Showing posts with label Mike Napoli. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mike Napoli. Show all posts

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Remaining free agents: Anyone want a slugger?

Chris Carter
Has anyone else noticed what a bad offseason this has been for free-agent sluggers?

The calendar says February, but there still are plenty of guys out there with home run power that are looking for a contract. Just look up and down this free-agent tracker.

Need a right-handed power bat? Chris Carter, Mike Napoli and Mark Reynolds can be yours, and probably for cheap. In need of some lefty pop? How about Pedro Alvarez, Justin Morneau or Adam Lind? They're available.

Mark Trumbo led the American League in home runs last year with 47 -- 47 home runs! -- but it didn't lead to him breaking the bank in free agency this offseason. He took a three-year deal worth $38.5 million to remain with the Baltimore Orioles.

By way of comparison, the third-best closer on the market this offseason, Mark Melancon, got $62 million over four years from the San Francisco Giants.

It's interesting that guys who pitch one inning are now substantially more valuable in the marketplace than guys who are a threat to hit the ball in the seats every time they step into the batter's box.

Carter had 41 home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers last season. He can't find a job.

I'm wondering if the front office guys are looking at the WAR for these sluggers and feeling as if they just aren't worth an investment. Here is the 2016 WAR for each of the six guys I listed above:

Reynolds: 1.5
Napoli: 1.0
Carter: 0.9
Alvarez: 0.7
Morneau: 0.3
Lind: -0.3

This shows us that these guys provide little or no defensive utility. They are one-dimensional sluggers, and the game is starting to move away from that. There are no big bucks out there for "one-win" players.

I've had some people ask me why Todd Frazier remains on the roster for the rebuilding White Sox. Well, it's probably because front offices don't value sluggers that much anymore. Granted, Frazier had a 3.4 WAR last season, so he's better than the guys listed above, and he has some defensive utility at third base. However, there is no rush to acquire .220 hitters who give you 40 home runs, but also strike out a lot.

If that type of player were desired in the marketplace, Carter would have signed a free-agent contract by the first of the year.

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, October 20, 2016

Indians clinch AL pennant; Cubs get even with Dodgers

Andrew Miller
Down is up and up is down in the MLB playoffs, so I was snickering to myself Wednesday afternoon when I heard expert after expert assure me the Toronto Blue Jays were going to win Game 5 of the ALCS.

The Cleveland Indians were starting rookie left-hander Ryan Merritt, who had thrown all of 11 major-league innings in his career, while the Blue Jays were throwing Marco Estrada, who has been their best pitcher in these playoffs.

No way Merritt could hold up against the hard-hitting, right-hand-dominate Toronto lineup, right?


Merritt gave Cleveland exactly what it needed, tossing 4.1 innings of shutout, two-hit ball. The Indians' seemingly omnipotent bullpen took it from there, securing a 3-0 victory and sending Cleveland to its first World Series since 1997.

Once again, the Blue Jays had no answers for Cleveland relievers Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. The trio combined to pitch 4.2 innings, allowing no runs on four hits with five strikeouts.

Miller was named ALCS MVP, and why not? He appeared in each of the Tribe's four victories, tossed 7.2 shutout innings, allowed just three hits and struck out 14.

The Indians won this series, 4-1, despite scoring only 12 runs total in the five games. The MVP needed to go to a pitcher, and certainly Miller was the best guy on a Cleveland staff that limited Toronto to just seven runs in this series.

One other key: I think it really helped Merritt that he got an early lead. The Indians scored single runs in three of the first four innings. Mike Napoli had a two-out RBI double in the first. Carlos Santana homered in the third. Coco Crisp homered in the fourth. An inexperienced pitcher is more likely to relax and execute if he has some margin for error. Merritt had the lead before he set foot on the mound, and he did what he needed to do to protect it.

The Indians will now have five days off before the World Series begins Oct. 25, and they'll have at least two more NLCS games to watch and scout their next opponent.

Cubs 10, Dodgers 2

Speaking of the NLCS, the Cubs are even with the Dodgers at 2-2 in the series after their bats finally woke up Wednesday in Game 4.

The North Siders were held without a hit by Julio Urias for the first three innings, but they exploded for four runs in the fourth inning, then roughed up the Los Angeles bullpen with another run in the fifth and five more in the sixth.

Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell -- two hitters who had previously done nothing in the playoffs -- came up big for the Cubs. Both were 3 for 5 with a home run. Rizzo had three RBIs, and Russell knocked in two runs with his homer to cap the four-run fourth. Chicago also got two-hit games from two other struggling hitters, Ben Zobrist and Dexter Fowler. We'll find out in Game 5 whether this was the breakout night those four guys were looking for.

Jason Heyward? Well, he was 0 for 5 again. For those scoring at home, Heyward is scheduled to make $28 million in each of the next two seasons. The Cubs are fortunate they have enough good players that they can probably overcome the fact that Heyward is a colossal waste of money.

