Royals part ways with decade's worst hitter

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New acquisition Yuniesky Betancourt came off the disabled list
yesterday and the Royals cleared room on the 25-man roster for their
new starting shortstop by designating Tony Pena Jr. for assignment.

After years in the Braves’ front office Dayton Moore became the
Royals’ general manager in mid-2006 and brought Pena over from Atlanta
the next spring. Pena was the team’s shortstop as a 26-year-old rookie,
starting 145 games while hitting .267/.284/.356 for the third-worst OPS
in the league. Last season his starts dropped to 61 and his hitting
line fell to .169/.189/.209, and this year he went 5-for-51 (.098) in a
part-time role.

Add it all up an you get a career line of .228/.248/.300 in 870
plate appearances. Baseball-Reference.com has a great stat called
adjusted OPS+ that measures offensive production relative to the
league, ballpark, and era someone played in. An adjusted OPS+ of 100 is
considered average and Albert Pujols leads MLB at 209 this season.
Pena’s adjusted OPS+ is 44, which ranks as the seventh-worst mark of the past 50 years:

                    OPS+
Angel Salazar 36
Donnie Sadler 39
Luis Gomez 40
Mario Mendoza 41
Mick Kelleher 42
Jerry Zimmerman 42
TONY PENA 44
Luis Pujols 44
Rafael Belliard 46
Luis Alvarado 46

Any time you can get on a futility list with the man behind “The
Mendoza Line” you’re really doing something. It’s also worth noting
that the next-worst adjusted OPS+ this decade belongs to John McDonald
at 56, which makes him look like Babe Ruth compared to the above list,
so Pena stands alone as the worst hitter of the 2000s. And the beauty
of the whole thing is that he batted .252/.285/.332 in 2,748 plate
appearances as a minor leaguer, so realistically he probably hit better
than should have been expected. Seriously.

Indians’ postseason rotation is still up in the air

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 16: Starting pitcher Corey Kluber #28 of the Cleveland Indians pitches during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field on September 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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With Game 1 of the Red Sox-Indians ALDS set to commence on Thursday, there’s no better starter for the job than Corey Kluber. The only question is whether or not the right-hander will be up to the task after sustaining a mild quadriceps strain earlier this week.

Indians’ manager Terry Francona appeared optimistic about Kluber’s chances of recovering in time for the Division Series, but admitted that he doesn’t have his rotation set in stone for the first couple of postseason games. Complicating matters is Monday’s potential make-up game between the Indians and the Tigers, which they’ll be forced to play if the outcome has bearing on playoff seeding.

Per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Francona doesn’t have a starter for the make-up game, either, though he clarified that rehabbing right-hander Danny Salazar would not be eligible. Salazar is still working his way back from a forearm injury in hopes of joining the Indians for their postseason run, and needs to toss another simulated game before he can be expected to return to the mound. Kluber, meanwhile, will throw off the mound on Sunday.

With Kluber or Salazar limping out of the gate, the Indians will likely have to fall back on right-handers Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. Bauer is slated for Saturday’s face-off against the Royals and confirmed his willingness to pitch on short rest through the playoffs. The 25-year-old also spoke to the Indians about his ability to pitch out of the bullpen, though it’s an option they appear unlikely to exercise. While Francona’s comments on Friday stressed the club’s patient approach toward their rotation, Bauer appeared revved and ready to go:

If it was up to me, […] I’d pitch and be ready to start or be available out of the ‘pen every game. In the playoffs, there’s really no reason to save anything. So, whenever I can get in there, whenever they want me to get in there, I’ll be ready.

Matt Holliday wants to return in 2017

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 30: Manager Mike Matheny #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals congratulates Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals after he hit a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the seventh inning at Busch Stadium on September 30, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Matt Holliday might not have a landing spot with the Cardinals in 2017, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to hang his cleats up just yet. Prior to the Cardinals’ afternoon set against the Pirates on Saturday, the 36-year-old expressed his desire to further his career elsewhere, even if staying in St. Louis is not a possibility.

It’s been a down year for the outfielder, who batted .242/.318/.450 through 107 games before landing on the disabled list with a fractured right thumb. His 0.6 fWAR is the lowest mark of his career to date. Notwithstanding two injury-riddled seasons (he was sidelined through most of 2015 with a right quadriceps strain), he’s performed admirably for the Cardinals over the past eight years, putting up a .292/.379/.494 batting line, 156 home runs, and 26.8 fWAR with the club. With a return to full health, he might not be on the market for long.