Posts Tagged ‘Nick Swisher’

Starting Nine: American League East

January 11, 2010

I was rummaging through some articles last week and I came across a piece by Morgan Campbell of the Toronto Star. He gave an early look at what the Toronto Blue Jays’ starting lineup might look like in 2010.

That piece got me thinking. With all the moves that happen during the free agency period it’s hard for a casual fan to keep up with their favorite team. Why not take an early look at each lineup in baseball as presently constructed?

So what I will do give each team’s starting lineup by division for the next six days. Obviously this will change as the offseason progresses, so I will do an update to these posts as the season approaches.

We will start in the American League and with the best division in baseball, the American League East.

New York Yankees

1. Derek Jeter, SS

2. Nick Johnson, DH

3. Mark Teixeira, 1B

4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B

5. Jorge Posada, C

6. Robinson Cano, 2B

7. Curtis Granderson, CF

8. Nick Swisher, RF

9. Brett Gardner, LF

Quick Take – Best and deepest lineup in baseball. Could made even better if Johnny Damon accepts a one-year deal to play left. Cano and Posada could flip-flop between fifth and sixth in the order.

Boston Red Sox

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, LF

2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B

3. Victor Martinez, C

4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B

5. David Ortiz, DH

6. Adrian Beltre, 3B

7. Mike Cameron, CF

8. J.D. Drew, RF

9. Marco Scutaro, SS

Quick Take – Not a classic Red Sox lineup. Not a lot of high OBP guys and nobody jumps out and scares you. Terry Francona is loyal to Ortiz, so he bats fifth ahead of Beltre in the lineup.

Tampa Bay Rays

1. B.J. Upton, CF

2. Carl Crawford, LF

3. Evan Longoria, 3B

4. Ben Zobrist, 2B

5. Carlos Pena, 1B

6. Pat Burrell, DH

7. Kelly Shoppach, C

8. Gabe Kapler, RF

9. Jason Bartlett, SS

Quick Take – This lineup will go from very good to great if Upton and Burrell come back strong in 2010. Kapler will find himself in a platoon situation with Matt Joyce to start the season.

Baltimore Orioles

1. Brian Roberts, 2B

2. Nick Markakis, RF

3. Adam Jones, CF

4. Luke Scott, DH

5. Nolan Reimold, LF

6. Matt Wieters, C

7. Ty Wigginton, 1B

8. Garrett Atkins, 3B

9. Cesar Izturis, SS

Quick Take – First four in this lineup is very good, but after that, this lineup gets very weak. Orioles are still looking for a first baseman, so don’t expect Wigginton to be a starter for too much longer.

Toronto Blue Jays

1. Jose Bautista, RF

2. Lyle Overbay, 1B

3. Aaron Hill, 2B

4. Adam Lind, DH

5. Vernon Wells, CF

6. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B

7. Travis Snider, LF

8. Alex Gonzalez, SS

9. John Buck, C

Quick Take – My lineup is a little different than Campbell’s as I have Overbay hitting in the two-hole. This lineup has the potential to be good, but Gonzalez and Buck represent too many automatic outs to be really dynamic.

Tomorrow, I will cover the American League Central.

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

Royals Sign Former No. 1 Overall Pick, Bryan Bullington

November 24, 2009

The Kansas City Royals made a minor move today, but the player they signed will have an impact on baseball’s amateur draft for years to come.

The Royals signed RHP and the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft Bryan Bullington to a minor-league contract today. Bullington was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates and has recently pitched in the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays organizations.

Bullington was the No. 1 pick in 2002

Bullington is the poster boy for everything that is wrong with baseball’s draft and why they desperately need a slotting system like the NBA.

The Pirates drafted Bullington with the No. 1 pick in 2002 for one reason and one reason only: Signability.

Bullington, who was drafted out of Ball State University, was the most signable player at that time. The Pirates took Bullington ahead of more talented players like BJ Upton, Prince Fielder, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, Khalil Greene, and Jeff Francouer.

When asked why he took Bullington with the No. 1 pick, Pirates GM Dave Littlefield said at the time “Bullington could be a good No. 3 pitcher.”

Really not something you want to hear about the No.1 overall pick in the draft.

Since Bullington was drafted, he has appeared in a grand total of 13 major league games. In those 13 games he has given up 47 hits and 22 earned runs in 39 innings.

In all fairness to Bullington, he did pitch well after being drafted by the Pirates going 34-17 with a 3.33 ERA in 69 games during his first three seasons.

Bullington hasn’t been the same since he tore his labrum in his pitching shoulder.

Picks like Bullington in 2002 and Matt Bush (San Diego Padres) in 2004 are the greatest examples of why baseball needs a slotting system for their draft. Bad teams need to be able to take the best player available, not the most signable.

