Friday, December 5, 2008

Firing up the Hot Stove

In his recent blog, ESPN's Jayson Stark writes "The Giants aren't the only team interested in Florida's Jorge Cantu. There are indications the White Sox also have gotten involved." I hope the Marlins do trade Cantu because the main beneficiary of Cantu going to another team would be former Angels and Salt Lake 3B Dallas McPherson. With Cantu out of the picture, DMac should be the Marlins stater at the hot-corner in 2009.

During his career McPherson has displayed outstanding power but he has been injury prone. At the end of the 2008 season McPherson had surgery on his back. If this past season is any indication, he has overcome his back problems. For AAA Albuquerque McPherson hit 42 homeruns and posted a line of .275/.379/.618. From the Marlins perspective, McPherson would be an improvement over Cantu. For a cheaper salary DMac would equal or exceed Cantu's homerun and RBI production with a higher OBP.

Dallas McPherson is one of my all time favorite Salt Lake players. He demonstrated incrediable potential playing for the Stingers and, with the injury problems finally behind him, I hope he receives the opportunity to be an every day player for the Marlins in 2009. Given the chance McPherson could be one of the best power hitters in the National League.


I shot this video of McPherson at a Salt Lake game in 2004.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Time to Face the Truth

Because the Utah v BYU football game is so important to those of us that live in the state of Utah, I am going to take a break from baseball and post my thoughts on the 48-24 pounding the Utes inflicted on BYU yesterday.

It is time for the arrogant, self righteous BYU fans to face the truth; the University of Utah has surpassed their beloved Cougars as the best college football program in the mountain west. BYU fans have trouble facing this reality because in the past the Cougars have won conference titles, a mythical national championship, and have had a Heisman Trophy winner. But many of these accomplishments are distant memories and have no relevance today. As Deseret News columnist Dick Harmon pointed out in a recent column, BYU is "now 1-20 against ranked teams of late." I would encourage all Cougar fans that are having trouble coming to grips with the truth to say it out loud, "1-20 against ranked teams."

Time to face reality Cougar fans; both Utah and Boise State are several notches ahead of BYU. The BYU Cougars are nothing more than a second tier Division I program.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Trade Billy Butler?

I was reading the online Kansas City Star this morning to find out what the Kansas City media's reaction was to the Coco Crisp trade. At the end of his column Joe Posnanski writes this:

"Now, the trade opens up some interesting possibilities — it’s clear Moore is not finished dealing this offseason...There are continuing rumors that Moore is willing to trade 23-year-old Billy Butler."

Before GM Dayton Moore trades Billy Butler he should reflect on the mistake the Minnesota Twins made in giving up on David Ortiz. Hopefully by looking at the career of Ortiz Moore will decide to not trade Billy Butler.

In 1999 I saw the majority of home games David Oritz played for the AAA Salt Lake Buzz. He had monster power and excellent plate discipline. The 23-year-old Ortiz hit 30 homeruns with 100 RBIs while putting up a .315/.413/.590 line. There was no doubt he had the skills to be a hitting force in the Major Leagues.

The problem for Ortiz in the Twins organization was that manager Tom Kelly didn't want him on the Major League club because he couldn't play a defensive position. Kelly wouldn't accept any DH-only players on the Twins roster. Choosing instead to keep Doug Mientkiewicz, the Twins released Ortiz in 2002. All baseball fans know the rest of the Ortiz story. He has been a league leader in homeruns, RBIs, OBP, total bases, and walks. The four time all star has been one of the key players in both of the Red Sox World Series championships. Trading Billy Butler could be a
repeat of the mistake the Twins made when they gave up on David Ortiz.

In his brief time in AAA Billy Butler put up very similar numbers to David Ortiz.
AAA StatsABHHRAVGOBPSLG
Ortiz47615030.315.413.590
Butler2035913.291.412.542


The similarity is even more striking when Butler's numbers are projected to the same number of at bats that Ortiz had.
AAA StatsABHHRAVGOBPSLG
Ortiz47615030.315.413.590
Butler (projected)47613930.291.412.542


I am not maintaining that Billy Butler will turn out to be the second-coming of David Ortiz but his AAA numbers are very similar to Ortiz. Scouts and other baseball people still like Butler's potential and believe he can develop into a very good Major League hitter. Like Ortiz, Billy Butler is not very accomplished at any defensive position and it is likely his best position will be DH. But it is important to remember that Butler is still a young player and the biggest problem of his development has been hindered because the Royals rushed him to the Major Leagues before he was ready.

Hopefully Dayton Moore will take a step back from the notion of trading Butler and give him the chance to develop. The Royals potentially have a special hitter and it would be foolish to trade him away now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Current Royals Lineup

The big news today is the Royals have traded relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez to the Red Sox for center fielder Coco Crisp. There is speculation this is only first of several trades GM Dayton Moore will make this off season. Mark Teahen could soon move to the north side of Chicago and will be playing for Lou Piniella and the Cubs in 2009. As of now this is only a rumor. But as a result of the trades for Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp the Royals 2009 lineup is better than the one the club fielded in 2008.

POS
2009 STARTER2008 STARTER
C
Miguel OlivoJohn Buck
1B
Mike JacobsRoss Gload
2B
Alberto CallaspoMark Grudzielanek
3B
Alex GordonAlex Gordon
SS
Mike AvilesMike Aviles
LF
David DeJesusMark Teahen
CF
Coco CrispDavid DeJesus
RF
Jose GuillenJose Guillen
DH
Billy BulterBilly Butler

I don't believe Miguel Olivo will be any better at the plate than John Buck but Mike Jacobs will be a huge improvement over Ross Gload. Replacing Mark Teahen with Coco Crisp will also improve the Royals offensive production. It is going to be interesting to see what transpires the next few weeks but the Royals are set up to be a better offensive team in 2009 than they were in 2008.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Honest Answers to the Royals Mailbag Questions

Beat writer Dick Kaegal's mailbag column on the KCRoyals.com website is nothing more than a forum for Kaegal to attempt to put a positive spin on what is going on with the Royals. So, in the interest of not glossing over what the Royals are doing, Rounding Third and Heading Home presents honest answers to the recent mailbag questions.

Why is there so much negative talk about Kansas City acquiring Mike Jacobs? The move makes sense. Fine, Jacobs' on-base percentage is low, but against right-handers (where KC's record was below-average) his numbers are not terrible (.315 OBP with 25 homers). Where are you going to find that type of production for $3 million? -- Steven A., Toms River, N.J.

Steven, even the harshest critics of the trade admit that Jacobs will add homerun power to the Royals lineup. But homeruns alone do not win games. In your email you mention the Royals poor performance against right-handed pitching. In 2008 the Royals .260 average was 13 out of 14 American League teams. But as poor as the Royals were against right-handed pitching in 2008 Jacobs was worse. He hit .257 against righties. You also mention Jacobs .315 OBP against right-handers as "not terrible." You are wrong Steven, a .315 OBP is terrible. In 2008 the Oakland A's had an OBP of .318 which was last in the American League.

