Results tagged ‘ Cardinals ’
Last year’s record: 74-88, 4th place
Key additions: SP Matt Garza, 1B/3B Mark Reynolds, RP Will Smith, 1B Lyle Overbay
Key subtractions: 1B/RF Corey Hart, OF Norichika Aoki, INF Yuniesky Betancourt, RP Mike Gonzalez, 1B/3B Mat Gamel
Biggest strength: Starting pitching, though it’s all relative. The Brewers came out of nowhere to sign Garza to a four-year, $50 million contract, adding him to what looks like a stable rotation with Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta. Without Garza, that foursome helped the Brewers rank fourth in the Majors in starting-pitcher ERA in the second half.
Biggest question: First base. Overbay and Reynolds have been added on Minor League deals to compete with the free-swinging Juan Francisco, so as of right now, the Brewers have a lot of uncertainty at a position that requires steady production.
Most important player: Ryan Braun. Duh. He’s signed through 2020, is entering his age-30 season, is coming off his first non-great year (.298/.372/.498 line in 61 games) and, most importantly, just finished serving a 65-game suspension for violating MLB’s anti-drug agreement. Braun needs to repair his image on the field, and the Brewers need a big year from him in order to move this franchise forward.
In 25 words or less: The farm system is weak, the Major League club is full of holes and the star player is tainted. Tough time for Brewers fans.
Last year’s record: 97-65, 1st place (lost to Red Sox in World Series)
Key additions: CF Peter Bourjos, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Mark Ellis, RP Angel Castro
Key subtractions: OF Carlos Beltran, 3B David Freese, INF Rafael Furcal, SP Chris Carpenter, SP Jake Westbrook, RP Edward Mujica
Biggest strength: Young pitching. Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist, etc., should make the Cardinals title contenders for years to come.
Biggest question: The middle of the lineup. Beltran has departed to the Yankees, and so it’ll be mainly up to Allen Craig and Matt Adams to protect Matt Holliday.
Most important player: Craig. Many forget just how good a hitter he is when healthy, with a .312/.364/.500 slash line the last three years. If he can fully recover from the right foot injury that prompted him to miss 23 regular-season games and the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Cardinals may not miss Beltran all that much.
In 25 words or less: John Mozeliak made a lot of savvy moves this offseason, and may have made the defending NL champs even better.
Last year’s record: 66-96, 5th place
Key additions: MGR Rick Renteria, CL Jose Veras, RP Wesley Wright, INF Ryan Roberts, OF Justin Ruggiano, C Eli Whiteside, C John Baker, OF Chris Coghlan, SP Jonathan Sanchez
Key subtractions: MGR Dale Sveum, SP Scott Baker, C Dioner Navarro, RP Kevin Gregg, RP Matt Guerrier, SP Liam Hendricks, OF Brian Bogusevic
Biggest strength: Hitting prospects. Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant and Arismendy Alcantara should be up and contributing soon.
Biggest question: Money. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been handcuffed on what they can spend to make this Cubs roster better. Their Opening Day payroll projects to be lower than $80 million for the first time since 2003.
Most important player: Starlin Castro. The 23-year-old shortstop went from .283/.323/.430 in 2012 to .245/.284/.347 in 2013. He needs to cut down his strikeouts, eliminate his occasional mental lapse on defense and get back to being the potential face of the franchise.
In 25 words or less: They have some nice prospects on the way, but the Cubs won’t get over the hump until they’re allowed to spend like a big-market team.
Last year’s record: 94-68, 2nd place (lost to Cardinals in NLDS)
Key additions: SP Edinson Volquez, INF Robert Andino, C Chris Stewart, OF Chris Dickerson, RP Daniel Schlereth, RP Cody Eppley
Key subtractions: SP A.J. Burnett, 1B Justin Morneau, OF Marlon Byrd, C John Buck, SP Jeff Karstens, RP Kyle Farnsworth, 1B Garrett Jones
Biggest strength: Bullpen depth. They ranked third in the Majors in bullpen ERA last year and practically return everybody, with Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon and Tony Watson a very formidable back-end group.
