Daily Dose: Pirates sticking with Capps … for now

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Since beginning the season with five saves over six straight scoreless appearances Matt Capps has blown five saves in 26 chances while going 4-8 with a 6.61 ERA and .342 opponents’ batting average in 48 innings. Despite six straight months of brutal pitching by Capps general manager Neal Huntington said that the 25-year-old righty will remain the Pirates’ closer next year “barring some unforeseen circumstances.”
In other words, Huntington will spend the winter trying to coax a contender into giving up a decent prospect or two for Capps and if that proves unsuccessful thanks to his collapse or history of arm issues will hand him closer duties again next season in the hopes that he can recoup some value. If healthy Capps is a nice bet to bounce back thanks to a solid 45/17 K/BB ratio amid the overall struggles.
While the Pirates’ boss mentions Joel Hanrahan, Jesse Chavez, and Evan Meek as closing alternatives here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Josh Beckett was scratched from his Monday night start at the last minute because of back spasms. Michael Bowden took Beckett’s place against Toronto and allowed seven runs over three innings in his second career start. Beckett was slated to make his final start of the season Saturday, but Terry Francona said afterward that the Red Sox may have him skip that outing as well to make sure he’s ready for the playoffs.
While the Beckett injury threatens to complicate Boston’s postseason rotation plans, the Red Sox did receive some good news Monday when Jon Lester threw a bullpen session. Lester took a Melky Cabrera line drive off his knee Friday night and initially looked seriously injured, but reported no problems during his regular mound session and has been cleared to make his season finale Thursday against the Indians.
* Andy LaRoche hasn’t done a whole lot since the Dodgers traded him to the Pirates in the Manny Ramirez-Jason Bay deal last July, but had a monster afternoon against his former teammates Monday. LaRoche went 5-for-5 with two homers, two doubles, and six RBIs, giving him a .363 batting average and 11 RBIs in 11 games against the Dodgers compared to .222 with 77 RBIs in 244 games against everyone else.
* LaRoche’s offensive explosion wasn’t the only noteworthy aspect of the Pirates’ win over the Dodgers. Zach Duke took a shutout into the ninth inning before Juan Pierre tripled with one out and Chin-lung Hu scored him with a sacrifice fly. At that point he needed just one more out for his seventh career complete game and had thrown just 103 pitches, yet manager John Russell yanked him with a 10-run lead.
Asked afterward why he didn’t just let Duke get the final out, Russell said: “I wanted Zach to have a nice ovation from the fans. We wanted to give the fans an opportunity to appreciate what he did rather than the game just being over.” You know, because apparently the fans who stuck around for the end of an 11-1 game in franchise’s 17th straight losing season wouldn’t have cheered like hell when Duke got the final out.
AL Quick Hits: Matt Wieters remained hot Monday, going 3-for-4 to raise his batting average to a season-high .292 … Mike Lowell will be unavailable for three days after receiving an injection in his hip Monday, which he last had in July … Impending free agent Russell Branyan (back) is not expected to play again this year … John Danks allowed one run in his first career complete game Monday and is now 13-10 with a 3.69 ERA after going 12-9 with a 3.32 ERA last season … David DeJesus (flu) didn’t join the Royals on their season-ending road trip Monday after missing four straight games … Aaron Laffey took his fifth straight loss Monday despite turning in a Quality Start … Luke Hochevar was rocked for eight runs on a dozen hits Monday, falling to 7-12 with a 6.24 ERA … Chris Tillman has been shut down for the year after logging 164.2 innings between the minors and majors … Monday night’s Twins-Tigers game was rained out, so they’ll play a doubleheader Tuesday.
NL Quick Hits: Jair Jurrjens tossed seven shutout innings Monday and has now won four straight starts while allowing three total runs … Hiroki Kuroda coughed up seven runs Monday after going 5-1 with a 2.73 ERA over his last 10 starts … Cole Hamels dropped to 10-10 by giving up six runs in 6.2 innings Monday … Josh Johnson (flu) will start Tuesday after being scratched from his scheduled weekend outing … Ross Detwiler earned his first MLB victory Monday with six innings of one-run ball and will make one more start this weekend … Anibal Sanchez allowed only two hits over five innings Monday, but handed out a career-high eight walks … Miguel Tejada had four hits Monday and is batting .439 during his 15-game hitting streak … Vicente Padilla will work out of the Dodgers’ bullpen during the final week, but could still get a start in the postseason … Carlos Ruiz is hoping to rejoin the lineup Tuesday after deeming his injured wrist “80 percent” healthy.

Who Should win the Rookie of the Year Awards? Who Will?

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Corey Seager #5 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to his three run homerun for a 6-0 lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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With the regular season ending on Sunday and most of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. So let’s spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. Next up: The Rookie of the Year Awards

This is a whole heck of a lot easier than the MVP and Cy Young Awards, that’s for sure. It’s a two horse race in the AL and a one-horse race in the NL.

Who should win the AL Rookie of the Year Award?

It seemed like Tigers starter Michael Fulmer would be the no-brainer choice for a good long while, as his low ERA and solid performance helped carry the Tigers when their starting pitching wasn’t doing them any favors. But then the Yankees called up catcher Gary Sanchez at the beginning of August and all he’s done since then is hit .303/.378/.672 with an astonishing 20 homers in his first 51 games. Fulmer has continued to be solid — he’s just short of qualifying for the ERA title, but does have the league’s lowest ERA at 3.06 — but Sanchez has been spectacular.

