Now that things have settled down on the Santana front, it's time to get back to finding where the Royals might attempt to find more offense in 2013. While the starting pitching is getting all the notoriety, the offense quietly sucked in 2012 too. Without the ability to score more runs, this team isn't likely to make great strides next season. In this edition I'll look at the third basemen.
So who played third base for the Royals in 2012?
*sOPS+ is how the player compared offensively to the rest of the American League third basemen. 100 is about average while 90 is about 90% of average.
Mostly Moustakas (which sounds like a song from a broadway musical, maybe one called "The Process"?) is how the season broke down to nobody's surprise. He's a young player and had a good start but he really stumbled late and ended up being a below average offensive third basemen. The rest of the crew were merely used as filler and they did a reasonable job.
Moustakas actually improved in his sophomore season, but only due to an increase in power. Next year will be his age 24 season and so while he's still very young, the team needs him to take another, larger step forward.
While we're only focusing on offense here, it must be said that Moustakas really held his own on the defensive end of the spectrum as in 2012. There have always been rumblings that he would have to possibly play DH in the not to distant future, but for now he's certainly adequate if not a superior defender.
How did the Royals compare to the rest of the division?
The Tigers had a really good third basemen this year, who knew? Moustakas and company put the Royals right in the middle of the pack in 2012. Being in the middle of the pack isn't terrible, every good team will have some average to below average offensive slots.
The real problem is the trend. So far I've looked at catcher, first base, second base and third base and so far within the division the royals have ranked 5th, 4th, 2nd and 3rd respectively. Three of those four positions are typically offensively minded and the Royals haven't had a really solid performer at any. It isn't any shock that they scored the second fewest runs in the division.
So, what should the team do? With this position, not much. Moustakas is certainly going to be given more time to prove he can be an average offensive third basemen. He's a fan favorite, a high draft pick and a solid defender. He isn't the problem, but he has yet to be part of the solution.
I was intrigued last year when the Royals picked up Kevin Kouzmanoff who has an ok bat and plays third base. He might have been helpful as a bench player to pinch hit or spell Moustakas if he really struggled. He was never used and the Royals rolled Mouse out there nearly every day.
The bottom line is that offense must improve at the corners and the only way it will happen in 2013 is with young players taking the next step forward. It would obviously be silly at this point to spend precious resources on replacing Moustakas, so let's all burn our effigies to the baseball gods and hope that they bless young Mouse with an improvement.
So what we know about new Rockies manager Walt Weiss:
Basically, there's no information that would disqualify Weiss as a candidate, and while some might see that as a "deflection" for the front office to keep the media and fans from being able to cast real judgment on their decision, I'm the type to not attribute corruption to moves where more basic survival motives make as much or more sense. In this case, I'm guessing the Rockies front office really believes that they've picked the right man for the job, the one that gives the team best chance of winning.
The only issue remains that this front office doesn't have a very good track record with these decisions. We'll see if this one works out any better than their last pick of Jim Tracy, but I do suspect that it will, and considerably.
In the middle of a post about Nate Silver and the value of "imperfect" models, Dave Cameron points out something that we have to keep in mind about projections for the Rockies and Coors Field next season:
The raw numbers from games a mile high can't be taken at face value because of the atmosphere, and changes to the environment - such as the introduction of the humidor - make applying park factors to that data a bit of a guessing game. We've seen offensive levels in Denver shift back and forth over the years, and we certainly don't have a perfect way of explaining or accounting for those shifts. If we were to project the 2013 run environment in Coors Field, we'd have to deal with a lot of moving parts, many of which require assumptions that we can't test, and there's a decent amount of uncertainty that would surround that projection. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.
In case you haven't noticed, that would also point to statistical validation for what Dan O'Dowd and the front office have said about the perils of putting a team together in Denver. The altitude really does affect
debate player and team performance in crazy, unpredictable ways. This of course doesn't validate the FO's decisions on how to handle that craziness, and the team's record paints some damning evidence on that front, but I've seen Rockies fans be a bit too dismissive of the effects of altitude as just another excuse. I think the front office was 100% correct to prefer manager candidates that would be more familiar with those effects.