Biggest question: Right field and first base. Byrd and Morneau were two big in-season acquisitions and now they’re gone, replaced in-house. Jose Tabata (.771 OPS in 2013) and Gaby Sanchez (.762) are once again set to take over two power positions.
Most important player: Wandy Rodriguez. He is, believe it or not, the Pirates’ highest-paid player and hasn’t pitched since early June because of forearm arthritis. If he rebounds, it’ll go a long way in easing rotation concerns in Pittsburgh. If he doesn’t, the Pirates may have to eat the $7.5 million they owe him (the Astros are covering the other $5.5 million).
In 25 words or less: The Pirates had a breakthrough season in 2013, but the front office simply hasn’t done enough to build on that for 2014.
Last year’s record: 90-72, 3rd place (lost to Pirates in NL Wild Card game)
Key additions: MGR Bryan Price, C Brayan Pena, 2B/OF Skip Schumaker, INF Ramon Santiago, SP/RP Jeff Francis, RP Pedro Beato
Key subtractions: MGR Dusty Baker, SP Bronson Arroyo, OF Shin-Soo Choo, INF Cesar Izturis, SP Zach Duke, RP Nick Masset
Biggest strength: Pitching, even without Arroyo. If Johnny Cueto can stay healthy and top prospect Tony Cingrani can step up, the Reds’ rotation will be a force. Their bullpen remains one of the best in the National League.
Biggest question: Feeding Joey Votto. The Reds’ first baseman had an NL-leading .435 on-base percentage but drove in only 73 runs last year. Votto needs the guys in front of him to get on base, and now that Choo (.423 on-base percentage last year) is gone, that’s a big concern. Zack Cozart (.284 OBP), Brandon Phillips (.310 OBP) and rookie Billy Hamilton are the candidates to make up the first two spots of the lineup.
Most important player: Hamilton. We know he can run, and he’s come a long way defensively in center field. Now, can he hit at the leadoff spot, and can he make Reds fans forget about Choo? It’s a big year for the 23-year-old.
In 25 words or less: The Cardinals are tough, but the Reds are good enough to contend. Can Price, the ex-pitching coach, pull a John Farrell?
Predicted order of finish …
The Angels have hired former All-Star Don Baylor as their new hitting coach.
Baylor, who won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award with the Angels in 1979, spent the last three years as a hitting coach with the Diamondbacks and has been a big league manager for nine years, with the Rockies from 1993-98 and with the Cubs from 2000-02.
Baylor replaces Jim Eppard, who was dismissed along with bench coach Rob Picciolo on Oct. 8. He is the club’s third hitting coach in the last 17 months, dating back to Mickey Hatcher’s dismissal on May 15, 2012.
“Don enjoyed a distinguished playing career, highlighted by his tenure with the Angels during their first two division championships,” Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “As a coach, he brings us tremendous expertise in the areas of hitting, communication and presence. It’s nice to have him home.”
Dipoto spent time with Baylor when the Angels’ general manager played for Baylor in Colorado in the late 1990s and had him in his staff when he was an executive in Arizona.
Baylor will be entering his 22nd season in either a managing or coaching capacity in 2014. Along with his managerial tenure and his time with the D-backs, Baylor has been a hitting coach with the Brewers (1990-91), Cardinals (’92), Braves (’99), Mariners (’05) and Rockies (2009-10). He was also the Mets’ bench coach from 2003-04 and compiled a 627-689 record as skipper, earning National League Manager of the Year honors in 1995.
Before that, Baylor – a member of the Angels Hall of Fame – was a former All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner during a 19-year career as an outfielder that spanned from 1970-88. He joined the Angels as a free agent in November 1976 and posted a .262/.337/.448 slash line in a six-year career in Anaheim, adding 141 homers and 523 RBIs while leading them to their first playoff appearance in 1979.
The Angels are still searching for a new third-base coach and an additional coach.
