The Dugout Report

Orioles Rising: Tillman, Britton Highlight Sweep of Rays by llwesman
April 3, 2011, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays

Orioles rookie Zach Britton allowed just one run on Sunday.

By Wes Yee

While the AL East certainly isn’t decided four days into the 2010 season, the Orioles’ Buck Showalter had to be pleased with an opening weekend sweep of the defending division champion Rays. Showalter, whose comments about Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and Yankees Shortstop Derek Jeter drew early controversy, got 12 dominant innings from youngsters Chris Tillman and Zach Britton. Tillman, who turns 23 on tax day, didn’t allow a hit before being removed after six shutout innings. Tillman, just another piece acquired in the Erik Bedard deal, pitched half seasons in the majors in 2009 and 2010. He posted 5+ eras in both seasons, with troubling walk rates. That problem jumped his pitch count over 100 on Saturday, and kept him from having a shot at a no-hitter. Nonetheless, it was an excellent 2011 debut for a very talented pitcher.

Britton was nearly as good, allowing a single run on a bunt in six strong innings. It was electric debut that saw the 23 year old flash a 91-94 mph sinker with excellent armside run. He also showed excellent command of a mid 80’s changeup, which he used for four of his six strikeouts. Some scouts pegged Britton, who actually was slated for AAA before the Brian Matusz injury, as the Orioles best pitcher in Spring Training. He showed great maturity and poise, pitching in a close debut game against an albeit weakened Rays lineup.

While 3-0 Baltimore sits atop the East on April 3, it’s far too early to snatch the favorite cap off of the 0-3 Red Sox staggering heads. Showalter’s young staff will no doubt suffer some growing pains along the way, but for the first time in years it seems like the O’s have righted the ship.


Are the A’s ready to compete in the West? by tiffrut
March 30, 2011, 1:10 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hideki Matsui's bat needs to be hot for the A's this season

By Tiffany Rutledge

There are a few question marks surrounding the Oakland A’s going into the 2011 season, but for the first time since the 2006 team that lost in the ALCS there are expectations. The expectations are not sky high but they are there, which is new for this club. Some say they can overtake the reigning AL Champion Texas Rangers and win the AL West. With the Rangers losing a major piece of their postseason run in Cliff Lee, the A’s have hope. They can win the West, but it will take more than strong arms to lead the way.

It is well documented how good the A’s pitching staff is and can be. They led the AL with a team ERA of 3.56 and their arms are young. All-Star and Cy Young Candidate Trevor Cahill led the staff last year at the age of 22 while Brett Anderson was great as well at the same age. Gio Gonzalez matured on the mound and became a dominant force out there at the age of 24. We all know what Dallas Braden accomplished last year, hurling a perfect game at the young age of 26. This rotation is young and extremely talented. They started to come together as a unit last season and expectations for them this year are sky high. This staff has the potential to be great for years to come. The bullpen should be solid as well with the additions of Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour. They will accompany Craig Breslow and Michael Wuertz in setting things up for All Star closer Andrew Bailey in the 9th (when healthy). The pitching looks to be rock solid, but where will the runs come from? This is and always has been the biggest concern for the Green and Gold.

With such a great pitching season last year, how is it the A’s only won 81 games? Runs. They did not scratch across enough runs to support the great outings from their staff. Their home run leader, Kevin Kouzmanoff, had a not-so-impressive 16 dingers in the 2010 campaign. The team ranked 23rd overall in runs scored, making it much harder on their young arms. Getting runs on the board is a concern for the club even with a few new bats in the lineup and a revamped offense. The A’s acquired Hideki Matsui in the offseason and hope he can provide some pop as the DH in the middle of the lineup. Also acquired were outfielders David Dejesus and Josh Willingham via trades this offseason and the A’s are hoping they too provide some much needed timely hitting and also a little power to an offense starving for it. Injuries have plagued the A’s in the past as well and they hope leadoff man Coco Crisp can stay healthy this year and get on base and in scoring position for these new guys to have the RBI opportunities. Only time will tell if these three additions to the lineup will make the difference and get the A’s back over that hump and back into the playoffs. It should be a fun year to watch and a great race to follow in the AL West.

