Matthew Pouliot

Utley collision

Chase Utley sends Dioner Navarro to the hospital

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Chase Utley celebrated his new contract tonight by barreling over Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro in a collision at home plate, resulting in an out for the Phillies and a trip to the hospital with at least a leg injury for Navarro.

Here’s the GIF of the collision from our own Bill Baer:

Utley made as if he were going to slide into home plate on the play, only to pull a changeup at the last second and barrel into Navarro, shoulder first. In Utley’s defense, Navarro had set up on the plate before receiving the throw, inviting the collision. Utley, though, did have an opening with which to slide between Navarro’s legs. Instead of taking it, he decided to risk injury to both himself and Navarro.

Of course, Utley can afford to do that, considering he’s made $85 million in his career and he just today signed a $27 million deal that takes him through 2015. Navarro is a free agent at season’s end, and if he misses the rest of the year, he could lose a couple of million dollars on his next contract. With the way he’s played this year — he entered the night with a .289/.363/.500 line and nine homers in 152 at-bats — he could have been setting himself up for a two-year contract worth $5 million-$6 million this winter.

The defending world champs have Jeff Francoeur starting in center field

Jeff Francoeur
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Never has a team fallen so far, so rapidly.

Jeff Francoeur is making his third career start in center field as the Giants take on the Brewers in San Francisco tonight. His other two both came last year with the Royals, when he played 16 innings and somehow never had a ball hit his way. Or, at least, was never able to get in the way of all hit in his general direction.

Francoeur also played three innings in center field for the Braves in 2006, and he actually did handle a chance flawlessly, at least according to his career stats. Visual evidence of this phenomenon has long since disappeared.

What’s doubly amazing is that Francoeur is playing center field with a right-hander starting against the Giants tonight. Maybe one could justify getting his bat in there against a lefty, but Francoeur has typically been significantly worse against right-handers in his career. Just not this year, when he’s been equally abysmal against everyone (.560 OPS against righties, .565 OPS against lefties).

Alongside Francoeur tonight will be Roger Kieschnick in left and Hunter Pence in right. Kieschnick never played an inning of center field in the minors, which apparently ruled him out. Pence started 95 games in center for the Astros in 2007, but he’s played exclusively in right field since. He’d still be a better option than Francoeur in center, but at AT&T Park, many believe it’s harder to play right than center.

Francoeur is hitting .234/.250/.277 with no homers and four RBI in 47 at-bats since being called up by the Giants. He’s scored one run in 15 games.

Indians buy high on Ryan Raburn, but it’s OK

Ryan Raburn
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After hitting .256/.311/.430 in 1,573 at-bats over seven seasons with the Tigers, Ryan Raburn had to settle for a minor league contract in the offseason.  A few charmed months later, he’s now making guaranteed money through 2015, courtesy of the two-year, $4.85 million extension he signed with the Indians on Wednesday.

There’s no denying that the 32-year-old Raburn has been one of the league’s best role players this season; he’s hitting .277/.370/.565 with 13 homers and 38 RBI in 184 at-bats. He’s not just doing it against lefties, either; he’s hit .257/.347/.523 with eight homers in 109 at-bats against right-handers.

Still, there’s little to suggest this has been any sort of real breakthrough for Raburn. His strikeout rate is a bit higher than his career average. His line drive rate is, too, but only a bit. He’s been more selective than ever before, and it’s helped his walk rate. But much of his success is built on every one of his four flyballs leaving the yard, and that’s just not sustainable. According to hittrackeronline.com, Raburn is one of two players in baseball to have four “lucky homers” this year. His last two homers, coming Aug. 1 against the White Sox, were both wind-aided and wouldn’t have left the yard under normal conditions.

This is also my least favorite type of contract: multiyear deals for part-time players go bad far more often than not. Ask the Cardinals about Ty Wigginton and the Phillies about Laynce Nix. It’s not even about the money; often it turns out to be a waste of a roster spot on a player who doesn’t deserve it.

All of that said, I don’t have much of a problem with the Indians’ signing here. I don’t believe that Raburn will keep this up in 2014, but he’s been a good part-time player more often than he’s been a bad one in his career. Also, the Indians always figure to have use for him with left-handed hitters Michael Bourn and Michael Brantley due to occupy starting spots in the outfield for the next few years.

Little good can come from extending a player at the peak of his value, and that’s exactly what the Indians did here with Raburn. But the money is so modest anyway that this mostly comes down to whether Raburn will still be worth a bench spot in 2015, the final year of the deal. I’m guessing he will be.