The following is a statement from Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, released by his agent at MVP Sports Group, regarding the lawsuit he filed against Jack Clark in St. Louis County Circuit Court on Friday …
Today, I have filed a lawsuit against Jack Clark for defamation because of comments he made on his radio program earlier this year, falsely accusing me of using performance enhancing drugs. My lawyers have told me that the upcoming legal fight will not be an easy one, and that in cases like this even a liar can sometimes be protected under the law. But as a man of faith, I have never shied away from standing up for the truth, and I believe that the principles at stake are too important to sit back and do nothing. I believe we are all accountable for the things we do and say, and it was important for me to stand up for what was right against those who would seek to drag me down to try and build themselves up. I have always believed in the principles of honesty and accountability, and will continue to fight for them here.
Athletes are judged every day by their comments and actions off the field as well as their performance on it. When we fail or make mistakes, we face consequences. I believe members of the media should be held to the same standard. When they lie, make false accusations, and outrageous claims of “fact” to try and drive ratings or make a name for themselves, they should have to face up to the damage and injury they cause to an innocent person’s reputation. Whether or not I am successful in accomplishing that here, I can sleep at night knowing I have done the right thing in pursuing this case to fight for the truth of my innocence.
This year, triple-digits in that category may be even more impressive.
In Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the Blue Jays, Trout scored two runs to give him 101 on the season, making him only the seventh player in Major League history to notch 100-plus runs in his age-20 and age-21 season.
In 2012, a year in which he led the Majors with 129 runs scored, Trout reached No. 100 in his 481st plate appearance. That gave him an astounding 44 percent run-scoring percentage, tied with Desmond Jennings for first among American League players with at least 500 plate appearances.
In 2013, a year in which he trails only the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter (114) in runs, he did it in his 641st plate appearance. Entering Wednesday, Trout’s run-scoring percentage was way down to 30 percent. The reason is two-fold: (1) He’s stealing less bases (49 to 32) because pitchers are watching him a lot more closely; (2) he hasn’t had much consistency behind him, with Albert Pujols hurt and Josh Hamilton struggling.
That’s OK, Trout has made up for that with an on-base percentage that’s 38 points higher than last year’s (.399 to .437).
And somehow, he still managed to score 100 runs.
“Last year was incredible because he did it minus 100 at-bats that he didn’t have in the month of April,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “And that’s off the charts what he did last year. I think this year his numbers are going to be terrific. He’s having an incredible year. And I don’t think it’s under the circumstances where teams know what he can do. I mean he’s running into a lot of 1.15, 1.2 times to the plate, which he didn’t see as much of last year. It’s impacting his ability to steal, but it’s also giving guys at the plate a better look where pitchers are a little more uncomfortable staying in a slide step. So he still brings a presence there.”
Here’s a list of the six others who notched back-to-back 100-run campaigns in their age-20 and age-21 seasons …
John McGraw (1893-94)
Mel Ott (1929-30)
Buddy Lewis (1937-38)
Ted Williams (1939-40)
Vada Pinson (1959-60)
Alex Rodriguez (1996-97)
It’s an impossible question to answer because so many factors surround it, like what bullpen additions are made, or what’s done about third base, or how the bench is upgraded, or who the fifth starter becomes, or even how Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton fare.
But it’s pretty simple in a vacuum: Do you feel good about the Angels’ rotation if Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards and Jason Vargas are the four best members of it?
For the vast majority of you on Twitter, the answer was a pretty resounding yes.
Recent memory no doubt played a big factor in that, because we’re finally starting to see some consistency out of the Angels’ rotation now that Weaver and Vargas are a part of it at the same time. Since Aug. 15, Angels starters have posted the fourth-best ERA in the Majors at 3.35 — and that was before Jerome Williams pitched 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball against the Rays. Vargas (8-6, 3.80 ERA) has a 3.57 ERA in his last four starts despite giving up five runs in four innings to the Rays on Tuesday; Weaver (9-8, 3.33 ERA) has given up four runs in his last 21 innings; Wilson (14-6, 3.35 ERA) is 7-1 with a 2.67 ERA since the 30th of June; and Richards (5-6, 4.06 ERA) has a 3.21 ERA in eight starts since taking Joe Blanton‘s spot in the rotation.
