Results tagged ‘ Jason Heyward ’

They Might Be Phillies

This will not be as exhaustive a preview as was the one for Yankees-Rangers because I see this one more in terms of momentum, and expectations not met and others exceeded.

The Braves were in such desperate straits that they had to stick a career pinch-hitter at second base because he was less worse there than at third. Their closer’s career came to an end in the middle of an inning. Their rookie relievers barely held it together. Their outfield was made up of Jason Hayward and a variety of American League and Pittsburgh Pirate refugees. And they still rallied twice on the Giants’ bullpen and each of the four games of their NLDS was a one-run affair.

The re-loaded Giants couldn’t average even three runs a game off the gutsy, wobbly, fill-in Bravos, and now they’re supposed to go up against Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels, and a not-too-shabby Joe Blanton (6-1, 3.48 after the All-Star Break) and produce something closer to four or five a night to have any chance.
I just don’t see it.
Tim Lincecum’s starts might be classics, and Halladay and/or Hamels might repeat their dubious performances from the regular season against the Giants. But I doubt it. And more over, I doubt that a team that survived the season in which the odds caught up with them and put 17 different of their guys on the disabled list is going to be knocked off by anybody but the best – and the Giants are not the best. 
The series might be brief.

Stanton, Improbable Pitchers, And Joseph Joseph

So the guy many observers think is better than Jason Heyward has made the majors. Florida has promoted 20-year old Michael Stanton, the leading home run hitter in the game, and presumably he will make his major league debut on Tuesday – just as Stephen Strasburg makes his.

The question is: who loses their job in the Marlins’ lineup? Stanton is a corner outfielder, but Cody Ross can play an adequate centerfield. The assumption has been that the odd man out is the current occupant Cameron Maybin, and in that equation is the eternal caveat about the can’t-miss-prospect. Cameron Maybin has/had been that guy for nearly four seasons.
Maybin in the Dustbin of History might not be an automatic, however. There are other options for Florida, and it will be intriguing to see if they try any of them. Leftfielder Chris Coghlan has just awakened from his slumber of the season’s first seven weeks, and has infield experience. Putting him at third or second and leaving Maybin and Ross where they are, shifting either Jorge Cantu or Dan Uggla to first in place of the flaccid Gaby Sanchez, might actually improve the Florida defense, to say nothing of the offense.
WHICH PITCHING STATISTIC WON’T LAST?
Ubaldo Jimenez is a tidy 11-1 through his first twelve starts. He made the average number of starts last year, 33, and if he can match that, statistical projection has him finishing up at 30-3. This is why statistical projection is crap, but fun.
Just as entertaining is the line of Mitch Talbot of Cleveland: 11 starts, 7-4, 32 strikeouts. This extends out to a record of 21-12 with 96 K’s. If Mitch Talbot can win 21 games (and stay in all  his starts long enough to get a decision in every one of them) with just 96 strikeouts all season, he should get the Cy Young Award, the AFC Defensive Player of the Year, and The Lady Byng Trophy.
Still, the weirdest numbers a third of the way through belong to Tyler Clippard of the Nationals. If the Yankee castoff were to continue his current pace, he would end up with about 106 innings pitched in relief, featuring 123 strikeouts, 22 wins, 8 losses, 34 holds, and 14 blown saves. I’m not sure if those numbers would put him in the Hall of Fame or AAA, but you needn’t worry – Jimenez and Talbot’s projections seem likely by contrast.
PHOTO OF THE DAY:
IMG_2412.jpg
This is why being a graphics operator might be the most difficult job in television. You rarely have an editor, and very often you’re working on the road in a smelly, crowded truck, that might have the air conditioning sputtering, and the room is full of idiots shouting and spilling sodas and corndogs all over your console and whining about management and then shutting up when management suddenly walks in and before you’ve noticed it you’ve finished typing up all the Brewers’ names into their templates and you’ve made sure you put the second “l” in Counsell and that you haven’t typed in “Carlos Villauneuva” and you’ve double-checked whether Braddock is “Zach” or “Zack” and then there goes another corndog and the manager leaves and that one guy starts whining again about his per diem and before you’ve known it you’ve looked at the beard and typed in “Corey Hary” instead of Hart.

