Saturday, July 22, 2017

Marlins would make perfect trade partners for Yankees

Marlins 1B Justin Bour is a perfect fit for Yankees
As the 2017 MLB trade deadline draws nearer, the New York Yankees still appear to have a couple of holes to fill. Over in the National League, the Miami Marlins could make for a perfect trade partner.
The Yanks are treading water of late. They sit with a 50-45 record following games of Friday night, July 21. The Bronx Bombers are 3.5 games behind the arch-rival Boston Red Sox in the AL East race. They control an AL Wildcard spot, but have a pair of teams just two games back.
For much of the season, the Yankees have failed to get reliable offensive production from the first base position. Chris Carter received 208 plate appearances over 62 games, but hit for just a .201/.284/.370 slash line and was released.
Greg Bird began the season as the starter at first, and kept that role through May 1 despite hitting for just a .100/.250/.200 slash line. Then Bird was lost to the DL, and after undergoing ankle surgery, he is likely gone until September.
The Yankees completed a big trade this past week, shoring up their bullpen with the additions of David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the Chicago White Sox.
Also acquired in that deal was 31-year old veteran third baseman Todd Frazier. With his arrival, Chase Headley has been moved across the diamond to play first base.
However, the 33-year old Headley has managed just four homers. Only once in his career, all the way back in 2012, as he displayed the type of offensive production that contending teams normally like to see from the first base position.
Another area of potential concern is the starting rotation. The loss of Michael Pineda to Tommy John surgery has created an opening that needs to be filled.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Jeremy Hellickson can help a number of contenders

For second straight year Hellickson is on the market
A year ago at this time, the Philadelphia Phillies were approaching the MLB trade deadline with starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson available on the market. For whatever reason, general manager Matt Klentak was unable to find a match that he felt was acceptable.
So Hellickson stayed with the Phillies into the off-season, where the club made him a contract offer. This was intended to gain them draft pick compensation once the right-hander signed as a free agent with another team.
That contract offer was for $17.2 million, which Hellickson and his agent found to be the best offer on the market. In somewhat of a surprise move, he signed the one-year deal to return with the Phillies in the 2017 season.
So here we are once again, with the MLB trade deadline approaching, and with the Phillies having Hellickson on the market.
His numbers are down this time around, and he is a year older. The Phillies GM will not get as much of a return as they would have last year. That said, he is more likely to actually be dealt this time around.
Hellickson is 6-5 with a 4.44 ERA and 1.230 WHIP after 19 starts. The now 30-year old has allowed 104 hits over 107.1 innings with a 59/28 K:BB ratio.
He would be a reliable mid-rotation or back-end option for any contending team’s pitching staff. Hellickson has pitched into the 6th inning in 11 of his 19 starts, including seven of his last nine outings. He has gone at least five innings in a dozen straight.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Will the suddenly hot Pittsburgh Pirates be trade deadline buyers or sellers?

Pirates could contend with Cutch, or deal him
On Monday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates rallied from behind for a 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
With that win, the Bucs drew to within three games of the .500 mark on the season. 
They also pulled within six games in the NL Central standings of the first place Brew Crew, and within eight of the second NL Wildcard spot.
The Pirates are suddenly hot, winners now in eight of their last 10 games. They are also about to get star left fielder Starling Marte back in the lineup. He has missed the first 80 games of the season due to a PED suspension. As the MLB trade deadline approaches, they appear to be a team on the bubble.
It’s difficult to get a read on exactly where the Pirates are right now, as far as their overall organizational status and ability to contend. Are they buyers or sellers here in July? That is the decision GM Neal Huntingdon and the rest of management will need to make in the coming weeks.
After earning an National League Wildcard playoff spot for three straight years, Pittsburgh regressed last season. The Pirates finished five games below the .500 mark in 2016, and were 8.5 games out of that Wildcard position.

