Showing posts with label Yu Darvish. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yu Darvish. Show all posts

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Houston Astros win 2017 World Series with 5-1 victory over Los Angeles Dodgers

George Springer
The Houston Astros lost 111 games in 2013. Four years later, they are the best team in baseball.

The Astros completed their climb from the bottom of the pit to the top of the mountain Wednesday with a 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series.

This World Series was one of the most dramatic in a long time, but somewhat surprisingly, Game 7 might have been the only "boring" game of the bunch. The Astros roughed up Los Angeles starter Yu Darvish, scoring five runs in the first two innings. There was never a point where you felt as though the Dodgers could overcome the early 5-0 deficit.

The MVP vote was a foregone conclusion. Leadoff hitter George Springer was right in the middle of everything Houston did offensively in Game 7. His double started a two-run rally in the first inning, and his two-run homer in the second inning capped a three-run rally that made it 5-0.

Springer homered for the fourth consecutive game, tying a World Series record. He hit five home runs total in the series. That also ties a record. Springer posted a .379/.471/1.000 slash line for the series with 11 hits -- eight for extra bases -- and eight runs scored.

Yes, that's a clear MVP-worthy performance.

If we were to pick a LVP (Least Valuable Player) off the Dodgers roster, it would have to be Darvish. The midseason acquisition let Los Angeles down big time, failing to make it out of the second inning in both of his World Series starts.

In Game 7, Darvish lasted only 1.2 innings, allowing five runs (four earned). In Game 3, he lasted only 1.2 innings, allowing four earned runs. Final line: 0-2 with a 21.60 ERA.

The Dodgers acquired Darvish with the idea that he would be a "second ace" behind Clayton Kershaw. That just didn't work out.

Houston, meanwhile, navigated Game 7 by using five different pitchers, most of whom are not household names. Starter Lance McCullers hit four batters and allowed three hits in his 2.1 innings, but he managed to keep the Dodgers off the board.

Brad Peacock tossed two scoreless innings, and Francisco Liriano and Chris Devenski each retired the only hitter that they faced. That left the final four innings to right-hander Charlie Morton, who allowed a run in the sixth but shut the door in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

Morton struck out four and allowed only two hits to earn the victory. The 33-year-old journeyman was a free agent coming off surgery last offseason. Any team could have had him, but not many teams wanted him. And how could they? Morton entered 2017 with a career 46-71 record with a 4.54 ERA.

The Astros took a chance on revitalizing Morton's career, and it came up aces. He made 25 starts during the regular season and went 14-7 with a 3.62 ERA. On Wednesday night, he recorded the 12 biggest outs of his 10-year career in the majors with a performance that likely will never be forgotten in Houston.

When a team wins a championship, its season is usually characterized by not only big performances from core stars (Springer), but also unexpected contributions from players who are perceived as being on the margins (Morton).

The Astros got what they needed when they needed it, and I think they surprised a lot of people by vanquishing the big-money, 104-win Dodgers.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Dodgers stick with their plan, force Game 7

Rich Hill
For the second year in a row and third time in four years, the World Series is going seven games.

The Los Angeles Dodgers forced a decisive game Tuesday with a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 6.

Game 7 is Wednesday night. Yu Darvish gets the start for Los Angeles. Lance McCullers will be on the mound for Houston.

Give the Dodgers credit: They are smarter than me, and they stuck with the plan that has made them successful throughout the season and playoffs. They don't like to allow their starters to go through a lineup more than two times, and they are standing by that belief. I thought they needed six innings from starter Rich Hill to win Game 6. They didn't. I was wrong.

Hill was effective, giving them 4.2 innings of one-run ball, but when he got in trouble in the fifth, manager Dave Roberts quickly went to the bullpen.

I didn't think Brandon Morrow had anything left in the tank after his poor performance in Game 5, but he got the biggest out of the game in the top of the fifth inning. He entered with the Dodgers trailing, 1-0. The Astros had the bases loaded with two outs, and Game 5 hero Alex Bregman was at the plate.

Morrow retired Bregman on a routine grounder to shortstop to keep it a one-run game, and the right-hander went on to record the first two outs of the sixth inning, as well.