While the Weiss hire is easily the biggest news surrounding the team, a couple more under the radar stories are also of interest. Particularly, as a curious observer of the business side of baseball, I'm interested to find out what comes of the news that the Denver Post's parent company is selling it's 7.3% minority stake in the Rockies. Since the Monforts themselves aren't likely to sell the team anytime soon, this provides a rare opportunity to extrapolate the current real value of the franchise. Forbes estimated the team's value to be $464 million last March, but with the effects of QE3 and a new league-wide media contract adding to a revenue stream, that value should be a bit higher now, and I'm guessing the Digital First Media's share of the team to be currently around $36 million if that Forbes estimate was correct.
We know that Weiss was something Wilin Rosario will never be, a Rookie of the Year winner. It could be worse, though, Padres hotshot rookie catcher Yasmani Grandal will also never be a Rookie of the Year winner and has now been suspended for 50 games. Fourth place in the division in 2013 just got a little easier for the Rockies. Woot.
While my esteem of D-backs pitching prospects in general has been high, my thoughts on Trevor Bauer specifically have been that he's been overhyped due to people, particularly those with fantasy baseball interests, prospecting for another Tim Lincecum. This suspicion gets confirmed with news that the pitcher's on the market. Don't get me wrong, if the choice was between having Bauer in the system and not having him, I'd easily be happiest having my suspicions of his hype overshadowing his true ability on our side of the Talking Stick fence, but caveat emptor when it comes to trading for him.
And finally, Mark McGuire's heading home to Southern California (Fight On, Mark) as the Dodgers hired him away from the Cardinals. Given how well relatively unheralded Cardinals hitters have developed over the past few seasons has me a bit concerned by this development, but everything the Dodgers are doing right now concerns me a bit as a Rockies fan.
I just want to start off with by saying that I am a fan of Tommy Hanson. I've followed his career since the mythical AA no-hitter, his anointment as baseball Jesus in his tenure in the Arizona Fall League, to the day he was called up to the big leagues, and began striking out big leaguers like they were little leaguers. But there's really no way to sugar coat it, so I'm going to get straight to the point: 2012 was Tommy Hanson's worst big league season, ever. And we as Braves fans have legitimate reason to be concerned about the pitcher we all imagined would become the eventual ace of the Braves' pitching staff.
In just about every single meaningful statistical category, Tommy Hanson's 2012 numbers were either his worst ever, or at least, a noticeable decline from a year ago. The only statistic where Hanson actually improved upon was the ever-so meaningful pitcher wins stat, where Hanson notched a career-best 13 wins on the season. Unfortunately, Tommy was 12-5 at one point, before going 1-5 to end the season at 13-10. Fortunately, a lot of us here at the Chop don't really care about the pitching W-L numbers, but unfortunately as a result, we're throwing the one positive stat out the window.
Otherwise, name a stat, and Tommy Hanson's 2012 numbers aren't pretty. Off the bat, Hanson allowed 761 batters to hit .271/.344/.464 (.808 OPS) off of him, which is the worst slash line he's ever allowed. Additionally, he had a career-worst 4.48 ERA and allowed a career-high 183 hits including 27 home runs and 71 walks. To make matters worse, this was done in a span of 174.2 innings; this was all worse than when he pitched in 28 more innings in 2010.
Going into some of the advanced stat categories, reveal mostly all negative as well; his 8.30 K/9 is a steep decline from a year prior, and his 3.66 BB/9 is a career-worst. 1.39 HR/9 is also a career-worst, as is his 1.45 WHIP. Across the board with his rate numbers, every single one of these is worse than his career averages.
Tommy's groundball-flyball ratio was a slight tick up, but still close to his career average of 0.99 GB/FB. But line drives were a career-high 20.7%, and as anyone who watched his starts should guess, his HR/FB rate was also a career-high at 13.5%. Regardless, the ERA is hardly a lie, because his FIP of 4.57, SIERA of 4.10 and tERA of 4.91 all also say similarly about his performance.
In terms of value, fWAR (Fangraphs) valued Tommy Hanson at 1.0 fWAR on the season; which is his career lowest value. Baseball-Reference's WAR (bWAR) is far less generous, as they do not account for FIP, and once again, Tommy measures in at a career-worst -0.6 bWAR on 2012.
To make matters worse, not that Tommy Hanson is expected to be a stalwart with the baseball bat by any means, but not to be ignored in the laundry list of things that went wrong for Tommy in 2012, is his batting line of .020/.059/.020. This was tremendously bad, even for pitcher standards. With one single out of 61 plate appearances, Hanson's .020 batting average and slugging percentage was the worst amongst all pitchers in the National League, and by some miraculous divine intervention, the fact that Tommy managed to nurse out two walks makes his OBP of .059 just second-worst in the league, nudging out Mark Buehrle's .049 OBP. To put some of this in perspective, there were six pitchers in the American League that managed to slap a second hit in under 10 plate appearances during Interleague.
