Saturday, July 26, 2014
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THE LATEST

As this is being written, Philadelphia Phillies fans are sitting and asking themselves 2 things, Why and How? How did Ryan Howard start becoming such a colossal failure? Why did the Phillies sign him to such an expensive and long term contract? Why are Philly Cheese Steaks so good? Actually, everyone knows the answer to that last question, they are simply awesome. However, long gone are the days of Ryan Howard being the most feared power hitter in the league. That leaves the question, what happened? Howard is only 34 years old, not a spring chicken by any stretch, but not a fossil either. With his futile play and albatross of a contract, his days in the city of brotherly love seem to be numbered

First reported by Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, the Phillies have considered releasing Ryan Howard and ending his tenure with the club altogether. The problem with that is Howard’s $25 million dollar salary this season and the remaining $60 million dollars on his contract. Therefore, eating all of that salary and potentially paying him to do nothing or rejuvenate himself elsewhere while paying him doesn’t sound too appealing. Despite all of this, the Phillies seem to indicate the money isn’t the issue for them involving riding themselves of Howard.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com followed up Jim Salisbury’ s story by adding a new report of the Phillies looking for trade partners for a potential trade involving Howard. Heyman added that indications from the Phillies were that they would be willing to eat “much or most” of Howard’s remaining salary. Obviously, the Phillies won’t be able to move Howard and his eroded skills without essentially paying the other team to do so, so they are definitely doing their due diligence in attempting to move him. On the season, Howard is batting just .224/.305/.377 with 15 Home Runs and 60 Runs Batted In. A far cry from the .278/.379/.589 and 49.5 Home Runs he averaged from 2006-2010.

This decline for Howard can be directly attributed to one freak injury that changed the course of his career. It was the 2011 NLDS and on the last pitch and out of the series, Howard hit a groundball and as he began running to first base, he ruptured his Achilles tendon. The injury took Howard out of commission for a huge portion of the 2012 season as he only played in 71 games that season. Simply put, since that injury, Howard has went from elite slugger to struggling and overpaid occasional home run hitter as from 2012-2013, he averaged only 12.5 Home Runs and 48.5 Runs Batted In. However, even with his reduced stats, a change of scenery and a new challenge for a contending team might be just what the doctor ordered. That is where the New York Yankees come in.

Even with just 15 Home Runs and 60 Runs Batted In, Howard is outperforming the vast majority of the New York Yankees offense. And despite having lost 80% of their starting rotation, the pitching for the Yankees has not been the issue, that honor belongs to the offense. With their current “incremental” upgrade mindset, Ryan Howard represents that to a tee. Mark Teixeira, although productive this season and still proven that cannot be relied on long term. As we speak, he is nursing a mild lat strain that might warrant another DL stint. That would be Teixeira’s second of the season, to go along with the other litany of minor injuries hes suffered. Those injuries have forced the Yankees to use everyone from Carlos Beltran to Kelly Johnson and currently to Brian McCann to play first base. A position they are not familiar with and it has shown in the defensive quality of play.

With Teixeira constantly missing time and Carlos Beltran on track to soon being able to play in the outfield once again, Ryan Howard becomes a perfect fit for the team. Even when Teixeira is healthy, Howard can play at first for him and give Teixeira an occassional breather. Once Carlos Beltran resumes playing in the outfield, Ryan Howard can slot into the DH spot and get himself at-bats there. Additionally, the Yankees can just have a powerful lefty bench bat to call on to pinch hit in key situations and/or against certain pitchers. It’s been apparent for a longtime that Howard is not the best defender at first, far from it, but having someone who has actually played the position is much better than trotting out players who’ve either never or rarely ever played at the position. Simply put, Howard can serve many key roles for the Yankees all while not costing much.