With the White Sox considering trading Jermaine Dye, do you see the Royals making a trade for him? -- Anthony, Kansas City

To be honest, Anthony, I have no idea why Kaegal devoted space to your question. Former GM Allard Baird made one of the worst trades in baseball history when he traded Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez. But that is water under the bridge and Jermaine Dye is not coming back to the Royals.

With Zack Greinke and Gil Meche at the top of the rotation, who will the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 guys be? -- Ryan V., Lee's Summit, Mo.

Bad news Ryan, the back end of the Royals pitching rotation is horrible. Greinke and Meche give the Royals a respectable 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. But after Greinke and Meche it becomes scary for Kansas City. It is now obvious Brian Bannister's 2007 season was a fluke. The Royals are courting disaster by continuing to believe Bannister has a chance to be even a serviceable Major League pitcher. Davies had some bright spots in 2008 but I don't have a lot of faith he is ever going to be a starting pitcher to be counted on. Luke Hochevar is still young and and has shown enough positives that I believe he could still develop into a Major League pitcher. As things stand now the Royals should pencil him into the #3 spot in 2009 rotation. But if the Royals are going to improve in 2009 they are going to have to find replacements for Bannister and Davies.

Despite his excellent hitting numbers this past year, everything I'm reading says Alberto Callaspo has no chance at being an everyday player. What's your take on his future? -- Drew E., Albany, N.Y.

Drew, I am concerned about what I am reading about Callaspo's role with the Royals in 2009. Alberto Callaspo is exactly the type of player the Royals should be playing everyday. He is not a superstar hitter or a Gold Glove infielder but he is solid in all areas of the game. Callaspo is young and inexpensive and it would be to the Royals advantage to use the 2009 season to see if he could be their everyday second baseman. But Dayton Moore seems intent on finding a veteran middle infielder for 2009. Doesn't make any sense for Moore to do that with a guy like Callaspo already in the organization. But Moore did trade for Mike Jacobs even though Ryan Shealy and Kila Ka'aihue were already part of the Royals organization so I'm not holding out much hope Callaspo will be anymore than a utility player for the Royals in 2009.




Thursday, November 13, 2008

What the Royals Should Learn from the Phillies

It is now the hot-stove season for Major League Baseball clubs. During the next several weeks teams will sign free agents and make trades in an effort to improve. It is also the time of year for Royals fans to begin singing the small market blues, whining to anyone that will listen that because of their small market limitations there is no way they can compete with teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels. These folks need to stop crying because the 2008 Phillies proved that a team can build a World Series championship team without throwing big money at free agents.

The following table shows how the 2008 World Series championship team was assembled:

PLAYERPOSACQUIREDYEAR
Carlos RuizCSigned by Phillies as a non drafted free agent1998
Ryan Howard1BDrafted by the Phillies-5th round2001
Chase Utley2BDrafted by the Phillies-1st round2000
Pedro Feliz3BSigned as a free agent2008
Jimmy RollinsSSDrafted by the Phillies-2nd round1996
Pat BurrellLFDrafted by the Phillies-1st round1998
Shane VictorinoCFRule 5 draft selection-from the Dodgers2004
Jayson WerthRFSigned as free agent-non tendered by Dodgers2006
Cole HamelsSPDrafted by the Phillies-1st round2002
Jamie MoyerSPTrade from Seattle2006
Joe BlantonSPTrade from Oakland2008
Brad LidgeRPTrade from Houston2008

The Phillies have drafted well, made smart trades, signed reasonably priced free agents, and found a good player in the Rule 5 draft. It should also be noted the Phillies payroll to start the 2008 was only 13th in the Major Leagues.

The Kansas City Royals should be following a path similar to the Phillies. Instead of wasting money on free agents like Jose Guillen and trading for below average players like Mike Jacobs, the Royals need to refocus their efforts and financial resources on the draft, scouting, and player development. This process will require a financial committment from owner David Glass and intelligent decisions by GM Dayton Moore. But with patience and a willingness to stick to the plan the Royals can indeed build a contending team.

Chris De Luca is a Moron!

When I started writing Rounding Third and Heading Home, my goal was to express my view of sports in a straight forward, intelligent fashion. I didn't want to be a an overly emotional blogger that constantly rambled and complained. But I am going to deviate from that style today because of something I read about the 2008 NL Cy Young Award. San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum was the runaway winner of the award, being listed first on 23 of the 32 of the ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Brandon Webb of the Arizona Diamondbacks was second in the voting and Johan Santana of the New York Mets was third. Arguments can be made that either Webb or Santana were the best pitcher in the NL but there is no argument that Lincecum, Webb, and Santana were the three best pitchers in the National League in 2008. (I don't include CC Sabathia because he was not in the NL for the full season).

This brings us to Chicago Sun-Times writer Chris De Luca who didn't put Lincecum anywhere on his ballot. He listed Brandon Webb first, Brad Lidge second, and Johan Santana third. As I said earlier, a case can be made for Webb but it is beyond understanding how De Luca could leave Lincecum completely off his ballot. In an interview with San Francisco Chronicle writer John Shay, De Luca defended his ballot by saying:

"I thought Webb's victories (22) stood out to me more than anything, and Lincecum didn't have the victories. Twenty victories was a big deal. We had a stretch there where no one was hitting 20.
"

Saying that Webb deserved the award over Lincecum because he was the winning pitcher in more games shows that De Luca has absolutely no clue on how to evaluate the performance of a baseball player. In the same number of innings pitched as Webb, Lincecum allowed fewer homeruns, had more strikeouts, and had a lower ERA and WHIP. The only reson Webb won 22 games to Lincecum's 18 is because the Diamondbacks were a significantly better team than the Giants. I can't imagine any baseball writer not understanding the win statistic alone is not a meaningful tool in evaluating a pitcher's ability or accomplishments. But Chris De Luca demonstrated that understanding the game of baseball is not a requirement for being a member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Why Trade Matt Holliday?

Every baseball writer from Tim Kirkjian to Tracy Ringolsby is reporting the Colorado Rockies are going to trade left fielder Matt Holliday this winter. Even though Colorado would get a fine return of prospects from trading Holliday, it would be a foolish trade for Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd to make. The NL West is a winnable division for the Rockies in 2009 and not having Holliday in the middle of the lineup hurts the Rockies chances. If things do not work out and the Rockies are not in contention Holliday could always be moved mid season. Colorado could also keep Holliday and take the compensation draft picks when he moves on at the end of the 2009 season. The Rockies have a realistic chance to contend in 2009 and they should take advantage of that.

The Rockies do have some weak areas and O'Dowd is going to have to make some moves to shore these up.
The player the Rockies should be looking to move is 3B Garrett Atkins. Atkins is a power bat and he is not eligible to file for free agency until after the 2010 season. This should make him appealing to several Major League teams. The Rockies can afford to trade Atkins because they have Ian Stewart to step in and fill Atkins position. Moving Atkins could return a starting pitcher or free up salary to go shopping for one on the free agent market.

