Monday, July 23, 2012

Random Rumblings - Baseball Trades & Rumors

Visit "All World All Sports"

-Digger's Daily-

Baseball's new trade deadline rules may or may not alter typical pennant fever transactions. Plenty of teams are looking for help. The new rules may alter previous season "rent-a-player" type moves.

The New York Yankees found a replacement player for injured LF Brett Gardner. Yankees are in Seattle to start a 3 game series. These two teams made headlines in the off season when New York traded top prospect C Montero to Seattle for young fireballing starting pitcher Pineda. This deal promptly blew up in GM Cashman's face when Pineda was lost for the season due to injury. Montero isn't knocking the cover off the ball yet for the M's but they won out here. Headlines were made again today as Seattle traded their most popular player to New York... Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro has struggled throughout this season. I'm willing to bet he's going to have a tremendous second half with his new team. Playing in Yankee Stadium is the perfect location for Ichiro. Ichiro's defense is stellar. He's rumored to be Yanks new LF - something different than what he's accustomed to after spending the bulk of his career in RF & CF. Yanks gave up two pitching prospects and even convinced Seattle to pick up most of their new LF's contract. Home run for Yankees. Mariners clearly in mortgage mode.

Detroit Tigers also got busy today. They fixed two nagging problems with one trade. Detroit picks up 2B Infante and SP Anibal Sanchez from Miami for little known hurler Jacob Turner and two minor leaguers. It seems Miami is ready to pack it in early this season. Miami made pre-season headlines with a new ballpark, new SS Jose Reyes and new manager Ozzie Guillen. It's safe to say it's been a rocky road for all three in 2012. Detroit's merry-go-round at 2B produced the majors worst offensive totals. Infante will be a welcomed addition. Sanchez goes to another pitchers park - the big difference is a ferocious Tigers lineup ready and eager to provide plenty of run support. Perfect timing for a red hot club ready to run away with AL Central.

Truth or rumor? Ryan Dempster is heading to Atlanta? Rumors on ESPN claimed a deal was in place to swap Dempster for SP Randall Delgado. Dempster's season has been stellar. The right-hander leads the majors with a 2.11 ERA and recently reeled off a streak of 33 consecutive scoreless innings. Why stay in Chicago? If my name was Ryan Dempster I'd go begging my GM to finalize the deal! Braves in search of a replacement for injured SP Beachy.

Boston Red Sox attempting to save face on a disappointing season. Key Sox players injured throughout '12 campaign but Boston has stayed within wild card hunting distance. Rumors claiming Sox are hot on the trail of Marlins SP Josh Johnson.

Other notable stirrings coming out of Los Angeles where the Dodgers seem interested in Phillies CF Victorino. He'd become a nice fit atop LA's lineup. Perhaps most pressing is LA's weak infield. Long gone are the glory days of Garvey, Lopes, Russell & Cey. Dodgers infield has no pop, poor range and they're a drain on offensive prodution. Figure it out LA - time to bust a move.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

2012 Major League Baseball: 1st Half Recap

Visit "All World All Sports"

-Digger's Daily-

The first half of the 2012 MLB season was filled with surprises. The New York Yankees have the AL's top record (52-33). Surprise, suprise in the NL. Washington Nationals baseball has everyone taking notice leading all NL teams with a 49-34 record. Get ready for some major mid-season trades as teams take aim at playoff action - or sell off looking to regroup for 2013.

Here's how the first half finished up and what to expect the rest of the way.

American League
AL East
New York Yankees (52-33) Yanks live and die with long ball style play. Yanks bats finally starting coming thru with RISP in June. Starting rotation took a major hit when Andy Pettitte was injured. Expect Yanks to make a move for Hamels. SP upgrade coming - how much are they willing to spend?
Prediction: 1st

Baltimore Orioles (45-40) O's turned heads in April and even managed to take hold of 1st in AL East. It's been downhill since early June. Orioles need starting pitching to remain in the hunt. They recently added slugger Jim Thome who figures to destroy AL East hitters parks if he gets regular playing time. Orioles fans finally have something to cheer about in July!
Prediction: 5th

