Daily Dose: Last-place Indians lose MVP

Leave a comment

After struggling through elbow pain for most of the month, Grady
Sizemore finally landed on the disabled list Sunday. Sizemore followed
up a strong April by going 24-for-114 (.211) in May and was limited to
designated hitter duties last week as the Indians tried to keep him in
the lineup despite problems throwing. Cleveland is set to get Travis
Hafner back at some point this week, so he’ll take over at DH.

Ben Francisco had been subbing for Sizemore in center field with
Mark DeRosa playing a lot of left field, but it was Trevor Crowe
playing center field Sunday with Francisco sliding over to left field.
However, once Hafner returns to soak up the DH at-bats it seems likely
that DeRosa will get most of the starts in left field with a
quasi-platoon of Crowe versus righties and Francisco versus lefties in
center.

While the preseason AL Central favorites end May in last place and
without their best player, here are some other notes from around
baseball …

* Edwin Jackson earned a spot on my preseason “busts” list because his
14 wins and 4.42 ERA didn’t match his sub par 108/77 K/BB ratio over
183.1 innings last year. However, instead of taking a step backward
he’s taken his game to a whole new level. A change of scenery and new
pitching coach Rick Knapp have worked wonders on Jackson, who shut out
the Orioles for eight innings Sunday.

Not only has Jackson sliced his walk rate by 37 percent, his
strikeout rate is also up 43 percent. He hasn’t pitched as well as the
2.30 ERA suggests, but Jackson has a 57/18 K/BB ratio in 74 innings and
has walked more than two batters twice in 11 starts after doing so in
13 of 31 starts last season. His mid-90s fastball has always been
intriguing and now Jackson is finally learning how to actually pitch.

* It turns out that Matt Wieters is actually human. Called up
Friday, baseball’s top prospect started all three weekend games for the
Orioles and went 2-for-11 with zero walks and three strikeouts. The
good news is that both of his hits went for extra bases and after
catching back-to-back games he was used at designated hitter Sunday, so
the Orioles will get Wieters as many at-bats as possible.

* Matt Gamel has gone just 6-for-28 (.214) while starting only half
of Milwaukee’s games since being called up from Triple-A two weeks ago,
but general manager Doug Melvin said Sunday that he’ll stick with the
team through at least the end of interleague play on June 25. Rickie
Weeks’ season-ending wrist injury has given Gamel more starts of late
and he may be in the majors for good by then.

* Carl Pavano has been one of the rare bright spots for the Indians
and turned in another solid outing Sunday, holding his ex-Yankees
teammates to three runs in 7.1 innings. Pavano got stuck with a
no-decision despite leaving up 4-2 and his ERA remains ugly at 5.29,
but since allowing nine runs in his Cleveland debut he has a 4.07 ERA
and 49/10 K/BB ratio in 62 innings spread over 10 starts.

AL Quick Hits: Kevin Youkilis homered twice Sunday and leads the
league with a 1.150 OPS … Zack Greinke allowed more than two runs
Sunday for the first time this year, taking a no-decision for seven
innings of four-run ball … Ervin Santana struggled again Sunday and has
now allowed 19 runs in 18 innings since coming off the disabled list …
Ichiro Suzuki went 4-for-5 with a homer Sunday to finish with a .377
batting average for May … Andrew Bailey blew what would’ve been a
five-out save Sunday, but ended up with a win instead … Mark Teixeira
homered and drove in four runs Sunday, finishing May at .330-13-34 …
Jon Lester broke out of his slump by racking up a dozen strikeouts in
six innings Sunday … Adam Kennedy went deep twice Sunday, and is
batting .390 with four homers and five steals in 21 games since signing
with Oakland … Josh Hamilton (groin) pinch-hit Sunday, but is still
scheduled to undergo an MRI exam.