The Dodgers broke through with two runs in the bottom of the sixth off Justin Verlander, highlighted by an RBI double by Chris Taylor and a sacrifice fly by Corey Seager. They added a third run in the seventh when Joc Pederson homered off Joe Musgrove.

This time, the Los Angeles bullpen was up to the task of protecting a lead, and much to my surprise, the Dodgers used Kenley Jansen for a six-out save. Jansen retired every batter he faced the final two innings, with three strikeouts, and he needed only 19 pitches to get the job done.

I figured Jansen would be good for only three outs in Game 6, but with that efficiency, he worked two innings with ease. It could be key that he kept his pitch count low in closing out Tuesday's game, in the likely event he'll be needed in the late innings of Game 7.

We'll see what Darvish can provide for the Dodgers. He was terrible in Game 3, getting knocked out in the second inning. The leash will be short in Game 7, of course, but that's especially true knowing Clayton Kershaw should be available to relieve at some point.

As for the Astros, they missed a big chance to close it out with their best guy on the mound in Game 6. Now, they'll have to piece the pitching together in Game 7, starting with McCullers. Will we see Dallas Keuchel in relief in Game 7? Probably.

Would Verlander come back for an inning after throwing 93 pitches Tuesday? Doubt it, but you never know. Charlie Morton, Houston's Game 4 starter, might be called upon to work in relief as well.

I'm guessing the Astros are going to need a big offensive night in order to win. In Houston's three victories in this series, it has scored 25 runs. In its three losses, it has scored four runs.

The Dodgers have won two 3-1 games in this series. They have had the advantage in the pitchers' duels. The Astros are at an advantage when the game becomes a slugfest.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Game 6 of the World Series ... a couple of key questions

Justin Verlander
The Los Angeles Dodgers are at home, facing a must-win situation Tuesday in Game 6 of the 2017 World Series. The Houston Astros lead the series, 3-2, and have two chances to capture the first championship in franchise history, but they'll have to do it on the road.

It would be hard for Game 6 to top the drama of Game 5, but here's a couple of key questions -- one for each team -- going into this game.

For Houston .... who closes?

The Astros have it set up just the way they want it. Their best pitcher, Justin Verlander, is on the mound with a chance to secure a title. Both bullpens are taxed, so it's a huge advantage for Houston to have this right-hander on its side. Verlander is the only starting pitcher to complete a game in these playoffs.

Can Verlander go all nine innings in Game 6? Well, maybe, but that's a lot to ask. And what happens if Verlander gets through seven or eight innings with a lead, but doesn't have enough left in the tank to finish?

Where do the Astros turn when their two best relievers during the season -- Ken Giles and Chris Devenski -- have blown multi-run leads during this series and generally have been arsonists?

How about Lance McCullers? Sure, he's slated to start Game 7, if necessary. But if you're Houston manager A.J. Hinch, and you have a lead late in Game 6, perhaps you push your chips to the center of the table, go to your best option and try to close it out right then and there.

For me, the next-best option after Verlander is McCullers.

For Los Angeles ... how long can Rich Hill go?

Hill started Game 2 for the Dodgers, and he was effective. He allowed only one run over four innings, but he was given a quick hook. Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts just wanted Hill to get through the Houston batting order twice before turning it over to the bullpen, which had been dominant up until that point in the postseason.

That backfired on Roberts in Game 2. Dodgers relievers coughed up six runs in a 7-6 loss, and Houston has been proving over and over again since that it can score against the Los Angeles bullpen.

As we've noted, Kenley Jansen and Brandon Morrow have been used a lot. They probably cannot be counted upon for multiple innings in this game, even though it is a must-win for the Dodgers.

It's imperative that Hill pitch effectively into the sixth inning, and perhaps he needs to get through the sixth inning for the Dodgers to win.

Based on what I've seen, Roberts needs to stay away from Morrow in this game. Kenta Maeda and Tony Watson seem to be the best bets to form a bridge from Hill to Jansen. And, yes, despite Jansen's diminished effectiveness, I think the Dodgers should go to him in a closing situation. He's still their best option, but they probably shouldn't ask him for more than three outs.