Monday, July 17, 2017

MLB Spotlight Series: New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins

Paul Molitor's Twins face key mid-season series vs Yankees
When the 2017 MLB season began, few would have guessed that a mid-July series between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins could be so significant. But here we are, and this is indeed a series that has become important for both clubs.
Led by explosive rookie Aaron Judge, the Yankees took over the AL East Division lead in mid-April. New York held that lead for the most part right up through late June. But a 9-20 mark since June 12 has dropped the Bronx Bombers into third place, 3.5 games behind the arch-rival Boston Red Sox.
The Twins were the biggest surprise team in all of Major League Baseball over the first couple of months. For much of the same time that the Yanks were leading their division, the Twins were on top of the AL Central.
Just as with New York, the Twins have slowed measurably. Since their high-water mark at seven games over .500 on May 24, Minnesota is just 21-27. The Twins have dropped four of their last five games heading into this series.
The American League Wild Card standings after games on Sunday, July 16 show the Yankees still control the second of the two available postseason berths. The Twins are just 1.5 games out, two games behind the Yanks in the loss column.
This week’s clash at Target Field in Minneapolis marks the first meeting of the season between the two teams. They will not meet again until a three-gamer at Yankee Stadium in late September.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Cody Bellinger hits for The Cycle to continue special rookie season

On Saturday night at Marlins Park in Miami, Los Angeles Dodgers rookie sensation Cody Bellinger put on a record-setting show.
Bellinger went 4-5, scored twice, and knocked in three runs to help pace the torrid, first place Dodgers to a 7-1 thrashing of the host Miami Marlins.
His night began with a single in the top of the first inning. In the top of the third, Bellinger’s 26th home run of the season opened the scoring, putting LA on top 2-0.
In the top of the fourth, Bellinger lined an RBI double to right field that upped the visitors lead to 6-0. Then in the seventh, he made history.
On the first offering from Marlins reliever Nick Wittgren, Bellinger ripped a ball to right that sailed over the head of Giancarlo Stanton. As the ball rolled to the wall, Bellinger raced around the bases, sliding into third easily ahead of the throw.
With that triple, Bellinger became the first rookie in the long and storied history of Dodgers baseball to hit for ‘The Cycle’ with a single, double, triple, and home run all in the same game.
“Every time he steps on the field,” manager Dave Roberts said per Andy McCullough of the LA Times, “something special can happen.”

Saturday, July 15, 2017

MLB Wildcard: losing teams still have legitimate shot

It’s the weekend after the 2017 MLB All-Star Game break. Teams are finally back in action after a four-day layoff for the start of the traditional “second half” of play.
A look at the Major League Baseball standings through games of Friday night, July 14 reveals that 17 teams are either in a playoff position, or are within a handful of games of a postseason berth.
In fact, there are currently at least a half-dozen teams with losing records who must be considered to still have a legitimate shot.
In the National League, at least for now, the list includes just one team. That would be the defending world champion Chicago Cubs.
The Cubbies have struggled along with a serious case of World Series hangover this year. After building and blowing an 8-0 lead on the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night, they managed to pull out a narrow 9-8 victory.
That win left the North Siders with a record of 44-45 on the season. The Cubs sit 5.5 games in back of the surprising Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central Division race. However, they are just four back in the loss column.
In the NL Wildcard race, the Cubs are a more distant 6.5 games behind the Colorado Rockies, who currently control the second wildcard berth. However, the Rockies are in a bit of a free-fall, having lost 14 of their last 19 games.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

It's a great time to be Pat Neshek

On November 4, 2016 the Houston Astros shipped veteran relief pitcher Pat Neshek to the Philadelphia Phillies.
The trade was a simple salary dump for Houston. Neshek had a $6.55 million option due on his contract for the 2017 season. The Astros didn’t want to pay that kind of money for a middle reliever. 
They found a willing trade partner in the Phillies, who were desperately searching for short-term bullpen help, and who had plenty of money available to spend.
On the surface, it appeared a step back competitively for Neshek. The Astros were an up-and-coming contender in the American League. The Phillies were a rebuilding doormat in the National League. It looked as if it could be a long summer for the 36-year old veteran.
But you never know what the future will hold. The year 2017 has turned out to be one of the best of Neshek’s baseball life. And here in the month of July, it may only be getting better.
The great year began all the way back in March. While his new Phillies teammates were preparing for the season ahead at spring training in Clearwater, Neshek was representing the USA in the World Baseball Classic.
He would be a key shutdown reliever, a key to the Americans finally capturing the WBC championship. Neshek allowed no runs and four hits, striking out four and allowing just a single walk in five innings over five games.

Book Review: "So You Think You're A Philadelphia Phillies Fan?"

