Monday, December 26, 2011

Jose Valverde: Adjusting Value Based on Leverage

In an interesting week on, Jack Moore published several interesting and probably long overdue articles on reliever leverage and how it pertains to their value as indicated by their free agent salary (Overdue generally, not from Jack Moore specifically). Through these articles, Jack Moore analyzes WPA as a possible measuring tool for determining reliever salary as opposed to the conventional $/WAR measures because relievers, unlike other players, largely have their leverage determined for them by coaching decisions. As a result, relievers signed to be put in high leverage situations by their coaching staffs probably have their value unfairly determined to be albatross by traditional measures.

With this new and probably superior way of thinking of high leverage relievers available to us, it makes sense to analyze reliever performance incorporating both expected performance in terms of WAR and in terms of leverage. Jose Valverde, in particular, is an interesting case from a number of different perspectives. Valverde has outperformed his expected FIP and xFIP over the course of his career by a considerable margin, one that probably cannot be ignored. In addition, Valverde’s actual value to the Tigers must be analyzed in terms of his leverage as well as traditional value measurements.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Felipe Paulino Enjoys a Breakout Following Trade to Kansas City

Of all the acquisitions made in the AL Central this season the most meaningful might be one you never heard of, namely the Royals acquisition of Felipe Paulino from the Rockies for cash considerations. The move was made back in late May after Paulino, who was once a well regarded pitching prospect in the Astros system was traded to the Rockies for Clint Barmes, following the 2010 season.

Luke Hochevar's Hot Second Half - And What It Means For 2012.

Of all the unheralded story lines from the AL Central's second half, perhaps the most prominent would be the lack of discussion concerning Luke Hochevar's second half. Hochevar, who was a hard-throwing standout at the University of Tennessee where he was named SEC pitcher of the year in 2005, is probably best known for his refusal to sign after being drafted 40th overall by the Dodgers in 2005 before engaging in a rather epic signing process; playing hardball along with his agent Scott Boras, firing Boras, accepting a lesser offer with his new agent, then firing him and resigning with Boras while reneging on his previously agreed upon deal, and finally playing Independent league baseball until the 2006 draft where he was taken again.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Doug Fister.....Ace?

When Doug Fister first came over from the Tigers for a package of Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin and Francisco Martinez, it seemed at first glance that the Tigers may have paid a lot for a ground ball pitcher who could not strike anybody out and relied heavily on his home ball park for success. That recipe seemed dicey at best for the success of Doug Fister going forward as a member of the Tigers.

During the first couple of games that Doug Fister pitched for the Tigers, I was both surprised and encouraged by how effective Fister’s arsenal seemed to be. Fister features a both four seam fastball and a two seam fastball which he throws nearly as often and at virtually the same average velocity of 90 mph. The two seamer features a few additional inches of down and in run to right handers as opposed to his normal four seam fastball. The identical speed but different trajectories make things very difficult on opposing hitters. Furthermore, Fister features a range of off speed pitches including a very nice slow curve ball with 12-6 break at around 75 mph, a harder slider at around 86 mph with only moderate break, and a change up at around 83 mph with similar but slightly more downward movement as compared with his two seamer.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Adam Dunn: Mechanics, Age or a Little of Both?

I have somehow managed to avoid discussing Adam Dunn this season mostly because I usually like to talk about either positive things or at least somewhat intriguing negative things. Adam Dunn might come close to the latter but my “hunch” all season was that his issues this year have had mostly to do with a combination of bad luck and old age. I assumed early on that he would probably at least right his production enough to be considered a “productive” DH but at this point it is clear that ship has sailed.

Recently I encountered several intriguing pieces on Adam Dunn. The first, was Bradley Woodrum’s article entitled Adam Dunn Should Hit Better – But Not Much Better, which largely confirmed at least part of my first suspicion, that Dunn has been unlucky. Woodrum uses a predictive model entitled ShHAP which uses career BABIP and the players K, BB and HR rates to make predictions of expected player performance. Those of you who have read previous articles of mine know that I have done very similar analysis of other players. Seeing as how Woodrum’s work would likely completely mirror any work I could do on the subject, it suffices to say that I agree with Woodrum’s conclusion. Dunn has been unlucky to an extent but his drop in production has largely resulted from a dramatically increased K rate, lower BB rate, and lower HR rate on fly balls. Even with a luck adjustment Dunn would not be expected to be a serviceable DH.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Burning Bridges with Kevin Slowey

At this point, there seems to be little secret that Kevin Slowey has fallen out of favor with the Minnesota Twins. It seems that everybody within the general vicinity of Kevin Slowey hates Kevin Slowey. I have to admit ignorance on this one; he seems like a nice enough guy when he threatens to murder people. However, I can see how Slowey time traveling, kidnapping and then murdering the Lindbergh baby would not win him popularity points with anyone.

A Look Back at the Ubaldo Jimenez Trade: Various Thoughts

After Ubaldo Jimenez was traded from the Colorado Rockies to the Cleveland Indians, various baseball writers offered up their opinions on the trade. Keith Law, for instance, seems to take the position the Indians were wrong to buy at the deadline when they acquired Jimenez because the club was really still in a rebuilding phase (at least that’s what I gathered from reading the first couple of paragraphs: I’m not an ESPN insider). Others at questioned the Rockies motivations for selling on Ubaldo while both considering injuries and value.

These articles make good points. The Indians really do not have a decisive direction to go in long term. Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall are too new and too inexperienced to say for sure that some of the Indian's young pieces are turning them into a contender while they have team control and it is hard (though not impossible) to imagine Matt Laporta turning into much more than he currently is at 1b. The pitching staff has enjoyed an excellent season. Staff leader Justin Masterson has pitched well but enjoyed some luck with his low BABIP and HR/FB rates. The team is very much in the middle ground, not quite coming or going. Much of their future success could hinge on how Jimenez adjusts to the AL and if Grady Sizemore can recover from his injury troubles by next season after which he is a free agent.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Indians Acquire Fukudome

With clear needs in the outfield, with Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore on the DL, the Indians sent AAA RHP Carlton Smith and High-A Outfielder Abner Abreu to the Cubs for Kosuke Fukudome and 3.9M.

Fukudome, 34, currently holds a .273 average and a .374 OBP, 13th in the NL and has often leadoff for the Cubs. Fukadome typically falls off sharply as the season wears on compiling a career average in August of .275 and .198 in Sept/ Oct.

Going to the Cubs are 2 underwhelming prospects; Abreu, 21, is hitting .244 at High-A. Smith, 25, has a 4.50 ERA and a 2-3 record in 46 innings, strictly in relief.

Teahen/ Jackson to Toronto

Looking to make a dent in payroll Kenny Williams finalized a deal that sent RHP Edwin Jackson and 3B/OF Mark Teahen to the Toronto Blue Jays for RHP Jason Frasor and Zack Stewart. Toronto will pick up 100% of the remainder of Teahen's contract. the deal should save the Sox about 9 M over the next 2 years. Edwin Jackson was flipped for the Cardinals Colby Rasmus.