Now to Bud Selig’s credit, he has recognized this as a problem in baseball and plans to implement this in the next collective bargaining agreement.

The Royals plan to use Bullington out of the bullpen in the minors. I guess he will never become the No.3 starter he was projected to be.

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

Phillies Hold Off Yankees, Force Game Six

November 3, 2009

Like George Costanza, the Philadelphia Phillies did the opposite last night.

Instead of having tuna on toast, with coleslaw, and a cup of coffee and trying to wait out AJ Burnett, the Phillies had chicken salad, on rye, untoasted, and a cup of tea and jumped all over Burnett.

The Phillies were aggressive and ambushed Burnett in the first inning thanks to a Chase Utley three-run homerun and eventually held on for an 8-6 victory to force a Game Six back in the Bronx.

The Yankees now lead the best-of-seven World Series 3-2.

What ever respect Burnett earned in his gutsy performance in Game Five of the ALCS and his brilliant performance in Game Two of the World Series, he lost last night.

Yankees Orioles Baseball

Burnett gave the Yankees nothing last night

To go out in a World Series game and give your team absolutely nothing, is pathetic. At least battle like you did against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Here is all you need to know about where Burnett’s head was last night.

In the bottom of the third, Burnett was facing Jayson Werth with two on and nobody out. Burnett gets to 0-2 on Werth on two fastballs. The second fastball he blew by Werth.

Now one of the first things you learn when you become a pitcher is if a guy can’t catch up to your fastball, don’t throw anything offspead.

So what does Burnett do? He throws a tumbling curveball right over the middle of the plate. Werth was all over it and ripped the ball right back up the middle.

You can’t throw that pitch, if a guy just couldn’t catch up to your fastball on the pitch before. Let him prove that he can hit your fastball.

Burnett was then taken out of the game.

Just a terrible performance.

Here are some other observations from last night.

When Shane Victorino got hit on the finger squaring to bunt in the first inning, it reminded me of David Cone breaking his finger in 1987 on a bunt attempt.

In a potential clinching game in the World Series, the Yankees had Nick Swisher batting fifth.

Lee was good last night, but wasn’t great. He walked three guys last night and had only walked three guys in his previous four starts.

Lee only threw first-pitch strikes to 18 out of the 31 batters he faced. Very uncharacteristic for him.

I was very surprised to see Lee come out for the eighth inning. I thought Charlie Manuel should have gone to Chan Ho Park to start the inning and preserve Lee for a relief appearance in a potential Game Seven.

Great job by David Roberston and Alfredo Aceves to keep the Yankees in the game. Four innings, two hits, and three strike outs.

The Yankees have to be encouraged by Phil Hughes’ performance last night. 1.1 innings and looked sharp.

I guess we now know why Damaso Marte is ahead of Phil Coke on the depth chart.

With five homeruns, Chase Utley has tied Reggie Jackson for most homeruns in a World Series.

Why does Swisher look up at the scoreboard before every pitch? If this was the 1960’s, he would be accused of stealing signs.

Can someone please teach Brett Gardner how to bunt? This guy is one of the fastest players in baseball and he is hitting the ball in the air every AB.

I had no problem with Manuel going with Ryan Madson in the ninth. Lidge threw 30 pitches the night before and Madson was solid in Game Four.

Whatever praying the Phillies’ dugout did before the Derek Jeter AB–it worked. Jeter hitting into a 6-4-3 double play is more than anyone could have expected.

Say what you want about Johnny Damon–when the game and season is on the line, he shows up to play.

You can make all the great defensive plays you want, but Mark Teixeira’s postseason honeymoon is over. He has been awful in this World Series and for the most part, the entire postseason.

Hideki Matsui leads the Yankees in total bases this World Series (11) and has only started two games.

Citizens Bank Park has an X-Ray machine in the stadium. How far have we come in terms of technology? It really is amazing and we all, including myself take it for granted.

Hypothetical here: Let’s say Teixeira tied the game with a two-run HR in the ninth and Brett Gardner wins the game for the Yankees in the 15th inning. Does Utley still win the MVP award?

Ryan Howard has struck out 12 times this postseason tying Willie Wilson’s World Series record. I am confident that he will break that record in Game Six.

Another hypothetical here: Game Six, the Phillies are up 4-3, and heading into the ninth inning–who close’s for the Phillies?

If there ever was a “good loss” last night was it for the Yankees. They took the Phillies best punch last night and managed to get back up and make a fight out of it.

The Yankee teams from 2001-2008 would have taken that punch and not gotten back up.

