Showing posts with label Michael Brantley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michael Brantley. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

White Sox begin nine-game trip with typical Cleveland loss

Michael Brantley
The White Sox are 12-25 in their past 37 games in Cleveland, so we shouldn't be surprised that their first road game against the Indians this year ended with an archetypal punch to the groin.

Sox reliever Tommy Kahnle (0-1) retired the first two batters in the bottom of the 10th inning, but then he walked Francisco Lindor and gave up a game-winning double to Michael Brantley as the Indians came away with a 2-1 victory.

It's too bad, because the Sox wasted a serviceable start by the erstwhile James Shields. The veteran right-hander gave up a solo home run to Lindor in the bottom of the first inning, but nothing more over 5.1 innings. He allowed only two hits, walked two and retired 12 consecutive Cleveland hitters at one point.

Given the garbage we saw from Shields last year, how can we complain about that performance against one of the better lineups in the American League? We can't.

And, the Sox bullpen covered 13 more outs before Kahnle finally cracked in the bottom of the 10th.

Have we mentioned the fact that the Sox can't hit? Yeah, it's becoming a theme. Other than Todd Frazier's solo home run in the fifth inning, the offense generated little. The Sox were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and four of the nine starters finished the game 0 for 4.

The best scoring chance came in the top of the eighth inning against Cleveland bullpen ace Andrew Miller, of all people. Geovany Soto walked and advanced to third on a double by pinch-hitter Matt Davidson with one out.

With runners on second and third, Tyler Saladino hit a Miller slider right on the screws, but his line drive landed in the glove of diving Cleveland third baseman Yandy Diaz. Good defense by Diaz, bad luck for Saladino. If that one gets through, the Sox (2-4) take a 3-1 lead. Alas, it did not, and Tim Anderson swung over the top of two Miller sliders and basically struck himself out to end the threat.

The Indians also missed an opportunity in the eighth inning, thanks to some curious managing by Terry Francona. Sox reliever Nate Jones was laboring; he walked the first two hitters. But Francona for some reason ordered the red-hot Lindor to sacrifice bunt, which he did.

Sure, that gave Cleveland (4-3) runners on second and third with one out, but it opened the door for Sox manager Rick Renteria to walk Brantley intentionally and set up the double play. That's precisely what Renteria did. Jones got a righty-on-righty matchup that was favorable for him against Cleveland's Edwin Encarnacion, and he induced a 5-4-3 double play to keep the game tied. Good managing by Renteria, not so good by Francona, who is normally the game's best.

Unfortunately, given a second life, the Sox's offense was too inept to scratch across a run and steal a winnable game.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw win MVP awards

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout on Thursday was named the unanimous MVP of the American League.

The 23-year-old received all 30 first-place votes and finished with 420 points. Detroit's Victor Martinez took second with 229 points, while Cleveland outfielder Michael Brantley placed third with 185 points.

Let me say this: I do not disagree with this vote. But what's funny about this is Trout didn't have as good a season in 2014 as he had in 2012 or 2013:

2012: .326/.399/.564, 30 HRs, 84 RBIs, 49 SBs
2013: .323/.432/.557, 27 HRs, 97 RBIs, 33 SBs
2014: .287/.377/.561, 36 HRs, 111 RBIs, 16 SBs

Sure, Trout's power numbers were up in 2014, but he also struck out a league-leading 184 times. The batting average, on-base percentage and stolen base totals, while good, took a noticeable dip. I feel like his best year was 2013, when he finished second in the MVP voting to Miguel Cabrera. Trout also finished second to Cabrera in 2012.

Frankly, Trout has been the best overall player in the American League for each of the past three years. What was different about this season that swung the vote in Trout's favor? For one, Cabrera regressed to the point where he was no longer the best hitter on his own team. (Martinez was.) And two, the Angels won a league-best 98 games and made the playoffs.

The Angels did not make the playoffs in either 2012 or 2013, and there is always that subset of voters that believes the MVP *must* come from a team that qualified for the postseason.

Again, Trout deserves the award. It's just funny that he finally received his recognition in his weakest season of the last three.

Clayton Kershaw wins NL MVP

It's been a good week for Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw, who won the NL Cy Young Award on Wednesday and the NL MVP on Thursday.

