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.