Hero for Game Five – Chase Utley

Goat for Game Five – AJ Burnett

Series MVP – Chase Utley

Game Six is Wednesday at 7:57 ET.

Brad Lidge Implodes, Yankees On Cusp Of World Series Title

November 2, 2009

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, the Philadelphia Phillies rode Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge to a World Series title. In this year’s World Series, Hamels and Lidge have imploded in back to back games and now the Phillies are on the brink of elimination.

In a crucial Game Four, Alex Rodriguez broke a 4-4 tie with a double in the ninth inning off of Lidge and Jorge Posada singled home two more runs to give the Yankees a 7-4 victory over the Phillies.

The Yankees now lead the best-of-seven World Series 3-1 and are on the cusp of their 27th World Series title.

While Rodriguez might have broken the tie in the ninth, it was the great AB and then some heads up baserunning by Johnny Damon that was the story of the inning.

With two outs and nobody on, Lidge was cruising. He looked like the Lidge of 2008. He was throwing wicked sliders and more importantly–he was throwing with confidence.

Johnny-Damon_2

Damon's play last night was heads up

Then Damon came to the plate.

Lidge got Damon in a 1-2 hole, but couldn’t put him away. Damon worked the count to 3-2 and then served a single to leftfield.

What happened next was stuff of legend.

With Mark Teixeira at the plate, Damon stole second. But because the infield was in a shift, third baseman Pedro Feliz took the throw to second.

With Feliz taking the throw at second, nobody was covering third base. Damon realized that and immediately took off for third base. It was one of the most heads up plays you will ever see on a baseball diamond.

Now with Damon on third, Lidge was scared to throw his devastating slider because he didn’t want to bounce it in the dirt and he had to rely on his fastball.

Lidge then plunked Teixeira and the rest was history.

Here are some other observations from last night:

I don’t know why Lidge didn’t try to put Damon away with a slider in the ninth? He kept going to his fastball when his slider was unhittable at that point.

I don’t understand the theory of “If a guy is on third, you can’t throw your slider.” When did Carlos Ruiz become swiss cheese behind the plate?

If Derek Jeter makes that Damon baserunning play, Jeter’s cleats, socks, uniform, and the base are sent to the Hall of Fame.

I have no problem with bringing Lidge into the game at that point. If he can’t pitch in that situation when can he pitch?

Now Lidge knows what Mark Wohlers feels like when you don’t get beat on your best pitch.

All seven other closers have imploded at some point this postseason. The only one that hasn’t? Mariano Rivera. There is a reason why the Yankees are one game away from winning the World Series.

There was only one pitch that Feliz could have hit a homerun on and Joba Chamberlain threw it.

The Yankees got a glimpse of their future when Rivera retires on that Chamberlain gopher ball.

Chamberlain’s “win” last night is the perfect example of why wins for a relief pitcher is one of the most overrated stats in baseball.

It’s taken Rivera only 13 pitches to retire five batters the last two nights. Amazing.

Joe Buck talked more about the NFL than he did the baseball game he was announcing through the first three innings.

Somebody should tell Robinson Cano that the World Series started.

Ryan Howard still hasn’t touched home plate.

Very good, but not great performance from CC Sabathia last night. 6.2 innings, three runs, three walks, and six K’s.

I thought Blanton was good as well last night. And yes, it was the right decision to start him instead of Cliff Lee. Someone other than Lidge needs to a win a game for the Phillies. What’s the difference if it is Game Four of Game Five?

The biggest mistake Blanton made last night was walking Nick Swisher to lead off the fifth. That just can’t happen. It was no surprise that Swisher eventually scored.

Great baserunning by Melky Cabrera scoring on that Damon blooper in that inning. Great read on the ball.

Chase Utley just hit another homerun off of Sabathia.

The last team to come back from a 3-1 World Series deficit was the Kansas City Royals in 1985. Sadly, this was the last time any Royals fan felt any joy.

I wonder if the air has come out of the balloon for the Phillies? As Bob Boone said to Don Sutton on the play ride from California to Boston after the California Angels lost an epic Game Five (the Dave Henderson game) to the Boston Red Sox in 1986–“When the air comes out of the balloon, it’s hard to get it back up.”

That being said, I would be shocked if the Phillies didn’t win tonight. Lee on full rest and AJ Burnett on short rest should get them to Game Six.

Hero for Game Four – Johnny Damon

Goat for Game Four – Brad Lidge

Series MVP – Johnny Damon

Game Five is tonight at 7:57

Yankees Rock Cole Hamels, Take Game Three

November 1, 2009

There are some things in life I just don’t understand.

Like why my mom continues to buy single-ply toilet paper, or why Heidi Klum is married to Seal, or why a hitter would swing at the first pitch after a pitcher just walked two out of the last three batters he faced.

