Results tagged ‘ Justin Verlander ’

Lineups and Notes, Opening Day edition …

It sounds crazy, but this is the first time in seven years that Seattle — cool city, great ballpark, retractable roof — has hosted an Opening Day. On this day 38 years ago, Frank Tanana pitched a shutout in Seattle in a 7-0 win for the Angels. The Angels have won nine of their last 11 Opening Days, but lost last year. In fact, the Mariners swept the Angels at Angel Stadium to open the 2014 season, outscoring them by 18 runs in the process.

Jered Weaver (seven) is tied for the third-most Opening Day starts since 2006, along with James Shields, Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay. The only two ahead of him are CC Sabathia (nine) and his Monday opponent, Felix Hernandez (eight). With Johnny Giavotella, 2015 marks the first time the Angels have had an Opening Day second baseman not named Howie Kendrick since Maicer Izturis in 2006.

The Mariners have been the Angels’ most frequent Opening Day opponent. They’re 6-4 against them to start the season, but were 7-12 against them last year. Weaver is 3-2 with a 2.31 ERA on Opening Day, 14-10 with a 3.37 ERA against the Mariners and 7-8 with a 4.49 ERA at Safeco Field.

Here are the lineups …

Angels (0-0)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Matt Joyce, LF
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Giavotella, 2B

SP: RH Weaver (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Mariners (0-0)

Austin Jackson, CF
Seth Smith, RF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Logan Morrison, 1B
Mike Zunino, C
Dustin Ackley, LF
Brad Miller, SS

SP: RH Hernandez (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

  • It’ll be interesting to see how the Angels use Taylor Featherston. They like his skills defensively, but he’s never played above Double-A. I think we’re going to see him play some second base late, with the Angels pinch-hitting Giavotella against a tough right-handed reliever. “I think what he lacks in experience, his athleticism and talent will make up for,” Mike Scioscia said. “We’re not going to be afraid to use him.”
  • Scioscia is leaning towards Drew Rucinski to start on April 14, the first day the Angels need a fifth starter. Jose Alvarez is not stretched out enough, and Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano are not on schedule for that day.
  • Garrett Richards is here to take part in the Opening Day ceremonies. He’ll then pitch in a camp game on Thursday and start a rehab assignment April 14, though he could make only one start and then be available the next time through the order.
  • The seventh inning “is going to be a matchup” with the bullpen, Scioscia said. I expect Mike Morin to get most of the time there, but we could see Fernando Salas being used against lefties. He was pretty effective against them last year.
  • Will Cron be an everyday player, or will he sit against tough righties (today being an exception)? “I think C.J. will get a lion’s share of at-bats at first base and DH,” Scioscia said. “We gotta get bench guys in games, too, to make sure they’re sharp, keep starters fresh, but the plan is to get C.J. in there a lot. No doubt this spring he swung the bat better than last year. We want to give him a chance to contribute.”


Report Card: Starting rotation …

Jered Weaver, RH

2012: 20-5, 2.81 ERA, 188 2/3 IP, 142 SO, 45 BB
2007-11: 14-9, 3.40 ERA, 202 IP, 174 SO, 55 BB

In the end, Weaver’s 2012 may have paled in comparison to 2011, when he posted a career-low 2.41 ERA in a career-high 235 2/3 innings. But despite a short stint on the DL with lower back tightness, and some biceps tendinitis down the stretch, the 30-year-old right-hander put together another Cy Young-caliber performance in a year decorated with personal milestones. He threw his first no-hitter (against the Twins on May 2), notched his first 20-win season and surpassed 100 career victories. Most importantly, when the rotation struggled early in the second half, Weaver kept the Angels afloat by continuing to be the one constant. Mike Scioscia will point to that as the biggest reason why he should beat out the likes of Justin Verlander, David Price and Felix Hernandez for the Cy Young. We’ll see.

Grade: A

Zack Greinke, RH

2012 (overall): 15-5, 3.48 ERA, 212 1/3 IP, 200 SO, 54 BB
2008-11: 14-10, 3.37 ERA, 206 IP, 202 SO, 52 BB

Greinke ran into a little funk early in his tenure with the Angels, giving up 20 runs in his first 25 innings of August. But he got it together down the stretch, with a 2.04 ERA in his final eight starts of the season, and showed why he’ll be so highly coveted as a free agent this offseason. The Angels are hopeful that being with the organization for a couple months will give them an upper-hand this winter. It certainly won’t hurt, but they’ll have plenty of competition, most notably from the Rangers. He’s got great stuff, he fields his position well, and he’ll probably be worth a five-year deal around $120 million.