Tampa Bay Rays (45-41) It's amazing Tampa is in 3rd. Lack of offensive production is staggering. Ranked 28th of 30 teams with a team .232 batting average (.689 OPS is 25th). Starting pitching has been shouldering the load. Longoria limited to 23 games taking a huge toll. He's not expected back until mid-August. Not expecting to see any moves here except for a cheap hitter.
Prediction: 3rd

Boston Red Sox (43-43) Who hasn't been injured? Bobby Valentine's debut season in Boston is ugly. Fans weren't won over by an "outsider" at the helm. A 1-5 and 4-10 start didn't help matters. Key players injured. A riff with fan favorite Kevin Youkilis eventually led to him getting shipped off to Chicago (he's now red hot at the plate). It's been Boston's most turbulent season in a long time. Somehow they're still in striking distance. Good news is injured players returning soon.
Prediction: 4th

Toronto Blue Jays (43-43) Toronto's front office better be figuring out which pitchers they want to lead the 2nd half charge. Jays 127 home runs are 2nd only to the Yankees (134). However, their starting staff has been extremely inconsistent all season long. Pitching, pitching, pitching. Who's it going to be?
Prediction: 2nd

AL Central
Chicago White Sox (47-38) Rookie manager & former Sox star Robin Ventura has his team energized. ChiSox baseball holds a 3 game lead and eager to pull away from the pack. It's been a team effort so far. Dunn rebounding nicely after an embarrassing 2011. Jake Peavy looking great after injury riddled years. Their only weakness - 3B. Plenty of options. Chicago needs to make a move.
Prediction: 1st

Cleveland Indians (44-41) Surprising to see Cleveland 3 games over .500 when studying their stats. 28th ranked pitching staff & 4.50 is a drag on wins. Don't expect Cleveland to remain in the hunt much longer.
Prediction: 3rd

Detroit Tigers (44-42) Are the Tigers ready to roll? 5 straight wins heading into All Star break. Tigers under achieving in 1st half. Verlander is the only exception to a struggling pitching staff. All Star break is exactly what these guys need.
Prediction: 2nd (wild card #2)

Kansas City Royals (37-47) Royals fans will have to keep on waiting. 2012 was supposed to be the year this young talented team started competing. Not yet. Offense has 5 regulars with sub-.304 OBA's. Only 1 starting pitcher with ERA below 4.50. It's been ugly. Time for talent to produce or Kansas City will be stuck at the bottom for years to come. I really wanted to see this team do well in '12.
Prediction: 4th

Minnesota Twins (36-49) Another franchise with a new home field not tailored to their strengths. Pitching staff is horrendous. Hitters inconsistent although a few surprises turning heads (Plouffe, Willingham, Mastroianni).
Prediction: 5th

AL West
Texas Rangers (52-34) Nolan Ryan really knows how to run a baseball organization. The Rangers are a fun bunch to watch. They may or may not fine tune their roster down the stretch. My guess is two near World Series title misses leads to these guys snagging the best bang for their buck should an opportunity to improve arise. No room for error down the stretch of Texas aims to make their 3rd time a charm.
Prediction: 1st

Los Angeles Angels (48-38) LA is 40-23 after a dismal 8-15 start to 2012. Albert Pujols found his stroke in mid-May. Trumbo's explosive bat has been vital. New rookie sensation Trout is turning heads. Pitchers getting the job done. Look out Texas, LA is moving up. Plenty of cash on hand suggests Angels will be big buyers.
Prediction: 2nd (wild card #1)

Oakland A's (43-43) .500 first half baseball kept Oakland in the hunt. Moneyball isn't working as planned (.301 team OBA - 29th, and last with .225 team BA). They'll need a big 2nd half if they're to have any hopes of making the post-season. Injuries and lack of hitting stymied their chances early in the year. A recent 21-14 run provides optimism. 1B was a sore spot offensively and defensively. Problem solved? 1B platoon of Brandon Moss (10 HR, .644 VLG) and Chris Carter (.941 SLG) jump started the offense. The return of rookie Cepedes from the DL and 20 HR from OF Josh Reddick means this team shouldn't be taken for granted. A's bullpen can use a shot in the arm for the stretch drive. Oakland has a legit shot to make a 2nd half run while the baseball world stays focused on NY, Texas, LA, ChiSox, TB etc. 3rd best MLB ERA 3.38. Don't count them out yet!
Prediction: 3rd

