Posts tagged “baseball blog

Longest sellout streak in major pro sports comes to an end at Fenway Park


The Boston Red Sox sold out in a record 820 straight games at their famed Fenway Park. Photo by: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau

The Boston Red Sox sold out in a record 820 straight games at their famed Fenway Park. Photo by: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau

Feedcrossing.com syndication

There have been numerous boasts from professional sports teams across the world regarding sellout streaks. However, nobody really knew which ones were to be believed. One that was confirmed to be true was that of the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball. The ball team sold out 820 straight games at its home of Fenway Park before seeing that streak come to an end on April 10. It’s believed to be the longest sellout streak in major professional sports.

The streak didn’t end by just a few tickets though as the Red Sox saw it come to a conclusion with about 7,000 empty seats in the stands. The official capacity for evening games at the stadium is 37,493, but just 30,862 tickets were sold for their game against the Baltimore Orioles, which they dropped by a score of 8-5. The sellout streak started back in May of 2003 and it also included playoff games. The previous mark was set by the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA. Portland managed to sell out 814 consecutive home games between 1977 and 1995.

When regular-season games only are taken into consideration, the Red Sox sold out 794 straight contests, which is also a major sports record. Boston demolished the old mark of 455 which the Cleveland Indians set between 1995 and 2001. John W. Henry, the owner of the Red Sox, said that the streak took place at the best ballpark in America and he thanks the Boston fans and players for it. He added that the franchise is looking forward to beginning a new streak and hopes fans in the area will also be able to enjoy their baseball at Fenway Park for generations tom come. (more…)


Preseason Position Power Rankings: Couch Side’s top five setup men for 2013


BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com senior blogger

New York Yankees setup man David Robertson topped Couch Side's list of the top setup men in the game for 2013. Phot by: Keith Allison / Flickr

New York Yankees setup man David Robertson topped Couch Side’s list of the top setup men in the game for 2013. Phot by: Keith Allison / Flickr

Relievers can be difficult to project because performance can sway so drastically from season to season. The limited number of innings, and the various situations the pitchers are used can lead to occasional spikes or dips in results. Sometimes you don’t know if your established 8th inning guy will have to take over closer duties, which can also affect his numbers depending on the situations he’s used in. I’m not of the mind that a minute number of relievers can close; most guys can do it if they have a big fastball that can be consistently thrown for strikes. However, given how much of a financial incentive it is to be a big time closer, teams will overvalue based on saves, when they should really be looking at how effective the pitcher was overall. I digress, so here are my top 5 setup men aka potential closers that currently aren’t.

5. David Hernandez, Arizona Diamondbacks (68 IP, 98 Ks, 22 BBs, 2.50 ERA)

Former Team Mexico/USA pitcher is underrated, he improved his strikeout rate and lowered his walk rate in 2012, and figures to be used by Kirk Gibson to trade off the 7th or 8th with the inferior Heath Bell.

4. Drew Storen, Washington Nationals (30 IP, 24 Ks, 8 BBs, 2.37 ERA)

Let’s throw out that blowup inning against the Cardinals in NLDS game 5 last year, Storen is going to be getting key outs against the Braves lineup for a team that many will predict to win the World Series this year.
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Preseason Position Power Rankings: Couch Side’s top five left fielders for 2013


Ryan Braun tops the list of Couch Side's top left fielders with his big bat and speedy legs. Photo by: Steve Paluch / Flickr

Ryan Braun tops the list of Couch Side’s top left fielders with his big bat and speedy legs. Photo by: Steve Paluch / Flickr

BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com senior blogger

Some may think of left field as that position where a youth baseball coach would hide his worst player. In Major League Baseball, it’s quite the contrary, In fact, many former center fielders, who had a younger player with a tad more defensive skills bump them out of their former positions, will usually move just one spot left. It also seems like a lot of the games top power hitters call left field their home. We’ll look at both cases in today’s blog of the top 10 left fielders in the game today:

10. Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins (.260 BA, 35 HR, 110 RBI, 2.9 WAR) - One of the most underrated power hitters in baseball.

9. David Murphy, Texas Rangers (.304 BA, 15 HR, 61 RBI, 10 SB, 3.2 WAR) – One of the most underrated players in baseball.

8. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics (.292 BA, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, 3.4 WAR) - Great rookie season from the defected Cuban, expect more in 2013.

7. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (.303 BA, 22 HR, 85 RBI, 20 SB, 1.3 WAR) - Big platoon split due to Coors Field.

6. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (.294 BA, 14 HR, 72 RBI, 10 SB, 6.2 WAR) - Excellent defensive fielder with an improved bat.

5. Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals (.295 BA, 27 HR, 102 RBI, 3.8 WAR)

Holliday is one of the great sure things in baseball. Consistently reliable slugger who drives in runs and generally does things well. One of the things he doesn’t do well is defend, or really have great range, at least not anymore. Regardless, he’ll be a big factor the Cardinals yet again.

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Preseason Position Power Rankings: Couch Side’s top five third basemen for 2013


How will Miguel Cabrera one up his Triple Crown season in 2013? Photo by: Keith Allison / Flickr

How will Miguel Cabrera one up his Triple Crown season in 2013? Photo by: Keith Allison / Flickr

Editor’s note: Couch Side is very pleased to bring back its annual MLB preseason position power rankings. This year, we will offer two positions every Wednesday and Friday. Each blog ranks the top 10 players at each position and is written by some of Couch Side’s best bloggers. The following is part six of what will be a 12-part series. Enjoy!

BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

As older third basemen with aging knees trot their way over to first base or become designated hitters, a new wave of third basemen are showing us just as much power.

Like first base, a bit of pop is expected to come from third basemen as well as a quick glove and even quicker reactions. Defense is a must just left of shortstop. A solid bat also comes with the territory. While many consider shortstop the toughest defensive position in the game, third base is where screamers come down the line. And if those players don’t have the instincts to stop a smash, they won’t have a job for long.

Major League baseball still has a plethora of talent at the hot corner. In fact, last year a third baseman took home the first Triple Crown in more than 40 years. Talent will always lye closest to the away team’s dugout and with some hefty power hitters, this year is no exception. So here’s a look at Couch Side’s top 10 third baseman for 2013:

A quick glance at five guys outside of the top 10: Brett Lawrie, Aramis Ramirez, David Feeze, Todd Frazier and Mike Moustakas … Further out who still deserve recognition: Will Middlebrooks, Trevor Plouffe and Manny Machado. Alright, now, let’s start the show!

10. Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks (.301 BA, 10 HR, 70 RBI, 5.4 WAR): Prado makes my list simply because after Miguel Cabrera, this 29-year-old may be the best contact bat / on-base guy at the hot corner. His .359 OBP also isn’t anything to sneeze at. What a player!

9. Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates (.244 BA, 10 HR, 85 RBI, 2.6 WAR): For fantasy purposes, Alvarez makes my top 10. Quite honestly, I think he is going to blow up this season. Yes, he strikes out a lot, however his power numbers easily forgive that. This may sound premature, but Alvarez could very well be the next Jose Bautista.

8. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants (.283, 12 HR, 63 RBI, 2.0 WAR): In a separate blog I wrote on Couch Side, I was forced to look up Sandoval’s defensive statistics. And considering this guy is pushing 280 pounds, he is quite nimble on his feet. Add those praises to his consistent and impressive bat, and Sandoval could easily be a top five third baseman. He just lacks power.

7. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (.282 BA, 25 HR, 95 RBI, 3.8 WAR): After slumping at the beginning of the year in 2012, Zimmerman bounced back to have a very impressive second half. In 2012, Zimmerman more or less had his best year at the plate since 2009 when he set career highs in all batting categories. He has to be loving that revamped Nationals lineup and his numbers are every indication of that.

6. Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (.257 BA, 24 HR, 92 RBI, 1.2 WAR): Ramirez is slowly working his way back into the type of player he was in 2009 when he set career highs in every single hitting category. Last season, he obviously slumped for the Miami Marlins, but he really turned things around in the Dodger white and blue, batting in just four less runs than he did while in a Marlins uniform. That’s extrmely impressive, considering Ramirez played in 29 fewer games as a Dodger.

5. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays (.289 BA, 17 HR, 55 RBI, 2.3 WAR)

I probably won’t make many friends ranking Longoria No. 5 on this list, but his injury does concern me. It seemed like Longoria took too long to heal from it, at least that’s what the experts said, and that just raises red flags. His numbers coming back, however, may place my own foot in my mouth as it was like Longoria didn’t miss a beat after injury. Check out the stats above and then consider that the 27-year-old was able to achieve them in just 74 games. I’m sure this youngster has many MVP years ahead of him. I’m just not buying into his big bat this season.
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Rockies rotation goes from bleak to weak


BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin looks like the team's best starting pitcher on paper, but he's not their ace. Photo by: Charles Atkeison / Flickr

Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin looks like the team’s best starting pitcher on paper, but he’s not their ace. Photo by: Charles Atkeison / Flickr

There’s no hiding the fact that Coors Field isn’t a pitcher-friendly park.

While that may mean good things for hitters in the Colorado Rockies’ lineup, it spells disaster for their pitching staff. In years past, Colorado has tried to combat their home field by adding big names, but lately, it seems like the team has given up on trying to land talented free agents. During the Rockies World Series run in 2007, Colorado had the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez and Aaron Cook as their top of the rotation starters. Now, just six years later, it seems like there really isn’t a clear Ace of this staff or even a legitimate No. 2 or No. 3 starter.

In fact, not much has changed when comparing last year’s starting rotation to this season’s. The only real difference is that last year there were a few names — like Jamie Moyer and Jeremy Guthrie — that fans could get excited about. In 2013, the only guy fans can have high hopes for is Jorge De La Rosa, who hasn’t pitched in 16 months.

Long shot in the dark: The chances De La Rosa bounces back from Tommy John surgery are slim. The fact is most pitchers never successfully return from the hurler’s curse. Colorado fans will have their fingers crossed that De La Rosa can somehow defy the odds, but even if he does, they won’t want to see the short-lived 2013 version of the 31-year-old. Last season in just three starts, De La Rosa posted an embarrassing 9.28 ERA and an 0-2 record with just six strikeouts.   De La Rosa’s history before that isn’t anything to brag about, either. The lefty has only had one season with a sub-4.00 ERA, which came in 2011 when he only started 10 games. To call him this year’s Ace should be more of a concern than a hope of an incredible MLB comeback story.  (more…)


American League MVP Race: Trout versus Cabrera


L.A. Angels outfielder Mike Trout (left) and Detroit Tigers infielder Miguel Cabrera are clearly the two front runners to earn this year’s American League MVP. Trout photo by: Lauren Flickr — Cabrera Photo by: WEBN-TV / Flickr

BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com blogger

Much has been bandied and ballyhooed about the AL MVP race lately. Will it be Mike Trout? Miguel Cabrera? Miguel Olivo? The race that some thought was over in August has revived a familiar narrative in September: The idea of September performance trumping everything else.

Cabrera in September has 1.261 OPS with 8 home runs through 17 games. Trout is merely hitting at a .726 OPS with 4 steals. Various fans and media members are pointing at these results and crafting this narrative that suddenly Cabrera is now the frontrunner, or about to pass Trout for the MVP.

Does this make sense?

Why does one hot week in September guarantee winning the MVP?

Oh wait, it doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t.

There’s no such thing as a benchmark for MVP, Mark McGwire finished second in the ’98 MVP voting to Sammy Sosa. If breaking the all-time home run record in a season (at the time) doesn’t automatically lock up the MVP, then I don’t know what does.

The proof here is in the narrative pudding, and it tastes terrible. Out of the blue it seemed like someone, somewhere needed to inject drama into this race, just so people could talk about again. Both the Angels and the Tigers teams are on the outside looking in regards to the playoff race, and it’s not as if Trout or Cabrera by themselves can overcome the flaws of the roster.

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Expanded MLB playoff format could bolster baseball’s popularity


Although Eric O’ Flaherty and the Atlanta Braves have been atop the wildcard standings all season long, they would still have to play a one-game playoff with another wildcard team to reach the postseason with baseball’s new playoff system. Photo by: John W. Iwanski / Flickr

BY DEREK BARSNESS, Couchsideshow.com blogger

With the expansion of the MLB playoffs to include an additional wild card team in each league, baseball may finally be relevant to more than the diehard fan.

