Showing posts with label Justin Upton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Justin Upton. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Chris Sale, Justin Verlander cancel each other out for second time in a week

Chris Sale
Chris Sale and Justin Verlander have locked up in a battle of aces twice in the last week. The result has been the same both times: Both men pitched well, canceling each other out. The games became a battle of bullpens, and the Detroit Tigers defeated the White Sox both times.

Here are the lines from the two matchups:

Aug. 31
Sale: 8 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 Ks, 4 BBs
Verlander: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ERs, 9 Ks, 0 BBs

Sept. 5
Sale: 8 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 8Ks, 0 BBs
Verlander: 7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 11 Ks, 1 BB

The two pitchers battled to a 2-2 draw Aug. 31 before the Tigers won, 3-2, when Sox closer David Robertson coughed up a run in the bottom of the ninth.

The Labor Day game was similar, with the two pitchers battling to a 2-2 deadlock into the late innings. This one went extras. The Tigers prevailed when Justin Upton hit a 3-run homer off Sox reliever Chris Beck in the top of the 11th inning. The Sox got one back in the bottom of the inning, but Detroit held on, 5-3.

This has to be maddening for Sale, who obviously had a tougher task facing the Tiger lineup than Verlander did facing the Sox lineup. Detroit has many more tougher outs, so you can make the case that Sale pitched better. He also lasted one more inning than Verlander did in each of the two games.

Still, no wins for Sale. The ace left-hander has posted quality starts in eight of his nine outings since the All-Star break. He has gone eight innings or more in each of his past four starts, and eight innings or more in five of his past seven.

He has been rewarded with a grand total of one win. He's stuck at 15-7, and probably is falling out of the Cy Young race with each no-decision.

#typicalWhiteSoxnonsense

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tigers gamble on Justin Upton reversing their decline

Justin Upton
Both Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton are better players than Chris Davis. So, after Davis got paid by the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend, you just had a feeling that Cespedes and Upton would soon get their big paydays, as well.

Cespedes still is on the board as of Tuesday afternoon, but Upton agreed on a six-year, $132.75 million contract with the Detroit Tigers on Monday.

Upton hit .251 with 26 home runs and 81 RBIs for the San Diego Padres last season, and he fills the hole the Tigers had in left field.

But does he make Detroit a legitimate contender? I knew the Tigers would make big splashes this offseason. They are coming off a last-place finish in the AL Central, and their owner, 86-year-old Mike Ilitch, has shown that he's willing to spend his millions on trying to build a winner sometime before he dies.

Here's one problem for the Tigers: Several members of their core (Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez) are aging and coming off years where they've spent time on the disabled list, or played through injury issues.

Here's another problem for the Tigers: Despite an active offseason, they won't be entering 2016 with a better roster than the one they had 12 months ago.

Think about it: They have Jordan Zimmermann instead of David Price. They have Upton instead of Cespedes. They have Cameron Maybin instead of Rajai Davis. They have Francisco Rodriguez instead of Joakim Soria. The rest of their core is the same.

Which of these four would you rather have: Price, Cespedes, Davis and Soria? Or Zimmermann, Upton, Maybin and Rodriguez?

It's close, but I think I would take the group with Price and Cespedes. The Tigers had those guys last year, along with Cabrera, Martinez, Verlander, et al., but after an 11-2 start, they slumped badly. They were back to .500 by the first week of June and never got it going again. They struggled so much, in fact, that former GM Dave Dombrowski broke up the band, dealing Price, Cespedes and Soria to contending teams at the July trading deadline.

Dombrowski was ultimately fired for abandoning the win-now mentality that has existed for years under Ilitch. Normally, I'm a proponent of the win-now philosophy, but there's something to be said for a front office that realizes its window has closed. Dombrowski knew that last year, and he changed gears. Just because ownership dismissed him for that decision does not mean he was wrong.

Even with the addition of Upton, I'm looking at a Detroit roster that has significant question marks, and costs roughly $200 million. For that kind of money, a team should probably be a favorite to win its division. But to me, the Tigers (and everyone else in the AL Central) are still looking up at the Kansas City Royals, and frankly, they aren't as close to the top as they believe they are.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Chris Davis gets big bucks from Orioles; Ian Kennedy to Royals

Chris Davis
It pays to be a left-handed slugger. It also pays to have Scott Boras as your agent.

The Baltimore Orioles on Saturday agreed with first baseman Chris Davis on a seven-year, $161 million contract. The deal reportedly includes a limited no-trade clause.

I'm shocked Davis got this kind of money, especially in what has been a cool market for free-agent hitters. Sure, Davis hit a league-leading 47 home runs last year and amassed 117 RBIs, but he's also just two years removed from a 2014 season where he hit just .196 and got suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Also, if you look at the 29-year-old's career, he only had two good years in his 20s -- 2013 and 2015. What in the world makes the Orioles believes Davis will be productive for seven years into his 30s? 

It will not happen, and you have to wonder whether Boras got Baltimore to bid against itself in this deal.