Seattle Mariners (36-51) Dead in the water. Very few of moves Seattle's front office makes works. Outside of SP Hernandez, these guys stink! MLB worst .291 OBA. No infielder batting over .243 - only regular starter over .260 is Ichiro who sports a career low .261 BA. Only question in my book is how quickly will M's get to 100 loss plateau?
Prediction: Dead last

National League
NL East
Washington Nationals (49-34) Davey Johnson once again proving he's one of baseball's best field managers. Nationals playing great team baseball. Pitching, hitting, fielding. It's all come together in the first half. Can they hang on? Southpaw Gio Gonzalez and flame throwing Stephen Strasburg keep opposing hitters off balance. Strasburg is on a "strict" pitch limit in '12. Does this mean he's to be benched in late September if/when Washington is in a playoff battle. Hard to imagine benching their top star with a playoff slot on the line. Nats better bulk up on pitching if they're still considering this crazy move. Either way, Washington figures to be in the thick of things thru game 162!
Prediction: 1st

Atlanta Braves (46-39) Atlanta is very much alive heading into the 2nd half. Starting pitching remains a big problem. Atlanta will do their very best chasing after upgrades. Middle infield is another sore spot. Uggla cold all season. SS a revolving door. Braves need to bust a move.
Prediction: 2nd

New York Mets (46-40) David Wright NL MVP? Not quite yet but he is Mets MVP. Terry Collins has done everything within his power to keep New York afloat. Funny thing... everyone (including me) wrote these guys off before the season began. Guess what? If the Mets bullpen was "decent" then they might have been in 1st place at the break. Bullpen is terrible. Injury riddled lineup bailed out by outstanding contributions by fill in players. Jason Bay remains one of the biggest free agent busts in Mets history. RA Dickey and Santana leading the staff. Mets must find a way to re-shape bullpen - quickly.
Prediction: It was fun while it lasted, 4th.

Miami Marlins (41-44) Talk about a team not living up to potential. Was it really potential - or hype? Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez headlining under achievers. Gaby Sanchez putting up career low numbers. Slugging RF Stanton is lost for an extended period. Closer Heath Bell's pitches are connecting beautifully with opposing hitters bats (6.75 ERA). Bullpen mates not fairing much better. Starting rotation talented but very inconsistent. The only good news here is it isn't over 'til it's over. 2012 might be one season and done for manager Ozzie Guillen.
Prediction; 3rd

Philadelphia Phillies (37-50) One word describes Philadelphia's first half - UGLY! C Carlos Ruiz, RF Hunter Pence and SP Cole Hamels represent the only bright spots for a team many predicted to run away with the East. Their demise goes well beyond Chase Utley & Ryan Howard opening the year on the DL. Phillies predicted to be big 2nd half sellers. Hamels name being floated as trade potential on a daily basis. Phillies better beware not to mortgage the farm too quickly.
Prediction: 5th

NL Central
Pittsburgh Pirates (48-37) Pirates taking dead aim at 1st winning season since losing NLCS in 7 games to Atlanta way back in 1992! My pick for 1st half NL MVP is Andrew McCutchen. Most players are contributing. Rotation slots 3-5 need to step up. James McDonald (9-3, 2.37) and AJ Burnett (10-2, 3.68) baffling hitters. Bullpen getting the job done too. This could be the first time in 20 years Pittsburgh looks for late season additions vs fire sales. Pirates one of the feel good stories of 2012 - so far.
Prediction: 1st

Cincinnati Reds (47-38) It's been a win some, lose some season so far for Dusty Baker's Reds. Starting rotation beginning to gel. Young outfielders aren't and must contribute if Cincy wants to reach playoffs. This team is ready for a big win streak - long losing streak - or more of the same. It's anyone's guess as to when Cincy lives up to potential. The sooner the better.
Prediction: 3rd (wild card #2)

