Archive for December, 2011

Australian Update

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

The Australian League has lost many of its Asian players to the holidays so it is time to replace them.  You can get a list of the new players and their teams here: http://web.theabl.com.au/news/article.jsp?ymd=20111229&content_id=26240766&vkey=news_l595&fext=.jsp&sid=l595

The most intriguing of those new players is Takayuki Nakano.  So what Japanese team does he play for?  He doesn’t.  Takayuki was playing in an Australian local club league and scouted by one of Melbourne’s staff.  He was asked to attend a tryout and it appears he has made the team.

A summary of the league below:

Perth Heat (4-2) 19-6

The defending champion Heat continue to dominate and appear to be on their way to being one of the final four teams in the playoffs.  They are only 8-6 since their 11-0 start so the league is catching up with them.  They easily top the league in both hitting, i.e. batting average, homeruns and runs scored and pitching (ERA) so it is no wonder that they are in first place.  Their biggest accomplishment is their 12-1 away record.  They play much better on the road than they do at their home park, except when that road trip is in Taiwan.

They have four players on the team who have driven in more than 20 runs, Mitchell Graham (.298, 7, 25), Alex Burg (.319, 8, 21), Tim Kennelly (.323, 2, 20) and Aaron Baker (.256, 5, 20).  They are second through fifth in RBIs.  James McOwen (.337) is their table setter with his 14 stolen bases in 17 attempts leads the ABL.  Mychal Givens (.325) has a poor walk to whiff ratio (2/13) but he has been hitting enough to make up for it.  His eight steals in 11 atempts is second on the team and third in the ABL.  He is also tied with McOwen in runs scored with 18.  They will be getting another big bat in Twins major league Luke Hughes to close out the season.

The pitching staff is led by All star Warwick Saupold (3-1, 1.55).  The opposition is only hitting .177 against him.  Makes me wonder why no major league team has tried to ink him to a contract, but perhaps there is a line outside his house with teams wanting him to sign.  He is third in the league in ERA, but the two pitchers above him are no longer pitching in the ABL.  Brendan Wise is a new face that will take over the closer responsibility.  He has already picked up two saves in his first two appearances.  The previous closer Benn Grice (1-1, 2.08, 3 saves) will move into a setup role.  Jack Frawley is one of the newer faces in the rotation and in his first start he gave up just one run in six plus innings of work.

Adelaide Bite (3-2) 14-11

The Bite’s big bat continues to be Denny Almonte (.365, 9, 30) who leads in about every ABL offensive category.  He has also scored a league leading 24 runs and has added five stolen bases in eight attempts to his resume.  After Denny the offense drops significantly.  Calvin Anderson (.277, 6, 17) provides some pop in the order and has gone deep in his last two games.  In his last ten games he is hitting .417 and has an RBI streak of five games in a row, going deep in three of those five games.  Chin-Ling Hu (.287) provides defense, veteran leadership and a consistent bat.  He is hitting .381 in his last nine games.  They hope to add some pop with new comer Stefan Welch to share first base with Calvin.

Their ace continues to be local boy Paul Mildren (2-2, 3.38).  The closer is Ryan Beckman (1-1, 2.08, 5 saves) who just took his first loss against Perth yesterday.  His five saves are tied for the ABL lead.  Rinku Singh (1-0, 2.19) continues to ride his 15 minutes of fame and has been a pretty good set up man for the Bite.

Sydney Blue Sox (5-1) 14-12

The Blue Sox have been the best team in the ABL over the last 10 games, winning nine of them.  They are shown as having an eight game winning streak, but myworld’s last update showed them at 9-11.  This wouldn’t be the first time I messed up, but perhaps the game they lost was a makeup game and did not count towards the streak.  They’ve played most of their games at home where they have done well, so how they do in the future road schedule will be critical to their playoff run.

A farily recent addition, Brandon Barnes (.359, 2, 10) has been leading their offense.  He is the only player on the team who is hitting above .300 and his production has occurred over a period of ten games.  Their leading homerun hitters are Tyler Collins (.298, 3, 14) and Alex Johnson (.276, 3, 15) and Brandon has almost equaled their production is less than half their games.  He has been a big reason for their resurgence.  They are hoping that recent addition and Australian native Mitch Dening (.250) can also contribute to the offense.  Despite his vanilla average he has already driven in five runs in just eight games.

