Tag Archives: pitchers

Fear The Blue

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan describes his show as being ” a story about a man who transforms himself from Mr. Chips into Scarface.” For those of you who haven’t seen Breaking Bad (what is wrong with you? Watch it now!) it is the story of a meek and mild mannered chemistry teacher named Walter White who, after being diagnosed with lung cancer, decides to use his science knowledge to cook meth.

Somewhere between the beginning and the end, Walter White becomes bad. Like really, really, bad. All at once you realize this sad sack of a man, this humble school teacher is the main villain of the show and you’re not quite sure when that happened.

Enter the Los Angeles Dodgers. They started the season in average fashion. Literally. They were a .500 ball club during the month of April winning 13 games and losing 13 games. They were worse the next month posting 10-17 record, which is on par with the Houston Astros. The awful, awful Astros. They were also average in the month of June. A smidgen better but still basically average.

But July? July was the month they put it all together. The Los Angeles Dodgers achieved a National League best 19-7 record. It looked like Mr. Chips was becoming Scarface right before our eyes.  There was no stopping them now. The Dodgers were (and still are) on a roll. They have won, wait for it…41 of their last 50 games. That is so ridiculous and incredible I’m nearly prompted to invent a word but I have too much respect for both myself and the english language.

This start, as it always does and should in baseball, with pitching.

Pitching 

I hope that it’s no secret at this point that Dodger’s ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. It’s not even close to debatable. Kershaw’s ERA (earned run average) is an astoundingly low 1.80, which is the lowest in the MLB. This year he’s making a strong case for a second Cy Young award to add to his trophy case. His low ERA combined with his league best WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) 0.85, is solid proof that if you are a batter facing Clayton Kershaw, the odds are very greatly against you hitting the ball, much less getting on base. Clayton’s 4-seam fastball is the nail in the coffin for most batters.

Zack Greinke is my favorite pitcher, and not just because he’s a top 15 pitcher. He’s my favorite because he’s tough. Zack Greinke will never back down from a fight.  Which he clearly demonstrated when a pitch got a way from him and hit Carlos Quentin of the Padres earlier this season. An enraged Quentin, charged the mound, and in the ensuing tangle caused Greinke’s collar bone to fracture. Zack Greinke did not back down. Which wasn’t great for the team at the time since they missed they way he retired batters and dominated games with his  fastball. However, the Dodgers have back their 2.81 ERA man , and he’s got 12 wins for the team.

How do you spell underrated? You spell it Hyun-Jin Ryu. How do you pronounce it? Don’t ask me that. What I do know is that the young pitcher from Korea, Hyun-Jin has a 95 mph fastball that has location to back up it’s speed. That 2.85 ERA is no joke either.  The man can pitch and when he does, the Dodgers roll.

Batting

There’s nothing scarier than a well rounded team thus, the scariest thing about the Dodgers is that they can pitch and hit. The Dodger’s team batting average is .268 and their on base percentage is .331, making them top 5 in both statistical categories. They are also 15th in the MLB in RBIs (runs batted in) with 496 so far this season. This makes them a nightmare to pitch against despite the fact that they don’t hit a lot of home runs,  because they are always generating points.

If the Dodgers could be reduced down to one man on the team, that man would be Andre Ethier. He’s the prototypical 2013 Dodger. He’s got 45 RBIs this season, gets on base pretty frequently with an OBS of .361 (which is a Dodger season high) and he’s batting .288, so by all accounts a good season. Ethier is extremely consistent. He’s as rock solid as they come and in fact, has been his entire career.

Adrian Gonzalez celebrates the winning run. (Associated Press/Mark J. Terrill)

Adrian Gonzalez in his first season as a Dodger has been the team’s most reliable offensive threat. He’s batting .299, making him one of the best hitters in the league right now. His patience at the plate is on of the key reasons for this. Gonzalez, to be blunt, just knows when to swing. He’s used his knack for making contact with the ball to get players in scoring position home. He’s got 78 RBIs tying him for 16th in the league. The Dodgers received Gonzalez last year in a trade with the Red Sox in an attempt to win right away. I’d say it worked out just fine.

There are rookies and then there are super rookies. You know the guys; RG3, Lebron James, and Mike Trout. Athletic freaks of nature that are incredibly good at what they do. So, I present for you consideration, Yasiel Puig.  On June 2nd the Dodgers called up their 22 year old rookie from their double-A team, the Chattanooga Lookouts. In just 70 games Puig is looking like a star. He’s already got 12 home runs this season, he bats .346 and is a quality outfielder. Already. Very rarely does this guy look like a rookie.

Matt Kemp deserves a mention. He got injured July 21st and should return sometime in September according to Manager Don Mattingly. Kemp was having another solid season for the Dodgers. Matt Kemp’s return may complicate a few things for the Dodgers though. With Kemp they have to find a way for 4 outfielders to play, but there are only 3 outfield positions. With Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford playing at the level that they are, Don Mattingly will have to figure out what to do with this team.

Are the Dodgers the best team? The Braves might have something to say about that. There’s no denying it though. The Dodgers are baseball’s hottest team. Los Angeles can hit with the best of them and, pitch better than the best of them. They’re dangerous title contenders, and are not to be taken lightly. Watch your back Atlanta. Scarface has arrived.