FROM A RESEARCHER’S NOTEBOOK:
Thumbnail image for lafata.jpg
Other than perhaps the untouchable king of the hill, onetime pitcher Eugene Hamlet Krapp, this gentleman to the right might have the best full name in baseball history. He is the late Joe LaFata and he was a pretty nondescript lefthanded bat off the bench, playing some first base and a little outfield for the New York Giants in 1947 and 1949 (and for one game in 1948). 
He is something of a mystery, and not just for the fact that even in the minors he never cleared 14 homers or a .289 batting average in a single season. He is a mystery because all his records agree: his first name was Joseph, and his second name was… Joseph. 
Joseph Joseph LaFata.
Of course, Eugene Hamlet Krapp’s nickname was “Rubber.”

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.

Foul Balls; And 2010 Forecasts: NL East

Before we
wrap up the National League forecast, the Denard Span incident this afternoon
in Tampa (he hits his own mother with a foul ball – and she is wearing one of
his uniforms at the time) called to mind three equally unlikely events with
players and fans and balls flying into the stands:

1. August
17th, 1957. Richie Ashburn, who got to the Baseball Hall of Fame largely by
virtue of his ability to keep fouling off pitches he didn’t
like, until he got one he did like, fouled one off into the stands
at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. It struck – of all people – Alice
Roth, the wife of the sports editor of the newspaper The Philadelphia Bulletin. They
had to carry Mrs. Roth (and her broken nose) off on a stretcher. While
they were so doing, Ashburn, who was still
at bat and still fouling pitches off, hit Mrs. Roth with another foul
ball.

2. Of
course, on June 17th, 2000, Chuck Knoblauch of the New York Yankees picked up a
ground ball and threw it wildly towards first base. It instead hit a fan
sitting behind the dugout, breaking her eyeglasses. The fan, of course, was my
mother.

3.
And perhaps the unlikeliest of the events: After Span got hit, the Associated
Press was reminded of the Bob Feller incident (reminded by Bob Feller, of
course). On May 14, 1939, when the Hall of Fame flamethrower was still just 20
years old, he threw a pitch at Comiskey Park which some member of the White Sox
fouled into the seats – striking Feller’s mother. May 14, 1939 was, of course,
Mother’s Day.

Now to
finish up the NL:

ATLANTA is
the obvious sleeper, if that’s not too much of an oxymoron. If Troy Glaus and
Jason Heyward produce as Atlanta expects them, Bobby Cox will have a
competitive final year. If they exceed expectations (and Heyward gives off the
vibe of a Pujolsian, From-Day-One-Superstar) the Braves might actually air out
the division. The rotation gets a little sketchy behind Hanson and Jurrjens,
and there is little or no room for injury (if Glaus gets profoundly hurt or
Heyward is Jordan Schafer
, Eric Hinske and Omar Infante will be playing nearly every
day). And of course it would not be the Braves without another new closer.
Here, updated from its first appearance in this space last summer, is the Bobby
Cox bullpen honor roll:

1. Joe
Boever, 1990

2. Mark
Grant and Kent Mercker, 1990

3. Mercker
and Juan Berenguer, 1991

4.
Alejandro Pena, 1991-92

5. Jeff
Reardon, 1992

6. Mike
Stanton, 1993

7. Greg
McMichael, 1994-95

8. Brad
Clontz, 1995

9. Mark
Wohlers, 1995-98

10. Kerry
Ligtenberg, 1998

11. John
Rocker, 1999

12.
Ligtenberg and Mike Remlinger, 2000

13.
Rocker, 2000-01

14. Steve
Karsay, 2001

15. John
Smoltz, 2001-04

16. Danny
Kolb, 2005

17. Chris
Reitsma, 2005

18. Kyle
Farnsworth, 2005

19.
Reitsma, 2006

20. Ken
Ray, 2006

21. Bob
Wickman, 2006-07

22. Rafael
Soriano, 2008

23. Manny
Acosta, 2008

24. John
Smoltz, 2008

25.
Soriano, 2008

26. Mike
Gonzalez, 2008-09

27.
Soriano, 2009

28. Billy
Wagner, 2010.

If FLORIDA
could make just two starters out of Anibal Sanchez, Nate Robertson, Andrew Miller, Sean West,
Ryan Tucker, Rick Vandenhurk, and Chris Volstad, the Marlins might be the
favorites. By mid-season this could be the most potent offense in the league,
because all Florida needs to produce seven house-wreckers in a row is for one
of the following three kids to live up to his promise: Logan Morrison, Gaby
Sanchez, Mike Stanton (if the Heyward-esque Stanton explodes to big league
quality, you put him in the outfield, you put the fabulous Chris Coghlan back at second or third,
and move either Jorge Cantu or Dan Uggla to first). Florida’s biggest question
mark is the bullpen, where Leo Nunez may or may not succeed.