The Blue Sox have a strong trio of starters in Vaughan Harris (2-2, 3.26), Aidan Francis (3-2, 3.44) and Craig Anderson (2-1, 3.63).  With the addition of Brad Thomas to their bullpen they have been able to move last year’s ace Chris Oxspring (2-2, 2.00) back to their starting rotation.  This makes a terrific trio a fearsome foursome.  The ageless veteran Dae-Sung Koo (0-2, 4.35, 5 saves) should remain their closer despite the arrival of Thomas.  Koo had a couple poor outings early in the season, but he has not given up a run in his last five appearances, picking up three of his saves.  All five of the earned runs he has given up came in one outing.

Brisbane Bandits (2-3) 10-16

Not much to say about the Bandits brand of baseball.  Their bats are a bit silent and they have lost a couple of their big Japanese import bats for the season.  With the Japanese imports gone they hope to get a shot from some of the newer kids.  So far the new kids have combined for a 2 for 15 start.  Only the Sydney team has scored fewer runs and has a lower batting average than the Bandits.

The biggest addtion may be their newest rotation member, Ryan Searle of the Twins organization.  He lost his opening start, giving up three runs in four plus innings, but he did strike out seven.  Because of a heavy work load last year with the Twins, his arrival with the Bandits was delayed so he could rest his arm.  They lost their Japanese ace Yohei Yanagawa so they will have to rely on Searle and their Italian ace Alex Maestri (3-2, 2.82) to take up the slack.  Alex got a good start with that by pitching a complete game 2-hitter, giving up only one unearned run in his start yesterday.

Canberra Cavalry (0-5) 10-16

The Cavalry have taken the biggest slide since our last update.  Their losing streak is at six and they have only won one of their last 10 games.  They have also been lacking quality bats, with Brian Burgamy (.333, 3, 15) the best of the bunch currently on the roster.  Kenny Wilson (.281, 3, 15) is tied with Brian for the team lead in homeruns and RBIs, despite a batting average that is more than 100 points less.  The Cavalry should get a charge with the return of last year’s batting champ Michael Collins.

Hayden Beard (3-2, 2.32) and Mike McGuire (2-3, 2.35) make for a good duo in the rotation.  After that it gets a bit sketchy.  Steven Kent (3-1, 3.66, 3 saves) is their closer.

Melbourne Aces (2-4) 10-16

They hold up the rear of the ABL, but the good news is that their remaining schedule has a number of home games.  Not that they have been playing particularly better at home.  The veteran Justin Huber (.319, 3, 12) is their big bat.  Brad Harman (.344, 5, 15) is back in the lineup and should provide some protection for Huber.  Dominic Ramos (.288, 2, 7) is normally their table setter, leading the team in runs scored with 21, but he hit two homeruns in his last game, the only two he has hit all year.

The Aces are anything but, appearing last in the league in ERA.  Nic Ungs (2-1, 3.15) and Shane Lindsay (0-2, 3.74) are the stalwarts of the rotation after the departure of Yusei Kikuchi (1-2, 4.38).  Bubbie Buzachero (2.35, 1 save) is one of the new arrivals that should take over the closer role.  Markus Solbach is a German pitcher in the Twins organization that had an impressive minor league season (1.91 ERA) that has recently been added to the Aces pitching staff.  He should be an interesting pitcher to watch.                         

Gomes Leads Escogido to Second Victory

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Escogido (2-0) 5 Aguilas (1-1) 4

Mauro Gomez clubbed a tie breaking homer to give the Escogido Leones a 5-4 victory over the previously undefeated Aguilas Cibaenas.  Gomez scored three runs in the Leones victory over Licey yesterday.  Jose Cabrera retired just one batter but still got credit for his second victory in the first two games of the second round of Dominican playoffs.  Fernando Rodney picked up the save despite giving up two hits.  He also struck out two.

Hector Luna was the hitting star for Aguilas going 4 for 5 in a losing cause while Dennis Phipps was another hitting star for Escogido going 3 for 3.  The Reds could have an opening in left field after trading Yonder Alonso and Phipps was protected on the 40 man roster to give him an opportunity to win the job.

Licey (1-1) 6 Gigantes (0-2) 4

Licey won a marathon 6-4 13 inning game against Gigantes to take their first victory in the second round of the Dominican playoffs.  For Gigantes it was their second loss.  Christian Marrero(white sox) blasted a grand slam homerun in the top of the 13th to give Licey a 6-2 lead.  Gigantes tried to come back in the bottom frame putting the tying run on first base with the winning run at the plate in prospect Moises Sierra, but he grounded to third to end the threat.

