Red Sox Finally Sign Drew.

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Yesterday, the Boston Red Sox decided to sign last year’s shortstop Stephen Drew to a 1 yr / 10 M dollar deal. The Red Sox have not been solid defensively and have not gotten any production from the third base spot, which I would assume Xander Bogaerts would take over once Stephen Drew is ready.

The Sox decided that Stephen Drew was not worth the long term contract in the offseason as they offered him a qualiftying offer that they knew he would not accept. The Red Sox were fine with letting Drew go because they felt that Bogaerts was ready for shortstop and they would receive a compensation pick from the team that signed him. It was clear that once Spring Training started and Drew was still without an employer, that he would not sign until after the 2014 MLB Draft so that the team who signs him will not lose a draft pick.

Things have not gone as expected in Boston through the first 44 games as the team has struggled offensively and defensively. In Bogaerts first full season in the big leagues and first season at shortstop, his fielding percentage is 22nd among shortstops in the big leagues. If you are a Sox fan like I am, you have noticed that his range seems limited as he cannot get to a lot of balls to his glove side. Looking at last season, Stephen Drew had the 3rd best fielding percentage among shortstops and was a vacuum at shortstop in the postseason.

The most surprising aspect of this year’s Red Sox has been their offense. Last season, the Red Sox had baseball’s best offense as they led of all baseball with 853 runs. This season, they rank just 16th in runs scored. The Sox have been dreadful against RHP this season hitting .242 as a team. Last season, Drew hit .284 against RHP with a .377 OBP. A big factor in the decision to sign Drew was the production from Will Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks had a solid rookie season but has not been able to find his swing in the past two seasons and is hitting .197 with 23 strikeouts in 71 at-bats. Middlebrooks is also on the DL for the second time this season and the Sox cannot afford going another 15 games with back-ups at third base. The one-year deal with Drew does not mean that the Sox are giving up on Middlebrooks and Bogaerts as a MLB shortstop but with the Sox on their first 5 game losing streak since 2012, something had to be done.

Stephen Drew will be placed on the Red Sox 40 man roster today and will go to AAA Pawtucket to get a couple of games before joining the big league team. It could be 7-10 days until Drew is ready but if the Sox continue to struggle, look for Drew to be forced into action.

 

Other Sox Notes:

Felix Doubront left Tuesday’s start with should fatigue and could land on the disabled list. Doubront has struggled this season as he is 2-4 with a 5.12 ERA. The Red Sox have a plethora of young arms in their minor league system and I expect Allen Webster or Ruby De La Rosa to get the nod for Sunday’s start.

Too Many Strikeouts for Trout

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There is no doubt that over the last two seasons, Mike Trout has been the best overall baseball player in Major League Baseball. With his ability to hit for average, power, steal bases, and play above average defense, Trout has had arguable the best start to a career in the history of baseball. This season hasn’t been dreadful but Trout is not having the typical season we would expect from the 22 year-old who signed a 6 yr / 144.5 M dollar contract in the off-season. So far this season, Trout is second in all of baseball with 56 strikeouts in just 44 games and is on pace to strikeout over 200 times, and he would become just the 7th player in the history of the game to strikeout over 200 times in a season. My question is, “Can Mike Trout be considered the best player in baseball if he strikes out over 200 times?”

So what has gone wrong for Trout so far through the first 44 games of the season? If you have been watching Trout’s plate appearances, you can see that Trout has been susceptible to splitters in the dirt. His O-Swing % is 24.6, just slightly higher than last season.  His Z-Contact % is 83.6, which is down almost 6% from last year. Trout is not chasing more pitches than last season but he missing a lot more pitches in the zone from last year and that has lead to his 56 strikeouts.

When looking at some of the game’s great players, they did not strike out nearly as high a rate as Trout is. Hank Aaron never struck out more than 97 times in a season. Barry Bonds never struck out more than 102 times, and that was his rookie season. Miguel Cabrera’s highest strikeout total was 148 in his first full season in the big leagues in 2004. There is no doubt that strikeouts are up around all of major league baseball. In 1995, there were a total of 25,425 strikeouts and last season there 36,710 strikeouts. More players are throwing in the mid to upper 90’s and there are more specialists that come out of the bullpen than ever before. Most hitters have changed their approach as the “2 strike approach” seems to have disappeared as hitters are swinging for the downs on every pitch.