Many fans might scoff at such a proposal, with very valid reasons to boot. Has he declined as a player? Yes Is he getting older? Yes Is he overpaid? YES!  However, he would not be brought to New York to be the savior, just a contributor. And if Philly does indeed pick up a significant portion of his salary, there is no reason not to at least consider the trade. As we’ve seen in recent years with aging veterans coming to New York such as Lance Berkman, Ichiro and Alfonso Soriano, the thrill of a pennant race, the bright lights of New York and the glory of the pinstripes are more than enough to bring a player from brink of the end to the peak of the mountain.

Is it a problem?

April 15th is a day baseball fans know very well; its Jackie Robinson day. On that date in 1947 Jackie broke the color barrier and forever changed the game we all love as we knew it. From 1947-1981 African Americans went from being 0% of the MLB up to 18.7%. Every year on that day in April we pay our respects and remember what a great man he really was. However after 1981 you can see in the chart below that it kind of balanced up and down up until 2004 and we really see the drop. Because ever since 2004 we have seen the African American population in baseball in the single digits. As of 2012 we are down to 7.2% which is the lowest since 1957, now the question everyone is asking is simple; why? Could it just be the simple fact that since expansion in scouting more scouts are finding themselves in the dominate Latin communities? Because since 1967 Latinos are been in the double digits. Could it be that just more African Americans are taught as children to play other sports such as basketball or football? Its all simply a debate; I’m just here to lay down the facts and you create your own theory, your own answer.

 

YearWhiteAfrican-
Americans
LatinoAsian
194798.3%0.9%0.7%0.0%
194898.5%0.7%0.7%0.0%
194996.6%1.5%1.9%0.0%
195095.3%1.7%3.0%0.0%
195194.3%2.9%2.8%0.0%
195294.4%2.9%2.7%0.0%
195393.3%3.7%3.0%0.0%
195490.7%5.6%3.7%0.0%
195589.8%5.2%5.0%0.0%
195688.2%6.7%5.1%0.0%
195788.1%6.7%5.2%0.0%
195886.7%7.4%5.9%0.0%
195984.8%8.8%6.5%0.0%
196082.3%8.9%8.9%0.0%
196182.6%9.7%7.7%0.0%
196281.9%10.1%8.0%0.0%
196380.1%11.7%8.2%0.0%
196479.3%11.7%8.9%0.1%
196578.3%12.7%8.8%0.1%
196676.9%13.4%9.7%0.0%
196775.6%13.6%10.7%0.0%
196873.8%15.4%10.8%0.0%
196974.4%14.5%11.1%0.0%
197073.7%14.6%11.7%0.0%
197173.9%15.5%10.6%0.0%
197272.9%16.1%10.9%0.0%
197371.6%17.4%11.0%0.0%
197471.1%17.4%11.5%0.0%
197571.3%18.5%10.2%0.0%
197670.5%18.0%11.5%0.0%
197770.7%17.9%11.4%0.0%
197871.3%17.4%11.3%0.0%
197971.4%17.9%10.7%0.0%
198071.1%17.4%11.6%0.0%
198170.1%18.7%11.1%0.0%
198270.4%17.9%11.7%0.0%
198370.3%18.0%11.6%0.0%
198469.6%18.4%12.0%0.0%
198570.3%18.3%11.3%0.0%
198670.0%18.3%11.8%0.0%
198769.9%17.7%12.3%0.0%
198868.2%17.3%14.5%0.0%
198970.3%16.5%13.2%0.0%
199068.6%16.6%14.8%0.0%
199166.8%17.0%16.1%0.1%
199267.7%16.7%15.6%0.0%
199366.3%16.8%16.9%0.0%
199465.0%17.2%17.8%0.1%
199564.5%16.1%19.2%0.2%
199663.2%16.0%20.4%0.4%
199760.9%15.0%23.5%0.5%
199862.0%14.3%22.8%0.8%
199961.7%13.6%23.5%1.2%
200061.2%12.8%24.7%1.3%
200160.7%12.1%26.0%1.2%
200260.8%10.8%26.5%1.9%
200361.0%10.4%26.8%1.8%
200460.3%10.1%27.7%1.8%
200560.9%9.1%27.8%2.3%
200661.3%9.0%27.8%1.9%
200763.1%8.5%26.1%2.2%
200862.1%8.2%27.3%2.3%
200962.2%7.1%28.5%2.1%
201063.0%7.8%27.2%1.9%
201163.5%7.9%26.9%1.7%
201263.9%7.2%26.9%1.9%

 

 

What I would like to point out is the different positions that African American are playing the most, and positions that they are just completely absent from.

