Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Soria Mindset

Joakim Soria has been removed as the Royals closer. Whether it is short or long term remains to be seen but it highlights how quickly one of the best can falter. The role of closer can take a tole both physically and mentally and I believe it is the latter where Soria is struggling.

In the off-season Soria requested that he no longer be referred to by his nickname the Mexicutioner. That was an admirable attempt to distance himself and not glorify the violence taking place in his home country. Yet that struggle with his identity has carried over to the mound and he lost the ability to dominate like he did in the past.

Closers are often referred to as "Firemen" because it is their role to extinguish the hot bats of the other team at the end of the game. But closers are often fire-men in another sense in that their careers in the role burn hot and fast and often do not last long. That is one reason there is so much turn over in the closer position.

In many respects a closer is like a gun fighter. They have that same mentality to take on all comers and the goal is to be the last man standing. Yet toward the end of their career the gun fighter may get wore down and winces at the sound of firecrackers while closers may wince at the crack of the bat. It was said that there weren't many old gun fighters and the same is true of closers. Once the closer loses that killer instinct its time to hang up their mitt.

Its too early to tell if Soria will get that fire back in his belly. But if he is to reclaim the mound to save the game  he is going to have to look inward to see how much fight he has left. Otherwise we may have just entered the era of Aaron Crow. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011


This is a first for me to make two posts in the same day. Yet it was such a momentously bad weekend for part of my pitching staff that I have to vent about it. I had four pitchers taken out in such gruesome fashion that it would have made any horror movie writer proud. The four in order were Bud Norris, Jaime Garcia, John Danks and Ricky Nolasco. Garcia and Nolasco going down were like two of a movie's heroes being taken out while Norris and Danks admittedly would be more like the red shirt security from an episode of Star Trek.

The first victim was Norris although his performance against the Diamondbacks wasn't as bad as the other three. He lasted five innings and allowed six runs although only two were earned due to an error. His control wasn't horrible as he only walked two while throwing 68 of his 102 pitches for strikes and he had four strikeouts. Of the seven hits he allowed the biggest insult was a three run home run given up to opposing pitcher Zach Duke. Hopefully Norris can bounce back in his next chance against a weak hitting Padres team.

Garcia headed into his game with a strong season to date with a 5-0 record and a 1.93 ERA. He walked into an ambush in Colorado where he lasted only 3.1 innings giving up 11 hits and four walks as he watched helplessly as 12 runs cross the plate, eleven earned. The one bright spot was the six he was able to take down with strikeouts. After a few sleepless nights Garcia gets his first chance at redemption at home as the Giants come in with a better pitching staff than a roster of hitters.

Danks came into Sunday against the Blue Jays with a hard luck season where he hadn't been given much run support as he was the proverbial best 0-7 pitcher in baseball. He was respectable in his previous loss to the Rangers going eight innings for the third time this season. Yet the Blue Jays weren't impressed as they knocked him out after four innings as three of their nine hits off Danks were home runs including a grand-slam by Aaron Hill in the first. Control didn't appear to to be an issue with only one walk and he threw 61 of his 96 pitches for strikes. He appears to have put it in the fat part of the plate a few too many times. Their rotation and schedule is set up so he won't have to pitch until next Sunday against the Tigers although he likely won't be in my lineup for quite awhile.

Nolasco came into the game in Los Angeles undefeated at 4-0 with a 3.04 ERA. Then he met a buzz saw called the Dodgers that tortured him with 15 hits over five innings as they scored eight runs. Only three of the fifteen were for extra bases with Rafael Furcal getting a solo blast in the third to take the first chink out of Nolasco's armor. He has until Friday to get over this as the Brewers come to Florida with an imposing line up.

I play in a 5x5 12 team league and these performance contributed to my ERA to drop from 9 points to 4 points. My WHIP fell from 10 points to eight. Being a twelve team league the most points you can have in a category are 12 with one being the worst. At present I am still in second place but hope there aren't too many more weeks like this in the future.

