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.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Daily Report

The Twins are off to what could generously be described as a horrible start in 2011. They've won precisely three games, and frankly are fortunate to have won that many. They aren't pitching, they aren't hitting, and they aren't fielding. And now just this past week they've sent two players at positions where they were already perilously thin to the disabled list. To say the least, this isn't how they drew it up. While I could expound at length to the troubles the team has faced on an individual basis, lets instead sum it up by bullet point to save my poor fingers.

- They rank 2nd to last in all of baseball in: runs scored (24), runs per game (2.66), batting average (.214), on base percentage (.266), and slugging percentage (.288).

- Their combined .554 OPS was nearly as close to being like the average NL pitcher in 2010 (.351) as it was to the avergage catcher (.699).

- They have as many homeruns as a team (3) as Alex Avila.

- Their 4.38 team ERA is actually incredibly lucky - they have a 5.42 FIP. Again, 2nd worst in all of baseball.

- Startlingly, it's been their starting pitching (6.36 FIP) more than their relief pitching (3.65) which has been the culprit. The much fretted over bullpen actually has a 3.00 ERA. Go figure.

- The 7 errors they've committed thus far would put them on pace for 126 in 2011. A mark that would've been tied for, you guessed it, 2nd worst in baseball in 2010.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Morning In The Central

Indians Links:

- Indians Prospect Insider: Sometimes Life Throws You a Curveball

- Cleveland Indians Chatter: Sal Maglie and the Cleveland Indians

Royals Links:

- Royals Review: Wilson Betemit, Back To The Forefront

- Kings Of Kauffman: Whither Joakim Soria?

Tigers Links:

- Bless You Boys: Joel Zumaya, Still Injured

- DesigNate Robertson: Secret Umpire Memo Found Concerning Tigers

- No Run Support: Let's Talk About The Last Few Days

White Sox Links:

- Beer Leaguer: Twins Week in Review

- White Sox Observer: A 5th Starter We Can Believe In

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Jake Peavy Makes First Rehab Start

At one point this spring it looked likely that White Sox starter Jake Peavy (can I call him a ace anymore?) looked as though he might be able to make a rather impressive return from his torn lat muscle. Initial estimates suggested that Peavy wouldn't be ready until early May at the soonest, but Peavy was trying to defy those expectations, and perhaps even looking at being ready for opening day.

Unfortunately after suffering shoulder soreness, later revealed diagnosed as tendinitis, his return date was once again pushed back. There was a small measure of controversy surrounding the diagnosis as Peavy had tried to pitch through it without alerting the team or it's medical staff to his pain. That's something that's become a disturbing tendency for some. While many appreciate Peavy's tough guy mentality, his willingness to pitch through too much pain, to the point of causing further injury has become a bother.

Kevin Slowey To DL, Alex Burnett Recalled

The Twins have sent their second player to the disabled list in as many days as starter turned reliever Kevin Slowey has been sent to the DL two days after suffering a strained biceps muscle in his pitching arm. Slowey suffered a strained triceps injury last August and this marks yet another trip to the DL for the precision righty, something that's become an all too familiar occurrence for him.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tsuyoshi Nishioka Breaks Leg, Luke Hughes Up

The Twins would've left New York disappointed enough by today's loss to the Yankees, another heartbreaking one run loss in a city where they seem to occur every game for the Twins. But news afterward that freshly minted Twin and Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka had fractured his fibula during a take out slide at second base will have a more lasting impact.

The injury occured on as the Twins were attempting to turn an inning ending 6-4-3 double play. Nick Swisher, who was on first for the Yankees, came in hard to break up the play and Nishioka inexplicably did little to avoid the oncoming freight train. Swisher's slide came in hard on Nishioka's exposed front leg and the Twins second baseman immediately crumpled to the ground having short hopped the throw in obvious pain.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ryan Perry To DL With Infected Eye

There are some strange things that send guys to the DL, and they aren't always baseball related. In this case Tigers reliever Ryan Perry has been sent to the DL with an infected eye that apparently was brought on by issues related to allergies. The assignment is retroactive to Tuesday the 5th and in his stead the Tigers have called up prospect Robbie Weinhardt.