The New York Yankees overcame a three run deficit thanks to a gutsy performance from Andy Pettitte and some timely hitting to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 8-5 last night in Game Three of the World Series.

The Yankees now lead the World Series 2-1.

For me, the turning point of this game was in the bottom of the second inning. I might be in the minority here, but I really thought the Shane Victorino AB with the bases loaded and one out in the second changed the course of the game.

Andy Pettitte

Pettitte came through again for the Yankees

Pettitte had already served up a homerun to Jayson Werth and a wall scraping double to Pedro Feliz. Then he walked Carlos Ruiz, misplayed a Cole Hamels bunt, and walked Jimmy Rollins which forced in a run.

Victorino came up with Pettitte on the ropes. Pettitte was done and Victorino let him off the hook.

Instead of taking a strike, Victorino, trying to be the hero–swung at a pitch in the dirt. Then Victorino swung at another pitch in the dirt to make the count 0-2.

Victorino managed to hit a sacrifice fly to make the score 3-0, but I really thought that AB was the turning point of the game. That AB allowed Pettitte to settle down, gather himself, and from there–he was vintage Pettitte.

Why Victorino didn’t take a strike in that situation is beyond. Pettitte wasn’t close to throwing a strike to Ruiz and was even further off to Rollins. You have to let Pettitte prove to you at that point that he can throw a strike.

The Phillies could have possibly had five or six runs that inning, but settled for three. From there the Yankees bats came alive against a yet again mediocre Hamels and now are just two games away from winning the World Series.

Here are some other observations from last night’s game.

No matter what the situation is, Pettitte always manages to keep the same demeanor on the mound. He really is one of the great clutch performers of all-time.

Hamels didn’t give up a hit until the fourth inning. He only last 4.1 innings last night. Amazing.

Remarkably, there are still some people out there who will argue that Hamels is the same pitcher as last year. I wonder if they still feel that way after last night’s performance.

If this series goes seven games, there is no way Charlie Manuel can start Hamels in Game Seven.

I would go with Happ in Game Six and then Pedro Martinez in Game Seven. Give Martinez the extra day if you can.

I still can’t believe Hamels would throw a curveball–Hamels third best pitch to Pettitte. Pettitte’s single was another turning point of the game. That was the single worst pitch of the postseason.

Apparently Joe Girardi’s benching did Nick Swisher well. Swisher hit a double and a homerun last night.

Swisher played Feliz’s double in the second terribly. A good rightfielder catches that ball against the wall.

Ryan Howard just struck out again.

I thought the umpires had a very good game last night. Home plate umpire Brian Gorman was consistent all night and good job getting together on the Alex Rodriguez homerun.

The 2009 postseason is officially Jayson Werth’s coming out party. Two more homeruns last night now give him seven for this postseason.

Believe it or not, outside of Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte has been the Yankees most reliable reliever.

Despite the one hour and 20 minute rain delay, this game didn’t end as late as I thought it would. I thought this game would end at two in the morning.

Yankees’ bullpen–three innings, one hit, and one run. Phillies’ bullpen–4.2 innings, three hits, and three runs.

100 percent agreed with Girardi with sending out Phil Hughes to start the ninth with a four run lead. With three games in a row, the Yankees need to save Rivera as much as possible.

Terrible job by Hughes in not being able to finish the ninth. The Yankees didn’t want to use Rivera and they had to.

Howard just struck out.

Chase Utley and Howard went 0-8 with five K’s. If they Phillies are going to win this series, then those two need to carry the offense.

The team that wins Game Four wins the World Series.

Game Four is tonight at 8:20 ET

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

Just as a reminder, I will be on the Frankie the Sports Guy show tonight on AM 1240 WGBB at 10:20 ET. I’ll be talking about the World Series and some other baseball topics.

Former Yankee third baseman Charlie Hayes will be on the show as well.

Is It Time For Joe Girardi To Bench Nick Swisher?

October 29, 2009

Update

Apparently Joe Girardi was looking at the same book I was. This afternoon Girardi announced the Jerry Hairston will start in rightfield over Nick Swisher in Game Two of the World Series.

“He’s had a lot of success off of Pedro,” Girardi said. “We also like the way they kind of match up against each other, and that kind of shows up in the numbers.”

Hairston will bat seventh tonight.

Original Post

On November 13, 2008, Brian Cashman made one of his rare very shrewd moves. He acquired 1B/OF Nick Swisher from the Chicago White Sox for two minor leaguers and utility man Wilson Betemit.

Swisher, a classic “Moneyball” type player (low average, high OBP, bad fielder), was coming off a down year with the White Sox in 2008. He hit .219 and White Sox GM Kenny Williams was quick to get rid of Swisher.

