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

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tuesday thoughts: Matt Davidson, Brad Penny, David Robertson

I was on board with the move last offseason when White Sox GM Rick Hahn traded closer Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for third base prospect Matt Davidson.

In theory, it's a trade I'd still endorse today. Closers have a short shelf life, and while Reed is a solid relief pitcher, he is not All-Star caliber. It's not a bad baseball move to trade a player like that for someone you believe will at some point play every day in your infield.

That said, it's hard not to be discouraged about what we've seen since Davidson joined the White Sox organization. 2014 was a terrible year for him. His slash line at Triple-A Charlotte was .199/.283/.362. His 20 home runs and 55 RBIs hardly made up for the 164 strikeouts in 539 plate appearances.

You'd like to believe it was just a poor season -- it can happen to any player -- and that Davidson will bounce back this year. Maybe he will, but it's been an ugly spring for him so far. He's 1-for-12 with four strikeouts in the Cactus League, and he committed errors on back-to-back plays Monday that opened the door for the Diamondbacks to score four unearned runs in their 6-2 win over the White Sox.

Davidson continues to struggle both with the bat and with the glove. He turns 24 next week, so you can still say he counts as a prospect, but it will be hard for the Sox to keep him in their plans if he doesn't show anything this year.

Penny getting a long look

Quick quiz: Name the pitcher who has logged the most Cactus League innings for the White Sox this spring.

It's not Jeff Samardzija or Jose Quintana. It's veteran right-hander Brad Penny, who is in camp on a minor-league deal.

Penny has worked 7.2 innings thus far. His results have been mixed. He's allowed three runs on 11 hits, and opponents are hitting a robust .355 against him. But, he has struck out six men, and he's only walked one. Unlike some other pitchers who are trying to make the roster (Daniel Webb, cough, cough), Penny is throwing strikes.

He's been a starter for most of his career, and there is obviously no room for him in the White Sox rotation. But team brass is giving him a long look this spring, perhaps considering whether he can be the 12th man on the pitching staff -- the guy who works in long relief or makes a spot start when needed.

Because of service time rules, five days before opening day, the Sox have to either add Penny to the major league roster, cut him, or give him a $100,000 bonus for staying on the minor league roster.

Every team needs a staff saver. Could Penny be that guy? He hasn't pitched himself out of contention yet.

Robertson working on command issues

Speaking of closers, David Robertson hasn't been sharp in his first few spring outings. He allowed two runs in 2.2 innings pitched, while walking three and striking out just one.

Cause for alarm? No.

I watched Robertson work an inning Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels, and by my unofficial count, he threw nothing but fastballs and cutters during his 23-pitch outing. Robertson has a put-away breaking ball in his arsenal, but he didn't use it even once -- despite facing both Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in that inning.

Robertson walked two, but got out of trouble when Pujols grounded into a double play.

It was clear from watching the outing that Robertson doesn't have command of his fastball yet, so that's what he was focusing on when he stepped on the mound Sunday -- results be damned.

That's why it doesn't make sense to put too much stock in spring training numbers. Guys might be working on specific things, and they may not be doing things the same way they would in a regular-season game.

It's an important thing to remember as a fan, even though it is sometimes hard not to draw grand conclusions from what you're seeing in spring ball.

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, February 4, 2014

Does anyone want these five MLB free agents?

Ubaldo Jimenez
Does your favorite team still need a starting pitcher? Well, there are two free agents out there who might interest you. Both of them had ERAs of 3.30 or better last season -- in the American League, no less.

How about a middle-of-the-order hitter? There are two free agents available who can almost certainly give your team 20 home runs and about 75 or 80 RBIs.

Need defense? The starting shortstop from last year's World Series championship team is available, too.

The Super Bowl is over, and it's almost time for spring training to begin. However, pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana are without contracts. Also without a job are first baseman Kendrys Morales, outfielder Nelson Cruz and shortstop Stephen Drew.

All five players were given qualifying offers to return to their 2013 teams on a one-year, $14.1 million deal. All five declined and elected free agency. Here on Feb. 4, the waiting game continues for each player.

Why? Phil Rogers explained it in a recent column on MLB.com. Any team that signs one of these five guys would have to give up a first-round draft pick to that player's former team.

These days, teams are a little slower to part with those draft picks. Remember when the St. Louis Cardinals lost Albert Pujols in free agency? Don't cry for the Cardinals because they used the compensatory draft pick they received from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to select pitcher Michael Wacha, who was last seen helping the Cardinals to the 2013 NL pennant.

