Category: Player Profile

Robinson Cano is the American League MVP

You come to this blog not just because you know me but also because I have some interesting things to say.  I sometimes dabble in topics that provide a different take on the game of baseball or sometimes go off the reservation when making a prediction, such as me picking the Seattle Mariners to win the American League West this season.  Regardless, one of my goals is to give the reader something new to think about, something that he or she may not have considered and having them come around to it see from my point of view.  Well, here goes another one of those topics.

Robinson Cano should be the 2013 AL MVP.  Image:  espn.com

Robinson Cano should be the 2013 AL MVP. Image: espn.com

Robinson Cano deserves to be the American League MVP.

Before you decide if this the right or wrong choice, stop for a moment.  Turn away from this page, grab yourself a drink (alcoholic or not) have a cookie and take a deep breath.  I promise I will still be here. There are five guys who I think would belong in this discussion:  Cano, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, Chris Davis and Mike Trout (only because people want a Cabrera-Trout rematch). Yes, numbers are important and Cano would not be listed here if his were weak.  The key word here is “valuable”; we have to put that word back into MVP.

Of the five gentlemen listed, think about where their respective teams would be if they were injured or underperforming.  For all of his greatness, the Angels minus Trout this year would be more than the four games under .500 they currently are.  It is very hard for someone to win the award whose team has been out of playoff contention since May.  I know you shouldn’t compare teams from year to year when determining an individual award.  However, the Orioles were better in 2012 when Davis’s numbers were not nearly as impressive as 2013’s output.  Donaldson has enjoyed a breakout season for the A’s but his numbers are little down as compared to Cano’s.  Finally, Cabrera has been slowed by injury for the past month which while not taking away from another dominating season, the Tigers have been comfortably ahead in the AL Central all season long.  Now, think about where the Yankees would be without Cano.  Although they may ultimately come up short of the playoffs, there is no chance they are even close without his production.  This leads me to the other part of my reasoning.

Think about each candidates supporting cast.  Although Albert Pujols has been hurt and Josh Hamilton has had a rough season, Trout still has Mark Trumbo who is on pace for 35 home runs and over 100 RBI’s in addition to C.J. Wilson who could win 18 games for the Halos.  Davis has Adam Jones (32 HR’s, 103 RBI’s) and Manny Machado (51 doubles) to help him drive the Orioles offense.  Donaldson has three other teammates that have over 20 homers plus a staff that ranks second in the AL with a 3.61 ERA.  Cabrera is surrounded by Torii Hunter (17 HR’s, 78 RBI’s, .295) and Prince Fielder (24 HR’s, 103 RBI’s, .283) in the lineup.  Cano’s biggest help in the run producing department is Alfonso Soriano, who didn’t come to the team until the end of July and Brett Gardner whose numbers (8 HR’s, 52 RBI’s, 24 steals) do not measure up to any of the players I listed earlier.

I do not want to diminish anyone’s reliance on statistics such as WAR or other metrics that help determine year-end awards.  All serve a purpose and should be considered when making a selection.  However, I think we do overanalyze when some simple thinking can be applied.  This is the case for the AL MVP discussion.  Just ask yourself this question:  which team would be most hurt if their star player was absent?  When you realize the answer, hands down, is Robinson Cano, then you will have identified the 2013 AL MVP.

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Marlins on My Mind

Jose Fernandez could become the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year. Image:  nydailynews.com

Jose Fernandez could become the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year. Image: nydailynews.com

I have a special affection for South Florida.  My grandparents moved to Ft. Lauderdale in the early 1970’s and we would visit them, often taking a week or ten days in February.  After my grandfather passed away, we would go sometimes during Christmas and even braved a few days in the Spring or Summer there.  My grandmother has since passed but the condo still remains and is in our family’s name.  This explains why I like keeping tabs on the teams in the area, particularly the Miami Marlins.  It also may explain why that, in the middle of the crucial series between the Yankees and Orioles, I decided to spend a good portion of time watching an almost meaningless Marlins-Braves contest.  I say “almost” because the Fish have two of the most exciting players in all of baseball on their squad:  Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton.

