Michael Bourn

Astros should have done better for Michael Bourn


I was impressed with Houston’s return for Hunter Pence.  By all indications, Astros GM Ed Wade did a nice job of playing the suitors off each other and he ended up with a pair of top-50 prospects from the Phillies for his troubles.

The Michael Bourn trade with Atlanta was also a four-for-one deal, but in this case, the four wasn’t nearly so impressive.  And one can argue that Bourn is just as valuable of a property as Pence.  Factoring in his exceptional defense and his value on the basepaths, he’s been the superior player this year while hitting .303/.363/.403 in 429 at-bats.  And while Pence is under control for the additional year, Bourn at about $7 million for 2012 alone sounds better than Pence at approximately $23 million for 2012-13.

In return for Bourn, the Braves gave up outfielder Jordan Schafer and three pitchers: Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu.

Schafer, 24, was a top prospect two years ago, but he ended up on the shelf for much of 2009 and all of 2010 and he’s hit just .223/.310/.303 in 363 major league at-bats.  He’s a legitimate center fielder, and he could yet establish himself as a quality regular if he can get healthy and stay that way.  He’s currently on the DL with a chip fracture in his left middle finger.

Oberholtzer, a 22-year-old lefty, is the top pitching prospect in the deal, but he’s only in the second tier of Braves arms.  The 2008 eighth-round pick is 9-9 with a 3.74 ERA and a 93/42 K/BB ratio in 127 2/3 innings for Double-A Mississippi.  His fastball is pretty average, but both his changeup and curveball should be quality major league pitches.  He projects as a No. 4 starter.

Clemens, a 23-year-old righty, was drafted one round ahead of Oberholtzer in the 2008 draft and was his teammate at Mississippi this year, going 6-5 with a 3.73 ERA and a 93/44 K/BB ratio in 108 2/3 innings.  He’d been in the pen more often than not leading up to this year, and his secondary pitches will have to get better for him to remain a starter.  His fastball, though, reaches the mid-90s.

Abreu, a 26-year-old right-handed reliever, has good stuff out and a spotty track record.  Pitching in Triple-A for the first time, he’s had something of a breakthrough year, amassing a 2.25 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 48 innings.  He has walked 27, though, and the Braves never thought he was worthy of a callup.

So, Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart these guys are not.  If this was the best Wade could do now, he should have kept Bourn until the winter.  The deal from the Astros’ perspective will probably come down to Schafer and whether he fulfills his promise an an everyday player.  He’s still young enough to turn the corner, but three straight injury-plagued seasons don’t bode well.

The Cubs clinch World Series berth with NLCS Game 6 win

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  The Chicago Cubs celebrate defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.

The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).

Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.

With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.

Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.

With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).

Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.