Frasor, 33, is an Oak Forest, IL native and has been in the Toronto ‘pen for the last 7 years this year he is 2-1 with a 2.98 ERA over 42 innings. Although he's a Cubs fans he says hes happy to be back in Chicago

Stewart, 24, was drafted in 2008 by the Reds and made his MLB debut this year. He is 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA over 16 innings this year. He was rated the #5 prospect in the Jays organization by Baseball America. Stewart was promoted to AAA in 2009 but was dropped back to AA this year. Stewart will start for AAA Charlotte.

This move opened payroll for the Sox, with Toronto taking on 100% of teahen contract but also opened a roster spot for Alejandro De Aza who has been tearing up the Minors since arriving with the Sox in the beginning of last year his numbers are:

• 2009 - .300/.370, 21 2B,
• 2010 - .302/.366, 21 2B
• 2011 - .322/.378, 29 2B, 22 SB

what does De Aza bring to the Sox? A possible replacement for current leadoff hitter, Juan Pierre, who is in the final year of his contract and will, more than likely, not be offered one next year. De Aza also offers a viable Centerfield option, opposed to Alex Rios who has looked lazy this year.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kansas City’s Cabrera Conundrum

The rumors are abuzz as we approach the MLB trade deadline. Many sources have said that the Kansas City Royals are very interested in trading one (or both) of Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera.

The decision with Francoeur seems more straightforward for the Royals on its face. He is only under team control until the end of this current season. His peripheral stats are largely the same as they have always been, the one difference for him this season has been increased power output. Francoeur is going for extra bases at a rate similar to that of his second season in Atlanta when everybody thought he might be a breakout player for the Braves. Francoeur has demonstrated this type of power before, and has fallen off this level of power production before. Unfortunately, because Francoeur does not hit for a high average or take many walks, his value is pretty much entirely tied to his power output, which largely cannot be trusted at its current level. Especially when you consider that his production since the first month of the season has fallen off dramatically. As such the decision for KC is easy, with no team control and a player who is not all that valuable going forward, trade him for whatever you can get and move on.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Indians Activate Carmona, Call Up Huff. Both Dominate Twins.

As the Twins sent down Scott Baker and called up Scott Diamond for an emergency start, the Indians were forced to make a similar move by calling up David Huff to make an additional start during yesterdays day-night doubleheader. They also activated Fausto Carmona who had been on the DL since July 3rd with a right quad strain.

The soft tossing 27 year old lefty Huff made a fine start, going seven innings without allowing a run in sweltering heat. The start stands as one of the finest of Huff's career as he's managed to throw seven shutout innings just two other times in his career, both in 2009.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Twins Send Baker to the DL, Tolbert to Rochester, Call Up Two

When Scott Baker informed the Twins in his last outing that he had been experiencing some elbow discomfort they immediately removed him and skipped his following start the Sunday prior to the All-Star break. He had an MRI which showed no structural damage so the hope was that he could pick up his next start following the break.

Last night however Baker told the team that he still didn't feel well enough to start. Facing a double header against the Indians starting tomorrow - the first game of which Baker was expected to start - the team has choosen to send him to the disabled list and called up 25 year old lefty Scott Diamond, a Rule V selection who will start the second game of the twin bill.

Tigers Designate Ryan Perry, Recall Alburquerque

When the Tigers placed bullpen phenom Al Alburquerque on the disabled list with inflammation in his pitching elbow it was a frightening moment indeed as diagnosis' like elbow inflammation, or elbow/forearm tenderness have a nasty way of turning into, 'will undergo Tommy John surgery.'

The diagnosis is still worrisome for me, and should be for fans of the Tigers as well but it's obviously good to see that the team did the right thing, placing him on the disabled list immediately instead of asking the player to try and work through it. Not that a fifteen day respite necessarily cures anything if something is seriously wrong, but it's the proper amount of caution in this circumstance.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Carlos Guillen Set to Make His Return

In general this years Tigers team hasn't struggled for offense, they're 5th in the AL in runs scored (8th in MLB) and have averaged 4.46 runs per game. Strong marks. They are however extremely top-heavy with five regulars posting OPS marks of .820 or better - one of just three teams that can make the claim.

The problem, to the extent that there can be a problem with scoring as many runs as the Tigers do, is that they still have a bevy of lineup spots in which they've received essentially zero production. That means that even marginal upgrades to league average-type production at a few of those spots could translate into multiple added wins.

For a team with playoff aspirations, that's a big deal.

White Sox Sign Doug Davis

In an effort to shore up their starting pitching depth following the loss of Lucas Harrell to the waiver wire the White Sox have signed free agent Doug Davis to a Minor League contract. The 36 year old Davis is a 12 year veteran of the Major Leagues who started his career with the Rangers. He spent parts of five seasons with them, but is probably best known as a Brewer. Davis had two different stints with the team, first from 2003 through 2006, and he made 8 starts for the team last year.

In 2004 and 2005 Davis turned in a pair of very good seasons, posting ERAs of 3.39 and 3.84 respectively while throwing over 200 innings in each campaign. He's been decidedly less effective since those seasons however and after signing with the Cubs this offseason got torched for a 6.50 ERA over nine starts before being demoted.

Davis' peripherals however remain solid as he still sports a K rate over 7.00 with a solid 42.8% GB rate. He has walked far too many but it's certainly possible that, in a pinch, he could deliver some quality innings. And that's precisely what the White Sox are looking for - someone who could be relied upon in a pinch should injuries necessitate the team turning to it's 7th starter.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Young, Plouffe Return for Twins

When the Twins decided to demote Trevor Plouffe earlier this season I, along with quite a few others in the blogosphere thought the move was a poor one. Plouffe was hardly an elite prospect entering the 2011 season, but his status as a former first round pick gave some credence to his scorching hot start for the Twins AAA affiliate.

Sadly the Twins decided to send Plouffe back to AAA despite him showing some glipses of his phenomenal power by hitting three home runs and five total extra base hits in his first 72 Major League plate appearances. The decision was made after Manager Ron Gardenhire repeatedly blasted the young infielder to the media following series of errors.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Denard Span Set To Begin Rehab Assignment

Despite missing the past month and a half with a concussion Denard Span has still been the Twins team leader in WAR. The fact that he was able to accumulate 2.7 WAR in just over two months of play was remarkable and meant that when he went down, the Twins were left with a massive void in center field to try and fill.

Thankfully for the Twins rookie Ben Revere stepped up and capably filled his shoes, posting a .275 batting average (empty though it may have been) while playing electrifying defense in center field, and causing havoc on the bases - showing why he's been such a highly regarded prospect for so long now.

Now Span is ready to begin a rehab assignment, and given that he's missed so much time it's likely the stint will be somewhat lengthy. Twins fans could expect him to play at least a week of games before actually returning to the team. Even then it's likely that he'll have some rust to shake off.

