Daily Dose: Sweet relief

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As Aaron Gleeman attends the annual SABR Convention
inside the beltway, I’ll do my best to pinch-hit in his absence. I’ll
spare you my opinion on Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, instead pointing
you towards our coverage on
Circling the Bases.
This is the time of year where the great majority of us would rather
refresh our browsers for information on the latest trade instead of
harping on past indiscretions.




On the subject of trades, the
Dodgers struck with the first major deal yesterday, landing George
Sherrill from the Orioles in exchange for 22-year-old third baseman
Josh Bell and 21-year-old right-hander Steve Johnson.
Sherrill joins a taxed Los Angeles pen, and will function as the team’s
primary left-handed set-up man behind closer Jonathan Broxton.


Entering
the season, some believed that Chris Ray would eventually supplant
Sherrill as closer, but while Ray faltered, Sherrill was fantastic in
42 appearances, compiling a 2.40 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 39/13 K/BB ratio
in 41 1/3 innings. He even brought his 5.57 BB/9 from last season down
to a very respectable 2.83. He is a great weapon against left-handers,
holding them to a miniscule .167 batting average in his career. Though
the move kills his fantasy value in mixed leagues, Sherrill is a pretty
nice insurance policy if Jonathon Broxton’s toe keeps barking. You
know, if Joe Torre doesn’t get to his arm first.

With
Sherrill out of the picture in Baltimore, Jim Johnson is the
speculative grab for fantasy owners. After a 2.23 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in
2008, Johnson has put together another solid statistical season,
posting a 3.17 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 35/16 K/BB ratio in 48 1/3 innings
pitched. Don’t be alarmed by the increase in ERA — Johnson was
fortunate enough not to give up a home run in 68 2/3 innings last
season. He should prove to be a solid, if unspectacular source for
saves going forward.

As for the Orioles’ haul, Bell is the one
to watch here. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 205-pounds, he is a switch-hitter
with real power potential. A knee injury limited him to just 51 games
in 2008, but he has put up a solid .296/.386/.497 line with 11 bombs
and 52 RBI for Double-A Chattanooga this season. He began the year
ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the Dodgers’ organization, according to
Baseball America. Overall, not a bad return for the Orioles, but it
would have been even better had they managed to nab southpaw Scott
Elbert, as rumored, instead of the hometown-boy Johnson.

* The Pirates continued their purge on Thursday, this time sending lefties John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny to the Cubs in return for pitchers Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio,
as well as Single-A third baseman Josh Harrison. For those keeping
score, and I’m sure you are, the Pirates have now traded away 13
players from their 2008 Opening Day roster.

Acquiring Grabow
doesn’t give Lou Pinella a true left-handed specialist, as lefties have
hit .270 against him lifetime, compared to .254 for righties. With a
3.42 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and 41/28 K/BB ratio in 47 1/3 innings pitched this
season, Grabow is getting a bit lucky for a second straight year
despite shoddy control and a stagnant groundball rate, but he should
settle into a sixth or seventh inning role just fine. As for
Gorzelanny, he is just two seasons removed from a 3.88 ERA and 14 wins
in his rookie campaign. And he has shown some hope at a revival by
going 4-3 with a 2.48 ERA through 15 starts for Triple-A Indianapolis.
He will likely join the starting rotation until Ted Lilly returns.

Hart
led the Cubs to their seventh victory in their last 10 games on
Thursday afternoon, allowing three runs over six innings, but now he’ll
call Pittsburgh home. The 26-year-old right-hander owns a 2.60 ERA in
eight games (four starts) with the Cubs this season. Fantasy owners
should look for Hart to contribute in the Bucs’ rotation immediately,
most likely replacing Virgil Vasquez. He’s worth a look in NL-only
leagues, but doesn’t figure to be more than a back-end option in the
rotation in the long-term. As for Ascanio, he has legitimate
closer-type stuff, including a plus-fastball, but due to his poor
control, he projects best as a set-up man. Pirates general manager Neil
Huntington certainly deserves heaps of praise for the deals he made
with San Francisco and Seattle on Wednesday, but he took some
questionable pieces back from the Cubs on Thursday. Hey, two out of
three ain’t bad, right?

