Cuban Eight Decided

December 27th, 2014

The defending champ Pinar del Rio put on a late surge to make it into the final eight. The Nacional Series takes a break. The next event will be drafting players from teams who did not make the final eight to strengthen their teams. The final eight and their stars are:

Matanzas (31-14)

Yasiel Santoya (.368, 3, 32), Yurisbel Gracial (.246, 2, 15 with 13 stolen bases), Yadiel Hernandez (.355, 2, 20 with 36 runs scored), Dainer Moreira (.363, 0, 25 with 38 runs scored). Seemed to do pretty well after suspension of Jose Fernandez, who will eventually find himself in the major leagues.

Jonder Martinez (6-1, 3.18), Cionel Perez (6-1, 1.05 with 60 whiffs), Yoanni Yera (7-3, 3.34), Yohan Hernandez (2-1, 2.62, 5 saves), Felix Fuentes (2-2, 3.38, 3 saves) and Adrian Sosa (3-0, 2.45, 3 saves).

Granma (29-16)

Alfredo Despaigne (.375, 2, 16 in only 18 games. Arrived late from NPB), Lazaro Cedeno (.310, 12, 35), Roel Santos (.314, 2, 11 with 40 runs scored), Adrian Moreno (.308, 2, 17 with 13 doubles), Urmani Guerra (.282, 9, 34) and Guillermo Aviles (.252, 6, 28).

Lazaro Blanco (7-3, 3.46), Alain Tamayo (4-6, 3.34 with 55 whiffs), Ciro Licea (1-0, 3.91, 8 saves) and Jose Pena (4-1, 3.31, 1 save)

Isla de la Juventud (27-18)

Rigoberto Gomez (.355, 0, 24), Dainier Galvez (.329, 9 22 with 10 doubles), Michel Enriquez (.352, 3, 20), Roimy Proenza (.331, 2, 15). A bigger park brings down the impressive offensive stats.

Jesus Amador (4-1, 3.95), Danny Aguilera (6-0, 1.21, 8 saves), Yunier Gamboa (3-4, 3.38, 3 saves)

Artemisa (25-20)

Dariel Crespo (.303, 1, 18 with 10 doubles), Lazaro Hernandez (.279, 4, 11 with 25 runs scored).

Miguel Lahera (6-1, 2.07), Misael Villa (6-3, 2.37), Yunieski Garcia (6-3, 2.80), Yulieski Gonzalez (4-5, 3.27), Jose Garcia (0-2, 1.33 with 11 saves).

Industriales (25-20)

Yulieski Gourriel (.268, 4, 8 but only 11 games because of late arrival from NPB), Lourdes Gourriel (.315, 6, 30), Yunieski Gourriel (.324, 1, 20), Alexander Malleta (.291, 6, 31), Rudy Reyes (.315, 3, 21) and Yusnier Diaz (.307, 0, 9 with 29 runs scored).

Frank Monthiet (3-3, 2.63), Pedro Duran (3-2, 2.23), Yohandri Portal (0-0, 3.09, 8 saves), Alexander rodriguez (2-1, 3.32, 6 saves), Jesus Balaguer (5-1, 2.28, 1 save).

Ciego de Avila (24-21)

Jose Garcia (.372, 7, 31), Yoelvis Fiss (.263, 5, 21), Yorelvis Charles (.329, 4, 24), Humberto Morales (.281, 6, 20).

Yander Guevara (6-3, 3.22), Yunier Cano (4-3, 1.60, 2 saves), Yadir Rabi (2-1, 1.29, 7 saves), Osmar Carrero (3-2, 2.74), Victor Baro (3-1, 2.18, 1 save.

Pinar del Rio (24-21)

Luis Valdes (.369, 5, 33), Randy Arrozarena (.293, 2, 17 with 26 runs scored and 9 stolen bases), Lazaro Alonso (.310, 4, 19).