So we've established the fact that Tommy Hanson did not have a good 2012 season. But now we would all like to know why. The good news is that just about anyone who watched Tommy Hanson's starts are going to know just as well as everyone who is simply examining the numbers.
Inconsistencies! On a month-by-month basis, Tommy Hanson's numbers and performances are absolutely maddening. Delving into his splits reveals parts of the season were Hanson is striking out guys like we expect out of Hanson, but is also either allowing too many walks, home runs, or both. Tommy notched a 3.00 ERA in June, but had an un-Tommy-like 6.25 K/9 and still allowed a staggering 2.27 HR/9. In August, Tommy got that HR/9 down to a diminutive 0.57 HR/9, but then ended up walking guys at a 4.02 BB/9 clip. It's like on a monthly basis, Tommy would try to correct the prior month's biggest issue, but then in the process of fixing the dam, another one would crack and leak the next month.
Home runs. As mentioned above, Tommy Hanson allowed a career-worst 27 dingers in 2012. How many of you watched Tommy Hanson starts and thought "man, Tommy cruises through the game, but then gives up these crucial late-game home runs before getting pulled?" If you're like me, then probably pretty often. Hanson starts never felt that comfortable unless the Braves padded him with big leads, which wasn't always that often, because of his propensity of giving up the long ball this season. Here's the breakdown by which innings Tommy gave up homers this season:
So if your eye test thought that he gave up too many late-game homers, then you would correct. The worst part about all these homers. The fourth inning was clearly Hanson's biggest issue, followed by the sixth inning; the interesting thing about all those first-inning home runs, most of them came via the Washington Nationals, who apparently have in their book to attempt to ambush Hanson every time they saw him. The worst part about a lot of the late-inning home runs is that so many of them were in games where Hanson appeared to be pitching well enough, and managing his base-runners to a minimal worry. But then one of those later innings turns into scenarios where a walk or a single suddenly turns into a multi-run homer, and all of Hanson's numbers suffer subsequently.
And the biggest culprit of them all, decrease in velocity. It didn't take a genius to realize that across the board, Tommy Hanson's entire repertoire of pitches were all noticeably slower this year than they were at any point of his career. When he was called up, Hanson would routinely sit around 92-93 on his fastball, but in 2012, his average fastball velocity according to Fangraphs sat at 89.7 mph. It's no secret that a slower pitch is an easier pitch to hit, so it's safe to assume that just about all of his statistical woes stem from this problem. At 26-years old going into 2013, this is the kind of decrease in velocity that nobody wants to see this early in his career. If this pattern of decreasing velocity continues, then he could very well be pitching at around the same velocity as Paul Maholm. And nobody wants that.
Personally, I'm giving Tommy Hanson's woes the benefit of doubt that 2012 was also a season of the nagging injury. From the very start of Spring Training, there was the incident where Tommy Hanson was in a car collision, resulting in a concussion; as supposedly less-severe sounding that may have sounded compared to the shoulder tendinitis he had been plagued with, one only has to look at a guy like the Mets' Jason Bay to see just how crippling a concussion can really become. In addition to the concussion were nagging back strains and pains that managed to shelve Tommy several times throughout the season. As it's often discussed, the slightest nags and aches potentially lead to the slightest mechanical adjustments to compensate for pain reduction, and the results can vary from indistinguishable to devastating. In Hanson's case, it's safe to say that it could have been more of the latter. It's almost as if there were multiple attempts at adjustments, and each one resulted in the wildly varying sets of results from month-to-month.
2013 is going to be a very crucial year for Tommy Hanson's career. After such a disappointing season, there will be a lot of scrutiny on Hanson's health and velocity, and his overall results to see what lies ahead for the big right-hander future with the Braves. With the general depth of the Braves' starting pitching options, there is no guarantee that Tommy is guaranteed a spot in the rotation, and will probably be determined based on Spring Training evaluation.
In a perfect world, Tommy Hanson gets a lot of time this offseason to let his body recover from the litany of nagging aches and pains, and he shows up to Orlando in March, hurling fastballs that are back up to 91+ mph. And the Braves hire someone to drive him around. And he grows out his mullet of domination again. And it results in a Tommy Hanson who not only gets the winz, but has a high K/9, low BB/9, and an even lower HR/9, and proves that 2012 was a fluke.