St. Louis Cardinals (46-40) Cards faultering after beginning 14-8. Hitters on fire most of the year. Top NL squad hitting .275, 2nd with .340 OBA and .434 SLG. Beltran leads NL with 65 RBI. Pitching is their problem. Lohse (9-2) & Lynn (11-4) are the two lone bright spots. Every other pitcher needs to step up. Expect Cards to bolster roster for 2nd half push.
Prediction: 2nd (wild card #1)

Milwaukee Brewers (40-45) Banged up Brewers limp into 2nd half will probably become late season sellers again. Brew Crew front office has gotten rid of All Star talent in recent years so first to go might be Zack Greinke. CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets & Fielder are just a few of the big names to be sent packing. Milwaukee's lineup has too many holes. Bullpen blows leads. Brewers organization will prove - once again - they're not committed to winning.
Prediction: 4th

Chicago Cubs (33-52) All a loyal Cubs fan can hope for entering a new season is a competitive team to cheer. That isn't asking too much, right? Wrong. Chicago Cubs brand of baseball is terrible. They're about to trade their best players too. Manager Dale Sveum has to go - quickly. Dempster & Soriano on trading block. Cubs prospects offering false hope for 2013. Double bubble or double trouble in Wrigley-land.
Prediction: 100+ years and still waiting, 5th.

Houston Astros (33-53) Houston's farewell NL season is dismal all the way around. First of all, MLB should have sent Milwaukee packing back to AL action. Guess former owner Selig knew Brewers couldn't compete in AL. Why send NL's worst team into slugging league? Baseball politics screwed Houston but if they were too stupid to resist.... Astros young talent desperately needs a proven winner at the helm. Brad Mills is not the answer. Astros must find a former successful player or manager to take over and gel this team. One bad manager after another only hurts player development. Penny wise, pound foolish.
Prediction: 6th

NL West
Los Angeles Dodgers (47-40) Don Mattingly had LA off to a flying start. 32-19 after two months of baseball was just what the doctor ordered after a tumultuous '11 campaign. But then... injuries to key personnel (Kemp, Ethier) slowed down the Dodgers attack. Both player due back from DL stints momentarily. 3B sore spot all season. Rumored to be aggressively chasing Hamels & anyone with 3B skills. Dodgers will fight to the finish.
Prediction: 1st

San Francisco Giants (46-40) Where would the Giants be if former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum was at least decent? He's completely out of sorts sporting a dismal 3-10, 6.42 ERA. Timmy needs to study films because it's really easy for me to figure out his mechanical problems - stop tilting your head kid! Giants poised to be big buyers. Players needed at 1B, SS & RF. One key bat can lift this team into the playoffs.
Prediction: 3rd

Arizona Diamondbacks (42-43) 'Zona hasn't found their stride yet. Missing has been clutch hitting from a year ago. Front office has decisions to make. Don't count these guys out of the wild West just yet.
Prediction: 2nd

San Diego Padres (34-53) Cold hard facts. NL's worst offense (.234 BA). Baseball's lowest scoring team (305 runs). Powerless lineup (53 HR). Y'all think it's time for San Diego to reconfigure ballpark dimensions? Closer Hudson Street is Pads most sought after trade material. San Diego is not a good club and will challenge for 110 losses.
Prediction: 4th

Colorado Rockies (33-52) Rockies 5.26 team ERA says it all. Decision time for Colorado's front office. Pack it in and sell off offensive talent? Or, hold steady and concentrate on revamping pitching staff for 2013? No easy financial decisions here. Many inquiries for CarGo, Cuddyer & Tulo. Time will tell. 2012 is a lost cause.
Prediction: 5th

Stay tuned for 1st half award nominees...

Monday, July 2, 2012

All Star Game 2012 - Stars Set to Shine (And Whine)

Visit "All World All Sports"

-Digger's Daily-

The date is set. Major League Baseball's 2012 All Star Game - July 10, 2012 - live from Kaufman Stadium (Kansas City, MO).

Baseball's Mid-Summer Classic is the best of professional All Star Game's. Baseball players come out ready to play. ASG has transformed over the years (past history and game results). Full rosters give managers headaches trying to get all players into the game. NL squads won the past two games after losing 12 of 13 (7-7 tie in 2002).