Regardless, getting a player of Span's caliber back at the top of the lineup where his .750 OPS and .361 OBP can help load the bases for Joe Mauer and Co..

What'll be interesting to see is precisely how Manager Ron Gardenhire decides to go about balancing both his bevy of outfielders, as well as his lineups. For now it would seem that the plan would be for Delmon Young, who is set to return tomorrow, to stay in left, Revere to remain in center, and for Span to slide over to right while Michael Cuddyer mans first base.

Who will bat second is still up in the air however. Alexi Casilla has a slightly better OBP than Revere, but Gardy seems to really like Revere's presence at the top of the order, and his elite contact skills would fit Gardy's small-ball style perfectly.

Jeanmar Gomez Poised to Take Talbot's Rotation Spot

3.71 - 4.42 - 4.42 - 5.79

Those numbers are the combined ERA of the Indians starters for April, May, June, and July respectively, and they show a disturbing downward trend. In 2010 the Indians 4.53 ERA from it's starters was the 2nd worst in the AL, and this years team features essentially the exact same group of arms, with similar results.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The All AL Central All-Star Team

With Major League Baseball's All-Star Game scheduled for tonight, it makes sense to me that we should take a look at who the 25 best players from the AL Central are, and put together a roster to take on the rest of the baseball world. Some spots are obvious, others, not so much.

Disagree with my decisions? Let me know in the comments section.

C) Alex Avila (Tigers):  .286/.370/.506, 10HR, 2.7 WAR - Perennial All-Star Joe Mauer has been hurt, and ineffective when not hurt. Avila has been a revelation.
1B) Miguel Cabrera (Tigers): .311/.430/.549, 18HR, 3.1 WAR - A defensive liability, but an absolute monster at the plate, as his .979 OPS (ho hum) attests.
2B) Gordon Beckham: (White Sox): .245/.305/.360, 7HR, 1.1 WAR - Beckham still hasn't blossomed into the player the Sox hoped, but he's the best choice in a very weak field of candidates.
3B) Jack Hannahan (Indians): .222/.312/.348, 5HR, 1.2 WAR - A solid FA signing by the Indians, Hannahan kept the spot warm for top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall.
SS) Jhonny Peralta (Tigers): .312/.362/.529, 14HR, 3.3 WAR - A dead tie between him and Asdrubal Cabrera in WAR, Peralta has the better wOBA and UZR.
LF) Alex Gordon (Royals): .299/.367/.483, 11HR, 3.4 WAR - The WAR leader amongst AL Central position players. Seriously. Finally becoming the player the Royals always hoped he would.
CF) Melky Cabrera (Royals): .293/.332/.455, 11HR, 3.0 WAR - Perhaps the best dollar/performance FA signing in baseball this year, Cabrera signed for just 1.25m.
RF) Carlos Quentin (White Sox): .251/.350/.502, 17HR, 2.4 WAR - Experiencing a resurgent season, tied with Brennan Boesch in WAR. Get's nod for playing more in RF than Boesch.
DH) Travis Hafner (Indians): .325/.406/.528, 8HR, 1.5 WAR - PRONK SMASH! Indeed.

BN) Carlos Santana (Indians): .230/.363/.418, 13HR, 2.1 WAR - Hampered by a very slow start, bat has started to click the past couple months. 
BN) Brennan Boesch (Tigers): .306/.360/.490, 12HR, 2.4 WAR - Proving that 2010 season wasn't a fluke.
BN) Asdrubal Cabrera (Indians): .293/.347/.489, 14HR, 3.3 WAR - Missed being the starting SS by the thinnest of margins.
BN) Alexi Ramirez (White Sox): .274/.331/.414, 9HR, 3.2 WAR - The AL Central boasts the three best shortstops in the AL (by WAR).

SP) Justin Verlander (Tigers): 151 IP, 2.15 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 4.5 WAR - You don't really need an explanation, do you?
SP) Justin Masterson (Indians): 121.2 IP, 2.66 ERA, 3.08 FIP, 2.9 WAR - Helping to corner the market in dominating starters with 'Justin' as their first name.
SP) Scott Baker (Twins): 110.2 IP, 3.01 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 2.2 WAR - The only Twins player actually deserving of the name All-Star (and only in an all ALC context).
SP) Philip Humber (White Sox): 105.1 IP, 2.99 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 2.2 WAR - While Melky is probably the best FA signing of the year, Humber is hands down the finest waiver acquisition.
SP) Mark Buehrle (White Sox): 121.0, 3.42 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 2.0 WAR -

RP) Rafeal Perez (Indians): 37.2 IP, 1.51 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 0.8 WAR - Experiencing a real career revival.
RP) Vinnie Pestano (Indians): 33.1 IP, 2.97 ERA, 2.57 FIP, 0.8 WAR - Key reason why the Indians bullpen has been one of the best in baseball.
RP) Greg Holland (Royals): 25.0 IP, 1.08, 2.32 FIP, 0.8 WAR - A late callup building off his promising 2010 showing, Holland has been nothing less than lights-out.
RP) Aaron Crow (Royals): 43.1 IP, 2.08 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 0.3 WAR - The Royals have leaned on this starter-turned reliever to hold any close lead late in games. 
RP) Al Albuquerque (Tigers): 29.0 IP, 2.79 ERA, 2.10 FIP, 0.9 WAR - Has used his hot fastball, frightening lack of control, and devastating slider to shut down opponents.
RP) Sergio Santos (White Sox): 42.0 IP, 3.21 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 1.1 WAR - Continued his meteoric rise from obscure MiLB infielder, to MLB closer.
RP) Glen Perkins (Twins): 33.2IP, 1.87ERA, 1.98 FIP, 1.2 WAR - Fulfilling the potential he had prior to arm surgery years ago.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Would Calling Up Jacob Turner Be The Right Decision?

In truth, this is really a three-piece discussion with the first question being: how did we get to this point?;  the second question being: is Jacob Turner the best pitcher available to fill the role of 5th starter on the Tigers?; and the third question being: is he ready to get Major League hitters out?

Let's start with the first question: How did we get to this point?

The Nightly Note: America's Finest Moment

If you're an American who has, through decades of under promoted and unexciting women's sports, become complacent about women's sports in general, you could be forgiven for missing yesterday's World Cup match between the United States and their arch-rival Brazil. After all when the biggest thing going in women's professional athletics is the WNBA, well, it's just hard to get too worked up. Add in the fact that futbol (or as we say it in this country, soccer) just isn't very popular in the States, and it's a perfect storm of American disinterest.

But if you're into watching top flight competition, on the grandest of a sports stages, then you should've been watching the women's World Cup. The US women's squad not only has a history of success (unlike the men) they're a perennial favorite, and for the casual fan the difference between the men's and women's games is hardly noticeable.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Diminishing Skills

What has happened to one of the most productive and consistent power hitter over the last 6 years, Adam Dunn? Even if he was to double his first half production during the second half he would not touch his expected production. Many people have speculated, from everyday regular fans all the way to future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, reasons why, from position switch to league switch to mechanical issues, but could diminishing skills be to blame?