The Atlanta Braves have added first baseman Ernesto Mejia and right handed pitcher Juan Jaime to their 40 man roster, preventing both players from becoming Minor League free agents. The Braves originally signed Mejia out of Venezuela in 2002, and he played in the organization until leaving as a Minor League free agent in 2010, spending one season in the Royals organization before returning to the Braves in 2011, where he excelled for Mississippi, hitting .297 with a .906 OPS, 37 doubles, 26 homers, and 99 RBI in 573 plate appearances. This season, he was named the International League Rookie Of The Year, hitting .296 with a .849 OPS, 32 doubles, 24 homers, and 92 RBI in 559 plate appearances for Gwinnett. Jaime was considered a top prospect in the Nationals system before Tommy John surgery caused him to miss all of the 2010 and 2011 seasons. After a short stint in the Diamondbacks system, the Braves signed him late last year and he made his debut in the Braves chain this year, acting as Lynchburg's closer, posting a 3.16 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, collecting 18 saves, and putting up 12.8 K/9 in 51.1 innings over 42 appearances.
The Braves have also re-signed Minor League free agent catcher Matt Kennelly, outfielder Jordan Parraz, and first baseman Chris Garcia. The 23 year old Kennelly hit .254 with a .684 OPS, 13 doubles, 1 homer, and 22 RBI in 224 plate appearances for AA Mississippi. He was originally signed by the Braves out of his native Australia in 2006. In his first season with the Braves organization, the 28 year old Parraz hit .288 with a .770 OPS in 133 plate appearances with AAA Gwinnett and .208 with a .595 OPS in 29 plate appearances for Mississippi, missing time with a broken hand. Playing in his second season in the organization, the 24 year old Garcia hit .285 with a .839 OPS, 25 doubles, 11 homers, and 59 RBI in 500 plate appearances while helping Lynchburg to a league championship.
Catcher JC Boscan headlines a group of 19 Atlanta Braves Minor Leaguers who have earned free agency this winter. The 32 year old Boscan, who went 2-10 in 6 games for Atlanta this year, and has gone 5-19 in 11 games for Atlanta in the last 3 seasons, is likely to re-sign with the Braves. He has spent 14 of is 16 professional seasons with the Braves organization, and hit .189 with a .548 OPS in 250 plate appearances with Gwinnett this season. Fellow catchers Jose Yepez and Shawn McGill are also free agents. The 31 year old Yepez hit .264 with a .724 OPS, 16 doubles, 3 homers, and 30 RBI in 294 plate appearances with Gwinnett. Playing in his third season with the Braves, the 28 year old McGill hit .178 with a .511 OPS in 112 plate appearances split between Gwinnett, Mississippi, and High A Lynchburg.
Gwinnett infielders Josh Wilson, Ruben Gotay, Rusty Ryal, and Terry Tiffee are now free agents. Wilson, who has over 1,000 plate appearances in the Majors, didn't see any time with Atlanta this year, as the 31 year old hit .241 with a .662 OPS, 26 doubles, 5 homers, and 43 RBI in 452 plate appearances while playing shortstop, second base, third base, and even pitching in 3 games. Gotay, who also played in the Braves organization in 2008 and 2011, hit .243 with a .738 OPS, 8 doubles, 5 homers, and 22 RBI in 213 plate appearances. The 29 year old saw time at third base and second base. The 29 year old Ryal hit .287 with a .759 OPS, 8 doubles, 2 homers, and 12 RBI in 108 plate appearances, while playing second base, third base, and left field. Tiffee hit .299 with a .741 OPS, 9 doubles, 2 homers, and 21 RBI in 121 plate appearances. The 33 year old saw time at third base and first base.
Mississippi infielders Ian Gac, Bobby Stevens, and Jason Christian are also free agents. The 27 year old first baseman Gac hit .247 with a .782 OPS, 27 doubles, 7 homers, and 35 RBI in 292 plate appearances. Stevens hit .200 with a .649 OPS in 39 plate appearances for Mississippi and hit .200 with a .596 OPS in 106 plate appearances with Lynchburg. The 25 year old saw time at every position but pitcher and catcher. Christian hit .219 with a .570 OPS, 3 doubles, and 6 RBI in 181 plate appearances for Mississippi, and the 25 year old saw time at every infield position and in right field.