And don't cry for the Angels either. When they lost Mark Teixeira in free agency after the 2008 season, they received a compensatory draft pick from the New York Yankees and used it to select outfielder Mike Trout, who is probably the best young position player in the sport today.

So, if you're wondering why decent major league players like the five listed above are still looking for work, look no further than the rules about compensatory draft picks. GMs are now figuring the loss of a valuable draft pick into the "cost" of signing these free agents, and accordingly, they aren't willing to give as much money to guys like Ervin Santana. Clubs are going to wait until the last minute to sign these players, once the price comes down to bargain levels.

Eventually, these five players are going to get a contract with somebody. You won't need to cry for them either, because they won't go hungry. But they probably aren't going to get the money they believe they're worth, and they may not even get the $14.1 million they could have had by staying with their 2013 teams.

Most -- if not all -- of these players would already be signed if they weren't tied to draft pick compensation. But this is the gamble they took when they refused those qualifying offers, and here they sit on Feb. 4.

Friday, November 15, 2013

No surprise: Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen win MVPs

I don't have any brilliant analysis to offer about this year's MVP awards, but since we've been talking about postseason honors on this blog this week, I should probably note that Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen have been named the MVPs of their respective leagues.

Neither vote was a surprise. Cabrera led the American League in batting average (.348), on-base percentage (.442) and slugging percentage (.636). He ranked second in home runs (44) and RBIs (137) behind Chris Davis of Baltimore.

Cabrera got 23 of the 30 first-place votes and finished comfortably ahead of Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout. Davis took third in the balloting.

McCutchen won in a landslide, picking up 28 of the first-place votes in the National League. He batted .317 with 21 home runs, 84 RBIs and 27 stolen bases. He also played an excellent center field in leading Pittsburgh to its first winning season and first playoff appearance since 1992.

Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt finished second, while St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina took third.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I can't get on board with this whole 'rooting for draft position' thing

It's my understanding that a lot of the cool White Sox fans are rooting for the team to lose these days, hoping to secure a more favorable draft pick for next June.

In my world, such a thought process is stupid.

Folks, this isn't the NBA. This isn't the NFL. LeBron James (pictured) will not be awarded to the MLB team that finishes with the sorriest record in the league. Andrew Luck is also not available, nor is .133-hitting uberprospect Mike Olt.

You see, the baseball draft is a complete crapshoot. It is less predictable and more volatile than drafts in other sports.

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, aka the best young player in the game today, was selected 25th overall in his draft year. Chris Sale, the best young player on the White Sox roster, was chosen 13th overall in 2010. That goes to show you do not need to be drafting in the top 10 to get All-Star talent.

It's also true that the overall No. 1 pick is no sure thing. The Tampa Bay Rays have a track record of drafting quality players and stocking their MLB roster with homegrown talent, but ask them how that No. 1 overall selection of Tim Beckham in 2008 is working out for them. Five years later, Beckham still hasn't seen the bigs and is toiling at Triple-A Durham for a third straight season.

People need to understand, in baseball, you are not assured of getting any sort of franchise savior by securing the top pick or the second overall pick. I'm not going to root for the White Sox to land in a certain draft position, because I have no idea what I'm going to be getting when the Sox finally do make their first-round selection next June.

I'd much rather cheer for the guys who are currently on the team, especially younger players like Sale, Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago, Andre Rienzo, Avisail Garcia, Gordon Beckham, Dayan Viciedo, Josh Phegley Addison Reed and Nate Jones. These are the guys who are still going to be around once GM Rick Hahn finishes the veteran purge that's going on right now. You want them to finish out the season strong, so they have a good feeling going into next year.

Take a look at the last White Sox team to finish in last place. You have to go all the way back to 1989, but understanding what that team did can be constructive. That season, the Sox were a godawful 32-56 at the All-Star break. But the second half of the season, they played much better. They went 37-36 after the break. Young players learned some things about playing in the big leagues. They finished with just 69 wins, but guys improved their games and came back the next season with the right attitude. In 1990, the Sox went 94-68.

Now, I don't expect the Sox to bounce back and win 94 next season. However, a good finish over the next 43 games can set the table for a much more competitive year in 2014. Personally, that's what I'm going to root for. I see no point to cheering for some nameless, faceless future draft pick. There will be plenty of time to root on that individual, whoever he may be, once that player joins the Sox organization next summer.