The main reason why I had that game on last week is because it was the final start of the year for the 21-year old Fernandez.  If you didn’t hear about it, there was alot of other fireworks surrounding the game that involved the young right-hander. Nevertheless, Fernandez is someone special to watch. His fastball tops out at 98, which he was throwing in the seventh inning.  There is also this breaking ball that looks as though it breaks five feet in about a tenth of a second.  I know there will be considerable debate on whether he or Yasiel Puig will win Rookie of the Year in the National League.  I won’t have a problem if either wins.  That being said, here are Fernandez’s numbers:  12-6, 2.18 ERA in 28 starts, in 172 1/3 innings.  Here are even more impressive stats:  187 strikeouts, 111 hits allowed and 58 walks.  His 5.8 hits allowed and 9.7 K’s per nine innings is tops in the NL.  Incredible.

It is hard to believe that Stanton is only 25 years old.  Earlier this season, he became the ninth fastest player to reach 100 career home runs.  Although he didn’t play in a game until June, Stanton leads the Marlins in both home runs and RBI’s.  On this team, the fact that he has even had opportunities to get a pitch to hit is amazing.  In 2012, he led the National League in slugging at .608 and was second in home runs with 37.  Unfortunately, because of where he plays, Stanton is forever the subject of trade rumors.    Management insists he is not on the block but given their track record, can you really trust them?

If the Miami Marlins insist that they are committed to South Florida, they should sign Fernandez and Stanton to long-term deals before they are close to hitting free agency.  Stanton is under club control until 2017, Fernandez, 2019.  While the organization was killed when they made trades to dismantle their team, right now, those trades don’t seem to be so bad.  They received some nice pitchers in return which are forming the foundation of a nice rotation.  If the team sells off Fernandez and Stanton with no real attempt at keeping them long-term, then Major League Baseball needs to invoke its best interest of baseball clause and take the team away from Jeffrey Loria.

The Greatness of Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter will prove most people wrong and have a great 2014.  Image:  nydailynews.com

Derek Jeter will prove most people wrong and have a great 2014. Image: nydailynews.com

On Wednesday, it was announced that Derek Jeter would return to the disabled list and not return for the rest of the season.  The captain of the New York Yankees played in only 17 games this season with the major culprit being the ankle injury he suffered in last season’s American League Championship Series.  The same ankle has now shut him down for good at least as far as 2013 season goes.  However, in listening to his press conference on Wednesday we were reminded just why Derek Jeter is great.

As I was driving home from work, his voice had my complete attention.  He jabbed at reporters who wanted to know if he was retiring.  He is a ballplayer and his job is to go out there every day and play.  He doesn’t think about retiring or looking ahead,  his focus is on that day’s game and the current season.  I can’t quote every single thing he said so perhaps the link found here can help you out.  The bottom line is that I believed every word he said.  When he says he will work out to be ready for 2014, I believe he will work out like a mad man and come back and hit .310 with 185 hits and 90 runs scored.  At 40 years old and a year away from the game, that sounds like wishful thinking.  I won’t be the one to doubt him.  You would be foolish to think it can’t happen; you don’t think Jeter will be fueled by all of the naysayers who insist he hang it up?

Those doubters have plenty of company when it comes to knocking Jeter.  You know, the ones who say he is the most overpaid player in the game.  Or the ones who state that using XYZ metric, he is the worst defensive shortstop in baseball.  Let us settle this once and for all.  Derek Jeter is an all-time great.  Yes, I said it.  He is 9th on the all time hits list.  Go ahead, tell me that is not a big deal.  There have been thousands of men who have played Major League Baseball and only eight players have more hits.  As far as his defense goes, maybe he is not flashy enough for some but he makes every single play.  Tell me, when is the last time you saw him make a bad throw?  Never?  Does he not go into the hole on a backhand and throw the runner out at first every single time?  It amazes that a guy who is so great, who every dad could tell his child, “play the game like him” who at times can be so maligned.