Julio Martinez (6-2, 2.20), Yavani torres (4-4, 1.81), Vladimir Gutierrez (3-4, 1.73, 8 saves), Livan Moinelo (4-1, 2.70, 3 saves)

Holquin (23-22)

Yeison Pacheco (.333, 5, 27), Maikel Caceres (.313, 6, 20 with 26 runs scored), Jose Castaneda (.352, 1, 11)

Carlos Santiesteban (5-2, 2.98), Ernesto Hernandez (4-2, 2.96), Yusmel Velazquez (5-6, 3.18),

Puerto Rico Winter League Hall of Fame Team

December 27th, 2014

This is a team composed of players who played at least one year of winter ball in Puerto Rico. It is not the players who performed the best while playing winter ball in Puerto Rico. Many of these players only played one year, some times as twenty year old rookies competing against veteran winter league players. Once they had established major league careers their Puerto Rican visits stopped. With the Series del Caribe in San Juan this year, myworld thought it a good idea to give some history of the San Juan winter league.

Catcher - This team is filled with catchers. You can start with Johnny Bench and Josh Gibson, but how can you leave off Roy Campanella. And that is not including two native stars that are premier defensive players in Ivan Rodriguez and Yadier Molina. Thurman Munson gets a sentimental vote.

First base - Orlando Cepeda or Frank Howard. Whoever is not starting can DH. There would be no room for either on this outfield.

Second Base - A little light but Roberto Alomar is a stud. Roger Hornsby was a manager, but that doesn’t count.

Third Base - Mike Schmidt with Wade Boggs backing him up.

Shortstop - Cal Ripken and you could turn Robin Yount into a utility player. One of the greatest shortstops would be Perucho Cepeda, who is the father of Orlando Cepeda. He was a fiery ballplayer who did not play in the Negro leagues because he abhorred the racism in the United States. He did have a pretty impressive winter league career playing in Venezuela and Dominican Republic but we’ll write about him later.

Left Field - Henry Aaron will just have to learn to play left field. If he struggles then there is always Ricky Henderson or Reggie Jackson to back him up.

Center Field - Willie Mays is the only true centerfielder on this list, though I suspect other players could play here.

Right Field - You have to give it to Roberto Clemente. He has a couple good back ups in Frank Robinson and Tony Gwynn.

Designated Hitter - As if you don’t have enough players here who could also DH, but you have to make room for Edgar Martinez.

Starting Pitchers - You can only use five, but myworld will give you the pleasure of assigning those who don’t make it the bullpen responsibility. Choose five between Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Satchel Paige, Steve Carlton, Jim Palmer, Dennis Martinez, Phil Niekro, Vida Blue or Luis Tiant.

Relief Pitchers - They may not get a lot of work but Goose Gossage and Lee Smith would be a nice start. Rob Dibble can provide some heat and commentary.

Put this team together in simulation games and see how well they do with the best of the other Hall of Famers and they would probably do pretty well.

Caribbean Playoffs to Begin Soon

December 27th, 2014

The Dominican League has their playoff participants determined and Santo Domingo has been shut out. The capital normally has two strong teams, but Licey and Escogido could not do it this year. Estrellas de Oriente took the division with a 32-18 record. Following Estrellas will be the Aguilas Cibuanas (30-20), Gigantes del Cibao (28-22), and Toros del Este (24-26). The last time the capital was not represented was in 2010/2011 when Toros del Este won the round robin playoffs. Santo Domingo has represented the Dominican Republic in five of the last six years. The round robin playoffs begin to determine the Dominican representative to the Series del Caribe begins today.

The Mexican League will end their season Monday. The first half winner the Obregon Yaquis find themselves at the bottom in the second half and will have to ressurect that magic if they want to stay competetive in the best of seven matchups. Newcomer Charros de Jalisco is winning the second half, a game ahead of Culiacan. The Mexican League uses a point system based on first and second half finishes to determine the six teams to advance in best of seven matchups.

The Series del Caribe host Puerto Rico will be without their San Juan team in the round robin playoffs. Their regular season ends on December 31, but all four playoff teams have been determined. It is just a matter of finding the matchups. With about five games left Santurce, the other San Juan team is the only team not guaranteed a top seed. The Caguas Criollos have the top spot with the Mayguez Indios a game and a half back. The Carolina Gigantes are four games back in third place.

In Venezuela only the Margarita Bravos have been eliminated from the round robin playoffs. There are four games left in the Venezuelan winter league regular schedule. The first place Caribes, followed by Aguilas del Zulia and Tigres de Aragua appear to be guaranteed a playoff spot. Four teams are battling for the final two spots, with the Navegantes de Magallanes needing to win only one more game, or hope for losses from the last two teams to clinch the fourth spot. Their regular season ends December 30.