Jhonaton Solano had a 2-run double in the top of the fifth to give Licey a 2-0 lead.  The Gigantes came back with two of their own in the bottom of the sixth, Alex Casilla driving in the first run with a single and scoring on a Wilson Valdez single.  Both Casilla and Robinson Diaz got three hits for the Gigantes in a losing cause.  The Tigres used 11 pitchers to get the victory while the Gigantes settled for eight.  Julio DePaula took the loss after giving up two hits and a walk in the 13th before being greeeted by Marrero for the grand slam.

Sweet Caroline - Red Sox

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Myworld can’t imagine the Red Sox having the same kind of injuries and bad seasons that they had last year.  But then they are the Red Sox.  One thing they are accomplishing is getting closer to the Yankees as far as dishing out pay roll.  It appears that Theo did not want to be a part of that dark side.

General Overview: The Red Sox had a lot of bad luck in 2011, almost as if they were cursed.  People haven’t heard that word associated with the Red Sox before.  Injuries tormented this team and high profile free agents bombed.  Coming into September the Red Sox appeared to have the playoffs sewn up, but then they won only 6 of 26 September games and stumbled out of the wild card spot like a drunk from a bar.  Between their 2-10 start and their collapse in September they were the best team in baseball, but you just can’t rely on the creamy white stuffing of the Oreo cookie to call your product a cookie.  You have to have the whole thing.

Why They Will Win: Like the Yankees this is an older roster so injuries are expected.  They shouldn’t happen to the extent they did last year.  Adrian Gonzalez is one of the better hitters in baseball and Kevin Youkilus used to be but he has suffered injuries the last couple years.  This year will be a defining moment for him.  The Red Sox have to hope he bounces back or that would leave Mike Aviles or Nick Punto at third, unless they want to rush Will MiddlebrooksJosh Beckett and Jon Lester are a solid starters and the Red Sox will hope for success with the movement of Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves into the starting rotation.  Carl Crawford can not have as poor a year as he had last year.  Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia are good, solid home grown players that can set the table for Adrian Gonzalez.  Jacoby adds an element of speed to the lineup.

Why They Won’t Win: Catching is a hole and it won’t close even if they bring back Jason Varitek.  Kelly Shoppach and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will start out behind the plate, but by mid-year you should see the rookie Ryan Lavarnway.  That could be a recipe for disaster for a remolded pitching staff.  They appear to have acquired Mark Melancon to be their closer after allowing Jonathan Papelbon to walk.  He is young and was very inconsistent for the Astros.  You know their starting rotation is hurting when they have to consider moving two bullpen pieces, Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves for the rotation.  Bard imploded in September so a rotation move could be good.  Daisuke Matsuzka is history.  By the time his arm heals his contract will have expired.  Clay Buchholtz showed early promise but his aching back is a red flag.  John Lackey is making too much money not to be put in the fifth spot in the rotation, but the less Red Sox fans see of him, the more victories they can expect to achieve.  Shortstop and right field are not championship caliber and appear to be filled by players who would be better fit a utility infielder or fourth outfielder role.  Hiring Bobby Valentine as manager brings a lot of glitz to the team, but glitz doesn’t win ballgames.  It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to his return to manager after a long absence.

Prospects to Make the Roster: Bobby V likes his Japanese players so expect Junichi Tazawa to make the roster in the bullpen or as a back of the rotation starter if Daniel Bard or Alfredo Aceves do not work out in the rotation.  The same can be said for Felix Doubront.

Long Range Prospects to Make Roster: If Will Middlebrooks is raking in the minor leagues and Kevin Youkilus is injured expect a callup, otherwise the Red Sox may be forced to go with Mike Aviles.  Jose Iglesias could see some shortstop time by mid season, but it would only to be cover an injury.  If there were a long term need the Red Sox would try to trade for a veteran to fill the position.  Ryan Lavarnway has too much pop in his bat to be ignored if Salty or Shoppach stumble.  It will be a disastrous year if Lars Anderson sees too much time at first, but DH is a possiblity if David Ortiz struggles or is injured.  Che-Hsuan Lin should at minimum see a September callup, but he could also be asked to fill the right field hole if Josh Reddick is not the answer.

Significant Transactions: They resigned David Ortiz and said good bye to Jason Varitek by signing free agent Kelly Shoppach as a free agent to fill the backup catcher spot.  They traded for Mark Melancon to be an option to fill their closer role, giving up on Jedd Lowrie, their used to be shortstop of the future, who was sent to the Astros along with Kyle Weiland as compensation.  They signed Nick Punto as insurance for the shortstop or second base position.