Cashman picked him up as low-risk, high-reward player.

White Sox Giants Baseball

Yes Nick, it has been shocking how bad you have been in the playoffs

Not only did Swisher have a nice come back year with a hitting line of .249/.371/.498 and 29 homeruns, but he also added a dimension to the Yankee clubhouse that they didn’t have before. He got the normally uptight Yankees to loosen up with his care-free attitude and almost comedic personality.

However, things have turned sour for Swisher in the playoffs. Through the first two rounds of the playoffs and Game One of the World Series, Swisher is just 4-for-35 (.078 avg.) with no HR’s and no extra-base hits.

To be honest, he looks completely lost at the plate.

Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi has stood by Swisher throughout these playoffs, but now one has to wonder if his patience has worn thin. Girardi has to be contemplating a move with Swisher.

Believe it or not, Girardi has two alternatives to Swisher in the outfield. Eric Hinske, who was recently added to the roster and Jerry Hairston might provide the Yankees with a better matchup versus Pedro Martinez.

Here are the stats for Hinske and Hairston versus Martinez.

Hinske: .267 with one HR in 30 AB’s

Hairston: .370 with a .433 OBP in 27 AB’s

Swisher is 0-for-2 lifetime versus Martinez, which is clearly is not enough of a sample size to judge. But right now, it doesn’t matter how many times Swisher has faced Martinez in the past. He can’t hit anybody right now.

If Girardi is going to ever bench Swisher in the World Series, Game Two would be the game to do it.

Sabathia, Rodriguez Give Yankees 3-1 Series Lead

October 21, 2009

So much for CC Sabathia not being able to pitch in the postseason huh?

On just three days rest, New York Yankees’ ace CC Sabathia dominated the feeble Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lineup and Alex Rodriguez hit yet another homerun, as the Yankees crushed the Angels last night 10-1 to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven ALCS.

The Yankees celebrate after a Game 4 win

The Yankees celebrate after a Game 4 win

However, before I get to my observations of last night’s action, I have to talk about something else first. I hate to talk about something outside the game itself, but in this case–it’s necessary.

Major League Baseball has a serious umpiring issue.

Throughout this postseason we have seen some atrocious umpiring and last night it came to a head. There were three brutal calls that is turning the baseball postseason into a circus.

In the fourth, Scott Kazmir appeared to pickoff Nick Swisher at second base, but Swisher was called safe. Swisher was tagged about a foot before the base with umpire Dale Scott looking right at the play.

I find it hard to believe he could miss something so easy.

In the same inning, Johnny Damon hit a ball to centerfield. With Swisher now on third, he attempted to tag-up on the ball. Hunter threw the ball home, but Swisher beat the play.

Swisher was called out because third base umpire Tim McClelland deemed he had left before Hunter caught the ball. Replays showed Swisher did no such thing.

This was a clear and blatantly obvious make up call.

McClelland said “In his heart he felt Swisher left early.” Really? In your heart?

I want to know what your eyes tell you, not your heart. In my heart, I am married to Jennifer Aniston. The reality is that is not the case.

I didn’t know umpires are making calls with their hearts these days.

The very next inning, McClelland was at the center of attention again. Swisher hit a ground ball back to Darren Oliver. With Posada at third, he broke for home.

Oliver threw the ball home and had Posada in a rundown. Mike Napoli ran Posada back to third and Robinson Cano, who was on second ran to third base.

Both runners were standing by third base and not on the bag. Napoli tags both runners, but somehow Cano was called safe. What???

I can handle bang-bang calls at first base. Those get missed all the time and in my opinion is completely understandable. Those calls come down to a half a second either way.

I can tolerate that.

But what I, and I think most baseball fans can’t tolerate, is obvious missed calls. It’s ridiculous.

Bud Selig really needs to address this issue. He can’t let this fester like he did with the steroid issue. Selig has a tendency to let things linger until it gets to a point where it becomes a mockery.

This is why David Stern is such a great commissioner for the NBA. Say what you want about him, but if there is an issue, he addresses it and sweeps it under the rug.

Stern had a referee (Tim Donaghy) possibly throw games in his league, which is the most egregious thing in sports. Stern addressed the issue and it really became a non issue.

To this day, I still can’t believe what a non issue it was. Do you know why it was a non issue? Because Stern cut it off at the head before it festered.

This is what Selig needs to do. He needs to address this issue and recognize that there is a problem before it gets out of hand.

And here is another thing that vexes me about baseball umpires and umpires or referees in general. Why are they all older than my dad (59)?

Why aren’t these umpires younger? Why can’t a 30-year-old be an umpire in the major leagues?

