Archive for April, 2012

Cuban Playoffs

Monday, April 30th, 2012

A bevy of Cuban playoff games on a Sunday.

Industriales Leones 6 Cienfuegos Elefantes 2

Not much of a game here as the Leones take a three game to one advantage, jumping out to an early 6-0 lead.  Odrisamer Despaigne was masterful getting his second playoff victory, tossing seven plus innings of shutout ball.  He was relieved in the eighth by Antonio Armando after getting the first two hitters out in the eighth inning.  Jose Abreu tagged Antonio for a 2-run homer in the ninth, but the Leones had the game pretty much won by then.

The Leones collected all their runs in the second through fifth innings.  Leadoff hitter Irait Chirino was the big bat with four hits, driving in two and scoring two.  Yasmani Tomas got the scoring started with a solo shot in the second, his third homerun in these playoffs.

Granma Stallions 6 Villa Clara Orangemen 5

The Stallions evened their series against the Orangemen at two games apiece, getting solo shots from Alfredo Despaigne and Urmanis Guerra to get the victory.  Both of them took the ball out of the park in the third inning to give the Stallions a 5-0 lead.  For Despaigne it was his third playoff homerun.  Ramon Tamayo had a 2-run single in the second to lead the team in RBIs.

The Orangemen rallied for four runs in the fourth but they could get no closer than one run.  Andy Sarduy drove in two runs with a single in the fourth and drove in a third run with a single in the seventh.  Jose Pena pitched six crucial innings of relief, giving up only one run to get the win for the Stallions.  Yosvany Perez pitched five innings of one hit relief for the Orangemen, but by then the damage of the Stallion bats had been done.

Ciego de Avila Tigers 4 Las Tunas Woodcutters 3

The Tigers got their first win of the playoffs against the Woodcutters, the game winning run scoring on a wild pitch in the seventh to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead.  Starter Vladimir Garcia was able to shut down the Woodcutters bats the final two innings.  The Tigers now trail the series two games to one.

Rusney Castillo ripped two hits in three at bats for the Tigers, driving in one and scoring two to be their offensive force.  Yoelvis Fiss had a solo shot in the fourth, one of his three hits in the game and Yorelvis Charles contributed two doubles, his first in the opening frame drove in the first run for the Tigers.  The Woodcutters managed a 2-run homerun from Joan Pedroso, but that was the extent of their offense.

Sancti Spiritus Roosters 11 Matanzas Crocodiles 1

The magical season of the Crocodiles is one loss away from being over.  The Roosters stomped them to go up three games to 1.  Yulieski Gourriel had a 2-run homer and RBI single to lead the offense.  The Roosters scored three runs in the eighth to complete the skunk.  Ismel Jimenez went seven innings to pick up his second win, which is tied with Odrisamer Despaigne for the most in the playoffs.

Betemit With the Walkoff Blast

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Bartolo Colon was in control for the first eight innings of the game.  His fastball was hitting 93, even in the ninth inning, pretty impressive for a squatty pitcher who looks more like a softball player than a baseball player.  In the ninth inning things unrattled for the Athletics.  J.J Hardy started the inning by bouncing a grounder up the middle.  Eric Sogard made a nice play reaching the ball hit up the middle, but bounced his throw into the dirt.  Daric Barton could not handle the throw.  After Nick Markakis struck out swinging on a 93 mile per hour fastball, Adam Jones hit a squibbler to the right of the mound.  Colon pounced on the ball, threw to first, but again the ball bounced in the dirt and skipped past the first baseman, Hardy advancing to third and Jones to second.  If Daric Barton could have scooped either of the one bouncers the Athletics would be in a better position to win the game.

The Athletics chose to bring in Grant Balfour, rather than sticking with Colon.  The pitch count for Colon had reached 105 but the balls were still not getting hit hard.  Balfour got ahead of Matt Wieters 1-2.  Matt was one of the better clutch hitters in baseball last year.  He drove a 1-2 pitch from Balfour into left center, hitting the middle of the wall for a 2-run double.  It had fallen just five feet short of being a game winning homerun.  The Athletics chose to walk the hot hitting Chris Davis intentionally to face Wilson Betemit.  Balfour got behind in the count 3-1 and Betemit drove the next pitch deep to right center.  All Reddick and Cespedes could do is watch it hit just in front of the bleacher seats but over the fence for a homerun.  The ball bounced back into the field of play.  For Wilson Betemit it was his first career game winning walk off hit.

Tommy Hunter pitched a good game.  He had shut down the Athletics for the first five innings, though when you look at that lineup it is pretty anemic.  In the sixth a 2-out single by Josh Reddick and a Yoenis Cespedes double into the left field corner scored the first run of the game.  Seth Smith drove in the Athletics second run with a solo shot to lead off the seventh.  Hunter was done after he finished the seventh inning.

Bartolo Colon was brilliant throughout.  Only a couple of well placed scoops prevented him from having a complete game shutout.  He was consistently at 89-93 miles per hour with his fastball.  The Orioles had their best chances in the first and seventh innings after they had gotten leadoff doubles.  In the first, Nolan Reimold broke for third but J.J. Hardy lined it to first for an easy double play.  In the seventh the Markakis double was wasted when Wilson Betemit popped up to short.