There are some teams like the Kansas City Royals that should look at 2009 as a building year and plan their off season moves with a focus on the future. The Rockies are not in that position. With the right off season moves they could enter 2009 as the favorites to win the NL West. Dan O'Dowd and the Rockies front office needs to realize they are not the Royals and add the pieces that will put the Rockies into the playoffs for the second time in the last three years.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thoughts on the BCS

One of the biggest criticisms of the BCS system is that a championship should be decided on the field and not in the polls and computer rankings. In a recent column ESPN.com writer Ivan Maisell makes the point the college football champion is decided on the field. In response to an email complaining that Florida and USC are currently playing better than anyone and it is unfair they will not have an opportunity to play for the National Championship Maisell responses:

"I happen to agree with this reader that the Gators and the Trojans are playing better than just about anybody else right now. The reader suggested Florida and USC ought to be able to decide it -- all together now -- on the field."

"Back up a minute. Why aren't Florida and USC at the top right now? Each of them lost a game. Where did they lose it? In the polls? The computers? No, both of them lost on the field. Florida lost at home to an Ole Miss team that is 5-4. USC lost on the road to an Oregon State team that is 5-3. Didn't that prove something?"


In these two paragraphs Maisell makes a very good point. Polls and computers are not the reason that Florida and USC or Texas and Oklahoma face huge hurdles if they are going to play for the title. The reason Penn State, Alabama, and Texas Tech sit on top of the rankings is because those teams have taken care of business on the field. Texas has no one but itself to blame for losing to Texas Tech. Ditto for USC at Oregon State and Oklahoma against Texas. The BCS is far from a perfect system but to claim the national title is subjective and not decided on the field is wrong.

There is no doubt the BCS is flawed. Some teams play more difficult schedules than others and some conferences do not have championship games. Only a fan with blind loyalty would not admit the Big XII and SEC are loaded while the PAC 10, Big X, ACC, and Big East are weak. But that doesn't take away from the fact that when the season starts each team controls its own destiny. Win games and be in a position to play for the title.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ron Prince Out at Kansas State

According to ESPN.com, Kansas State head football coach Ron Prince will not return to coach the 'Cats in 2009. Prince leaving creates a good news/bad news situation. The good news is Prince is gone, something Rounding Third and Heading Home suggested several days ago. It has been obvious for sometime that Prince is in over his head trying to be a head coach of a Big XII football team. During Prince's tenure Kansas State showed few signs of progress and continued to be embarrassed in key conferences games. Kansas State's recent football history is one of being a conference champion, nationally ranked, and playing in top tier bowl games. Ron Prince never demonstrated that he was capable of maintaining the program at this high level.

The bad news is Athletic Director Robert Krause is going to be responsible for hiring Prince's successor. Wildcat fans should remember that it was Robert Krause that extended Prince's contract last August. It does not reflect well on Krause's judgment that he believed it necessary to fire a head coach a few months after giving him an extension. The future of Kansas State football is hanging in the balance. The next football coach is going to have to undo the damage done by Ron Prince and connect with the tradition and success of the Bill Snyder era. If Krause makes a mistake and hires the wrong coach it could take years for KSU football to recover
.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

RON PRINCE NEEDS TO GO!

Going to take a break from the baseball hot stove discussion and talk about college football. The Kansas State Wildcats' 52 - 21 loss to the Kansas Jayhawks today should convince the administration at Kansas State University that head football coach Ron Prince should be fired. This was another embarrassing Big XII Conference loss and 100% of the blame for the continued failures of the football team rests on the shoulders of Ron Prince. I do not know Prince's contract status but something must be done to send him away or the once proud football program will sink to the depths not seen in Manhattan since before Bill Snyder's arrival.

Ron Prince coached teams are 3-12 against Big XII opponents, 3-8 against the Big XII North, 3-11 in road games, and 0-6 against Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. If there are Prince supporters they might point to the 'Cats wins against Texas, but two good wins do not make a good program. Clearly Kansas State football is struggling and a change needs to be made.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Reaction to the Mike Jacobs Trade

In my October 27 post I wrote my views about the rumored trade that would bring 1B Mike Jacobs to the Kansas City Royals. Later in the week it was announced that Kansas City had traded relief pitcher Leo Nunez to the Marlins for Mike Jacobs. Since I have already expressed my opinion of this trade I thought I would use this entry to post what others are saying about the move.

Respected Baseball Prospectus writer Rany Jazayerli wrote the following on his
blog before the trade was announced:

"But let me be clear about this: trading for Mike Jacobs is a terrible idea."


"Jacobs wasn’t even all that good in 2008. He certainly had his uses; he hit 32 homers in just 141 games, and slugged .514 for the Marlins. But he drew just 36 walks, and his OBP was .299. Two-ninety-nine."


"The mere fact that Moore is talking to the Marlins about Jacobs tells me he still doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get that what really ails his offense isn’t the lack of power, it’s the lack of walks."


"There were 29 players this season who batted at least 300 times and played at least half their games at first base. Only two of them had a lower OBP than Ross Gload’s .317. One was John Bowker, rookie first baseman for the Giants, who had a .300 OBP. The other – with the lowest OBP of any first baseman in the game – was Jacobs. That’s right: Moore has managed to find a first baseman that actually reached base less often than Ross Gload. And he’s willing to give up talent to get him."


The
Miami Herald Newspaper was not complimentary in describing Jacobs.

"...the former catcher [Jacobs] was a defensive liability and had a low on-base percentage."


The Kansas City Star's
Upon Further Review blog was not overly critical of the trade, but the writers did point out interesting facts relating to the trade:

"Jacobs and Jose Guillen posted two of the 10-lowest on-base percentages among all qualifying hitters in big-league baseball during the 2008 season. Now they are likely to be paired back-to-back in the Royals' batting order."


"...as I've written many times, the most typical age for a hitter to have his career season is 27. Prior to last season, Jacobs hit 20 and 17 homers for the Marlins in a similar number of plate appearances. So there is a good chance that Mike Jacobs is never going to threaten the 30 home-run mark again."


Ted Carlson, who writes a very good blog for
Rototimes.com didn't see Dayton Moore's rational for making the trade:

"But I fail to see this as a necessary upgrade for the Royals. It seems to create more headaches than anything else, and I'm already shuddering at the thought of the club trying to slot Jacobs into the fourth spot. You just know they're going to try it. And Jacobs is going to stink as a No. 4 hitter in the AL, just as he stunk when he tried to be the No. 4 hitter for the Marlins this past year."


The final word on the Royals' ridiculous move comes from fantasy baseball website
Rotoworld.com:

"The Royals' finished with a .320 team OBP that ranked 27th in the majors last season, and Dayton Moore's answer to that problem is to pick up a first baseman who finished at .299. Jacobs did hit 32 homers, but he's a 28-year-old with a career .262/.318/.498 line and he's a below average defender at first base."