I would think younger umpires would be sharper, quicker and more attentive than a guy who is 65-years-old.

If someone could give me a logical explanation for that, I would love to hear it.

Baseball is held in higher standards in America than football or basketball (I don’t mention hockey because Gary Bettman has made that league irrelevant).

Get new umpires. Use instant more instant replay. Do what whatever you need to do.

Just fix it!

Now let’s get to the game. Here are my observations from last night:

How awful was Scott Kazmir last night? Did he talk to Steve Trachsel before the game? I never want to hear him talked about as an “elite starter” ever again.

CC Sabathia was great last night. After getting in a little bit of trouble in the fifth and sixth, he settled down and get out of the jams.

He finished strong by getting the final six batters in the seventh and eighth.

Sadly as great as Alex Rodriguez has been, if the Yankees don’t win the World Series, he will still be blamed for it. It’s sad, but is true.

I have been watching baseball for 25 years and I can’t remember a time where there have been so many pitcher-catcher meetings on the mound. It’s a trend that I would like to have come to an end.

The Angels won the game in Tim McClelland’s heart.

The Angels don’t have enough “hot” players in their lineup right now to beat the Yankees.

How bad has Juan Rivera been in this series? He is the human rally killer. His double play in the sixth ended the game for the Angels.

It’s amazing how talent can make Joe Girardi look like a good manager.

Where was Jorge Posada’s head last night? Running off the field with two outs and not scoring from second on a double. Very odd game for Posada.

Some team is going to give Chone Figgins a four-year, $42 million deal and regret it from the first day. I am not a fan at all.

Hero for Game 4 – CC Sabathia

Goat for Game 4 – Scott Kazmir

Series MVP – CC Sabathia

Game Five is Thursday at 7:57 ET.

American League Championship Series Preview and Prediction

October 16, 2009

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. New York Yankees

Best-of-seven series

Game One: Friday, Oct. 16 7:57 ET. John Lackey vs. CC Sabathia

Game Two: Saturday, Oct. 17 7:57 ET. Joe Saunders vs. AJ Burnett

Game Three: Monday, Oct. 19 4:13 ET. Andy Pettitte vs. Jered Weaver

Game Four: Tuesday, Oct. 20 7:57 ET. TBD vs. Scott Kazmir

Game Five*: Thursday, Oct. 22 7:57 ET. TBD vs TBD

Game Six*: Saturday, Oct. 24 4:13 ET. TBD vs. TBD

Game Seven* Sunday, Oct. 25 8:20 ET. TBD vs. TBD

*If necessary

Prediction: There are a couple of big story lines heading into this series. Can the Yankees finally beat the Angels in the playoffs? Who pitches Game Four for the Yankees? And can the Yankees neutralize the Angels running game?

While I don’t have the answers to those questions, here is what I do know–Game One is key to this series. Normally, I feel Game Three is key in a best-of-seven series, but in this case Game One is key.

If the Angels win Game One, they got the Yankees thinking here we go again. And more importantly they’ll get Joe Girardi more wound up than he already is.

Girardi got torched last week on the radio and in the papers in New York about how impatient and high strung he was during the ALDS. And that is when the Yankees swept. Could you imagine if the Yankees lose Game One, what Girardi will be like in Game Two?

The Angels have the right guy going in Game One in Lackey. He looked very impressive against the Red Sox in the NLDS and Lackey is pitching for a contract in 2010. If Lackey can pitch well from here on out, he will earn himself some serious coin this Winter.

Figgins is key for the Angels

Figgins is key for the Angels

The key for the Angels offensively and for the series that matter is Chone Figgins. Can this guy show up in the postseason just once? He is supposed to be their table setter and he has a lifetime .182 avg. in the postseason.

The Angels can’t do what they want to do (run all over the Yankees) if their speed guys don’t get on base. Figgins has to show up this series. It’s a must.

If the Yankees win Game One then it does two things. 1. It puts all the pressure on Joe Saunders in Game Two and 2. Quite simply, it gives the Yankees confidence they can beat the Angels in the postseason.

I like Joe Saunders and he is a nice little pitcher. But would you trust him in a big spot with your season on the line? I wouldn’t. I don’t see the Angels winning Game Two no matter what happens in Game One.

However, if they lose Game One AND Game Two, now they have to win four out of five from the Yankees. That is going to be awfully tough to do.

I think there are two keys for the Yankees in this series. First, they need to get someone else going in the lineup other than Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

Overshadowed in the Yankees sweep over the Minnesota Twins, was the fact that Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher, Melky Cabrera, and Robinson Cano didn’t hit at all during the series. The Yankees are going to need a couple of these guys to come through in order to beat the Angels in a seven game series.