Cuba appears to be scheduled to appear in their second Series del Caribe, hoping to amend their embarrasment from last year when they finished at the bottom of the five teams. Pinar, last year’s winner would be their representative, but the team will have a number of All Stars sprinkled in the lineup to supplement the team. All Caribbean teams are allowed to add players from other teams to their roster to strenghten the teams and add marque players to the tournament. Pinar has been struggling this year. It was possible they would not make the final eight in this year’s Nacional Series, but after a game they forfeited because of a dispute over a homerun and the season long suspension of their manager because of this forfeit, they have rallied to win eight of their last 10 games to put themselves in the final eight.

Myworld will have a special interest in this Series del Caribe since we will be present for the event. It will be the second Series del Caribe myworld has attended, the first being in the Dominican Repbulic in 2011 when Escogido won. That will not happen this year since Escogido did not even qualify for the round robin playoffs in the Dominican Republic.

It’s About Winning Innings

December 26th, 2014

Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers won the MVP award in the National League. There are those voices who feel pitchers should not win the MVP because they have their own award in the Cy Young. Others say that pitchers do not impact as many games as regular position players, pointing out a starting pitcher will appear in only 33 games while a position player will play 150 plus games. Myworld argues it is not the number of games you play but the number of innings you impact that gives your team a chance to win. Pitchers in general impact all nine innings of a game while hitters bat in four or five of those innings. A position player could influence a game because of his defense, but unless you are a catcher or a firstbaseman you can go all game without touching a ball..

Taking a look at AL MVP Mike Trout myworld notes he played in 157 games giving him an opportunity for over 700 plate appearances. That calculates to about 4.5 at bats per game, or an opportunity to impact four or five innings with his bat. Some of those bats will be productive but most of them will result in outs. In those productive at bats he was responsible for scoring 115 runs and driving in 111. Subtract from that run production his 36 homeruns and his total run production is 190. If you assume he only drove in one run or scored one run in each inning then you can project his offense impacted at least 190 innings.

The reality of baseball is that it is not so black and white. Some of his hits will drive in multiple runs while in some innings he may contribute hits that do not drive in runs but advance a runner who will later score on a third hit. There is also his defense to take into account for saving runs. Not being scientific and not wanting to study each box score to determine the number of innings Trout made an impact myworld will say he had a positive contribution in 150 to 190 innings.

When you look at Clayton Kershaw he started 27 games and worked 198 innings for a 1.77 ERA. Myworld is going to say he worked 22 complete games. That would calculate to five games in which he gave up one run in one inning, but held a team to zero runs in eight innings (we’ll assume a positive contribution is holding a team to zero runs, though some may argue that one run is not that bad if you win the inning). In 17 other starts he gave up one run in two innings but pitched goose eggs for the other seven innings. That would mean Kershaw would have made a positive contribution in 159 innings.

But just as Mike Trout will drive in more than one run with a hit, Kershaw will have some innings in which he gives up more than one run. So you will probably have to raise the number of innings he made a positive contribution. This could raise his positive contributions and when you compare it to Mike Trout the pitcher has a positive impact on just as many innings as a position player.

This is one reason why general managers pay so much for pitchers who in the end have more of an impact when it comes to influencing the innings in a game. They pitch all nine innings while hitters only bat in four to five of those innings. So despite the fact a pitcher plays fewer games they have just as many chances to make a positive influence on an inning.

It has been a slow news day so myworld went philosophical for a minute. Imagine contracts and lineups put together based on the number of innings a player influences in a positive direction, not just on his overall production. Granted, a pitcher who gives up multiple runs in an inning does get negative points for making it more difficult to win a game, despite the number of positive innings he may pitch.

Little League Scandal in Chicago

December 25th, 2014

The feel good story of the Little League World Series, other than Mone Davis was the play of the Philadelphia and Chicago Little League teams, two programs that appeared to arise from their urban dwellings to play well, both teams appearing in the semi-finals. The Jackie Robinson Little League team went on to win that game, but lost to the Korean team in the finals.