The stage is set for a pivotal Game 5 on Thursday night, and the Cubs have the advantage in the pitching matchup with ace left-hander Jon Lester on the mound. He'll be opposed by Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cleveland's Corey Kluber moving up the list of Cy Young candidates

Among American League starting pitchers, I'm not sure I can find a real obvious favorite for Cy Young. The award might go to the pitcher who gets hot over the last six weeks of the season.

One guy to keep an eye on: Cleveland's Corey Kluber.

Corey Kluber
The Indians right-hander picked up his fourth consecutive win Tuesday, when he defeated the White Sox, 3-1.

Kluber is now 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA over his last seven starts. For the season, he's 13-8 with a 3.15 ERA and a league-best 3.01 FIP. He ranks fourth in the league in strikeouts with 163, and he plays for a first-place team.

Yeah, I like his Cy Young chances if he keeps winning.

Thing is, the Sox had their chances Tuesday night. They got seven hits in six innings off Kluber, including four for extra bases. But, as so often has been the case, the big hit was lacking, and Justin Morneau's solo home run in the sixth represented the only run the Sox could muster against the Cleveland ace.

The "beneficiary" of the offensive misery was once again Jose Quintana (9-9). The Sox left-hander allowed just two runs over six innings, but got saddled with another hard-luck loss.

The second Cleveland run wasn't Quintana's fault. He had Rajai Davis picked off in the third inning, but Sox first baseman Jose Abreu threw high and wide of second base. Davis should have been the first out of the inning, but instead he was safe with a "stolen base." (#typicalWhiteSoxnonsense) Two outs later, Mike Napoli's RBI double gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead, and that was all Kluber and the Indians bullpen needed.

Midseason acquisition Andrew Miller worked two scoreless innings of relief, and Cody Allen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 23rd save for the Tribe, who enter Wednesday's play with a six-game lead in the AL Central.

The Sox? They've lost 12 out of 18 overall, and have dropped their last seven head-to-head meetings with the Indians. During those games, they've been outscored, 36-13.

Have we mentioned that the Sox have a lot of problems with divisional opponents during the Robin Ventura Era? I believe we have.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Shane Victorino stars as Red Sox complete World Series victory

It was pretty clear the St. Louis Cardinals were not going to let Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz beat them in Game 6 of the World Series on Wednesday night.

Ortiz, who entered Wednesday's play batting .733 for the series, went 0-for-1 with four walks -- three of them intentional -- in Game 6. However, the St. Louis strategy failed, thanks to Boston outfielder Shane Victorino.

Victorino went 2 for 3 with four RBIs as the Red Sox beat the Cardinals 6-1 and claimed their third World Series title since 2004.

The decisive moment came in the bottom of the third inning. With Jacoby Ellsbury on second base and one out, Ortiz was intentionally walked for the first time. After Mike Napoli struck out and Jonny Gomes was hit by a pitch, the table was set for Victorino. With the bases loaded and two away, the right fielder ripped a 2-1 fastball from St. Louis starter Michael Wacha off the Green Monster in left field for a bases-clearing double. The Red Sox took a 3-0 lead with one swing of the bat, and well, that was pretty much your ballgame.

Boston tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning, another frame that featured an intentional walk to Ortiz. Napoli and Victorino both foiled the strategy with RBI singles, and Boston had a 6-0 advantage.

I can't fault the Cardinals for going around Ortiz. They were bound and determined to make someone else swing the bat. Other Boston hitters stepped up and got the job done in RBI situations, so give them credit.

St. Louis, meanwhile, failed miserably in the clutch. The Cardinals were just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position in Game 6 and could not capitalize against Boston starter and winning pitcher John Lackey. The best opportunity for St. Louis came in the seventh inning. Trailing 6-1, the Cardinals had the bases loaded with two outs for their leading RBI man, Allen Craig. But Boston reliever Junichi Tazawa retired Craig on a routine grounder to first. The Red Sox lead was never threatened again.

The Cardinals hit a major league record .330 with runners in scoring position this season, but their greatest strength failed them at an inopportune time on Wednesday night. They could get runners on. They just couldn't get them in.

When the Red Sox had scoring opportunities, they delivered. And that's why they are partying in Boston right now.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sources: White Sox agree to deal with Cuban slugger Jose Abreu

The White Sox have agreed to a six-year, $68 million contract with Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, according to multiple reports.

Abreu, 26, is a right-handed power hitter, but other than that, I don't know much about him. We do know he went 9-for-25 with three home runs and nine RBIs in last spring's World Baseball Classic.

I haven't seen Abreu play a single game in my life, and unlike other self-appointed "experts," I don't pretend to know whether this is a good move for the Sox.

But I'll tell you this much: The Sox need a first baseman, and they need some guys who can hit in the middle of the order. When you look at the current roster, it's hard to figure out who is going to fill the Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 spots in the batting order next year. You assume right fielder Avisail Garcia is one of those guys, but after that, who do you have?