All that
can be said about NEW YORK is: Sigh. I love the people who run this club, from
the ticket takers to the owners. But this year the wheels could fall off even
worse – and farther – than last. I think Jason Bay is a legitimate power
source, and I thought Jeff Francoeur a steal, but that begs the question of
what the Mets now expect from the guy who is still their top offensive
prospect, Fernando Martinez. If Bay, Beltran, and Francoeur are to be the
outfield for awhile, why is Martinez still there? Plus, the silence
about Beltran is ominous. The
ominousness of Daniel Murphy’s bat is silent. And there is nothing – nothing -
dependable in any of the three categories of pitchers, except for Johan
Santana, Pedro Feliciano, and Frankie Rodriguez, and the latter is just another
closer now. It is absolutely plausible that by June 1 the only questions will
be whether or not to give Ike Davis a taste of the majors, whether or not to
start screwing up Jenrry Mejia the way the Yankees messed with Joba
Chamberlain, and if some Japanese team will take Luis Castillo off their hands.

I’m not
the only person who believed Buster Olney’s story about PHILADELPHIA and Ryan
Howard – if not the plausibility of a swap for Pujols, then at least internal
musings about his decline against lefthanded pitchers and his decreasing
success against breaking pitches. When you are chewed up and spat out by Damaso
Marte, you are not exactly still in the same league as Pujols, or Adrian Gonzalez
for that matter. I’m a little suspicious of the assumed improvement in putting
Placido Polanco in at third (he’s 34, he fell off appreciably last year, he is
moving to a tougher position). Raul Ibanez seems to represent that Sword of
Damacles hanging over any team trying for three in a row (if you haven’t had a
significant position player injury in the first two seasons, you’re going to
in the third). I am not sold on the
rotation (Blanton, Contreras, Moyer, Kendrick – two of these guys must do well),
and the bullpen looks to be sketchier than a year ago.

There are
ways WASHINGTON can suddenly stop being a last-place team (the Ian Desmond
decision was superb – it needs to be followed by similar decisions involving Drew
Storen and Stephen Strasburg, and maybe new limbs grown by Jordan Zimmermann
and Chien-Ming Wang – quickly). Also, I think he’s a quality individual, but
the retention of Jim Riggleman as manager – after ten seasons that have produced
only one finish better than third (a weak second for the Cubs in 1998) – makes
little sense here. Unless Mike Rizzo is thinking of Pat Listach or Rick
Eckstein as a future big league manager, respectability for this club is going
to be the time it takes them to swap out Riggleman plus
the time it will take to break in his
replacement. Why not skip the first step?

DIVISION PREDICTIONS:
I’ll take the long odds that the Braves’ breaks fall the right way and Cox goes
out with a winner in a tight race over the Phillies. The Marlins will hit a ton
but waste the brilliance of Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco by using 11
different fifth starters and half a dozen closers. The Mets will have their
nightmare collapse and be wondering if they can unload not only Castillo, but
maybe Beltran and Reyes, too. They will finish a few games ahead of the
Nationals – but only a few.

Tillman1967.jpg

LEAGUE PREDICTIONS: As mentioned, I like the Braves, Reds and the Rockies for the division titles. The Wild Card would seem to be a battle between the Phillies and the Giants – I really like San Francisco’s rotation, and I really do not like Philadelphia’s chances of getting through another season without physical calamity. So let’s assume the Rockies finish with the best record – they should handle the Giants, and the Braves’ experience should make them favorites over the Reds. An Atlanta-Colorado NLCS? I think the Rockies win that one, as much as I’d be rooting for the man I always greet as the guy the Braves once traded to the Yankees for Bob Tillman, who had been traded to the Yankees for Elston Howard, meaning Coxy was as good as Elston Howard….

Beerless Forecasts

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