Second, this series might just come down to how well CC Sabathia pitches. With the weather concerns in New York (I will get to that in a second) and with the Girardi contemplating going with a three-man rotation, there is a chance Sabathia will pitch three times in this series.

If Sabathia pitches on three days rest, history will be against him. It’s really amazing how the Yankees don’t have a No. 4 starter. They have nobody but themselves to blame for that.

The x-factor in this series is going to be the weather for the first two games of this series. It’s miserable right now in New York. Walking to work this morning it felt like Winter.

It’s supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow. If one of these games gets rained out, that clearly favors the Angels. The Angels have their rotation set regardless of the weather. The Yankees don’t.

Everything in me is leaning towards picking the Angels. I think they are in the Yankees’ heads, they are better equiped to play in a long series than the Yankees are, they are drawing inspiration from the Nick Adenhart tragedy, and they clearly have the better manager.

But things are starting to break for the Yankees like they did in the 90’s. You can’t beat the unexplained. There will be a Joe Mauer foul ball or Nick Punto baserunning moment for the Angels in this series.

Yankees in six

MVP – Mariano Rivera

Who Got The Better Of Some Offseason Trades?…

June 3, 2009

This past offseason we saw a lot of teams wheeling and dealing. There were some blockbuster trades, like the Matt Holliday trade and there were some under-the-radar trades, like the Edwin Jackson trade that are proving to be difference makers.

Now that we are two months into the season, let’s take a look at some of the offseason trades that took place, and which team (so far) has gotten the better of the trade.

The Trade: Matt Holliday traded from the Rockies to the A’s for Huston Street, Greg Smith and Carlos Gonzalez

Advantage: Colorado Rockies

Analysis: After a really slow start, Holliday has turned it on as of late. Holliday is putting up a .275/7/30/.368 hitting line. However, Holliday was brought to the A’s so the A’s could win. The A’s aren’t winning and they are in last place in the AL West.

Another factor in why this is advantage Rockies, is that because of Holliday’s slow start, it doesn’t look like A’s GM Billy Beane will get more back than they gave up, if they decide to trade him at the deadline.

The Rockies got three players for Holliday and all three have performed well for Colorado so far this season. The key to this deal was Carlos Gonzalez and he is putting up Ruthian numbers in Triple A. Gonzalez is hitting .348 with 10 HR’s and 59 RBI in 46 games.

The Rockies could also trade Huston Street (3.38 ERA 8 saves) at the deadline for prospects.

The Trade: Edwin Jackson traded from the Rays to the Tigers for Matt Joyce

Advantage: Detroit Tigers

Analysis: This might be the steal of the offseason. Jackson, along with Justin Verlander have become one of the best one-two punches in the AL. Jackson is currently 5-3 with a 2.30 ERA and has an impressive eight quality starts in 11 total starts.

Matt Joyce on the other hand, has spent the majority of the season in the minors. Granted Joyce did hit .315/5/27/.408 in Triple A, but he has not nearly made the impact that Jackson has had.

The Trade: Coco Crisp traded from the Red Sox to the Royals for Ramon Ramirez.

Advantage: Even

Analysis: Probably the most even trade of the offseason. Both players have done exactly what their teams have asked them to do. This is a very rare occurrence in baseball or in any sport for that matter.

The acquisition of Crisp allowed David Dejesus to shift to LF, which has stabilized the Royals’ outfield defense. Crisp has played a very solid CF, which his 2.9 UZR indicates. The Royals would like Crisp to hit better (.233/3/14), but he does have 11 steals to pace the Royals.

Ramirez has been a rock in the Red Sox bullpen. He is 4-2 with a 1.33 ERA and has seven holds in 24 games. Ramirez has been a very good bridge to closer, Jonathon Papelbon.

The Trade: Mark DeRosa traded from the Cubs to the Indians for Jeff Stevens, Chris Archer and John Gaub.

Advantage: Indians

Analysis: When this trade happened back in December, I thought it was a steal for the Indians. Now that we are in June, I still think the Indians got the better of the Cubs, but not by much.

DeRosa has been solid for the Indians, but the Indians are in last place and look to be seller at the trading deadline. One of the players the Indians might be selling is DeRosa. DeRosa has hit .266 with 8 HR’s and 33 RBI so far this and since he can play multiple positions, he has a lot of value.

Even though Stevens (0-2 1.80 ERA in 19 games), Archer (2-0 1.29 ERA in 9 starts), and Gaub (2-1 3.50 ERA) have pitched well in the minors, the Cubs miss DeRosa’s bat and more importantly, his versatility dearly. Mike Fontenot and Aaron Miles have not been able to fill DeRosa’s shoes so far.