Grade: B

C.J. Wilson, LH

2012: 13-10, 3.83 ERA, 202 1/3 IP, 173 SO, 91 BB
2010-11: 16-8, 3.14 ERA, 214 IP, 188 SO, 84 BB

Wilson was as advertised in the first half, posting a 2.43 ERA en route to a second straight All-Star Game invite. But while pitching with bone spurs in his left elbow, which he recently fixed with arthroscopic surgery, the 31-year-old struggled through a 5.54 ERA in the second half. The most frustrating thing about Wilson is his walks, especially when handed a lead. Wilson walked 91 batters this year, fourth-most in the Majors and two off his career high in 2010. He also came up small in several important starts down the stretch. But he gets somewhat of a pass, considering the elbow discomfort he was nursing over the last couple of months.

Grade: C

Dan Haren, RH

2012: 12-13, 4.33 ERA, 176 2/3 IP, 142 SO, 38 BB
2005-11: 14-11, 3.49 ERA, 226 IP, 195 SO, 45 BB

Pretty stunning when you put Haren’s career averages right next to his 2012 season. This really was his only bad year, but with a $15.5 million club option for 2013, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Haren had a fantastic spring, with a 2.05 ER, 25 strikeouts and two walks. Then, right before things got real, his lower back started barking, and he was never really the same since. Haren went on the DL for the first time in his career, lost another tick or two off his fastball, was getting pulled out of games before even hitting 90 pitches — a clear sign that Scioscia had lost trust in him — and most of the time took the mound with very little. But Haren did turn it around a bit towards the end, finishing the season with a 2.81 ERA in his last eight starts after he stopped trying to add velocity and focused on location. Was that an indication that Haren learned how to pitch with his limited repertoire and can be effective again? Perhaps. But he’s definitely not a $15 million pitcher anymore.

Grade: D+

Ervin Santana, RH

2012: 9-13, 5.16 ERA, 178 IP, 133 SO, 61 BB
2006-11: 12-10, 4.17 ERA, 194 IP, 156 SO, 61 BB

Like Haren, Santana pitched better towards the end of the year, with a 3.76 ERA in his last 11 starts. But by that point, the damage had been done. Santana had a 6.00 ERA when that stretch began, finished giving up a Major League-high 39 homers and had three starts in which he lasted less than three innings and gave up at least six runs. Two of them came in the same month (July) and the other was his final start of the season, when he gave up six runs in 2 2/3 innings in the second of a doubleheader in Texas on Sept. 30, all but mathematically eliminating the Angels from postseason contention. Considering his $13 million club option, that could very well have been the final start of his Angels career.

Grade: D-

Week 1: Infield.
Week 2: Outfield.


Tigers have strong opinions about Cabrera, MVP …

The AL MVP race between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera has been a hot topic of late. The Angels, for the most part, have taken a politically correct approach. Trout talked Wednesday about how “first on the list is getting to the playoffs,” and Mike Scioscia said, “They’re both putting up extraordinary numbers in some different areas.”

But the Tigers, particularly ace Justin Verlander and manager Jim Leyland, haven’t been shy about expressing their desire to see Cabrera win the hardware.

Here’s what they said postgame today (thanks to Jason Beck and Anthony Odoardi for passing it along) …

Leyland, when asked about the sabermetric numbers being in Trout’s favor …

“Well, I’m going to answer that this way: I will not use the player’s name, but according to the sabermetrics, there’s a player that is better than Miguel Cabrera. When the guy that gave me the sabermetrics told me that, I said, ‘Well then, should we trade Miguel Cabrera for the player you’re talking about?’ And he said, ‘Oh no, you can’t do that.’ And I said, ‘Well then, you don’t believe in sabermetrics, and neither do I.’”

Verlander, when told about the possibility that Cabrera gets the Triple Crown and Trout still wins the MVP …

“That’s ridiculous. When was the last time there was a Triple Crown winner? Sixty-seven? OK.”

Verlander, on Ted Williams winning two Triple Crowns and not winning the MVP either year (1942 and ’47) …

“Ted Williams lost because of what’s his name? Joe DiMaggio [in ’47]? Which goes down as one of the worst MVP votings of all-time, I think, in my opinion. His statistical year wasn’t nearly as good as Ted Williams’. … That would be a joke in my opinion.”