I feel that if Trout were to strike out 200 times this season, he cannot be considered the best player in the game. A 200 strikeout season means that a player is striking out one out of every four at-bats. With Trout’s ability to run as well as he does, he cannot be striking out at that rate.

A quick fix for the Angels and Mike Trout is to put him back in the leadoff spot. This season, Mike Scioscia has opted to move Trout from the leadoff spot to batting second and he seems to have changed his style of play. A big part of Trout’s game is when he gets on base, he steals. In 2012, Trout had 49 stolen bases and in 2013 he had 33 stolen bases. This season, Trout only has 5 stolen bases and many believe that the Angels do not want him running with Albert Pujols hitting. The season is still fairly young and there is plenty of time for Trout to get hot and put the strikeout conversation to bed. He is a two-time runner up to the American League MVP award and it is time for Trout to return to being the best leadoff hitter in the game.

Thoughts From the Weekend

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  1. The Detroit Tigers are really good.

The Detroit Tigers went into Fenway Park and swept the Boston Red Sox outscoring them 13-3 in the 3-game series. The Tigers starters were outstanding and their new and improved bullpen was able to go 8 scoreless innings in the series. Their lineup lead by Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez was able to defeat Jon Lester and John Lackey. The Tigers definitely made a statement this weekend as they improved to a season best 15 games over .500.

  1. The A’s have the best lineup in baseball.

The Oakland Athletics went into Cleveland for a 3-game series and left with a sweep as they outscored the Indians 30-6. The number one scoring offense in the American League now has 5 players with at least 20 Runs Batted In and have won 9 of their last 10 games.

 

  1. Rick Porcello is the most underrated pitcher in baseball.

Porcello had another excellent outing on Saturday against Boston as he went 8 innings while only giving up 1 run as he picked up his 7th win on the season. He joins the Dodgers Zach Greinke and Toronto’s Mark Buehrle as baseball’s only three 7 game winners. The 25 year-old is already in his 6th full season in the big leagues and may be putting everything together as he has a 2.91 earned run average, the lowest of his career.

 

  1. Trouble in the Cardinals Bullpen

Last season, the St. Louis Cardinals brought up a plethora of young, power arms into their bullpen and they were brilliant in September and throughout the postseason. The bullpen has not had the same success this season as they rank 20th in bullpen ERA and have a 2-7 record. Sunday Trevor Rosenthal blew the save and Carlos Martinez gave up the go-a-head run on a wild pitch. The Cardinals have not hit their stride yet and the bullpen is one reason why.

 

  1. David Price isn’t helping the Rays.

The Tampa Bay Rays decided to hold onto the 2012 CY award winner but things have not panned out as they were expecting. Price continued to struggle on Sunday as he gave up 5 runs in 6.2 innings. On the season, he is just 4-4 with a 4.28 ERA and his trade stock has to be dropping. The Rays are 7 games under .500 and with each loss; the thought of trading Price becomes more of a necessity. He is under contract one more season and time to trade him is before the trade deadline or hold onto him. The problem with Price is he is nowhere near the pitcher he was in 2012 and the Rays may not get the type of package of players they want with how Price is performing this season.

 

– Mick

Weekend Recap: Mets lose 2 of 3 to Nationals

This past weekend the Mets lost two out of three to the division rival Nationals. The Nationals won game one of the series 5-2, thanks to some shaky defense by the Mets and a poor start by Jonathan Niese, which saw the Mets go down 5-0 after three innings. The Mets did make things interesting in the ninth, when Daniel Murphy hit a ball that Jayson Werth caught at the top of the wall for the final out of the game with the tying runs on base. The Mets took game two of the series on Saturday, thanks to a solid outing from Bartolo Colon (8 inn, 2 runs, 5 hits, 5 SO) and the return of Juan Lagares (2-4, HR, 3 RBI, and a HR saving catch) to the lineup. In the rubber game, Zach Wheeler continued to struggle on the mound, as the Nationals won game three of the series, 6-3, behind 4 RBIs from Met killer Wilson Ramos ( 7 HRs and 29 RBIs in 32 games against the Mets).