My personal favorites - 1981 return from strike game played in August, MVP Gary Carter hit 2 homers as NL topped AL 5-4. The game featured 70/80's icons - (NL) Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Carter, Andre Dawson, Davey Lopes, Dave Parker, Steve Garvey, Fernando Valenzuela, Tom Seaver, Vida Blue, Nolan Ryan, Bruce Sutter and more... AL showcased Rod Carew, George Brett, Reggie Jackson, Ken Singleton, Carlton Fisk, Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn, Eddie Murray, Jack Morris, Rollie Fingers...

Fantastic memories from days of old create golden moments frozen in All Star history. Cal Ripken Jr.'s final game when Alex Rodriguez honored/forced Cal to play SS one final time. Ripken later homered in his final All Star AB.
Fred Lynn's grand slam in 2001.
Reggie Jackson's roof clearing home run in Detroit (1971).
Dave Parker gunning down 2 runners with rocket throws from RF (1979).
Who will be the top performer this year? I'd bet ASG MVP comes from AL's starting lineup. They're all sluggers. It's a huge advantage in AL's favor on paper. (American League All Stars)
C Napoli, 1B Fielder, 2B Cano, 3B Beltre, SS Jeter, OF Hamilton-Granderson-Bautista, DH Ortiz. Yeowza. NL hurlers aren't slouches but this lineup promises to produce unless Mets knuckler & projected starter Dickey's floaters dance around free swinging bats.

Snubbed players has Reds Manager (and former All Star) Dusty Baker pointing fingers at NL Manager (now retired) and former divisional rival Tony LaRussa. LaRussa left off Brewers starter Grienke (9-2) and Reds 2B Phillips. Both worthy of selection .. as are a select few others. Baker believes LaRussa is still holding a grudge against Cincinnati stemming from a brawl a few years ago. Phillips may still get his shot if another players defers or is out due to injury. Dusty might be right. Baker and LaRussa were not friends on the field. Cincy vs St. Louis is a big rivalry. It would be a shame if LaRussa denies a player based on a past grudge. Nobody can know for certain but it makes great reading and intensifies an already tense rivalry.

Picking AS teams is a tough task. Feelings will be hurt. Some players will get snubbed. It sucks for the one's left off but rarely is a non-deserving player in the game (except for starters selected by fans). Rosters have been expanded over the years and will be in years to come. Someone will always feel left out. I would really like to see MLB add Chipper Jones to the NL roster. It's Chipper's final season, he's playing very well (when healthy), and future Hall of Fame players should always be honored during farewell seasons when putting up solid numbers. LaRussa seems inclined to add Jones should someone beg off. I'm just hoping the few left behind don't go public whining away. It serves an injustice to those selected and most guys end up with egg on their faces. Just take it like a man and move on.

Fan voting selects All Star starting hitters/fielders. When I was a young kid I had a blast poking out chads on AS ballots. Shea wasn't drawing many fans in the late 70's so it was easy to walk off with two bundles of ballots and I was fortunate to see many games. Nowadays, fans can stuff ballots online using multiple e-mail addresses. Josh Hamilton shattered fan balloting records this season recording over 11,000,000 votes!

Kaufman Stadium is a great venue to host the game. It's a great stadium and Kansas City needs a boost. Royals reams haven't lived up to expectations. The good news is they're only 6 games out of first place. They're loaded with talent. Maybe the AS break is just what they need. One big cog slogging along is 1B Eric Hosmer. The time is ripe for KC to shock the baseball world by trading for a top notch starting pitcher for the stretch drive. Relivers are solid but over worked. Kansas City hosting the All Star Game could very well energize their fan base for the second half. KC is well within striking distance. If KC fans return to regular season action with ASG enthusiam, then an electric Kaufman will do wonders for 2nd half action.

Guess what? KC fans failed in ballot box stuffing for hometown players. DH/1B Billy Butler is the lone KC representative. It would be nice if AL Manager Washington gets Butler into the game early and for an extended period. Wouldn't it be great for KC's only rep to slug his way to MVP honors!??