It seems the Jackie Robinson Little League team may not have been as urban as many reported. The Little League expanded its borders to the suburbs to bring in key players without the approval from the directors of the other Little Leagues impacted by that move. This is something the Taiwan teams did to be so dominant a number of years ago, recruit players from outside their district little league program to play for them, in essence creating a national team to compete against other Little Leagues with a much smaller population base to choose from.

The result is that the Jackie Robinson Little League team could be stripped of their title. You can read about it here:

Jackie Robinson Little League

Pita Rona Released by O’s

December 24th, 2014

It was a small piece in the Baseball America Minor League Transaction column, mixed in with names like Jason McCracken, Kris Richards and Eun Chul Choi. In New Zealand it made big headlines with the Orioles using this publicity to strengthen their international program there. Pita was a 6′7″ softball player who played on the New Zealand national team with his father. At 6′7″ the Orioles thought he could make a good firstbaseman. The conversion to baseball did not take. In his two years in rookie ball he hit .176 with just three of his 13 hits going for extra bases.

Myworld did see him play in Taiwan with the New Zealand under 21 team against Korea. Because we arrived late for that game we did not score it, but his at bats were not impressive against the Korean pitchers (three whiffs in four hitless at bats). Overall he hit .211, which matched his OBA and slugging percentage. Three other players on that team hit over .300.

He did sign a seven year deal with the Orioles. That means he should have five more years of paycheck from them. In New Zealand softball is a very popular sport and as a 17 year old he starred with his father on the New Zealand national team. If no other major league team takes an interest in him he can always go back to softball.

Maeda and Kaneko Sign Japanese Contracts

December 24th, 2014

It does not appear any premier pitchers will be coming over from Japan to play in the major leagues. The Hiroshima Carp did not agree to post Maeda and he signed a one year contract for 300 million yen. He has asked the Carp to advise him what he needs to accomplish to be posted next year, but the Carp may not have an interest in letting him go for the maximum $20 million posting fee. So major league teams may have to wait until he becomes an international free agent.

Chihiro Kaneko agreed to sign with his old team the Orix Buffaloes. He agreed to a four year contract for $2 billion yen. Minor surgery and disappointment with major league offers appear to have convinced him to stay in Japan. He was an international free agent but what offers he received from major league teams did not convince him to leave Japan. The four year contract will take him to his mid 30s.

That leaves shortstop Takashi Toritani as the only premier player left to transfer to the major leagues. According to yakubaka the Toronto Blue Jays have offered him a major league contract, but salary and years have not been satisfactory. He is being offered a nice salary by the Hanshin Tigers to stay in Japan. The San Diego Padres, who have been turning over their roster have also expressed interest. They are in need of a shortstop after letting Evereth Cabrera go because of character issues.

It could be an empty year for the Japanese press reporting on new players from Japan performing in the major leagues.

Average Major League Salary Inches to $4 Million

December 24th, 2014

So you want to be a major leaguer. You can certainly buy a lot of Christmas presents with their average salary. According to major league baseball, the average salary for a major league baseball player is now $3.7 million per year. In 1992 it had passed the $1 million mark, in 2001 it hit $2 million and in 2010 it reached $3 million. So for Christmas tell Santa to slip a baseball glove under the tree and teach your child to throw lefthanded.

For comparison, the average wage in the United States is $43,041. The challenge is living on a minor league salary until you can win that major league job. Their pay is generally between $3,000 to $7,500 for a five month work schedule. That is below the poverty level, unless they can find another job during the remaining seven months to supplement that salary.

Orioles Taking One Step Back

December 23rd, 2014

The last three years have been unexpected surprises for the Orioles. While there is still plenty of time to put the coal in the hot stove to heat up some more trade talk or free agent signings the Orioles are in the minus column with respect to lost players. In 2015 they will be minus the bats of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. They have not signed anyone to replace them. They also lost relief pitcher Andrew Miller, who was a late season acquisition from the Red Sox. While they signed Wesley Wright to a free agent contract, he is far from the talent of Andrew Miller.

So what do the Orioles look like at those positions. Steve Pearce can go back into left or right field. His defense will not match Markakis, but if his bat stays on cue the offensive production will be better. The Orioles will need to find a bat to fit into the leadoff spot and hope the 2014 season from Pearce was not a one shot wonder.