Kershaw went 21-3 with 1.77 ERA, a 0.857 WHIP and six complete games in 27 starts this year. There's no denying he's the best pitcher in the league. The debate surrounding him was whether a pitcher should win the MVP award over an everyday player.

Here's why I think it's OK for starting pitchers to win MVP:

Dodgers record with Kershaw on the mound: 24-3 (.852 winning percentage)
Dodgers record with all other pitchers: 71-64 (.526 winning percentage)

The Dodgers are a decent, but not great team when Kershaw doesn't pitch. But with him on the mound, they rarely lose. I'd say he's pretty valuable, and you can justify voting for him for MVP on that basis.

Eighteen voters agreed and named Kershaw first on their ballot. He totaled 355 points. Miami's Giancarlo Stanton got eight first-place votes and 298 points for second place. Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen, the 2013 winner, finished third with four first-place votes and 271 points.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Remember when the Indians traded CC Sabathia?

Whenever an established veteran is traded for a package of prospects, experts routinely say we won't know how good of a deal a trade is until four, five, six years down the road.

For the most part, I think that's a fair way of looking at things, but we don't always take the time to re-evaulate deals of the past once that future finally arrives.

But with the Cleveland Indians in town to play the White Sox for a four-game series over the weekend, I got to thinking about the trade the Tribe made on July 7, 2008, in which they sent their ace pitcher, CC Sabathia, to the Milwaukee Brewers as part of a blockbuster deal.

Now that nearly six years have passed, I think it's fair to take a look back at this trade. For Sabathia, the Indians acquired outfielder Matt LaPorta, pitchers Zach Jackson and Rob Bryson and a player to be named later.

How did the Brewers come out in this deal? Well, Sabathia made 17 starts for them the rest of 2008 and went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA. He pitched like an ace down the stretch of that season and helped Milwaukee secure the wild card spot in the National League. Unfortunately for the Brewers, Sabathia got shelled in his lone postseason start, and Milwaukee lost in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual world champion Philadelphia Phillies.

That offseason, Sabathia left Milwaukee for much greener pastures, signing an 8-year mega-deal with the New York Yankees, for whom he still pitches today.

I doubt the Brewers regretted making the deal. It didn't net them a World Series, but it did help get them in the playoffs, and they probably knew Sabathia was going to walk at season's end at the time they made the trade.

Time has shown the players Milwaukee parted with on that July day didn't amount to much. Bryson was not much of a prospect and never pitched above Triple-A. Jackson appeared in 12 games over two seasons with the Indians, going 2-3 with a 6.11 ERA. He hasn't pitched in the majors since 2009. Left-handed pitchers tend to live forever, so the now-30-year-old Jackson is still kicking it around in the Washington Nationals organization, but he never helped the Tribe.

That brings us to LaPorta, who was considered "the big piece" of the deal. He was the 23rd-best prospect in baseball going into the 2008 season, as ranked by Baseball America. He was holding pretty steady at No. 27 on that list going into 2009, the spring after he had been dealt to the Indians.

Some experts were surprised the Brewers would part with LaPorta in exchange for a half-season of Sabathia, believing LaPorta was destined to be a prolific right-handed power bat. As it turns out, that didn't happen.

LaPorta made it to the majors with Cleveland, but he made little impact. He posted a .238/.301/.393 slash line with 31 home runs in 120 RBIs over 291 games from 2009 to 2012. He never hit more than 12 home runs in any season. The 29-year-old is now playing for Campeche of the Mexican League, where he is a teammate of former Cubs pitcher Sean Gallagher.

So, from all this we can safely conclude the Brewers fleeced the Indians back in 2008, right? Not so fast.

Remember, the trade included a player to be named later. That October, the Brewers completed the deal by sending outfielder Michael Brantley to the Indians. The 27-year-old is now in his fourth full year as a fixture in the Cleveland outfield. While Brantley is not an All-Star, he's a legitimate everyday player, having posted a .284/.332/.396 slash line in 2013, to go along with a career-high 10 home runs and 73 RBIs.

When a team acquires four prospects in exchange for an established veteran, it's a successful trade if even one of those prospects turns into something decent. After all, most prospects are complete busts. In this particular trade, the highly regarded prospect was a bust, while the player to be named later has become a major league starting outfielder.

Funny how it works out sometimes.