Expected Finish: They will finish in first, but it won’t be the juggernaut everyone was boasting about last year after the signing of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.  The pitching is a shambles and they should just be thankful that the Yankees are in the same shape.  The team that is best able to salvage their rotation between the Yankees and Red Sox will win this division, unless the Rays add some more potent bats to support a very strong rotation.

Dominican Second Round Results

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

The Dominican Winter League started their second round of action.  Below are the results:

Escogidos 9 Licey 4

Andy Dirks single in the top of the seventh score Pedro Florimon with the go ahead run to put Escogido ahead 5-4.  They then erupted for three runs in the top of the eighth after two were out to blow the game wide open.  Jose Constanza had the big 2-run single that closed out the scoring in the inning.  Andy Dirks and Pablo Ozuna each banged out three hits while Mauro Gomez scored three runs to lead the Escogido offense.  Jose Cabrera picked up the victory with his one inning of relief.

Aguilas 3 Gigantes 0

Edinson Volquez pitched three innings of no hit ball for Gigantes, only walking one batter, but Lorenzo Barcelo did him three better, tossing six innings of 2-hit shutout ball to outduel him.  The Roman Colon gave up all three runs in his one plus inning of work, getting abused for four hits.   Pedro Ciriaco and Elian Herrera both had RBI singles to lead the Aguilas offense.  Jose Diaz picked up the save despite giving up two hits in the ninth inning.

Today’s Heros Yesterday’s Stars

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

It is a little slow here in the myworld family.  No real baseball events to travel to until the Series del Caribe in the first week of February.  Not a lot of baseball news being posted on the web.  Myworld had scheduled a Puerto Rico trip in January to catch some winter baseball, but we also registered for a web training development class that is once a week starting the first week of January and ending the last week of January, so we had to cancel that trip.  The hotel is all booked for the Dominican trip.  All we are missing are the tickets to the game, but as I always do I’ll figure something out when I get there.  The Spring training adventure in Kissimmee, Florida is also booked for a full month.

While the baseball news is a bit slow, my world updated the website, adding some results from the international youth tounaments.  In the process we did some research and found some pretty significant players had participated in these youth tournaments over the years.  A summary of some of the players below:

18 and under International competetions

1986 - Cuba took the gold medal, but their one loss was to a pitcher named Mike Mussina, who shut them down on five hits and stuck out 16.  The United States could only win the bronze, their worst finish since the tournaments began in 1981.

1987 - Cuba won their third gold medal in a row by rallying for three runs in the bottom of the ninth to erase the 5-3 lead that the United States had built up, the winning run scoring on a squeeze bunt.  Royce Clayton played for the United States team.

1991 - Canada wins their first baseball championship led by the hustling Stubby Clapp.  The whole team is inducted in the Canada baseball Hall of Fame and Stubby would have a brief career as a utility player in the major leagues.  A.J. Hinch and Aaron Boone starred for the United States team.  Cuba was led by Pedro Luis Lazo, who would eventually win more games than any Cuban pitcher in their professional league history, but the Cuban team fails to medal.

1992 - Alex Rodriguez played for the United States team, but they could only finish second to Cuba.  Cuba finished the tournament 12-0 with Livan Hernandez leading them on to victory.  The United States also had a player on their team name Preston Wilson, who would be the more enigmatic of these three future professionals.

1993 - Cuba again rode the arm of Livan Hernandez to the gold.  Livan had the scouts drooling with his 17 strikeout, five hit performance against a U.S. team that had slugger Paul Konerko on the team.

1994 - South Korea was led to the gold medal by their slugger Seung-yeop Lee, who scored 13 runs, drove in 10 and slugged three homeruns in their 11 games.  Despite that offensive output, Lee did not make the All Star team.  Randy Wolf pitched for the U.S. team, which lost to Korea in the finals 11-10.

1995 - Brad Wilkinson led the United States to the gold medal.  Korea was led by Byung-hyun Kim, who later closed for the Diamondbacks in that World Series against the Yankees where he always seemed to be looking towards the outfield fences.

1996 - Cuba was led by the pitching of Norberto Gonzalez while the United States had Rick Ankiel on their team.  Cuba defeated Taiwan for the gold medal.

