Tag: Nick Markakis

Masahiro Tanaka

And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights


Blue Jays 6, Yankees 1:Masahiro Tanaka’s lowish velocity and poor results probably have everyone in Gotham clenching their sphincters at the moment because there’s really not a path to the playoffs without their putative ace being healthy and effective. And, in this game, his lack of effectiveness is probably going to make many wonder if he’s healthy. Not that getting shelled by the Blue Jays is going to be an uncommon thing for teams this year. A couple of bombs, a couple of manufactured runs and there’s a six-spot against you. That was plenty for Drew Hutchinson.

Tigers 4, Twins 0: David Price cruised for eight and two-thirds. And, to be honest, totally could’ve finished this shutout off if Brad Ausmus’ Manager3000 software hadn’t beeped upon encountering the “base runner on in the ninth inning” subroutine that mandated the Ausmusbot to bring in the Closer Unit. Didn’t matter, of course. Homers from J.D. Martinez homer and Alex Avila were all the Tigers needed. Oh, and welcome to Detroit Yoenis Cespedes.

Rockies 10, Brewers 0: Getting shut down by Kyle Kendrick while allowing him his damn self to get two hits off of you and having your best player get hurt in the same game is pretty bad. Having the other guys drop a 10-spot on your Opening Day starter in the same game? Even worse. But hey, last year the Brewers started strong and then faded. Maybe they’re gonna do it up different this time.

Red Sox 8, Phillies 0: Cole Hamels wasn’t traded to the Red Sox like so many thought he would be, but that doesn’t mean a deal of some sort wasn’t done. Like, say, Hamels being secretly enlisted as a Red Sox spy. I mean, sure, it’s far-fetched, but it’s way easier to ensure a Red Sox win by serving them up meatballs yourself than it is to play for them and trying to stop the other team from doing the same. Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez each hit two bombs and Clay Buchholz looked like an ace (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 9K) even if Curt Schilling doesn’t think he does.

Orioles 6, Rays 2: Trvis Snider had three hits, drove in two and flashed some pretty sweet defense as the O’s beat the Rays. Alejandro De Aza, Steve Pearce and Ryan Flaherty all hit homers.

Mets 3, Nationals 1: All that hand-wringing over Matt Harvey not starting the opener and everyone being stuck with old man Bartolo Colon amounts to the old man allowing one run over six while striking out eight. Four relievers held that lead, but one of them was not Jenrry Mejia, who felt stiffness in his right elbow while warming in the bullpen during the game. He’s supposed to be the closer this year so, yeah, yikes.

Royals 10, White Sox 1: If I remember my 2014 narratives correctly, this is more runs than the Royals scored all last year. Alex Rios had a three-run homer and two other hits. The Royals scored five runs in the seventh. Yordano Ventura gave everyone a scare when he crumpled to the ground in pain, but it turns out it was just a cramp. Jesus, dude, don’t freak us out like that.

Mariners 4, Angels 1: Mike Trout got his in the form of a solo homer in the first, but that’s all anyone got off King Felix, who was otherwise untouchable (7IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 10K). Trout struck out his other three times to the plate so I suppose 2015 is picking up where 2015 left off for all of these dudes.

Reds 5, Pirates 2: With Opening Day, the Reds’ opportunity to sign Johnny Cueto to an extension before he hits free agency basically ended, as he is not going to negotiate during the seasons. And with Opening Day, the Reds are reminded that they don’t have a pitcher anywhere as good as Johnny Cueto, who struck out ten in seven shutout innings. He didn’t get the win because of some unholy combination of Kevin Gregg, the Elias Sports Bureau and society, but he’s still the best pitcher they’ve developed and he’s gonna either get dealt or walk away because, I assume, someone decided that Homer Bailey needed to get paid.

Dodgers 6, Padres 3: Clayton Kershaw wasn’t at his best (if you can call striking out nine guys not being at you best) but Adrian Gonzalez was (3-for-5, HR, 2B 2 R) as was Jimmy Rollins, who hit broke a 3-3 tie with a three-run homer in the eighth. I watched this one with my kids because, as I’ve noted recently, they’re Dodgers fans now. They didn’t get my joke about how Craig Kimbrel has gotten to watch all kinds of great moment in Dodger Stadium in recent years without actually getting to participate in them. But Dodgers fans know what I’m talking about. As do Braves fans. Padres fans who had to endure that never-ending eighth inning without the team’s best reliever coming into the game are starting to grok it some too.