The greatness of Derek Jeter goes beyond the baseball field.  It is his class, his ability to thrive under the most glaring of spotlights without losing his dignity and his coolness ion dealing with the harshest of critics that make him so great.  Doubt him if you must but I feel that Derek Jeter will have a monster 2014.

Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @ltj41

I also cover the Arizona Diamondbacks at venomstrikes.com

Oh, Joba

He was once the crown jewel in the farm system of the New York Yankees and considered perhaps the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera.  Today, Joba Chamberlain is not even a primary setup man for the Bronx Bombers, almost an afterthought in the bullpen.  Sunday’s latest fiasco, giving up a three-run home run to Adam Jones during a 7-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, is the latest low in a career that started with such fanfare, including the use of the “Joba Rules”.

This could be Joba Chamberlain's last month in a Yankee uniform.  Image:  www.nj.com

This could be Joba Chamberlain’s last month in a Yankee uniform. Image: nj.com

When he was called up for the stretch run of the 2007 season, Joba instantly created a tremendous buzz.  Armed with a 98 mile per hour fastball and nasty breaking stuff, Chamberlain racked up 34 strikeouts in 24 innings, sporting a miniscule 0.38 ERA.  New York was home to Joba Mania and there was such high hopes for the young righty.   However, the Yankees couldn’t seem to make up their mind about making him a starter or keeping him a reliever.  For the record, I supported putting him in the rotation.  Over the next two seasons, he started 43 games out of 74 appearances with only moderate success.  In 2009, his ERA was a messy 5.38 and if you count this season, that ERA has been above 4.00 in three out of the past four seasons.  Injuries have played a role in his demise with elbow surgery during the 2011 season and a dislocated ankle in Spring Training in 2012.  For his career, Joba is a 23-13 record with a 3.78 ERA, allowing 426 hits  with 175 walks and 443 strikeouts in 441 innings pitched.

Joba Chamberlain will be a free agent at the end of the season.  He was once considered the future of the Yankees’ pitching staff.  Now, he will be very lucky to be back in the Bronx in 2014.

Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @ltj41

I also cover the Arizona Diamondbacks at venomstrikes.com

Please Send Darren Oliver to a Winner

He was the losing pitcher in the second game of a doubleheader on Tuesday.  He will turn 43 in October and almost did not come back in 2013, which is now his 20th full season in the Big Leagues.  Darren Oliver‘s career hasn’t been spectacular but it has been steady, particularly since his conversion to a strictly relief role in 2006.  He is an easy to guy to root for.  However, Oliver’s career is missing a World Series Championship, something he has come close to, most notably as a member of the 2011 Texas Rangers who were one strike away from winning it all.  So I have one favor to ask of Toronto Blue Jays’ General Manager Alex Anthopoulos:

It would be nice to see Darren  Oliver go out with a ring.  Image:  sportsnet.ca

It would be nice to see Darren Oliver go out with a ring. Image: sportsnet.ca

Please send Darren Oliver to a place where he has a chance to earn a ring.

Surely, some contending team has room for a wily lefty (what a great term) out of the bullpen.  The 3.92 ERA is a bit high but consider the mess that are the Blue Jays, with their underachieving 57-71 record.  Oliver’s ERA has not finished a season over 3.00 since 2007, including 2012’s sparkling 2.06.  Don’t you think the Detroit Tigers despite all of their might and muscle but can’t  find stability in the ‘pen, could use someone like him?  Perhaps Drew Smyly is their answer from the left side but they should think about another lefty out there.  How about the St. Louis Cardinals?  I know Randy Choate has done a nice job for them but picture Oliver going back-to-back with Trevor Rosenthal.  First, you get the 80 MPH junk of Darren followed by the 100 MPH heat of Rosenthal.   Tell opposing batters to have fun with that.

