Mike Trout’s Case for MVP

The 20-year-old Angels hitter is leading the AL with a .348 batting average

By Cam Cain  7-17-12

There have been a lot of headlines surrounding the first half of the season; including 12-1 knuckleballer R.A. Dickey who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in the offseason. Arguably the biggest newsmaker in baseball has to be rookie phenoms Bryce Harper of the Nationals and Mike Trout of the Angels. Both are all-stars. Both are playing for teams that would currently be in the playoffs if the season were over. However, I think the wrong one is getting the bulk of the publicity. We all know that Bryce Harper is the face of baseball for the next 20 years and yada yada yada he’s going to be the best. But he’s not playing that well yet this year. I’m not doubting him but I don’t believe Harper should’ve been an all-star, or even Rookie of the Year for the NL. More deserving than Harper is the very under-the-radar Reds third baseman Todd Frazier. In 87 fewer plate appearances, Frazier has a higher batting average (.278 vs .273,) more home runs (10 vs 8,) more RBIs (30 vs 25,) and a much higher OPS (.913 vs .797). While Harper has more stolen bases, Frazier has legged out more triples. Why is nobody talking about him?

As for Trout, it’s hard to find anything bad to say about him. He is leading the American League in batting average and is tied for the Major League lead in stolen bases with Dee Gordon. Trout is one exciting player. He also has MLB Network’s #1 play of the first half, a catch to rob JJ Hardy of a home run where over half of Trout’s body was over the wall. He is the most dynamic player in the league not named Andrew McCutchen (who is my early pick for the NL MVP.)

However, despite how well Trout is playing, until the Angels move into first place, the MVP will still be Josh Hamilton. He has been injured a lot but is still leading the majors in RBI and is tied for second in Home Runs.

So, what do you think?

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Pitching Has Been Giant

San Francisco pitchers have combined for 4 consecutive shutouts, breaking a team record

By Cam Cain  6/29/12

When San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner got Drew Stubbs to ground out in the top of the 9th last night, it not only capped off a remarkable pitching performance by Bumgarner, a 1 hit shutout of the Cincinnati Reds; It also added on to a streak of 4 straight shutouts by Giants pitching. (The first three were combined.) The last time a team put together a similar streak was 1995 when the Orioles threw 5 consecutive shutouts. In fact, the last Giant starting pitcher to give up an earned run was Matt Cain on June 24th. And the last starter to get a loss was Ryan Vogelsong on the 20th. This streak, which started with a sweep of their bitter rival Dodgers, has put San Francisco in first place for the first time all year. It’s also the first time since April 10th that a team besides the Dodgers has been in first. (Arizona was 4-0 while LA was 4-1).

The Giants pitching has been strong all year. They have had the third lowest team ERA (3.37). The only disappointment is 2-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, who threw 7 shutout innings on Wednesday. Lincecum’s win improved him to a miserable 3-8 with an uncharacteristic 5.60 ERA, more than double his last season. Also, Lincecum is on pace for his first full season with less than 200 Ks. Lincecum came into this season as the ace of this talented rotation. But as of now, it seems that he is holding back the rest of his team.

As for a real ace, three Giant pitchers share that title. Cain, Vogelsong, and Bumgarner all have ERAs under 3.00. Vogelsong has the lowest ERA but also has the fewest wins of the trio. Bumgarner’s 10 wins are 4th in the majors but he has the highest ERA. (Bumgarner’s 2.85 would be the best on 15 of 30 teams.) Cain pitches against the Reds tonight. As I said, he is the last Giant starting pitcher to give up an Earned Run. He gave up 1 against the Athletics last Sunday and was in line for the win until Santiago Casilla blew a save. Cain also threw a perfect game on June 13th. I don’t want to overplay this but it is in Cain’s hands to continue on this streak.