1997 - Cuba again beat a Taiwan team that was led by Chien-Ming Wang for the gold.  Rick Ankiel returned with Austin Kearns and Michael Cuddyer, but they could only tie Canada for the bronze.  Slugging firstbaseman Hee-seop Choi starred for Korea.  Cuba again had Norberto Gonzalez, who was supported on offense by Joan Pedroso and Michel Enriquez.

1999 - Joe Mauer led the United States team to the gold medal, but he was only the backup catcher.  A player by the name of Scott Heard was the starter.  Carlos Quentin also played for the United States team.

2004 - Cuba won the gold led by the slugging Alfredo DespaigneYu Darvish was the pitcher for Japan but he didn’t leave much of an impression with his 0-1, 7.11 numbers.  Japan finished second, their first medal in this event in 22 years.  The United States was shut out of any medal despite having Justin Upton, Buster Posey and Andrew McCutchen on the team.  It was the first year they had not medaled in 20 years.  Germany was led by Kai Gronauer, who was voted to the All Star team over Buster Posey.

2006 - Canada was led by Phillipe Aumont, James Paxton and Brett Lawrie, but could only manage the bronze.  Korea won their fourth gold medal since the event began in 1981.  The United States team was led by Jarrod Parker, Mike Moustakas and Blake Beavan, who struck out 11 Cubans in the quarter finals.  The U.S. team finished second.  Cuba was shut out of the medal round despite having Aroldis Chapman, Leonys Martin and Dayan Viciedo on the team.  Freddi Alvarez and Alberto Soto were the two stars that did not defect.  The Italian roster had a player by the name of Alex Liddi on the team.  Panama had Ruben Tejeda impressing the scouts with his acrobatic palys and the Netherlands had a big kid named Tom Stufbergen.

2008 - Cuba saw Noels Arguelles and Jose Iglesias defect before the start of the tournament, creating some discomfort for host Canada.  Korea won back to back gold medals.  Bret Lawrie starred for Canada again, two years older than he was in 2006.  Swen Huijer pitched for the Netherlands team.  Matt Purke and Jacob Turner pitched the U.S. team to the silver medal.  Myworld had just started this site and we vaguely recall reporting on this event.

Cuba leads the gold medal count with 11 while Korea and the United States are tied with five each.  Taiwan has two and Canada one gold medal to finish out the winners.  Australia and Japan are the only other teams to medal, but neither team has won a gold.

16 and under

2001 - The United States wins the gold led by All Star Lastings Milledge.  It was after that victory that he realized the importance of wearing heavy metal around his neck (just kidding).

2003 - The United States won its third straight gold medal led by Justin Upton, Austin Jackson, Jeremy Hellickson, Danny Espinosa and Ike Davis.  That is a pretty potent bunch.  The MVP of the U.S. team was a player named Justin Bristow.  Justin who?

2005 - Another solid U.S. team led by Freddie Freeman, Blake Beavan, Christian Colon and Josh Vitters, but they were no match for Cuba’s Freddy Alvarez, who blanked the U.S. team on four hits, striking out nine in the gold medal match.

The United States leads in the 16 and under with five gold medal wins.  Cuba is right behind with four while Japan is third with two.  Taiwan, Brazil and Korea each have one gold medal to their credit.  China actually won a bronze, but it was in the first 16 and under in 1989 and there is no information on how many teams had participated in that event.

Willy Aybar Apologizes for his Third Wife Beating

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

It appears that Willy Aybar has been spending some time in a Dominican Republic jail after being charged with violence against his wife and creating a disturbance at his place of residence.  He also was verbally abusive to the prosecuters, not the best way to win leniency in your case.  Willy is the older brother of Erick Aybar and has had some violent incidents in the past.  This is his third time that he has been recorded for beating his wife, this time while there appeared to have been a restraining order against him even being near her.

Willy has said he is sorry, but this is the third time he has beaten his wife.  How many times can you say you are sorry.  He would like the three month prison sentence imposed by the court removed so he can fulfill contractual obligations in Japan.  He supposedly signed with a Canadian Independent League team to play baseball, but his visa was denied there.  Myworld is not aware of any professional Japanese team that has inquired about Willy.

In 2007 Willy had gotten in trouble and was suspended by the Atlanta Braves for what appeared to be a struggle with “drinking and drugs”.  He was also arrested in 2008 in the Dominican Republic for abusing his wife.  He was arrested in Seattle in 2011 for also striking his wife and being extremely intoxicated.  I’m beginning to wonder if this person was his wife, but another woman he beat.  This most recent outburst by him was a violation of a restraining order and appears to have sent his wife to the hospital in critical condition.