Darren Oliver considered retirement following the 2012 season with a year left on his contract.  However, once the Blue Jays made all of those moves to contend and they increased his salary, he decided to give it one more shot.  I would like Toronto to give him one last World Series opportunity by trading him before August 31st.  Perhaps a third go-round with the Rangers will give him the ring that has eluded him for two decades.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Francisco Liriano is Dealing

He burst onto the scene in 2006 as a member of the Minnesota Twins.  In 121 innings, he struck out 144 batters and sported a 12-3 record with a fantastic 2.16 ERA.  And then, just like that, Francisco Liriano‘s career seemed to take a long drive off a short cliff.   He missed the last seven weeks of the regular season, the divisional playoffs  and all of 2007 because of Tommy John surgery.  He did win 14 games in 2010, earning Comeback Player of the Year honors but at the end of each of the following two seasons, his ERA was over 5.00.   The Pittsburgh Pirates decided to give him a one year guaranteed contract worth $1 million dollars with a club option for 2014 at $8 million dollars.

Francisco Liriano's 14 wins is tied for first in the National League.  Image:  si.com

Francisco Liriano’s 14 wins is tied for first in the National League. Image: si.com

Right now, he is the bargain of the year.

The 29-year old lefty is the rotation’s ace, with a National-League leading 14 wins and an ERA of 2.53, good enough for fifth in the Senior Circuit.   These are outstanding numbers for a guy who started the season on the disabled list and did not make his first appearance until May 11th.  He already has two complete games in 2013, doubling his career total; his only one prior to this season was his no-hitter that he threw on May 3rd, 2011 against the Chicago White Sox.  The Bucs were just coming off a seven loss in nine game stretch when Liriano took the mound last night in San Diego.  Once again, he was brilliant, throwing seven innings of shutout ball allowing only four hits and striking out 13 as the Pirates defeated the Padres 3-1.  The victory enabled Pittsburgh to keep their slim one game lead in the National League Central.  The Pirates are now 3-7 over the last ten games; two of the victories were in large part to Liriano, who could very well be the team’s Most Valuable Player.

At 73-51, the Pirates have the second best record in the National League with 19% of them coming from a player who had his original contract voided by the team in December because of an injury.  It’s hard to imagine a guy in the NL who deserves Comeback Player of the Year more than Nelson Liriano.

Jason Giambi’s Flair for the Dramatic

His name will be forever be tarnished by his admitted use of Performance Enhancing Drugs.  He is one of the very few New York Yankee stars not to own a World Series ring.  Yet Jason Giambi has carved out a little bit of a niche as the wise old clubhouse man who can still deliver the occasional big hit.  Today’s three run, eighth inning home run helping the Cleveland Indians get a crucial victory was the latest example of Giambi’s penchant for late innings heroics.

It would be nice to see Jason Giambi make the playoffs one last time.  Image:  Cleveland.com

It would be nice to see Jason Giambi make the playoffs one last time. Image: Cleveland.com

After not being re-signed by the Yankees following the 2008 season, Giambi found his way back to his first home, the Oakland A’s.  He was released by the A’s in August and signed shortly thereafter by the Colorado Rockies.  He helped the Rox with their incredible playoff push garnering many key late game hits as Colorado used an 18-9 September record to become the Wild Card.  Still with the Rockies in 2011, Giambi at age 41 became the second oldest player to hit three home runs in one game, topped only by the legendary Stan Musial.  After the 2012 season, Giambi signed a minor league deal with the Indians and made the club out of Spring Training.   Only July 29th, he became the oldest player to end a game with a home run when he connected off Chicago White Sox reliever Ramon Troncoso.

Although he is batting only.190 on the season, the slugger does have eight home runs.  Part of the reason why the Tribe has stayed within striking distance of first place in the American League Central and in playoff position is the presence of Jason Giambi.  At 42, this may be his last hurrah.  What better way for him to close out a star-crossed career than by smacking the hit that will give Cleveland its first playoff appearance in six years?

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com