Kind of makes you wonder how things would’ve gone if Vargas (blood clot) and Weaver (broken non-pitching elbow) hadn’t missed a combined 18 or so starts due to fluky injuries. How different is the dynamic of this season? Heck, how different is the narrative regarding Mike Scioscia and Jerry Dipoto?
Regardless of what happens this offseason, the Angels will no doubt have non-tender decisions regarding Williams (slated to make about $3 million) and Tommy Hanson (roughly $4.5 million), and they may ponder whether or not to release Blanton (with $8.5 million remaining on his contract). But it’s one thing to try and acquire a fifth starter and additional depth, and it’s a whole other thing to try to acquire a mid-rotation starter that you truly feel comfortable sliding between Wilson and Vargas. Given the state of the Angels’ farm system, the dearth of starting pitching talent in free agency and the lack of payroll flexibility available for 2014 to begin with, it’s probably the difference between giving up a major offensive piece (Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, what have you) and not having to do so.
Having said all that, my opinion — while borrowing a line from George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven – is they need one more.
Weaver, Wilson, Vargas and Richards can be as good as anyone in the league if right, but …
- Weaver loses a bit off his fastball every year.
- Wilson flirts with danger a lot.
- Vargas’ 3.94 ERA since the start of 2010 ranks 61st.
- Richards is 25 and has been inconsistent in the past.
- Here are the top five starting-pitcher ERA teams in baseball, respectively: Dodgers, Reds, Pirates, Tigers, Cardinals. What do they all have in common? Yep, they’re probably all going to the playoffs.
The Angels tried this year to counter a patchwork rotation with what they thought would be a deeper bullpen and a crazy-good offense. Perhaps if everyone stays healthy and Hamilton hits like himself, it works out. But it’s a risky proposition; a lot riskier than making starting pitching priority 1, 2 and 3. I think they need to get back to that this winter, and I think they need to do whatever it takes to beef up their rotation, even if it means sacrificing a little offense.
(Oh, and it’s probably a good idea to point out that resigning Vargas is no slam dunk. Both sides are interesting in a return, but the Angels will have competition and don’t have the means — or desire, really — to overpay.)
@LAANGELSINSIDER: I think they would. Those 4 can got 7 solid most games. If the bullpen improves #Angels will be better overall.
@TurbosLady9493: Yes, if Richards can show a bit more consistency and less walks.
@memphiscds: Could live with it if we had young #5 and decent bullpen
@GareGare84: yes. At least they can hold the other team. Give our offense a chance to score.
@AJTheDon_: would’ve liked it alot more if that’s what it would’ve looked like at the start of the year
@Tanner_Shurtz: so much inconsistency for Richards, torn between 5th starter and RP… See what works out in ST
@SportsChicken: If they’re trying to compete for a championship, [heck] no. Otherwise, meh.
@JcHc3in1: I’d like to see them land a #2/#3 besides Vargas, or in addition to Vargas
@CJWoodling: Richards has Weaver-like elements in him. I could see him being as high as number 3 with a little work.
@DickMarshall: think Richards needs to start as #5. Need a solid (little risk- re: anti Hanson/Blanton) #3 or #4.
@OSBIEL: very satisfied. If they fix up the bullpen they should be fine w/ those four.
@anthony_mateos: yes. They give you a chance to win, that’s all you want.
@kwelch31: yes very. Plus a solid pitcher in a howie trade. That would work. Maybe hellikson or phil hughes.
@CDHartnett: he needs to be a 5th starter so he doesn’t have any pressure and can have a FULL season as a starter. No short leash.
@Brush_Ryan: perfectly happy with those 4 provided the add a legit #3 starter.
@pippin38: sign Garza or Kuroda and have Weaver Wilson Varges Garza/Kuroda Richards
@natetrop: In my opinion they need a solid #3 or top of the rotation arm to contend. Can’t have Richards as anything other than #5
@chrispower82: A decent 5th is still needed, but those 4 are a good start (and should’ve been our top 4 to start this year)
@CalderonEder: I’d say go after Kuroda or maybe find a trade partner for Trumbo for another legit starter
@AlexPVegas: If the Angels had the current rotation that they have now all year. We aren’t talking about the future.
