Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Phil Humber Continuing to Quietly Dominate

"Despite being nothing special himself (there is a reason he's been placed on waivers by so many teams in such a short time frame) [Philip] Humber is an experienced Minor League veteran with at least some Major League experience who should be able to provide replacement level production. I have no doubt that he could, in a pinch, come in and provide the White Sox with a handful of 'acceptable' starts, giving the team perhaps 20-25 innings of 5.00 ERA ball."

While it's generally ill-advised to highlight your own foolish comments, I feel compelled to do so for the sake of fairness. Those were my words when I wrote about the White Sox claiming of Philip Humber this past off season. It certainly wasn't my most prescient moment.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tigers Trade Scott Sizemore To Athletics

I'll never quite understand why teams do this, and by "this," I mean trade position players with a chance to be productive regulars for mediocre bullpen arms. To be certain, not all teams make this mistake, but far too many GMs do, and now you can add the Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski to this list.

By trading Scott Sizemore, a promising bat at a historically offensively weak position for a middle-of-the-road left handed relief arm like that of David Purcey, the Tigers are taking a rather significant gamble. At 26 years old, Sizemore isn't particularly young, but he has consistently throttled Minor Leaguer pitching - though he has struggled in his sporadic Major League time. Purcey on the other hand is a 29 year old lefty who's only tangible strength is a somewhat above average strikeout rate (7.72/9IP). Beyond the K rate, he walks too many (4.50/9IP), and is an extreme fly ball pitcher (31.6%). He has a career 5.17 ERA against a 4.79 career xFIP.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Juan Pierre: Unusual Left Fielder

The curious case of Juan Pierre almost requires that I reflect on his value. Pierre leads the league this season in negative value for qualified batters according to fangraphs with a -1.1 WAR. During the 2010 season, he did fare better maintaining a positive WAR due to his defense and a wOBA just above replacement level. However, that level of production was still below average for a major league LF.

The real intrigue is why anybody would want Juan Pierre to play LF and be a lead-off hitter for their team. Now he has some value, he could be an ideal defensive or base running replacement player for many teams. He could even squeak by as a workable center fielder, though still pretty near replacement level, hitting at the bottom of somebody’s lineup. However, Pierre playing a power position and hitting lead-off is not what I would have expected when he was a trade target of the Chicago White Sox during the 2009 off season. I think the White Sox's front office has made many savvy acquisitions and decisions but actively pursuing Juan Pierre was a bit confusing to say the least.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Royals Place Bruce Chen on 15-Day DL

After his last performance, a strong seven inning, one run effort against the Orioles, Bruce Chen has been placed on the disabled list due to a lat strain on his left side. The injury doesn't appear to be anything serious, but with plenty of depth in their rotation at AAA, the Royals made what I feel is the right decision to protect Chen.

That Chen is still in the rotation to protect at all however is something I find a little bit surprising. When he resigned I wrote that, "Chen is essentially the definition of a back-end junk-baller. With a fastball that averaged just 86.2 last year, he's not going to throw the ball by anyone, but he's got five pitches and he'll throw them all at you. That helps him keep hitters off balance, but doesn't keep him from being eminently hittable."

Sizemore Growing Into Role as Everyday Player

2010 was supposed to be Scott Sizemore's coming out party. The fates however, had other plans. During the off season, Sizemore broke his ankle, and though he was ready to play on opening day, he was nowhere near ready for the challenge of the Major Leagues. Instead of heading into the season, and the greatest challenge of his professional career with a full off season of preparation, he was going in cold.

For an accomplished MLB veteran, such a return would be easier to make. They have a better idea of what to expect, they're better acclimated to the stresses of a Major League season. Sizemore however was essentially running in blind. It sure showed. On offense Sizemore struggled to make contact, on defense he looked slow, and unsure of himself. He was sent down after his disappointing start but caught fire in AAA, earning a pair of callups that helped him build some confidence through the season.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Twins Roster Situation Getting Dire

The injuries the Twins have suffered early on in the 2011 season have destroyed essentially any chance of competitiveness that they had. Currently the team is playing without it's #2, 3, 5, and 6 hitters. Their cleanup hitter is batting below the Mendoza line with just one home run. As a whole the team is averaging just over three runs per game. It's a legitimate offensive nightmare scenario.