Verlander, on whether this would be the worst MVP decision if Cabrera didn’t win …

“Yeah. [The Triple Crown] hasn’t been done since 1967. Come on. Even the fact that he’s one home run away is just absolutely absurd. I mean, just watch him. Watch him when we need him down this home stretch. Oh my God. You want to talk about MVP, compare their numbers the last two months of the season. Big difference.”

Verlander, last year’s MVP, has gone as far as creating T-shirts to tout Cabrera’s MVP case.

Cabrera simply lauded Trout, saying …

“He’s amazing, man. You need to give some credit to him. At that age what he’s done is very amazing. That’s why everybody talk about him. That’s unbelievable, man. There’s nothing we can do, him and me. We’ve both got a great year. We can’t control that. We go out there and play hard, win some games. He’s focused on winning some games with Anaheim. I’m focused on winning some games here in Detroit. We’ll let you guys decide what’s gonna happen.”


Trumbo’s favorite Derby homer? It’s a tie for first …

KANSAS CITY — Mark Trumbo impressed a lot of people with his Home Run Derby showing on Monday night, even though he was eliminated in a tiebreaker swing-off by Jose Bautista. Asked for his favorite of the 13 through the first two rounds, Trumbo narrowed it down to two — the one that landed on the roof of the Hall of Fame building beyond the left-field bleachers (measured at a conservative 428 feet); and the smoking line drive out to straightaway center (420).

“I’d say the one on top of the roof,” Trumbo said, before backtracking — “but the one to center was impressive. I think a lot of the guys really liked the line drive.”

Trumbo’s average distance per home run — 434 feet — was the longest among the competitors, including champion Prince Fielder. He started off slow each round, then got into a little bit of a rhythm towards the middle, but felt he could’ve done better.

“I felt like I never really got into a great rhythm,” Trumbo said. “It seemed like I’d hit one, make an out, and then have to take a few pitches. Ideally, the goal is to get into an extended rhythm, kind of like Prince did, and then rattle off a better total. My biggest thing was just to have fun with it. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. I wanted to get one. That was the advice — don’t get a goose egg.”

Trumbo’s favorite moment?

“[David Ortiz] pulled me aside before I left yesterday and that was really cool,” he said. “He was telling me it took him three or four times of doing it to really feel like he — not had it down, but had a chance. Things move very, very quickly when you’re out there. You can’t really simulate that.”

But C.J. Wilson, at least, can capture it.

As usual, Wilson was out there with his camera and estimated taking roughly 800 photos of the Derby participants. He’ll look over them when he has time in the next few days and print them out for Trumbo to keep.

“I had my brand-new camera out there, taking some cool images that I’ll process while we’re on the road in the next couple days and see if I can come up with some winners,” Wilson said. “It’s just fun. Jered [Weaver] and Mike [Trout] and I were out there just trying to hype him up and keep him motivated and have a good time. It’s a lot of pressure out there, when you’re the only guy batting for a couple minutes at a time in front of the fans.”

Trumbo’s roommate also TiVo’d it. But many of those in attendance won’t need reminders of the show Trumbo put on. Many were impressed.

“I know my Twitter following went way up,” Trumbo said with a smile.

“Any time I’m in something, I want to win. But I’m going to take away some really cool memories from it.”

Some other pre-All Star Game notes

  • Asked about their friendship in a pregame presser, Trout joked of Bryce Harper: “We don’t like each other.” Bryce: “It’s like Bird and Magic. He’s Magic, I’m Bird.”
  • Maybe more LeBron and Wade? “I hope I play with [Trout] one day,” Harper said. “I think him playing center field, me playing right field, as a one-two punch, I think that’d be fun.”
  • Trout was asked who wins in a footrace between him and Peter Bourjos. His response: “I think Peter’s got me around the bases in an inside-the-parker, but home to first, we were talking about it the other day, I think I have him by a couple of steps.”
  • Weaver was told he’ll pitch the fifth inning tonight. As for how it affects him for the second half? It’s just like a normal bullpen session.
  • Trout and Trumbo are not really sure when they’ll get in. “I have all my gloves, as usual,” Trumbo said. C.J., of course, is sitting out due to a blister he doesn’t expect to impact his second half.
  • Weaver on not being named the starter for the All-Star Game a second straight year, despite leading the Majors with a 1.96 ERA: “I told you guys, whatever happens, I’m just excited to be here, be a part of it. Obviously it would’ve been cool to start back-to-back years, but I’m just excited to be able to get out there and throw an inning and just be part of this whole experience. It’s fun. It’s great to hang out with all these guys and just see who they are as a person instead of just battling against him.”
  • One guy Weaver was really excited to get to know a little better here: Adam Dunn. “He’s a funny character, man.”