Some have compared this team poised with pitching to the reigning Champion San Francisco Giants across the Bay but the A’s want to make a name for themselves and prove they can win with their own great pitching and a little bit of hitting on the side.

2011 Playoff Predictions by llwesman
Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie are just two Red Sox who missed time in 2010.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie are just two Red Sox who missed time in 2010.

By Wes Yee

Division Winners

AL East – Boston Red Sox – Certainly the chalk pick, Boston won 89 games without their two best players in Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. This year they’ve added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. If you can’t understand this pick, you’re probably reading the wrong blog.

AL Central – Minnesota Twins – Justin Morneau is back. Joe Nathan is back. This team won 94 games without either of them last year and, despite improvements in Chicago and Detroit, should have enough to win the Central.

AL West – Oakland Athletics – Texas won the division by 9 games last year, and it wasn’t even that close. In 2011 however, they’ll replace Cliff Lee with the unproven Alexi Ogando. Adrian Beltre joins the club, but it’s hard to pick a team with Colby Lewis and CJ Wilson as frontline starters against an Oakland rotation that can run out Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, all of whom could be the #1 on the Rangers.

AL Wild Card – New York Yankees – The Rays had the best record in baseball last year, but will miss the playoffs due to the rise of Boston and major losses in the bullpen and with Carl Crawford. New York benefits by holding steady, adding Rafael Soriano and presumably getting an offensive boost sometime later in the year from top prospect Jesus Montero

NL East – Atlanta Braves – What about the Phillies? Well despite their much hyped four aces, this is a team in steep decline. Chase Utley’s 2011 is in serious question, Jimmy Rollins is barely replacement level and Jayson Werth is playing right for Washington. Atlanta has added a slugging 2B in Dan Uggla, and should have a healthy Jason Heyward  in the heart of the order. Tommy Hanson had an unlucky 2010 and should rebound to 15+ wins.

NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers – I love pitching, and they have the best of it in the Central. Zack Grienke should be dominant provided he returns healthy. Shawn Marcum and Yovani Gallardo match up well with anybody’s 2+3 starters and Prince Fielder should have a bounceback year.

NL  West – San Francisco Giants – The defending champs will need their vaunted bullpen to repeat their performances as their rotation was taxed severely pitching late into the calendar year during their championship run. Rookie Brandon Belt should inject some life into the offense.

NL Wild Card – Philadelphia Phillies – There’s just no way a team with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels doesn’t make the playoffs. Is there?

10 Names to Know in 2011 by llwesman

By Wes Yee

2010 was a year of serious emergence in baseball. Much hyped prospects Buster Posey of the Giants and Jason Heyward of the Braves stepped forward and established themselves as bona fide stars. St. Louis’ Jaime Garcia threw up a sub 3 ERA and Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez nearly won the MVP.

This season there’s a whole new list of players primed to make an impact. While perhaps the biggest names in the prospect world (Bryce Harper and Mike Trout) may not see major league time this season, there is a group of young players who will influence playoff races.

Jesus Montero

1. Jesus Montero, Yankees – This beastly catcher has drawn comparisons to Frank Thomas and Miguel Cabrera in the batter’s box. He improved consistently as a 20 year old in AAA in ’10 and should break camp with the team thanks to the injury to Francisco Cervelli. While his defense has drawn serious long term questions, Montero has a cannon arm and is blocked only by a declining Russell Martin and the hobbled Jorge Posada. An injury (not unlikely given their histories) to either would open up full time at bats for Montero. With a healthy and reinforced Red Sox lineup, Montero’s bat will be counted on to provide additional offense in an aging lineup. If he succeeds early, Yankees Manager Joe Girardi will have no choice but to find a place for him to play.

Michael Pineda

2. Michael Pineda, Mariners – Baseball Reference lists the intimidating Pineda at 6’5, 180. Reports from Spring Training, however, have him at 6’7, 260. He’s a flamethrowing righthander who can touch the high 90’s. Opponents hit just .227 against him in the minors and he showed good control. Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro has to be upset that he picked Phillipe Aumont over Pineda when trading Cliff Lee after the 2009 season. Pineda has shown that he’s ready now, and he too should break camp with the major league club.