In the past when the Twins suffered injuries, it seemed as though the team could pull from an endless well of well prepared players from their Minor League system and they would adequately fill in for their counterpart. This year however the depth and breadth of the injuries have simply overwhelmed the system.

Jared Goedert Returns

When I initially heard that Indians prospect Jared Goedert was going to have to open the season on the disabled list to open the seasons, I was probably more disappointed than most. After suffering through a labrum injury that significantly set his career back in 2008, he finally looked as though he had rediscovered his swing in 2010, and 2011 offered him a chance for his first MLB promotion.

Then he had to be sent to the disabled list due to an oblique injury.

Indians Designate Jeanmar Gomez

With Carlos Carrasco nearing his return, the Indians decided to get a jump on the move by designating Jeanmar Gomez, who made two starts in his absence. Gomez pitched admirably in Carrasco's absence but in the end he simply isn't as talented as Alex White who will stay in the Indians rotation for the foreseeable future after turning in a pair of solid starts.

Gomez will head to AAA Columbus where he'll remain a prime candidate for a call up should the team need another arm. Given his experience in both the rotation and in relief, he provides the team with important flexibility.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Justin Verlander Throws Second Career No Hitter

Justin Verlander became only the 30th pitcher in the history of baseball to have thrown multiple no hitters in his career. The truly amazing thing is that Verlander has two no hitters at the age of only 28. It was the 271st no hitter in major league history, an average of about two per year since the first official no hitter by Joe Borden of the Philadelphia White Stockings in 1875. Verlander is one of only three active pitchers with more than one no hitter, the other two being Roy Halladay and Mark Buehrle.

Only five pitchers in baseball history have more than 2 no hitters, Larry Corcoran (3), Bob Fellar (3), Cy Young (3), Sandy Koufax (4), and Nolan Ryan (7). In fact, Justin Verlander has more no hitters than the New York Mets and San Diego Padres.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Twins Activate Kevin Slowey

It's been awhile but the Twins can finally welcome back Kevin Slowey to their bullpen. Before going to the DL, Slowey had easily been the Twins most effective reliever, albeit in an extremely abbreviated sample. Since being sent on a rehab stint, the team had been trying to stretch him out in order to potential take Francisco Liriano's place in the rotation. Of course, we all know how Liriano has delayed those plans.

Should Liriano falter again of course, that could put Slowey right back on track to rejoin the rotation. In the meantime, the team will utilize him out of the bullpen where he's been solid. In order to make room for Slowey, the team has optioned waiver pickup Dusty Hughes to AAA.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Max Ramirez Released

It doesn't feel like so long ago that Max Ramirez was a well regarded catching prospect. Signed by the Braves out of Venezuela back in 2002 as a 17 year old international free agent, Ramirez quickly made a name for himself as a good hitting catcher and became a much sought after commidity. In 2006, the Braves traded him to Cleveland for closer Bob Wickman. A year later he was sent to Texas to bring back long time Indians star Kenny Loften.

Though his defense was roundly regarded as poor, with an arm and release that both graded out as below average along with poor defensive instincts, he continued to be a desirable commodity. This off season after being placed on waivers by Rangers he was picked up by the Red Sox (who now sport another once highly regarded Texas catching prospect behind the plate), waived again, and picked up by the Cubs. Now, he's been released.

Jess Todd Claimed by Yankees

In order to make room for Alex White on the 40-man roster, a move necessitated by Carlos Carrasco's sore elbow, the Indians were forced to outright Minor League reliever Jess Todd. The 25 year old Todd, last worked in the Majors in 2010, throwing six innings for the Indians. Before that he was a product of the Cardinals system and split time between the two teams in 2009.

He doesn't possess a big-time arm, but works primarily with a cutter in the 89-91 range and slider but has shown the ability to miss bats both in AAA and the Majors with a career 9.21 K-rate. His command can be shaky at times and he's prone to the fly ball, but he could be a serviceable 6th or 7th inning arm.

