Jonathan Sanchez walked through Kauffman Stadium on a blustery fall morning, bundled up in a black coat with a black stocking cap pulled onto his head. He’s certainly not in San Francisco anymore. Sanchez was traded from the Giants to Kansas City this week in a deal that gave the Royals the kind of front-line [...]
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IntroductionThis True Team idea is based off of a Twitter conversation with Jason Wojciechowski about True Teams. This past season, Grant Green - a prospect in the Oakland Athletics organization - was moved from shortstop to center field because his[...]
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All week we've been announcing the winners of the major awards as determined by the bloggers here at SB Nation. Like Hosmer in the ROY race, we actually have a dog in this fight. As we noted earlier this year, Alex Gordon turned in a season worthy of down-ballot votes for MVP.
Results after the jump. Can you handle the drama?
Here was my ballot:
The biggest flaw with my ballot is the absence of Curtis Granderson (7.0 fWAR), which honestly I can't explain. Just an oversight, as he definitely be in there somewhere. I don't feel like I even gave Gordon a homer boost, but my 5th place ballot was higher than any other ballot cast. When you look at the WAR numbers -- which frame but do not totally dictate my voting -- you see that Ellsbury and Bautista are really a notch above everyone else, with Verlander perhaps just below, depending on how you evaluate his huge bWAR number. Then there's a group of players, including Gordon, that can be placed in all manner of different orders.
It should be fascinating to see who wins the "real" voting.
I apologize for missing out on yesterday's NL Cy Young announcement. The winner, you ask? Congratulations to Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies AND Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. That's right, they had a picture-perfect tie for the finish, which I find to be an awesome feat to accomplish.
Today, we'll discuss the SB Nation selection for American League MVP. The race looked tho be all but over after the first half ended, but a relatively cool stretch by the leader along with hot finishes by a variety of other very worthy candidates made this one too close to call. Who got the nod according to the baseball bloggers of SB Nation?
Congratulations to Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays for winning the SB Nation AL MVP.Bautista had a truly deserving season at the plate. After his monstrous first half, many were flirting with the idea that he would end the year with one of the best offensive seasons of all time. Unfortunately for him, after finishing the first half with an incredible .334/.468/.702 batting line, he finished the season batting "just" .257/.419/.477, a valuable but not "once-in-a-lifetime" batting line. Still, his season line was still worth a .441 wOBA and a 181 wRC+. Since 2002 (going back ten years), that 181 wRC+ ranks as the ninth most prolific offensive campaign, trailing only seasons put up by Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, and the 2002 versions of Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome. That is some healthy company to be in.
Bautista's 8.3 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) was quite a feat, but it was actually outdone by Jacoby Ellsbury, if you buy into UZR's opinion of his 2011 defense. On the back of a career-best .321/.376/.552 line (.402 wOBA, 150 wRC+) and 15 runs better than average on defense according to UZR, Ellsbury put up a 9.4 fWAR season. Other systems disagreed to varying extents about Ellsbury's defense however, and it was enough to sway voters to the side of reliable offensive performance.
Among the other names that received recognition were Miguel Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, and SB Nation AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. Verlander had a lot of steam behind his MVP argument during the regular season, so it is no surprise three first-place votes -- the third most in the balloting.
Congratulations again to Jose Bautista for winning the SB Nation AL MVP award for a fantastic 2011 season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed veteran catcher Rod Barajas to a one-year deal with a club option for 2013. Terms of the contract were not immediately disclosed Thursday. The 36-year-old Barajas hit .230 with 16 home runs and 47 RBIs last season while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Pirates are in need of [...]
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The Pirates have signed 36-year old righty swinging catcher Rod Barajas to a 1-year deal worth $4 million bucks with a club option for 2013 valued at $3.5 million bucks. Barajas played in 98 games for the Dodgers last year and he was 70 for 305 (.230 avg, .717 OPS) with 29 runs scored, [...]
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It's often said that good hitters have an ability to protect the plate and extend at-bats by fouling off pitches. We've all heard some version of this, typically during broadcasts and almost certainly during sequences where a hitter manages to work a[...]
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Tim's already given you his conspiracy theoryabout why Travis Buck means the Astros are preparing to move to the American League. I offer a little synergy in my breakdowns of Buck and Stavinoha's backgrounds over at SB Nation Houston. But, I wanted to talk about the signings here in more general terms.
The short of it is: I like both moves.
They're not going to win the Astros more games next year, but they both bring something to the table that this team lacks. Neither are perfect players, but that's why they were freely available for Houston to go get.
Buck, while he's not an inspiring choice as an outfielder, could be one of those buy-low, high-upside options. At this point, I think the fantasy that his power will someday come around is gone. But, as a doubles hitter with a good batting eye, he could hit .280/.360/.420 pretty easily. Only one Astro had an OBP higher than .360 last season and that was Michael Bourn.