Game Notes: Pedro Strop throws a hard 97 mile per hour fastball.  That qualifies as closer stuff…The difference between this Oriole team and past Oriole teams is that the pitchers throw strikes.  No more of this torture of watching Orioles pitchers struggle through 3-2 counts.  They also have a couple key players in Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy are at that prime age of 26-30.  Even Chris Davis and Robert Andino are contributing, with Andino having everyone in Baltimore saying Brian who?…The Frank Robinson statute was nicely done.  The Orioles will be adding a statute a month, with Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken statutes planned for the future.  Maybe they will consider a Boog Powell statute for next year…Nolan Reimold caught a ball in left field on a high fly ball hit by Kurt Suzuki with his glove over the fence.  It wasn’t a difficult catch, but if he hadn’t been there to catch the ball it would have gone over the fence…In the fourth Mark Reynolds made a nice diving play at first to start a double play.  With his struggles at third continuing he may find himself at first base more with Chris Davis hitting more in the DH spot…Nick Markakis also threw out Seth Smith at second in the fourth inning as he was trying to turn a single into a double…Reynolds also allowed a ball to bounce off his glove with runners on first and second and two outs.  Fortunately, Robert Andino picked the ball up behind him and flipped it to Pedro Strop at first for a rare 3-4-1 play…J.J. Hardy did hit a line drive into the left field bleachers, but the ball was foul.

Cuban Playoff Update - Poor Stallion Fielding Give Orangemen Victory

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

The Orangemen took 11 innings but they finally overcame Alfredo Despaigne and the Granma Stallions 5-4, taking advantage of a couple poor fielding plays to escape with the victory.  Despaigne had launched a 3-run homer in the bottom of the eighth off reliever Yolexis Ulacia to tie the game at 4-4.  Robelio Carrillo had gone the first six innings for the Orangemen and shut the Stallions bats down on one run and four hits.  He had chosen to walk Despaigne the first two times he faced him and then with a 4-0 lead struck him out to lead off the sixth.  Unfortuantely, Yordanis Samon followed the Despaigne whiff with a solo blast to ruin the shutout.  Ulacia did not have the luxury of walking Despaigne with runners on first and second.

The Orangemen turned a Despaigne fielding error in the 11th into the go ahead run to win the game 5-4.  Andy Sarduy had started the rally with a one out double.  Sarduy had a 2-run single in the second inning to give the Orangemen a 2-0 lead.  A Ramon Tamayo error in the sixth allowed the Orangemen to score two unearned runs and take a 4-0 lead.  Misael Siverio got credit for the win by pitching four innings of shutout relief, giving up only three hits.

Villa Clara now leads the series two games to one.

Top AAA Minor League Performers

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

It is tough to keep track of the multitude of minor league players out there, but myworld thought we would do a position by position breakout of the top performers at each position, starting with AAA.

Catchers

Josh Phegley (White Sox) - The 2009 supplemental first round pick has been troubled by injuries but now appears healthy with a .397 average.

Max Rameriz (Royals) - If only he could play defense.  He is hitting .313, 5, 21 and could be a good stop gap until Salvador Perez recovers from his injuries.

Derek Norris (Athletics) - one of the players acquired in the Gio Gonzalez trade.  He struggled to hit for average the last two years but in april he is hitting .346, 3, 16.  For a catcher who walked a lot he has only drawn three walks in his first 19 games.  Perhaps he is being more aggressive at the plate.

Yan Gomes (Blue Jays) - They liked his work in spring training.  The Brazillian is hitting .333 as he shares playing time with hot prospect Travis d’Arnaud (.239).  His aggressiveness at the plate has only allowed him to draw one walk in 69 at bats.

First Base

Brad Eldred (Tigers) - Where were the Japanese teams that were looking for power in a first baseman/DH.  He has put together incredible numbers in AAA (.388, 13, 35) in just 20 games.  If those numbers were translated into a 160 game season he would finish with 104 homeruns and 280 RBIs.  He won’t be able to build on the freakish numbers.  The Tigers called him up to DH for their major league team.  He went 2 for 4 in his first start.

Tyler Moore (Nationals) - He was playing left field because the Nationals thought about promoting him instead of Bryce Harper.  He is hitting for good power (.286, 7, 20) but some are concerned with his difficulty making contact.

Matt LaPorta (Indians) - The Indians have given him many opportunites to win the major league job.  He is looking for one more with his .371, 6, 15 numbers.

Mauro Gomez (Red Sox) - We saw him play in the Series del Caribe.  The Red Sox don’t need a first basmean or DH, but if someone should get hurt he is hitting .329, 7, 20.

Leslie Anderson (Rays) - The Cuban defector may be figuring it out, hitting .352.  He has yet to hit a homerun, a major impediment to a promotion.

Anthony Rizzo (Cubs) - Anthony is back tormenting AAA pitchers, this time in the uniform of the Cubs.  He is hitting .380, 7, 21.  A cause of concern is his 5/16 walk to whiff ratio in 20 games.

Randy Ruiz (Diamondbacks) - The minor league vet also toiled in the Series del Caribe.  The air is drier in Reno but it hasn’t prevented him from hitting .353, 5, 19.  A playoff team could use that kind of production.

Second Base

Bobby Scales (Mets) - The Mets spent all spring trying to find a second baseman.  Bobby wondered why no one looked his way.  He is hitting .400 with 12 runs scored and an impressive 17/8 walk to whiff ratio.  The Mets could certainly use some of that production.  Unfortunately, he is 34 years old so there is not a lot of upside here.

Joaquin Arias (Giants) - The Giants have already called him up after he raked the Pacific Coast League for a .400 average.  He is hitting .375 for the Giants in eight at bats.

Tony Abreu (Royals) - He is not a prospect in an organization loaded with young budding stars, but he is hitting .352, 2, 17.  That should account for something.

Jake Elmore (Diamondbacks) - His name draws a blank with me, but his April numbers (.344, 13 runs scored) tell me that I should remember his name.  He has an 11/11 walk to whiff ratio to put his OBA at .434.