In an earlier interview Dunn was quoted as saying “I would like to blame it on swinging at bad pitches, but I’m not doing that” at first glance that seems true; he is taking walks, with 46 so far this year. Unfortunately, the numbers tell a different story. Dunn has been swinging at more pitches outside of the strike zone, in his career he has swung at pitches outside the strike zone at an average of 18.9%, this year though he has swung at 26.9% pitches outside of the strike zone. In addition, he is striking out at a 44% rate this year in comparison to a 33.4% rate for his career which indicates the 8% increase in pitches swung at outside the strike zone along with the 11% increase in strike outs would indicate he is not seeing the ball as well as he may think.

Tyler Flowers Gets The Call

Following the fastball that found Ramon Castro's throwing hand, resulting in him breaking that hand, I guessed that the White Sox would call up 25 year old prospect Tyler Flowers and indeed that is the case.

The right handed hitting Flowers who was acquired in the Javier Vazquez trade is an interesting prospect in many ways. A very big young man at 6'4" 240lbs, he's obviously rather over-sized for the position. For many years that size largely kept him from being an adequate defender, but the difference that I saw in him during spring training, coupled with what I've seen of him throughout this season have me believing that his defense has improved to the point where he could be adequate (but probably still a bit below average) on an every day basis.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Tigers Demote Furbush, Recall Worth

A tough day for Tigers rookie Charlie Furbush all around today. Making his second start of the season today Furbush got shelled by the Royals, allowing nine hits and a pair of walks in just two and two thirds innings of work. It's likely that the damage could've been lessened had shortstop Ramon Santiago not allowed what should've been the final out of the third inning to scoot between his legs - after which the Royals pounded out five more runs (all unearned of course) on top of the four they had put up earlier in the game.

Tonight the Tigers have announced that they've optioned him back to AAA and recalled utilityman Danny Worth. Much like the demotion of Royals pitcher Danny Duffy however, the move could quite possibly have been nothing more than the teams desire to keep Furbush on his regular schedule through the All-Star break.

Ramon Castro Breaks Throwing Hand

In the 8th inning of tonight's Twins, White Sox game with Jason Repko on second base, Twins second baseman Alexi Casilla squared around to bunt for a base hit, causing Sox catcher Ramon Castro to come out of his crouch. Casilla bulled the bat back, but Castro, perhaps distracted by the attempt missed catching the ball which instead sailed over his glove and hit him in his throwing hand. He immediately reacted in pain, but ran down the ball (which had sailed to the backstop) and made his way back to the plate before time was called.

The team immediately removed Castro from the game and took him down into the tunnel without so much as having him remove his catchers gear. A.J. Pierzynski would come on to replace Castro, record a leadoff double in the bottom of the 9th and come around to score the game winning run.

After the game it was announced that Castro had broken his right hand. While no timetable has been laid out yet, one would expect the injury to sideline Castro for at least 2-4 weeks. We also haven't received word on who the team will call up, but one would imagine that prospect Tyler Flowers could be the one who gets the call. Despite being extremely strikeout prone, Flowers has posted a .866 OPS at AAA so far this season, something that must be attractive to a White Sox team that's been rather starved for offense.

Plouffe Power

The emergence of Trevor Plouffe at AAA this year has been one of the most heavily discussed story lines amongst Twins bloggers during the 2011 season (behind only the cavalcade of injuries, and dramatic discussions of Joe Mauer's future). That level of interest is hardly surprising as the shortstop and former 2004 first round pick (20th overall) has turned the corner in a big, big way at AAA this season.

For most of his Minor League career, Plouffe has been known as both offensively and defensively deficient. A SoCal prep pick, Plouffe is in his 8th season of toiling away in the Twins Minor League system and understandably, Twins fans likely feel as though he's been there forever, yet he's still just 25 years old. As a team that tends to move players just one level per year, Plouffe didn't first reach AAA until 2008 and didn't spend his first full season there until 2009.

Grading Lonnie Chisenhall’s Potential

First off, I would like to wish Lonnie a speedy recovery from that nasty ball to the face. It appears he suffered a fractured cheekbone, hopefully that will not keep him out of action too long.

Lonnie Chisenhall is an interesting player from a scouting and sabermetrics perspective. Some scouts love him and think he is without a doubt a future star, some say he is an average to above average player in the majors. His minor league numbers are underwhelming but his secondary statistics in the minors are somewhat encouraging. One thing everybody seems to agree on is that he has a sweet, smooth, and quiet swing. His defense projects to be average to above average which is also encouraging.

Friday, July 8, 2011

With Jason Kendall's Career Likely Over, A Look Back

On September 1st of 2010, the Royals announced that starting catcher, and former Pittsburgh All-Star, Jason Kendall would undergo surgery to repair a tear in his right rotator cuff. The surgery was expected to keep him out for the rest of the 2010 campaign, and probably the first month or two of the 2011 season.

In early March Kendall was feeling good during his rehab and making some bold proclamations about wanting to be ready to go at the outset of the season. When it became apparent however that this wasn't realistic, the team made the move to bring in Rangers backstop Matt Treanor to share the catching duties with Brayan Pena. The two have done an admirable job filling in for Kendall as each has exceeded his career triple-slash line.

Royals Demote Danny Duffy, Promote Teaford

When I saw that little tidbit flash across my Twitter feed I was certainly surprised, after all Danny Duffy had just gotten done turning in six quality innings against a potent Tigers lineup. While Duffy has certainly struggled to a 4.85 ERA and his sometimes sketchy command has led to a propensity to run up his pitch counts quickly, he's also shown flashes of the type of dominance people expect to see more of in the future - like striking out more than a batter per inning during his last four outings.

In a rotation that ranks second to last in all of Major League Baseball with a 5.06 ERA (The Cubs are the worst at 5.23), Duffy would seem to be the least of the teams concerns.

Indians Top Prospect Lonnie Chisenhall Hit In Face By Pitch

Update: It's being reported that Chisenhall has a broken Maxillary (cheek) bone in the right side of his face. The injury won't require surgery, and there are no signs of a concussion. Status is still day-to-day.

While last nights Indians-Blue Jays contest will be remembered primarily as the game in which the Indians stunning comeback from a 4-0 deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning was punctuated by Travis Hafner's walkoff grand slam - the more important news may have been that the team survived a serious scare when it's top prospect, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, was hit in the face by a pitch from Jays starter Carlos Villanueva.

Thankfully to say it appears Chisenhall avoided any serious injury when x-rays came back negative, and his was diagnosed with only facial contusions. It looks as though Chisenhall managed to turn his head just in time and the ball caught the edge of his ear-flap before careening to a halt against the right side of his face. He'd leave the game, but with nothing broken won't be heading to the disabled list.