There is not much to like about this trade and Royals fans can only hope that Dayton Moore does not make anymore senseless moves this off season.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Congratulations to J.C. Romero and the Phillies

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a fan of the Salt Lake Bees is watching players move on to success in the Major Leagues. Salt Lake baseball fans have been fortunate to watch many good players cut their teeth here before establishing themselves as solid Major Leaguers. David Ortiz, Torii Hunter, John Lackey, and Chone Figgins are a few of the players that fans in Utah have had the pleasure to watch. But of all the Salt Lake players that I have had the opportunity to watch and get to know Phillies reliever J.C. Romero is my all time favorite. It was because of Romero that I was rooting for the Phillies to win the World Series.

Romero made his first appearance for Salt Lake in 1999. At that time my 11 year old son and I attended almost every home game. We would sit on the front row by the bullpen which gave us an opportunity to talk to the pitchers. Game after game J.C. was outgoing and friendly toward my son and he quickly become my son's favorite player. It was very special to an 11 year old boy to feel like he was friends with a professional ball player. The following year Romero started the season with the Twins but was sent back to Salt Lake. My son was excited to have his favorite player coming back to town but I was worried he was setting himself up for disappointment. I explained to him the previous season was a long time ago and that Romero might not even remember him. As it turned out my worries were unfounded. Romero made a point to talk to my son and it was clear that J.C. remembered my son. From that moment I've always rooted for J.C. Romero.

Romero was outstanding for the Phillies in the 2009 post-season. He did not give up a run in 7.1 innings, striking out 4 without walking a hitter. He was the winning pitcher in 2 World Series games. The ultimate goal of every Major League player is to play on a World Series winner. J.C. Romero has now accomplished that goal and in the process proving that truly good guys can succeed in sports. Congratulations to J.C. and the rest of the Phillies.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Lesson to Learn From the Yankees

Beginning in 1947 and continuing through 1964 the New York Yankees won 16 American League pennants and 10 World Series titles. In 1965 the Yankees finished 9 games below .500 and in 6th place. Yankees fans were shocked. How could a team that made a habit out of winning pennants and championships fall so far so fast? This is an important question for the Angels because if they don't make significant moves this off season they could end up experiencing the same fate as the Yankees of the 1960s.

The 1965 Yankees had future Hall of Fame players Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford and former AL MVP winners Elston Howard and Roger Maris. But in 1965 Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Elston Howard, and Roger Maris were getting old. Bobby Richardson, Clete Boyer and Tom Tresh were above average but not the type of players a pennant winning team is built around. Young players such as Bobby Murcer, Jake Gibbs, Roy White, and Roger Repoz never developed into the championship-caliber type of players the Yankees front office believed they would. In 1966 the Yankees finished behind the Washington Senators and Kansas City A's in last place. It would be 9 more seasons before the Yankees would reach the post-season.

This period of New York Yankees history should not be lost on the Angels. Beginning in 2002, the Angels have won a World Series championship and 4 division titles. But unless drastic changes are made during this off season, the 2009 version of the Angels could follow the same path as the 1965 Yankees. Vlad Guerrero and Garret Anderson are getting older. The Angels have picked up Vlad's 2009 option but it is questionable if Anderson will be back. Torii Hunter and Chone Figgins are both solid players players but neither are corner stones of a World Series winner. Experts have said that Howie Kendrick, Eric Aybar, Brandon Wood, Sean Rodriguez, and Kendry Morales have potential but it remains to be seen if they can produce at the Major League level.

The starting pitching the 2009 Angels will have is something the Yankees of the mid to late 1960s did not have. John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, and Jered Weaver have all proven to be Major League quality pitchers. There is no arguing that John Lackey is a true ace. But starting pitching alone is not enough to guarantee continued success when the offensive line up has so many holes. Most Angels fans believe signing Mark Teixeira is the most important off season move the team should make. But signing Teixeira is not enough to ensure continued success. It is time for Reagins and Scioscia to attempt to make several changes to this team's lineup through trades and free agents signings to ensure that October baseball is not a distant memory for the Angels.

This entry is also posted on the Angelswin.com blog.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Big Mistake by Joe Maddon

The conventional wisdom of baseball says win the game being played today and worry about tomorrow's game tomorrow. According to this morning's St. Petersburg Times, Rays manager Joe Maddon is going against this strategy. The newspaper reports that Maddon is planning to use his bullpen to finish the suspended game 5 and save starting pitchers James Shields and Matt Garza to pitch games 6 and 7. Maddon is quoted in the article as saying "we have to win this game [suspended game 5] to get to Garza." By choosing to use his bullpen, Maddon is setting his team up to have their season end Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

The Tampa Bay bullpen has been less than stellar in the World Series. Grant Balfour, Chad Bradford, Edwin Jackson, Trever Miller, David Price, Dan Wheeler, and J.P. Howell have combined to pitch 14.2 innings. They have allowed 12 hits, 5 homeruns, walked 8 batters, and allowed 8 runs. In the only game of the Series the Rays have won, starting pitcher James Shields pitched 5+ innings of shut out baseball. In an elimination game, Maddon should use the best pitcher he has available. That pitcher is staff ace James Shields. If Maddon goes through with his plan to use his bullpen the next game Shields or Matt Garza will pitch will in the opening series of the 2009 season.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mike Jacobs to the Royals?

After a hectic summer and fall I am again posting my thoughts on baseball and other sports here on Rounding Third and Heading Home.
The following appeared in this mornings online edition of the Miami Herald:

The Marlins have decided to raise their payroll to the $30-$35 million range and have been in serious talks to trade Mike Jacobs...The Marlins wanted to deal Jacobs to Kansas City, but the deal died last week

If trading for a player like Mike Jacobs is general manager Dayton Moore's idea of improving the team, the Kansas City Royals will never be a contending team in the American League Central Division.

Mike Jacobs is a free swinging first baseman with some pop in his bat. In 2008 he hit 32 homeruns and drove in 93 for the Marlins. But he also posted a .248 batting average, struck out 119 times, and showed poor plate discipline by posting a .299 OBP. Jacobs will also command a huge pay raise this off season as he is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time. The Royals also have options to man first base in 2009. Kila Ka'aihue had a monster year for AAA Omaha and Ryan Shealy is fully recovered from his injuries and performed well for Kansas City in September. It is likely that either Ka'aihue or Shealy would be able to produce nearly as well as Jacobs for close to the Major League minimum salary.

I don't see any realistic options for the Royals to become a legitimate contender in 2009. In 2008 the White Sox and Twins fought to the end for the division title and the Indians played at a .543 clip in the final 81 games of the season. There is no reason to believe that any of these teams will have a drop off in 2009. Heading into this off season my fear for the Royals is they will add players that might help them to a respectable record in 2009 but not move the team closer to contending for the post-season. Dayton Moore needs to understand that 2009 is not the year for the Royals to compete for the post-season and begin to lay the groundwork for the club to contend in 2010 or 2011. Acquiring a mediocre player like Mike Jacobs is not going to move the club toward contention.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Letter to the Editor

I wanted to share with everyone a letter to the sports editor that was printed in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune. I do not know the letter's author but it is nice to see another fan that is as passionate about the Salt Lake Bees and the players that have played here as me.