Third Base

Wil Middlebrooks (Red Sox) - Kevin Youkilus is looking in his rearview mirror.  Wil is assaulting AAA pitching at .358, 9, 27.  He’s even stolen three bases.

Scott Moore (Astros) - You can’t have much more than the numbers that Scott is producing (.385, 2, 16).  His 12/13 walk to whiff ratio give him an impressive .522 OBA.

Alex Castellanos (Dodgers) - His .366 average is impressive, but he has already racked up seven doubles, four triples and four homeruns to give him a .746 slugging percentage.  His 12/17 walk to whiff ratio has put his OBA at .477.  That adds up to a 1.224 OPS.

Shortstop

Paul Janish (Reds) - Who said he couldn’t hit.  His .324 average is the best of all International League shortstops.

Evereth Cabrera (Padres) - The Rule V sensation would like to get back to the major leagues.  He has stolen 10 bases and is hitting .301.  The down side is his 16 strikeouts.

Adeiny Hechavarria (Blue Jays) - He wowed myworld in spring and he continues to hit in the Pacific Coast League (.301, 17 runs scored)

Outfield

Dewayne Wise (Yankees) - If Brett Gardner’s injury woes should linger there is a Wise callup in AAA hitting .379 with four homeruns.

Jordan Parraz (Braves) - Jordan looked impressive in spring traning.  He is continuing his hitting in AAA with a .367, 1, 7.  His extra base hit numbers are lacking, with only five of his 29 hits going for extra bases.

Trevor Crowe (Indians) - Trevor has had many opportunities, only to prove that his minor league numbers were just a mirage when put against major league pitching.  He is hitting .345, which could get him another opportunity with the Indians.

Michael Talor (Athletics) - His .366, 2, 17 numbers cry for another opportunity in the major leagues.

Justin Christian (Giants) - He is not considered a prospect but his .400 average with 18 runs scored may deserve recognition for a promotion.  He doesn’t hit balls over the wall but his 10 doubles shows he can find the gaps.

Brandon Moss (Athletics) - Another organization player raking in AAA with a .353, 4, 10 numbers.  He usually shines in winter ball.

Scott Van Slyke (Dodgers) - The son of Andy is making his father proud with .357, 4, 14 numbers.

Travis Snider (Blue Jays) - Travis is looking for another opportunity to play left for the Blue Jays.  He has shown these numbers before (.400, 4, 23) but the Jays can’t ignore them forever.

Roger Kieschnick (Giants) - If the Giants are looking for offense his .352, 5, 15 numbers with 20 runs scored should make them take notice.

Mike Trout (Angels) - The Angels have called him up to enhance their outfield production (.403, 1, 13).  He has scored 21 runs, stolen six bases and hit five triples.  He won’t hit a lot of balls over the fence but he will wear you out running around the bases.

Righthanded Pitching

Aaron Cook (Red Sox) - If the Boston pitching woes continue there is the veteran Cook stewing up 3-0, 1.44 numbers.  His 9/8 walk to whiff ratio in 27 innings may indicate that the recipe is flawed when he faces major league hitters.

Justin Germano (Red Sox) - His numbers are a bit better for the Red Sox to take a risk on (2-1, 1.57).  He has yet to walk a hitter in 23 innings, striking out 14.

Jason Berken (Orioles) - Jason has been dominant in AAA (0.60) in three starts.

Dylan Axelrod  (White Sox) - At 27 he is ready to make the White Sox rotation with his 2-1, 1.08 ERA numbers.  He also has a pretty impressive 4/26 walk to whiff ratio in 25 innings.

Barry Enright (Diamondbacks) - His walk to whiff ratio is not impressive (10/13) but his 2-1, 1.75 ERA in five starts will make you take notice.  He has also been credited for a complete game.

Alex Sanabia (Marlins) - He has impeccable control with just two walks in 33 innings, resulting in a 3-0, 1.65 numbers in five starts.

Nathan Adcock (Royals) - The Royals could use some starting pitching and Nathan’s numbers in four starts should not be ignored (3-1, 1.37).  His 8/14 walk to whiff ratio is underwhelming.

Paul Clemens (Astros) - Acquired from the Braves, Paul is 1-1, 1.59 in three starts.

Lefthanded Pitchers

Yohan Flande (Braves) - He has been dazzling with a 0.90 ERA and nine hits given up in 20 innigs.  His command has been a little spotty with an 11/21 walk to whiff ratio.  With all the top pitching prospects in the Braves system, few expected this kind of performance from Flande.

Scott Diamond (Twins) - If you want to find a diamond in the rough, Scott has a perfect name for it.  He is a perfect 4-0 with a 1.07 ERA in four starts.

Travis Blackley (Giants) - He was born in Australia but last year pitched in Korea.  His 3-0, 0.39 will translate to promotion in any language. In 23 innings he has only given up 13 hits with a 3/19 walk to whiff ratio. Another Ryan Vogelsong in the making.

Dallas Keuchel (Astros) - With the name Dallas he should be playing for the Rangers and not Houston. His 3-1, 1.67 numbers in four starts would pitch in any city.

Brad Mills (Angels) - If the pitching continues to struggle at the major league level Brad is ready. He is 2-0, 1.42 in three starts.

AL Central - Surprise Roster Additions

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Myworld takes a look at the AL Central.  Despite the hot start by the Cardinals and their four game lead we are still not tempted to put them in first place.  It is a long season in a race that is won by those running a marathon rather than a sprint.  Of course, as I write this the Cardinals maul the Brewers 13-1.