Some Angels All-Star Game links …

Some intriguing All-Star Game stories …

The lineups …


Carlos Gonzalez, DH (COL)
Melky Cabrera, CF (SFG)
Ryan Braun, LF (MIL)
Joey Votto, 1B (CIN)
Carlos Beltran, RF (StL)
Buster Posey, C (SFG)
Pablo Sandoval, 3B (SFG)
Dan Uggla, 2B (ATL)
Rafael Furcal, SS (StL)

SP: RH Matt Cain (SFG)


Derek Jeter, SS (NYY)
Cano, 2B (NYY)
Josh Hamilton, LF (TEX)
Bautista, RF (TOR)
Fielder, 1B (DET)
Adrian Beltre, 3B (TEX)
MikOrtiz, DH (BOS)
Mike Napoli, C (TEX)
Curtis Granderson, CF (NYY)

SP: RH Justin Verlander (DET)


The ASG rosters that should’ve been …

American League

Mike Trout, CF (.343 BA, .399 OBP, 23 SB)
Rookie of the Year? How about MVP? Trout has elevated himself to that level already.
Robinson Cano, 2B (.316 BA, 20 HR, 50 RBI)
Best second baseman in baseball. And it isn’t even close.
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (.323, 18 HR, 68 RBI)
Best hitter in the AL, in my mind, and better at third base than I thought he’d be.
Josh Hamilton, LF (.318 BA, 26 HR, 74 RBI)
Somebody’s going to give this guy an absurd amount of money this offseason.
Jose Bautista, RF (.911 OPS, 27 HR, 64 RBI)
As Mike Scioscia said in Toronto, “How is this guy only batting .240?” He’s as fun to watch hit as anyone.
David Ortiz, DH (.302 BA, 22 HR, 55 RBI)
Remember when we all thought he was finished?
Paul Konerko, 1B (.333 BA, 14 HR, 42 RBI)
Like fine wine, Konerko seems to get better with age.
Joe Mauer, C (.327 BA, .415 OBP, 38 RBI)
He’s only catching about half the time, but he’s healthy and back to being himself offensively. Huge sigh of relief for Twins.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (.370 OBP, 11 HR, 42 RBI)
As slick as there is with the glove and a great hitter.

SP: Justin Verlander (9 W, 2.58 ERA, 128 SO)
Weaver’s numbers are better, but the reigning MVP deserves to start one of these.

National League

Andrew McCutchen, CF (.360 BA, 16 HR, 54 RBI)
Oh, and 14 steals. The guy does it all. An absolute freak.
Ryan Braun, LF (.309 BA, 23 HR, 59 RBI)
It was a rough offseason. Good to see him pick up right where he left off from his MVP year.
Joey Votto, 1B (.350 BA, 14 HR, 47 RBI)
Here’s all you need to know about how good a hitter Votto is: He’s hit ONE infield pop-up since ’09.
Giancarlo Stanton, DH (.364 OBP, 19 HR, 50 RBI)
Man, I sure hope he can compete in the Home Run Derby.
Carlos Gonzalez, RF (.340 BA, 17 HR, 58 RBI)
Like McCutchen, this guy does it all on the field.
David Wright, 3B (.350 BA, 10 HR, 55 RBI)
What a travesty that Pablo Sandoval is starting at third base over him.
Aaron Hill, 2B (.300 BA, 11 HR, 39 RBI)
Two cycles in one half? Yeah, he gets the nod.
Carlos Ruiz, C (.357 BA, 13 HR, 46 RBI)
Ruiz was always lost in those deep Phillies lineups. Not anymore. Without him, they have nothing this year.
Starlin Castro, SS (.291 BA, 40 RBI, 16 SB)
Tough year for NL shortstops. I’ll take the one with the most upside.

SP: R.A. Dickey (2.15 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 12 W)
Great story, great person, great season. I don’t care if he’s a knuckleballer. He deserves it.

*** I’ll be taking the Baltimore series off. Follow Joe McIntyre for Angels updates, and look for stuff on the Angels’ first half and the upcoming Trade Deadline very soon. I’ll catch up with y’all from KC.