{focus_keyword} African American decline in baseball Demographics2

 

As you can see from the chart above mainly African Americans are playing in the outfield, and the catcher position is all but absent. Why is this? To be honest it may just be a coincidence, it may just be that catcher is not a sexy position to play and most kids aren’t taught to become one. I’d like to point out though that pitchers have all but stayed the same over the last 65 years.

 

{focus_keyword} African American decline in baseball Demographics3

pitchers however have always been a dominate white position, that’s just how its been it hasn’t changed. As fans we always here every year,” this new Cuban player” or Venezuelan, or Dominican player is the next big thing, that’s where the Latino spike has accord. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, pitchers were between 39% and 44% of the total player pool. Since 2006, pitchers have been over 50% of the pool. That could be one reason pitchers have changed throughout the years.

Pitchers and catchers now make up 14 or 15 spots on the 25 man roster, and with African Americans not really being shown in those two positions could explain a lot about the dip in population. As you can see in this graph on catchers diversity.

{focus_keyword} African American decline in baseball Demographics4

Now for almost 30 years African Americans made up about 40% of the outfield, but after 1999 it finally dropped under 30%

{focus_keyword} African American decline in baseball Demographics7

 

You can say what you want you can posses your own opinion on the fall of African Americans in baseball, these are simply the facts; and the facts show that the numbers are dropping for whatever reason it is.

This is my own personal opinion; baseball is a thinking mans game, constantly having to check on runners, or pitch counts, or always having to out guess the pitcher. Its a very tough sport to play that takes hand eye coordination, it takes speed, power and concentration. Baseball is a sport of failure, its a game where if you succeed 30% of the time you’re a hall of farmer. As kids we grow up loving the game, idolizing everything about it and the role models who play it. Also as kids we want to succeed and if we can find something that’s easier were going to gravitate towards that. I’m not saying football or basketball or even hockey is not tough all I’m saying is those sports mainly take physical abilities. Not everybody is a 6’7 small forward who also weighs 240lbs. Not everybody is a 6’4 wide receiver who runs a blazing fast 4.40 40 time. Baseball is a game of all different heights and weights and they can all succeed in their own way, like easily compare Prince Fielder to Dee Gordon; both successful in their own ways. This dip in races in baseball is one that I personally think will continue, and it will get worse; however it won’t change the way we view the game or how we play it. Race is a but a color, a family tree; if you enjoy the game of baseball if you’re taught fundamentals at an early age and enjoy it you’re going to pursue it no matter if your black, white, brown anything.

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Throughout the last 3 weeks the Mets have emerged and possibly shown their potential and made themselves known as the underdog that can come out on top. One of my main reasons the Mets have had so much success is due to prominent starting pitching and the best one of all has been Rookie Jacob deGrom. Never heard of deGrom? How could we blame you, he wasnt selected until the 9th round of the 2010 MLB draft and wasn’t given much consideration as someone who could make a name for himself at the big league level.

deGrom attended Stetson University where he was a shortstop and didn’t made the transition to pitching until his junior season. Jacob made his rounds through the minor leagues and after 3 short years deGrom was added to the Mets 40 man roster after last season. Going into Spring Training there was rumors floating around that deGrom may compete for the Mets last spot in the rotation, which he did, but was beat out by Jenrry Mejia and Daisuke Matsuzaka. The season began and like others before injuries occurred. Dillon Gee found himself on the DL and Jenrry Mejia made the switch to the bullpen. The Mets began a pivotal 4 game series with the Yankees and it was announced before the series started that Jacob deGrom was getting called up and would make his MLB debut for the last game of the series at Citi Field. If deGrom was nervous, it didn’t show a bit. He was dominate, going seven innings only allowing one run and striking out six on as big a stage as it gets in the Subway Series. In that game deGrom singled in his first MLB at bat snapping the Met pitchers 0 for 64 skid to start the season the worst by a pitching staff in MLB history.