ANGELS UTAH'S TEAM, NOT ROCKIES
So the Colorado Rockies think they can win new fans from Utah by showing games on FSN Utah. Not this baseball fan. I'm a lifelong Chicago White Sox fan, and I cheer on the Arizona Diamondbacks, since I spent 11 years in Arizona. But what team do I look for in the sports section every day without fail? The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Utah has the privilege of being home to the AAA-Pacific Coast League team of the Angels, the Salt Lake Bees, and of the Pioneer League Orem Owlz. What better way to get behind a major league team than to watch the players as they are making their way up to The Show?

I comb the box scores to see how Chone Figgins, Mike Napoli, Jeff Mathis, Howie Kendrick, Casey Kotchman, former Buzz Torii Hunter and others did the night before. Who pitched? Joe Saunders? John Lackey? Did Francisco Rodriguez get another league-leading save? I remember his pitching during the Stingers' 2002 playoff run, after which he went to the Angels and helped them win the World Series.

Major League Baseball, and first-place teams to follow, are right at our fingertips. Go watch a Bees game at Franklin Covey Field in person. Check out SLBees.com. Get involved in your local team first, and see where that leads you. Probably not to the Rockies, even if they are on TV.

LISA BROTHMAN, Cottonwood Heights

Unlike Lisa, I enjoy watching the Colorado Rockies on the local FSN network. But Lisa does bring up an interesting question, why can't FSN Utah broadcast the Angels? The answer is Major League Baseball's complicated and convoluted territorial rights and black out policies. That topic will be a subject of a future blog entry.

Lisa is not alone in her dedication and passion for the Salt Lake Bees. Utah is fortunate to have two teams affiliated with the Los Angeles Angels, one of the best organizations in Major League Baseball.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Stop Crying Cardinals Fans

It is inter-league time and the Royals and Cardinals are playing the second installment of the 2008 I-70 Series. Each year when Kansas City and St. Louis hook up many Cardinals fans and announcers begin what has become a yearly ritual, whining about how a blown call cost their team the 1985 World Series. The mention of umpire Don Denkinger still sends many of the Cardinals faithful into a rage. What most of these fans refuse to understand is the missed call by Denkinger didn't cost the Cardinals the World Series. In the interest of setting the story straight this entry is going to revisit Game 6 of the 1985 World Series and show the Cardinals fans they have no one to blame but their own team for not winning the title.

Game 6 was played at what was then called Royals Stadium. Pitchers Danny Cox of the Cardinals and Charlie Liebrandt were both outstanding and the score was tied at 0-0 as the game headed into the 8th inning. In the 8th inning former Salt Lake Bees manager Brian Harper hit an RBI single and the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead. The lead was still 1-0 when the Royals came to bat in the bottom of the 9th. Jorge Orta led off the 9th hitting a ground ball to Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark. Clark fielded the grounder and flipped the ball to Cardinals pitcher Todd Worrell covering first. The ball was there on time and even Royals fans will agree that Jorge Orta should have been called out. But umpire Don Denkinger missed the call and Orta was safe at first base. Even though Orta was on base because of a missed call this did not cost the Cardinals the game. The chain of events that followed provided the Cardinals with opportunities to over come the call and win the game.

Steve Balboni followed Orta and hit a routine foul pop up between home plate and first base. Jack Clark and Darrell Porter converged on the ball but for some unknown reason neither of them made the catch and the ball harmlessly hit the ground. Cardinals fans I have spoken with about Game 6 have forgotten this play. Even though a high school junior varsity team makes the catch on that foul ball 100% of the time two Major League players on a team that is three outs from winning the World Series let it drop. Can't blame that on Don Denkinger Cardinals fans. Instead of one out and a runner on first there are no outs and Balboni was still at the plate. Taking advantage of the second life Balboni singled and the Royals had runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs.

Catcher Jim Sundberg was up next and he laid down a sacrifice bunt. Worrell fielded the ball and threw to third to nail Orta. Sundberg's bunt was not a good one and Worrell made a nice play to get the lead runner. The Royals gave up an out without moving the runners and there was one out with runners still on 1st and 2nd with Hal McRae the hitter.

The Hal McRae that stepped into the batters box that night was not the same Hal McRae that was one of the American Leagues more dominating players of the 1970s and early 80s. He was in the twilight of his career and he had only hit .259 in 1985. McRae was still a hitter to be feared but he was also a double play candidate and a double play would end the game and give the Cardinals the championship. McRae never got to swing the bat because Todd Worrell uncorked a wild pitch that allowed the runners to advance to 2nd and 3rd. With runners on 2nd and 3rd Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog had Worrell intentionally walk McRae. The wild pitch was a killer for the Cardinals and it was not the fault of Don Denkinger. This is another play in Game 6 that Cardinals fans fail to remember while they are claiming they were robbed.

With the bases loaded and one out Royals manager Dick Howser sent Dane Iorg to the plate to pinch hit for Dan Quisenberry. Dane Iorg was 35 years old and only batted 130 times for the Royals in 1985 hitting a weak .223. He wasn't a hitter to be feared but in this game Iorg was better than Worrell. Iorg hit a soft line drive to right field that scored two runs and giving the Royals an unbelievable victory. The Royals had staved off elimination and forced a deciding Game 7! Game 7 was anti-climatic as the Royals steamrolled the Cardinals 11-0 for their only World Championship.

Cardinals fans are still bitter and claim they were cheated out of the 1985 World Series. But the blown call at 1st base in the 9th inning of Game 6 did not decide the game or the World Series. A foul ball that wasn't caught, a wild pitch, and a complete meltdown by the entire St. Louis Cardinals team and manager in Game 7 were key factors that caused the Cardinals to lose. St. Louis fans need to stop playing the role of victim and blame their own team for not finishing off the Royals and winning the series.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Steven Shell Makes it to "The Show"

Former Salt Lake Bees pitcher Steve Shell made his Major League debut for the Washington Nationals last Sunday. In the game Shell pitched one inning and retired the Texas Rangers in order. Tonight against his former team the Los Angeles Angels he pitched two innings, giving up no runs, two hits, while striking out one. I was able to see both games on television and it was exciting to see Shell finally make it to the big leagues.

For two seasons I watched Shell work hard as a starter and reliever for the Salt Lake Bees. But despite the hard work and Major League talent, Shell could never find a level of consistency and at the end of the 2007 season he was released by the Angels. During the off season Shell signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals. After posting a 2.62 ERA and a 54/14 K/BB in 58.1 innings for Washington's AAA team at Columbus Shell got the call to the Major Leagues. Steve Shell is a talented pitcher with three Major League quality pitches. If he is able to find consistency he will be a positive addition to the Nationals bullpen.

What I remember most about Shell's career in Salt Lake is that he is a great guy. Before a game that he wasn't scheduled to pitch he would always take the time to visit with fans and sign autographs. He was a good friend of Dave "Net Man" Pratt and I know Dave would be very happy and proud of Shell for making it to the Major Leagues. I am also happy for Steve Shell and I wish him nothing but good luck. I am rooting for him to have a long and productive Major League career.