This signing could be good news or bad news if you're a White Sox fan, depending on your perspective. First the good news: the Orioles won't be signing Yoenis Cespedes now. As recently as Friday, we heard reports that Baltimore was offering the free-agent outfielder a five-year deal worth $90 million -- an offer the Sox would be unlikely to match or beat. But now that the Orioles have made their move to sign a hitter, that's one less potential landing spot in play for Cespedes or Justin Upton.

Now for the bad news: If Davis is worth seven years and $161 million, then aren't both Cespedes and Upton now in position to demand at least that much money and years, if not more? If that's what the market will bear, then the Sox aren't going to pay. And I'm not sure they should, frankly.

Kansas City signs RHP Kennedy

Speaking of questionable contracts, how about the Royals giving $70 million over five years to Ian Kennedy?

Kennedy was great in 2011 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he's never been able to duplicate that success:

2011: 21-4, 2.88 ERA
2012: 15-12, 4.02 ERA
2013: 7-10, 4.91 ERA
2014: 13-13, 3.63 ERA
2015: 9-15, 4.28 ERA

Kennedy's 4.28 ERA last year came with pitcher-friendly San Diego as his home ballpark, so that doesn't bode well for a smooth transition to the American League.

In fairness, there are a few things that might make this OK for the Royals. First, their outfield defense is much better than San Diego's, and that should benefit a fly-ball pitcher such as Kennedy. Secondly, Kennedy has previously worked with pitching coach Dave Eiland; both were in the New York Yankees system when Kennedy was a young prospect.

Third, the Royals looked similarly foolish when they signed Edinson Volquez, who like Kennedy had his fair share of struggles in the National League. As it turns out, Volquez has turned his career around in Kansas City and been solid under Eiland's tutelage.

Kansas City is obviously banking on a similar improvement from Kennedy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Gerardo Parra signs with Rockies; Carlos Gonzalez trade coming next?

Carlos Gonzalez
The Colorado Rockies on Tuesday agreed to terms with outfielder Gerardo Parra on a three-year, $27 million deal.

It's a curious move, because the Rockies already have a crowded outfield. With Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson and now Parra on the roster, Colorado has a logjam of left-handed hitting outfielders. That's four starting quality outfielders with only three jobs available.

I don't think a team with the Rockies' mid-market budget would give Parra an average of $9 million a year to serve as the fourth outfielder. At that price, it seems reasonable to believe their intention is to play Parra every day. And if that's the case, one of Gonzalez, Blackmon or Dickerson is going to be dealt sooner rather than later.

Cue the speculation about Gonzalez, as reports indicate the Orioles, Angels, White Sox and Cardinals all have interest. 

The market for Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton might slow again now, as teams searching for an outfielder kick the tires on what it would cost to acquire Gonzalez, who has two years and $37 million remaining on his contract. Some clubs, including the Sox, could see those financial terms as more palatable than a four- or five-year commitment to Cespedes or Upton.

That said, I'd be reluctant to cough up too many top prospects for Gonzalez, who can't hit lefties anymore, despite the 40 home run season he posted last year. Check out his 2015 splits:

Gonzalez vs. RHP: .301/.364/.633, 35 HRs, 78 RBIs
Gonzalez vs. LHP: .195/.222/.308, 5 HRs, 19 RBIs

FanGraphs has published a more detailed offering on why Gonzalez should no longer be considered a superstar player. He's oft-injured, and the wear and tear is starting to show up in his performance.

Gonzalez is a big name in the game, of course. He'd be a big-splash acquistion, for sure, but I'd say buyer beware here. And, as one article I read today put it, the Rockies might be asking for two top-100 prospects in any trade involving Gonzalez, but that doesn't mean they are going to get it.

The Sox should resist any urge to buy high on this player.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Denard Span agrees to terms with Giants; outfield market starts to move

Denard Span
Now that Alex Gordon has re-signed with the Kansas City Royals, maybe we'll see some of the other free-agent outfielders come off the board this weekend. There was more movement Thursday, as the San Francisco Giants agreed to terms on a three-year, $31 million deal with veteran outfielder Denard Span.

Hip surgery limited Span to 61 games last year, but he did hit .302 with a league-leading 184 hits for the Washington Nationals in 2014. If healthy, he's a good fit in San Francisco. He'll bat leadoff and play center field, and the Giants can move the oft-injured Angel Pagan over to left field -- and allow Gregor Blanco to slide into the fourth outfielder role, which is where he belongs. With Hunter Pence in right field, San Francisco appears to be in good shape in the outfield.

Other teams, including the White Sox, Baltimore, Detroit, Texas and L.A. Angels, still could use some outfield help, and there remain plenty of useful players on the market.

Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton are the most attractive options for teams seeking an outfielder, but even with Span off the board, there are a few other decent second-tier guys available, including Dexter Fowler, Gerardo Parra and Austin Jackson.