Milwaukee Brewers (1) 9-11

Hot Button Issue: The loss of Prince Fielder left a hole in their lineup.  They hope to address his loss of production with the signing of Aramis Ramirez to play third, keeping the pressure off of rookie Matt Gamel, who is expected to fill his position.   Ramirez has gotten off to a slow start, hitting just .211 with one homerun and eight RBIs in 19 games.  Gamel is doing a little better with a .262 average, one homerun and six RBIs.  One thing the Brewers did not count on is their speed as the two have combined for a perfect 5 for 5 in stolen bases.

Surprise Roster Addition: Travis Ishikawa didn’t get much of a chance with the Giants, used more in a backup role.  That will be his role with the Brewers.  He is currently hitting .211, but with two homeruns.  Cesar Izturis only got to play 18 games last year with the Orioles because of an injury that ended his season early.  He is more a defensive player with a career OPS of less than .650.  He made the team as a utility player.

Top Prospect Performance: Jed Bradley did not give up an earned run in his first three starts covering 19 innings.  He got hit hard in his fourth start for seven runs, four earned, but his ERA still sits at 1.50.  Tyler Thornburg also got off to a quick start, giving up only two earned runs in his first three starts.  After five starts his ERA is 1.93, with a 7/33 walk to whiff ratio in 28 innings and a .172 opposition average.  Jimmy Nelson is another pitcher with five quality starts resulting in an ERA of 1.76 ERA.  Jimmy is in the same Florida State League rotation as Jed while Tyler is in AA.  Scooter Gennett won the player of the week honors with his second week of hitting, but a slump has dropped his average to .312.  The big concern with him is his 2/16 walk to whiff ratio, not what you want to see from a leadoff hitter.

Significant March Transactions: None

Cincinnati Reds (2) 9-11

Hot Button Issues: They had hoped to move Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation.  His arm issues and the injury to Ryan Madson have put him back in the pen.  Without a third pitch his best role may be out of the bullpen, with a possible opportunity as the closer.  In eight appearances he has yet to give up a run and has a 2/20 walk to whiff ratio in just 11 innings of work, limiting the opposition to a .105 average.  The one concern is his inability to pitch in back to back games.  He doesn’t seem to have a lot of bounce back.

Surprise Roster Addition: Alfredo Simon was released by the Orioles.  The Reds must have seen something that the Orioles didn’t because they picked him up on waivers and he is now in the Reds bullpen.  Don’t expect that to last long.

Top Prospect Performance: Many wondered how many bases Billy Hamilton could steal if he could hit for average.  To start 2012 he is hitting .377 with 23 stolen bases in just 20 games.  He has also drawn 11 walks for a .456 OBA.  That is the ideal leadoff hitter.  Didi Gregorius is a premium defensive player, but if he can keep his average at .337 while playing AA the Reds may have to find a position for him in the major leagues.  Zack Cozart is his biggest impediment at shortstop and Brandon Phillips just signed an extension to his contract.  Tony Cingrani has been unhittable with a 0.39 ERA after four starts in High A.  Three of his four appearances have been shutouts covering 19 innings.

Significant March Transactions: None

St. Louis Cardinals (3) 13-7

Hot Button Issue: They didn’t resign Albert Pujols.  In fact, Albert felt he was insulted by their offer.  The team may be better off without him, using the extra money to purchase a number of different pieces to fill their roster and moving Lance Berkman to first base, a position he is more suited for than right field.  The biggest loss may end up being the retirement of Tony Larussa.  So far, Mike Matheny has put them four games in first place.  Time will tell whether he can keep that pace.

Surprise Roster Additions: Erik Komatsu made the team as a Rule V selection.  He was acquired by the Nationals from the Brewers in the Jerry Hairston Jr. trade but now the Cardinals will try to use his defensive abilities in the outfield to overtake the Brewers.  Matt Carpenter has been a pleasant surprise, replacing the injured Lance Berkman at first base.

Top Prospect Performance: Oscar Taveras is continuing his assault of minor league pitchers, hitting .318 with 5 homeruns and 19 RBIs in AA.  Last year he hit .386 in Low A so the Cardinals felt pretty confident in his abilities by having him skip High A.  Teammate John Gast has four quality starts to put his ERA at 1.71.  The opposition is hitting him at a .198 pace.

Significant March Transaction: They did release veteran infielder Alex Cora.

Pittsburgh Pirates (4) 8-11

Hot Button Issue: Nothing can be hotter than breaking that 19 year losing streak.  No profesional franchise, regardless of the sport has seen such ineptness.  While the Pirates have a burgeoning farm system, based on the current roster it does appear that they will have to see a 20 year losing streak before they can even think of breaking .500.  Once Gerritt Cole, Jameson Taillon and Starling Marte arrive that losing streak should became a streak of the past.

Surprise Roster Addition: Yamaico Navarro is the biggest surprise since he bounced around two teams until landing with the Pirates because of perceived character deficiencies.  He is a player that has never been questioned for his talent, but his willingness to bring out that talent has always been a problem.  He had an impressive spring that put him on the roster as a utility player.

Top Prospect Performance: Top Prospect Jameson Taillon has gotten off to a good start in the Florida State League with a 1.93 ERA after four starts.  He has a 3/24 walk to whiff ratio in just 18 innings of work, limiting the opposition to a .176 average.  The Pirates have made no secret of the fact that if they had the first pick in the 2010 draft they would have selected Taillon over Bryce Harper.  Starling Marte is hitting .303 but he has nine stolen bases.  Many have said that when he makes the Pirates team Andrew McCutchen will have to move to left field.  Alen Hanson is bucking to become the next Starling with his .385 average and four homeruns.  He also has eight stolen bases.  On the downside, he has struck out 21 times in 21 games played.

