Showing posts with label Javier Baez. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Javier Baez. Show all posts

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Cody Allen closes out dramatic ninth inning for Cleveland in Game 3

Cody Allen
Saw an interesting stat today: The Cleveland Indians are 23-0 when relief pitchers Cody Allen and Andrew Miller pitch in the same game.

I always say the longer a streak goes in baseball, the more likely it is to end. The Cubs had a chance to end that streak Friday night, but Allen slammed the door on them, striking out Javier Baez with two outs and two runners in scoring position to preserve a 1-0 Cleveland victory in Game 3 of the World Series.

With the win, the Indians hold a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 is Saturday night at Wrigley Field.

Even if you don't care about either of these two teams, the ninth inning of Game 3 was as dramatic as it gets in a non-elimination game.

Cleveland scored the lone run on an RBI single by pinch-hitter Coco Crisp. The combination of Josh Tomlin, Miller, Bryan Shaw and Allen had combined to keep the Cubs off the board through eight innings.

Allen, the Cleveland closer, struck out Kris Bryant on a nasty curve to end the bottom of the eighth inning, but he found himself in immediate peril after giving up a leadoff single to Anthony Rizzo in the ninth.

With Chris Coghlan running for Rizzo, Allen bounced back to get the first out on another good curve that caused Ben Zobrist to swing and miss. Coghlan advanced to second on a weak groundout by Willson Contreras, which set up the drama of having the tying run in scoring position with two outs in the ninth.

Jason Heyward came to the plate for the Cubs with the game hanging in the balance, causing audible groans throughout the Chicago area. The $184 million man is 2 for 31 this postseason, and he's probably the last player the Cubs wanted up in that situation. Heck, they've got some pitchers who have been swinging the bat better than Heyward.

This time, the Cubs lucked out when Cleveland first baseman Mike Napoli booted what should have been a routine grounder off Heyward's bat. Suddenly, the Cubs had first and third and the much more dangerous Baez at the plate.

Heyward stole second and got into scoring position representing the winning run, and Baez jumped ahead in the count, 2-1. It was set up for the Cubs to possibly steal this game, but that's when Allen got tough.

The Cleveland reliever went back to his curve on 2-1. It broke hard and down in the dirt, and Baez could not check his swing. Strike two.

Gutsy pitch, because remember the tying run is on third base. If Indians catcher Yan Gomes doesn't block the ball, the game is tied. Gomes made the block. Cleveland got the strike, and Allen had succeeded in changing Baez's eye level.

With two strikes, Baez had to be thinking about that curve ball. After all, Allen had recorded three outs to that point -- all on curve balls. So what did Allen do? He pitched Baez backward. He went away from his preferred out pitch. He probably figured Baez would be protecting against the low breaking ball, so he threw a high fastball, above the hands. And he blew it right past Baez. Swinging strike three. Game over.

Brilliant pitching and a dramatic end to a great baseball game between the two top teams in the sport this year. Who says a 1-0 game is boring? Not me.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Anthony Ranaudo's White Sox debut memorable, but unfortunate

Anthony Ranaudo
With Carlos Rodon still stuck on the disabled list, the White Sox turned to Anthony Ranaudo to make a spot start Wednesday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Ranaudo held up his end of the bargain. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and even became the first Sox pitcher to hit a home run since Mark Buehrle in 2009.

But from the sixth inning on, it all unraveled, and the Sox lost 8-1 -- although very little of that damage was Ranaudo's fault.

The Sox led 1-0 into the sixth inning before Kris Bryant ended Ranaudo's no-hit bid and shutout with a solo home run on a 3-1 hanging curve ball. To Ranaudo's credit, he did not get rattled. He retired the next two hitters and got the game into the seventh inning with score tied at 1.

After the first two Sox hitters made outs in the seventh, manager Robin Ventura allowed Ranaudo to hit for himself. I thought that might have been a spot to give Justin Morneau an opportunity to pinch hit against Cubs starter Jason Hammel, but given the Sox's thin bullpen, Ventura decided to try to get another inning out of Ranaudo. A questionable decision, but not indefensible by any means.

It looked like it would work out, initially, as Ranaudo retired Miguel Montero and Addison Russell on groundouts to start the bottom of the inning. That's where things got dicey, and frankly, what occurred the rest of the seventh was not Ranaudo's fault.

The Sox right-hander snapped off beautiful curve ball to Jason Heyward on a 2-2 pitch. It was right at the bottom of the zone and over the plate. It fooled Heyward, and he took it for what should have been strike three, inning over. But catcher Dioner Navarro's lousy framing skills once against cost the Sox. As Navarro caught the pitch, he snapped his glove downward, making it seem like the ball was in the dirt. The Sox didn't get the call, the inning continued, and Heyward walked on the next pitch.