The wild card was first added in 1995 to expand each division to include 4 playoff teams. This was great for baseball and since its addition we have seen 5 wild card teams go on to win the World Series, most notably the 2004 Boston Red Sox. However, some might argue that what the St. Louis Cardinals did in 2011 (23-9 in their final games and overcoming a 10.5 game deficit to clinch the wild card) may trump the magical run that Boston put together just 7 years before.

By expanding the wild card to include two teams from each division baseball and its fans come out winners. Each wild card race is suddenly expanded to include more teams vying for a playoff spot. And with games happening every day, the races will no doubt play out until the final days of the regular season. Take the current season for example. If the playoffs still included just one wild card team, the Atlanta Braves would have a 6.5 game lead over St. Louis, and the L.A. Dodgers would be 8.5 games out of the lead. Instead, by including a second wild card team, the Dodgers are only 2 games back and have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. Even the Arizona Diamondbacks and Pittsburgh Pirates are still in the playoff chase just 4.5 games back of St. Louis (with only one wild card spot, these teams would be 11 games back and likely playing AAA call-ups to gain experience). With the current playoff format we now have a seven team race for two spots in the NL (6 teams if you consider that Atlanta holds a 8.5 game lead over the Dodgers, the closest team that could threaten their playoff chances) and a five team race in the AL. (more…)


Who’s to blame for Phillies’ disaster?


BY WAYNE CELLA, Feedcrossing.com syndication

Philadelphia Phillies Manger Charlie Manuel may be the reason why his team is in last place in the NL East. Photo by: WEBN-TV / Flickr

The answer to the headline: Philadelphia Phillies Manger Charlie Manuel

The first half is over. Thankfully. The Phillies have had their worst start since 1997 and nothing this season has really gone to plan. The questions of why have been asked now for 3 months. They’re only intensifying now, after a 9-25 performance in the last 34 games.

Who is to blame? Charlie Manuel? Ruben Amaro? Injuries? The players?

Frankly, I think there’s enough blame to go around. The fact that this team’s talent level is not good enough to win is a function of the person who put the roster together. In this case, it’s Ruben Amaro. By splurging on Jonathan Papelbon, Amaro left himself short of cash for the rest of his bullpen.

Having the best closer in baseball is only effective if you can get the ball into his hands on a regular basis. That hasn’t been the case thus far. Either the Phillies have been behind or too far ahead for Papelbon to see regular work. That has hurt in a couple of instances now, when he was in a save situation but wasn’t sharp. (more…)


Are the Texas Rangers the Best Team Since the ’98 Yankees?


 

Josh Hamilton rounds the bases after hitting a home run in Game 3 of the World Series. Photo by: Bo Nash / Flickr

BY MICHAEL J. SILVA, Feedcrossing.com syndication

The Rangers are the best team since the ’98 Yankees. Do you agree?

Tom Verducci made this statement yesterday to John Feinstein and Bruce Murray during their mid-day show on Mad Dog Radio. I think Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels have done a fabulous job turning around that ballclub, but they should not be discussed in the same breath as one of the best baseball teams of all-time.

The ’98 Yankees weren’t a collection of All-Stars. Although the Yankees have been a payroll team for the better part of the decade, this was not the case during the late nineties dynasty under Joe Torre. The Yanks were actually number two, behind Baltimore, with their $66 million dollar payroll. There were six other teams that were within $10 million dollars of them, as well.

That ’98 team was a collection of homegrown talent, veteran acquisition and component players that thrived in their roles. That group scored 965 runs, which is the tenth highest in franchise history. Offensively, it was on par with the powerful offenses of the late twenties and thirties. Even more impressive was their pitching. They only allowed 656 runs; on par with the top staffs in the National League despite having to deal with the Designated Hitter. This current Rangers group is on par with that production, but in the depressed post-steriods era. The Yankees output was amazing due to the explosion of offense we saw that season. (more…)


40 games through: MLB contenders and pretenders


BY ZAC CORDOVA AND JUSTIN MILLAR, Feedcrossing.com syndication 

Zac Cordova:

Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson looks as if he may have a career year this season. Photo by: Lauren / Flickr

• LA Dodgers: Pretender. Matt Kemp should change his nickname to “Mr. April” because he gets everyone thinking he is the best player in baseball the first month of every season. He is great no doubt, but has little help outside of Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier. AJ Ellis will cool off a bit, but they are too top heavy to be considered consistent enough to be a contender.