Like I say, how many times can you say I’m sorry.  Willy has some major issues.  He has so many wife beatings I can’t keep them all straight.  Hopefully the judge does not release him.

You can see the stories below:

http://www.dominicantoday.com/dr/sports/2011/12/27/42126/Willy-Aybar-says-sorry

http://www.raysindex.com/2011/05/now-we-know-why-nobody-signed-willy-aybar-he-was-in-prison.html

http://www.raysindex.com/2011/06/willy-aybar-arrested-for-assaulting-his-wife-again.html

He last played in the major leagues in 2010.  Willy was the player that made the error that resulted in the Netherlands knocking the Dominican Republic from the 2009 WBC first round.

Roosters with the Boots - Gourriels the Culprits

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

The Sancti Spiritus Roosters made seven errors in last night’s game, but despite that they still managed to pull out the 14-5 win.  Yoandy Baguet made two errors playing second base and Orlando Acebey made two errors playing third.  Yulieski Gourriel also made an error playing third.

Yulieski is usually a pretty reliable defender at third base, having won gold gloves for his defense.  He is considered one of the best players Cuba has to offer.  I didn’t see him play the position at the baseball world cup in Panama since he had moved to second base after the injury to Hector Olivera.  He started his career as a shortstop so third base should not be a problem for him.  He has committed eight errors this year in 21 games for a horrific .902 fielding percentage.

All told, the Roosters have made 39 errors this year in just 21 games.  If you calculate that over a 162 game major league season that would equate to over 290 errors.  When was the last time you saw a major league team commit 290 errors in one season.  Perhaps the official scorer is very strict or the field is in poor condition resulting in bad bounces, or the errors are just an aberration and as the season progresses they will reduce.

Two of the biggest contributers are Yuliesky Gourriel and his much younger brother Lourdes Gourriel, who is a future superstar in the making, from the reports I have heard.  They have an older brother Yuniesky that plays center field, but he has only committed one error out there.  The Roosters were putting Lourdes at short late in games, but he has committed four errors there in just nine games for a .778 fielding percentage.  At second base he has made one error in one game for a .822 fielding percentage.  In the 14-5 win they put him at first and he played error free ball.

The Roosters have had 8 errors from their shortstops, 10 from their third basemen, six from their second basemen, four from their catchers, three from their first basemen and five from their pitchers.  That is 36 errors in 21 games from their infielders.  The team closest to their 39 errors is Pinar del Rio with 29 and they have played one more game than the Roosters.

When Yulieski Gourriel was 22 years old in the 2006 World Baseball classic he played second base.  After his performance there major league scouts stated that they had no doubt if the then 22 year old was eligible for the draft he would be taken somewhere in the first round.  In 2005-2006 he led the Cuban League in homeruns with 27, one short of the record at that time which was 28.  In the 2005 World Cup, at 21 years of age he led all players with eight homeruns.  Joey Votto, a future MVP in the major leages was second with five.  Votto is one year older than Yulieski.  This year Yulieski is hitting .302 with six homeruns and 24 RBIs in 21 games.

His older brother Yuniesky plays centerfield.  He is not as talented as Yulieski and despite missing the first part of the season he is hitting .360.  He normally comes in during the later innings for defensive purposes but could begin seeing some more starts if he continues to hit.

Lourdes is the youngest of the bunch and he is supposed to be as talented as Yulieski.  This is his first year with Sancti.  He is struggling with a .154 average and the defensive lapses in the field.  He normally does not start the games, but is put in during the later innings to give him experience.  It will be interesting to see how he develops.

Could you imagine the spin the press in the United States would have with three brothers playing on the same team.  Or the fact that a team was progressing towards 300 errors in one season.

Don’t expect to see any Gourriels playing major league ball.  They have a proud tradition in Cuban baseball, including their father Lourdes who was a star himself for the national team.  A defection would sully the Gourriel name.  From what I understand, they have a massive home in Sancti Spiritus that is the envy of the community, so they have no real incentive to leave.  They live a pretty lavish life in Cuba.