Ranaudo was at 101 pitches at that point, and that should have been the end of his night. Javier Baez was the next Cubs hitter, and Ventura should have gone with one of the power right-handed arms in his bullpen. It would have been nice to see Carson Fulmer, or even Tommy Kahnle, in that spot to give Baez a different look.

Instead, Ranaudo remained, and he hung a 3-2 curve to Baez, who hit one out to give the Cubs the lead for good at 3-1. Then, Ventura emerges from the dugout to make a pitching change.

A day later and a dollar short there, Robin.

Fulmer and Jacob Turner struggled in the bottom of the eighth inning, allowing the Cubs to blow it open with five more runs, but the game was lost with the lousy receiving of Navarro and the questionable decision-making of Ventura in the seventh inning.

Ranaudo deserved a better fate, and to add insult to injury, he was the one who was sent to the minors after the game to make room on the roster for Chris Sale, who is returning from his five-game suspension.

Between the home run and limiting the Cubs to two hits over 6.2 innings, I'd say Ranaudo's debut was a memorable one, but he unfortunately became a victim of the usual White Sox nonsense.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Yoenis Cespedes' steal of third base: Most overlooked important play in NLCS Game 3

The Cubs played a lousy defensive game Tuesday night in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. The New York Mets took advantage of most of their opportunities and got strong pitching from Jacob deGrom to earn a 5-2 victory at Wrigley Field. The Mets now have a 3-0 stranglehold on the best-of-seven series.

Here in Chicago, some of the postgame laments are focusing on a couple misplays in left field by Kyle Schwarber, and a wild pitch by Trevor Cahill in the top of the sixth inning that allowed New York's Yoenis Cespedes to score the go-ahead and eventual winning run. Cubs shortstop Javier Baez made an error on the first play of the game, and right fielder Jorge Soler also had a horrible misplay in the sixth inning, so there were no shortage of defensive gaffes by the Cubs.

But the most overlooked important play in the game proceeded Cahill's wild pitch. With Cespedes on second base and one out in a 2-2 game, the Cubs' middle infielders, Baez and Starlin Castro, fell asleep. They were not holding Cespedes close, and he got a huge jump on Cahill and stole third base with ease.

The Mets successfully stole third base just five times during the regular season, but this is the fourth time one of their baserunners has swiped third in the postseason. New York is being more aggressive in the playoffs. The Cubs should have caught on to that by now, but apparently not.

That stolen base put Cespedes at third with just one out, which is always crucial. As it turns out, Cahill made the big pitch he needed to get the second out. Travis d'Arnaud grounded out to third base, and Cespedes could not advance. Michael Conforto then struck out swinging on a pitch in the dirt, but the ball skipped past Cubs catcher Miguel Montero all the way to the screen. Conforto reached first safely on the dropped third strike, while Cespedes raced down the line to put the Mets up 3-2.

They tacked on two more in the seventh, with help from a Schwarber misplay, but do you think that steal of third base was crucial? You bet it was. That wild pitch means nothing if Cespedes is still standing on second base.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Report: Cubs renew contract talks with Jeff Samardzija

Turn on the baseball talk shows in Chicago, and you still hear nothing but poetry and praise for the Cubs' front office and its rebuilding plan. Many members of the media gush about the prospects the Cubs have in their system, especially third baseman Kris Bryant, who has been tearing up Double-A.

But here's the thing: Prospects are all fine and dandy, but don't you have to make progress at the major league level eventually? The Cubs have lost 90 or more games for three consecutive years, and they are on pace for another 93 losses this season. That's unacceptable for a big-market team -- at least it should be.

It's past time for the Cubs to open up the wallet and start spending to improve the major league team. The North Siders have only $31 million committed to their roster for the 2015 season (excluding arbitration raises). Given the ticket prices they charge, the Cubs should have plenty of cash on hand. And, there's not much question that money should be spent on pitching.

All these prospects we keep hearing about are position players: Bryant, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, Arismendy Alcantara, etc. Where are the pitching prospects? There aren't many worth talking about, and that's why I think the Cubs should sign their best pitcher, Jeff Samardzija, to an extension. Reports on Monday indicated the team is trying to do just that.

To this point in the season, it's been assumed Samardzija would be traded to an AL East contender midseason. Previous contract talks have gone nowhere with the right-hander, whose 2.77 ERA ranks ninth in the National League. Despite a 2-6 record, Samardzjia's other numbers are good: 82 strikeouts in 91 innings and a 1.18 WHIP. I don't know that he's an ace on a contending team, but he's probably a No. 2 starter. He's a solid, reliable pitcher who would be an asset to any organization.