This entry is also posted at Angelswin.com

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

To Hank Steinbrenner - JUST SHUT UP!

ESPN radio hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic used to do a weekly feature on their popular Mike & Mike in the Morning program where they would give out the "Just Shut Up" award. This award was given to a sports personality who either ran their mouth too much, said something stupid, or both. In the spirit of Mike & Mike's award today's entry is directed to Yankees Co-Chairperson Harold "Hank" Steinbrenner. Hey Hank, JUST SHUT UP!

I will preface my comments by letting everyone know that I am a lifelong American League fan and I am not a Yankees hater. I like watching many of the current Yankees play and through the years I have enjoyed many games at Yankee Stadium. But there is no defense for Hank Steinbrenner's latest whining to the press. His comments directed toward the National League were out of line.

Last Sunday Yankees pitching ace Chien-Ming Wang injured his foot running the bases against the Houston Astros. The injury is serious and Wang will not be able to pitch until September. Most general managers and owners would accept what happened and move forward because injuries are a part of baseball that all clubs must deal with. But Hank Steinbrenner didn't accept the injury. Instead he unloaded to reporters. His comments as reported in the USA Today:

"
My only message is simple. The National League needs to join the 21st century.....They need to grow up and join the 21st century. Am I (mad) about it? Yes, I've got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He's going to be out. I don't like that, and it's about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s."

The rule that Steinbrenner is referring too is the one that doesn't allow American League teams to use the designated hitter when an interleague game is played in a National League stadium. When an AL team plays in an NL park their players must play the complete game of baseball. All players in the lineup must play a defensive position on the field and hit and the run the bases when up to bat. Wang was injured playing the game of baseball Hank. The rule might have originated in the 1800s but 16 of 30 MLB teams and millions of fans still believe the DH needs to be removed from the game. Even though the rule has been around since the 19th century, until it is changed it still applies to all AL teams in the 21st century when they visit a NL city. Here is a suggestion for Hank Steinbrenner and the Yankees. Instead of complaining to the press Steinbrenner needs to accept that his pitcher is injured and, along with GM Brian Cashman, needs to find a way for the Yankees to overcome the injury to a key player.

Good luck to the Yankees as they fight to overtake the Red Sox in the AL East. I hope they are able to do it because I don't want another year of Red Sox nation dominating the post season. But regardless of how things turn out Hank Steinbrenner needs to "JUST SHUT UP!"

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My Dad, The Mick, and Father's Day

Happy Father's Day! Today's entry is dedicated to my dad Robert Mark. It has been two years since my father passed away and, even though the pain of his death has eased over time, I still miss him. My father and I were very different people. We disagreed on politics, religion, the economy, and almost every other subject or issue. But the biggest common bond we shared was baseball and the greatest memories I have of my father center around the game. Going to Kansas City A's and Royals games, playing catch, and watching the then dreadful Atlanta Braves on cable television are a part of my life that I will always cherish. In his day my dad was semi pro player and even at age 70 he could step in a batting cage and crush 80 mph pitches both left and right handed.

It wasn't until later in my life that I began to appreciate the stories my dad would tell me about the game. My father was a Yankees fan because when he was growing up Kansas City was one of the Yankees top farm team. Whitey Ford, Hank Bauer, Elston Howard, and Mickey Mantle were some of the Yankee greats that passed through Kansas City on their way to the Bronx. Mantle was his favorite player and my dad would talk about The Mick for hours. As I young boy I heard about Mantle's Triple Crown season, his ability to hit the ball out of sight both left and right handed, the homerun he hit that almost went out of Yankee Stadium, his blazing speed, and how Mantle would have been even greater if not for all of the injuries he suffered. I remember asking my dad once if he had watched Don Larson's perfect game in the World Series and his immediate response was to tell me there would not have been a perfect game if not for Mickey Mantle's great catch early in the game. Even though I never saw Mickey Mantle play in person and barely remember him on television I have a vivid picture in my mind of his career thanks to my dad's stories.

Last summer I took a trip to New York with my son and we went to two games at Yankee Stadium. In many ways my relationship with my son is similar to the one I had with my dad. We have very little in common but we still enjoy watching and talking about baseball. As my son and I sat at Yankee Stadium I told him the Mickey Mantle stories his grandpa had shared with me. We went to the third deck in right field and I showed him where Mantle's homerun almost left the stadium. I pointed to death-valley in left center field and recounted the catch Mantle made that saved Don Larson's perfect game in the World Series. My son, who is a young adult, listened and asked questions and I was able to pass my father's love of baseball and Mickey Mantle on to him. It was almost as if my dad was at the game with us and it was a very special time for me.

This will be the second Father's Day I will not be able to share with my father. But my dad left me with a love for the greatest of all sports and for that I will always be blessed. Happy Father's to all.


Mickey Mantle saves Don Larson's perfect game

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Response from an Oakland A's Fan

In yesterday's entry I took issue with the Baseball Playoffs Now blog's calculations that predicted the Oakland A's would win the AL West. I wrote the Angels were the superior team in the AL West and would win the division. In response to that entry I received an email from Oakland A's fan Justin Kase who believes Baseball Playoffs Now blogger Dan Jarrett got it right when he predicted the Oakland A's over the Angels. Even though I disagree with Justin, his comments were intelligent and respectful and I want to share them with the readers of this blog.

"I disagree [that the Angels will win the AL West]. I mean, yes, I'm an A's fan, but I am also a fair and analytical baseball guy. If you look at the Run Differential, the Halo's are a mediocre at best team. They have done fairly well in the early part of the season but this can be attributed more to, for lack of a better word, luck. I do not think there will be another low run differential team like the Diamondbacks this year. While many others say the Halo's are ripe for a slump, I just think that they are a mediocre team ripe to play like a mediocre team. Lackey is a phenomenal pitcher, but outside of him, the starting group is suspect at best. K-Rod can't hold up if they continue to use him at the pace they have been. The offense is good, but not great.


On the other hand, you have an A's team that is brimming with young talent and is playing well below their run differential. They have the best team ERA in the bigs. Duke, innings short or not, has the lowest ERA of starting pitchers in the AL. Harden is looking, above all, healthy and completely nasty. The A's offense is a work in progress and, yes, there are some injury issues, but the injuries don't protract any further than the all star break and plenty of in-house options exist. The A's are much better suited for a run at the AL West Crown than the Halos are."


A big thanks to Justin for taking time to comment on the blog entry in a respectful manner. It is nice to have a conversation with a fan of another team without insults and trash talking. I would encourage all my readers to check out Justin's blog. Justin's page can be accessed by clicking here.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

AL Playoff Predictions in June

Earlier this week we looked at the Baseball Playoffs Now National League playoff predications. Today we will take a look at Dan Jarratt's AL predictions.