 

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MLB Contenders Reach For Stars As Trade Deadline Passes

The Major League Baseball trade deadline came and went, ending at 4:00pm E.T. At the trade deadline the Phillies, Marlins, and Cubs became major sellers and the Rangers, Reds, and Dodgers became buyers. Many teams were able to meet their needs.

The Texas Rangers

What They Needed: Pitching.

What They Got: The Rangers came away from the trade deadline feeling they addressed their area of need and then some. In a trade with the Cubs they acquired Ryan Dempster the right-handed pitcher for a couple of prospects. Dempster bolsters a Rangers rotation that contains the likes of Yu Darvish and Derek Holland. Dempster was a key piece for the Cubs to move. Originally Atlanta had some interest in him but Dempster didn’t really like Atlanta. The deal with the Rangers seems to mutually beneficial for all parties involved.

On top of getting Ryan Dempster from the Cubs, the Rangers also got catcher Geovany Soto from Chicago. Soto adds depth to the catcher position and it provides insurance for Mike Napoli should he decide to leave Texas at the end of this season through free agency.

The San Francisco Giants

What They Needed: Hitting/Outfield

What They Got: The Giants got what they wanted. Sort of. They got Hunter Pence from the Phillies. Pence has been a very solid ball player. He’s been hitting the ball okay batting .271 on the season. As it was pointed out on the ESPN Baseball Today podcast, Pence will be playing right field in AT&T park, one of the bigger right fields in the league. Playing in a ballpark of that size a lot of balls are going to be hit over Hunter’s head. His numbers on play like those have been awful. I don’t know that Giants really got what they needed. Pence’s numbers have been on the decline since 2010 and he’s now in a ballpark that doesn’t quite suit him.

The Los Angeles Dodgers

What They Needed: Pitching, Hitting

What They Got: To add to Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers were able to get Shane Victorino who is batting .261 this season adds yet another bat to what is a much more powerful Dodgers lineup than it was just a couple of weeks ago. Los Angeles also got Brandon League to be a reliever and closer if it’s necessary. League had 37 saves last season and Los Angeles is hoping he can do it again. It’s pretty obvious that the Dodgers are building a team that they believe can beat the Giants.

The Cincinnati Reds

 What They Needed: Hitting

What They Got: The Reds are a very good baseball team already. They’ve got a solid rotation and bullpen. They can hit well and when Joey Votto comes back they’ll hit even better. What could they possibly want? Jonathan Broxton. After having a 2.27 ERA with Kansas City he will solidify a bullpen in Cincinnati that is already one of the best in baseball.

The most perplexing thing about this pickup is that the top of the batting lineup could use some serious help but it remained unaddressed. Increasing an area of strength while ignoring an area of particular need just seems silly. Jonathan Broxton is a good pick up all the same.

These are just some teams that reached out for stars at the deadline. The Dodgers and the Rangers got what they really needed. The Reds and Giants? Not so much.

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Top Five Pitchers in the American League

After Justin Verlander’s performance a few days ago, I started to here talk of how Justin was the best pitcher in the American League. I have no doubt that Verlander has the talent to be the best, and having two no hitters in his career doesn’t hurt at all. My personal litmus test is basically this, can I name 5 better guys off hand? I couldn’t of course, but that thought spawned the creation of this list. This is a list of who I think are the best guys right now, so if he hasn’t done anything this year he’s not on the list.

5.C.J. Wilson, Texas Rangers- The Rangers sit at 3 games above .5oo and Wilson is a big reason why. With 7 wins in 10 starts for the Rangers, his pitching has helped to keep the boys from Texas afloat. C.J. Wilson has done more than win games, he wins them with dominance. He’s a left hander that doesn’t give up a lot of runs. His mechanics are solid and his variety of pitches makes it a tough outing for opposing batters. He started the season solid, but has been even better in the month of June with a 1.99 ERA inside the month.

4. James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays- While Shields hasn’t been brilliant this year he’s been very good. He also slowed up as of late after a hot start at the beginning of the season, but the reason he sits at number 4 is his play at home. Shields has been absolutely ridiculous at home. He’s got an ERA of 1.99 at home as compared of course to his less than amazing 3.28 ERA on the road. With a 6-4 record on the season my advice; more run support. Most of Shields wins are on the road where he pitches worse. If he doesn’t get support at home a lot of dominant performances are going to go to waste.

3. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers- Justin Verlander has never flown higher. He seems to have figured out his game. He’s been phenomenal at working pitch counts. His ERA has been steadily dropping each month that he plays which shows that he’s been improving as the season has gone on. Verlander has a June ERA 1.08 which of course can be attributed to the almost no-hitter that he had on Thursday. A few more performances like that and he could very well be on top of this list.

2. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels- Jered Weaver has more control over batters than Verlander in my opinion. They’re both intelligent pitchers that know how to work batters and understand how to catch them off guard, but apart from being clever Weaver can throw heat as well. Jered Weaver has a fastball that’s just plain wicked and some days just seems unfair. With an ERA of 2.06 on the season Weaver is all business.

1. Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox- Josh Beckett has found something. I don’t know what it is but his stuff has been good all season long. Even when the Sox were struggling he’s been lights out. Nobody is as dominant as he is right now. Beckett has got the best ERA in the majors at 1.86, nobody gets a clean hit on this guy. And I do mean nobody. He’s got speed, he’s clever, and he’s just to much for most guys to handle. I was able to watch the games where he absolutely neutered the Yankees line up. Josh Beckett is no joke.

 

 

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