Talk about catching - or perhaps avoiding - a break.

I haven't seen any official word from the team yet, but it appears Lonnie will only be day-to-day, and the teams callup of Luis Valbuena along with the presence of Jack Hannahan who has started most of the year at third base should help allow them to cover for any time the third third baseman of the future might miss.

Indians Recall Luis Valbuena, Demote Zach McAllister

When the Indians promoted Zach McAllister we knew ahead of time that the move would be for only one day, at which point the team would option McAllister back to AAA and recall an infielder. What we didn't know was which infielder it would be. Jason Donald, who opened the season with the big-league club before getting injured was one option, the other was former second baseman Luis Valbuena.

As I wrote about earlier today the 26 year old Valbuena has absolutely been on fire this season, posting an OPS of .896 with 12 home runs at AAA Columbus. This of course comes as little surprise to Indians fans who have seen him do this before. Valbuena has spend parts of three seasons in AAA with the Indians, and during his time in Columbus, the .896 mark he's managed this year stands as his WORST performance yet.

To put it simply, he's just too good for that league.

Astros Claim Lucas Harrell

It appears the White Sox have lost starter Lucas Harrell to waivers. The Astros have apparently claimed the 26 year old righty who made three starts for the Sox in 2010 (in 8 total appearances), and saw action in three relief appearances this year. That the White Sox would expose Harrell to waivers isn't necessarily a huge deal with the team still running it's six man rotation, but he was probably the organizations best in-house option should the rotation suffer another injury (starter John Danks is currently on the disabled list).

Harrell was lost when the team decided to try and pass him through waivers, and replace him with Hector Santiago who has been strong in his first two MLB outings following solid outings in both High A, and AA this season. With few other available options, it would appear that Santiago will become the White Sox defacto emergency starter should the need arise.

Good Problems to Have: Too Many Quality Middle Infielders

This doesn't happen very often, but the Indians find themselves in an exceptionally rare, and thoroughly enviable position. They have too many quality middle infielders. While the team has an all-star caliber shortstop in Asdrubal Cabrera who was putting up a monster 2011 campaign, hitting .284/.342/.497 prior to suffering a ankle sprain that'll put him on the shelf for awhile.

The Indians middle infield talent doesn't end there however. Last years opening day second baseman, 26 year old Luis Valbuena, opened 2011 in AAA after the team signed veteran Orlando Cabrera this winter and has done nothing but impress while playing all over the infield - though primarily at shortstop.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Swapping Problems Isn't a Solution

When the Tigers announced that Phil Coke would be a member of the teams starting rotation following the 2010 season, I was skeptical. Coke had worked primarily as the stereotypical fastball/slider reliever during his time with the Yankees before mixing in his changeup last year when he was traded to Detroit and it was effective enough (1.40R/C - runs above average/100 pitches).

Still, the thought of moving someone who had worked largely with the platoon split - while showing a significant platoon split - to the rotation seemed risky. Coke posted a 32K/8BB ratio in 28.2 innings vs lefties last year, but had a 21K/18BB ratio in 36.0 innings vs righties, which should've let anyone paying attention know that he would struggle mightily in the rotation, where he can't be protected from seeing twice as many right handers as left handers.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lornezo Cain Begging For Promotion

No, not literally, though he could be forgiven if he was.

Twenty five year old Lornezo Cain, who was acquired in the Zach Grinke trade this winter has been crushing AAA pitching to the tune of a .301/.373/.513 triple slash. Following this winter's trade however I fully expected that Cain would be handed the starting center fielder job given his solid .306/.348/.415 line in 158 plate appearances with the Brewers last season, even though it was heavily BABIP fueled. On top of the solid offense, Cain also played strong defense, posting a +5.7 UZR/150.

The team however followed up that trade by bringing in Melky Cabrera from the Braves, and it became apparent early in spring training that the center field job was his to lose. So far, he hasn't really done anything to lose it, per se, he's hitting .275/.315/.435, good for a .750 OPS that's above the MLB average of .750. He's been worth a total of 1.7 WAR so far in 2011, a solid mark that would put him on pace for around 3.0.

In His Own Words: Kyle Gibson

This interview was conducted by Nate Rowan, a recent graduate of Concordia College, Moorhead where he majored in Print Journalism and Communications, and did play by play work for Cobber athletics.

Kyle Gibson was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the first round (22nd overall) in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Missouri. In 2010, spending time at single-A Fort Myers, double-A New Britain and triple-A Rochester, Gibson was 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 26 starts including two complete games. He walked only 39 batters in 152 innings of work.

So far this season, Gibson is 3-7 with a 3.89 era in 14 starts. He was named the International League Pitcher of the Week for the week ending May 29. In that stretch, Gibson posted a 2-0 record with a 1.42 ERA in two starts while surrendering just seven hits in 12 2/3 innings.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tigers Option Danny Worth, Activate Brandon Inge

Today the Tigers will get back one of their most beloved, and reviled players, Brandon Inge. A fan favorite, as well as whipping boy, Inge has been out for the past 20 games with mononucleosis (mono) which was likely at least somewhat to blame for his hideous .211/.279/.286 triple-slash over his first 181 plate appearances.

For his career Inge is a .236/.306/.390 hitter who's offensive value comes almost exclusively from his ability to crack 15-20 home runs per season as he neither hits for average, nor gets on base at an enticing rate. In addition to his home run power, Inge has generally played plus defense at third base, with a +5.7 career UZR/150. It's worth noting however that his UZR slipped below the 5.0 level for the first time since 2005 last year (3.5), and is at just 2.7 in 2011.

If Inge can't continue to be a legitimately plus defender, his inability to get on base at a respectable rate will render him an essentially worthless player.

The move will give the Tigers back their regular third baseman, while utility infielder Danny Worth will be optioned back to AAA. Worth was given just 31 plate appearances in Inge's absence but made the most of them, putting together a .310/.355/.379 line. He'll likely be the first call-up should the team suffer another infield injury.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tigers Demote Adam Wilk, Recall Ryan Perry

After a solid 2010 campaign, the Tigers and their fans were undoubtedly hoping that young, hard throwing righty Ryan Perry could build on his performance and leap into the discussion of elite setup men. A classic hard throwing (94-95mph) fastball/slider reliever, Perry instead struggled mightily to open this season, boosting his strikeout rate to an impressive 8.71, but simultaneously displaying horrendous control, walking nine batters in his 10.1 innings of work.

How much of those struggles were related to an infected eye that was originally thought to be the by-product of allergies this summer is uncertain, though it seems likely that a pitcher like Perry, who has never had great control, but also never experienced control issues this bad, was certainly adversely affected by the issue. With his control back (1.65BB/9 in 16.1 AAA innings of work) Perry and his powerful fastball/slider combo seem ready to rejoin the Tigers bullpen and hopefully help add further strength to a unit that already features three high quality arms.