Hot and Cold

Streaks are part of baseball both hot and cold. This season I have written about players in the midst of one streak only to have them reverse course such as Johnny Gomes and Juan Pierre. When a player starts the season with a cold streak you wonder if they will turn it around or if will be a sub par season for them. 

When I wrote about Gomes he was having a career hot streak only to have the wheels fall off. Gomes has seen his average plummet to its current .191with his only hit in his last 10 games being a home run. He has been benched and is in danger of losing his starting position in left to the platoon of Chris Heisey and Fred Lewis. At present it doesn't look good for Gomes.

Juan Pierre has been on the other end of the spectrum his last ten games. I blasted him for being sub par in all five of the tool categories. Yet immediately after that post he went on to scorch opposing pitchers for a .341 average over those 10 games and picked up two stolen bases. I'll give him credit for helping spark the White Sox offense.

One player I gave up on too early this season and dropped from my roster was Michael Morse of the Nationals. After a stellar spring he came out the gates to start the regular season ice cold. His lack of production helped him lose his position in left but an injury to Adam LaRoche opened a new door at first. Morse flipped a switch to hit .355 with four home runs in the last ten games. I tried to pick him back up only to be outbid. A bit of flawed strategy on my part. 

More on that next week.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Two Major One Minor 052611

The two major league players this week are Allen Craig and Andres Torres and the minor leaguer is Charlie Blackmon. All three happen to primarily be outfielders for National League organizations but they are all different type players. Each has been on my radar for over a year.

Craig has the ability to play both corner outfield spots in addition to first, second and third. In his time in the minors he showed the ability to hit for both average and power. Over the three season stretch 2007 to 2009 he hit .311 with 24 home runs, .304 with 22 home runs and .322 with 26 home runs respectively. Last season he split time between AAA ,where he hit .320 with 14 home runs over 83 games, and the St Louis Cardinals where he got his feet wet for 44 games. So far this season through 29 games he has hit .303 with three home runs. He has spent the majority of those games in the outfield but he has been getting more time at second and there is speculation he may land there to get his bat in the lineup more often. A gold glove isn't likely in his future but he could end up being like Dan Uggla with a better average.

Andres Torres is one of those players that is enticing because he is capable of double digit home runs and steals while maintaining a respectable average. 2010 was definitely his breakout season when he hit .268 with 16 home runs and 26 steals over 139 games. While he may not be able to maintain the power judging by his minor league career he is one to keep an eye on as the Giants work to defend their championship.

First I have to start with the name: Charles Cobb Blackmon. Being from Georgia Blackmon had baseball stamped on him from birth with his middle name paying homage to the great Georgia legend Ty Cobb. Blackmon is tearing it up in AAA batting .345 with 10 home runs, 45 RBI, 40 runs and 11 steals over 47 games. He would serve as a good compliment in center to Carlos Gonzalez in left for the Colorado Rockies because I think their current centerfielder Dexter Fowler is having trouble putting in deep roots. I find it interesting that Blackmon had started as a decent pitcher in the JUCO ranks striking out 138 over 127 innings but switched to the outfield when he transferred to Georgia Tech. After sitting out one red-shirt season he batted leadoff and hit .396 with 25 stolen bases. This gives a glimpse of Blackmon's athletic ability and is able to adapt. I think he could easily be a 20-20 guy that hits for average.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Juan Pierre's Empty Toolbox

When I heard that Juan Pierre was benched yesterday for lack of production my first thought was ABOUT DAMN TIME. Then somehow he was back in the lineup today. In this short season I have seen Pierre make four blooper reel errors in the outfield that would rival something a dandelion picking little leaguer would do.