Significant March Transactions: They traded Ryota Igarashi to the Toronto Blue Jays for cash then picked up pitcher Robby Rowland in a trded with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Chicago Cubs (5) 7-13

Hot Button Issue: The arrival of Theo Epstein has created some excitement in Chicago, especially after he took the Red Sox to two World Series wins.  That excitement dissippated a little bit when he spoke of rebuilding.  He backed off the “r” word when he got negative press but if it smells like a pig, looks like a pig and squeaks like a pig it is a pig.  All of Epstein’s moves are indicative of a rebuilding club.  Now it is just a matter of time when he will trade Bryan LaHair to turn the first base job over to Anthony Rizzo.  Bryan gave himself some value by getting off to a hot start.  The trade of Marlon Byrd has left no African Americans on either of the 40 man rosters for the Chicago teams.

Surprise Roster Addition: One team’s garbage is another team’s diamond in the rough.  Scott Maine had just been released, but lefthanded pitchers tend to have many lives to make a major league roster.  The Cubs picked him up and he has been getting hitters out.  Blake DeWitt had been sent down by the Cubs when Darwin Barney had taken over his position.  The Cubs like him again as a utility player.  Ian Stewart has yet to show teams that he has discovered the art of hitting, but the Cubs like his defense for third base.  The Cubs are a collection of surprise roster spots.

Top Prospect Performance: Anthony Rizzo continues to rake minor league pitching at a .380 clip with seven homeruns and 21 RBIs.  Unfortunately for him, he has the equally hot Bryan LaHair occupying his position at first base in the major leagues.  Trey McNutt had a rough season last year, but this year his four starts have been a welcome sight (0.61 ERA).  He has only worked 15 innings in those four starts and walked seven, so there are still command issues that need to be addressed.

Top March Transactions: They signed Cuban defecter Gerardo Concepcion, who as an 18 year old was a top pitcher in the Cuban professional league.  In his first start in the United States he was lit up for five runs.

Houston Astros (6) 8-12

Hot Button Issues: This will be the last year for the Astros in the National League.  They have made no secret about their willingness to trade veterans Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez and Bret Myers for prospects.  For Houston fans this could result in the worst record in baseball, but also give them a number one pick in a market that is clearly lacking a number one.

Surprise Roster Addition: We were surprised to see Rhiner Cruz make the roster.  When my world saw him pitch he couldn’t get anyone out.  He must have impressed someone with his velocity because he has made the team and is pitching well out of the bullpen.  Lucas Harrell had an excellent spring, outpitching Jordan Lyle to force the Astros to make room for him in the starting rotation.  Travis Buck has been a career minor leaguer that gets an opportunity on a major league club.  He has yet to play in more than 82 games in a year in the major leagues, a perfect role for a fourth outfielder.

Top Prospect Performance: There could be an opening at first base with the departure of Carlos Lee.  Jonathan Singleton is hoping to fill that role, hitting .375 with three homeruns in AA.  Mike Foltynewicz has a 1.98 ERA after five starts in Low A.  That is still a long way from the majors, but he could make issues interesting in 2013.  Paul Clemens time is now with his 1.59 ERA in three AAA starts.  He has not been quite as dominant as his ERA would indicate with only 13 strikeouts in 17 innings of work and a .233 opposition average.  Telvin Nash is crushing baseballs in the California League with nine homeruns in 20 games.  He has only driven in 15 runs and his .247 average and 28 strikeouts proves that he has contact issues.  Nick Tropeano is lighting it up in Low A with a 1.29 ERA in three starts and a 6/32 walk to whiff ratio in just 21 innings of work.

Significant March Transaction: They traded two pieces of their major league roster who would probably get limited playing time to acquire a young prospect from the Kansas City Royals.  Catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois went to the Royals for relief pitcher Kevin Chapman.  They released veterans Jack Cust, Zach Duke and Livan Hernandez, choosing to fill their roster with younger players.

Cuban Playoff Update - Leones and Roosters with the Wins

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Both Sancti Spiritus and Industriales won last night to go ahead in their series two games to one.  Both teams had won the openers as well.

Industriales Leones 10 Cienfuegos Elefantes 8

The Blue Lions spanked out 16 hits and went ahead early, scoring eight runs in the first three frames to beat Cienfuegos 10-8.  Alexander Malleta started the onslaught with a 2-run homer in the first to give the Leones a quick 2-0 lead.  Yasmani Tomas led off the second inning with a homerun and it was 3-0.  The Lions exploded for four runs and five hits in the third to pull ahead 8-1.

Jose Abreu returned to the lineup for Cienfuegos and made his presence known by clubbing a 2-run homer in the bottom of the third to make it 8-3.  Rudy Reyes almost gave the game to the Elefantes, committing three errors to allow four unearned runs to score.  The Elefantes had the winning run at the plate in the ninth inning, but Barbaro Arruebaruena grounded into a double play with Jose Abreu standing on deck to end the game.  Seven different players drove in a run for Industriales.

Sancti Spirutus Roosters 4 Matanzas Crocodiles 3

Yunier Mendoza had gone his first five at bats without a hit.  In the bottom of the tenth he made up for that by getting the game winning bases loaded single in the Roosters 4-3 victory over the Crocodiles.  Yuniesky Gourriel, the less heralded brother of Yulieski, had started the inning with a single.  An error by the Crocodiles third baseman Yurisbel Gracial and a single loaded the bases, setting the stage for Mendoza’s heroics.

The Crocodiles had rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth to tie the game.  Prior to that Noelvis Hernandez had limited the Crocodile bats to just two hits through the first eight innings.  After striking out the first hitter he gave up back to back singles and was relieved by Omar Guardarramas who could not contain the damage.  A double by Yadiel Hernandez scored one and a 2-run single by Yoandi Garlobo tied the game.  Omar got credit for the victory when he retired the Crocodiles in order in the 10th.