Today In History 4/17

By Cam Cain 4/17/12

 

  • April 17th 1951: Longtime Yankee centerfielder Mickey Mantle makes his major league debut. Playing right, Mantle goes 1-for-4 but New York beat the Red Sox 5-0.
  • April 17th 1969: In only the 10th game in the franchise’s history, Expos pitcher Bill Stoneman pitches a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies. 3 years later, Stoneman threw a second no-hitter for Montreal on October 2nd.
  • April 17th 1983: While pitching for Houston, Nolan Ryan records his 3500th career strikeout, becoming only the second pitcher to do so, behind only Walter Johnson. Ryan struck out over 2,200 additional hitters in his career for a grand total of 5,714. Only 8 pitchers besides Ryan have 3,500 Ks.

 

A Fresh Start

Miami’s beautiful new ballpark opened Sunday for an exhibition game vs. the Yankees.

By Cam Cain  4/1/12

The Marlins’ season begins anew in many ways. A new logo, new name, new stadium, and a huge offseason spending spree in which they most notably signed Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, and Heath Bell. The Marlins’ park, going by the name Marlins Park, is extravagantly over-the-top. From the retractable roof to the vibrantly designed home run monument in center field, Miami’s stadium is a modern haven.

Jeffrey Loria and the rest of Marlins management hope that this new park and new group of all-stars will help attract fans to come see the team. At the old park, which was used by the Miami Dolphins and changed its name every year, Florida never drew 2 million fans and was always in the bottom 5 teams in attendance. The new stadium will definitely boost fan interest, at least for the first couple of months. I have the pleasure of going to a game in late April and can’t wait! 

The Marlins have planned for 2012 for years now. The big bats Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo (formerly known as Mike) Stanton now have a true leadoff man in Jose Reyes. Mark Buehrle and fiery manager Ozzie Guillen came from the South side of Chicago. Guillen will add some personality to these Marlins. This personality will definitely make the Marlins a fun team to follow, it will be up to the star players as to how they finish but I expect nothing short of second place.

Oh. And as for the first game at this park, New York won 10-8, scoring 2 in the top of the 9th. Gaby Sanchez hit the unofficial first home run in the 2nd inning. Since it was an exhibition game, the home run will not go into the books. Also, they didn’t let that disgusting monument off. That would’ve been amusing.

Preview: AL East

Will New York make the postseason for the seventeenth time in 18 years? And where will the rising Jays land?

By Cam Cain ◊ 3-25-12

So here we have it. It is finally spring. After a long winter break, it’s time for our nation’s pastime to be reborn for another long season. In 8 short days, the Cardinals and Marlins will play at 7:05 and kick off the new season at the new ballpark in Miami. I felt like I had to come out with my own predictions for the season. It is just human nature to feel the need to guess at these things, however accurate you may be (last year I chose Colorado to win it all.) So here are my predictions for the toughest division in the game, with 4 potential 90-game-winning teams, the American League East:

5th Place: Baltimore Orioles:
This is no shocker. In this division, Baltimore is a certain lock to be sitting in the cellar for nearly the whole season. This team should rebuild from the bottom up. They could get some good prospects for outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Baltimore desperately needs pitching. Their young pitchers need to step up, especially 25-year-old Brian Matusz. Following a solid 2010 season, his second in the league,  Matusz went 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA and bounced between the majors and minors last year. The hitting was decent, but Baltimore needs an ace. They will finish near the bottom, nearing 100 losses.
Best case scenario: Baltimore wins close to 75 games and waits until the offseason or next year’s trading deadline to ship away their stars.
Worst case scenario: The pitching actually gets worse and the Orioles fire manager Buck Showalter in May and go downhill from there.
4th Place: Toronto Blue Jays:
Like Baltimore, the Jays changed their logos to a more modernized version of what they used in the ’80s. Unlike Baltimore, this Canadian team has got talent. The Blue Jays can now easily compete in this tough division and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish higher than this. Jose Bautista had an all around better year than his 2010 season where he came out of nowhere to hit 54 home runs. His average was 42 points better and he still led the majors in home runs. J.P. Arencebia did not play as well as expected in his first full season catching in the bigs. They do have Travis D’arnaud  in place behind the plate. D’arnaud  won MVP of the Eastern League last year for the AA New Hampshire FisherCats. He has never played at AAA, let alone the majors so expect him to not get called up until September. The pitching for the Jays is also solid. They picked up Francisco Cordero in the offseason who will set up for Sergio Santos. Their rotation is led by ace Ricky Romero who went 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA.
Best case scenario:  Third Baseman Brett Lawrie finishes in the 20-20 or possibly 30-30 club with a great season. Adam Lind continues to hit for power and Jose Bautista is an MVP candidate once more. Toronto makes it to the postseason for the first time since they won it all in ’93.
Worst case scenario: Pitchers figure out how to pitch to Bautista. The rest of the hitters don’t pick up the slack and the Blue Jays finish below .500 again.
3rd Place: Boston Red Sox:
Nobody is giving Boston enough credit. Despite their late season collapse which caused skipper Terry Francona to be replaced, this is a great ballclub. In his age 35 season, star DH David Ortiz still hit 29 home runs and hit .309. Remember before last season when everyone predicted them to be great? They are still for the most part the same team. Carl Crawford’s struggles were likely a fluke. He could be the missing piece. As for the pitching, the top 2 will be great as always in Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. Clay Buchholz in the third spot pitched a no-hitter in his second career start back in 2007 and has pitched well ever since. 4th in the rotation is expected to be Daniel Bard, a converted reliever who routinely throws 100 mph. However, Bard struggled late last season during the collapse and finished with 9 losses without starting a game.
Best case scenario: Carl Crawford comes back to play as well as he did in Tampa. Jacoby Ellsbury has another MVP caliber year and leads Bobby Valentine’s Sox on a deep postseason run.
Worst case scenario: New closer Andrew Bailey from Oakland struggles pitching in front of fans (his old team the A’s finished last or second to last in attendance the last 3 years) Carl Crawford doesn’t improve, and David Ortiz shows his age as Boston finishes in 4th for the first time in 15 years.
2nd Place: Tampa Bay Rays:
Tampa is loaded with young talent. Jeremy Hellickson won rookie of the year last season as third starter and now the Rays are going to call up top prospect Matt Moore for the entire season. This could give them a deadly rotation behind David Price and James Shields and ahead of Jeff Niemann who went 11-7 with a 1.24 WHIP last season. The Rays also signed Carlos Pena who left for a year to play for the Cubs. Pena has always had power but hit only .225 last year. Evan Longoria hit 31 home runs last year while only playing 133 games, the most important home run being that dramatic walk off heroic in Game 162 to send Tampa to the playoffs. He did only hit .244 and started out 2011 injured. Longoria will bounce back and could possibly hit 35 home runs. Joe Maddon is an artist with the bullpen and I can’t imagine a team led by him failing to play in October.
Best case scenario: The young pitchers are effective immediately. Evan Longoria blossoms into an even bigger star as he is in the midst of his prime years. Tampa cruises to the division title as the Yankees are stung by the injury bee.
Worst case scenario: James Shields doesn’t come anywhere near his impressive numbers of last year. While the hitters still hit for power, nobody gets on base  for them to drive home. Tampa finishes in a disappointing 4th place.
1st Place: New York Yankees:
Who else do you expect? This team’s hitting was loaded after the 2011 season. Now, in the offseason, they made sure their rotation was just as great. They went out and got Michael Pineda from Seattle and Hiroki Kuroda from free agency. Kuroda has impressed. Ivan Nova went 16-4 last year in his rookie year and will likely take the second spot in the rotation. Also, A.J. Burnett, the Yankee equivalent of John Lackey for the Red Sox has left for Pittsburgh mercifully. Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, their cornerstones, are 36 and 37 respectively. However, second baseman Robinson Cano is one of the best all-around player in the game and could pick up some of the slack. Other than the age of A-Rod and Jeter, I see very few concerns for this team.
Best case scenario: New York wins 100 games for the 20th time in franchise history, Robinson Cano wins MVP and the rotation is strong 1 through 5.
Worst case scenario: Michael Pineda is a flop moving to the majors’ largest market. The captain Derek Jeter finally starts to show his age and Alex Rodriguez retires following a <10 home run season and a third place finish for the Bombers.

Trouble in Beantown

Where does Boston stand in the league’s toughest division?