Knowing that, why don't the Cubs just keep him? Sure, he's going to command six years at over $100 million. That's a lot of dough, but it's the going rate. If Homer Bailey can get six years and $105 million, then so can Samardzija. And it isn't like any of the other free agent pitching options next offseason (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields, Justin Masterson) are going to come any cheaper.

If you're gonna pay for pitching, why not pay the guy who has been with the organization all along? Samardzija will be 30 heading into next season, but his arm doesn't have the wear and tear of many pitchers his age. He was late to the party in terms of becoming a starting pitcher. He's thrown 649 innings in the majors during his career. By way of comparison, San Francisco right-hander Matt Cain (who is three and a half months older than Samardzija) has thrown 1,779.2 innings in the majors. Projecting a pitcher's future is always guesswork, but if I had to take a guess, I'd say Samardzija's got plenty of bullets left.

Let's say the Cubs do ante up and make Samardzija a lucrative offer in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see if he accepts. I have the sneaking suspicion that Samardzija is tired of this rebuilding plan. By the Cubs' own admission, they are at least two years and maybe three years away from fielding a team that can compete. Samardzija is in the prime of his career right now. Does he want two or three more of his best years to go to waste languishing on a rebuilding club? The way he's pitched, it's absurd he has only two wins this season.

That leads me to my next point: If the Cubs want to attract big-name free agents, they need to start winning more games. Why did Masahiro Tanaka choose the Yankees over the Cubs? It wasn't because the Cubs didn't make a representative offer. It was because Tanaka wants to win, and the Yankees field a competitive team every season.

Sure, the Cubs could flip Samardzija to the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Orioles or Yankees and get three or four prospects, but then their team would become even worse than it already is. If the Cubs trade both Samardzija and pitcher Jason Hammel, they don't have many good options to plug into those two rotation spots. They might be charting a course toward 95 or 100 losses.

Would Max Scherzer or Jon Lester want to come be a part of that? I don't think so. Who is going to take the Cubs' money, if not Samardzija? Members of the media might be swooning about Cubs prospects, but veteran players don't give a damn about Javier Baez's batting average in Triple-A. They want a chance to win, and they want it sooner rather than later.

I believe signing Samardzija for the long haul would bring the Cubs closer to a chance to win than flipping him for a package of ifs and maybes at the trade deadline.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

If any pitcher deserves some run support, it's Jose Quintana

White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana leads the league in only one category: no-decisions. He had a league-high 17 of them in 2013. He's had 28 of them since the start of the 2012 season, more than any other pitcher in baseball. Heck, his first start of 2014 ended in a no-decision after the Sox bullpen spit out a three-run lead.

I've lost track of how many times Quintana has pitched well enough to win, only to walk away with nothing. Lack of run support? That would be an understatement. The Sox scored three runs or less in 16 of Quintana's 33 starts last year. Seven times, they were limited to one run or less. They were shutout on three occasions.

So if there's any pitcher who deserved to be the beneficiary of a 15-run outburst, it's Quintana. The left-hander turned in another solid, consistent outing on Tuesday night, firing seven innings of two-run ball in the Sox' 15-3 win over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

The environment is hitter-friendly in Denver, and this game saw the Sox pound out six home runs and 19 hits. First baseman Jose Abreu hit the first two home runs of his major league career. Avisail Garcia also went deep twice, and Alexei Ramirez and Tyler Flowers hit home runs as well.

Abreu's first home run was perhaps the big blow of the game. On the 12th pitch of his at-bat in the seventh inning against Colorado reliever Chad Bettis, the Cuban slugger hit a three-run homer to extend a tenuous 4-2 Sox lead to 7-2. From there, the rout was on. Abreu homered in the eighth inning, as well, and is now tied with Minnesota's Chris Colabello for the American League lead in RBIs with 11.

Speaking of leading the league, Flowers leads all American League hitters with a .478 batting average entering Wednesday's action. That's funny to me. Should I pick him up in my fantasy league?

Cubs waste big night for Castro

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro missed a good chunk of spring training due to injury, and not surprisingly, he got off to a slow start the first few games of the season. It looks like he's back on track, though, after going 3-for-4 with two home runs and four RBIs on Tuesday night.

But Castro's effort went for naught, as the Cubs lost 7-6 to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. I bring up his performance, though, to note he is still clearly the best shortstop in the Cubs' organization.

While I agree with Cubs fans that Castro is a frustrating player to watch at times, I disagree with those who want him traded immediately to make room for uber-prospect Javier Baez.