New Phillies book is much more than trivia
Like everyone else in Philadelphia during the year 2008, Scott Butler was completely caught up in the exploits of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball club.
The Fightin’ Phils were on their way to the club’s second of five consecutive NL East Division crowns that summer. The season would culminate in the Phillies capturing just the second World Series championship in franchise history.
With all that fanfare as a backdrop, the Penn State grad decided to get in on the blogging game. He founded the “Phils Baseball” blog at philsbaseball.com that year.
Those were heady times for a Phillies fan, and it was a joy to keep up the blog for the first few seasons. The last few? Well, as every Phillies fan knows, things have become much more of a chore.
Undeterred by the recent losing seasons, Butler has published his first book through Sports Publishing. “So You Think You’re a Philadelphia Phillies Fan?” comes along with a subtitle advertising it as “stars, stats, records, and memories for true diehards.”
In its 213 easy to read pages, Butler’s book delivers what it promises. Every summer, I look for a couple of baseball themed books that I can read on the beach, or in my backyard. I love it when I can find one relating to my hometown Phillies. This one is perfect.
Butler breaks his book down into four sections. At the start of each, he poses a set of trivia questions. With each section, the questions get increasingly more difficult.
But then during the ensuing chapter he doesn’t simply answer each of the questions. Instead, Butler gives you the stories behind those answers.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Chase Utley continues to add to his Hall of Fame resume

Chase Utley continues adding to his Hall of Fame resume
In the bottom of the 8th inning on Friday night at Dodgers Stadium, Chase Utley added yet another milestone to his growing Baseball Hall of Fame resume.
Utley drove a 91 mph fastball from Kansas City Royals reliever Neftali Feliz off the base of the center field wall. As Utley hustled to second base with a double, Joc Pederson rounded third and scored a run to put the Dodgers on top by a 3-1 score.
As Pederson crossed the plate, Utley officially reached a milestone. He became the ninth active player in Major League Baseball to reach the 1,000 career RBI mark.
Utley is now 38 years old and appearing in his 15th season in the big leagues. In 13 of those seasons he became a legend with the Philadelphia Phillies.
His first career hit was a grand slam homer at Veteran’s Stadium. The first runner to cross the plate with Utley’s first career RBI on that blast was none other than Jim Thome.
Now as Utley winds down his career in Los Angeles, his career statistics and reputation continue to pile up, adding to what should one day be a relatively easy decision for Hall of Fame voters.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Braves send hot R.A. Dickey to mound in D.C. series opener

Veteran knuckleballer Dickey has been red-hot for Braves
A year ago, the Atlanta Braves finished in last place in the 2016 National League East Division race. The Washington Nationals captured the division crown, finishing 26.5 games ahead of Atlanta.
This season was not expected to go much differently. The Nationals were considered the favorites to win the division once again. Most prognosticators felt that the Braves would do well to again avoid the basement.
As recently as three weeks ago, the Braves sat 11.5 games behind the Nats and in fourth place. But a glance at the NL East standings on July 7 shows that Atlanta has slowly crept to within two games of the .500 mark. They are now just eight games behind Washington.
By winning 12 of their last 18 games, the Braves have moved up the standings and into second place. The improved stretch of play sets up at least a bit of drama as they head to the nation’s capital to open a three-game weekend series at Nationals Park.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Phillies need to be bold at the trade deadline

NL All-Star reliever Neshek will be dealt by end of July
The Philadelphia Phillies are barreling down streak towards the July 31 MLB trade deadline with numerous rumors beginning to swirl around the team.
Most of the speculation revolves around the obvious players. Anyone 30+ years of age who is a pending free agent is likely to move.
The list includes starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, relievers Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit, and outfielders Howie Kendrick and Daniel Nava.
Another possibility to move is catcher Cameron Rupp,  already losing playing time to Andrew Knapp behind the dish. If Rupp is dealt, the Phils could call up Logan Moorefrom AAA Lehigh Valley to serve as the backup while Jorge Alfaro continues to start with the IronPigs.
Can Phillies fans expect their team to receive anything of any substance in exchange for any of these players in any trade? The answer, unfortunately, is a resounding “no” to that question.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Anthony Rendon deserves NL All-Star 'Final Vote'