Prospect Profile: Lester Oliveros

Profile: RHP - 5'11" - 225lbs -BT:R - TH:R - 2011 Age: 22


• FB 93-95: Has added more run in recent years, making this more than just a hard offering. (55-60)
• SL 86-88: Tight rotation and late break make it hard to pick up. Swing-and-miss offering. (55-65)
• CH 86-88: Show me pitch, lacks feel, movement, differential (35-40)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Central Arms On The Way Back

Yesterday the Tigers and reliever Joel Zumaya decided to go under the knife to try to determine why he was still experiencing pain in his surgically repaired elbow a month after the pain first manifested itself. But for other AL Central teams dealing with injuries to key arms, the news is better as those pitchers are getting close to returning.

In Toledo White Sox starter Jake Peavy made the last of his scheduled rehab starts today and will rejoin the team tomorrow. Elsewhere, Twins stater-turned-reliever Kevin Slowey, and Indians starter Carlos Carrasco are all nearing returns.

Here Comes Hosmer

Word is spreading that the Kansas City Royals have just made what will certainly be one of the most anticipated call ups of the 2011 season. Top prospect Eric Hosmer, who dazzled with his power and contact skills during spring training will finally get his first chance to show the world precisely why he's been so highly regarded around the game.

After watching him hit - and no, these aren't typos - .439/.525/.582 over 118 AAA plate appearances in Omaha this spring the Royals decided to make the call up. Whether they did so due to Kila Ka'aihue's early struggles (though he's posted a .792 OPS over his last 8 games) or simply because Hosmer clearly wasn't being challenged matters little, the King of Omaha is on his way.

Prospect Profile: Cory Burns

Profile: RHP - 6'1" - 185lbs -BT:R - TH:R - 2011 Age: 23


• FB 86-89: Side-arm action is tough on righties, will run and cut. (45-55)
• CV 76-78: Has flashes, but isn't well commanded and inconsistent. (40-45)
• CH 80-82: Get's some depth to it, didn't see great differential, good feel. (45-55) 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Twins Make a Bevy of Moves

Already wracked by injuries and under performance with three everyday players on the DL, and only two players batting over .227 entering this afternoons contest against the White Sox, the Twins have sent two more players to the disabled list, and demoted one other.

This time it's slugging DH Jim Thome, and 4th outfielder Jason Repko who will be placed on the 15 day DL, while backup catcher Steve Holm has been demoted. The players being called up are Ben Revere, shortstop Trevor Plouffe, and either Danny Lehmann or Rene Rivera.

Joel Zumaya to Have Surgery

Talk about a situation that has deteriorated. When the Tigers first made the decision to sit down Joel Zumaya a week into spring training, it was expected that he wouldn't miss much time. They thought the issue was simply broken scar tissue from his off season elbow surgery. While this can be painful, it's hardly abnormal, and shouldn't have been a significant harbinger of woe.

Then the diagnosis changed - to inflammation. A bit worse, but again, perfectly normal following surgery.

Francisco Liriano Throws No Hitter

Well, that was unexpected.

Off to a terrible start to his 2011 season, and with his back against the wall and his job rumored to be on the line, Francisco Liriano responded last night by throwing the first no-hitter of the 2011 season.

One of baseballs best pitchers during the 2010 season, I had fully expected Liriano to take yet another step forward in the eyes of fans around the country this year. Instead, he arrived to spring training reportedly not having followed his off season conditioning program, and has been a mess since spring training. His velocity was down, he wasn't missing bats like he has throughout his career and his sometimes spotty command had deteriorated to the level of abysmal.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Has Scott Sizemore Really Been Freed?

Both I and my Central in Focus colleague have made arguments at various points this spring for why we felt that Scott Sizemore was an inherently better option at second base than the man who won the job out of spring training, Will Rhymes. Our rationals are different in their own nuanced ways, but ultimately boil down to one relatively simple, inalienable fact: Sizemore's skill set simply projects far better over the long-term.

While he was held back to open 2010, likely at least partly due to the broken ankle he suffered in the off season, he heated up through the summer, punishing AAA pitching to the tune of a .850 OPS, eventually earning a September call up. During that final stint Sizemore played in twelve games, hit .308, and launched a pair of home runs en route to a .934 OPS.

A small sample size tease.