Results tagged ‘ Aroldis Chapman ’

NL Preview: Phillies, Giants

Nothing would please me more than to see Bobby Cox walk off a field for the last time, on his way to a World’s Championship Trophy presentation (well, except maybe watching him get ejected on his way to the presentation, but now I’m just being silly).

I don’t think it’s going to happen. As much as Cox patched together just enough breathing players to manage to hang on to the Wild Card, the tank is pretty empty now. The Braves were barely surviving the loss of Chipper Jones by turning super-sub Omar Infante into a regular, when Martin Prado followed Jones on to the out-for-the-year-list. This reduces the Atlanta infield to Infante, Alex Gonzalez, a Derrek Lee who has been pretty lethargic since coming over from the Cubs, and Brooks Conrad, who has shown a strong bat at the plate, but some evidence that he brings the same bat with him onto the field.

Similarly the Bravos’ rotation is a mess. Jair Jurrjens turned his season around after his first injury, then came back from his second one overweight and ineffective, and then injured himself for a third time. Tim Hudson has been effective all year, but Derek Lowe and Tommy Hanson have been up and down, and heaven help Coxy and Roger McDowell if they have to rely on either Mike Minor or Brandon Beachy.

The one wild card for the wild card team is production from the outfield. When you have Jason Heyward plus a combination of any two of Ankiel, Cabrera, Diaz, Hinske, and McLouth, the possibilities that Cox could catch lightning in a bottle for a short series in CF and LF, should not be discounted.

But we haven’t even started trotting out names like Buster Posey or Brian Wilson or Tim Lincecum yet. The Giants, barring a dry-up of biblical proportions, should handle the Braves easily, possibly by sweep. If they don’t, they have some serious explaining to do.

Similarly, as fond as I have been of the Reds’ chances since last March, I cannot see them getting past Philadelphia. The depth of Cincinnati’s rotation – such an advantage during the regular season in the fluid N.L. Central – means that they could get everything or nothing from Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo, and Johnny Cueto.

More over – understandably under the radar in a year of chaos, injury, and perseverance in Philadelphia – were remarkable improvements Ryan Howard and Chase Utley made against lefthand pitching. This, you’ll recall, was Philly’s undoing in the World Series last fall (particularly in the case of Howard).

But look at Howard’s splits this year:

VS LHP                 12 HR     39 RBI    .264 BA      .492 SLG
VS LHP at home      6 HR     16 RBI    .260 BA      .470 SLG

The cohort is not exactly small, either. Howard had 193 at bats versus lefties, 100 of them in Philadelphia. He obviously learned something. And while he went just 2-for-12 against Reds lefties during the season, one of the two was a game-winning two-run blast off Arthur Rhodes to win a game in Philly on July 9th. Howard has not seen Aroldis Chapman, but unless Dusty Baker plans to use Chapman as his specialist against lefty bats and switch Rhodes or some righthander to 8th inning duties, the onus will fall on Rhodes, not Chapman.

Utley actually did better against southpaws this year than righties:

VS LHP                 10 HR     27 RBI      .294 BA      .581 SLG
VS RHP                  6 HR     38 RBI      .266 BA      .381 SLG

Those numbers are even a little more extraordinary than they seem. Utley had 289 ups against righties and only 136 against lefties yet his power came against the southpaws. He has no track record against the Reds this year – 1-for-3 off Cueto in the June 28th game in which he hurt his thumb.

So if the Chapman versus the Phils’ power bats thing may not really be an issue, we’re back to the idea of which trio of starters is more likely to get punished: Volquez, Arroyo, and Cueto, or Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt? It would be a bigger upset than the Braves over the Giants if the answer turns out to be the latter.

 

Judge And Nyjer…eeeee

Here’s the least likely sentence I’ve ever written: Nyjer Morgan has truly damaged the great tradition of The Washington Nationals franchise.