I didn't do a prospect profile on the 26 year old Weinhardt, but it was more a lack of time than anything else. Robbie has been a well regarded relief arm in the system for some time now and he made his big league debut last year, appearing in 28 games. During those 28 games he threw 29.1 innings, registering 6.44 K/9 and 2.45 BB/9 marks while inducing ground balls on 56% of his balls in play.

Featuring a low 90s fastball that works in the 90-92 range and a tight slider Weinhardt racked up huge strikeout rates in the lower minors, but struggled to repeat those strong peripherals last year between AAA and the Majors. Still with a 2.5/1 K/BB ratio and strong ground ball rates, he profiles as a reliable 7th inning arm.

White Sox DFA Lastings Milledge

This move comes as a bit of a surprise. I wrote about how much I liked the Lastings Milledge signing in it's wake, and in brief time, it's worked well. But with the White Sox desperate for relief help after exhausting their bullpen the past couple games against the Royals, they're decided to designate him for assignment - where he'll almost certainly be lost to waivers - to bring up Jeff Gray.

The 30 year old Gray has spent parts of three seasons with the Athletics and Cubs, working out of those clubs bullpens. A fastball-slider pitcher who has averaged 93.7 on his fastball, he pairs a hard slider in the mid to upper 80s. Gray's stuff profiles as swing-and-miss but so far it hasn't translated to the Majors as he's managed just 6.02 strikeouts per nine so far.

The move signals just how much the team values Brent Lillibridge and his ability to come in as a pinch runner. It also likely means that Dayan Viciedo will not be headed back to the minors once he's recovered from his broken finger, but will rather serve as a bench bat while occasionally seeing time in the outfield.

At first blush I find the move perplexing. The team seems to have little desire to utilize Lillibridge in any capacity beyond defensive replacement and pinch runner, which stands to reason, he's is a very poor hitter. Yet Lillibridge probably had a better chance of clearing waivers than Milledge and his skill set is far easier to replace than that of the former Mets prospect.

Alex Gordon Is On Fire

It's absurdly early in the season obviously, but one player who's making his presence felt is Alex Gordon of the Royals. The first round pick who became a can't-miss prospect that would save the franchise - and then missed horribly - has become a sort of punch line for Royals fans and detractors alike about the sorry state of the franchise. Hailed as the next George Brett, he has instead been consistently derailed by injuries throughout his career, while staggering his way to a .733 career OPS mark and being shuttled between the infirmary and the Minors.

After sitting out much of 2010, and then being demoted to AAA to learn a new position (left field), Gordon seems more comfortable and at peace with himself than ever before. More importantly than any of that however, he might be truly healthy for the first time in a long time. Any pressure that there may have been on him is gone. The Royals no longer need Gordon to do anything. Whether he hits or not, the team already has a couple solid bats in Billy Butler and Kila Ka'aihue, and there are plenty more big sticks set to arrive soon.

Royals Running Relentlessly

The season is barely a week old as I sit down to pen this post, yet clearly the Royals emphasis on running the bases aggressively - both in terms of the stolen base and in taking the extra base - that they spoke of and demonstrated in spring training is for real. That's notable because so often we hear teams talk about their desire to run more. About how they're going to let their players loose. Then either nothing happens, or the change is so modest that it's hardly noticeable.

Not for the Royals.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What's the Catch? Avila vs Martinez Broken Down

When the Tigers signed Victor Martinez, both the Manager Jim Leyland as well as GM Dave Dombrowski were adamant that Martinez wouldn't do the bulk of the catching. Leyland said he saw Martinez as someone who could DH and play first base some while Dombrowski said he envisioned Martinez catching "two or three days a week." Clearly it was never the plan for the defensively challenged Martinez to be the full-time backstop. Instead the job of primary catcher would belong to Alex Avila.

Adam Dunn Has Appendectomy

It's been a big week for appendectomies in baseball as Cardinals left fielder Matt Holiday, and now White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn have both undergone the procedure - which is always curiously referred to as an "emergency" surgery. Is there such a thing as a non-emergency appendectomy? 

Dunn was off to a great start for the White Sox, having gone 4-14 with a double, homerun, and four walks in his 19 plate appearances. He's expected to miss around five days but should be able to return after that. If so he'll miss tonight's final game against the Royals, followed by the teams three game set against the winless Rays, and perhaps one or more games of the Athletics series.