For his part, the left handed Adam Wilk pitched about as well as could be expected. Despite possessing underwhelming raw stuff (his fastball works in the 87-88mph range) and getting hit fairly hard (5.91 ERA), he gave the team 10.2 innings, mostly in long relief, and flashed strikeout and walk rates that could play long-term in a long-relief role or as a lefty specialist. He'll head back to AAA where he can continue to improve and hopefully return one day.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Amazing Vanishing Offense and What it Means for the Game as a Whole

Over the past decade many baseball fans have become accustomed to games scores like 6-4, or 7-3 - and if you grew up around the baseball of the mid-90s and early 2000s (like me) you likely know of little else. Runs being scored in bunches has been more of less a fact of life for the past twenty years.

Of course, things weren't always this way.

If you're somewhat older than my twenty eight years (almost) of age, and can recall watching baseball in the 70s and 80s, you'll recall a game that was dominated by the pitcher. Unfortunately, that bygone era of the 3-2 game has long been thought dead, a victim of lowered mounds, juiced hitters, and league expansion that left too few quality arms available.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Real Brennan Boesch Has Stood Up

In examining Brennan Boesch's 2010 season, one sees the easy study in contrast - the scorching hot .387 BABIP fueled start to his season in which he raced off to a .345/.397/.593 start - and the inevitable crash that followed that.

Prior to this season I examined that dichotomy in detail and did my best to project what we could expect from Boesch during the 2011 season, eventually determining that he could become a .250/.330/.500 type of bat. So far in 2011 Brennan has produced a .297/.356/.482 that is higher on batting average and on base percentage, and lower on slugging that I expected, but still right on the OPS line (I projected .830, he's at .838). He's still been a bit BABIP lucky, posting a .318 mark, the difference however, is in the degrees.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Joe Mauer Returns, Twins Outright Brian Dinkelman

It's been a long season for the Minnesota Twins, who've suffered through injuries to essentially every key member of their team - and ineffectiveness even when healthy. But with the return of second baseman/shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and reliever Glen Perkins yesterday, the team put itself on a path to health that should continue for the next couple of weeks.

While those two returned yesterday, the Twins will get their best player back today as Joe Mauer makes his much awaited return to the Twins lineup. Since leaving the team with what was initially diagnosed as bi-lateral leg weakness, a neurological condition in which weakness in the legs is caused by misfirings in the brain, spinal cord, or nerves - there has been a massive amount of hand wringing, speculation, and misinformation - and a notable lack of information coming from either the organization or Mauer himself. Whatever the problems Mauer was having were, they were most certainly exacerbated by a prolonged bout with the flu which left Mauer (along with other members of the team) hospitalized and taking fluids.

Indians Activate Travis Hafner, Option Travis Buck

The Indians, who have been in free-fall mode for the past two weeks got a welcome bit of good news today as they activated slugging DH Travis Hafner from the disabled list.

Hafner should help shore up an offense that has produced just 30 runs in the teams past fourteen games. In that time span, the team has won just three games, part of a larger overall slide that has seen them go just 6-16 since May 24th. They've also watched what was once a six game lead crater into a one game deficit. The offense, which has produced just 2.14 runs per game since June second (they had a 13 run outburst on the 1st), isn't solely to blame however as the team has also allowed 71 runs over the same time span as the early season pitching that had carried the team suffered some of the expected regression.

Indeed, the Indians are struggling in all facets of the game at the moment, and the return of any one player - even one as talented as Hafner - won't solve those woes on his own. But the slugger, who was in the midst of a remarkable comeback year, hitting .345/.409/.549 should add considerable clout to a middle-of-the-order that could use some.

To make room for Hafner, the team has once again optioned outfielder Travis Buck to the AAA. This will be Buck's second trip down. He's struggled offensively, posting an OPS of just .617, though he's played very strong defense in left.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Felipe Paulino OffTo A Surprising Start

Unless you were a fan of the Royals or Rockies, the news that the Royals had traded setup man Robinson Tejeda to the Rockies for reliever Felipe Paulino probably fell off your radar. That's reasonable given that Tejeda has spent essentially the entirety of 2011 either ineffective or on the disabled list. Still, that the Royals were willing to part with someone who provided 2.1 WAR out of the bullpen the past two seasons came as a bit of a surprise to me. That they were willing to give him up for someone with a career 5.53 ERA perhaps was more surprising still.

Paulino however, was an extremely interesting acquisition. A live arm who has averaged 95.4mph with his fastball since reaching the Majors at 24 years old back in 2007 with the Astros, he pairs that exceptional heat with a very good slider, a curve and a change. Beyond the raw stuff, he's posted solid peripherals, with a career K rate of 8.00 and a GB rate just shy of 45%. However like many power pitchers, he's struggled with his command, walking 3.73 per nine innings. In all, that's a solid package of raw stuff and strong rate metrics.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tepid Optimism for Alex Avila

Alex Avila has been a more than pleasant surprise for the Detroit Tigers this season at catcher. After disappointing starts to the season from a number of Tigers, Alex Avila has done his best to keep the team afloat on offense. Through 204 plate appearances Avila has a .907 OPS with 9 home runs, 13 doubles, and even 3 triples. He currently has a .258 ISO and an absurd .389 wOBA both marks are first for qualified catchers by a mile (among unqualified catchers his ISO is second to Mike Napoli).

Needless to say, Avila has been one of, if not the top backstop in the MLB the first two months of the season. The question then becomes, can he keep it up? At first blush the answer would seem to be definitely not. This is the same guy coming off of a wOBA of .297 in his first full season and .112 ISO, numbers on the lower side even for a catcher. As a result, his improvement this season is well beyond any kind of reasonable expectation of improvement anybody could have had for him coming into this season.

H & M: A Fashionably Good Duo

With the arrival of Mike Moustakas to the majors, Kansas City has both halves of their prized infield prospects up with the big club, the other being first baseman Eric Hosmer. While it is still way too soon to accurately conclude that either player will be a bona fide major league star, the initial returns certainly match the pedigree.

For Eric Hosmer, in a decent sample he has proven himself to be a fairly impressive rookie hitter. Currently, he boasts an .888 OPS in 156 plate appearances with the Royals. Impressive but not entirely surprising since Hosmer absolutely crushed minor league pitching over the last year and change, hitting well over .300 with great power.

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.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Twins Power Outage

The Twins slow start is among the more surprising storylines to the start of the season. This is a club that has won the AL Central six times in the last ten years and never finished lower than third place (2005 and 2007) during that same period. To put it mildly, the Twins have been about as wildly successful as any club can be (excluding the post season). However, the Twins find themselves in an unusual position, last place.

It is still very early in the season, so normally I would feel it is too early to panic. On the other hand, everything seems to be going wrong for the club. Franchise player, superstar catcher Joe Mauer is on the disabled list with “leg weakness”, an absolutely terrifying “condition” given he had knee surgery in the offseason and is signed to a hefty 184 million dollar deal that runs until 2018. Francisco Liriano is having a completely perplexing year pitching with 18 strike outs to 18 walks, 4 home runs and a downright awful ERA of 9.13. Finally Justin Morneau has started very slowly in April after having serious problems with a concussion last season. It just seems like a year where everything that can go wrong will go wrong for this organization.

