a fight and Ortiz had a tremendous month of June. Ortiz hit .320 with seven HR’s, 18 RBI, and had a .409 OBP.

Let’s see if Ortiz can keep up the hot streak in July. Staying in the AL East…

5. The AL East is the best division in baseball. The Red Sox ended June with the best record in the AL, the Yankees have won five in a row and the Tampa Bay Rays have the best record in baseball after April.

Throw in the Toronto Blue Jays, who are three games over .500 and the Orioles, whose lineup can hit with anyone, it’s easy to see why the AL East is the best division in baseball.

It appears there will be two playoff spots for three teams.

On the topic of the American League…

4. The American League Dominated interleague play. The American League took the National League behind the woodshed in 2009. The AL had a 137-114 record against the NL.

While the NL has the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team with the best record in baseball, the AL from top to bottom is just a stronger league. If you put the Toronto Blue Jays in the NL, they probably would be the second best team in the league right now.

There was one team that stood out in interleague play. That team was…

3. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are back on top. The Angels had a brutal April and May. John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Vladimir Guerrero, Scot Shields, and Jose Arredondo all missed time for the halos. And of course, they went through the Nick Adenhart tragedy.

However, the Angels used interleague play to turn their season around. The Angels went an interleague best 14-4 and have returned to their customary position of AL West division leaders.

While the Angels were hot…

2. The Rockies were the team of the month. The Rockies fired Clint Hurdle at the end of May, hired Jim Tracy, and then the Rockies started beating teams left and right.

The Rockies lost their first three games in June and then only lost four more the rest of the month. At one point, they won 17 of 18 games, reminding fans of their great World Series run of 2007.

The Rockies are now 41-36 and are just 1.5 games out of a wild card spot. There may be another “Rocktober” in Colorado.

The Rockies were the team of the month, but the players of the month and the No. 1 thing we learned in the month of June was…

1. Randy Johnson and Mariano Rivera are first-ballot Hall of Famers. It was a milestone month for Randy Johnson and Mariano Rivera, two of the greatest pitchers off all-time.

Earlier this month, Randy Johnson became just the 24th pitcher and just the sixth lefthanded pitcher to win 300 games by defeating the Washington Nationals 5-1. The way the game is played now, Johnson might be the last 300 game winner.

Then later in the month, Mariano Rivera became just the second pitcher to record 500 saves for his career. Rivera now only trails Trevor Hoffman in all-time saves.

In my opinion, Randy Johnson is the greatest lefthanded pitcher of all-time and Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all-time. Both pitchers put an exclamation point on their already Hall of Fame careers.

That’s a wrap for the month of June. July should be even more exciting, as the July 31st trading deadline is one of the most interesting and exciting days in baseball.

One other thing I wanted to mention. As we all know, the title of my blog The Ghost of Moonlight Graham, was inspired by Burt Lancaster’s character in the movie Field of Dreams.

Well now the real life story of Archibald “Moonlight” Graham has been told. Brett Friedlander and Bob Reising have written the book “Chasing Graham.” It’s a fascinating story about a truly amazing man.

Brett Friedlander is a sports columnist covering ACC football and basketball for the Wilmington Star-News in North Carolina. He also writes for the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook and the ACC Sports Journal. 

His co-author, Bob Reising is an English professor at the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky and is the former head baseball coach at South Carolina, Duke, and Furman.

You can purchase this fascinating book here.

Nationals Trade Lastings Milledge; Elijah Dukes Next?

July 1, 2009

Pittsburgh Pirates GM and fellow UMass Sports Management graduate, Neal Huntington was a busy man today. Hours after trading Eric Hinske to the Yankees, Huntington pulled off a four player trade with the Washington Nationals.

The Pirates traded Juan Pierre clone, OF Nyjer Morgan and LHP Sean Burnett to the Nationals for OF Lastings Milledge and RHP and former Nationals closer, Joel Hanrahan. I see why both teams made this trade, but I think the Pirates got the better of this one by a slight margin.

I am not a fan of Lastings Milledge. Never have been and never will be. His act has worn thin with me and apparently to the Nationals as well. However, he is four years younger than Morgan (Milledge is 25 and Morgan is 29) and the potential is there for him to be more productive than Morgan. I still think Milledge can produce at the major league level.

I see what Huntington is trying to do. He wants to be a build a young, athletic outfield, similar to what the Rays have built in Tampa Bay. He is two thirds of the way there with Andrew McCutchen in center and now with Milledge in left (once he gets healthy). Gorkys Hernandez, who the Pirates got in the Nate McLouth trade could possibly play right to complete the super-athletic outfield.

The Pirates also recieved Joel Hanrahan in this trade. I actually like Hanrahan and I am a little surprised the Nationals gave up on him. Last year Hanrahan had a 3.95 ERA, 9 saves, and struck out 93 in 84.1 IP.

This year Hanrahan has struggled with a 7.71 ERA, but still has 35 strike outs in 32.2 IP. That tells me his stuff is there, he just needs to make some minor adjustments. Joe Kerrigan is one of the best pitching coaches in the game and will work with Hanrahan to make those adjustments.

For the Washington Nationals, I kind of see what they are trying to do.  As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs pointed out, the Nationals have the worst outfield defenses in baseball. I have watched them recently against the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees and quite frankly their outfield defense was a joke.

Trading for Morgan gives the Nationals one of the best leftfielders in the game. Morgan can fly and track down balls that Josh Willingham, Adam Dunn or Elijah Dukes can’t get to.

Nationals interim GM Mike Rizzo is trying to make up for former GM Jim Bowden’s neglect of defense. As the Tampa Bay Rays last year and the Detroit Tigers have proved this year, one of the quickest ways to improve your ball club is by improving the defense.

The Nationals received Sean Burnett in this trade as well. Burnett was having a good season as the Pirates lefthanded set-up man. Burnett had a 3.06 ERA and has only given up 22 hits in 32.1 IP. Lefties are only hitting .189 against Burnett this year.

Here is the only thing I don’t understand about this trade from the Nationals perspective. Why trade for a 29-year old in Morgan? The Nationals need to get younger not older. That part is a little puzzling to me. I understand they want to improve their defense, but you can find a guy like Morgan who is younger in most team’s minor league system

While the Nationals got rid of one problem in Milledge, they may be looking to ship out another one in Elijah Dukes. According to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, the Nationals are also trying to trade Dukes.

Dukes is hitting only .237 with six HR’s and 30 RBI in 190 AB’s for the Nationals this season. Dukes also comes with a ton of baggage, so the Nationals might find it hard to find a taker for Dukes.

Milledge Sent Down…

April 14, 2009

According to MLB.com, the Washington Nationals sent down Lastings Milledge today. Though Milledge is still only 24, I just don’t think he will ever become the player many thought he would become.

Dukes gets the call

Dukes gets the call

Milledge hit leadoff and played CF on Opening Day. Unfortunately for the Nationals, it took them a week to realize that Milledge couldn’t do either. Sending Milledge down is a good move by the Nationals. Maybe Milledge will learn how to play CF down at Syracuse but more importantly, maybe Milledge will grow up.

Elijah Dukes, who is arguably the Nationals best player and who was sitting on the bench Opening Day for reasons nobody will understand, will now be the Nationals starting CF. Dukes has put up .381/1/5 in his last 6 games