Hard Times in New York Town - Yankees

Monday, December 26th, 2011

If my world is picking the AL West to have the wild card this year and New York is second in the AL East, then that means New York will miss the playoffs.  Perhaps in 2013 when they move to a two playoff format they will return to the hunt.  It is not because the two AL West teams are better than the Yankees.  In the Eastern division with the Blue Jays, Rays and Red Sox in their division, those four teams will spend the season beating up on each other, with only the Orioles as the patsys.  The Angels and Rangers only have themselves to battle with both the Mariners and Athletics to rack up a slew of victories.  The last time the Yankees missed making the playoffs was in 2008.  Hard to believe that at one point in their history, back in 1902, this team was called the Baltimore Orioles.  The last time the Yankees finished under .500 was in 1992.  The last time the Orioles finished over .500 was in 1997.  Those two streaks will not break in 2012, but with the Yankees it is all about the World Series.  Winning is nothing without that ring.

General Overview: Their starting pitching is not in the greatest shape, but all they have done so far is resign Freddy Garcia.  They barely said boo in their posting for Yu Darvish.  Last year they did a pretty good job picking up Bartolo Colon from the scrap heap so they could be heading for that dump again.  They are a bit hamstrung by their team salary that they finally got below $200 million.  They are still supporting most of the other major league teams with their large luxury tax payments, though the Red Sox each year keep paying a greater share of the contribution.

Why They Will Win: Their offense is still one of the best in the major leagues.  Despite the negatives you can say about Derek Jeter all he does is win.  His bat woke up after the all star break and he finished the season close to .300, doing his Cal Ripken imitation with a dramatic homerun for his 3,000th hit.  He is still a leader at short, but his defense is lacking.  At some point they will need to find a new position for him.  Alex Rodriguez has got to hit better than last year’s numbers.  He can’t be over the hill yet because he is younger than Jeter.  He does talk a better game than Jeter, but Jeter plays the better game.  Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira will still contribute to the offense on the right side.  Curtis Granderson can expect his numbers to fall, but his bat will still be productive for centerfield.  They should also add a new bat at the DH spot in Jesus Montero.  This will be a lineup that will be deep in sticks, making pitchers breath a sigh of relief when they face Russell Martin and Bret Gardner.  They still have Mariano Rivera.  No telling when he is going to stop picking up saves.  If hitters have not figured out his one trick pitch after twenty something years, they are not going to figure it out in 2012.  C.C. Sabathia is an ace.  He doesn’t need an Adonis body to get hitters out.  They could have Joba Chamberlain back to help in the setup duties with David Robertson.  They will need a deep bullpen to compensate for the short outings of the starting rotation.

Why They Won’t Win: After C.C. Sabathia the Yankees have question marks in their rotation.  Ivan Novoa is the best bet to stay in the rotation.  While he was 16-4 his other numbers were not that impressive to guarantee a repeat of that record.  At one point Phil Hughes was the Yankees top prospect and the future savior of their rotation.  He needs to get his fastball back.  A.J. Burnett can not be relied on and it is unclear what kind of year Freddy Garcia will have.  He is up and down like the stock market, so don’t put your retirement funds on him having a productive year.  Catching could be a weak point if Russell Martin goes down for a significant period.  That will mean the Yankees season could be dictated by how well a couple rookie catchers run the pitching staff, unless they give the call to Francisco Cervelli.  This is an aging team that will be susceptible to injuries.  No predicting who will go on the disabled list, but you can count on at least three significant starters.

Top Prospects to Make the Roster: Jesus Montero will be the primary DH and rest Teixeira at first.  I would be surprised if the Yankees trust him behind the plate.  With a good spring Hector Noesi will make it in the bullpen or the starting rotation if there is an opening.  Cesar Cabral throws lefthanded and was a Rule V pick.  He has to stay on the roster if the Yankees want to keep him.  The Yankees are not loaded with bullpen alternatives from the left side.

Long Range Prospects: One of the Yankees strengths is their young starting pitching that will more than likely be given an opportunity to prove their mettle by mid season.  Who gets the first opportunity between Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances will be dictated by who is having the best minor league season.  One throws lefthanded and the other righthanded.  Austin Romine should also see some time behind the plate.  If Russell Martin is injured for an extended period he will be given the opportunity to share the catching job with Francisco Cervelli.  How much playing time he gets will be dictated by how well he does.  Brandon Laird will probably be on the up/down train depending on whether they need him for the outfield or third base.

Significant Transactions: Hmmm.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Unless you can call the trade for Rule V pick Cesar Cabral significant.  With the Mets struggling financially I guess there is no need to compete with them for the back pages of New York’s newspapers.  I keep putting my ear to River Avenue but all I hear are the crickets.  They do have crickets in New York, don’t they?