Braves 2, Marlins 1: A rain delay in a domed stadium which included the home team’s new star fall on his face because of the slippery track. The Brave may have lost their closer on Sunday, but their pen was just fine yesterday. It escaped a bases loaded no-out jam in the seventh to preserve a one run lead. Nick Markakis drove in both of the Braves’ runs. Julio Tehrean scattered eight hits.

Astros 2, Indians 0: Dallas Keuchel outdueled Cory Kluber, tossing seven shutout innings. The Astros’ runs scored on an RBI single and a sac fly. Not that Kluber was chopped liver. He had a no-hitter into the sixth. His first hit allowed, however, went to Jose Altuve who then stole second and scored on that George Springer single.

Giants 5, Diamondbacks 4: Madison Bumgarner picked up where he left off last year, scattering six hits across seven innings, allowing one run and picking up the win. The top three in the Giants’ order — Nori Aoki, Joe Panik and Angel Pagan — combined to go 8 for 14 with four runs scored and two driven in.

Athletics 8, Rangers 0: Sonny Gray took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. Ben Zobrist had a two-run homer and a double. It was the first time the A’s had won an Opening Day game since 2005, which seems impossible, but it’s true.

2015 Preview: Atlanta Braves

Wandy Rodriguez

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Atlanta Braves.

The Big Question: Will the Braves be able to overcome an off-season in which they did more subtraction than addition?

Braves outfielders last season combined to hit 57 home runs, drive in 211 runs, and post a .714 OPS. Almost all of the work was done by Justin Upton, Melvin Upton, Jr., and Jason Heyward. However, the Braves traded Justin to the Padres and Heyward to the Cardinals during the off-season, and Melvin will miss most or all of April with a foot injury. Even if he were healthy, he is coming off of two seasons in which he posted a combined .593 OPS with 21 home runs in 1,028 plate appearances.

The Braves’ current outfield is comprised of Nick Markakis (still on the mend from neck surgery after signing a four-year, $44 million deal in early December) and some combination yet to be decided of Eric Young, Jr., Todd Cunningham, Eury Perez, Zoilo Almonte, Kelly Johnson, and Joey Terdoslavich. Whatever posse of outfielders the Braves come up with may seriously struggle to post half the homers and RBI that last season’s outfield put up.

The outfield isn’t the only area where the Braves lack depth. Wandy Rodriguez, who signed with the Phillies and failed a physical before latching on with the Braves, rode a small sample of productive innings to the No. 4 spot in the starting rotation. The fifth spot will go to Eric Stults, Mike Foltynewicz, or Cody Martin and they’ll keep it for as long as Mike Minor – suffering from a tight left shoulder – remains on the disabled list.

The painful departure of Heyward was cushioned a bit in receiving starter Shelby Miller from the Cardinals. However, the 24-year-old right-hander saw noticeable declines in his ability to generate swings and misses, as well as his ability to limit walks. In 2013, his strikeout and walk rates were 23.4 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively. Last season, they were 16.6 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively. Only five pitchers had a strikeout-minus-walk rate lower than Miller’s 7.1 percent: Roberto Hernandez, Jarred Cosart, John Danks, Kyle Gibson, and Chris Young. Not exactly a who’s-who list of pitchers. Of those who posted a similar K%-BB%, which also includes Kyle Kendrick and Mark Buehrle, many are expected to post below-average numbers this season. It would be wrong to state Miller won’t succeed in 2015, but it’ll be tough for him to do so if he can’t improve on his 2014 strikeout and walk rates. As studies have shown, strikeout and walk rates are by far the most accurate statistics with which to predict future pitcher performance.

Overall, it’s tough to see where the Braves are any better going into 2015 than they were last season. FanGraphs projects them to finish as the second-worst team in baseball at 73-89, five games better than the division rival Phillies, who will be more or less intentionally losing in a rebuilding effort. There is a non-zero possibility that the Phillies finish with a better record than the Braves, who are doing a one foot in, one foot out style of rebuilding while also being somewhat competitive.

