Author: case91615

Maybe the HR Derby isn't such a good idea

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Are we ready to blame the Home Run Derby for squashing Albert Pujols’ chance at the Triple Crown, or is that just an easy excuse? We remember players from the past flaming out after taking part in the Derby – David Wright hit only 6 HR after the break in 2006, and of course Bobby Abreu hit a mere 6 dingers in the second half after dominating the slugfest the year before – but such a thing couldn’t happen to Big Al, right?

Perhaps it’s because we’re looking at a small sample size or maybe a slight statistical decline was inevitable because no human being can keep up the absurd offensive pace that Pujols set from April through early July. But it’s worth peeking at the splits before and after the Derby:
Before: 90 G, .332/.456/.723, 32 HR, 87 RBI, 35 K
After:    31 G, .280/.401/.525, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 14 K
These aren’t bad numbers – I’ll take a .926 OPS, thank you. They’re just not what we were getting from Pujols a couple months ago. Did the HR Derby mess up his swing a bit? Probably the only person who might know is him. And it must be nice to be in a relative slump and still have 39 HR in late August.

Neftali Feliz to be handled like Joba?

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Much has been made about the impact that Nolan Ryan has had on the Texas Rangers pitching staff – how extending pitch counts produces positive results, how pitchers these days are babied too much, etc. However, it sounds like that mantra doesn’t apply to all Texas pitchers.

Word is the Rangers will be handling phenom Neftali Feliz similar to how the Yankees dealt with Joba Chamberlain back in 2007. No back-to-back appearances, and for every inning pitched, he gets a day off.
It’s unclear if Texas manager Ron Washington will strictly follow these guidelines as we get closer to the playoffs. It’s fine to implement restrictions in late August, but what happens during those two late-September series against the Angels if Vlad Guerrero comes up in a big spot on back-to-back nights? Or when the Rays come to town on that second-to-last weekend of the year, and the two teams are fighting for the Wild Card – do they still hold Feliz back?
It’ll be a situation worth monitoring, particularly if 1) the Rangers stay in the race and/or 2) other relievers start blowing games and Feliz turns out to be Washington’s most reliable arm in the pen.
The Yankees could afford to do what they did with Joba in 2007 because they won the Wild Card by six games. In the playoffs that year, the Joba Rules were supposedly lifted, although in part because of the spread out schedule, we never saw Joba in back-to-back nights.
Do you agree with what the Rangers are doing? Is Nolan Ryan being hypocritical at all here, or is it a different scenario? Let us know in the comments.

Phillies vs Braves: Live Chat

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Tonight, we’re following along with Sunday Night Baseball as the Phillies and Braves play the rubber game of their three-game series in Atlanta. Join in and participate with your comments.


Dave Winfield has better reflexes than you do

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It’s fairly irritating when retired baseball players give the whole “Back in my day, things were different” spiel (I’m look at YOU, Tom Seaver). But when someone plays that card and says something totally asinine and illogical, the only medicine is to turn off the TV.

This is Dave Winfield a few minutes ago on Baseball Tonight, giving his take in a discussion about whether baseball needs better helmets to protect batters:

“Well I came from a different era, so to speak. Essentially, we didn’t wear the flaps, I didn’t like them. I grew up, uh, you knew how to move away from the ball, from the plate. And there was a different law in baseball, essentially, where, um, when it came down to it, they would throw at batters, and you just had to learn how to come back. Are you man enough …” (Gets cut off by a befuddled Karl Ravetch)

You hear that, David Wright? If only you played 20 years ago, you’d know how to get out of the way of that 94 mph Matt Cain fastball and not allow it to hit you in the head. Kids these days.

On a side note, it was a bit creepy that earlier this week, Wright was pretty supportive of a new Rawlings batting helmet.

Victor Martinez bails out Terry Francona

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What might get lost in the aftermath of a wild 9th inning rally for the Red Sox is a puzzling decision by Terry Francona. The Boston manager can thank Victor Martinez that he’s not getting hammered in the press today.

To recap, the Sox entered the top of the 9th trailing Texas 4-2. David Ortiz led off with a double and then Jason Varitek followed with an infield single up the middle. Now, watching Varitek run is pretty painful at this point, and had it been anyone else, the second baseman probably would’ve eaten the ball. But he hustled and beat the throw. First and third, no out, down two.
This is where Francona did something strange: he kept Varitek in the game, even though he represented the tying run. Sometimes you see managers wait until a slow runner gets to second base before pinch-running, but that’s in a tie game where the team isn’t staring a loss in the face. Varitek represented a run the Red Sox desperately needed.
Naturally, the next hitter, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a ground ball single up the middle to score Ortiz. But Varitek had no chance of going first-to-third on the play. Would a faster runner have been able to make it to third on the hit? Not definitely, but most likely. After a strikeout, Francona finally pinch-ran for Varitek, but with pitcher Clay Buchholz, a guy who probably hasn’t run the bases since high school.
The next batter, Dustin Pedroia, hit a deep drive to left. Rangers left fielder David Murphy jumped against the wall but couldn’t make the catch. But he got to it quickly and fired it back in, and the relay throw actually nailed Buchholz at home. How is that possible, you ask? Watching Buchholz on the bases, he went halfway when the ball was in the air, then danced back and forth, waiting to see if the ball was caught. When he rounded third, he slipped, and inexplicably adjusted his helmet as it appeared to be falling off. A great throw got him at the plate, and the Sox still trailed by one with two and outs and runners on second and third.
Luckily for Boston, Martinez is an animal, as he ripped a two-strike double to give the Sox the lead. A hit for Jason Bay and a cherry-on-the-top homer from JD Drew put the game away and caused Rangers volatile closer Frank Francisco to tell reporters to “beat it” after the game. At least he didn’t fling a chair at them.
On one hand, the Red Sox won the game, so maybe Francona’s decision-making isn’t worth dissecting. And Pedroia’s hit was a tough play to read, so you can’t get on Buchholz too hard. But we’d love to hear an explanation for waiting to pinch-run for Varitek, and why there wasn’t a more experienced base runner used.