6 Divisions in 6 Days, Day 4 …

Leading up to Opening Day, I’ll roll out an All-Star team for each of the six divisions in baseball — that includes a manager, a starting nine (with a DH also for the National League), three starters and two relievers. One catch: Each team must have at least one representative, and the skipper doesn’t count. Feel free to submit your own lineups below. I’d love to see how yours differ.

Day 4: AL Central
Plenty of great first-base talent here. So great that Eric Hosmer is out and another first baseman (Miggy) is at third.

Manager: Jim Leyland, DET


Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B (CLE)
Alex Gordon, LF (KCR)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (DET)
Prince Fielder, DH (DET)
Paul Konerko, 1B (CWS)
Joe Mauer, C (MIN)
Alexei Ramirez, SS (CWS)
Shin-Soo Choo, RF (CLE)
Austin Jackson, CF (DET)


Justin Verlander, DET
Doug Fister, DET
Justin Masterson, CLE


Jose Valverde, DET
Chris Perez, CLE


Moreno: “We should be a highly competitive team”

The countdown now stands at eight. In eight days, Angels pitchers and catchers are slated to report to the club’s Spring Training complex in Tempe, Ariz., and several important position players — well, at least Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo — will file in at about the same time.

The Angels have been quiet for a while, with the last big signing being the Howie Kendrick extension of early January, but this was probably already the most successful offseason in franchise history by Dec. 8, when a couple of guys you may have heard of signed on the dotted line.

What that means with regards to what happens in 2012 and beyond? Well, that remains to be seen.

And we’ll start finding out on Feb. 19.

“I really get excited about next week, pitchers and catchers, and players coming in,” Angels owner Arte Moreno said in a phone interview on Saturday. “Everybody’s in first place right now, undefeated.”

I spoke with Arte (he told me to call him that) for a feature on Jerry Dipoto that will run next week, as the last installment of our baseball-operations series, and was able to get into the upcoming season. Here’s what he said about the club …

On not knowing anything until games are played:  We won 86 [games] last year; we had a very good team. We didn’t finish some games off, and we didn’t score the runs, so what we tried to do was improve on what we have. But ultimately, we’re going to tell you what’s going on next October. Everybody’s trying to figure it out right now, but I think at the end of the day, we’re all going to see how our decision-making, our investments, etc., turned out by the end of the year. … Right now, everybody’s undefeated. But there should be a lot of optimism from everybody.

On the uber-competitive American League: On paper, I think we should be a highly competitive team. But you look at Detroit, and Detroit won their division comfortably last year, and they improved their team. With [Justin] Verlander on the front end, it’s always great. Prince [Fielder], he’s a hammer, with him and [Miguel] Cabrera. And then you look at the Yankees, maybe odds-on [favorites]. Boston, I know what happened last year, but Boston’s a very good ballclub. And Tampa, with that young pitching, and [Joe] Maddon, they play great. I’m probably missing a couple of teams, but I think it’s very competitive. You’re going to just have to play them. And I didn’t even talk about Texas, which was in the World Series the last two years. They obviously pound the ball, and they picked up the free-agent Japanese pitcher [Yu Darvish], and that’s always fun. And we get to see a lot of them in spring, which is great.

On the budding Rangers-Angels rivalry: Well, believe it or not, there are 28 other teams than the Rangers and ourselves. … But to me, you look and just say, ‘Right now, they have the brass ring, and it’s our job to try to grab it.’

On the makeup of this team: A lot of the players on our team are home grown. I’ve known a lot of them for a lot of years – in May it’ll be nine years for me – and a lot of these guys, [Kendrys] Morales and Howie Kendrick and [Erick] Aybar and [Alberto] Callaspo — even though he went away for a while, but he’s homegrown. You’ve got [Jered] Weaver and [Ervin] Santana and some of the young bullpen guys, and then [Peter] Bourjos, and we’ll see [Mike] Trout in the spring. And then [Dan] Haren and Weaver and C.J. [Wilson] all grew up in Orange County or close to Orange County.

On Kendrys Morales bouncing back: He’s a really nice young man. We signed him out of Cuba, so he’s always been one of our favorites. It’s always tough to see a kid go down on a walk-off grand slam. Holy mackerel. Game-winner. And he worked hard last year and didn’t get it done. He’s worked hard, so obviously we’d love to see him. A couple of years ago, he was vying for MVPs, so there’s a lot of power from both sides and he hits for average. That’s an important part. That was really the missing piece [last year], and Trumbo did a good job last year stepping in.