After another brilliant outing for deGrom on Tuesday in a Mets win vs Seattle it awakened the talks of possible rookie of the year consideration for the young 26 year old. This is what manager Terry Collins said about the job deGrom has done, “He’s always flown under the radar,” Terry Collins said. “Still is. This guy’s got numbers to match up any rookie in the league. You never hear his name mentioned.” deGrom has the best ERA (3.01) and is the only rookie pitcher in the National League to have thrown at least 50 innings. Diamondbacks Chris Owings and Reds Billy Hamilton are the only two other candidates that it stands now and neither has ran away from the competition. In his last six starts deGrom is sporting a 1.59 ERA the best of any rookie pitcher.

The Mets are going to be careful with deGrom’s arm but have no plans to shut him down or skip a start especially if the Mets hunt for the playoffs continues. Of course the Mets are not looking for another Matt Harvey situation but it is almost impossible to shut down someone pitching so well. DeGrom is surely not afraid of a challenge and has had no issues challenging hitters and competing with the best of the best. DeGrom has competed better than any other rookie in the National League this season and with out a doubt is deserving of the consideration if not winning the award itself.

The Yankees have made another one of those “incremental” upgrades that General Manager Brian Cashman has been referring to. The Yankees acquired left handed pitcher Chris Capuano from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for cash considerations. This is the third organization that Capuano will be a part of this year and hopefully for Yankees fans will be his most successful.

Capuano signed with the Boston Red Sox on a one year deal prior to the 2014 season. The deal seemed to be paying dividends in the beginning of the season as Capuano was one of the more effective pitchers in the Red Sox bullpen. However, a rough month of June really roughed up Capuano’s entire stat line and he finished his tenure with the Red Sox with a 4.55 ERA in 31 2/3 innings all while walking about 4.3 and striking out 8.2 batters per nine innings.

After being released, Capuano latched on with the Colorado Rockies and has been pitching for their AAA team. In 19 1/3 AAA innings, Capuano has a 2.79 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 rates. Much improved numbers from his time in Boston and could be a harbinger of things to come. Capuano costs the Yankees nothing but money and could serve an upgrade over longman David Huff or lefty specialist Matt Thornton. Additionally, Capuano can be a spot starter for the Yankees as well. All and all, Capuano can end up being a pitcher who serves many duties for the Yankees during their stretch run, much like a Chad Gaudin in 2009.

 

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Mariners acquire DH/1b Kendrys Morales from the Twins

In a weird twist the Mariners have traded for Twins 1b/DH Kendrys Morales, after he turned down multiple Mariner offers in the offseason. Morales, after sitting out for all of the offseason in attempts to get a contract before signing with the twins in June, is batting .234/.259/.325 with a dismal wRC+ of 57 in 39 games. However he didn’t have a spring training or any time in the minors to get into a rhythm and hit major league pitching. Over the last couple weeks he has shown improvements with a 12 game hitting streak that just got snapped the other day.

In short the deal appears good for the Mariners as he has proven he can hit in Safeco Field and his track record says he should return to being a .270/.320/.450 by seasons end. He will most likely replace Corey Hart in the DH role, who’s struggled mightily this year coming off of surgeries to both knees in 2013. The Mariners will pick up the remaining 4 million on Morales’ contract for the remainder of 2014.