The player they may ask to replace Markakis in right field would be their Cuban signing Dariel Alvarez. They are impressed with his arm and he had a solid season in AA and AAA combining for a .306 average with 15 homeruns. At 26 years of age (if his age can be believed) he should be ready to debut on the major league team.

Replacing Nelson Cruz at the DH spot will be tougher. The Orioles are trying to resign Delmon Young. He generally only becomes a starter against lefthanded bats. This would allow Buck to rotate players among the DH spot against righthanded pitchers, making the defense oriented David Lough free to patrol the outfield while Pearce or Chris Davis move to the DH spot. Or they could still put Alejandro De Aza in left field, though he reminds me more of a fourth outfielder type.

Last year Chris Davis played a lot of third base after Manny Machado went down with his second knee injury. This could give the Orioles a bit of flexibility, moving Chris to third to allow Manny to DH and bringing prospect Craig Walker up to play first. Defensively, if the Orioles had their say, they would prefer to play Ryan Flaherty at third, but his bat has been about as impotent as David Lough.

The bullpen will miss the setup role Andrew Miller gave to Zack Britton. That role will now have to be filled by the inconsistent Tommy Hunter, who lost his job as the closer in 2014. The other option is to hope for improvement from Brad Brach. They could also cross their fingers in the belief that submariner Darren O’Day can fill the role, his delivery not negatively impacted by his increased exposure to hitters. None of those pitchers have the history of success achieved by Andrew Miller his last couple of years.

What makes Oriole fans optimistic is bounce back seasons from Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy, healthy seasons from Manny Machado and Matt Wieters and improvement from second year player Jonathan Schoop. They also have a number of young pitchers percolating in the farm system in Mike Wright, Tim Berry, Zack Davis and the resurgence of Dylan Bundy from his surgery that could find themselves in the starting rotation. Those improvements it is hoped will make up for the losses of Markakis, Cruz and Miller.

Pirates Win Negotiating Rights for Kang

December 22nd, 2014

The Pittsburgh Pirates were the team with the winning bid for Jung-Ho Kang. Now they have to negotiate a contract. The Pirates seem to have a set infield, but it is an infield that could use some depth. Kang has said that if he doesn’t play short he would prefer to play third over second.

The Pirates had Pedro Alvarez at third. His defense was horrendous so they moved him to first. They were able to do that because of the year Josh Harrison had. He was a utility player the year before. Now you have to wonder if his 2014 season was an outlier, a career year. Harrison hit .315 with an OPS of .837. Prior to that he had never hit better than .272 or an OPS higher than .699. If Harrison reverts back to a utility type player the Pirates can move Alvarez back to third or put another utility type player in Sean Rodriguez at third.

At short they have Jody Mercer. If you were to grade Jody on a bell curve he would be right in the middle. His defense is not spectacular, but it is not bad either. His bat is geared toward the number 8 spot in National League lineup, but there are worse offensive shortstops. Most assume Kang will not have the defense to play short in the majors so Mercer looks pretty secure here. The alternative is the no hit Pedro Florimon.

At second base they have Pittsburgh native Neil Walker. It would be difficult to move him from second. The only hope for that is if his back acts up and he has to spend extensive time on the DL. Sean Rodriguez would be the primary back up here as well. They could also go with a couple of their AA prospects in Alen Hansen or Gift Ngoepe.

So it appears the Pirates will negotiate with Kang with the expectation he will start the season as a second utility player behind Sean Rodriguez. Time will tell whether they think it is worth signing him to a multi year contract for $5 million. Sean Rodriguez is in his third year of arbitration eligibility. Last year he made $1.4 million. He should get a raise next year but it won’t be for $5 million. He becomes a free agent after the 2015 season. It will be interesting to see how the Pirates view Kang and how Kang views himself.

Years ago Seong-Yeop Lee became a free agent and negotiated with the Dodgers in an attempt to play in the major leagues. Like Ryu, he wanted a clause in his contract that he could not be sent down to the minors. The Dodgers refused. Lee ended up going to Japan where he had a pretty good career there. Lee has now returned to Korea where he has 549 career homeruns (159 in Japan).