On what he expects from Kendrys:  You don’t know until guys go down for Spring Training and see how he feels. What you try to do is get everybody prepared. … I tell people all the time, the fun of it is getting prepared. Everybody thinks that somebody has some kind of special mind-reading ability or something like that. But the fun of baseball is that every day is a new day and you’ve got a new game and you’ve got a new season. It’s like running three marathons. We had two teams that got in [the playoffs] on the last day of the season last year, and one of them won the World Series. So, you can write it on the paper upside-down, sideways, whatever, it doesn’t matter.

Other stuff: 

* The Angels’ Top 20 prospects list was revealed today

* Angels assistant equipment manager Shane Demmitt will compete in Round 2 of MLB Network’s game show “Baseball IQ” on Wednesday at 6 p.m. PT, against Mariners special assistant to the GM Tony Blengino. More info can be found here

* Former Angels broadcasters Rex Hudler and Steve Physioc are joining the Royals. According to The Los Angeles Times, former baseball-operations manager Tory Hernandez is joining Scott Boras’ agency. 


Where will the top free agents sign? Here’s a guess …

Two things about the free-agent market this offseason: It sure is thin, and it sure is top heavy. If you’re looking for a lights-out closer, there are many. If you’re looking for a front-line starter, there are little. And if you want a premier slugger, you better be prepared to pay up.

Without further ado, here’s my guess (with emphasis on the word “guess”) at the destination of who I consider to be the top five free agents …

Albert Pujols: Cardinals

The notion that Tony La Russa‘s retirement somehow has some relevance with regards to Pujols’ situation is silly. Pujols is signing a deal that could reach 10 years. And even if La Russa, at 67, did come back, he’d only manage for another, what, two years? Pujols knows this. And this may just be me falling victim to the moment, but I can’t see Pujols signing with a different organization just because he’ll be making a few extra millions. With the Cardinals, Pujols goes to a city where he’s revered, an organization where he basically makes the rules and a team that consistently has a chance to win. The Cardinals’ contract offers may not have been lucrative enough before, but they got some extra money with a World Series run, restructuring Chris Carpenter‘s contract and signing Lance Berkman to a rather bargain deal. Plus, if they make third-base coach (and Pujols’ buddy) Jose Oquendo the manager, their chances of him staying are even greater. It’ll be a long, drama-filled battle. But in the end, I’ve got the Redbirds. … Perhaps it’s just that part of me that wants to believe a star player can stay with one franchise.

Other options: Rangers, Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, Marlins, Blue Jays, Nationals

Prince Fielder: Dodgers

I can’t see Fielder picking his team until Pujols signs first and, thus, sets the market for him. And though Brewers owner Mark Attansio expressed his team would “be in the game” for Fielder, it’s long been considered a foregone conclusion that the 2011 season was Fielder’s last in Milwaukee. The West coast seems to be the logical landing spot for the big vegetarian. It’s a big market, Prince and Matt Kemp are pals, the Dodgers badly want to improve their offense, and general manager Ned Colletti is expected to have $25 million to spend on free agents this offseason. Of course, a lot of this will hinge on how quickly the sale of the Dodgers goes through and who buys them. But if this gets done quickly, and MLB proclaims it will be, the Dodgers and Prince look like a great match.

Other options: Brewers, Rangers, Cubs, Giants, Mariners, Marlins, Blue Jays, Nationals

Jose Reyes: Tigers

The Tigers are right there. They just need to improve their defense and get some sort of consistency out of the top of their order. Hello, Jose Reyes. The Tigers’ biggest deficiency in 2011 was third base, but that can easily be solved by moving the defensively-inept Jhonny Peralta — signed through next year, with a team option for 2013 — over to his more comfortable position of third base and obtaining Reyes, who would allow Austin Jackson and his .317 on-base percentage to move lower in the order. Two things that may stand in the way: GM Dave Dombrowski has said he prefers to keep Peralta at shortstop, and the Tigers already have two players making $20-plus million a year in Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. But owner Mike Ilitch has shown he’ll do what it takes to build a championship-contending club, and the Tigers may be a Reyes away from that. The Mets will give it a valiant effort, but barring significant payroll-shedding moves, they don’t have the capital to keep up.

Other options: Mets, Marlins, Red Sox, Cardinals (if no Pujols)

C.J. Wilson: Marlins

The Marlins have money to spend, and they keep telling everybody they’re going to be in play for the major free agents. That includes Wilson, who would give Florida something it badly needs headed into its new ballpark: A frontline starting pitcher, particularly a left-hander. The price for Wilson will be high, considering he’s clearly the best of what’s a shallow free-agent pool of starters and plays a position that’s always coveted. Projections have him attaining something in the range of the five-year, $82.5 million deals A.J. Burnett and John Lackey previously signed in free agency. But he may get an ever bigger deal. Regardless, the Marlins want to prioritize the rotation and, for one of the rare times in franchise history, have the means to do it. Wilson would give them a solid No. 2 behind Josh Johnson.