While Dunn will miss time, the team is unlikely to place him on the disabled list and will instead go with Mark Teahan as their primary designated hitter, though Lastings Milledge could see time against lefties as well. A move could always be made later to place him on the DL should he be unable to recover sooner.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Brennan Boesch Exorcises 2010 Demons, Goes 4-4

It was a tail of two halves for Brennan Boesch in 2010. After hitting posting an OPS of .990 in the first half, that mark fell to just .459 during the seasons second half. A player that at one point looked like a world beater was struggling to hold onto a roster spot at the end of the season and coming into 2011. had work to do to prove that he belonged on the Tigers in the future.

Royals Rookie Relievers On A Roll

How's that for a little early morning alliteration?

The Royals are off to a great 3-1 start after stringing together back-to-back-to-back walk off wins after dropping the first game of their set to the Angels. Certainly that'll be the talk of most fans, Royals or otherwise. But to me the biggest point of emphasis to take away from the first Royals series of the year were the performances of Aaron Crow and Tim Collins.

Central Scouting Notes

- There was only one steal attempted against Carlos Santana who has made a name for himself as an offensive catcher in the Indians/ChiSox series. That was Brent Morel in the 6th inning of the Apr. 2nd contest and I had Santana at 1.94. Not great, but not awful either. His throw was high and went into center but it wouldn't have mattered as Carlos Carrasco's pitch gave him almost 0 chance.

- I had Royals rookie Aaron Crow at 91-93 on his fastball with good late sink. Also showed a hard slider at 85-86 that was legit plus. Pitch was always good but consistency was the issue. Control was good not great.

Fellow Royals rookie Tim Collins, the diminutive 5'7" lefty (I'm pretty much obligated to mention his stature every time I mention him...) also looked good. Fastball 91-93 but his lack of height hurts his plane and the pitch is fairly straight. Loved his changeup at 81-82 with good sink and he showed good feel for his 11/5 curve at 73-74. Hitters struggle to pick him up with his funky delivery and his stuff is legitimate plus. Started two batters with the curve and another with the FB, so he'll throw anything at any time.

He pitched the final three innings against the Angels last night, allowing just two hits and racking up 5Ks. It was a dominant performance from any bullpen pitcher, let alone a rookie, and it gave his team time to finish the comeback with yet another walk-off win. A must-see outing for any fan of the Central.

- Alex Gordon's bat looks quicker than the last couple years. Too early to read into the results (which have been good) but you wonder if he might be truly healthy for the first time in a long time.

- Edwin Jackson's slider looked really sharp, but his command was as spotty as ever. I wrote about him quite a bit this off season and I'm far from sold on his Chicago makeover, but if he can miss bats at the rate he did tonight, he can play up from his previous numbers.

- Scott Kazmir hasn't had it for a couple years, and it may have gotten worse. FB at 85 with no command, fringy changeup are all that remain.

- Fausto Carmona's mechanics were a mess in his first start. He was opening up way too fast and left everything up. Anyone in Cleveland or Chicago saw the results. The Sox cleaned his clock. Stuff-wise though he looked fine. Hopefully a bullpen session can get him back on track.

- The Royals ran a TON in spring training and they've taken it into the season. Today they abused Jeff Mathis, a plus defender by stealing successfully five times despite Mathis showing solid pop times in the 1.80-1.85 range. Pitchers we're responsible for a lot of that.

- Francisco Liriano doesn't look right. Slider is still very sharp at 84-87 and legitimate ++ pitch, but his fastball velocity was down to 89-93 and he threw the pitch just 37 times, even though it was the only pitch he had even passable control over. Really went heavy to the slider/changeup. Stuff is still great, command isn't there right now. Be interesting to see how he progresses.

- Joe Nathan doesn't have his velocity (FB at 89-92) or his command. Got the save but threw 31 pitches to get through the inning. His best out pitch, his slider (86-88 tonight), just wasn't there at all either in movement or location. Went to his curve (80-81) more than we saw in the past.

- Travis Snider's 'stache is all kinds of dirty.

- Tsuyoshi Nishioka's range is 60-65 (very good) especially to his left. Made a couple errors but I think that's more nerves than anything. Should be a legit + defender and definitely has the range for short.