• NY Yankees: Contender. Simply too much talent to continue playing this poorly. When you consider all the players they have hitting poorly or injured (Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner) there has to be a bounce back. Paired with the inevitable trade deadline splash for a starter, the Yanks should be just fine.
• Detroit Tigers: Pretender. They are almost the Dodgers of the AL, in that they have very little depth behind their sluggers. With their offensive stars hitting at of near their norms, and Prince Fielder’s lack of power cancelled by overachieving starts by Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks, there really is not too much room for improvement. Rookie Drew Smyley and Doug Fister wont keep their sub 2.5 ERAs all year, and Dirks and Jackson are due to regress, the Tigers may be in serious trouble, with the only saving grace being their weak division.
• Baltimore Orioles: Contender. The Orioles have quietly put together a tremendous pitching staff, anchored by 5 relievers posting sub 1.8 ERA’s (6 if you include Chris Davis). The potential regression of starters Wei-Yin Chen and Jason Hammel are greatly anchored because of how terrific their bullpen is. Outside of Adam Jones, they do not have an offensive player who is greatly overachieving. If they can sustain the great bullpen work, and hitting, I can absolutely see the Orioles challenging for the division come September. (more…)

Tigers continue to toil, bullpen at fault?


BY JOE WHITE, Feedcrossing.com syndication

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Daniel Schlereth is one of many Tiger relievers who have been off their game to start the 2012 season. Photo by: Lauren / Flickr

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote this article chronicling the early season struggles of the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen. Well, here we are again. Fresh off of the Twins (the TWINS?!) dropping an 11-spot on the Tigers last night and the bullpen allowing 5 earned runs in their 5 innings of work, fans are rightfully concerned.

The bullpen has been bad but certainly isn’t entirely to blame here. The offense has been suppressed for most of the season and the starting rotation has been decent, but couldn’t be categorized as world-beaters at this point. The defense has been predictably unsuccessful but ranking 21st in fielding % is probably more than what most expected. Although the fact remains that it’s hard to create an error on a ball your range doesn’t allow you to reach.

But man that bullpen is frustrating! By the numbers it might actually be even more troubling.

Senor Slider is making his way back

Across all of Major League Baseball the Tigers’ pen ranks dead last in ERA at 5.17. Worse than even the horror show on the north side of Chicago.

As an entire staff, the Tigers are doing a decent job not walking the opposition, but as a bullpen, only 2 teams have walked more. In 116.2 innings of combined work, the ever rotating 7-man pen has walked 58 hitters. Teams are hitting .270 off of Luke Putkonen and company, which ties them for 4th worst in the bigs.

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Time to move Jimmy Rollins down in the lineup


BY SCOTT BUTLER, Feedcrossing.com syndication

Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is off to a bad start this season, hitting just .231 with one home run and six RBIs. Photo by: Jimmy Rollins / Flickr

The time has come to move Jimmy Rollins down in the lineup. Rollins is statistically the second best defensive shortstop in Major League history, he is the longest tenured athlete in Philadelphia, his leadership helped bring five straight division championships, and he was instrumental in winning the 2008 World Series.

That’s nice. Now move Jimmy Rollins down to the bottom of the lineup.

I’ve heard enough of the Jimmy Rollins is a sparkplug jibber jabber. J-Roll cannot be a sparkplug when he is hitting .225, he just can’t. He isn’t getting hits, he doesn’t walk, he has no power, and now has just above average speed, so he needs to leave the top of the lineup and he needs to leave fast.

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Adam Dunn: Back to normal?