The real winner of this trade will not be determined until we find out how the prospects the Indians get for DeRosa fare (he will be traded) and how the three prospects the Cubs got from the Indians turn out.

The Trade: Nick Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira traded from the White Sox to the Yankees for Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez

Advantage: Yankees

Analysis: The Yankees bought low on Swisher and have gotten great results so far. Not only does Swisher have 10 HR’s and 31 RBI, but has loosened the normally uptight Yankee clubhouse and has brought a “Kevin Millar” type attitude to the bronx.

Many people don’t know the Yankees also got Kanekoa Texeira (no relation to Mark) in this trade as well. Texeira is 5-2 with a 3.55 ERA for Double A Trenton.

Wilson Betemit has been useless for the White Sox.  He is batting .209 and doesn’t fit in the White Sox long-term plans. Jeff Marquez has been terrible in Triple A. Marquez is 0-4 with a 14.54 ERA in four starts. Nunez has been a little better posting a 1-0 record with a 2.97 ERA in 16 games in Double A.

The Trade: Khalil Greene traded from the Padres to the Cardinals for Mark Worrell

Advantage: Nobody

Analysis: Khalil Greene – .200/2/14. Currently on the 15 Day DL

Mark Worrell – 0-1 with a 7.94 ERA

Enough said.

The Trade: JJ Putz, Sean Green and Jeremy Reed traded from the Mariners to the Mets for Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp, Maikel Cleto and Ezequiel Carrera. Joe Smith traded from the Mets to the Indians. Franklin Gutierrez traded from the Indians to the Mariners. Luis Valbuena was traded from the Mariners to the Indians.

Advantage: Mariners

Analysis: This trade involved three teams and 12 players. At the end of the day, I like the Mariners side of this deal. They were able to restock their farm system with Carrera and Carp (Carp is hitting .302/9/26/.419 in Triple A, by the way) and the players they got for the major league team have made valuable contributions.

Endy Chavez has hit .284 while swiping eight bases and Jason Vargas is 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA and has two quality starts in four starts. The Mariners were also able to flip Heilman to the Cubs for Garrett Olson and Ronny Cedeno. I’ll chalk that one up as a win for the Mariners as well.

JJ Putz and Sean Green have been terrible for the Mets. Putz is 1-4 with a 4.76 ERA and already lost his role as 8th inning set-up guy to Bobby Parnell. Green has been even worse. He has a 6.95 ERA with an 0-2 record. Jeremy Reed is nothing more than a 4th OF/defensive replacement type player.

Joe Smith has been useless for the Indians (7.11 ERA in 9 games) and is currently on the DL. Luis Valbuena looks like a promising second base prospect and put up a .321/3/13/.436 hitting line in Triple A this year.

Valbuena was just recently called up.

So there you have it. There were a lot of trades involving a lot of players and it looks like the Rockies, Indians, Tigers, and Mariners have gotten the better of their deals so far.

I will revisit this post at the end of the year to see if anything has changed.

Fantasy Injury Updates….

April 15, 2009

There has been a slew of injury news in the last 24 hours that could potentially affect your fantasy team. Here is what is going on in the world of injuries…

Daisuke Matsuzaka – Was put on the 15 day DL today with arm fatigue. He should miss just a couple of starts. Possible Replacement Pickup – Justin Masterson. Masterson pitched 4 scoreless innings in relief of Dice K last night and figures to take his spot in the rotation.

Chris Carpenter – Carpenter was placed on the 15 day DL with an oblique injury in which he suffered last night. This why it was so hard to pick the Cardinals to win the division. Carpenter just can’t stay healthy. Possible Replacement Pickup – Chris Perez. With Carpenter being put on the DL, the Cardinals called up Chris Perez. With Motte struggling and nobody actually believing Ryan Franklin is the answer at closer, Perez might get some save opportunities.

Xavier Nady – Word is that Nady will miss the rest of the season with an elbow tear. Nady is expected to be placed on the DL tomorrow. Possible Replacement Pickup – Nick Swisher. Swisher has been on fire and was already taking playing time away from Nady. Now with Nady possibly done for the season, nothing should stand in the way of Swisher getting 500 ab’s.

Melvin Mora – Mora was placed on the DL today because of a lingering hamstring injury. Mora was off to a good start for the Orioles hitting .313 with 1 HR and 7 RBI in 5 games. Possible Replacement Pickup – Ty Wigginton. Wigginton put up a nice .285/23/58 in 111 games last year for the Astros so Wigginton has the ability to put up some numbers. Wigginton will play 3B now that Mora will be out for a couple of weeks.

Scott Baker – Baker will be activated from the 15 DL today and make his season debut against the Blue Jays today as well. Baker has #1 starter potential so he should go into your lineup immediately.