Brandon Belt

3. Brandon Belt, Giants – Belt led the minors in hitting and OPS in 2010 and has held his own in Spring Training. Giants management has already announced that he’ll hit 7th if he breaks camp with the club, and even if he doesn’t, he’ll be up by June. While it’s his bat that entices people, his defense is outstanding, starting with an arm that touched 93 mph in high school. He moves well and could offer a consistent RBI man with 20-30 HR power. Think of Belt as a first baseman in the Todd Helton mold. Athletic with a great approach and ability to hit for average.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka

4. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Twins – Nishioka won the Pacific League batting title in 2010 and is known for plus speed. He’ll be an integral part of a contender in Minnesota, playing up the middle for a strong defensive team. Don’t expect any power, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t hit at least .300 with 25 steals.

Manny Banuelos

5. Manny Banuelos, Yankees – Banuelos won’t break camp with New York, but he should be in the majors sometime this summer. He’s a lefty who sits in the low 90’s and can touch 95. He has outstanding command and major league capable off speed pitches. The major concern with Banuelos is workload, he’s never gone more than seven innings in a game or 108 innings in a season. This could work out for the Yankees though, as limiting his workload early could conserve some innings for the big league club upon his call up. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him break in as a reliever, a la Aroldis Chapman.

Jake McGee

6. Jake McGee, Rays – McGee was one of the top starting pitching prospects in the minors in 2008 when he blew out his elbow. He moved to the bullpen last year and showed a high 90’s fastball. With Rafael Soriano and the rest of the Rays bullpen gone, McGee is expected to step in and pitch crucial innings. He’ll be a big reason behind the Rays success or failure in 2011.

Freddie Freeman

7. Freddie Freeman, Braves – Freeman has received a decent amount of hype already, as he’s been photographed as a Jason Heyward sidekick. He’ll open the season as the starting first baseman and will be counted on to fill the void left by Chipper Jones’ youth and Derrek Lee’s departure. He’s strong athletically and I expect to see an Ike Davis type rookie season.

Julio Teheran

8. Julio Teheran, Braves – Teheran, the minors’ top pitching prospect, sits in the 94-96 mph range and throws a dominating changeup. He’s just 20 years old and will probably start the season in AAA. His stuff is elite and if Atlanta gets desperate due to injury in the rotation or ineffectiveness in the bullpen you could see him get a callup. Atlanta’s bullpen lacks experience after the retirement of Billy Wagner and their rotation includes Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson, two older pitchers.

Jeremy Hellickson

9. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays -Hellickson has been much discussed. He has a relatively low ceiling compared to the other pitchers on this list but is also more proven than any of the others. He’ll be the #4 or #5 starter but really slots in behind David Price as the Rays second best pitcher.

Lonnie Chisenhall

10. Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians – Chisenhall isn’t big at 6’1, 200 but hit for good power in 2010 (17 HR in 460 AB) and tore up Spring Training this year. He’s been sent to minor league camp, but that was before Jason Donald injured his hand. Jack Hannahan, Jason Nix and Luis Valbuena should start the season at third for the Tribe, but none have the pedigree or staying power that Chisenhall will offer once he’s called up, likely in May or June – late enough to delay his arbitration clock.

Six Ways Social Media (Mostly Twitter) Can Make Following Baseball More Fun by llwesman

By Wes Yee

Spring training is underway and it’s time to start prepping for the baseball season. That means pulling those jerseys, t-shirts and hats out of the closet and… updating your Twitter following? Social media is here to stay and the game of baseball has jumped in with both feet. Without further ado, six ways that social media can improve your baseball experience:

1. Following your favorite players on Twitter – This one’s obvious. If you’re on Twitter, odds are that you already do this. If not, it’s a great gateway into the value of the tool. Following your favorite (or least favorite) players gives you a glimpse into their day to day lives and personalities previously unavailable to all but those in the clubhouses. My favorite player on Twitter is Giants closer Brian Wilson. Major League Baseball has compiled a list of big leaguers with Twitter accounts here:!/MLB/players/members

2. Getting the latest in team news – More and more news is broken every day on Twitter. Baseball news is no exception. You’ll hear about transactions, rumors and lineup updates on Twitter hours or days before you see them updated on the team websites or even on major media websites.