Former big leaguer Jack Clark alleged on St. Louis radio recently that he knows “for a fact” that Angels first baseman Albert Pujols used steroids.
Clark, who played 18 years in the big leagues and hit 340 home runs, said he knew based on conversations with Pujols’ ex-trainer, Chris Mihlfeld, while Clark was hitting coach of the Dodgers in 2000.
“The trainer that worked with him, threw him batting practice from Kansas City, that worked him out every day, basically told me that’s what he did,” Clark said, according to a story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
In an e-mail to MLB.com, and several other publications, Mihlfeld strongly denied those accusations, saying …
“I haven’t even talked to Jack Clark in close to 10 years. His statements are simply not true. I have known Albert Pujols since he was 18 years old and he would never use illegal drugs in any way. I would bet my life on it and probably drop dead on the spot if I found out he has. As before once again both Albert and myself have been accused of doing something we didn’t do.”
Pujols is not with the team in Cleveland this weekend, staying back to continue to rehab his left foot.
His agent, Dan Lozano, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
It took 12 plate appearances, but in what would be his last time in the batter’s box against his former team in three years — unless they meet in the World Series, of course — Albert Pujols got a hit against the Cardinals. And it was a big one, his line-drive single in the ninth setting the stage for Josh Hamilton‘s game-tying homer in a thrilling walk-off win.
Pujols went into that at-bat 2-for-his-last-30.
“I just try to take every at-bat like it’s my last one, whether I struggle or I’m hitting great,” he said. “My job right there wasn’t to hit a home run. It was to get on base somehow, hopefully give Howie [Kendrick] and Josh an opportunity to drive me in, and they did.”
Pujols went into that at-bat against Adam Wainwright 0-for-10 against the Cardinals, with three strikeouts and one walk while serving as the designated hitter all three games. But he got on base to bring the tying run to the plate, and his team took two of three in the series.
Postgame, Pujols was in little mood to talk about the Cardinals. Asked if he was relieved it was over, he said, somewhat mokingly: “I wish I can play against them every day. It was fun.”
It’s been all about St. Louis for the last week, and he was exhausted. Tough to blame him.
“This is not about St. Louis,” Pujols added. “You guys have been making it over the last two weeks about St. Louis. This is not about St. Louis and me. This is about our organization and their organization. And at the end of the day, we won the series. This is not about one player against a whole team, or one team against one player.”
SP: RH Adam Wainwright (11-5, 2.22 ERA)
SP: RH Joe Blanton (2-10, 5.07 ERA)
- Mike Scioscia still won’t reveal who the Saturday starting pitcher is, but it’s still leaving heavily towards left-hander Michael Roth. Roth, once again, was not listed in the lineup sheet under the bullpen. He threw one inning on Wednesday, which would qualify as his bullpen day, and Scioscia said they won’t be calling someone up from Triple-A to make that start. “We have a couple contingencies we’re looking at,” Scioscia said, “but we’ll have a group of guys we can choose from for Saturday.” Billy Buckner worked 4 1/3 innings in Wednesday’s 12-2 loss, throwing 71 pitches, so no chance he gets the start. Garrett Richards pitched two innings, throwing 40 pitches. He could be a candidate, but Richards hasn’t been stretched out past three innings since moving back to the bullpen. Roth’s last seven appearances in Class A have been starts.
- Conger is starting back-to-back games. He and Chris Iannetta now have the same amount of starts since June 12: 10.
- Ryan Madson threw another bullpen session today. This is his fourth since he began getting off a mound every three days after a long stint of merely playing catch. Asked how many more bullpen sessions he needs before venturing out on a rehab assignment, Scioscia said: “It’s tough to say. We’ve tried to guess along the way and I think we’re past that. We just have to see how he comes out of it and we’ll go from there.”