- J.P. Arencibia has a nice short, quick swing and quiet stride - can drive the ball well. But we all knew that. Looked better behind the plate than advertised.

- Miguel Cabrera let some scoopable balls not find the mitt, but the bat is still terrifying. The big question I have is will he stay back like he did last year and use the whole field. He really started keeping that front shoulder in last year and he became a whole other kind of hitter.

- Max Scherzer had some of the same issues as Liriano. A fastball that wasn't all there at 89-92 and command that kept the ball in the dangerous part of the plate. Mechanics are a mess. Seems to be the case with a lot of pitchers this spring.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Indians Acquire Bubba Bell

A minor move but the Indians have acquired Bubba Bell from the Red Sox organization. After spending part of 2009 and all of 2010 in AAA, Bell is nice emergency depth for the Indians should their outfield suffer yet another injury or two. Bell is hardly an elite talent, or a prospect at all really, but the 29 year old corner outfielder did show some decent pop in 2007, belting 26 home runs and 13 more in 2008. Since then however the power numbers have fallen off. He's almost certain to be nothing more than Minor League filler in 2011, but there is at least a remote possibility that he cracks the roster, so the move is worth mentioning.

Trevor Crowe Undergoes Shoulder Surgery

When Indians All-Star center fielder Grady Sizemore went on the DL last season, it was Trevor Crowe who replaced him. A light hitting outfielder known primarily for his defense in the minors, Crowe has gotten fairly significant playing time in each of the last two seasons as Sizemore has struggled to stay healthy and on the field.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rhymes vs Sizemore, Issue Officially Beaten to Death

I know what everyone is thinking, “I cannot believe he used his article to rehash an issue that has been discussed literally (not literally) a million times.” And to that I say, fair point. However, this has been arguably the single biggest issue of debate for people following the Detroit Tigers after Sizemore was cut during spring training, and really even before that. For the purpose of this article, I am going to try and avoid offering proof that either Sizemore or Rhymes is the better player “right now” because I do not know the answer to that question. I will disclose right here, that I strongly suspect that Scott Sizemore is the better player right now and would be a superior option to Will Rhymes, but I cannot be sure.

The approach I want this article to take is to look at both players through the prism of expected value to the Detroit Tigers this season. Basically, I want to look at the decision based on the idea that we really do not know what either player will give the Tigers during the season, but we can make some reasonable guesses as to their range of possible production and assign differing probabilities to those ranges to get an expected value.

Friday, April 1, 2011

We're Growing, and I Think That's Really Cool

You hear me talk a lot about the growth going on here at Central in Focus in my Nightly Notes. I talk about it a lot because I find it fun and interesting. And because knowing I'm writing stuff people actually want to read strikes me as both amazing and harrowing at the same time. I mean seriously, there have got to have been 20,000 other pages you would've rather viewed, right?

So I decided to make up some charts to let you know where were at. Because while other sites consider their data to be valuable information for use in generating ad revenue, I'm making a grand total of zero dollars and zero cents on this venture. Which means the data is worth exactly that much too.

Besides, blogs are never really just about the writers, they're about the community. As much as I enjoy putting my thoughts, ideas, and opinions out there, I like hearing back from you too. Hopefully you get something out of reading my work, and hopefully you fill my desperate need for virtual companionship by commenting. How else am I supposed to have outside contact with the world while living in my mothers basement after all?

Should The Royals Implement The Rays Signing Strategy?

This afternoon it was announced that the Tampa Bay Rays had signed lefty Wade Davis to a four year extension worth 12.5m. Those four years will carry him through his arbitration eligible seasons. The team then has the choice to exercise three option years, essentially buying out three years of free agency at what could be far below market value rates. Essentially, Davis gets protection against injury until his free agent years, and the Rays gain payroll certainty and stand to save many million over his free agent seasons should he remain healthy and effective.

Both sides get something important to them.

An extremely promising prospect in the Minors who posted dominant peripherals, he showed glimpses of that talent in 2009, but failed to come anywhere near them last year. After two seasons in which he's thrown a total of 204.1 innings with a 4.45 FIP, the decision to extend him carries some risk. Yes, the ERA looks better with a 4.01 career mark, but he's been the enormous beneficiary of a .279 career BABIP and 75% LOB mark.