Expected Finish: They have lost more than they have picked up.  The Red Sox will be healtheir and will not play as poorly as they did last year.  It looks like a second place finish and a spectator for the playoffs in 2011.  They still have the money to make a major acquistion and perhaps their big move will come midseason, when they have a better understanding of what they need to make the playoffs.

Barbaro Bashing in Obregon

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Barbaro Canizares has been bashing pitchers all his life, yet he has not gotten a real major league opportunity and at close to 40 years old it is probably too late now.  The Cuban export was in the Braves minor league system for a number of years, but during his tenure the Braves didn’t need a firstbaseman for their major league team, so he bashed in AAA.  The only time he hit below .300 was in 2009, when he hit just .294.  That was also the year the Braves gave him his major league opportunity.  In 21 at bats he could only hit .190.  He showed an atypical lack of patience, perhaps feeling that this was his only opportunity to show a major league team what he could do because he did not take a walk in his 21 at bats.

The next year the Braves kept him in their minor league system where he hit .341 with 13 homeruns and 77 RBIs.  He has never been a prolific homerun hitter.  Perhaps the Braves discovered that when he was playing for Cuba his birthdate was listed at 11/21/74 and not the 11/21/79 that he had given the Braves.  That would make him now 38 years old, or 32 when he signed with the Braves, not the 27 that they thought he was.

After becoming a six year minor league free agent and getting no bites from a major league team Barbaro took his bat to Mexico for the summer where he hit a league leading .396 with 20 homeruns in just 83 games.  His OPS for that period was 1.151.

Mexico seems to agree with Barbaro, as he hit his league leading 20th homerun in Obregon’s 4-2 win over Culiacan.  He is only hitting .305, but his 20 homeruns lead the league and have come in just 62 games to put his OPS at a still staggering 1.019.  At 6′3″ and 240 pounds he has put on some baggage that may be the reason that more balls are leaving the park.

Barbaro played with the Cuban team the Industriales, starting his career off as a catcher.  His teammate was Kendrys Morales, who took a little time getting acclimated to the major leagues.  They lead the Industrials to the title in 2005.  His career average over the eight or ten year period in Cuba was either .289 or .303, depending on what biographical source you read.  He only hit 38 homeruns, a paltry piece over the eight or ten years he played.  He played for the Cuban national team in a couple of smaller tournaments like the World Port tournament in the Netherlands and the 2002 Intercontinental Cup.  He won the MVP of the Intercontinental Cup tournament, hitting .412 with a .794 slugging average.  He is a defensive liability at first base, so DH is probably his best position.

Cuba suspended him right before the 2003 Baseball World Cup and then banned him from baseball when he tried to defect a third time.  It was on his fourth attempt that he was able to get off the island.  After hitting .352 in Nicaragua the Braves signed him to a contract, but his birthdate went from 1974 to 1979.  It is still listed as 1979 on many websites, but if you consider that he had played in Cuba 8 to 10 years in 2002 his age would have been 13 or 15 when he started his Cuban career.

Obregon is tied for second place in the second half of the Mexican League, but are three games behind both Culiacan and Guasave.  That is three teams that they have to compete for the top spot.  They finished the first half in third place with a 20-15 record, so they could still make the playoffs with one of the best record over two halves.

Baseball on Christmas Day

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Who says they don’t play baseball on Christmas.

The Cuban League has a very heavy schedule of games, but as a communist country they are not supposed to believe in Christmas, so perhaps that one doesn’t count.

The Mexican Winter League has a large schedule of games on Christmas day.  Last I checked Mexico wasn’t communist, but they sure must like to play baseball.  The other Caribbean countries took both Christmas eve and Christmas off, though the Dominican season is technically done with their first round.

Finally, in Taiwan they are having a huge international baseball tournament.  More than 2,000 teenaged baseball players from Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and of course Taiwan are playing in a tournament in Chiayi City in Taiwan.  They had a parade in the middle of the street on Christmas Eve to celebrate the beginning of the 14th annual tournament that has gone from 35 teams to 138.

You can read about the tournament here: http://focustaiwan.tw/ShowNews/WebNews_Detail.aspx?Type=aSPT&ID=201112240024

And though it is not baseball on Christmas day related, many women in Korea are looking for baseball gifts under their Christmas tree this year.  It seems that the surge in popularity of baseball in Korea is assisted by the number of woman that attend games.  Studies have shown that 39 percent of the fans at a Korean baseball game are woman.  You won’t find that percentage at a U.S. ballpark.

You can read that story here: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/sports/2011/12/136_101518.html

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.