- Scioscia has been in awe of what Yasiel Puig has done with the Dodgers. He’s in agreement with a lot of others in that Puig many not have as much time in the big leagues to be All-Star worthy, but believes he may get in anyway, saying: “I think he’s got to go a little further to earn it. I don’t think Major League Baseball will discount what he’s done, even though it’s a limited amount of at-bats. There’s a pool now to bring the best talent into that game because of the bearing it has on getting home-field advantage for the World Series. That’s going to give him a deeper look than maybe it would’ve been in any other situation.”
- Trout had 290 plate appearances in the first half last year; Puig has 116 with 11 games left. As for how their situations compare, Scioscia said: “These guys are doing things you very rarely see young players come up and do. He’s played to his potential at a young age. A lot of parallels you can draw in that regard.”
- In case you hadn’t noticed, Trout has been wearing a shinguard on his left foot during plate appearances after fouling a ball off there on Tuesday. He said the shin is fine now, but he’s wearing the guard for extra protection because it doesn’t bother him when he hits.
Are the Cards the only team Albert Pujols hasn’t homered against? — @nolanrogers13
Indeed, they are. If he homers against them on Thursday, he’ll be one of seven active players to homer against all 30 current teams. The others, per the Elias Sports Bureau: Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, Jason Giambi, Raul Ibanez, Lyle Overbay, Alfonso Soriano and Josh Willingham. Honestly, I’m surprised there are even that many.
Thing is, Pujols hasn’t so much as recorded a hit against his former team, let alone homered. He’s 0-for-7 with three strikeouts and a walk in the first two of a three-game series, and he’s got just two hits in his last 27 at-bats. Hitters always goes through ebbs and flows, though. That’s normal. And Pujols was getting hot just before it. What would be concerning is if the pain in his left foot (plantar fasciitis) or right knee (offseason surgery) have gotten worse, prompting a potential move to the disabled list.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia dismissed that postgame, saying: “I think physically he’s pretty much status quo. I don’t think anything’s deteriorating. I think he feels the same as just 10 days ago, when he was really starting to swing the bat well.”
Pitching: RH Shelby Miller (8-6, 2.79 ERA)
Pitching: RH Jerome Williams (5-3, 3.21 ERA)
- Is Hamilton dipping again, after quitting in the second half of last season? Video has shown what appears to be smokeless tobacco coming out of his mouth in a few at-bats, which might have been a route Hamilton took towards getting right at the plate again. Approached by reporters before Wednesday’s game, though, Hamilton wouldn’t comment. “I just don’t have any comments on it. It’s one of those things where if I give you guys any kind of story, your story’s going to be different from his story, your story’s going to be different from his story. And then other people who aren’t in this clubhouse, with you guys, are going to take your story and it’s going to be an absolute mess. No, nothing is coming from these lips [in terms of confirmation or denial over smokeless tobacco use]. … Until you actually see me reach in a bag of chewing tobacco, and pull it out, and put it in my mouth, then what’s in there?”
- Asked about how much quitting smokeless tobacco might have affected him in a rough second half with the Rangers last year, Hamilton said: “I don’t know if you know this, but before I quit, I started sucking. That has absolutely nothing to do with it.”
- Conger is back behind the plate, with Chris Iannetta sitting. Since June 12 (including today), Conger has started nine games. Iannetta has started 10. Asked if this was a platoon, Mike Scioscia said: “I think when you’re talking about a platoon, you’re talking more about offensive matchups, lefty-righty, things like that. There’s a bit of a time-sharing that’s been going on here in the last month and I think it’s been beneficial to both players. Both players want to be out there as much as they can, and it’s taken a little pressure off of Chris and given Hank a chance to contribute.”
- Scioscia on the Rangers signing Manny Ramirez to a Minor League deal: “Manny still loves to play baseball. I don’t think you can argue that he’s gone to great lengths to show that he can still play. … We just saw some video on him, and that swing looks the same as it did when he was 30. He’s going to get another opportunity at some point, I’m sure.”
- Scioscia wouldn’t say who’s starting on Saturday. He knows who he is, but he isn’t saying. “We have a plan,” is all he said. Michael Roth was not listed on the bullpen sheet today, so it could be him.
- The Angels signed 16-year-old left-hander Ricardo Sanchez to kick off their international signings.