* Speaking of Huntington, ready to “stop
the cycle of losing, and with that, the cycle of trading” the Pirates
are expected to call up Lastings Milledge before Friday’s game against
his former team, the Nationals. Upon his arrival, Milledge will be a
“regular,” according to Huntington, starting alongside Andrew McCutchen
and Garrett Jones in the revamped Bucco outfield.

Milledge’s
track record is well known. He hit .167 in 24 at-bats with the
Nationals this season before being unceremoniously demoted on April 14.
From there, he broke his finger attempting a bunt in May, finally being
shipped out of NatsTown in the Nyjer Morgan deal back on June 30. Few
fantasy owners have forgotten his furious finish to 2008, when he
batted .299 with seven homers, 29 RBI and 11 stolen bases over the
season’s final 58 games. And it’s that two-way promise that deems him
worthy of ownership in NL-only leagues and worth consideration in
deeper mixed leagues, as well.

AL Quick Hits:
The Royals acquired outfielder Josh Anderson from the Tigers in
exchange for cash considerations … Amidst all the steroid talk, David
Ortiz launched a go-ahead three-run homer in a win over the Athletics
on Thursday afternoon … After meeting with Dr. James Andrews, Joel
Zumaya will have season-ending shoulder surgery next month … Brad
Bergesen won his seventh game while lowering his ERA to 3.43 on
Thursday, but suffered a shin injury after getting hit by a line drive
on his last pitch … Derek Holland pitched into the ninth inning and
struck out a career-high 10 in a 7-1 win over the Mariners on Thursday
night … Gil Meche (back) is scheduled for a rehab appearance on
Sunday and could rejoin the Royals next week … Vicente Padilla (swine
flu) is scheduled to start on Friday against the Mariners … The
Indians opted for Trevor Crowe to replace Ben Francisco on the roster
instead of top-prospect Matt LaPorta … Rangers president Nolan Ryan
said the team is actively pursuing Roy Halladay.

NL Quick Hits:
Brandon Webb suffered another setback that could finally lead to
surgery on his ailing right shoulder … After struggling all season,
Bill Hall accepted an assignment with Triple-A Nashville … Johan
Santana struck out eight over seven scoreless innings against the
Rockies on Thursday afternoon … Geovany Soto (oblique) could begin
playing in minor league rehab games as soon as Friday … Jerry Manuel
expects Gary Sheffield (hamstring) to return from the disabled list on
Saturday … Ben Francisco made his Phillies debut in center field on
Thursday as Shane Victorino sat out with a sore left knee … Jeff
Suppan was placed on the disabled list with a left oblique strain …
Yunel Escobar left Thursday’s game with a wrist injury and is
day-to-day … Brendan Ryan is day-to-day after suffering a bruised left ankle on Thursday.

Settling the Scores: Memorial Day edition

ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 21:  American flags are shown after being placed by members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in preparation for Memorial Day May 21, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. "Flags-In" has become an annual ceremony since the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was designated to be an Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died in military service. At some point in the past couple of decades, however, it has become an all-purpose flag-waving, patriotism-declaring, civilians-in-camouflage holiday. It’s understandable why this is the case. We, as a country, haven’t always done mourning well. I think it’s part of our national cultural DNA that we don’t and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make days like this difficult.

I feel like the flag-waving and troop-supporting stuff is some sort of subconscious reaction to death. It’s our way of instantly trying to justify those deaths or to explain how they were not in vain, much the same way we might tell someone upon the death of a loved one that they’re in a better place or that they had a full life. Feeling the pain of loss is hard. We want to soften it in any way we can and make our pain serve a larger, better purpose. And so we get today, when Major League Baseball puts its players in camouflage caps and in jerseys with camouflage logos. They’ll sell them too, with proceeds going to good and noble veterans charities. The intent is noble and the ultimate effect of it all is beneficial. But it’s also a little beside the point. Maybe not beside the point as much as mattress sales or big celebratory barbecues which have come to characterize Memorial Day for so many, but still not exactly the purpose of the holiday.

I don’t condemn it. As I wrote last year, the men and women who actually fought and died in wars were hoping that they were, ultimately, making a better and happier world for those they left behind. And they no doubt hoped, among everything else they hoped, that others didn’t have to face what they were facing. They wanted our lives to be happy and our country to be safe and part of a happy and safe country involves 300 million people doing whatever it is they damn please, even if it’s just having barbecues and wearing camo at the ballpark.