It does not appear that at least in the first extra inning frame the teams implement the international rule when playing extra innings.  During the regular season extra inning frames were started by placing runners on first and second.

Japanese Players Seek More Offense

Friday, April 27th, 2012

If you follow the Japanese League, shutouts are about as common as acorns on the ground during the fall foilage.  The offensive player who hits over .300 is becoming extinct and a pitcher who has an ERA above 3.00 is said to be struggling.  It is reminiscent of major league baseball in the 1960s when pitchers were dominant and attendance was down.  The Japanese players are complaining that the ball that is used by the NPB is the cause of this lethargic offense.

Fans are generally attracted to games that have a lot of action to them.  While a 1-0 shutout between two top hurlers will cause a lot of suspense, too many of these 1-0 games will make it routine, ending the suspense when the rare one does occur.  Myworld finds soccer boring becuase the number of goals scored in a game is rare.  It may be nice seeing players run around the field to try to set the ball up for a score and I’m sure there is a lot of strategy involved that myworld is missing, but to get my interest there needs to be more goals.  The Japanese baseball game is getting to be like soccer, except you don’t have players running around the field trying to set up a score.  You just have a pitcher nodding his head and a catcher making the signs.  If you don’t have players at least running around the bases the game turns into a borefest.

The switch to the new ball was to try to emulate the ball used by major league baseball so Japan could be more competetive in international events, especially the WBC.  The players are concerned with the drop in the offense as a result of the switch.  The players had not been consulted when the NPB decided to go to the new balls.

Currently the Central League has only five hitters batting over .300, with the highest average at .321.  Last year the Central League finished the season with four hitters above .300, with the highest at .316.  The Pacific League is a bit better with 14 players hitting over .300, the highest at .384.  Last year the Pacific League had only five players bat over .300 with the highest average at .338.

The NPB has to find the right balance where pitcher’s duels don’t become common place.  Otherwise fan interest will decline.

Cuban Playoffs - Orangemen Pull Even

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Villa Clara Orangemen 7 Granma Stallions 4

The Orangemen withstood a 3-run homer from Alfredo Despaigne in the third, jumping out to an early lead and holding on for the victory.  Ariel Borrero drove in three runs to lead the Orangemen’s offense.  His RBI single in the second inning culminated a four run rally and his solo homerun to lead off the fifth gave Villa Clara an insurance run.  Both starters did not last past the third inning.  Yolexis Ulacia shutdown the Stallion bats for the final two plus innings to pick up the save.  Yosvany Perez threw four innings of shutout relief to get the win.  Aledmis Diaz also went deep for the Orangemen with a solo shot in the fifth.  The Stallions Alain Tamayo shutdown the Orangemen bats for three plus innings but their offense could not collect any more runs after the Despaigne clout.

Las Tunas Woodcutters 5 Ciego de Avila Tigers 4

The Woodcutters went up two games to zip on the Tigers with a 5-4 win.  Joan Carlos Pedroso connected for a 2-run homer in the first and Yordanis Alarcon contributed a 2-run single in the sixth to give the Woodcutters a cushion to work with.  The Tigers slowly crawled back into the game, with single runs in the seventh and eighth but Darien Nunez shut the door, getting the last two outs in the eighth and retiring the side in order in the ninth to pick up the save.  Rusney Castillo had launched a solo homer in the eighth for the Tigers to pull them to within one.  He also drove in the first run with a double in the first inning.  He finished the day 3 for 3 with two doubles and a homerun, not enough to give the Tigers their first playoff win.  Joan Carlos Pedroso cancelled him out with his own 3 for 3 day for the Woodcutters, contributing a homerun and two singles.  Both players scored twice and drove in two runs.

Japan Update - Pacific League

Friday, April 27th, 2012

The Nippon Ham Fighters have lost Yu Darvish, but that hasn’t prevented them from taking an early lead in the Pacific Division.  The defending champion Softbank Hawks lost three starting pitchers to free agency.  They are still playing well, finding themselves in third place.

Nippon Ham Fighters (16-8-0)

Top Hitters: Atsunori Inaba is leading the Pacific League in batting with a .384 average and RBIs with 22.  He is also showing some power with four homeruns and five doubles that gives him a .628 slugging percentage.  He is also one hit shy of 2,000 for his career.  Kensuke Tanake is hitting .348 with nine walks and five whiffs.  That puts his OBA at .398.  Dai-Kang Yang (.326, 1, 10) is a third player hitting over .300.  He has yet to walk in 96 plate appearances and has struck out 23 times, so he comes to the plate hacking.  The 25 year old Taiwanese outfielder has played five seasons but has yet to hit over .274 so this average may be a mirage.

Top Pitchers: They have been getting consistent starts from their five starters.  In four starts Mitsuo Yoshikawa (2-1, 0.64) has only given up three runs, two of them earned to put him second in the ERA race.  He has struck out (15) more hitters than he has given up hits to (14).  Yuki Saito (3-1, 1.16) is the replacement for Darvish as far as fan adulation.  He is living up to his hype with two complete games and one shutout.  Masaru Takeda (3-0, 1.59) has yet to take a loss.  Brian Wolfe (2-1, 1.69) and Tomoya Yagi (2-2, 2.52) also have shown no problems getting hitters out.  There hasn’t been much need for a bullpen but when they need a closer they have been calling on Hisashi Takeda (1-0, 4.50, six saves).  Despite pitching in relief he is tied for the team lead in homers given up with two.  Hirotoshi Masui (1-0, 0.00, 7 holds) is the team’s top setup man, but Keisuke Tanimoto (0.00, 5 holds) has also not given up a run.

