Showing posts with label Adam Wainwright. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adam Wainwright. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Alex Reyes, the best pitching prospect in baseball, is out for the year

Just yesterday, we noted that Baseball Prospectus ranked St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Alex Reyes the top prospect in all of baseball.

Today, one day after the beginning of spring training, Reyes is heading to the operating table with a ruptured ligament in his right elbow. He will have Tommy John surgery and miss the 2017 season.

The 22-year-old was 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 12 games (5 starts) with the Cardinals last season. He struck out 52 batters in 46 big-league innings.

Reyes was expected to compete for the fifth spot in the St. Louis rotation, and some were thinking he would be a candidate for National League Rookie of the Year.

The Cardinals had high hopes for Reyes, and obviously, this is not the sort of news any team wants early in camp. However, St. Louis has a rotation that is mostly set -- Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Mike Leake and Lance Lynn are penciled in for the first four spots.

The Reyes injury leaves Michael Wacha as the leading candidate for the fifth spot. Wacha dealt with shoulder issues in 2016 and went 7-7 with a 5.09 ERA. The Cardinals need him to bounce back, because their other fifth-spot options are not great -- 23-year-old Luke Weaver, who struggled in eight starts last year, and former closer Trevor Rosenthal.

Tying this news back to the White Sox, every time some team has a pitching injury this spring, my reaction is going to be the same: "Hmmmm ... might this team be interested in Jose Quintana?"

So, would the Cardinals be interested in Quintana? Yeah, of course, who wouldn't? However, the Cardinals are not the type of organization that makes knee-jerk moves. They like to fill spots from within, and it seems unlikely they would want to send all their high-level prospects to the Sox for Quintana, even though the fit might be good on paper.

Unless, of course, one of their veterans at the top of the rotation gets hurt. Then they might start to feel desperate.

This situation illustrates the fact that Sox general manager Rick Hahn isn't necessarily wrong for holding on to Quintana going into the season. The market might heat up for him as we go along, because injuries and underperformance might cause certain clubs who think they have enough pitching right now to realize they don't.

Wait long enough, and you might have 10 suitors for Quintana instead of three or four. The gamble in that is the possibility that Quintana himself could get injured. But if Quintana stays healthy, and pitches like he usually does in the first half, there's an opportunity to create a bidding war among clubs at the July trade deadline.

There are potential risks and potential rewards in any strategy. The injury to Reyes is just the latest reminder of how important it is for teams to stockpile pitching.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Adam Wainwright done for the season; Josh Hamilton returns to Rangers

There have been a couple big stories from around the league the past couple days. Most notably, the St. Louis Cardinals have lost their ace, Adam Wainwright, for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.

Does this injury torpedo the season for St. Louis? Of course not. You may recall the Cardinals won the World Series in 2011, despite Wainwright missing the entire season after having Tommy John surgery. If there's an organization that can adjust and sustain a loss like this, it is St. Louis.

Wainwright's absence gives hope to both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cubs, both of whom are off to good starts in the NL Central. But, I still think the Cardinals are the team to beat in that division even without their ace. St. Louis still has two reliable rotation veterans in Lance Lynn and John Lackey. Two of their young arms, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez, are off to good starts this season, and they have options to fill that fifth spot.

Marco Gonzales is probably the best bet to get a call-up - eventually - but he's on the Triple-A disabled list with shoulder tightness right now. Jaime Garcia has major league experience and is another option, although he also has had some shoulder problems. You may see a guy like Tyler Lyons in the Cardinals rotation in the short run. I wouldn't bet against St. Louis piecing it together and remaining atop the division.

That said, if the Cardinals are going to get to the World Series and win it this year, I think they will need to go outside their organization and get some help. Wacha has never thrown 150 innings in a season, let alone 200. Martinez has never thrown more than 108 innings in a season, and he worked as a reliever for the Cardinals both last year and the year before. Both pitchers are just 23 years old, and it's just plain unrealistic, if not silly, to expect them to throw 220 to 240 innings this year -- regular season and, presumably, playoffs combined.