If Los Angeles can get through this Game 6, then maybe it can go Yu Darvish to Morrow to Jansen in a Game 7 situation.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

White Sox trade Scott Carroll to Texas for cash considerations

Scott Carroll
The Texas Rangers have two starting pitchers (Derek Holland, Colby Lewis) on the 60-day disabled list, and injuries have limited Yu Darvish to only four starts this season.

Things have gotten so bad in Texas that the Rangers have turned to washed-up Kyle Lohse to make a couple of recent starts (Lohse has a 12.54 ERA in two games).

So, it comes as no surprise that Texas has reportedly called the slumping White Sox to see if they are going to make All-Star pitchers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana available in a trade.

According to a recent tweet from USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Sox are looking to keep their starting rotation intact, instead choosing to make all position players except for Tim Anderson available in a deal.

In any case, a few hearts might have skipped a beat yesterday when a story called "White Sox-Rangers trade" moved across the AP wire. Alas, it was not the rumored blockbluster.

Instead, the Sox sent right-handed pitcher Scott Carroll to Texas for cash considerations.

Carroll, 31, started 14 games for the Sox two years ago and has a lifetime mark of 6-11 with a 4.60 ERA in 47 games (19 starts). Carroll has toiled at Triple-A Charlotte (2-8, 5.55 ERA) for most of this season, and the Rangers are sending him to Double-A Frisco.

He could eventually make a spot start for Texas, but I'll take a guess and say this isn't the impact trade Rangers fans want. We'll see if they get the starting pitcher they need in the coming days.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Big contract for any pitcher is risky business

The contract Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is going to receive is already giving some people upset stomachs. The size of it might end up being more eye-popping than the $50-60 million contracts teams gave to Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Keep in mind that was before the posting fee was capped at $20 million. The Red Sox and Rangers each coughed up posting fees in excess of $50 million, making the total investment for each pitcher more than $100 million.

It was a big deal when Kevin Brown
became the first $100 million pitcher
in baseball when he signed with the Dodgers.
That big of an investment rarely works out well if you're expecting the player to pitch well over the life of the whole contract. Here are the biggest contracts ever given to pitchers:

Felix Hernandez, Mariners, $175,000,000 (2013-19)
CC Sabathia, Yankees, $161,000,000 (2009-15)
Zack Greinke, Dodgers, $147,000,000 (2013-18)
Cole Hamels, Phillies, $144,000,000 (2013-18)
Johan Santana, Mets, $137,500,000 (2008-13)
Matt Cain, Giants, $127,500,000 (2012-17)
Barry Zito, Giants, $126,000,000 (2007-13)
CC Sabathia, Yankees, $122,000,000 (2012-16)
Mike Hampton, Rockies, $121,000,000 (2001-08)
Cliff Lee, Phillies, $120,000,000 (2011-15)
Yu Darvish, Rangers, $111.700,000 (2012-2017)*
Kevin Brown, Dodgers, $105,000,000 (1999-2005)
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox, $102,111,111 (2007-2012)*
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals, $97,500,000 (2014-18)
Carlos Zambrano, Cubs, $91,500,000 (2008-12)
-Source: Cot's Baseball Contracts
*posting fee included with salary

Obviously most of these contracts are newer as teams have been flush with cash and the pay for elite pitchers has gone up. Though maybe it's interesting is that five of the top six contracts ever given out to pitchers weren't signed by free agents, but were extensions for guys with a year or two left before hitting the market.

Of the contracts that have been completed, all of them looked like a disaster at some point. Hampton's looked like one almost as soon as the ink dried in the thin Colorado air. Zito's was almost as bad save for the fact he still soaked up a lot of innings for the Giants over the course of his seven-year deal.

Over the course of Zambrano's extension, he suffered a decrease in either his performance or ability to take the mound each and every year of his new contract. Matsuzaka and Santana each had a few good years at the front ends of their deals before ineffectiveness and/or injuries did them in.

The best contract of all of them in my opinion was Brown's. Baseball's first $100 million arm was good for more than 1,000 innings with a 3.23 ERA over seven years. Brown, who I think has an underrated Hall of Fame case, missed some time with injuries, but still pitched a lot of mostly good innings for his money, only completely losing it the final year when he was 40.