3. Interacting with beatwriters and team personnel – This could have fallen under the previous heading but the interaction factor makes this it’s own point. Twitter has become the best way to get the insights that you want, in some cases on demand. Many beatwriters and even some team personnel will answer questions and seek answers to the questions posed to them from the Twitterverse. There’s nothing better than getting instant analysis from a reporter like Peter Gammons, Buster Olney, Keith Law or Jim Callis.

4. In game updates and intelligence – This one seemed counterintuitive to me for quite some time. I didn’t buy a ticket to a game to stare at my cellphone. That said, I flip flopped on this big time during the Red Sox – Giants series at AT&T park last summer. Then Victor Martinez took a foul tip off the thumb and left the game. Now without social media I’d have no clue what happened. Luckily though, I pulled out my trusty HTC Hero and quickly reported what I found – that Martinez had gone for X-Rays on his thumb. In any game situation with confusion you want to know what happened, if you’re at home you’ve got a reporter there to inform you. With social media, that reporter is accessible to you in the ballpark.

5. Ticket Specials – Discounts and marketing is prevalent on Twitter and Facebook. While this can at times get annoying, it can also work out well for you as a baseball fan. Teams like the Giants often alert their Twitter followers and Facebook “likers” of special ticket deals and promotional events via social media. These events often sell out quickly, and learning instantly rather than waiting for an email can save the average fan a good deal of stress and money.

6. Comedy – The baseball season is ever so long and it’s always nice to break up the monotony with a little hardball themed humor. Social media is great for this, my favorite sources are:

Old Hoss Radbourne – Self described as a “Pitching deity; dapper gent.” This deceased HOF brings the snark to sports analysis. His tough guy tweets are highly enjoyable.

Cyborg Hanson 48 – This “HIGH VELOCITY AUTOMATON PROGRAMMED TO THROW HUMAN BASE BALL” machine brings the humor in binary tones that never cease to entertain.

Deadspin – If I need to explain this, you’re probably not a big sports fan.

8 Things for Giants Fans to Look Forward to in 2011 by llwesman
February 13, 2011, 4:12 pm
Filed under: San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants

Giants fans have more than Tim Lincecum’s new mustache to look forward to in 2011.
By Wes Yee (@WesYee)

The moment Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers took a knee last weekend the sports world began to turn its eyes from the turf in Dallas to the lush green fields in Arizona and Florida. With Spring Training nearly underway, it’s time to talk baseball! The 2011 season will be here none too soon, so it behooves me to get back on the blogging train. Without further BS, here goes!

1. A full season of Buster Posey – The early part of the 2010 season had much to do with the team’s decision to stick stud catcher Buster Posey in the minors to delay his arbitration status. The team ultimately called Posey up early enough anyways, and he responded by leading the offense and carrying the team to the World Series. He’s the field general at the age of 23 and has already played in the toughest of major league situations. The challenge for Posey will be to remain vigilant and consistently make adjustments – something that he did to perfection last season. I’m expecting a .315 batting average, 27 home runs and close to 100 RBI.

2. A fully conditioned pitching staff – Had the Giants lost in the NLCS or World Series last year one of the goats would have been lefthander Jonathan Sanchez, who appeared to wear down and was throwing in the mid to high 80’s in the final two rounds. Lincecum had the worst month of his career before reintroducing long toss to his training regimen in September. While much is made of the effect that the additional innings toll that is taken on a World Series pitching staff, #5 starter Barry Zito should be fully rested and you would expect the Giants to place a great emphasis on resting Sanchez, Lincecum and the young Madison Bumgarner.

3. The Adrian Gonzalez – less Padres – It’s no secret that the Padres owned the Giants last year, winning 12 of the teams 18 matchups. San Diego got a solid return for Adrian Gonzalez but they don’t have the pieces to fill his shoes in the lineup. It’s also likely that their bullpen will see a regression, as they were outstanding to the point of incredulity in 2010.

4. A svelte Pablo Sandoval – The Kung Fu Panda has apparently slimmed down, having undergone a more intense program than last season. It remains to be seen how this will affect his plate discipline, but it can’t help but help his range, which was at times so atrocious last season that there was talk of sending Sandoval to AAA.