What else is going on?

  • Freddie Freeman is the only Brave projected by Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS (found at FanGraphs) to hit 20 or more home runs. Melvin Upton is projected at 17, then Zoilo Almonte is at 14 over nearly a full season’s worth of at-bats, which he likely won’t get. As far as slugging percentage goes, which is influenced partially by batting average, Chris Johnson is projected to have the second-highest at .395 behind Freeman’s .472. The conclusion here is that the Braves are going to struggle mightily to generate power.
  • If there is some reason for optimism, it will come from Julio Teheran, now the undisputed ace of the starting rotation. Last season, the right-hander made the National League All-Star roster and finished with a 2.89 ERA and a 186/51 K/BB ratio over 221 innings. It would not be unreasonable to expect him to post All-Star-caliber numbers again in 2015.
  • A year after hitting .321, Chris Johnson ended the 2014 season with a disappointing .263 average and a .653 OPS. While his 2013 average was obviously fluky, he wasn’t expected to tumble 58 points, nor 66 points in on-base percentage and 96 points in slugging percentage. If the Braves are going to have any shot at beating the grim projections, they’ll need Johnson to return close to or at his former All-Star level.
  • 2015 could be the first season since taking over as the Braves’ everyday closer in which Craig Kimbrel will fail to lead the league in saves. The flame-thrower led the NL with 46, 42, 50, and 47 saves from 2011-14. Because the Braves are expected to win so few games, however, Kimbrel’s save chances will be fewer in number. The Braves averaged 89.5 wins over that four year span, affording Kimbrel many opportunities to close out ballgames.
  • As the Braves have their entire core signed to long-term deals, the Braves will likely be quiet at the trade deadline. They may trade a reliever, or one or two of their many utility players, but the Braves will likely end the regular season looking much the same as they will at the beginning.
  • Manager Fredi Gonzalez is signed only through the end of this season. Considering how poorly the Braves are expected to be, Gonzalez is essentially a lame duck manager. And the Braves are just fine with that. The Braves will see how Gonzalez leads a new-look team under recently-hired baseball operations president John Hart before deciding whether to stay the course or move in a new direction.

Prediction: The Braves nudge out the Phillies for the honor of finishing in fourth place in the NL East at 71-91.

2015 Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Buck Showalter

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Baltimore Orioles.

The Big Question: Can the Orioles replace the big bats they lost?

The Orioles had a quiet offseason. Which would be fine for a defending division champ coming off a 96-win season if they hadn’t lost their best hitter and, arguably, their third best hitter in the offseason. Here I’m talking about the DH, Nelson Cruz and their everyday right fielder for nearly a decade, Nick Markakis. OK, calling the 2014 version — let alone the post-surgery 2015 version — of Nick Markakis a “big bat” may be stretching things a bit, but in the two of these guys they lost their two most durable players who were 1-2 in on-base percentage on the club and who combined for 1,388 plate appearances, 54 homers and 158 RBI.

That’s a lot to lose, without a lot brought in to make up for it. The only real addition: Travis Snider. Which is actually pretty OK. Snider is past the point where his once can’t-miss-prospect status matters much, but he did show last year that he can be a solid guy, at least against righties. Not great, but solid, and at age 27 there’s a chance he builds on his nice second half of 2014 and finds a way to put together a nice couple of seasons.

But the real answer to that question is not about who they brought in, but who they get back: Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and, for all practical purposes, Chris Davis.

Machado missed half the season with a knee injury. Wieters missed all but 26 games due to Tommy John surgery. Machado, however, is healthy again and, having already shown he can handle big league pitching at ages 20 and 21, his return to the lineup will be a welcome one. Wieters may start the season a bit late but, assuming no hiccups in his recovery, should be back for most of the year. His arm may be a question mark at the moment but he was hitting the cover off the ball when he went down last year.

Davis may be the most intriguing of the returning triumvirate. He managed 26 homers last season despite a putrid average and OBP, and his suspension for Adderall was the moldy icing on the garbage cake. He claims now that his troubles last year were due to a strained oblique that is now healthy and he has a therapeutic use exemption for the Adderall, which he claims helps his focus. That remains to be seen, but it’s hard to see how he could get much worse than he was in 2014.