By Cam Cain 2-9-12

Spring is almost among us. Depending on where you live, it may not look like it but I’m talking about baseball season. Pitchers and catchers report in a couple of weeks and most of the teams seem to have taken shape. However, there are question marks above many other teams. For example, there are the Red Sox, a team who probably should’ve gone into the offseason with the same strategy as their bitter rivals in New York, work on the starting pitching. They lost Eric Bedard to the Pirates and will hopefully, mercifully, find a way to get rid of John Lackey. This leaves veterans Josh Beckett and Jon Lester who are proven top-of-the-rotation guys, Clay Buchholz who threw a no hitter in his second career start in 2007 but has been inconsistent ever sinse, and Daisuke Matsuzaka who the organization hopes can pitch how he did before his injuries. Roy Oswalt is surprisingly still a free agent but had possibly his worst season in his career last year. He is only 34 and could possibly make a good third spot in the rotation.

New GM Ben Cherington also traded away the top 2 shortstops, Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro for relief pitchers. This must mean that they are planning on moving someone, likely flamethrower Daniel Bard, to the rotation. But why both of the shortstops? Next on the list are Mike Aviles who hasn’t played more than 34 games at short since his rookie season in 2008 in Kansas City. Also, there’s Jose Iglesias, a defensive-minded Cuban prospect at the position where defense matters the most. He had only 6 major league at bats and is expected to be called up sometime in June. However, some worry about his hitting. Iglesias hit .235 at the AAA level last year and only has one career minor league home run. The Red Sox also have Aruban Xander Bogaerts at short in their farm system who was ranked by mlb.com as Boston’s third best prospect and the majors’ 76th. However, he is not expected to make the majors until 2014 and he will likely switch to third base by then.

So how does Boston look for this year? Well, with no shortstop, right fielder, and questions about the pitching staff, it’s hard to see my hometown team finishing ahead of the Yankees or Blue Jays.

The Tigers? Really?

With the signing of Prince Fielder, is Detroit the new favorite in the AL?

By Cam Cain 1-27-12

In an offseason of surprises like Albert Pujols joining the Angels, this is up there as one of those shockers. The nine year deal is reportedly worth 214 million dollars.  Only a few thought Fielder was heading anywhere other than Arlington, Miami, or the capitol. Then, Texas signed Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. Now all was left was the built-to-win-today Marlins and the built-to-win-in-two-or-three-years Nats. But he chose to head to the Motor City, already the heavy favorites in the Central. I was confused for a while about this one. Then, it hit me. Fielder’s dad, Cecil, played at the old Tiger Stadium for 6 1/2 years, the best of his career, making three allstar teams and hitting 51 home runs in 1990. It was there that  young Prince learned the game, hitting monster shots over the fence as a teenager. And the fans sure remember him. The Prince was merely heading home, albeit to a different castle.

So, who does this affect?

Milwaukee:

This loss, as inevitable as it was, is a tough one to swallow. Especially if Ryan Braun’s appeal of his 50 game suspension for allegedly taking performance enhancing drugs is denied. This is a huge step back for Milwaukee who has not made any big signings or trades so far.

St. Louis:

The Cardinals benefit  from this deal. This could possibly put this young team into the playoffs with a wild card spot. Besides, they won the World Series despite Adam Wainwright not pitching a single inning due to injury.

Pittsburgh:

Despite peaking in July and struggling towards the end of the year and finishing below .500, don’t count out the Pirates as a dark horse candidate.

Cincinnati:

This puts the Reds over the top. They have so much young talent including power hitting right fielder Jay Bruce, and speedy center fielder Drew Stubbs. They signed closer Ryan Madson,  who saved 32 games for Philadelphia. They also made a statement by trading away Edinson Volquez and first base prospect Yonder Alonso for pitcher Mat Latos of the Padres. This told the fans that they are willing to keep superstar Joey Votto and this is exactly what they needed. Their only worry in the division is St. Louis. The Reds hope they pull a long term Indianapolis Colts, struggling after losing the face of their franchise. Either way, the Reds are the favorites in the Central, if not the NL.

Detroit:

This team is strong from top to bottom. Despite losing Victor Martinez for probably the season, they will likely move Miguel Cabrera to DH. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Doug Fister are at the top of the rotation and all have had success. Also, Alex Avila is a rising star behind the plate and had 85 RBIs last season at age 24. They are my early pick for the World Series.