Foreign Relations: While Wolfe has been effective Bobby Keppel (0-1, 9.00) has the team’s highest ERA.  He has been dealing with a balky shoulder.  Terrmel Sledge (.224, 3, 9) is second on the team in homeruns but his 27 strikeouts is tops on the team.  Micah Hoffpauir recently got some playing time and went deep for his first homerun.  He has only played three games, getting five at bats.  The homerun is his only hit.

Top Performer Under 22 Years: Takuya Nakashima (21) is hitting just .067 but he hasn’t had a lot of opportunities with just 15 at bats.  Haruki Nishikawa (20) struck out in his only at bat.  He has been used primarily as a pinch runner and has stolen one base.

Lotte Marines (11-8-1)

Top Hitters: Tadahito Iguchi (.333, 2, 7) has found his return to the NPB rewarding.  No Pacific League player has more than his seven doubles which has given him a .507 slugging percentage.  Saburo Omura (.319, 1, 5) is the other player on the team that has hitten over .300.  Though he only has 42 plate appearances, half of some of the other players, Kazuya Fukuura (.308, 0, 8) still leads the team in RBIs, despite having only one extra base hit.  Yoshifumi Okada (.269) is second on the team in runs scored with 11.

Top Pitchers: Seth Greisinger (3-0, 0.40) leads the Pacific League in ERAs after three starts.  He has only allowed one runner to cross the plate.  Yoshihisa Naruse (1-2, 1.76) has not been getting a lot of run support in the games he has started.  Yasuhiko Yabuta (2.00, 7 saves) is the closer while Naoya Masuda (0.96) handles setup responsibilities.

Foreign Relations: Josh Whitesell (.237) made better contact with the catchers behind the plate rather than with the ball.  After hitting two catchers with his bat on the back swing he was sent down to the minor leagues to work on his hitting.  Seth is pitching well but Hayden Penn (1-2, 3.86) has been inconsistent.  Carlos Rosa (6.75) has only appeared in four games of relief.

Top Performer Under 22 Years: They only have three on their 70 man roster and none of them has appeared with the big club.  Takahiro Fujioka (2-1, 2.40) is a rookie at 23 years of age and wears the number 18, a number often reserved for the ace of a rotation.  That should count for something.

Softbank Hawks (12-10-1)

Top Hitters: Seiichi Uchikawa (.360, 0, 6) is third in the Pacific League in hitting.  Wily Mo Pena (.311, 4, 18) and Nobuhiro Matsuda (.318, 3, 20) provide the power bats that are second and third in the league in RBIs.  The Hawks also rely on the stolen base and Matsuda leads the team with nine.

Top Pitchers: The Hawks lost their top three starters to free agency but they haven’t had any problems finding replacement.  Hiroki Yamada (3-1, 1.01) has been their top starter but they also have been getting some sterling outings from Tadashi Settsu (3-0, 1.24) and Sho Iwasaki (2-2, 2.10).  Kenji Otonari (1-2, 2.01) has their only complete game shutout.  Brian Falkenberg (0-1, 4.00, 8 saves) is the closer with 15 whiffs in nine innings of work.  Masahiko Morifuku (8 holds) has yet to give up a run in 10 innings of work.  He is their top setup man.

Foreign Relations: Wily Mo Pena has provided a power bat that also comes with swings and misses (24).  Falkenborg has picked up a number of saves as the closer.  Brad Penny (10.80) only got one start before shoulder problems put a halt to his season.  He is currently in rehab.  Renyel Pinto (1-1, 7.36) has had trouble getting hitters out.  Mu-Young Kim (0.00) has yet to give up a run in seven relief appearances.

Top Performer Under 22 Years: Kenta Imamiya (21) has scored more runs (3) than plate appearances (2) so that means a lot of pinchrunning.  He grounded into a double play in one of his two at bats.  Koda Senga is expected to make his debut in a couple days.

Rakuten Golden Eagles (8-11-1)

Top Hitters: Motohiro Shima (.355, 0, 3) is fourth in the Pacific League in hitting.  Ryo Hijirisawa (.320, 0, 9) and Akihisa Makida (.308, 2, 5).  In a lineup absent of power Makida leads the team in homeruns.  Jose Fernandez (.256, 1, 11) leads the team in RBIs, but the Eagles expect a little more power in his bat.  A .333 slugging percentage is not what they were expecting.  Teppei Tsuchiya (.147) and Luis Terrero (.131) are two players this Eagles were expecting to provide them with more offense.  Terrero won the MVP last year in the Mexican League, but the Japanese style of pitching has not been to his liking.

Top Pitching: Masahiro Tanaka (2-1, 1.97) is their ace but he may miss a couple starts because of back injuries.  With the departure of Yu Darvish he is now the top pitcher in the NPB.  Kelvin Jimenez (1-3, 2.25) has given up five unearned runs, which may be why his loss record is so high. Darrell Rasner (1.29, 5 saves) is their closer but getting to Rasner has been a challenge. Shinichiro Koyama (3 holds) has been the most effective in the setup role and has yet to give up a run, but he has walked five in eight plus innings.

Foreign relations: Disappointing results from their foreign players.  Luis Terrero was supposed to be a run producer but he has been flustered by the Japanese pitching.  Jose Fernandez and Luis Garcia (.235, 1, 7) are also providing little offense.  Darrell Rasner (1.29, 5 saves) has been their closer so when Kelvin Jimenez starts an offensive player must sit with only four foreigners allowed on the playing roster.  Jim Heuser (8.31) has not taken advantage of his opportunities.