Nat's Anthony Rendon deserves NL All-Star Final Vote 
The Washington Nationals have led the National League East Division for all but three days this season. 
To the victors traditionally go the spoils, and one of those spoils is that a number of Nationals players have been selected for the NL All-Star team.
In fan voting, three Washington stars have already been selected. Outfielder Bryce Harper will start in the NL outfield. The 24-year old superstar finished with over 3.6 million votes, more than any other player in Major League Baseball.
Second baseman Daniel Murphy will be appearing in his second consecutive All-Star Game. It will be the third career all-star honors for last year’s NL MVP runner-up.
First baseman Ryan Zimmerman is enjoying the best season of his 13-year big league career. He was voted to his second All-Star team. His only previous honor came way back in the 2009.
The Nationals also had two pitchers named to the NL roster, starters Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
Even with that fine representation, there is still one more member of the Nationals lineup also deserving of the honor, third baseman Anthony Rendon.
Rendon has been named as one of five candidates for what MLB promotes as a “Final Vote” process. Fans can go online and vote for their choice until Thursday, July 6 at 4:00pm EDT.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Dodgers sit atop the July 2017 MLB power ranking

The LA Dodgers were scorching hot in June
One month ago, the Houston Astros sat atop my June MLB Power Ranking, my first of the 2017 season. 
My personal policy has always been to make sure we get two full months behind us before making such evaluations, other than a preseason list.
Back at the start of June, the Los Angeles Dodgers were third in the Power Ranking. The Dodgers were also the second-ranked team in the National League at that time behind only the Washington Nationals.
Now as July opens, those Dodgers have romped their way to the very top. The month of July began in exactly the way that June had ended for the club, with an impressive performance.
The Dodgers shut out the San Diego Padres on Saturday night by an 8-0 score. Los Angeles won for the third straight time. It also marked the club’s 20th victory in their last 23 games.
That 20-3 stretch has pushed Los Angeles out to a 3.5 game lead in the NL West. The hot three-week stretch also gives them the best overall record in the National League standings with a 55-28 mark.
The Dodgers are fourth in baseball with 436 runs scored. A combined .790 team OPS is also the fourth-best in the game. Their 344 walks is the highest total of free passes drawn in all of MLB.
On the mound, Dave Roberts‘ pitching staff is the best in all of Major League Baseball statistically. The Dodgers pitchers have a cumulative 3.20 ERA and .224 Batting Average Against. Both of those are the best marks in baseball by a wide margin.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

In 2017 season, offense the name of the game in the National League

Top 2017 NL teams all feature high-powered offense
A glance at the Major League Baseball standings on July 1 reveals that the NL division leaders are the Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers, and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies control the two NL Wildcard berths by a comfortable margin.
One look at the Major League Baseball team statistical rankings on the same afternoon reveal what these teams have in common.
The five current holders of postseason positioning are also the five highest scoring teams in the National League. In fact, the each rank among the top ten teams in all of baseball to this point.

Friday, June 30, 2017

MLB Spotlight Series: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado visits Arizona in big NL West series
The weekend series that is about to take place between the host Arizona Diamondbacks and division-rival Colorado Rockies is extremely important.
These have been two of the more surprising contenders of the 2017 season. The Dbacks lead the NL Wildcard race. Arizona has a 9.5 game cushion on one of those postseason berths.
The Rockies currently control the second NL Wildcard berth. Their nearest pursuer for that spot, the defending NL champion Chicago Cubs, are six games back.
But while these have indeed been two successful clubs over the course of the season, each is struggling of late. Colorado has dropped eight straight games. Arizona comes in after dropping the final two of their last series with the Saint Louis Cardinals.
Both teams have fallen behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the race for the NL West Division crown. The Rockies led the division for most of the season until the current losing streak. Arizona has been playing catch-up, spending just one recent day tied atop the division back on June 1.
The desperation factor is clearly a check mark on the Colorado side. Already fully immersed in a losing streak, the team needs to wake up and reverse the skid before losing becomes habitual. No time like a big weekend series with a division rival to do so.
The Dbacks have lost three games in a row just three times all season. They haven’t dropped four in a row all year. The club certainly doesn’t want to slip in to such a losing skid now.
The series has plenty of talent for MLB fans to enjoy. That includes two of the top superstars in the game today in Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado and Dbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.