Gwinnett outfielders Luis Durango, Stefan Gartrell, Josh Kroeger, and Felix Pie are all free agents. Playing almost exclusively center field, the 26 year old Durango hit .289 with a .687 OPS, 13 doubles, 45 RBI, and a league leading 46 stolen bases in 565 plate appearances. In his second season in the Braves organization, the 28 year old Gartrell hit .251 with a .787 OPS, 22 doubles, 20 homers, 55 RBI, and 10 steals in 418 plate appearances, splitting time between right and left field. Kroeger hit .323 with a .888 OPS, 7 doubles, 2 homers, and 12 RBI in 114 plate appearances. The 30 year old saw time in left field, right field, and at first base. The 27 year old Pie hit .285 with a .797 OPS, 26 doubles, 7 triples, 6 homers, 51 RBI, and 16 steals in 365 plate appearances, while mostly playing right field. Mississippi left fielder Tim Smith is also a free agent. The 26 year old hit .279 with a .710 OPS, 6 doubles, 2 homers, and 22 RBI in 187 plate appearances with the M-Braves, and hit .320 with a .912 OPS, 4 doubles, a homer, and 6 RBI in 63 plate appearances with Lynchburg.
Gwinnett pitchers Buddy Carlyle and Dusty Hughes are free agents, as are Brent Leach and Erik Cordier, who both finished the year with Mississippi, but spent time with Gwinnett as well. The 34 year old Carlyle, who first played in the Braves organization from 2007 to 2009, posted a 5-4 record, a 3.43 ERA, and a 1.25 WHIP in 76 innings over 33 appearances. Hughes appeared in 54 games, and the 30 year old lefty posted a 3-2 record, a 3.31 ERA, and a 1.61 WHIP in 65.1 innings. Leach only appeared in 1 game with Gwinnett, taking the loss as he allowed 7 earned runs in 0.1 innings. The 29 year old lefty was better with Mississippi, recording a 2-4 record, a 2.81 ERA, and a 1.42 WHIP in 48 innings over 17 appearances. The 26 year old Cordier, who was taken off the Braves 40 man roster last week, suffered another injury plagued season, posting a 1-3 record, a 5.85 ERA, and a 2.07 WHIP in 32.1 innings over 17 appearances between Gwinnett, Mississippi, and the GCL.
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Now, I originally got this idea while chatting with Lee Trocinski, the editor over at Tomahawk Take on the Fansided Network.
A couple of weeks ago MLB Trade Rumors put up an article and a poll about Joe Blanton and John Saunders. The post concluded with a poll that asked the readers if they would rather have Joe Blanton or John Saunders. To say the least the results surprised me. Last I checked, Saunders had over 75% of the vote with over 6,000 votes. At the end of this article I will also make a poll as well, but first I will make my case for who I'd select.
Now Joe Blanton is not a great pitcher by any means, but he's still someone who can eat a lot of innings at the back end of your rotation. He doesn't strike many guys out, limits walks, and tops out at 89-90 MPH. After a season where he failed to post above 1 fWAR, Blanton bounced back in 2012 and produce 2.4 fWAR. So essentially in one season he went from almost replacement level all the way to above average. It's possible that Blanton does better next season, depending on where he ends up.
Yes Blanton's 4.71 ERA was high this year, but if we look at his peripherals and look to next season we can see that he may have a chance for some impressive improvement. The difference in his ERA and FIP was -.80, but for the most part throughout his career Blanton's ERA has always been higher than his FIP. In fact, his career E-F is -.21.
Blanton did manage to post a 4.2 BB%, a mark that he also posted in 2007, but it isn't out of the question that he sees that increase next season. After sitting between 64-66% the past two seasons his f-strike% dropped down to 61%. During those two seasons his BB% was around 5-5.5%, which was the lowest since that 2007 season.His contact% also dropped below 80% for the first time in his career.
I could see a team like the Padres signing Blanton, especially since Petco is such a huge pitcher's park. Lee thought Blanton could get a deal around 2 years and $12 million, and I thought he could see something around 1 year and $7 million. Either way if he produced over 2 WAR in either scenario he'd earn his contract.
In some ways Joe Saunders is the complete opposite though. For his career his FIP is actually higher than his ERA, the difference is +.41.
This past season what you saw is essentially what you got with Saunders. The difference between his ERA and FIP was -.01, virtually identical. One thing that we should remain skeptical going forward when it comes to Saunders is his 5.2 BB%. His career average is 7.2%, so a 2% drop is somewhat surprising. Going forward is it something sustainable? Let's find out.