Here are some general thoughts from what I saw in this series from the Mets:

Terry Collins: For the most part, I have been a supporter of Terry Collins and how he has managed the Mets the last couple of seasons. This week, though, I do not understand what Collins is trying to do. First, he sits Lagares for 4 of the first 5 games of the week, then inserts him in the lineup and watches Lagares steal the show, only to say that Lagares may not play everyday. Then he states that Ruben Tejada really stepped his game up in the last week or so and will likely see the majority of the playing time at shortstop going forward over Wilmer Flores. Look, I get that Wilmer Flores is likely not an everyday shortstop in the major leagues, specifically on the defensive side. However, Tejada has been given enough of an opportunity to show what he can do, and he is not a starting shortstop in the major leagues. He made a costly error in Sunday’s game that cost the Mets two unearned runs and he can’t hit. He is batting .185 with a .309 OBP on the year, and he is 3 for his last 21 (.143) at the plate, though Collins says that he is swinging the bat really well. Terry, it is time to play Lagares everyday and let’s give Wilmer Flores the next ten games at shortstop and see if he can get in a rhythm at the plate and add a boost to the lineup.

Juan Lagares (Series: 3-8, HR, 4 RBI, 1 Run, 1 BB, and this amazing catch): I know I have mentioned him already, but after not starting the first game of the series, Lagares looked like one of the best players on the field. If he can keep hitting, he has the opportunity to become one of the more complete players in all of the National League. This weekend showed just a glimpse of that with the way he swung the bat and how he played defensively in centerfield.

Zach Wheeler (Series: 0-1, 6 IP, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO) Wheeler continued to struggle on the mound, as he was not able to command any of his off speed pitches. He did a decent job of fastball location, but when you can’t get much else over the plate, big league hitters will just sit on the fastball. I think Wheeler will figure it out, as most young pitches (minus Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, and a few others) go through growing pains. Hopefully this is just part of the process and Wheeler will figure it out soon.

Eric Young Jr. (Series: 1-13, 2B, RBI, BB, 3 SO) Terry Collins insists on playing Young Jr. everyday because when he gets on base, he scores runs. Well, that may be the case, but the problem is Young Jr. does not get on base enough. After his rough series against the Nationals, Young Jr. is hitting .221 with a .310 OBP. That is not going to cut it out of the leadoff spot. It is time to start platooning him with Chris Young, getting both players 3-4 starts a week, and riding whoever gets hot.

The Little Things: The Mets really struggled playing defense and made mistakes on the base paths this weekend in D.C. On Friday, Eric Young Jr. missed a cutoff man allowing two runners to move up an extra base. In the same inning, the Mets were not able to turn a potential inning ending double play, which allowed another run to score. On Sunday, Murphy was caught too far off of third base, killing a potential rally. Reuben Tejada messed up a back hand, allowing two runs to later score when the inning should have been over, and Juan Centeno was thrown out at second trying to advance on a throw while also struggling behind the plate. If the Mets are going to win games, they have to do the little things because they do not have the ability to make up for mistakes by hitting the three run home run.

All in all, it was a disappointing weekend for the Mets. After taking the first two from the Yankees in the beginning of the week, it looked like the Mets were about to go on one of those streaks, winning 8 out 10 or 9 out 12. Instead, reality struck hard when they returned to Citi Field and didn’t scores run in the final two games against the Yanks. Then, with an opportunity to win a series against a Nationals team who has owned the Mets (going into the series, they had won eight in a row), they were unable to do so thanks to some costly mistakes. When the Nationals are without three of their best bats in Harper, Zimmerman, and LaRoche, and you miss Strasburg’s turn in the rotation, you have to win the series if you are going to compete in the division. The Mets showed that they are just not ready to be a serious contender to the likes of the Nationals and Braves in the National League East.

Looking Ahead: The Mets have the day off on today. After today, the Mets play 20 straight days, including the next nine at home against the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Pirates before heading out on the road. The first three of the nine games at home will be against the Dodgers, a team that is not quite living up to their large payroll and expectations, but is still a very talented team. With the likes of Puig, Kemp, Ramirez, Gonzalez, Greinke, and Eithier, it will be a tough test for the Mets.

