Matt Murton

Some notable numbers from Japan: Central League stats

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Every so often I like to see how some old friends are doing in Japan.  We’ll start with a scan through the Central League numbers and then move on to the Pacific League tomorrow.

Wladimir Balentien: .345/.430/.718, 14 HR, 27 RBI, 2 SB in 142 AB
Tony Blanco: .220/.306/.441, 7 HR, 17 RBI, 0 SB in 127 AB
Craig Brazell: .240/.284/.370, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB in 146 AB
Joel Guzman: .142/.200/.217, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB in 106 AB
Brett Harper: .259/.345/.435, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 0 SB in 147 AB
Kenji Johjima: .189/.243/.326, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 0 SB in 132 AB
Matt Murton: .277/.319/.358, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 0 SB in 173 AB
Alex Ramirez: .268/.315/.465, 9 HR, 26 RBI, 0 SB in 157 AB
Rusty Ryal: .219/.260/.260, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB in 73 AB
Terrmel Sledge: .278/.337/.488, 9 HR, 28 RBI, 0 SB in 162 AB
Chad Tracy: .235/.293/.336, 1 HR, 19 RBI, 0 SB in 149 AB
Josh Whitesell: .287/.393/.574, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB in 94 AB

– Balentien is setting the pace for everyone in his first year in the Central League. He not only leads the league in hitting, but he has five more homers than anyone else. Only Kazuhiro Hatakeyama, at .618, is within 200 points of his .718 slugging perentage.

It’ll be interesting to see if Balentien stays in Japan after this. In 511 major league at-bats with the Mariners and Reds from 2007-09, he hit .221/.281/.374 with 15 homers. However, at 26 (27 in July), he’s still young enough to entice major league teams if anyone believes he’s taken a real step forward.

– Murton broke Ichiro Suzuki’s single-season hit record last year in his first year in Japan, but he hasn’t been nearly as successful so far this year.

– Failed former top prospect Joel Guzman hit .279/.344/.519 with 33 homers and 98 RBI with the Orioles’ Double-A club to earn the gig in Japan, but he hasn’t been able to capitalize.  He’s fanned 44 times in 106 at-bats for the Chunichi Dragons.

Jonathan Albaladejo: 1-0, 2 Sv, 0.42 ERA, 24/6 K/BB in 21.1 IP
Tony Barnette: 1-0, 1.93 ERA, 19/3 K/BB in 14 IP
Bryan Bullington: 2-0, 2.45 ERA, 46/12 K/BB in 55 IP
Seth Greisinger: 1-2, 4.12 ERA, 10/6 K/BB in 19.2 IP
Clay Hamilton: 1-4, 6.68 ERA, 14/10 K/BB in 32.1 IP
Randy Messenger: 2-1, 2.34 ERA, 29/14 K/BB in 34.2 IP
Tomo Ohka: 0-1, 15.00 ERA, 3/3 K/BB in 6 IP
Dennis Sarfate: 1-1, 11 Sv, 2.18 ERA, 28/2 K/BB in 20.2 IP
Mike Schultz: 0-0, 1.06 ERA, 7/11 K/BB in 17 IP
Jason Standridge: 2-2, 3.20 ERA, 28/17 K/BB in 39.1 IP
Carlos Torres: 0-1, 8.16 ERA, 9/9 K/BB in 14.1 IP

– I always thought Albaladejo would turn into a perfectly useful major league reliever, and it’s a shame no one chose to claim him off waivers before the Yankees could ship him to Japan over the winter.  That transaction netted the Bombers a cool $1.2 million.

– Bullington, the one-time No. 1 overall pick of the Pirates, ranks eighth in the six-team Central League with his 2.45 ERA.  As will become even more obvious when we look at the Pacific League numbers tomorrow, offense is well down in Japan, too.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.