Seriously, MLB has to step in – and quickly – on what you can smell from a thousand miles away is a serious and blossoming anger management issue. The Washington outfielder has, in less than a fortnight, thrown a ball into the stands (apparently at a fan), collided brutally with two catchers on two occasions when he should have slid, slid too aggressively into basemen at second and third, precipitated a bench-clearing brawl after a message pitch that didn’t come close to him, and then shouted obscenities at the Florida crowd in full view of the television cameras. And we’re not even bringing up what happened last May, when he threw not a fit nor a ball, but a glove when he mistook a ball in play for an outside-the-park homer.
That Morgan was pleasant and even nonchalant in interviews afterwards suggests the dimensions of his disconnect. The ex-junior hockey player described himself as simply playing hard, and his supporters suggested it was just ‘the hockey coming out in him.’ In hockey, if you did all this in a week or two, they’d have sent you back to Medicine Hat.
Most disturbingly, perhaps, is that his manager Jim Riggleman seemed to address only Morgan’s pair of steals in tonight’s disaster in Florida. Rig was right: the steals were fine. Nothing else about Morgan is, at the moment, and the Nationals or MLB might be doing him a favor by suspending him for the balance of the season and getting him some help. 
A QUICK NOTE ON SEPTEMBER NL CALL-UPS:
Freddie Freeman is the marquee name and it certainly was a surprise to see him and not Derrek Lee starting against the Mets on September 1st, but I don’t really know how much work he’ll get in Atlanta as the Braves go all out to wrap up Bob Cox’s career with a winner.
The premium player among the immediate recalls – at least in terms of opportunity – would seem to be Brandon Allen of the Diamondbacks. Arizona hasn’t had a leftfielder all year and the converted first baseman seemed to take to the position neatly in his seasonal debut (and added the grand slam). Brian Bogusevic of Houston, Yonder Alonso of Cincinnati, and Mat Gamel of Milwaukee were immediately summoned but seem to have little to do. Of all possible rotation inserts only the Mets have made a move, bringing back Jenrry Mejia and putting him right in against the Cubs at Wrigley on Saturday.
Oh and this Chapman guy might be of some use. Somebody around here picked the Reds to win the NL Central, as I recall.

They Like Ike – But Not That Much

Had to laugh over the weekend at the murmuring – even the predicting on line and on talk radio here in New York – that Ike Davis, the slugging son of the original set-up man of the Yankees, Ron Davis, would be imminently summoned to take over first base for the Mets.

Try June 7th. Or July 7th. Or September 7th.
Omar Minaya has made it very clear that with Daniel Murphy out, Mike Jacobs is getting his second chance to make a great first impression. He’ll be spelled at first against lefties by Fernando Tatis and maybe others, at least until Murphy is ready to return from injury. If Jacobs hasn’t cut it, Murphy will then get a reasonable chance to regain the job. We’re talking about, at minimum, a month of Jacobs and a month of Murphy before the Mets promote their latest phenom – and that presumes that both of them wash out, and that he doesn’t get flummoxed by his first taste of AAA.

In fact, righty-swinging Nick Evans, a potential platoon partner with Jacobs or Murphy, stands a much better chance of promotion – and sooner – than Davis.

If this weren’t transparently obvious, the debut dates of last year’s most hyped rookies is an indicator that “Super Two” status is of far more concern to most clubs than having freshmen come up early. There are always exceptions (Elvis Andrus, Jason Heyward) and surprises (nobody thought Andrew Bailey was a closer, let alone a ROTY candidate, when he opened the season with the A’s last year, and even when NL ROTY Chris Coghlan came up on May 8th he seemed an unlikely candidate for the award.
But here’s the calendar:

May 26: Fernando Martinez, Mets

June 4: Gordon Beckham, White Sox

June 4: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

June 7: Tommy Hanson, Braves

So for those of you holding your breath (or your roster spots in fantasy leagues) waiting for Davis, Pedro Alvarez, Craig Kimbrel, Drew Storen, and even Stephen Strasburg and Aroldis Chapman, hope you’re prepared for a few months of zeroes. Some teams – like the Nats last year with Jordan Zimmermann – can’t resist. And we saw how that turned out.

2010 Forecasts: NL Central

Having already tabbed the Rockies for a possible runaway in the West (pursued perhaps by the Giants), we move to the Central:

CHICAGO
may represent a startling fact about this division – there not only isn’t a
great team here, there isn’t even a good one. The starting line-up is
five-eighths made up of guys who significantly regressed from 2008 to 2009,
plus Marlon Byrd. The new ownership seems to have already committed to the age-old easy way out of worrying more about the ballpark than the ballclub. Larry Rothschild has gratefully plugged Carlos Silva and Tom
Gorzelanny into his rotation. The bullpen is headed by a shaky Carlos Marmol
and not one experienced right-handed set-up man. The Cubs are a mess.

It still
didn’t make any sense for CINCINNATI to invest in Scott Rolen, nor bring back
Ramon Hernandez, and with considerable irony, this might as well still be 2007
when the Reds were pinning their hopes on Homer Bailey and Jay Bruce. Their
epiphanies – Bailey’s last September, and Bruce’s during his injury – must be
lasting for the Reds to compete. But there is at minimum some sense of upswing
in Cincinnati. Dusty Baker gave Drew Stubbs the chance to play last year, and
might even find spots for Aroldis Chapman, Mike Leake, and Yonder Alonso this season. The
bullpen is strong, the rotation potentially deep.

