Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Cardinals Pitching Pipeline Set to Deliver Again

The St. Louis Cardinals have always produced strong homegrown talent, and a trio of pitchers are coming to continue that tradition.

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the most successful teams in Major League Baseball history, arguably the National League's most consistently successful. The Cards have reached the MLB postseason a dozen times already in this new century. They have been World Series champions 11 times in the modern era, including in both 2006 and 2011.
One of the hallmarks of the organization has been the ability to develop and bring to the big leagues some great starting pitchers. From Dizzy Dean in the 1930s to Bob Gibson in the 1960s to Adam Wainwright in recent years, outstanding homegrown starting pitching has helped lead the way to World Series glory.
The Cardinals missed out on the postseason in a 2016 season that saw the club finish 86-76. After winning the NL Central Division crown in three straight seasons, the Cards finished in second place this year, a distant 17.5 games behind the eventual World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
The team wasn't far off from a return to the MLB playoffs, however. They finished just one game behind both the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants for an NL Wild Card berth.
One of the problems keeping the Cardinals from regular season success this year was the pitching.

Bryce Harper Will Return Strong in 2017

Washington Nationals young superstar outfielder Bryce Harper had a "down" season in 2016, but will return to dominating form in the 2017 season.

Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper was the National League Most Valuable Player in 2015 at just 22 years of age.
In that 2015 season, Harper hit for a .330/.460/.649 slash line with 42 home runs, 99 RBI, 118 runs scored and a 189 OPS+ mark. He made his third NL All-Star appearance and was also honored with a Silver Slugger Award.
It was always going to be hard for Harper to equal that performance in this past season, and that indeed turned out to be the case. This year, Harper declined to a .243/.373/.441 slash line with just 24 homers, 86 RBI, and 84 runs scored. He did improve on the base paths this year, stealing a career-high 21 bags.
Aside from the batting average, those are not bad numbers for almost any player in Major League Baseball.

Boston Red Sox Just Pitching Away From Domination

The Boston Red Sox have some of the best young position player talent in the game and just need to upgrade their pitching in order to become truly dominant.

The Boston Red Sox finished at the top of the American League East Division standings in 2016. The club finished four games ahead of both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles.
In the postseason, the Red Sox were swept out of the ALDS in three straight games by the Cleveland Indians. Two of the three games were decided by a single run.
The BoSox will be losing their longtime leader, David Ortiz, who rides off into the sunset of retirement. He will take 38 homers, 127 RBI, and a .315/.401/.620 slash line at age 40 with him.
While the loss of Big Papi will be a big one in many ways, the Red Sox have young talent that can make up for that loss. Veterans Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia will return to man the right side of the infield. They will provide the experience while a group of the most exciting and dynamic youngsters in the game continues to develop.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, third baseman Yoan Moncada, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., and right fielder Mookie Betts are all among the best in the game at their positions. All are in their low-mid 20s.

Barry Bonds Deserves Hall of Fame Enshrinement

A highly controversial former MLB superstar will again be eligible for Baseball Hall of Fame voting this year, and he deserves to be elected and inducted.

There is little doubt that Barry Bonds is one of the most controversial figures in Major League Baseball over the last few decades.
Along with players such as Pete RoseMark McGwireSammy SosaRoger Clemens, and Manny Ramirez, Bonds is a player who would be a slam-dunk Baseball Hall of Famer if only statistics and career achievements were considered.
Bonds is in a category with all of those players other than Rose. Issues with gambling on the sport are keeping the game's all-time hit king from being enshrined at Cooperstown as a ball player. The issue with Bonds and the others is performance enhancing drugs. Use of PEDs appears to have been chronic throughout the 1990s and into the early part of this century.
The problems for Bonds can almost certainly be traced to the 1998 home run chase in Major League Baseball between McGwire and Sosa. That summer, the pair captured the attention and hearts of fans as they chased the single-season home run record of 61. That record was set by Roger Maris all the way back in 1961.
MLB was still trying to recover from the devastating effects of the strike of 1994.

Cy Young Award Should Be for Starting Pitchers Only

Each year that an MLB reliever has a dominating season there are discussions as to his Cy Young Award worthiness, and baseball should finally resolve the issue.

The Cy Young Award, emblematic of the best pitchers in MLB during each season, has been awarded since the 1956 season.
For the first decade of the award's existence, from 1956-66, there was one honoree for all of baseball. Beginning in the 1967 season, a Cy Young Award was bestowed on the top pitcher in each league.
The award has been given out in every year since its debut, including for the 1994 season that was canceled halfway through due to the strike.
The first true relief pitcher to win the award was Mike Marshall of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974. Marshall won 15 games and saved 21 to take the NL honors that season. Three years later, Sparky Lyle of the New York Yankees became the first relief pitcher in the American League to win the honor with 13 wins and 26 saves.

Texas Rangers to Get New Ballpark

The Texas Rangers will be getting a new retractable roof ballpark thanks to results of voting by Arlington residents.