Paul Konerko will be 38 next Opening Day, and he doesn't have a contract for next year. Adam Dunn has hit a combined .197 in his three seasons on the South Side. I'm sure the Sox would love to trade Dunn and get out from underneath the last year of his contract. Alex Rios was traded in August, and Dayan Viciedo failed to take a step forward in 2013 as the Sox had hoped. Where are the impact bats?

Obviously, the Sox are really lacking in run producers, and if their scouts believe Abreu can fill that void, then good for the front office for going out and acquiring him. Yeah, the price is high, but if you believe in a player's talent, then you shouldn't be shy about pulling the trigger on a deal. The Sox can't afford to be passive coming off a 99-loss season.

If this Abreu signing fails, well, then somebody will probably pay with their job. That somebody won't be me, so I don't care. I'm just glad to see the Sox moving aggressively to try to upgrade their roster. I'll gladly take that over bringing back the same cast of characters from this past summer.

Boston takes 3-2 lead in ALCS

All of a sudden, Mike Napoli is the best hitter in the Boston lineup. The catcher-turned-first baseman hit a solo home run to win Game 3 of the ALCS for the Red Sox earlier this week, and he was at it again Thursday night. Napoli hit a monstrous 460-foot home run off Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez to open the scoring and finished with three hits and two runs scored as the Red Sox beat the Tigers, 4-3, in Game 5.

With the win, Boston will take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series back to Fenway Park for Game 6.

It's tempting to count the Tigers out. Detroit hasn't been hitting. In particular, cleanup hitter Prince Fielder has been terrible in the postseason. He's swinging at everything, and he has no RBIs in the playoffs thus far. He heard boos from the restless Comerica Park faithful on Thursday night.

But, Detroit has 21-game winner Max Scherzer lined up to pitch Game 6 on Saturday. If the Tigers win that, they'll have Justin Verlander ready to go on regular rest for Game 7. If the Red Sox are to finish the job and reach the World Series, they will have to beat a quality pitcher to do so. Home-field advantage will be working in their favor.

Boston will send Clay Buchholz to the mound on Saturday.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hey, Nick Punto! Don't wanna get picked off here in this situation...

Some years ago, I was watching a White Sox game on a Saturday afternoon, and former Sox first base coach Ron Jackson was miked up for one of those "Fox Sounds of the Game" segments.

One of the clips they played featured Jackson telling former Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen, who was on first base at the time, "Don't wanna get picked off here in this situation."

Thank you, Captain Obvious. As if there is any situation where it would be considered OK to get picked off.

Speaking of getting picked off, Los Angeles infielder Nick Punto got picked off at pretty bad time Tuesday in Game 4 of the NLCS. The Dodgers were trailing the St. Louis Cardinals by two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning when Punto reached second base on a one-out double.

Los Angeles had the top of its batting order coming up, and it appeared the Dodgers would have a chance to get back in the game in this inning. Alas, Punto was picked off second base by St. Louis reliever Carlos Martinez. Los Angeles didn't score, and the Cardinals took a 3-1 lead in the series with a 4-2 victory.

Maybe Punto would have benefited from having Jackson standing next to him there on second base.

"Don't wanna get picked off here in this situation." That's sage advice right there.

Would you believe it if I told you the Cardinals are hitting just .148 as a team in this series, despite their 3-1 advantage? It's true, but on this night two home runs made the difference for St. Louis. Matt Holliday, who had no hits the first three games of the series, hit a mammoth two-run blast off Los Angeles starter Ricky Nolasco in the third inning. Little-used reserve Shane Robinson added a solo shot in the seventh, his first hit in the playoffs, to account for the final run of the evening.

The Dodgers are on the ropes, but I wouldn't count them out. Remember, St. Louis had a 3-1 lead in the NLCS last year as well, and it failed to close out eventual World Series champion San Francisco. The Dodgers will need a big start from Zack Greinke in Game 5 Wednesday afternoon. The Cardinals will counter with right-hander Joe Kelly.

Boston takes 2-1 lead in ALCS

I mentioned the Cardinals' lousy team batting average in the league championship series. Well, the Red Sox are doing even worse. Boston is hitting just .133 as a team through the first three games of the ALCS, yet it finds itself ahead 2-1 after a 1-0 win in Detroit on Tuesday.

John Lackey fired 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball, and Mike Napoli hit a solo home run off Detroit's Justin Verlander for the only run of the game in the top of the seventh inning. Verlander was dominant otherwise; at one point he struck out six batters in a row. He finished with 10 strikeouts and allowed just four hits over eight innings, but Napoli's blast was enough to beat him.

The game's pivotal moment, though, came in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Tigers looked poised to tie or possibly take the lead with runners at first and third and only one out, with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder due to hit. The table was set for Detroit's best RBI men. But Junichi Tazawa fanned Cabrera, getting him to chase a pitch that was well outside for strike three. Boston closer Koji Uehara was summoned to face Fielder, and he fanned the Tigers first baseman on just three pitches.

If the Red Sox go on to win this series, those two strikeouts of Cabrera and Fielder might be considered the turning point.