There are five tools which a player aspires to have: hitting for average, hitting for power, speed on the base paths, throwing ability and fielding ability. Pierre has showcased his lack of fielding ability with the aforementioned errors and he does have a career low fielding percentage of .943.  His arm is average at best and his career assist stats measure up against notorious weak armed outfielder Johnny Damon, He has never been accused of having a power stroke with a career high three home runs in 2004 and 2006. At the plate Pierre is having a career worst start with a .242 average and a career low .313 OBP. His bread and butter had been racking up steals but though 42 games he has been caught stealing 8 times compared to only six thefts.

It is apparent that Pierre is having a career worst season and this is likely just the start of the decline. A turnaround will be difficult with Pierre currently missing all five tools. The White Sox need to recognize that he is walking around with an empty tool box and give another player a chance to produce and spark their struggling team. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Two Major One Minor 051711

Missed a week but back on track. The two major leaguers this week are Josh Collmenter and David Hernandez while the minor leaguer is Charles Furbush. Here we go:

Josh Collmenter got his first start of the season for Arizona and impressed with allowing only two hits over six innings in a 1-0 win over the Dodgers. He may have cemented himself as the fifth man in the rotation giving them a good right-handed option. In the minors he showed the ability to strikeout batters reaching 123 over 145 innings in 2008, 152 over 145 innings in 2009 and 133 over 152 innings in 2010. He appears to have the ability to continue as a workhorse and eat up innings. I think he might go from workhorse to darkhorse before the season is over.

David Hernandez is also in the Diamondbacks bullpen and is currently a setup man with a good chance at being their closer of the future. With his history it is only a matter of time before current closer JJ Putz goes down with an injury. Hernandez showed promise as a righthanded flamethrower in the Orioles organization by putting up 168 strikeouts over 145 innings in 2007 and 166 strikeouts over 141 innings in 2008. Baltimore gave him a shot as a starter in 2009 but he had trouble keeping the ball over the plate and when he did it was prone to be hit over the fence. In 2010 he moved to the bullpen and remained there when he was traded to Arizona in 2011. His strikeout ability is obvious and he is doing better this season as he settles in as a reliever.  So far this season he has 19 strikeouts over 18 innings with a 1.93 ERA while holding opposing batters to batters to a .214 average. The 10 walks are still troubling but his improvement is promising and his cannon can produce at the end of the bullpen.

Charlie Furbush may be a hidden gem with a bright future for the Tigers. His numbers are comparable to more highly touted fellow lefty prospect Andrew Oliver. Both players are at AAA Toledo currently where Oliver is 4-2 with a 2.89 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 17 walks over 43.2 innings and Furbush is 3-3 with a 2.90 ERA, 47 strikeouts, and 12 walks over 40.1 innings. Furbush is coming off a season where he amassed 183 strikeouts over 159 innings. He also showed promise in spring training with the Tigers when he fanned 13 over 11.2 innings in 5 relief appearances. It won't be long before he is striking out major league bats on a regular basis.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Transaction Regrets sort of

Over the last few years while playing fantasy baseball I've made numerous transactions through trades and picking up players as free agents. I was just thinking about some of the players that I once had that I wish I still did. It's not a situation that I don't have good players on my current team but there are certain players I once held that would make my team that much better now. I'll go through four I let go through free agency and four I sent away through trades.

The first was Rajai Davis when he was still with the Pirates. I had picked him up because of his minor league track record of four seasons with 40 steals or more. But the Pirates weren't playing him regularly so I dropped him in favor of another player. Then the Pirates traded him to the Giants and Davis started to show off what he did best. But another owner snagged him before I could pick him back up.

The next season I had picked up Adam Lind of the Blue Jays. Then I dropped him when he was sent back down to the minors. Upon his return he ended up on another roster and then next year was his break out year with 35 home runs. 

About that same time I did the same thing with Shin-Soo Choo of the Indians. One season I drop Choo when he was briefly sent down to the minors. The next season he shows he is a 20-20 player on some one else's roster.

The last is Justin Masterson who I mentioned in a previous blog. I had held him on my roster a few times over the years because I knew what he is capable of. Yet this season he sits on another roster shining at 5-0 with a 2.11 ERA.