5. More National Coverage – The team opens in Los Angeles with an opening night matchup with the Dodgers. My early guess is that it’s going to be a Tim Lincecum – Clayton Kershaw matchup. These are perhaps the two most talented pitchers in the division, excluding the Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez. Kershaw will be a player to watch this year, he’s posted ERA’s below 3 in his two full seasons and is just 23 years old – the same age as Lincecum was as a rookie.

6. The Debut of Brandon Belt – He wasn’t the elite prospect that Posey was coming out of college but Belt has emerged as one of the finest first base prospects in the game. He tore up the minor leagues to the tune of a .352/.455/.620 line and projects as a legitimate power hitter – even in a park like AT&T. While he’s blocked by Aubrey Huff, he has the athleticism and speed (22 steals) to play a corner outfield spot if necessary. His bat appears to be close to ready and while I don’t expect him to make the club out of Spring Training it wouldn’t be a shock to seem him club his way to the majors by June.

7. Expensive Tickets – As with any World Series champion the Giants bandwagon is now full and the team is taking advantage. Ticket prices are up across the board and the “market rate” system of pricing is sure to drive them even higher down the line. Get them now if you plan on going to any games.

8. More Dugout Report Posts – I promise.

Werth Fleeces Nationals – Forces Red Sox’ Hand with Gonzalez by llwesman
December 5, 2010, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres

By Wes Yee (@WesYee)

Free Agent Right Fielder and apparent Grand Larcenist Jayson Werth kicked off his December by signing an astounding 7 year, $126 million contract with the Washington Nationals. Werth, one of the top available free agents, gets an incredible raise from his two-year $10 million contract that expired last month. It’s a deal that’s already proven to have an impact on the landscape of the 2010-2011 MLB offseason.

Count the Red Sox as immediately affected in a  multitude of ways. Most apparent of course is the swift reversal on the Adrian Gonzalez negotiations. The sides appeared to be at an impasse after a day of negotiations. Boston seemed to hold firm on it’s 6 year extension while Gonzalez’ camp demanded 8 years. When MLB’s soft negotiating deadline passed, the deal appeared stalled. Then, the Werth news broke. Just hours later the Red Sox announced a press conference for a Monday morning “major baseball announcement” – likely the completion of the Gonzalez deal.

Why the speedy change of heart? The Werth deal sets a new market on star hitters. In what appears to be a pitchers’ era, elite level hitters are a hotter commodity than ever. If Werth, by all accounts the second best outfielder – and an inferior player than Gonzalez – can command $126 million, what can top-15 players like Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee net? Had Boston waited for Crawford and Lee to sign $160 million deals, the price on Gonzalez could have been driven even higher than the rumored $20-23 million a year for 8 years that his camp was demanding Saturday.

Reactions to the Werth deal:

Pros: Werth led the National League in doubles last season and showed a strong glove and ability to hit in the clutch. He’s won a World Series (in 2008 with Philadelphia) and should be solid presence behind Ryan Zimmerman. He brings some speed (53 steals over the last three seasons) and has been worth $22.9, $22 and $20 million over the past three seasons according to Fangraphs’ Dollars Value Metric.

Cons: Werth is not an elite power or average hitter, and profiles best as a #5 or #6 hitter. He’s never been the focal point of a lineup, and has never driven in 100 runs – despite playing for an offensive juggernaut. He’s 31 which means when the contract is up he’ll be 38. How many 38-year-olds without plus power or a plus bat do you see even starting in a major league outfield these days?

Overall: It’s an incomprehensible deal for a 31-year-old outfielder with just three full seasons at the big league level. Werth’s value heading into this offseason appeared to mirror Mets’ OF Jason Bay’s last season. Bay, who put up better numbers than Werth in 2009, signed with New York for $66 million over 4 years, with a fifth year option. Washington appears to be poised to make a run at several players, behind their billionaire owners, the Lerners. It’s truly shocking that Washington was unable to find the cash for Adam Dunn, a better run producer than Werth. General thought seems to be that 7/$126 would have been enough for Crawford – a better, and younger option.  According to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, “The #Nationals offer on Werth was so far above everyone else that Boras didn’t even ask other interested teams if they wanted to match it.”