The jury is still out on the other contracts. Cain, Verlander, Hamels and Sabathia each just endured their worst season in years. Greinke was very good, but missed time after breaking a bone in a scuffle with Carlos Quentin. With Hernandez, Lee, Darvish and Wainwright, things are looking so-far-so-good, though only Lee's contract is even close to completion.

The results here seem pretty apparent. If you don't have to spend almost $100 million or more on a pitcher, then don't. The risk is still one that teams are willing to make, especially teams that are close to contention. Should they be?

Possibly. In a way, this is already how teams view the cost of dabbling in free agency. They're willing to get a good value on the front end of a contract in exchange for dead money at the end.

Looking at each of these contracts, none of them really stopped the team paying the checks from doing anything else. Zito didn't keep the Giants from winning two World Series titles. Lee and Hamels aren't the problem with the Phillies' payroll. Even Mike Hampton's contract was eventually carved up and served in digestible bites that teams other than the Rockies helped swallow.

Unless Tanaka pulls a Hampton-Zito, the team that wins the bidding for his services will be getting a good pitcher for at least a few years. So any team with the money might as well bid away.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Masahiro Tanaka: Short-term gain, long-term risk?

Japanese free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is going to get an absurd contract from a major league team at some point in January. This much we know.

All 30 teams were notified that the 30-day period to sign the right-hander began at 7 a.m. CST Thursday. Teams have until 4 p.m. on Jan. 24 to attempt to reach an agreement with the 25-year-old pitcher.

If Tanaka and a major league team agree on terms, that franchise is required to pay his Japanese team, the Rakuten Eagles, a posting fee of $20 million.

Rest assured, someone will pay that $20 million, plus probably another $20 million per year over the next six or seven years to sign Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan last season.

Whichever team signs Tanaka is going to get an impact pitcher. I have little doubt about that. Yu Darvish, the last big-name Japanese pitcher to come to the United States, has established himself as the Texas Rangers' ace. Tanaka's numbers in Japan are similar to those of Darvish:

Darvish (2005-11): 167 games, 1,281.1 IP, 93-28 W-L, 55 CG, 333 BB, 1,250 Ks
Tanaka (2007-13): 175 games, 1,315 IP, 99-35 W-L, 53 CG, 275 BB, 1,238 Ks

For me, the question about Tanaka is whether he will hold up healthwise over the life of the six- or seven-year contract he's going to get. I know, I know. He's only 25 and should be entering his prime years. But look at that innings total: 1,315 innings through his age 24 season

Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated made this point better than I could. Verducci notes the last pitcher with that many innings at such a young age was Frank Tanana, who piled up similar totals between 1973 and 1978. During that period, Tanana made three All-Star teams. Then, he hurt his shoulder. He went on to pitch another 15 years, but was never quite the same. 

Going back even further, since 1961, Tanana, Larry Dierker and Bert Blyleven are the only three pitchers to have thrown 1,315 major league innings by age 24. So, indeed, Japanese pitchers like Darvish and Tanaka come to the United States with more wear and tear on their arm for their age than their American counterparts.

Darvish is one of the better pitchers in the American League right now. Will he continue to be effective through the life of his six-year contract? Nobody knows. For Tanaka, the issue is much the same. With his outstanding control and arsenal of pitches, he's going to make some team very happy in 2014 and probably 2015, too. But what about 2016 and beyond?

Will Tanaka become the next Hideo Nomo, who was outstanding his first couple years before morphing into a journeyman? Or is he going to be a long-term ace for the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers or some other big-market team? I wish I was smart enough to know, but we'll find out in due time.
























Friday, May 17, 2013

Verlander-Darvish duel never materializes

Well, so much for the pitching matchup of the century, huh?

As early as last weekend, I was hearing some national commentators salivate over Thursday's scheduled showdown between Detroit ace Justin Verlander and Texas ace Yu Darvish.

It was understandable to a point. Darvish entered the contest with a 6-1 record and a league-leading 80 strikeouts. Verlander was off to a mediocre 4-3 start, but hey, that 1.93 ERA was nothing to sneeze at, right?

I think people were going a little over the top, though, when they claimed this pitching matchup was the biggest one in Texas since Nolan Ryan beat Roger Clemens 2-1 in 1989. Those two guys are 300-game winners. Both Verlander and Darvish have a ways to go before they can be considered in that class. (Although, I'll admit Verlander might be on his way.)