According to his most recent post, Dan has the Boston Red Sox winning the AL East, the Chicago White Sox winning the Central, the Oakland A's winning the AL West, and the Tampa Bay Rays as the AL wild card team. The playoffs outcome has Boston and the White Sox each winning their respective ALDS in five games with the White Sox over the Red Sox in the ALCS. From a personal view I would love to see an all Chicago World Series. With all of the media bias toward the Red Sox and New York teams having them both at home during the World Series while two teams from the mid-west battle it out would be outstanding!

I do have one issue with Dan's predictions. The Oakland A's are NOT going to win the AL west! I am not saying this because I am an Angels fan. Currently the A's are five games behind the Angels and are having injury problems. The Angels injury problems are improving and it won't be long before the Halos are at full strength. When the Angels are at full strength they are far superior to any team in the AL west.

I would encourage everyone to check out Dan's most recent prediction entry. Not only can you read the most recent breakdown but he also explains how he determines the predictions. The blog is located at http://baseballplayoffsnow.blogspot.com/

We will check back with Dan's predictions at the All Star break to see how his formula has things shaping up.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

NL Playoff Predictions in June

A week ago I was browsing the Yardbarker.com site when I came across an interesting blog called Baseball Playoffs Now written by Dan Jarratt. Dan has created a mathematical formula to predict the final records of all Major League teams. He also uses mathematics to predict how the MLB playoffs will turn out. He updates his site daily so the predictions are always current. I am not a true disciple of the sabermetric baseball analysis but I do enjoy reading and discussing new statistical ways to view baseball. In this entry I am going to comment on Dan's NL predictions.

In his June 9 post Dan has the Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Philadelphia Phillies as the three NL division winners and the St. Louis Cardinals as the NL wild card team. In his June 10 post he has the Cubs sweeping the Diamondbacks and the Phillies sweeping the Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs and the Cubs sweeping the Phillies in the NLCS. While I agree with Dan's four NL playoff teams I don't see the playoffs turning out the way his formula predicts.

I would give the Cubs a slight edge over the Diamondbacks and I agree Chicago should beat Arizona in a best of five NLDS. But I don't see any way the Cubs will be able to steamroll a team that will have a playoff rotation of Dan Haren, Brandon Webb, and Randy Johnson. Instead of a sweep I can see a playoff series between the Cubs and Diamondbacks going the full five games with the Cubs eventually coming out on top.

In the other series I believe the Phillies will man-handle the Cardinals. The Phillies are clearly the better team and should have little problem with the Cardinals. In this instance I agree with Dan's projections.

A Phillies - Cubs match up in the NLCS would be an outstanding series for baseball fans. Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, and Alfonso Soriano against Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins would be a great showcase for the National League. As things stand now I agree with Dan's prediction the Cubs would win the series but I don't see it happening in four straight games. The Phillies lineup is too powerful to lose four straight to anyone in a playoff series.

Later this week I will break down Dan's AL predictions. I want to thank Dan for allowing me to reference his blog and I would encourage all of my readers to check out Baseball Playoffs Now. The URL is http://baseballplayoffsnow.blogspot.com

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Angel Berroa to the Dodgers

Yesterday the Royals gave Angel Berroa away to the Dodgers. The official line is the Royals traded Berroa and cash to the Dodgers for 21 year old minor leaguer Juan Rivera. But when the details of the trade are examined it becomes clear the Royals are paying the Dodgers to take Berroa off their hands. The player Kansas City is receiving in return is a low level minor leaguer that doesn't project to be a Major League player. Berroa had long ago fallen out of favor with Royals fans and most Royals fans are glad to see Berroa gone.

It is understandable why Royals fans feel that way. After winning the A.L. Rookie of the Year award in 2003, Berroa signed a long term multi-million dollar contract with the Royals. At the time many Royals viewed this as a sign the Royals were no longer going to allow their young talent to move on to other teams. But Berroa performance declined to the point that in 2007 he was removed from the 40 man roster and sent to AAA Omaha. Berroa had become another entry on the long list of Allard Baird's misjudgments and failures. Even though Berroa had been playing well at Omaha this season it was never a consideration he would be called up to replace the struggling and over matched Tony Pena Jr. as the Royals shortstop. Angel Berroa was finished as far as the Royals were concerned.

But while most Royals fans are greeting the news of Berroa's departure as good news I am sad he was not given a chance to recapture his old job. Last season when the Omaha Royals visited Salt Lake I had the opportunity to watch Angel Berroa hours before game time. Each night he would take extra batting practice and hundreds of extra ground balls at shortstop and second base. I can't remember a harder working ball player than Berroa. I also had the chance to visit with him and I found him to be one of the nicest professional athletes I have met. In his situation many players would have hung their head and given up or stopped working at the game and just collect their paycheck. Berroa didn't do either of these. He was a professional all the way. Even during the games that he was not playing he kept himself ready and was constantly encouraging his teammates. By the time the Omaha Royals left town I was a huge Angel Berroa fan.

Several sources are reporting that Berroa is going to get a chance to play for the Dodgers. Injury problems have created a hole at shortstop for LA and Joe Torre is going to give him an opportunity to play on a regular basis. I hope he makes the most of it and has success for the Dodgers. My favorite type of sports story is when an athlete overcomes adversity through hard work and dedication. It is all the better if the athlete is a good guy. Best of luck to Angel Berroa. I will now be watching Dodgers games and rooting for him.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kendry Morales

The Angels need to find a place for Kendry Morales in their lineup. The Cuban defector has proven all he can in the minor leagues and the time has come for Morales to become a full time Major League player.

At age 18 Morales was a star for the Havana Industriales. In Cuba he played he all over the field, first and third base, right field, and even pitcher. After being suspended from the Cuban national team in 2003 after Cuban officials suspected he was trying defect. After several unsuccessful attempts, Morales finally defected on June 8, 2004. In 2005 Morales signed a six year contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and began his journey to the Major Leagues.

For the past three seasons Morales has spent the majority of his time playing for the Salt Lake Bees.
After watching Morales play during the past three seasons it is my view he is ready to hit in the Major Leagues. He is a switch hitter with a short, compact swing, and excellent bat speed. He drives the ball to all fields and has what scouts like to call "doubles power." His current line of .315/.354/.497 along with 8 homeruns and 37 RBIs is evidence that he is on top of this game at the pate. Defensively he is an average player. Primarily a first baseman, Morales has also played third base and the outfield.

Unfortunately for Morales the Angels do not have a position for him to play. Casey Kotchman has established himself as the Angels long term first baseman and Morales is not good enough defensively to play third base or the outfield in the Major Leagues. But as the Angels continue to struggle to score runs, a solution has to be found to use Morales' hitting talents in the Angels lineup.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Fantasy Tip of the Week - Trading for a Pitcher

Earlier this week I received the following trade offer from a fellow NL-only league owner:

"Hey Kevin: Would you be interested in a Zach Duke for Wily Mo Pena deal? Duke is at $1. In the last 16 1/3 innings, he's allowed only 5 runs. His ERA would be even more impressive if the idiot Pirates manager didn't leave him in to start the 8th inning Tuesday night with a 12-1 lead. His reliever gave up two of the baserunners he inherited. This is the best Duke has looked since 2005 when he was 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA. I have pitching to deal and am willing to gamble."