NL Quick Hits: Adrian Gonzalez became the first big leaguer to
20 homers when he smacked a three-run blast Sunday … Brad Lidge appears
to be back on track after saving games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
… Ian Stewart went hitless Sunday, finishing May just 9-for-64 (.141) …
John Maine left Sunday’s start after six scoreless innings with the
same stomach virus that kept Carlos Beltran out of the lineup … Edwin
Encarnacion (wrist) is reportedly several weeks from coming off the
disabled list, but Edinson Volquez (back) is expected to be activated
for Monday’s start against St. Louis … Jamie Moyer came into Sunday
with a 7.42 ERA, but held the Nationals to one run over six innings …
Casey Kotchman left Sunday’s game after being hit on the shin by a
pitch … Chad Gaudin struck out nine and walked none over 6.1 innings of
two-run ball Sunday at Coors Field.

Former MLB player Andy Marte also killed in car accident

GOODYEAR , AZ - MARCH 06:  Andy Marte #15 of the Cleveland Indians looks on from the dugout during the spring training game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Goodyear Ballpark on March 6, 2009 in Goodyear, Arizona. The Brewers defeated the Indians 17-7.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Compounding the tragic news of Yordano Ventura‘s passing is a report that fellow Dominican and former MLB infielder Andy Marte was also killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic early Sunday morning. The report was confirmed by Marte’s agency, J.M.G. Baseball, as well as Marte’s former MLB clubs. No further details have been released so far.

Marte, 33, appeared for the Braves, Indians and Diamondbacks from 2005 through 2014. He was ranked in the top 10 MLB prospects by MLB.com in 2005 and held a career .218/.276/.358 batting line, 21 home runs and a .634 OPS over seven seasons in the majors. He signed with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization after the 2014 season, slashing .312 with 42 home runs in 206 games.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Marte’s family and teammates during this terrible time.

Yordano Ventura and Jose Fernandez were two of the most promising arms in MLB

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 3: Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch in the first inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on July 3, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Baseball lost two incredible pitchers in the last four months, both to horrible and unforeseen tragedies. Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura were among the most talented and promising pitchers in MLB, two young arms that drew both accolades and criticism for their performance on the mound.

Ventura signed with the Royals in 2008, blazing through several tiers of their farm system before he was called up to replace an injured Danny Duffy in late 2013. He secured his rotation spot the following spring and finished a solid 2014 campaign with a 14-10 record, 3.20 ERA and 2.4 fWAR in 32 starts for the club. During the Royals’ World Series run later that year, Ventura dedicated his performance in Game 6 to Cardinals’ prospect Oscar Taveras, who was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic just two days earlier.

In four years with the Royals, Ventura pitched to a 38-31 record, 3.89 ERA and 6.5 fWAR. While his command and overall production rate waned, bottoming out in 2016 with a 4.45 ERA and 1.85 SO/BB rate, his dynamic pitch repertoire still kept him front and center in the Royals’ pitching staff. He brandished an electric fastball that, at its lowest point, hovered around 96.6 m.p.h. and, at its best, topped out around 102.6 m.p.h.

Like Ventura, Fernandez made an instant impression in the major league circuit. He earned Rookie of the Year distinctions in 2013 after delivering a 12-6 record, 2.19 ERA and 4.1 fWAR with the Marlins. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in his sophomore year, he recovered to take on a full workload in 2016 and stunned the league with a 16-8 record, 2.89 ERA, career-high 253 strikeouts and 6.1 fWAR.

Ventura developed a reputation for brushing back hitters, which escalated in some cases to volatile bench-clearing brawls. In 2015, he was ejected for three altercations in three consecutive games and served a seven-game suspension. Halfway through the 2016 season, he earned another eight-game suspension after plunking the Orioles’ Manny Machado in the back with a 99 m.p.h. heater. Some speculated that his aggressive behavior on the mound was excused — or, at least, made more palatable — by his talent and track record, while others called for a more heavy-handed approach from the league.

Fernandez, too, found himself at the center of speculation after reports emerged that painted the 24-year-old as a “clubhouse difficulty,” citing attitude problems that damaged relationships between the pitcher and Marlins players and staff. On the field, he was occasionally chastised for failing to adhere to some of baseball’s unwritten rules, most notably when he showed his elation after hitting his first career home run off of the Braves’ Mike Minor in 2013.

It’s impossible to predict where Fernandez and Ventura’s careers would have taken them. We mourn them not for their actions on the mound or their potential as star pitchers, however, but for their inherent value as people who were loved and respected by their families and teams. Major League Baseball will be worse off for their loss.