The asking price for Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels may be high, but the Cardinals may need to consider paying it -- not only to stabilize their rotation for this year, but for the future as well. This is Wainwright's second major injury, and he'll be 34 years old by the next time he takes the mound for the Cardinals. It might be time for St. Louis to acquire another veteran for the top of their rotation, while these younger guys such as Wacha, Martinez and Gonzales develop.

Aside from Hamels, there doesn't figure to be a premier starter on the midseason trade market, so don't be surprised if the Cardinals shop the middle tier for a starting pitcher, as well. Would Kyle Lohse be an option? He was formerly with the Cardinals, he's in the last year of his deal in Milwaukee, and the Brewers are off to such a bad start (4-16) that they might already be out of the race.

Wainwright has averaged 226 innings per year over his last five healthy seasons. Even though you expect a smart organization like the Cardinals to find a way to fill that void, that doesn't mean it will be easy.

Hamilton back to the Rangers

Josh Hamilton is less than halfway through a five-year, $125 million contract, but that didn't stop the Anaheim Angels from trading him to the Texas Rangers on Monday for nothing more than a player to be named later and cash considerations.

Hamilton, 33, was with Texas from 2008 to 2012. He was an All-Star in each of those five seasons and won the MVP award in 2010. However, he did not play well in two injury-plagued seasons with the Angels, and an offseason alcohol and drug relapse was apparently the final straw for the ownership group in Anaheim.

The Angels are eating most of the $80.2 million still owed to Hamilton, who is slated to make $23 million this year and $30 million in each of the final two years of the deal. Reports indicate Texas will be on the hook for only about $7 million of that.

Given Hamilton's .741 OPS over the last two years and personal problems, it's pretty clear the Angels simply wanted him gone. We'll see if Hamilton can regain his stroke in Texas, where he had a .912 OPS during his previous stint.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cy Young Awards: One surprise, one obvious

The 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner is ... Corey Kluber?

Yes, the relatively unknown Cleveland right-hander earned 17 of the 30 first-place votes and totaled 169 points, edging out Seattle's Felix Hernandez, who had 13 first-place votes and 159 points. White Sox lefty Chris Sale was third on 19 of the 30 ballots, so he placed third with 78 points.

Kluber expressed surprise to win the honor. I'm right there with him. I'm stunned. I figured Hernandez would prevail.

Let's do a side-by-side comparison of the two pitchers:

Hernandez: 15-6 W-L, 236 IP, 248 Ks, 2.14 ERA, 0.915 WHIP, 2.56 FIP, 6.5 H/9
Kluber: 18-9 W-L, 235.2 IP, 269 Ks, 2.44 ERA, 1.095 WHIP, 2.35 FIP, 7.9 H/9

When I first heard the results of the vote, I thought it was flatly ridiculous, but you can see how Kluber has a case. He went 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA in September, and that strong finish put his final numbers in the same ballpark with Hernandez.

Speaking of ballparks, I think we can all agree that Cleveland is a tougher place to pitch than Seattle. I think we can also agree that Seattle has a better defensive team than Cleveland. The numbers geeks really like that FIP (fielder independent pitching) stat, and Kluber was the best in the American League in that department. He also led thel eague in strikeouts. Those were the arguments in his favor.

However, I still would have voted for Hernandez. He had 16 consecutive starts from May to August where he allowed two runs or less. He led the league in WHIP, and he allowed almost a hit and a half less per nine innings than Kluber did. Hernandez also led the league in ERA. For the final month, Kluber was the better pitcher, but for the totality of the season, I thought Hernandez was the best and most dominant pitcher in the league. As an opponent, he was the guy you least wanted to see on the mound.

Thirteen voters agreed with me. Seventeen did not. That's how Kluber won.

Clayton Kershaw wins NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw won the NL Cy Young Award for the second consecutive year in a far less controversial vote. His name appeared first on all 30 ballots (150 points) after he went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA for the NL West Division champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

There's really no argument with this one.

Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto placed second with 112 points. Adam Wainwright of St. Louis was third with 97 points.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Giants win the pennant ... and Mike Matheny doesn't

Second-guessing managers is part of the fun of watching baseball -- especially during the postseason -- and we're putting St. Louis Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny on the hot seat tonight.

Here's the situation: Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. The Cardinals trail the San Francisco Giants 3 games to 1 and face a must win. The game is tied 3-3 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. St. Louis must hold or its season is over. And the pitcher Matheny turns to is none other than ... Michael Wacha?


Yes, Wacha was one of the postseason heroes for the Cardinals in 2013. He won the NLCS MVP award, in fact. But that was then and this is now. It's been an injury-plagued season for Wacha. He missed two and a half months with a shoulder problem, and he wasn't good enough or healthy enough to make the St. Louis postseason rotation.

Wacha hadn't pitched in a game since Sept. 26, yet there he was to start the bottom of the ninth inning with the season hanging in the balance. Four batters later, the Giants were National League champions.

In fairness, I can't say Wacha didn't look healthy. His fastball touched 98 mph on the Fox Sports 1 radar gun. However, his command was absolutely terrible, which is exactly what you would expect from a pitcher who hadn't seen the mound in nearly three weeks. That's why he shouldn't have been out there.

Pablo Sandoval led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a base hit, and the pressure was on Wacha immediately. One out later, he walked Brandon Belt on four pitches. Then, he fell behind 2-0 to San Francisco left fielder Travis Ishikawa and was forced to challenge him with a fastball. Ishikawa answered that challenge, knocking the ball over the right-field wall for a three-run homer.

Giants win, 6-3. Series over. Season over for St. Louis.

It isn't like Matheny didn't have other options. His starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright, gave him seven innings of two-run ball. Reliever Pat Neshek worked the eighth and surrendered a 3-2 lead, giving up a solo home run to pinch-hitter Michael Morse. Everyone else in the Cardinals bullpen should have been available.

Why not bring in closer Trevor Rosenthal? Or hard-throwing Carlos Martinez? A left-handed reliever such as Marco Gonzales or Randy Choate wouldn't have been a bad call in that inning, either, because Belt and Ishikawa are both left-handed hitters, and Sandoval -- a switch-hitter -- is far less dangerous when he's hitting right-handed.

If Matheny had brought in any of those four relievers, it would have been a defensible move. Instead, he went with Wacha. Terrible choice.

The San Francisco victory sets up an wild-card World Series with the Kansas City Royals. Thanks to the stupid TV networks, we have to wait until Tuesday for play to begin.

Am I the only one who thinks it stinks there won't be any baseball on this weekend? 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Big contract for any pitcher is risky business

The contract Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is going to receive is already giving some people upset stomachs. The size of it might end up being more eye-popping than the $50-60 million contracts teams gave to Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Keep in mind that was before the posting fee was capped at $20 million. The Red Sox and Rangers each coughed up posting fees in excess of $50 million, making the total investment for each pitcher more than $100 million.

It was a big deal when Kevin Brown
became the first $100 million pitcher
in baseball when he signed with the Dodgers.
That big of an investment rarely works out well if you're expecting the player to pitch well over the life of the whole contract. Here are the biggest contracts ever given to pitchers:

Felix Hernandez, Mariners, $175,000,000 (2013-19)
CC Sabathia, Yankees, $161,000,000 (2009-15)
Zack Greinke, Dodgers, $147,000,000 (2013-18)
Cole Hamels, Phillies, $144,000,000 (2013-18)
Johan Santana, Mets, $137,500,000 (2008-13)
Matt Cain, Giants, $127,500,000 (2012-17)
Barry Zito, Giants, $126,000,000 (2007-13)
CC Sabathia, Yankees, $122,000,000 (2012-16)
Mike Hampton, Rockies, $121,000,000 (2001-08)
Cliff Lee, Phillies, $120,000,000 (2011-15)
Yu Darvish, Rangers, $111.700,000 (2012-2017)*
Kevin Brown, Dodgers, $105,000,000 (1999-2005)
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox, $102,111,111 (2007-2012)*
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals, $97,500,000 (2014-18)
Carlos Zambrano, Cubs, $91,500,000 (2008-12)
-Source: Cot's Baseball Contracts
*posting fee included with salary

Obviously most of these contracts are newer as teams have been flush with cash and the pay for elite pitchers has gone up. Though maybe it's interesting is that five of the top six contracts ever given out to pitchers weren't signed by free agents, but were extensions for guys with a year or two left before hitting the market.