One of the gems on my roster for a few years was Dan Uggla yet one year I traded him away for Edinson Volquez because I was in desperate need of pitching. Then karma laughed at me and sent Volquez to the DL for a year so I had neither. Why give up an elite power hitting second baseman capable of hitting 30 home runs? Seemed like a good idea at the time. 

That same year I made another trade for a better pitcher in CC Sabathia and among the players I gave up was Andre Ethier. It was a good trade but Ethier started to blossom shortly after that and exploded for 31 home runs the following season. This season Ethier is taking it to another level and had an impressive 30 game hitting streak that was snapped today.

The following season I traded away Ben Zobrist with others in exchange of Zack Greinke. Greinke was in the midst of his Cy Young season and it was a good deal at the time. Zobrist has gone from uber utility player to impressively solid second baseman with a power bat. I think I actually drooled with envy when he had ten RBI on one double header not long ago!!

The final player I traded was catcher Carlos Santana of the Indians last season in exchange for shortstop Everth Cabrera. I took a gamble to trade for a speedy shortstop the week before our draft. Cabrera had established himself as the starting shortstop for the Padres his rookie season after stealing 73 bases in the minors the year before. I thought Cabrera was going to be the cornerstone of a team burning up the base paths. Then Cabrera was derailed by hamstring problems and lost the ability to hit and is currently back in the minors trying to hone his craft. While Santana has struggled at the plate so far this year he has shown he does have good power and likely will start hitting for a better average based on his minor league career.

While it would be nice to still have these players on my roster I've still managed to start this season out in second place through five weeks. This was just your typical WHAT IF scenario. The odd thing is the number of Indians I listed above and their play has made them one of the best teams so far this season. Maybe the movie Major League can still come true.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Two Major One Minor 050311

Apologies for dropping off the grid since last week but it takes a few days to reboot after a migraine. Couple that with a head cold the last couple days and I'm sure I've been a bear to be around. Anyhow, down to business. The three players this week are Emilio Bonifacio, Mike Aviles and Jose Altuve.

Bonifacio was one of three burners I started following in the minors a few years ago along with Eugenio Velez and Eric Young Jr. All three have been on the verge with Young sidetracked at the end of last season with a broken leg and Velez put down with a pitch to the head. What all three shared was the ability to steal bases in bunches in the minors. Bonifacio went over 40 five times and showed that promise two seasons ago with 21. I had him on my roster for a couple years and had initially drafted him before his rookie season in Arizona which he finished with the Nationals after that trade. That was the season he busted out of the gates batting over .500 and stole 4 bases that first week. Luckily I started him on a whim but his production hit a wall and he was a bust after that. Now two years later he is with Florida and in line for more playing time with Logan Morrison out. He is seeing the ball well batting .333 so far this season and he has four multi hit games in his last 10. With his super utility role he should stay in the line up as he keeps hitting. The more comfortable he gets at the plate the more comfortable he will get on the base paths and I expect the stolen bases to start raking up.

Mike Aviles is a good infielder for the Royals able to play second, third and short. He has shown the ability to hit for average with occasional pop capable of reaching double digits in both home runs and stolen bases. This is his season to shine before the calvary starts to arrive from the minors. After an early season slump that sent him to the bench he has been on fire since his return to the line up raising his average 50 points the last ten games. I think his future will be at second but this season most of his time will be at third. Aviles has been referred to as a sleeper before and I think this is the season he awakens. 

Honestly I had never heard of Jose Altuve before last week. I was checking over the minors stats leaders and noticed him among the hits leaders. The thing that caught my eye was that he is listed at 5-foot-5 and 148 and hit 15 home runs last season. Couple that with 42 stolen bases and I'm thinking Dustin Pedroia may have found a teammate on the lollipop guild's all star team. Kidding aside I think that Altuve might be one to keep an eye on as he advances through the Astros farm system.