Pitching Match-Ups vs. Dodgers

Tuesday: 7:10

NYM Montero (0-1, 4.50) vs. LAD Beckett (1-1, 2.38)

Wednesday: 7:10

NYM deGrom (0-1, 1.29) vs. LAD Ryu (3-2, 3.00)

Thursday: 7:10

NYM Niese (2-3, 2.54)  vs. LAD Greinke (7-1, 2.03)

Where Have You Gone, Juan Lagares?

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Having not started 4 of the last 5 games, Mets fans have begun to wonder, what has happened to Juan Lagares? When Lagares returned from the disabled list on May 1st, speculation began about how the Mets would divide the playing time in the outfield among Lagares, Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, Eric Young Jr., and Bobby Abreu. Terry Collins made it quite clear that Lagares was his center fielder and it seemed that Young Jr. was the odd man out. Lagares had a big series in Colorado, going 8-20 with four doubles, three runs scored, and two runs batted in. The next day in Miami, Lagares was on the bench with Collins’ citing the need to rest Lagares’ hamstring as the reason he inserted Bobby Abreu in the lineup. Since then, Lagares has struggled with the bat, going 5-27 (.185). But slumps happen to even the best of hitters, and what Lagares is able to bring to the table defensively still makes him a valuable, everyday guy in the Mets lineup. Instead of giving the promising outfielder everyday playing time, Terry Collins and the Mets have put the 25 year old on the bench, only starting one game this week. To put that in perspective, 40 year old Booby Abreu has two starts this week. 

I don’t get it. I have tried to understand where Collins is coming from but I do not understand. The Mets look to have what appears to be a center fielder in Lagares that can be part of the solution. Defensively, besides Carlos Gomez, there might not be a better defensive center field in the National League. Instead, Collins insists on playing the likes of Eric Young Jr., Chris Young, and Bobby Abreu. And this is not to say that these three guys can’t help the Mets win. Eric Young Jr. can be your primary left fielder, batting leadoff and bringing speed to the lineup (though I do not think Young Jr.’s OBP is high enough to bat leadoff every day on a winning team). Chris Young can give all three of the outfielders a day off here and there and play against lefties, who he has hit well against in his career (career .833 OPS vs. lefties compared to a career .709 OPS vs. righties). And Abreu can be a valuable bat off the bench in late innings, getting one start every two weeks or so. Instead, it is Lagares who is getting the occasional start. How are the Mets going to be able to find out if Lagares can be part of the core going forward without throwing him out there everyday, whether he is hitting or not, for 150 games?

In today’s New York Post, Mike Vacarro wrote an article titled, The latest example of Mets stupidity? Sitting Juan Lagares. In the article, Vacarro brings up several good points as to why Lagares should be playing, which include:

“Lagares isn’t hitting .236 (as Eric Young is) or .220 (as Chris Young is) or .240 (as Bobby Abreu is, after two walks and a single) or .189 (as Curtis Granderson is). He sits at .296, 56 points higher than any of the options Collins has utilized in those four Lagares-free lineups.”

AND

“Lagares did not start in either of those shutouts against the Yankees.”

The last point that I highlighted above is the one that makes no sense. Before last night’s game against the Nationals, Terry said that his lineup, which did not include Lagares, was about putting more offense on the field, giving the Mets the best chance to score runs  and the he was more concerned about offense than defense. Well Lagares has been the Mets best option in the outfield BOTH offensively and defensively. In addition, when your team is struggling offensively, it makes it even more imperative that you are strong in the other areas of the game, like pitching and defense, so that you give yourself a chance to keep it close and hope that you get a couple runs across. Instead the Mets make themselves weaker defensively by sitting Lagares. And what happens last night? The Mets have a number of early defensive miscues that allow the Nationals to get out early, all but putting the Mets away until the last at bat of the game. One of those defensive miscues came on Eric Young Jr. missing the cut on his home throw, allowing both runners on base to advance. It should be noted that Young Jr.’s overthrow was his second defensive miscue of the week that has cost the Mets runs. A .329 OBP will not make up for the defensive miscues.