Of the contracts that have been completed, all of them looked like a disaster at some point. Hampton's looked like one almost as soon as the ink dried in the thin Colorado air. Zito's was almost as bad save for the fact he still soaked up a lot of innings for the Giants over the course of his seven-year deal.

Over the course of Zambrano's extension, he suffered a decrease in either his performance or ability to take the mound each and every year of his new contract. Matsuzaka and Santana each had a few good years at the front ends of their deals before ineffectiveness and/or injuries did them in.

The best contract of all of them in my opinion was Brown's. Baseball's first $100 million arm was good for more than 1,000 innings with a 3.23 ERA over seven years. Brown, who I think has an underrated Hall of Fame case, missed some time with injuries, but still pitched a lot of mostly good innings for his money, only completely losing it the final year when he was 40.

The jury is still out on the other contracts. Cain, Verlander, Hamels and Sabathia each just endured their worst season in years. Greinke was very good, but missed time after breaking a bone in a scuffle with Carlos Quentin. With Hernandez, Lee, Darvish and Wainwright, things are looking so-far-so-good, though only Lee's contract is even close to completion.

The results here seem pretty apparent. If you don't have to spend almost $100 million or more on a pitcher, then don't. The risk is still one that teams are willing to make, especially teams that are close to contention. Should they be?

Possibly. In a way, this is already how teams view the cost of dabbling in free agency. They're willing to get a good value on the front end of a contract in exchange for dead money at the end.

Looking at each of these contracts, none of them really stopped the team paying the checks from doing anything else. Zito didn't keep the Giants from winning two World Series titles. Lee and Hamels aren't the problem with the Phillies' payroll. Even Mike Hampton's contract was eventually carved up and served in digestible bites that teams other than the Rockies helped swallow.

Unless Tanaka pulls a Hampton-Zito, the team that wins the bidding for his services will be getting a good pitcher for at least a few years. So any team with the money might as well bid away.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dodgers take advantage of Cardinals sloppiness in NLCS Game 3

We'll start off with a quick stat about Los Angeles shortstop Hanley Ramirez: The Dodgers are 55-28 when he is in the starting lineup this season. They are 41-45 when he is not.

Ramirez did not play in Game 2 of the NLCS because of a hairline fracture in his ribs, but he managed the pain well enough to get back in the lineup for Game 3. Ramirez collected two bloop singles and an RBI in four at-bats as the Dodgers defeated St. Louis 3-0 Monday night to cut the Cardinals' lead in the series to 2-1. 

Ramirez's presence helped the Dodgers, sure, but the main storylines from this game were poor St. Louis defense and outstanding pitching from Los Angeles starter Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The Dodgers had failed to score a run in their previous 22 offensive innings before breaking through with two tallies in the bottom of the fourth inning off St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright. Both runs were gifts. Cardinals center fielder John Jay and right fielder Carlos Beltran had a miscommunication on a fly ball to right-center off the bat of Los Angeles second baseman Mark Ellis. Jay should have made the play; Beltran could have made the play. Neither man did, and Ellis was credited with a gift double. He would later score on a softly hit double by Adrian Gonzalez.

Yasiel Puig finished the rally with a two-out RBI triple. The hit broke and 0-for-11 slump (with seven strikeouts) for Puig. None of that would have happened if Jay had made the catch on Ellis' ball. It was a poor defensive night for Jay overall. He had four misplays out there, and was fortunate Wainwright was able to pitch over a couple of  his other gaffes. Ramirez added his bloop RBI hit in the eighth inning to cap the scoring, after Jay let a Carl Crawford blooper fall in front of him.