Much to the surprise of many experts, the Rangers defeated the Tigers 10-4 Thursday night. Neither pitcher was on top of his game, and Verlander was downright awful. He didn't survive the third inning, allowing eight earned runs. Darvish, meanwhile, was shaky early. He allowed four earned runs over his first four innings, but settled down to retire 15 of the final 16 Tiger hitters he faced. He threw a career-high 130 pitches over eight innings to earn his seventh victory of the season.

The third inning of this game lasted a lifetime. The Tigers got three runs in the top half off Darvish, before the Rangers responded with seven runs in the bottom half. During the third inning, Verlander and Darvish combined to throw 74 pitches, giving up 12 baserunners and 10 runs. So much for that pitcher's duel.

Word to the wise: Don't ever think you've got baseball figured out. When you expect an epic pitching battle, you're probably going to end up with a slugfest.

Jeff Keppinger walks!

It only took 141 plate appearances, but White Sox infielder Jeff Keppinger finally drew his first walk of the season Thursday night.

The offending pitcher was Angels right-hander Michael Kohn, who somehow was wild enough to walk Keppinger on four pitches. Not only that, the bases were loaded at the time.

Keppinger's walk in the top of the eighth inning forced in the eventual winning run in a Sox 5-4 victory. Yet another example of how you should expect the unexpected in baseball.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Yu Darvish loses perfect game with two outs in the ninth

Texas pitcher Yu Darvish turned in one of the more dominant performances you'll ever see Tuesday night against the woeful Houston Astros, but he fell one out short of baseball immortality.

Darvish retired the first 26 batters he faced -- 14 of them by strikeout -- but he failed to complete his bid for a perfect game when some guy named Marwin Gonzalez swung at the first pitch and bounced a base hit back up the middle with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

I had to look Gonzalez up because I had never heard of him before. He's a 24-year-old infielder with a lifetime batting average of .236 in 208 major league at-bats. Now, he's the answer to a trivia question. Darvish settled for a 7-0 victory and joined a list of 10 other pitchers to lose a bid for a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning.

Three of those previous 10 involved Chicago teams:

1. June 27, 1958
White Sox left-hander Billy Pierce retired the first 26 Washington Senators he saw, but backup catcher Ed Fitz Gerald came off the bench to deliver a double and break up Pierce's bid for history. Moments later, Pierce struck out center fielder Albie Pearson to complete the shutout in a 3-0 Chicago victory.

2. September 2, 1972
There are Cubs fans out there who still hate umpire Bruce Froemming, whose controversial call denied Milt Pappas a perfect game. Pappas lost his perfecto with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and a full count when Froemming called ball four on a borderline pitch to San Diego pinch-hitter Larry Stahl. Pappas to this day remains furious about the call, but he did complete a no-hitter on this day. After the walk, he induced Garry Jestadt to pop out to end the game.

3. April 15, 1983
The 1983 White Sox were a 99-win team, but on this April day they were baffled by Milt Wilcox. The Detroit right-hander retired the first 26 men he faced before pinch-hitter Jerry Hairston (much like Marwin Gonzalez) picked on the first pitch he saw and singled up the middle. Wilcox settled for a one-hitter, getting center fielder Rudy Law to ground out on the next pitch to conclude a 6-0 Detroit victory.

Here are the other pitcher to lose a perfect game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth: 
Hooks Wiltse, Giants, July 4, 1908
Tommy Bridges, Tigers, August 5, 1932
Ron Robinson, Reds, May 2, 1988
Dave Stieb, Blue Jays, August 4, 1989
Brian Holman, Mariners, April 20, 1990
Mike Mussina, Yankees, September 2, 2001
Armando Galarraga, Tigers, June 2, 2010

Among that group, Galarraga could probably relate best to Pappas. That, of course, was the famous blown call at first base by umpire Jim Joyce. Cleveland's Jason Donald was awarded an infield single on the play, spoiling both the perfect game and the no-hitter. Galarraga retired the next hitter, Trevor Crowe. Much like Pappas, he would probably say he actually retired 28 hitters in a row on that day.

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