When Matt Harvery went down in the second half of the season last year, the hope that 2014 would be the year the Mets get back to the postseason all but went away and it became all about 2015. This season should be about being competitive and learning how to win and putting a full season together without completely falling apart in the second half. But it should be done with getting your prospects experience. It should be done evaluating if certain players can be everyday player going forward. It should be done playing your best players as often as possible. Juan Lagares has been one of the best players on the Mets this year. It is time to start treating him like one. So Terry Collins, Sandy Alderson, and anyone else making decisions inside the Mets, it is time to #FreeJuanLagares.

Top 3 Match-ups this Weekend

  1. Detroit Tigers @ Boston Red Sox

Friday : Scherzer (5-1) vs. Lester (4-4)     7:10

Saturday: Porcello (6-0) vs. Lackey (5-2)  7:10

Sunday: Sanchez (0-2) vs. Peavy (1-1)     8:05

A rematch of last year’s ALCS should be an excellent series. Friday and Saturday will be excellent pitching match-ups as baseball’s best team challenges the defending World Series champions.

 

  1. Atlanta Braves @ St. Louis Cardinals

Friday: Santana (4-0) vs. Lynn (4-2)          8:15

Saturday: Harang (4-3) vs. Miller (5-2)       2:15

Sunday: Floyd (0-1) vs. Garcia (0-0)          2:15

These two teams should be competing for their division titles all season long and I expect both to be in the playoffs. St. Louis has yet to find their stride and Atlanta has been up and down all season. Look for a tough series with a lot of strikeouts.

 

  1. New York Mets @ Washington Nationals

Friday: Niese (2-2) vs. Roark (2-1)             7:05

Saturday: Colon (2-5) vs. TBD                    4:05

Sunday: Wheeler (1-3) vs. TBD                  1:35

Besides the Braves, everyone is hovering around the .500 mark in the N.L. East. The Mets have been one of the surprise teams and are coming off a split in the Subway Series. The Nationals are coming off a series win at Arizona and look to continue to win series.

Rookies Tanaka, Abreu Continue.

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It was yet another big day for the top International signees of the 2014 offseason as Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu had big performances on Wednesday. Masahiro Tanaka got the start on Wednesday and the Yankees desperately needed a strong outing. In the first two games of the Subway Series, Yankees pitching gave up 21 runs and 6 Home Runs to one of the worst power teams in the National League. Tanaka’s control was a little off in the first but he was able to escape some hard hit balls without giving up a run. After the first, the Mets would struggle making solid contact. Tanaka would only allow 4 base-runners the entire game as he pitched his first career shut-out. He ended the game with 8 strikeouts and did not walk a batter. Tanaka even picked his first big league hit. Tanaka has been stellar so far this season and he improved his record to 6-0 on the season. The Yankees got exactly what they needed from their ace as they were able to rest their subpar bullpen.

Jose Abreu is beginning to look like a serious bargain for the Chicago White Sox. The rookie from Cuba signed a 6 yrs / 68 M dollar deal in the offseason and has been a major force in the White Sox lineup since opening day. After his unbelievable first month, he has continued right into May and Wednesday was no different. With his team trailing 2-1 in the 8th inning in Oakland, Abreu came to the plate with runners on first and second. Abreu drilled the second pitch he saw to deep left and hit the facing of the second deck for a three-run Home Run and gave the White Sox the lead. His 15th Home Run on the season was the deciding factor in Wednesday’s win against Oakland. His league leading 15 Home Runs and 41 Runs Batted In have been a huge boost for Chicago as they are surprisingly creeping towards .500.

Other Notes from Yesterday:

– David Ortiz hit two Home Runs yesterday against Minnesota passing Jim Rice for 3rd on the Red Sox all-time Home Run list. He also tied Dave Kingman for 40th on baseball’s all-time Home Run list with 442.

– Matt Dominguez had a walk-off singled in the 9th against the Rangers. It was the Houston Astros first series win against Texas since June 2008.

– The Rangers received bad news on two of their starters yesterday. Lefty Matt Harrison is suffering from a chronic back problem and may need Spinal Fusion surgery that could end his career. Lefty Martin Perez has a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and may opt to have season ending Tommy John Surgery, adding to the long list of torn elbow ligaments in 2014.

-The Miami Marlins won at Dodger Stadium with a 13-3 victory for their 4th road win in 19 games.

– Ben Zobrist dislocated his thumb on a head first slide into second and is likely  heading to the disabled list.