Pitching Optimism in Kansas City

Going into the season, fresh off the loss of Zack Greinke, things did not look positive for the Kansas City Royals pitching staff. Indeed, before the season started, I would have called a rotation featuring Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen, Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies and Sean O’Sullivan easily the worst rotation in the American League just based on the eye test. After all, Kansas City did have the worst pitching staff ERA of any AL team last season and the worst starter ERA by almost .6 runs per game WITH Zack Greinke giving the club 200+ innings.

The numbers give a decent indication as to why the Royals were so bad. They were 10th in K/9 with 6.5 K/9, 12th in BB/9 with 3.5 BB/9, and tied for 13th in HR/9 with 1.1 HR/9. I picked these stats to look at because they are fielder independent and therefore give the best assessment of the pitching staff’s actual performance. If you will notice the Royals had the lowest ERA by a considerable margin despite not finishing last in any category. As you might suspect, their defense was rated among the worst by a few different measures. With the absence of Zach Greinke, one would probably suspect that the Royals staff would not need the help of the defense to finish last in staff ERA once again while bringing up the rear in almost all fielding independent pitching statistics. After all, their only significant addition in the off-season was to sign the recovering Jeff Francis.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mark Teahan, Reclaiming Third?

As I write this post, the White Sox are mired in one of their worst slumps in years, with a three game sweep at the hands of the surging Detroit Tigers leaving them having lost ten of their past eleven games. The entire offense it would seem is slumping all at the same time. This isn't unlike what has happened to the Twins throughout much of the early season.

Over their last 47 plate appearances each, the powerful tandem of Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko have hit .098 and .222 respectively. It's at times like this, when a teams offensive stalwarts are struggling that you need to have your complementary bats step up, but by in large, that hasn't happened. While my colleague Colin McLaughlin highlighted the early season brilliance of Carlos Quentin yesterday, there has been precious little support behind him.

Morning In The Central

Indians Links:
- Cleveland Indians Chatter: Choo and Santana Off To Slow Starts

- Let's Go Tribe: Farm Fresh

- The Tribe Daily: Just a Car Running on Fumes

Royals Links:

- Royals Authority: Catch Your Breath Monday

- Kings of Kauffman: Don't Mess With Texas

Tigers Links:

- Bless You Boys: An In Depth Look At Justin Verlander's 1000th Strikeout

- Detroit Tigers Scorecard: Ryan Raburn Raking

- Tiger Tales: Tigers Sweep White Sox

- Old English D: The Other Guys

Twins Links:

- The Bat Shatters: A Break In The Clouds

- Nick's Twins Blog: Three Bagger: Morneau, Nathan, Span

- North Dakota Twins Fan: Playoff Expansion and the Twins

White Sox Links:

- Beer Leaguer: Rancid Offense Reigns

- South Side Sox: Danks Will Have To Help Himself

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Carlos Quentin: I'm Not a Player, I Just Crush a Lot.

The headline really says it all. Carlos Quentin has some pretty astounding power. As I watched him swiftly deposit two hard belt high Justin Verlander fastballs deep into the bleachers of Comerica Park, all I could really think was “Wow, THAT is some power!”

CQ hit 36 home runs in 2008 during a season that was cut short by injury. He followed that up with 21 and 26 home run seasons that were also somewhat impeded by injury.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Surprise Starters: Josh Tomlin

The Indians are off to an incredible start, this much is obvious. The team leads the American League in runs scored with 99, and their .759 team OPS is third in the league, their pitchers ERA of 3.27 is third best in the AL, and their +18.8 UZR/150 leads all of baseball.

In short, they're excelling in every phase of the game.

Some of those reasons are obvious and have, rightly, gotten a lot of attention both here at CiF and elsewhere. But one reason for the Indians early season success that I think is being over looked is the performance of Josh Tomlin.

Morning In The Central

Royals Links:

- Royals Authority: How Often Do Good Relievers Have Bad Outings?

- Kings of Kauffmann: More April Drama Leads to Royals Win

Tigers Links:

- Bless You Boys: Are Young Tigers Prospects In Over Their Heads?

- Detroit Tigers Scorecard: The Phil Coke Debate

Twins Links:

- Over The Baggy: Kubel's Early Adjustments Pay Offensive Dividends

- North Dakota Twins Fan: Thome's History of Slow Starts

- Twinkie Town: State Of Play

White Sox Links:

-Future Sox: Is Trayce Thompson Primed For a Breakout Year?

- South Side Sox: Teahan Making Plays, and a Play For Third

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Asdrubal Cabrera and Small Sample Size

It is no secret that Asdrubal Cabrera of the Cleveland Indians is enjoying a nice early season power surge. In just 84 plate appearances he has collected 4 home runs, more than the 3 he hit in the entire 2010 season. In addition, Asdrubal has an ISO of .216, nearly double his career average of .115 and over three times what it was during the 2010 season.

Naturally my first instinct is to try and determine where this sudden power surge came from. However, as you might have already guessed, any analysis on Asdrubal’s numbers to this point would be almost worthless because of Small Sample Size. I capitalized the term because it almost seems like a proper noun at this point. If you gander around the internet right now, you will see it just about everywhere a baseball discussion is occurring. Small Sample Size has become the hip new term this season. Even some ESPN writers have mentioned it instead of immediately praising the would be hero as the next break out star!

The Triumphant Return of Grady Sizemore

The last few years have been trying ones for Grady Sizemore. Entering the 2009 season, Sizemore was a 26 year old, five-tool, three time all-star center fielder. He had just won his second Gold Glove award, and his first Silver Slugger award. He could do it all on a baseball field, and having played in at least 157 games in each of the past four seasons, he had a well deserved reputation for durability. Offensively, he gave you everything. A career .279 hitter with a .370 OBP, he had slugged at least 22 homeruns and stolen at least 22 bases in each of his first four seasons, and 33/38 in 2008.

He was going to be 27 in 2009, and after watching his stolen base and home run numbers steadily improve every year, expectations for what my still be in store had fans of the Indians (and baseball in general) titillated.

Royals Call Up Louis Coleman

The Royals have already received tantalizing performances from flam throwing rookie reliever Jeremy Jeffress, "Tiny" Tim Collins, and starter turned lights-out reliever Aaron Crow. However with their bullpen struggling recently, they've decided to bring up yet another of their highly touted relief arms. This time it's Omaha closer Louis Coleman who is getting the call.

In my preseason Top-15 Royals Prospect List, I had Jeffress at #9, Collins at #10, and Crow at #12. Coleman comes in just behind that group at #13 and along with Nathan Adcock, gives the team a total of five rookie relievers on the same unit.