The MVP and Cy Young Award require full season contributions. Not everyone takes the Rookie of the Year Award quite as seriously, it seems, and are thus more willing to entertain smaller samples of excellence over large samples of solid work when it comes to the award. That’s how Bill and I think about it anyway, giving the nod to Sanchez’s historic two-month run. Ashley, however, favors Fulmer’s larger volume of work. You can’t really go wrong with either choice:

Craig: Sanchez
Bill: Sanchez
Ashley: Fulmer

Who will win the AL Rookie of the Year Award?

Hard call. I have no idea what voters will do on that quantity/quality calculation. I’ll guess Fulmer, but it’s just a guess. I could just as easily see Sanchez given some quasi-MVP credit for helping the Yankees remain relevant after the trade deadline and throw it his way.

 

Who should win the NL Rookie of the Year Award?

If you say anyone other than Corey Seager, and his .311/.369/.519 26 homer batting line, the state has authorized me to have you taken to a hospital for 48 hours of examination, at which point your competence to reenter society will be gauged. But there is ice cream there.

Craig: Seager
Bill: Seager
Ashley: Seager

 

Who will win the NL Rookie of the Year Award?

If any BBWAA voter lists anyone other than Corey Seager at the top of his or her Rookie of the Year ballot, the state has authorized me to have them taken to a hospital for 48 hours of examination, at which point their competence to reenter society will be gauged. They will not, however, be allowed to have any ice cream because, really, they should know better. They’re professionals.

Jeremy Giambi vs. David Ortiz

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The 2002 Red Sox won 93 games, only to finish 10 games behind the Yankees in the AL West and six back of the lone wild card. They named Theo Epstein the GM that November and allowed him to begin reshaping the team, then led by Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez.

The Red Sox didn’t make any big splashes that winter. Their biggest free agent signing was Ramiro Mendoza, who got $6.5 million for two years. They also signed Mike Timlin and Bill Mueller (who played behind Shea Hillenbrand at third initially). They traded for Todd Walker. They stole Bronson Arroyo off waivers.

What Epstein did totally overhaul was a first base-DH situation that held the team back the previous season. 2002 trade deadline pickup Cliff Floyd exited in free agency, as did disappointments Tony Clark and Jose Offerman.

Brought in was a three-headed monster of underappreciated, high-OBP, Moneyball-type players. First, the Red Sox traded Josh Hancock to the Phillies for Jeremy Giambi, who had just hit .244/.435/.538 in 156 at-bats after coming over from the A’s at midseason. He hit .272/.402/.475 in 684 at-bats total between 2001 and 2002, and he looked like he was still very much in his prime at age 28.

The day after the Giambi trade, the Twins made the move to release David Ortiz. No one pounced, though, and Ortiz remained unsigned for a month before joining the Boston on a one-year, $1.25 million contract. Ortiz, who was entering his age-27 season, hit .272/.339/.500 in 412 at-bats for the Twins in 2002.

While that was going on, the Red Sox were working to bring in Kevin Millar for first base. Millar hit .306/.366/.509 in 438 at-bats for the Marlins in 2002 and was even better the previous season, but he was a poor outfielder and third baseman and the team already had Derrek Lee at first base. So, the Marlins, rather than trade Millar for a player, sold him to Japan for some much-preferred cash. Millar, not realizing that he was a desired commodity around the league, went along with the plan. That’s when the Red Sox broke an unwritten rule and claimed Millar off waivers. It turned into a long ordeal, but the Red Sox were finally able to land Millar in February by buying him from the Marlins.

I remember at the time being most excited about the Giambi acquisition. He couldn’t play defense and he had gotten himself exiled by the A’s for some transgression the previous year, but he looked like an awesome offensive force with his terrific power and ridiculous walk rate. Ortiz was certainly worth taking the chance on, too, but I thought Giambi would be better and leave Ortiz with little to do.

Indeed, Giambi started over Ortiz on Opening Day. However, both got off to lousy starts and Giambi’s playing time quickly diminished. Giambi finished April at .125/.288/.292 in 60 plate appearances, starting only once in the final week of the month. Ortiz came in at .212/.311/.346 in 61 plate appearances.

Both players found their strokes at the beginning of May. For Giambi, though, it amounted to all of about two weeks of success. He peaked with an .828 OPS on May 16. Ortiz’s build was slower, but it lasted. He had a .942 OPS in May, a .961 OPS in June, a .987 OPS in July and a 1.097 OPS in August before plummeting all of the way to .977 in September. He finished 5th in the AL MVP balloting despite playing about half the time the first two months.

Giambi, finding himself more starved for at-bats after Ortiz heated up, landed on the DL in late June with a bad shoulder. At the time, it looked like it might have been a made-up injury to get him playing time in the minors for a spell. It wasn’t. He returned a few weeks later, but he still wasn’t right. He made his last appearance on Aug. 1, going 0-for-3 against the Orioles. He landed back on the DL and then underwent surgery to repair damage in his labrum and rotator cuff.

As it turned out, Giambi never played in the majors again. As he was trying to come back from the shoulder surgery the next spring, he developed back problems. He played in 17 minor league games with the Dodgers in 2004 and nine with the White Sox in 2005. That was it for him, and he was done at 30 years old. In early 2005, he admitted to using BALCO-provided steroids and said that he regretted it. The strength training likely played roles in both his emergence and his downfall, given the breakdown of his body.

Things worked out a little differently for Ortiz…

Ortiz through 2002 (age 26): .266/.348/.461, 108 OPS+ in 1,693 PA
Giambi through 2002 (age 27): .269/.381/.437, 114 OPS+ in 1,549 PA

Ortiz after 2002: .290/.386/.570, 148 OPS+ in 8,387 PA
Giambi after 2002: .197/.342/.354, 81 OPS+ in 156 PA

And those 2003 Red Sox? Well, they won 95 games, which was good enough for the wild card this time. Still, they lost to the Yankees in seven games in the ALCS. They were still one year away.