In case you were wondering, Baez is 1-for-18 with eight strikeouts and three errors at shortstop in six games at Triple-A Iowa so far this year. The 21-year-old also was ejected from a game for an angry outburst over the weekend. There's a good probability we'll see Baez in Chicago before the year is over, but his slow start is a reminder that he is still very much a work in progress. He needs to refine his game, especially defensively, before he's worthy of being a big-league shortstop.

The Cubs need not be in any hurry to trade Castro, who for all his faults remains the most accomplished hitter in the North Siders' lineup. The Cubs need to be adding good hitters to their roster, not subtracting the scant few they have.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Be a smart fan: Don't draw grand conclusions from spring results

I was looking at some of the baseball stories on the Chicago Tribune website this morning when I took note of a Cubs-related web poll. It read: Barney at SS over Baez, right move?
Starlin Castro



I clicked on the poll and voted "yes," because that is the right answer. Not surprisingly, only 24 percent of the poll's 607 respondents agreed with me. That means 76 percent of the people who answered this poll are full of beans, and here's why:

OK, the Cubs' regular shortstop, Starlin Castro, is out 7-10 days right now with a hamstring injury. It's not believed to be serious, and there's every reason to believe Castro will be at shortstop when the North Siders open the season March 31 in Pittsburgh. But, hypothetically, let's say Castro isn't ready. You know who the likely Cubs starter at shortstop would be under than scenario? Darwin Barney. And that's why manager Rick Renteria is going to give him some playing time at that spot while Castro is out.

I'm sorry, but this is an obvious move. It's not even a matter of debate.

However, it's being debated because the moron contingent in Chicago mistakenly believes highly regarded prospect Javier Baez is ready for the major leagues. Baez is 4 for 9 with a home run so far this spring. Those nine ABs are enough for the meathead division of the Cubs fan base to be sold on the idea that Baez should be the team's starting shortstop -- even over Castro, according to some.

Not to be a wet blanket, but that ain't happening. Baez has only played 54 games in his life above the Class-A level. He isn't ready for the bigs. And, yes, I know he hit a combined 37 home runs between High-A and Double-A ball last season.

But you know what else is true? Baez also made 44 errors in 123 games at shortstop last year. 44 errors! I'm going to go out on a limb here and say his defensive game could use a little more refinement before he's ready to play a middle infield spot in the major leagues every day.

Baez also struck out 147 times last year against that lower-level pitching. I haven't seen enough of the kid yet to comment on his swing, but that strikeout total suggests there is still some refinement needed in his offensive game, too.

Cubs brass no doubt knows this, and I believe they will wisely ignore the din and send Baez down to the minors for the start of the regular season.

All the talk in Cubs camp is about prospects right now, but Renteria has 162 major league games to manage this year. He has to have his players prepared for all possible scenarios. Unlike Baez, Barney is going to be on the 25-man roster when camp breaks, and Renteria knows he needs Barney to be ready to play shortstop in a pinch. It's a point that should be painfully obvious to anyone with a brain.

Nine good at-bats from Baez isn't going to change the Cubs' plan for this prized 21-year-old prospect, nor should it.

South Side fans not immune from stupidity, either.

A co-worker of mine suggested yesterday the White Sox sign free-agent pitcher Ervin Santana because "Felipe Paulino is struggling right now."

No lie. And I think he might have been serious.

First off, Santana is a bad fit for the Sox, but that's another argument and beside the point for this discussion.

Everyone needs to remember Paulino missed almost the entire 2013 season after arm surgery. The sum total of his year was 27.2 rehab innings in the minor leagues. He's barely pitched over the last 18 months, so nobody should be surprised he gave up four runs and eight hits over 1.2 innings in his first spring training start.

My reaction to those results: So what?

Here's what I care about: Paulino's fastball was sitting between 92 and 94 mph, right where it should be. He threw 31 of 47 pitches for strikes, a good ball-to-strike ratio, and he felt good physically after the outing.

That's all that counts right now. We'll worry about results later.

Some other instructive reading

Any fan worried about spring training numbers should read this piece from Jim Margalus over at South Side Sox.

Jim notes the 2013 Sox put up a robust .299/.358/.494 slash line during spring training. It was hardly a foreshadowing of the regular season, when the Sox posted a .249/.302/.378 line on their way to scoring the fewest runs in the American League.

The article shows several examples of individual players whose spring training numbers lied, but perhaps the most telling was infielder Jeff Keppinger's line.

In spring ball last year, Keppinger looked like the answer to the Sox' third base woes when he put up a solid .412/.483/.510 line in 58 plate appearances. Too bad his regular season totals were .253/.283/.317 in 451 plate appearances.

The moral of the story is this: Nothing that's happening now means much in the grand scheme of things. Don't fall in the trap of drawing grand conclusions from spring results.

Smart fans are the ones who stay away from this kind of nonsense.