According to a tweet from USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Sox have not changed their stance on free-agent outfielders: They aren't willing to go beyond three years on a contract length for any of these guys. We have no way of knowing whether that's true, or just posturing, but it would be my speculation that the Sox aren't going to land Cespedes or Upton if they are unwilling to give at least a fourth year.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another unwritten rules violation, Carlos Gomez edition

Atlanta Braves left-hander Paul Maholm drilled Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez in the leg with an 88 mph fastball on June 23. Gomez took exception to it, believing it was intentional, and he hasn't forgotten about it.

So, Gomez went to the plate looking for revenge when the two men competed against each other again Wednesday night. There's no question Gomez was looking to take Maholm deep. He took a mighty cut and missed on the first pitch, almost falling down in the process. On the second pitch, he connected, sending one deep into the seats in left-center field.

Give Gomez credit for that. If you believe a pitcher has hit you intentionally, one of the best ways to deal with that is to hit a home run next time you face him. Perfectly acceptable. What happened after Gomez made contact wasn't so acceptable, as he stood there and admired his handiwork, then stared at Maholm and flipped the bat behind him before rounding the bases.

On his way around the bases, Gomez jawed with Maholm, Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman and catcher Brian McCann. Gomez actually never touched home plate, because McCann confronted him about 20 feet up the third-base line. The two men exchanged more heated words, and the benches emptied. You can watch video of the incident here

It's no secret I've never liked Gomez. I've disliked him since his days with the Minnesota Twins. He's a hot dog and a loose cannon. His actions on the field often cross the line into obnoxious territory, and this incident is just the latest example. He got tossed out of the game, and rightfully so. He's an idiot.

However, I can't put 100 percent of the blame on Gomez for this one. There are certain teams around baseball that fancy themselves as gatekeepers of the unwritten rules of the game. Atlanta is starting to become one of those teams. Not even a month ago, the Braves were involved in a similar incident when Miami Marlins rookie pitcher Jose Fernandez, a 21-year-old kid, got a little too excited about hitting his first major league home run. 

Is it really necessary to have an altercation when someone stands and admires a home run for a little too long? Have our feelings gotten that sensitive? For me, the Braves are living in a glass house. One of their own players, Justin Upton, has been known to pose after hitting a home run. Most teams probably have a guy or two who is guilty of hot-dogging it after taking the opposing pitcher deep. I know a lot of people don't like to see that stuff, but it's pretty common in today's game.

I can agree that Gomez was over the line with his antics. But I'll be honest, I don't know exactly where that line is. At one point does a home run pose become offensive to the other team? I'm not sure. Maybe someone should take these unwritten rules I hear about all the time and write 'em down so we all understand what is acceptable and what is not.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thursday This and That

All the statheads say wins and losses aren't a good measure of a pitcher's effectiveness. I don't necessarily agree with that sentiment 100 percent of the time, but here's a case where it's true:

Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija (right) is tied for the National League lead in losses with four, even though he has posted a quality start in three of his first five outings and has a respectable ERA of 3.03. Samardzija has just one victory.

Teammate Travis Wood also has just one win. It isn't his fault. He's gone at least six innings and given up two runs or less in each of his first four starts of the season. He has a 2.08 ERA. Unfortunately for him, the Cubs stink, so his record is just 1-1.

Carlos Villaneuva is in the same boat. His ERA is 1.53. He's gone seven innings or more in each of his first four starts, giving up two runs or less in each outing. His record? 1-0.

So, Samardzija, Wood and Villaneuva have a combined 2.25 ERA in 13 starts, 11 of which have been quality. Alas, their combined record is 3-5. None of them has more than one win.

You know who does lead the Cubs' pitching staff in wins? Well, that would be Carlos Marmol, the guy who is blowing all the games for these starting pitchers. Marmol has a bloated 4.82 ERA and 1.82 WHIP. But hey,  he's 2-1!

Where's the justice in that?

Detroit goes back to Valverde

After his legendary playoff meltdown last year, Jose Valverde is back with the Tigers. He made his 2013 debut Wednesday and earned the save in Detroit's 7-5 win over Kansas City. Believe it or not, he retired the side 1-2-3 in the ninth. Of course, two of the three outs were warning track fly balls, but an out is an out, right?

I still think the bullpen is the Achilles heel for the Tigers. They only resigned Valverde because they weren't happy with Phil Coke or any of their other options in the closer's role. Only time will tell, but I wouldn't be surprised if Valverde is washed up. He's fortunate Detroit is a pretty big ballpark. Some of those long flies he gives up will die on the warning track there.

Mr. Solo Home Run

White Sox fans love to complain about their team hitting nothing but solo home runs, but the South Siders have nothing on Atlanta outfielder Justin Upton.

Upton has been red-hot out of the gate this year, connecting for 11 home runs in his first 21 games. Thing is, he has only 16 RBIs.

Upton is just the second player since 1921 to hit 11 home runs and have fewer than 17 RBIs to show for it. The other is Gary Sheffield from the 1996 Florida Marlins.

Isn't anyone getting on base for Upton?