For years,
Terry Francona’s top lieutenant, Brad Mills, has deserved a major league team
to manage. He may yet get the chance – for now he’s stuck with Houston. There
is an outfield and there are two starting
pitchers (providing Roy Oswalt isn’t seriously hurt, and doesn’t go home to his
ranch in sheer frustration). The rest of the line-up, and the pitching staff, are disaster areas, made no better by today’s news than Lance Berkman’s bionic knee is ‘cranky.’ Things could brighten somewhat if
Matt Lindstrom harnesses his talent, and if Jason Castro or J.R. Towles squat
up behind the plate, and if three fans turn out to be viable starting pitchers.
Otherwise, this is a franchise that has gone to seed.

What’s the
psychological saw about repeating the same unsuccessful action with confidence
that this
time it
will succeed? The Brewers are confident Dave Bush, Doug Davis, and Manny Parra and/or Jeff Suppan constitute three-fifths of a pitching staff. They’re certain Rickie Weeks and
Corey Hart will harness their talent. Everybody knows
this is the year Yovanni Gallardo
leaps to the forefront of NL starters. This is a recording. The Brewers will be
deceptively entertaining as long as Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are around,
and they could get a wonderful spark if Carlos Gomez decides not to style his
way out of the game before his 25th birthday. But all the bullpen depth in the world
isn’t going to help that rotation.

PITTSBURGH
deserves better. Surely they are, on average, a better set of players than the
Astros. But nothing seems to progress in Pittsburgh; Andrew McCutchen and
Garrett Jones arise fully grown from the minors, but Freddy Sanchez and Jack
Wilson are dished off. They make a seeming salary dump to Atlanta and in fact
rip the Braves off, selling Nate McLouth at his high point, opening up a spot
for McCutchen, and getting the remarkable arm of Charlie Morton – and Morton is
the only guy in the state who doesn’t believe he has
a remarkable arm. And still, if
lightning strikes – if Pedro Alvarez, Chase D’Arnaud, and Tim Alderson were all
productive big leaguers by June 1, they’d suddenly have an actual real-life
.500 team. And a .500 team might run away with this division.

Pittsburgh can hope, because
ST. LOUIS is the most overrated team in the majors. Albert Pujols glitters so
brightly, he makes you forget that the rest of the infield is an assortment of
Brendan Ryans and Felipe Lopezes and David Freeses. Chris Carpenter and Adam
Wainwright were so dominant that they obscured the reality of what happened if
you actually beat them on consecutive days – the Cards’ season would be snuffed
out in a sweep. This is a team that was ready to trot out a rotation in which
Kyle Lohse, Brad Penny, and Rich Hill would pitch more often than did Carpenter
and Wainwright (the first light bulb going off: giving the fifth spot in the rotation not to Hill but to Jaime Garcia). The bullpen is a jumble, the bench non-existent, and lord help
Tony LaRussa if Yadier Molina is really hurt or Pujols’ back is cranky for more
than 45 minutes at a stretch.

PREDICTIONS:
You know what? I’ll take the long-odds bet on the dice coming up for the Reds
and not the Cardinals. It’ll be an exciting race, to see if you actually can
get into the playoffs with 79 victories. Chicago third, Milwaukee fourth just
ahead of Pittsburgh, and Houston sixth, unless they decide to conserve energy
and just forfeit all games in lieu of much needed fielding practice and weeding
through resumes of infielders and pitchers.

Beerless Forecasts

Photo Quiz

Something to do as we contemplate the irony of Aroldis Chapman escaping from Cuba to sign with a team that in the 1950’s had to change its name to the “Cincinnati Redlegs” to avoid somebody mistaking them for communist sympathizers. 

Some of you will get this instantly. Others will say, “can’t be!” The rest, should just get a kick out of it… 
Who is this, captured in the endless sweep of photographing anybody in a big league uniform by Topps Chewing Gum in the 1956-1996 era?
kelly1969.jpg
Your hints:
1) I’ve been looking for this one for a long time. Never did locate it within the since-dismantled archives at Topps here in New York.
2) Yes, he’s in the uniform of the one-season franchise, the 1969 Seattle Pilots (although there are 1970 Pilots photos too – the franchise moved to Milwaukee just before opening day, as part of a bankruptcy collapse).
3) No, he never played for the Pilots, but yes, he did play in the majors briefly, but even most of his many admirers probably don’t know that.
4) Lefthanded hitting outfielder-first baseman who quickly gave it up after his brief big league stint six years later, and then moved into coaching and managing.
5) Got a big league managing job, in fact, when the man his team had hired in full anticipation that he would make the leap from wonderful pitching coach to wonderful manager, turned out to be not quite that much of a skipper.
6) Managed in two World Series but never won a single World Series game on the road.
7) Yet won both Series… okay, you’ve got it now.
Fresh from a .317 season in the New York/Penn League in 1968, he was actually in the Pilots’ first big league camp as a non-roster invitee – and was just 18 years old when that photo was taken in Arizona in March, 1969. Yes… it’s legendary Twins’ manager Tom Kelly.
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