In 2012 batters were swinging at balls outside of the strikezone less, and when they were they got less contact. Saunders also saw his f-strike% also decrease by almost 4%. These stats alone make it seem unlikely that Saunders repeats the low walk percentage next season. While lefties are always nice to have, he's a lefty that can barely touch 90 and strikes out batters even less than Blanton does. Saunders has a 13.4 K% for his career, compared to Blanton's 16% K%. Saunders did post 2.5 fWAR, but his peripherals don't bode well going forward.
I could still see Saunders getting 1 year and around $6-7 million, but I could also see him getting a similar 2 year deal for $12 million. Team wise I could see Baltimore bringing him back.
So Beyond the Box Score readers, who do you pick? Personally I would probably sign Blanton, mainly do to his lower peripherals. I just think he has the better potential as we head into next season.
As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter Follow @AKienholzBtB
This is your World Series recap in GIF format. Next we'll recap the Astros season in GIFs. Again commentary provided by Rob Neyer.
Pablo Sandoval kicked off the World Series right with his first of three homeruns in Game 1
As Tim McCarver noted, you just don't hit many 0-and-2 pitches hard against Justin Verlander.
But with two outs in the bottom of the first inning of the first game of the 2012 World Series, that's exactly what Pablo Sandoval did:
Time for some good defense
Zito pitched well against the Cardinals in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, but he needed some pretty good luck -- in the form of fortuitous batted balls, and great plays, and feeble swings -- to carry a shutout in the eighth inning. And now it seems to be happening in Game of the World Series. In the top of the third, Miguel Cabrera -- as you would expect him to do against Barry Zito -- just murdered a pitch.
And now time for some bad defense
Meanwhile, Justin Verlander retired six straight Giants after Pablo Sandoval drove a high fastball over the center-field fence in the first inning. And it might have been seven straight, but tonight those baseball gods haven't been nearly as kind to him; watch what happened when Ángel Pagán hit a chopper toward third base:
It's Kung Fu Panda again, making history
Verlander was out of the game after four innings. Alburquerque was in. Sandoval came up again in the fifth. He'd never hit three home runs in any game. Only three men in major-league history had ever hit three home runs in one World Series game. Pablo Sandoval hit only seven home runs at AT&T Park all season.
Take your statistics and shove it. Game 1 of the 2012 World Series belongs to Panda ...
This is how close plays at the plate should happen. Still exciting.
led off the top of the second, and Madison Bumgarner's third pitch plunked him in the shoulder. Delmon Young came up next, and grounded Bumgarner's second pitch down the third-base line; the ball bounded through the bullpen, then caromed off a jutting wall. Gregor Blanco corralled the ball finally, and hit second baseman Marco Scutaro -- stationed all the way near third base by then -- and Scutaro fired a perfect strike to Buster Posey, who just nipped Fielder on his right foot before his left foot touched the plate.
The scary moment of the Series.
Somehow, Fister seemed unaffected, and got right back to business after a couple of practice offerings. Fister walked Brandon Crawford to load the bases, but got Bumgarner on a pop to short center field to end the frame.
Nothing from Game 2, but it looked a lot like this from Game 3.
Pence stole second base while Brandon Belt was striking out looking, then moved to third when one of Sánchez's fastballs sailed past catcher Alex Avila. But those advancements seemed moot when Gregor Blanco drove a pitch to deep right-center field ...
Game 4 looked like this
Which set up the bottom of the ninth, with Game 4 still tied 3-3.
With Affeldt still pitching for the Giants, struck out. Jhonny Peralta came up next, and hit a fly ball to center field that seemed simple enough ... until the wind took ahold, and pushed it to the warning track, where a surprised Ángel Pagán hauled it in, more than 400 feet from the plate. Here was Affeldt's reaction:
This would be me.
This is not a theoretical construct. In the top of the sixth inning, Buster Posey did pick on a hanging change-up from Max Scherzer and hit a home run that traveled 363 feet, then went between a Tiger fan's hands and bounced off his skull.
And this is the Buster Posey homerun
Max Scherzer was cruising. Entering the sixth inning, he'd thrown only 67 pitches while striking out six Giants, and his Tigers were ahead 2-1. But this World Series ... Marco Scutaro led off the sixth with a high chopper that became an infield hit. And after Scherzer struck out Pablo Sandoval, he hung a change-up to Buster Posey and ...