Ryu, a rookie left-hander, couldn't have pitched any better against the most prolific offense in the National League. He fired seven shutout innings, striking out four and allowing just three hits. That performance was exactly what the Dodgers needed. They couldn't afford to go down 3-0 in the series. They had to find a way to beat Wainwright, who had never lost in the postseason previously. Thanks to that performance by Ryu, they are back in the series.

Game 4 is Tuesday night, and both teams will be using their weakest starting pitcher. Lance Lynn, who picked up a win in relief in Game 1, is going for the Cardinals. Ricky Nolasco gets the ball for the Dodgers. St. Louis needs to get its bats going against Nolasco. The Dodgers will be able to throw their pair of aces, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, in Games 5 and 6. St. Louis won Games 1 and 2, which were started by Greinke and Kershaw, respectively. I don't know if the Cardinals will be able to pull that off again, so I feel like it would behoove them to win Game 4. That way, they'll have a little cushion before facing the Dodgers' top two guys again. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cardinals eliminate Pirates in NLDS Game 5

I think I mentioned earlier this week that St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright has been really good in the playoffs in his career.

The right-hander delivered in the clutch again Wednesday, firing a complete game eight-hitter as the Cardinals defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 in Game 5 of the NLDS at Busch Stadium.

With the win, St. Louis takes the series 3-2 and advances to the NLCS for the eighth time since 2000. The Cardinals will open at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.

St. Louis jumped in front in the second inning when David Freese got a hanging breaking ball from Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole and knocked it out of the yard for a two-run homer. Matt Adams added a two-run homer in the eighth inning to put the game out of reach.

Not that Pittsburgh had much chance against Wainwright, who is now 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and four saves in 15 career postseason appearances. The only time I can remember Wainwright failing in the playoffs was last year when he got rocked by the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS. On that night, of course, the Cardinals roared back from a 6-0 deficit and won the game anyway.

After Wednesday's victory, St. Louis is now 8-1 in playoff elimination games over the last three seasons. Give the Pirates credit for a great season -- they won 94 games and took the top-seeded Cardinals to the brink in this series. However, the talent and experience of St. Louis won out in the end.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Clayton Kershaw's performance highlights first day of NLDS

Both National League Division Series got underway Thursday, and unfortunately, both games were duds. None of the late-inning drama we associate with playoff baseball was present in either of these two contests.

The St. Louis Cardinals scored seven runs in the third inning and went on to an easy 9-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Los Angeles Dodgers also got out to an early lead and coasted to a 6-1 win over the Atlanta Braves. In each of these two games, you knew who was going to win by the fourth inning.

The highlight of the day was definitely the performance of Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw. After Adrian Gonzalez hit a home run in the third inning to put the Dodgers up 4-0, you had a feeling Kershaw was going to shut the door. He's 36-0 lifetime when Los Angeles scores four or more runs for him. Shut the door he did, striking out 12 Atlanta hitters and allowing just three hits over seven innings. At one point, Kershaw fanned six consecutive batters.

If you're the Braves, this isn't what you wanted to see in Game 1. Atlanta has the reputation of an all-or-nothing offense. The Braves led the National League in home runs this year with 181. They also tied for the league lead in strikeouts with 1,384. All-or-nothing was nothing on this night, and the Braves won't have it easy in Game 2, either, as they must contend with Los Angeles right-hander Zack Greinke, who has a 1.85 ERA since the All-Star break.

Meanwhile in St. Louis, Carlos Beltran hit a three-run homer off Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett during that seven-run outburst, and that was your ballgame. Adam Wainwright pitched seven innings of one-run ball and remained unbeaten in his postseason career (3-0, 2.27 ERA). This one was a real snoozer unless you are a Cardinals fan.

We'll see if the action heats up on Friday, with four Division Series games on tap around the country.