Other options: Rangers, Yankees, Blue Jays, Padres, Nationals, Red Sox, Twins, Orioles, Rockies, Royals

Yu Darvish: Yankees

The Yankees are prioritizing the rotation once again, but reports say they don’t want to go all-in on Wilson. If he’s posted, the Japanese Darvish seems like the perfect answer for general manager Brian Cashman, who continues to put a premium on accumulating young starting pitching (something he showed while refusing to trade his top prospects for Ubaldo Jimenez at the non-waiver Trade Deadline). Darvish will have a much cheaper contract than Wilson because he’s only 25, but because of the posting fee that would come with him — remember, Daisuke Matsuzaka required a $52 million posting fee, and that was five years ago — he won’t be much cheaper. The Yanks will face a lot of competition for Darvish, but when it comes down to dollars, they usually win if they have enough desire. And they definitely desire another rotation piece.

Other options: Rangers, Blue Jays, Nationals, Red Sox, Mariners, Twins, Orioles, Rockies, Royals (and probably a bunch of others)

* Filed this week: The Cardinals will be fine, even without Albert Pujols; a look at the curious free agent case of one C.J. Wilson.

** Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.


DET or TEX — which is the better NYY fit?

Here’s an interesting question: If you’re the Yankees, do you want to win the American League East?

With the Yankees coming off three straight wins and currently leading their division by a half-game over the Red Sox, I found myself doing something managers and players shouldn’t (and wouldn’t) ever do: Thinking about playoff matchups with an entire month of the regular season left.

Barring a late charge by the White Sox, Indians and Angels, the playoff picture looks pretty set right now, with the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers and Rangers making up the slate. What we don’t know is who will face who in the two five-game AL Division Series, which comes down to matchups more than anything else.

As of right now, the winner of the AL East would face the Tigers and the winner of the AL Wild Card would face the Rangers. Of course, Detroit and Texas can flip-flop, since only a couple of games separate the two. But that brings me to an interesting question: If you’re the Yankees, do you prefer to face the Tigers or the Rangers?

The Rangers are a better all-around team, with a fierce offense, a loaded bullpen and a solid rotation. But with the Tigers, you have to face Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander twice — and we all know how big an impact a staff ace can have on a short series.

Here’s a look at how those matchups played out in the regular season …


Season series: Tigers, 4-3 (1-2 at Yankee Stadium, 3-1 at Comerica Park)

Key Yankees pitchers: CC Sabathia (0-1, 4.15 ERA in 2 GS); Freddy Garcia (0-1, 5.14 ERA in 1 GS); Bartolo Colon (5.73 ERA in 2 G, 1 GS); Phil Hughes (11.25 ERA, 1 GS); A.J. Burnett (1-1, 3.75 ERA, 2 GS); Mariano Rivera (0 ER, 2 1/3 IP); Rafael Soriano (0 ER, 1 IP); David Robertson (0 ER, 2 IP); Boone Logan (1 ER, 1 2/3 IP)

Key Tigers pitchers: Justin Verlander (4.50 ERA, 2 GS); Rick Porcello (1-0, 2.57 ERA, 1 GS); Max Scherzer (2-0, 4.15 ERA, 2 GS); Brad Penny (1-1, 6.97 ERA, 2 GS); Jose Valverde (2 ER, 4 2/3 IP); Phil Coke (2 ER, 2 1/3 IP); Joaquin Benoit (0 ER, 2 IP); Daniel Schlereth (1 ER, 4 IP)

Key Yankees hitters: Robinson Cano (.200 BA, 1 HR, 2 RBI); Curtis Granderson (.160 BA, 1 HR, 1 RBI); Alex Rodriguez (.320 BA, 1 HR, 2 RBI); Derek Jeter (.261 BA, 1 RBI, 2 BB); Mark Teixeira (.280 BA, 4 HR, 8 RBI); Brett Gardner (.273 BA, 1 RBI, 4 BB)