Morning In The Central

Indians Links:

- Indians Prospect Insider: Defense is Bartalone's Calling Card

- The Cleveland Fan: Core Building Exercises

Royals Links:

- Kings of Kauffman: Looking Forward to the Future: Don't Ignore the Present

- Royals Authority: Kyle Davies Is Historically Awful

- Royally Speaking: Royals Need To Move Kila

- 14 For 77: Making a Move

Tigers Links:

- Bless You Boys:

- Tiger Tales: A Positive Game From Porcello

Twins Links:

- Nick's Twins Blog: Return On Investment

- North Dakota Twins Fan: Top Five Twins Prospects So Far in 2011

White Sox Links:

- White Sox Observer: Peavy's Diagnosis Is Apparently the Best Case Scenario

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Joe Smith Activated, Frank Herrmann Optioned to AAA

This spring the Indians lost reliever Joe Smith to an abdominal strain, but with his DL stint finished, he's ready to return and the team has chosen to option reliever Frank Hermann to AAA.

Smith, who is scheduled to make 870k during this, his first arbitration eligible season threw 40 innings over 53 appearances for the Indians in 2010 and figures to remain an important 7th inning option for the team. He's one of the few right handed pitchers in baseball who's better known as a righty specialist, something that's more typically associated with left handed pitchers. But when you look at Smith's phenomenal success against righties - career .624 OPS - against the .915 OPS he's allowed to lefties, it's startling.

When combined with lefty specialist Tony Sipp, the pairing allows Indians Manager Manny Acta to play matchups in the middle innings, and setup the game for his late inning relievers or to get key outs in higher leverage situations.

For his part, Herrmann is a limited pitcher. He brings plus command but doesn't miss bats despite bringing a solid 93/94 mph fastball to the game. He's also likely to struggle with home runs given his poor ground ball rate. The combination of poor strikeout and ground ball rates means Herrmann is never likely to be more than a 6th inning or mop up option but he'll continue to provide the team with AAA depth.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Joe Mauer Headed To DL

When word came out that Joe Mauer was going to be taking his second day off in a row, it perked the curiosity of many of my fellow writers. Mauer getting games off is nothing new - every catcher gets games off. But it's quite rare that he gets two of in a row, even with Carl Pavano scheduled to pitch (Pavano usually is caught by Drew Butera).

When asked about the abscence during pregame interviews Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire would only say that Mauer was, "sore," and declined to offer any other details beyond that, saying only that they'd, "re-evaluate him tomorrow."

As it turns out, it wouldn't take that that long.

Tigers Promote Al Alburquerque, Option Robbie Weinhardt back to Toledo

Sometimes I write posts that, just from the titles, I know I'm not going to enjoy typing up. With names like Alberto Alburquerque (which I have to slowly and deliberately type each time) and Robbie Weinhardt involved, this is one of them. That's just too many surname syllables for me.

In the wake of the loses of Joel Zumaya who was projected to be the opening day 7th inning reliever, and Ryan Perry who would've shared in those duties, the team finds itself in search of reliable options out of the 'pen. So far the team has tried Daniel Schlereth, but they seem to prefer him as a left-on-lefty option, and Brayan Villarreal but they still don't seem satisfied.

Royals Send Victor Marte to Cardinals

It seems had to recall, but Victor Marte has actually spent at least parts of two seasons working in the Royals bullpen, including 27.2 innings last year. Of course, the fact that he posted a combined 9.30 ERA in his MLB career probably has something to do with that. It serves ones mental health well to have no recollection of such dreadful performances.

How bad was Marte last year?

In those 27 innings he managed to allow 30 earned runs - more than anyone else on the team allowed all season. He allowed 55 base runners in total - just over two per inning pitched.

Thankfully the bevy of talented young relief arms percolating their way through the Royals system have made players like Marte thoroughly unnecessary, allowing the team to ship off someone who is best served as Minor League filler at this point instead of holding onto them and allowing them to work 5.6% of the teams total innings of relief.

Instead the Royals have sent the live armed, 31 year old Marte, who no longer served a purpose for the club, to the Cardinals where he will likely fill a similar role, that of Minor League depth and a possible emergency bullpen arm.

Robinson Tejeda Loses His Setup Role

Entering this season, Robinson Tejeda figured to be one of the few known quantities in a Royals bullpen that had gotten shelled in 2010. The team figured to look to some young arms to help round out it's bullpen and it was expected that Tejada would continue to provide a steady, reliable bridge to closer Joakim Soria.

It was a fair expectation. Over the past two seasons Tejeda has thrown at least 61 innings while posting identical 3.54 ERAs since Dayton Moore plucked the hard throwing righty off waivers from the Rangers. After providing 2.1 WAR in relief the past two seasons, the move stands as a highly successful waiver claim, and one of Moore's better overall acquisitions.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Examining the Struggles of Francisco Liriano

My how one year can change things.

In April of 2010, I was penning a post entitled, Is Liriano Back? that examined his stuff early last year vs where it had been in 2008 and 2009. Twelve months and one phenomenal season later, it feels like he might be right back to square one.

When Francisco Liriano is going well, he's s strike thrower who induces one of the highest swing-and-miss rates in the game. He'll pair a 93-94 fastball with excellent arm-side run with a wipeout slider that darts and dives and a parachute changeup that fades hard from righties. The first and last would qualify as legitimate plus pitches, and the slider is plus-plus - one of his generations best.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Pronk Revival

It's been a long time since Travis Hafner was one of the most feared hitters in the game. Shoulder ailments sapped much of what once made him a perennial 1.000 OPS threat in the middle of the Indians lineup. In the meantime, his contract has become one of the games most maligned, frequently cited as one of the games most unmovable.

In the years since posting an incredible 1.097 in 2006, Hafner has had a combined .803 mark. People have written him off as an ok hitter making far more than he's worth as a designated hitter - he'll be due 13m for each of the next two seasons, and the team will likely have to pay 2.75m to buy out of the 13m they owe him in 2013 as well.

The Daily Report - A Offensive Pulse From Ohio

Last night the Cleveland Indians won their 8th game in a row, the first time they've had such a streak since the 2007 club which won 96 games did so from August 25th from September 1st. The winning run was plated by a solo homerun from Asdrubal Cabrera in the 1st inning, his fourth of the season, then iced away with a three run, opposite field shot from Matt LaPorta in the 2nd. Through it all, Cleveland starter Mitch Talbot kept the Mariners off balance with a mixture of 89mph fastballs, sliders, and changeups.

The win was a microcosm of who the Indians have become, a largely nondescript group of of youngsters and retread veterans who you've likely either never heard of, or just stopped caring about. After an injury plagued 69 win season in which the Indians finished 26th in runs scored, and 24th in team ERA, the team returns relatively intact after ownership slashed payroll yet again, effectively hamstringing new GM Chris Antonetti. Instead of bringing in new blood, the Indians have had to rely on improvements from their own young core of players, assembled via the draft and the trades of many of their former stars.