In return the Twins will receive RP prospect Stephen Pryor. Pryor originally was very highly regarded coming up the Mariners system. After showing flashes of brilliance back in 2012 and the beginning of 2013 injuries derailed him. His injury was originally a lat strain, however it healed wrong and eventually led to him needing shoulder surgery last year. He only began pitching again in May of this year and has struggled with the Tacoma Raniers. Obviously it will take time for him to regain his arm strength and command, but he still has good upside and potential to be a very good Major League relief pitcher with 4 years of team control.

The Detroit Tigers have acquired right-handed closer Joakim Soria from the Texas Rangers in exchange for pitching prospects. These right-handed pitching prospects are Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel. The deal was first reported by Kyle Bogenschutz of Scout.com. Tigers GM Dave Dombroski confirmed an email later that current closer Joe Nathan would remain the team’s closer, despite the acquisition.

Detroit had entered the day with the fourth-worst bullpen in the American League ERA a 4.41 ERA. The Tigers has been pursuing bullpen help for weeks now and were also named to have inquired about Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, but now, Papelbon will have to sit tight and wait to see if he gets traded to a contender at the deadline.

Joakim Soria, 30, has pitched in 33.1 innings out of the bullpen and has posted a 2.70 ERA and an outstanding 1.07 FIP, while saving 17 games in his first full season since 2011. He missed all of 2012 and the first half of 2013 following his second career Tommy John surgery. Soria was signed this offseason to replace Joe Nathan, who actually signed with the Tigers, the team he was traded to. Soria’s contract includes a $7 million club option for 2015.

Jake Thompson, 20, was the Tigers’ second round selection in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. In 89 innings spanned over 17 starts, Thompson has a 3.13 ERA with an 8.2 K/9 in 17 starts this year between 16 starts at Class-A Advanced and one at Double-A. Baseball America called him “a potential mid-rotation starter” before the season started.

Corey Knebel, 22, made his major league debut a few weeks back and has allowed seven runs in 8.2 innings in the show. In 64.1 innings in the minors since being the 39th selection in the 2013 draft, Knebel has a 1.26 ERA and an 11.8 K/9. Baseball America called him “a potential closer” before the season.

Analysis from Jeff Lannon:
The Tigers got Joakim Soria today from the Rangers for starter Jake Thompson and reliever Corey Knebel. Knebel was the best reliever prospect for the Tigers and could be a part of an MLB bullpen for years to come. Thompson was a high school second rounder, but in my opinion he had the most potential of any Tigers starter in the system, and if he develops right he could be a solid starter in the Texas rotation in a few seasons. He was impressive in the game I saw him pitch when he was with West Michigan last season, and has only gotten better. The Tigers had to pay a price for Soria, but the Tigers system isn’t very strong and they probably paid a fair price. They still have some guys to help get an arm or bat to help them this year too. I like Andrew Miller, but Antonio Bastardo could work too or maybe even Chad Qualls or Brad Ziegler could work. If the Tigers wanted to go big Benoit is still on the market too, and he should still be targeted by the Tigers. The Tigers are still a good arm in the bullpen away from solidifying it. Soria won’t close in Detroit right away but if Nathan has another cough up, Soria should be the closer for sure. I think if Ausmus handles the situation correctly that there won’t be a set closer and the best guy will be used in the best situation. If Nathan heats up, the 7-8-9 is on lockdown, because Soria has returned to his old form and then some. He’s having a career year, and it shouldn’t stop, even if he has a hiccup or two along the way. This acquisition is way better than the Tigers getting Veras last season. It helps both teams, but Soria’s 7.5 million dollar option for 2015 and if he doesn’t spontaneously combust gives the edge to the Tigers. The Tigers bullpen isn’t fixed, but it’s improved a lot by this acquisition. Soria is the best piece to acquire this deadline. Soria just needs to keep his walk rate down, because his K rate looks sustainable. I think his year has a great chance to continue his success in Detroit.