The Texas Rangers will be getting a brand new retractable roof ballpark, replacing the 23-season-old Globe Life Park.
Voters in Arlington, Texas on Tuesday approved a measure that provides a half-billion dollars in public funding for the ballpark.
It is anticipated that construction will get underway in 2017, and that the Rangers' new home could be open in time for the 2020 season.
Per the local, voters approved the funding by an overwhelming margin:
In unofficial returns, with 132 of 137 precincts reporting, 60 percent of the voters approved a financial package that includes extending a sales tax and a hotel/motel tax to pay as much as $500 million towards a state-of-the-art facility next to the existing Globe Life Park, which opened in 1994.
There was much concern in the Arlington area that had the voters not approved the funding, the Rangers would begin to seriously consider a move to Dallas in the coming years.
Opponents who see the public funding of ballparks as something of a subsidy for wealthy team owners countered that these were simple scare tactics.
Early returns indicate that the funding will pass by something like a 60-40 margin. The new ballpark should guarantee that the Rangers will remain in Arlington for decades to come.

Nine First-Timers Among 2016 Gold Glove Award Winners

The 2016 MLB Gold Glove Awards were announced last night, and there were nine first-timers among the honorees.

When MLB announced the 2016 Gold Glove Award winners for fielding excellence last night, a total of nine first-timers were among the honorees across the two leagues.
In the National League, center fielder Ender Inciarte of the Atlanta Braves, second baseman Joe Panik and catcher Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo from the world champion Chicago Cubs were all first-time winners.
In the American League,  Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees in left field and Mookie Betts of the rival Boston Red Sox in right field each won their first Gold Glove Award.
On the infield in the AL, first baseman Mitch Moreland of the Texas Rangers, second baseman Ian Kinsler of the Detroit Tigers, and shortstop Francisco Lindor of the pennant-winning Cleveland Indians all won their first career Gold Glove Award.

Phillies Hellickson Qualify Offer is a Win-Win

The Philadelphia Phillies have made a 2017 contract qualifying offer to one of their key starting pitchers, and fans wonder how they should feel about it.

Major League Baseball teams had until Monday afternoon to extend a "qualifying offer" to any of their pending free agents. By choosing to not extend the offer, the player would immediately have become a free agent, free to sign with any other team.
But by extending the offer, the team would place the proverbial ball back in the player's court. A player would have one week to decide whether to accept or decline the offer.
Accept, and the player returns to the team under a one-year contract at the predetermined value. Decline the offer, and the player has decided that he will take his chances in free agency.
If the player then signs a contract with another team, that signing team forfeits their first round selection in the next MLB Amateur Draft to the previous team.
That is, unless such a draft pick is "protected", meaning that it is among the top ten picks in the draft. If the signing team possesses such a top ten pick, then the previous owners would receive the next highest pick from the signing team.
It is by no means a slam-dunk decision for the player. This year, the value of MLB qualifying offers was set at $17.2 million dollars, the average of the top 125 salaries from this past season.
Accept the offer and a player has decided to remain with his team for another year, playing for that $17.2 million salary. It's not a bad deal. You make good money, and then can become a free agent once again next year.

Tigers' Michael Fulmer Should Be the AL Rookie of the Year

A pitcher with the Detroit Tigers has been one of the top rookies in the American League this season, and should be the AL’s Rookie of the Year Award winner.

It has been a full decade since the last Detroit Tigers player won the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
That year, 23-year old right-handed starting pitcher Justin Verlander went 17-9 over 30 starts with a 3.63 ERA to take the voting by a comfortable margin over the Boston Red Sox 25-year old reliever Jonathan Papelbon.
Verlander has gone on to a fantastic career with the Tigers over the last dozen seasons. He won 24 games and the 2011 Cy Young Award as part of 173 career victories. This season, Verlander is again a leading Cy Young favorite.
Now a decade later, the Tigers again have a right-handed starting pitcher up for the award. In my opinion, he deserves to be the winner.
Michael Fulmer turned 23-years old back in spring training, the same age as Verlander when he won the top rookie honors.
Fulmer was the New York Mets pick during the supplemental first round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft at 44th overall out of a Oklahoma high school. He then went to Detroit in a 2015 trade deadline deal for Yoenis Cespedes.
Called up by the Tigers at the end of April, Fulmer won seven of his first eight decisions and was 9-2 by the MLB All-Star break.
Though he only won twice more over the balance of the regular season, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Fulmer tossed eight Quality Starts over 13 outings in the season’s final two and a half months.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Nationals Have Pitching to Deal

The Washington Nationals have great starting pitching depth and could move an arm or two to shore up a couple of other problem areas.

The NL East Division champion Washington Nationals had until yesterday afternoon to decide whether or not to exercise the 2017 contract option on left-handed starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez.
Picking up the $12 million option on the 31-year-old southpaw would have been a slam dunk for almost every team in Major League Baseball. 
Gonzalez went 11-11 this past season with a 4.57 ERA and 1.342 WHIP. He also allowed 179 hits over 177.1 innings with a 171/59 K:BB ratio.
Those are certainly not “ace” numbers. And they also don’t measure up to the strong five-year stretch that Gonzalez registered from 2010-14.
And it’s not as if the Nats don’t have other options. While most teams are searching high and low for quality starting pitching options, Washington has an embarrassment of riches on the mound.