I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that Buck will win the starting right field job, but we really don't know what he's capable of. He hasn't been given a chance to settle into a lineup and play regularly and he's at an age when he should be hitting in his prime. Even as a fourth outfielder, he'd be valuable.
Stavinoha is a little more problematic, but there's no questioning his power. He's hit for power at every minor league level but wasn't successful in his short major league stints. I'm not sure he wins an everyday job, but if he's the fifth outfielder and pinch hitter off the bench? That power becomes an asset. Plus, he could spell Carlos Lee at first or J.D. Martinez/Brian Bogusevic or Buck in the outfield.
Houston isn't a very patient, OBP-friendly team and they surely don't have a lot of power. By picking up each of these guys on small deals, the Astros are buying a couple of lottery tickets that may or may not impact the 2012 season. We can't hope to sign Jose Reyes, but we can hope that the Astros continue to pick up interesting guys who can add value in different ways.
Former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley and ex-Los Angeles pitchers Hideo Nomo and Chan Ho Park will run the team’s former spring training complex at Dodgertown with minor league baseball’s governing body. O’Malley’s sister, Terry Seidler, also will operate what is now being called Vero Beach Sports Village together with the National Association of Professional Baseball [...]
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The UK League Needs US Help
Although the Brits claim to have invented baseball, they are still in need of further US assistance if they?re to bring the leagues up to US standards. With just 35 clubs and 51 league teams in a population of 65 million people, few towns have a representative team.
Jane Austen and Baseball
Jane Austen mentions baseball in her novel Northanger Abbey, written around 1798-99, some 43 years after the English first started playing the sport. The game came back to England ? Derby to be precise ? in 1890, after Francis Ley discovered the game in the US. This led to the first baseball club in the town and although survived for just eight years, the stadium was called the Baseball Ground which became home of the local soccer (football in the UK) team, Derby County FC who remained there until 1997.
Local pressure, which didn?t agree with the number of Americans in the Derby team, forced them out of the first league after just one season. Now teams are calling out for more American experience to bring the quality of the games and therefore the numbers of spectators up to acceptable levels.
The peak of interest in baseball in the UK was in the years just before the Second World War. Professional standards were attained and as many as 10,000 people attended matches. The year before the war the Brits managed to beat the US to win the first World Cup of baseball ? so what happened after that? Well, the British are still playing baseball, but not to US standard.
The British Baseball Federation
The British Baseball Federation (BBF) governs the game in the UK. All teams have to be members of the BBF to be able to compete in the national league and the three AAA, AA and A tier leagues below. A full program of young and junior leagues hopes to bring players to the forefront in years to come.
The national league consists of just ten teams. The AAA league has 4 teams in the north and 6 in the south. The AA is set into three zones; 5 north, 5 midlands and 13 south. The A league has all 8 teams in the south.
The national league, AAA and AA compete in a four team finals tournament at the end of the season. The top 2 from the Southern Conference and the top two from the Northern Conference play knock out matches with the tournament winner going through to the Championship series. The championship series of the National league is a best of 3, while the AAA and AA matches are just single games.
The Dominant Teams
Four teams have dominated over recent years. The Richmond Flamers, London Mets, Croydon Pirates and Bracknell Blazers give the league a very southern, almost London only feeling. If the game is going to expand you will need to see teams from major towns competing in the highest leagues.
Another International Team Due For 2012
The British national baseball team is currently ranked 23rd in the world. Players consist almost entirely of British born players who have lived most of their lives in either Canada or the US, with two South African born members. There are 40 teams on the list so there are plenty below, although it must be galling for the British team to see many smaller nations ahead of them in the rankings.
The national team set up will be expanded in 2012 with the introduction of an under 23 team. This will hopefully allow players to play in international matches helping the individuals? progress through to the full national team.
The national junior team is at a major dilemma stage. Six of the team will reach the maximum age of 18 this coming year and won?t be able to play for the team any more. This means they won?t be able to play internationally unless they achieve selection to the senior national team. With the introduction of the under 23 team, more players will continue to compete internationally with a more gradual feed through to the senior squad. It?s the senior team that battles with local games in the European Championship and internationally in the World Baseball classic.
If British baseball is to expand, more Americans and Canadians currently living in the UK need to get involved in the game at all levels. Only then will the experience of the few help the many who need to learn from experienced players, for the long term stability of the game.
Izzy Woods is a travel writer and sports fan. Since moving to London, she has written on behalf of numerous clients (including a cruise deals company) in between keeping up on Britain's progress in lesser-played, American sports.