I won’t say have a happy Memorial Day because that seems odd. Have any kind of Memorial Day you want, really, even if it includes barbecuing, drinking beer and wearing a cam ballcap. But as you do, please make sure you take some time to think about those who died in military service. And remember that they didn’t get to have as many days like the one you’re having as they were meant to have. And make at least some effort to offset your happy, patriotic or silly pursuits with some mourning and reflectiveness. It’s OK for that to stand on its own.

The scores:

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
Orioles 6, Indians 4
Yankees 2, Rays 1
Nationals 10, Cardinals 2
Brewers 5, Reds 4
Royals 5, White Sox 4
Cubs 7, Phillies 2
Rangers 6, Pirates 2
Astros 8, Angels 6
Athletics 4, Tigers 2
Twins 5, Mariners 4
Giants 8, Rockies 3
Diamondbacks 6, Padres 3
Marlins 7, Braves 3
Dodgers 4, Mets 2

 

Should Dave Roberts have taken Clayton Kershaw out of Sunday’s game?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 29, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will likely be second-guessed heavily during tomorrow’s news cycle. Starter Clayton Kershaw had pitched a terrific ballgame, as is his tendency, but with 114 pitches to his name, Roberts decided to pull him from the game in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on first base.

Roberts opted not for closer Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, but for another lefty in Adam Liberatore. He was playing the numbers, with the left-handed-hitting Curtis Granderson coming up. Liberatore, much to Roberts’ chagrin, served up what turned out to be a game-tying triple to Granderson, hitting a rocket to right-center just out of the reach of a leaping Yasiel Puig.

Jansen has, for six years, been one of the game’s elite relievers. Kershaw, though at a high pitch count, doesn’t seem to suffer from the times through the order penalty like most pitchers. Kershaw’s opponents’ OPS facing him for the first time was .525 coming into Sunday. Twice, .597. Three times, .587. Four times, .526 (but this suffers from survivorship bias so it’s not exactly representative).

Furthermore, Kershaw held lefties to a .546 OPS over his career. Liberatore, in 99 plate appearances against lefty hitters, gave up a .575 OPS. Jansen? .560. It seems that, faced with three decisions, Roberts arguably made the worst one. Playing conservative with Kershaw at 114 pitches is defensible, but only if Jansen comes in. If Roberts wanted the platoon advantage, Kershaw should have stayed in.

Luckily for the Dodgers, Mets closer Jeurys Familia didn’t have his best stuff. He loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth on a single and two walks, then gave up a two-run single to Adrian Gonzalez, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Jansen came on in the bottom half of the ninth and retired the side in order to pick up his 15th save of the season.

Royals sweep White Sox over the weekend on three late rallies

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 28:  Brett Eibner #12 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates his game-winning RBI single with teammates in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on May 28, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 8-7. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Royals had themselves a pretty good weekend. The quickly fading White Sox, not so much.

On Friday, the Royals fell behind 5-1 after the top of the sixth. They would score once in the bottom of the sixth, four times in the seventh, and once in the eighth to steal a 7-5 win facing pitchers Miguel Gonzalez Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and Nate Jones.

On Saturday, the Royals entered the bottom of the ninth down 7-1. They scored seven runs on closer David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to win 8-7.

On Sunday, the Royals were down 4-2 after the top of the eighth. They plated three runs in the bottom half of the eighth against Jones and Albers, going on to win 5-4.

Coming into the weekend, the Royals were 24-22 in third place. The White Sox were 27-21, a half-game up in first place. Now the Royals are in first place by a game and a half, and the White Sox are in third place, two games out of first.

Here’s video of the Royals’ comeback on Saturday, since it was so unlikely:

Report: Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there”

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 24: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers waits to hit during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 24, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In Saturday’s column for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo notes that, according to a scout, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there.” Braun has been bothered by neck and back issues this year, missing on Sunday his eighth start out of the Brewers’ last 14 games, but he has still put up a quality .351/.424/.583 triple-slash line in 170 plate appearances this year.

More importantly for an acquiring team, Braun is in the first year of a five-year, $105 million contract. He’s earning $19 million this season and in the ensuing two seasons, and then his salary decreases slightly to $18 million in 2019, $16 million in 2020, and $15 million if both sides pick up his mutual option (else a $4 million buyout would be exercised).

Per Cafardo, the Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants, and White Sox are potential landing spots for Braun.