So, Cruz and Markakis gone, Snider, Machado, Wieters and an improved Davis in? There are a decent amount of “ifs” in there, but yeah, that’ll do.

What else is going on?

  • While the bounce back candidates are something to wish on, O’s fans had best prepare for a candidate for regression. Steve Pearce was a godsend for the O’s when Machado and, later, Davis went down, hitting .293/.373/.556 with 21 homers in 102 games. You think that’s happening again? Think again. Also maybe think about whether, if Pearce falters, Showalter has the will power to avoid playing Delmon Young more than he should. Young was pretty spiffy last year, but he was also used sparingly. The more Young is used in 2015, the less the O’s plans have gone according to expectations.
  • The rotation remains a strength in 2014. A thousand “can the Orioles win without a true ace” columns were written last year and a thousand more are likely to be written this year, but a team can do just fine without one of those true ace-types as long as they have four or five good pitchers like the O’s have in Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman.
  • Oh, a name was missing from that list, was it? Yes, it was: Ubaldo Jimenez. Nope, last year’s biggest acquisition doesn’t crack this rotation if reasonable expectations hold. But sure, Jimenez could bounce back and be useful. If so, wonderful. Especially in a day and age when pitchers drop like flies. But he doesn’t have to in order for the O’s to be successful, and that’s a nice luxury for everyone who doesn’t have to sign his checks.
  • The Orioles’ bullpen has a lot of moving parts at the moment, including Rule 5 additions and guys without options. But they also have a lot of talent and Buck Showalter has shown that he is the absolute best in the business dealing with the moving parts of a major league bullpen. Really, that’s been the story of this club for the past several years and gives the O’s a big advantage over teams with young, low-experience managers who never had to, you know, learn how to manage bullpens, which is just as much art as it is science, it seems.

Prediction: A lot of uncertainty here, but let us not forget that there’s a lot of talent too. I didn’t even mention Adam Jones above, and he’s pretty great. The defense up the middle is nice. The rotation, as mentioned, is solid. And the O’s have one of the best managers in the game. In a division where everyone else is either down or dealing with some key injuries that should still make them the favorite to win it. First place, AL East.

Nick Markakis is making progress from neck surgery

Nick Markakis

Not long after signing his four-year, $44 million contract with the Braves in December, outfielder Nick Markakis underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. He’s beginning to encouraging progress with an eye toward Opening Day.

According to Mark Bowman of MLB.com, Markakis began hitting off a tee and throwing yesterday and repeated the same drills today. He’s still likely around two weeks away from his Grapefruit League debut, but he doesn’t think that he will need many at-bats to get tuned up for the season.

“I’ve still got some time left, so there is no rush,” Markakis said. “I’ll be fine with a week’s worth of at-bats.”

The Braves figure to have one of the National League’s worst offenses even with Markakis, but it’s nice to hear that he’s on track.

Markakis, 31, batted .276/.342/.386 with 14 home runs and 50 RBI across 155 games with the Orioles last season. He won his second American League Gold Glove Award in recognition of his defense in right field.

Dodgers trying to trade Andre Ethier, willing to pay “about half” of his $56 million contract

Los Angeles Dodgers batter Andre Ethier reacts in the dugout after he struck out against the New York Mets during their MLB National League baseball game in New York

Andre Ethier wants to be an everyday player again and the Dodgers have three outfielders they like better than him even after trading away Matt Kemp. So why hasn’t Ethier been traded yet?

Well, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com the Dodgers are offering to cover “about half” of Ethier’s remaining three-year, $56 million contract to move him and so far at least that “hasn’t enticed teams.”

Ethier at three years and around $10 million per season is still pretty pricey for a 33-year-old corner outfielder who hit just .249 with four homers and a .691 OPS in 130 games last season and previously saw his power drop in 2011-2013.

However, prior to 2014 he was consistently a .775-.850 OPS hitter and if the Braves were willing to give Nick Markakis a four-year, $44 million deal this offseason some team may eventually decide Ethier is worth, say, $20 million for three years. Of course, considering how little money seems to matter to the Dodgers at this point it’s possible their players/prospects asking price is more of a sticking point.