I have never had much interest in Zack Duke but because I am desperate for pitching I considered the offer. To evaluate the trade I did not use the statistics my fellow owner included in his offer. Despite the fact ERA is a standard scoring catagory in fantasy leagues, it is not a good way to evaluate a pitcher's performance. Even though Duke has only allowed 5 earned runs in his last 16+ innings of work I quickly discovered he isn't pitching any better now than he has in the last several seasons.

Zack Duke has pitched 20.1 innings in his last three starts. In those three starts he struck out 6 and walked 7. There is no way a starting pitcher that walks more hitters than he strikes out is going to help a fantasy team. Duke's .86 strikeout to walk ratio is well below the National League average of 1.84. Duke's 2.66 strikeouts per 9 innings ratio is more than 4 strikeouts below the National League average of 6.68. It was easy to correctly determine Zack Duke is a very below average National League pitcher. As desperate for pitching as I am, no way am I making a deal for him.

When evaluating a trade for a starting pitcher I rarely look at the pitcher's ERA. Instead I consider the pitcher's strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB), strikeouts and walks per nine innings pitched (K/9, BB/9), and batting average of balls in play (BABIP). I then compare these ratios with league average. If the pitcher is league average or better, I consider making the trade. This is a simple way to determine the quality of a starting pitcher.

If you receive a trade offer for a pitcher with a low or improving ERA dig deeper into the statistics before saying yes. More than any other statistic, a pitcher's ERA is a product of good or bad luck. Failure to take the time to examine how the pitcher is truly performing could result in you being stuck with an ineffective starter that every five days hurts your team.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Welcome Back to Salt Lake DMac

One of the best players in the history of the Salt Lake Bees franchise returned to Franklin Covey Field Tuesday night. 2004 minor league player of the year Dallas McPherson is now in the Florida Marlins organization, playing 3B for the Albuquerque Isotopes. Since AAA returned to Salt Lake in 1994, McPherson is the most complete hitter that has played for the club. He played half a season for the Stingers in 2004 and he put up monster numbers. Critics of McPherson point to his high strikeout rate, but there is no arguing about his ability to crush a baseball. 20 homeruns, .313 average and an OPS of 1.049 in 2004 were impressive numbers but you had to see McPherson play to truly appreciate his ability. He had tremendous bat speed and hit with power to all fields. He was an above average third baseman and an excellent base runner. McPherson was called up to the Angels at the end of the 2004 season. At the time, there was no doubt he was ticketed for a great Major League career with the Angels. Unfortunately, since 2004 injuries have derailed his Major League career.

Since the end of the 2004 season McPherson has had three major surgeries, one on his hip and two on his back. He missed the entire 2007 season recovering from the latest back surgery. All of the reports on McPherson indicated the surgery corrected his back problems and he would be ready to go at the beginning of the 2008 spring training. Despite the positive outlook on McPherson's health, the Angels released him. McPherson signed a free agent contract with the Marlins and is currently putting up very good numbers for their AAA team.

After watching McPherson play this week against the Bees I am convinced he is healthy and ready to be a productive Major League hitter. In the two games against the Bees, DMac is 4-8 with 2 runs scored and 3 RBI. He has made two outstanding plays at 3B and is running the bases without any noticeable problems. For the year McPherson is hitting .302 with 10 homeruns. He is always going to be a high strikeout hitter and so far this season he has K'd 41 times. But he has also walked 19 times and his OBP is a sparkling .414. He has an OPS of 1.049 and is hitting the ball with authority almost every time up.

McPherson has reached the limit of what he can accomplish and prove in the minor leagues. It is time for him to get an opportunity to play every day in the Major Leagues but I don’t see it happening with the Marlins. Jorge Cantu and Mike Jacobs have the corner infield positions locked up. But there are other teams that could use a power hitting corner infielder and, if the Marlins aren't going to give McPherson a chance, I hope they will trade him to a club that will. Dallas McPherson is now ready to fulfill the promise of being a solid Major League power hitter. Hopefully the opportunity comes this season.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Wil Nieves

One of my favorite Salt Lake players currently in the Major Leagues is Washington Nationals catcher Wil Nieves. Nieves was the primary catcher for Salt Lake during the 2003 and 2004 seasons and was typical of many players that have played for the Buzz-Stingers-Bees. A solid player AAA level player but not a Major League prospect. Nieves was never in the Angels catching position plans. He was holding the catching position long enough for Mike Napoli, Jeff Mathis, and Bobby Wilson to advance through the Angels system to the upper minor leagues. Nieves was a battler and played with a lot of hustle. He was friendly with the fans and would always take time to sign autographs before the game. He was polite, soft spoken, and he is the only player that I am aware of that used contemporary Christian music for his walk up song. By 2005, Jeff Mathis was ready to assume the AAA catching duties and Nieves was let go.

After leaving the Angels system, Nieves played three years for the AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees. He did appear in 35 games for Yankees and hit a soft .164. At the end of the 2007 season the Yankees released Nieves and he signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals. This move appeared to firmly established Wil Nieves as another minor league journeyman catcher.

Injury problems this season left the Nationals with little choice but to call Nieves to the Major Leagues. So far Nieves has made the most of his opportunity. He as played in 11 games for the Nationals, hitting .379. The crowing moment for Nieves was a walk off homerun he hit against the Chicago Cubs on April 26. Nieves' homerun is one of the things that make being a fan of a minor league team so much fun. It is heart warming to see a good guy like Wil Nieves have a moment of glory in the Major Leagues. Bees fans take a lot of pride that star players David Ortiz, Torii Hunter, Francisco Rodriguez, and John Lackey played for Salt Lake on their way to the Major Leagues. But what is exciting for me is seeing players like Wil Nieves, Nathan Haynes, and Ryan Budde making the most of their opportunity to play in the Major Leagues. Congratulations to Wil Nieves for his game winning homerun against the Cubs. Hope you hit a few more Major League homeruns this season.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fantasy Tip of the Week - Chad Tracy

The Arizona Diamondbacks are off to a 20-8 start and leading the NL West by 5 games. What should scare other NL West teams is the D-Backs will get a boost soon when 3B Chad Tracy returns. According to the Arizona Republic, Tracy is set to begin a rehab assignment and is only two weeks away from returning. The emergence of Mark Reynolds at 3B makes Tracy’s role a bit uncertain. But it is important to remember the left-hand hitting Tracy is not yet 28 years old and is signed through the 2009 season. The Diamondbacks aren’t going to bury him on the bench when he activated.Tracy is a solid Major League hitter and will help fantasy owners in homeruns, RBI, and average. Even if Tracy is platooned with the right-hand hitting Reynolds he will be a valuable addition to an NL-only or deep mixed league fantasy team. If the CI position on fantasy team is currently filled with someone like Geoff Blum add Tracy to your roster and be patient. He will be a significant help to your team's offense.