Key Tigers hitters: Miguel Cabrera (.417 BA, 2 HR, 8 RBI); Austin Jackson (.167 BA, 1 HR, 2 RBI); Alex Avila (.263 BA, 2 HR, 3 RBI); Victor Martinez (.263 BA, 1 HR, 2 RBI); Jhonny Peralta (.261 BA, 2 RBI, 2 SO); Brennan Boesch (.474 BA, 4 HR, 7 RBI)

Worth noting: The fact the Tigers and Yankees got all their regular-season games against each other out of the way in early May makes it difficult to give these numbers much weight. The Yankees beat up on sub-par pitching, which is what they’ll get every time Verlander doesn’t toe the rubber against them (minus Verlander, Tigers starters are 38-39 with a 4.84 ERA). Verlander is 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA in his career against the Yankees. But the way he’s going right now, two starts in a series for him essentially means two wins for the Tigers, no matter what other factors revolve around him.


Season series: Yankees, 7-2 (5-1 at Yankee Stadium, 2-1 at Rangers Ballpark)

Key Yankees pitchers: CC Sabathia (2-0, 5.12 ERA in 2 GS); Freddy Garcia (1-0, 0.00 ERA in 1 GS); Bartolo Colon (10.38 ERA in 1 GS); Mariano Rivera (0 ER, 5 IP); Rafael Soriano (2 ER, 3 2/3 IP); David Robertson (0 ER, 3 1/3 IP); Boone Logan (2 ER, 2 IP)

Key Rangers pitchers: CJ Wilson (2.25 ERA in 1 GS); Alexi Ogando (0-1, 12.38 ERA in 2 GS); Matt Harrison (1-1, 1.93 ERA in 2 GS); Derek Holland (0-2, 8.62 ERA in 3 GS); Neftali Feliz (4 ER, 3 IP); Darren Oliver (0 ER, 4 1/3 IP)

Key Yankees hitters: Robinson Cano (.270 BA, 4 HR, 10 RBI); Brett Gardner (.381 BA, 2 RBI, 1 BB); Curtis Granderson (.438 BA, 6 HR, 13 RBI); Mark Teixeira (.263 BA, 4 HR, 12 RBI); Alex Rodriguez (.208 BA, 3 RBI, 6 BB); Derek Jeter (.385 BA, 2 HR, 3 RBI)

Key Rangers hitters: Elvis Andrus (.263 BA, 2 RBI, 2 BB); Adrian Beltre (.265 BA, 1 HR, 7 RBI); Ian Kinsler (.111, 1 HR, 4 RBI); Michael Young (.400 BA, 1 HR, 4 RBI); Nelson Cruz (.059 BA, 3 BB, 9 SO); Josh Hamilton (.231 BA, 1 RBI, 2 BB)

Worth noting: The Rangers may be the better all-around team, and they may have beaten them in last year’s ALCS, but the Yankees have absolutely dominated the series this year, and their hitters have mashed their good-but-not-great pitching. The Yankees are one of the most difficult teams in baseball to pitch against, because they’re loaded with firepower and because they’re one of the best at working the count and taking pitches. Last year, the Rangers were able to beat them with a clear-cut ace in Cliff Lee leading their staff. This year, the Rangers’ rotation has been very good, but there is no Lee or Verlander in there, which means the Yankees can beat everybody in their rotation.

If you’re New York, do you prefer that matchup, even if it means playing three out of five on the road? Or do you go up against an inferior Tigers team with a superior ace?

That’s the question.

— Alden 

** Filed this week: Verlander remarkable but not worthy of MVP; NL Cy Young a three-man race; former Yankee Bernie goes into Latino HOF; Moore living proof of UYA’s success

A stat on the (not so) quality start

I just wanted to share something one of my editors shared with me recently, which expresses just how silly the “quality start” stat is.

The minimum requirement for a quality start is six innings and three earned runs, which comes out to a 4.50 ERA. Not very good (or, quality). In fact, it’s not even the league average. Not even close.

This year — “Year of the Pitcher II,” I should preface — the Major League average in ERA is 3.89. Last year,  it was 4.07. And in 2001 — when Barry Bonds broke the home-run record and offensive production was at its peak — it was 4.41.

Now, of course, there is something to be said about pitching into the sixth and giving up less than three runs in each start, and the leaders in quality starts this year are all legit aces — Justin Verlander (24), Jered Weaver (23), Roy Halladay, Dan Haren, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, James Shields and Justin Masterson (tied with 20).

But it’s definitely not an end-all be-all by any means.

— Alden

* Filed this week: LoMo good for the game in milder doses; congratulations, apologies owed to Thome; baseball is family affair for the Valentins.

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