Top Performer Under 22 Years of Age: Hiroaki Shimauchi has only appeared in two games but has yet to get an at bat.

Orix Buffaloes (8-12-1)

Top Hitters: Takahiro Okada (.365, 1, 7) is the only hitter on the team that is batting over .300. As a team the Buffaloes have only hit three homeruns. Korean slugger Dae-Ho Lee (.231, 1, 8) has hit one of them but management is expecting much more. Mitsutaka Goto (.238, 1, 6) has the third homerun among the trio.

Top Pitchers: Hiroshi Kisanuki (2-1, 0.75) has been the only stellar pitcher in the starting rotation. He has two complete games, including one shutout. Mamoru Kishida (2.00, 5 saves) is the closer. They are still looking for the bridge that gets to him.  Kei Igawa is shaky off the rust in the minor leagues and should get a NPB start in May.

Foreign Relations: They expected more power from Dae-Ho Lee, but he still has one more homerun than Albert Pujols. Aarom Baldiris (.264) has yet to provide a lot of production for the offense. Alfredo Figaro (0-4, 3.42) would like to win his first game. Ming-Chieh Hsu (0-1, 11.18) has three holds despite the ghastly ERA.  Evan MacLane (2-1, 3.60) has struggled in the starting rotation.

Top Performers Under 22 Years of Age: Shunta Gota (19) is still a teenager and his .071 average shows it.  He has struck out six times in his 14 at bats.  Yuki Nishi (22) has made the starting rotation (2-1, 5.03) and is one of two pitchers to throw a complete game for the Buffaloes.  Shohei Tsukahara has appeared in two games and only given up one hit in three innngs.  He has yet to give up a run.

Seibu Lions (6-12)

Top Hitters: Takumi Kuriyama (.353) finds himself far north of .300.  Hiroyuki Nakajima (.308, 1, 6) is not letting his failure in signing with the Yankees prevent him from raking NPB pitchers.  The Lions have had trouble scoring runs which makes the paltry seven RBIs from Takeya Nakamura (.180, 1, 7) the team leader.  He also has 12 walks.

Top Pitchers: Their ace Hideaki Wakui (0-3, 7.71) has really been struggling.  The Lions most consistent starters have been Takayuki Kishi (3-1, 0.84) and Kazuhisa Makita (1-2, 1.69).  Kishi has picked up half of the Lions wins. With only six wins there are not a lot of save opportunities, but Enrique Gonzalez (0-2, 10.80, 2 saves) has two of them, an amount that equals his losses. Hironori Matsunaga (1-0, 1.29, 3 holds) is the most effective setup man.

Foreign Relations: Esteban German (.183) has been a huge disappointment. He does have ten walks. Enrique Gonzalez has also been a huge disappointment as their closer. Those are the only two foreigners on their roster.

Top Performers Under 22 Years of Age: Hideto Asamura (22) has been getting a number of at bats, but has been struggling in those at bats (.177). Mitsugu Ishikawa (21) has yet to get a hit in his four at bats.

Stallions Win Pitchers Duel; Other Cuban Playoff Action

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Granma Stallions 1 Villa Clara Orangemen 0

With Alfredo Despaigne in the Stallions lineup you don’t expect a pitcher’s duel, but then the Villa Clara Orangemen’s park is not the same band box that exists in Granma.  The Stallions Ciro Licea and Orangeman Freddy Alvarez dialed zeros for the first seven innings.  The Stallions broke through in the eighth when Adrian Moreno, who had entered the game at short in the fifth inning, started the eighth inning with a double.  A single by Roel Santos moved him to third with no outs.  Leadoff hitter Ramon Tamayo bunted to score Moreno with the only run of the game.  The Orangemen were able to get two runners on in the bottom of the ninth but Licea finished what he started.  Alfredo Despaigne walked twice in an 0 for 2 performance.

Las Tunas Woodcutters 6 Ciego de Villa Tigers 1

Another pitcher’s duel was forming until a homerun by the Tigers Yorelvis Charles in the top of the sixth gave them a 1-0 lead.  Las Tunas showed no mercy in the bottom frame, erupting for five runs, the first three scoring on an Alexander Guerrero 3-run homer.  The Woodcutters took advantage of one of the Tigers four errors to score the final two runs of the inning.  Yoelkis Cruz went seven innings to get the win for Las Tunas.

Matanzas Crocodiles 5 Sancti Spiritus Roosters 3

The cinderella Crocodiles evened their series against the Roosters with a 5-3 win.  Jose Alfonso had just broken a 1-1 tie with a 2-run homer in the top of the seventh to give the Roosters a 3-1 lead.  Yurisbel Gracial singled to score what would be the game winning run in a 3-run seventh to give the Crocodiles a 4-3 lead.  Ariel Sanchez drove in the game tying run on a ground out, his second RBI of the game without benefit of a hit.  Jorge Alberto went seven innings to get credit for the win.  Joel Suarez retired all four batters he faced to pick up the save.

Cienfuegos Elephants 3 Industriales Blue Lions 1

Despite the absent bat of Jose Abreu the Elephants still had the arm of Noelvis Entenza that limited the bats of the Lions to just three hits and no runs in his seven plus innings of work.  He struck out five, but walked six in a wild performance and had to be relieved with one out in the eighth after a walk and single put two runners on.  Alexander Qunitero got one out before he turned it over to closer Duniel Ibarra for the third out.  Ibarra gave up a leadoff homer to Yasmani Tomas in the last frame to end the shutout, but then bore down to retire the final three hitters to pick up the save.  The Elephants scored their runs early, getting a sacrifice by Pavel Quesada in the opening frame with the bases loaded to take a 1-0 lead and then taking advantage of an error in the third to add two more runs.