Tigers were a little feisty in Game 4.
In the bottom of the third, the Tigers got a man aboard when Matt Cain issued a one-out walk -- on a pitch that just missed the bottom edge of the strike zone -- to Austin Jackson. When Jackson took off for second base on a steal attempt, Quintin Berry bunted toward third base and was just nipped at first base, with Brandon Belton making a nice scoop of throw.
That brought up Miguel Cabrera. In the first inning, Cain walked him. This time, Cain left a fastball up and ...
This post is sponsored by Jack in the Box.
The Miami Marlins may have multiple holes to fill for the 2013 season, and the team may indeed be flawed as it is currently constructed. But that does not mean that securing the Marlins' foundation is not as important as building upon said foundation. The Marlins have to find a core around whom to build their team, and that core has to be secured for the long haul with the Fish, especially if members of that core are young players.
The problem with the Fish is that it is hard to find players to whom it is worth committing long-term contracts. After a series of trades cleared the Marlins of the majority of their long-term commitments, the team is now only committed to just two players after 2013: Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, successful signings from the 2012 offseason spending spree. Reyes has already been tabbed as a centerpiece of the team, especially after a relatively successful, if underwhelming, 2012 season.
But who else do the Marlins have on their roster who would be worth a long-term extension? Who else on the Marlins could be a centerpiece of a future Marlins contender? The first answer to this question is an obvious, but nevertheless critically important one. The second player on this short list has some major question marks surrounding him.
Obviously, the Marlins' primary extension candidate is Stanton, who carried the Marlins on his back for much of 2012. Stanton had a breakout season last year, putting up a season worth between 5.5 and six wins last season for the Fish. Imagine that for a second: the Marlins would have been a full six wins worse than their already terrible record last season had they not had Stanton along for the ride, blasting home runs along the way. Stanton's power display allowed him to rack up 37 home runs and almost six wins in just 501 PA, which in and of itself is a herculean feat.
So it is no surprise that Stanton is an elite player and a worthy extension candidate. The Marlins would be foolish not to purchase Stanton's free agent seasons by committing to multiple years and many dollars ahead of time. For Stanton, he may very well follow suit along with a number of other outfielders in the past by signing a deal. Then again, he has recently said that he would only sign an extension if the money was correct, indicating that he may be less willing to hand out a "hometown discount" for his first and only team. An extension for Stanton is not a given, no matter how much either side is interested.
With regards to a deal, the Marlins are also running out of time. Presumably, a signing this offseason would guarantee the Marlins around two free agent seasons at relatively cheap prices just because of the nature of these contract extensions signed before the start of arbitration. However, starting at arbitration opens up another option for players like Stanton, an option used by players watching their superstar value such as Joey Votto, Matt Cain, and Tim Lincecum. Those players all signed two-year contracts that left them a final team control season, and teams often ended up either parting with the player or signing essentially a free agent deal with the current team. Prince Fielder entered free agency and left without signing a deal, but other players like Votto, Cain, and Matt Kemp received enormous, free agent-level contracts that included their final arbitration year. If the Marlins allow too much time to spare, they may not get any cheap free agent seasons and instead get a fairly-priced Stanton with its expensive nature.
Johnson is the only other player who could remotely be considered for a contract extension past the 2013 season. The reason for this is an obvious one, as Johnson was once considered one of the top tier pitchers in baseball. Unfortunately for him, his 2012 season was poor enough to raise questions about his ability to live up to his ace status from 2009 and 2010.
Therein lies the problem for the Marlins. On the one hand, Johnson's value could never be lower without an injury from the prior season, but at the same time the team has to know it is not going anywhere and must determine whether Johnson is part of that future. If the Fish deem Johnson good enough to give him five more years of commitment, this offseason would be the right time to do that, if only to avoid dealing with the competition of other teams. If the Fish deem Johnson or the rest of the roster to be a good fit for contention, it may be best to trade Johnson. Given his poor performance in 2012, it is possible the Marlins feel that way more than anything else.
Can they get an extension done for a player who had a decline in 2012 following an ambiguous injury situation in the year before? It is such a tough question, but if that were the case, it would be the first for the Fish since the team itself signed Johnson to an extension the first time. But unlike in the case of Stanton, Johnson's case for an extension is simply not a slam dunk, and a wait-and-see approach with midseason negotiations may be required for the Marlins to make an educated decision.
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