BY SEAN HARRIGAN, Isportsweb.com syndication

Chicago Whitesox designted hitter Adam Dunn (formerly of the Arizona Diamondbacks) set a major league record for lowest batting average last year at .159. But he might be back to his former self this season, posting a .250 batting average with four home runs already. Photo by: SD Dirk / Flick

Anybody who remotely follows baseball knows that Chicago Whitesox designated hitter Adam Dunn had a historically awful season. Last season, he set a new record for lowest batting average at .159. Having only contributed 42 RBIs with 11 home runs, suffice it to say it was a massive blemish on an otherwise fantastic career.

In addition to his woes at the plate, Dunn had to go through something no pro athlete should have to endure and that’s getting booed by the hometown fans. The heckling was especially brutal following the All-Star break as the White Sox began to fall out of contention. Just having Dunn in the on-deck circle made Sox fans vocal with their disapproval that he was still suiting up every day. It also didn’t help that Dunn admitted before the season that he participates in barely any offseason training.

However, here we are in 2012 and I’m just going to put it out there, Dunn is doing very well (I’m knocking on wood of course). His BA is a bit low at .246, but he never did hit for a high average. What is important is his contributions to run production. He has 13 RBIs and that ties him for seventh in the American League. He also has hit three balls out of the park which puts him on pace to have the 30-plus home runs that the Sox paid for. I know it is very early and evaluating these stats in terms of the season doesn’t hold much weight, but I can be optimistic.

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Is Reds flamethrower being misused?


Despite being perhaps the best pitcher in baseball so far this season, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman is still being used as a middle reliever. Photo by: Brian Baute / Flickr

BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

The sky looked as if it was the limit for Cuban flamethrower Aroldis Chapman when he made his Major League debut for the Cincinnati Reds two years ago.

Chapman dazzled baseball fans when he hit 103 MPH on the gun during his first outing on American soil. It seemed as if the 24-year-old Cuban Missile was destined for greatness. But injury and uncertainty plagued the young lefty early in his career. Although he tossed at speeds that are pretty much unheard of (including a 105 mile per hour pitch, which would be a Major League record), Chapman’s control was a question mark. Many predicted he would be a dominant starter, yet he couldn’t prove it to his own manager, Dusty Baker. And maybe Baker was right after he witnessed his 6-foot-4 hurler walk a disappointing 41 hitters in 50 innings last year.

But Baker better be second guessing what Chapman can do for his club in 2012. After losing out on a back-end of the rotation job to the formerly highly-touted prospect Homer Bailey in Spring Training because of control issues, Baker elected to throw Chapman back into the bullpen. The manager’s decision only proved to be a wake up call for the velocity-driven youngster.

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MLB Opening Day: Will Johan Santana bounce back in 2012?


BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

New York Mets starting pitcher Johan Santana hasn't started an MLB game since 2010, but he helped his team defeat the Atlanta Braves 1-0 on opening day. Photo by: Paul Hadsall / Flickr

When the New York Mets announced pitcher Johan Santana would be their opening day starter this season, I was a bit surprised.

My reaction wasn’t because Santana doesn’t have the talent to be the lackluster Mets’ ace, but because of his injury issues. I had to ask myself, ‘Would he be ready?’ Santana certainly proved that he was more than prepared, throwing five innings of scoreless ball against the Atlanta Braves in a 1-0 victory for New York on Thursday afternoon.

So how much confidence can baseball fans have in Santana now? After all, he faced a mediocre Braves offense in his first start. But even I — and avid Braves fan — have to tip my hat to Santana. Although Atlanta’s offense is a huge weakness within the squad, the former two-time Cy Young award gave up just two hits while striking out five in his first start since the lefty suffered a tear in the anterior capsule of his left shoulder repaired on Sept. 14, 2010.

Talk about a comeback start. So how long should we expect Santana to keep this sort of dominance up? It’s hard to say, considering this was New York’s first game of the season, but if can resemble the pitcher he once was — like he did in the Mets’ win over Atlanta — we should expect a lot from Santana this season. (more…)


Bidding farewell to a legend: Fan reaction of Chipper Jones’ retirement


BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones announced that he will retire after the 2012 season. Photo by: SD Dirk / Flickr

It’s never easy to quit something you love.

Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones know that all too well, announcing his retirement effectively after the 2012 season. There’s really no question that the hours following that warm afternoon must have been hard after the 40-year-old declared his decision when his beloved Braves wrapped up what would be one of Jones’ final games at Atlanta’s camp in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The choice was one that had been coming and one that any press member following the team was salivating to hear.

The Braves came into the Spring with the same ‘ol team that fell flat on its face during a September collapse that ended one game short of yet another playoff birth. Yet, the spring training attention wasn’t focused on how Atlanta would bounce back. Instead, for about the third year in a row, all eyes were on No. 10. And all ears were waiting to hear if Jones would continue to play another season despite his constant leg problems that have haunted the corner infielder. (more…)


Couch Side’s 2012 MLB preview/player rankings


BY Couchsideshow.com staff

With the Major League Baseball season just days away, Couchsideshow.com has complied all 13 of its player ranking blogs, putting them in one convenient post for an overall look at the best players in baseball. This is a great post for fantasy rankings and a great way to simply see our prediction of who will be the best of the best in 2012. Just think, you can even come back here maybe midway through the year and comment about how wrong we were. So without any further hold up, here’s the list of links to past blogs about the top players by position in the MLB:

• Catchers by Wade McMillin

• First basemen by Stayson Isobe

• Second basemen by Brett Murdock

• Shortstops by Brett Murdock

• Third basemen by Stayson Isobe

• Left fielders by Wade McMillin

• Center fielders by Brandon Smith

• Right fielders by Wade McMillin

• Designated hitters by Brandon Smith

• Starting pitchers by Trevor Gould

• Setup men by Chuck Constantino

• Closers by Chuck Constantino

 


Arizona Diamondbacks 2012 team preview


BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com writer

Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton may just be an early-season MVP candidate this year. He led the N.L. West champion Diamondbacks in home runs and RBI last season. Photo by: Paul Martinez / Flickr

The 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks were one of my favorite individual teams ever to track and follow throughout the season; they provided everything you wanted out of an upstart, surprise team. There was an equal share of surprise pitching performances (Ian Kennedy), an emerging star coming into his own (Justin Upton), a fan favorite with a unique perk (“Tatman” Ryan Roberts) and a bullpen that saw significant improvement from the previous year. Their torrid streak starting somewhere in mid-May, along with some lucky breaks in the division (Rockies giving up on Ubaldo, Buster Posey breaking his ankle, and the Dodgers being financially incompetent) allowed for one hell of a ride. Of course, as many remember, it all came to an end in game 5 of the NLDS in Milwaukee as Njyer Morgan lined a J.J. Putz fastball up the middle, and thus a run at the World Series title was over.

Offseason review

This offseason, general manager Kevin Towers decided not to rest on his laurels and continue to improve an already good team in an attempt to make them great. Did he succeed in this? Let’s examine his most significant moves. (more…)


Spring Training Teasers: Couch Side’s top five closers for 2012


BY CHUCK CONSTANTINO, Couchsideshow.com writer

No longer will the skipper climb out of the dugout, walk to the mound and signal for the closer in the seventh inning, heck, rarely will they call for him in the eighth. Most guys throw one inning, unless it is an important game, then the closer will get the next game or two off. Either way, closers are the guys who slam the door shut, or are the goat for the night. Here’s a few pitchers who I would call upon in the ninth innings this season.

5. John Axford, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford earned 40-plus saves during his first year as Milwaukee's go-to-guy in the ninth inning. Photo by: Steve Paluch / Flickr

Shoved into the closer role, Axford did not disappoint. He posted 46 saves, 86 strikeouts in 73.2 innings pitched and blew only two saves. He got stronger after the all-star break and cut down on his walks. His 49 percent ground ball rate helped him record an ERA of 1.95. Although he has Francisco Rodriguez behind him, Axford has proved to be composed. One thing that worries me is his 59 hits given up. He will need to get more swing and misses without the same lineup in Milwaukee. (more…)


Spring Training Teasers: Couch Side’s top five setup men for 2012


BY CHUCK CONSTANTINO, Couchsideshow.com writer

During the live ball era, the job of pitchers have slowly, but surely changed. No longer is a starter relied on for eight or nine innings a night, and closers do not have to throw three innings. You think they would, given the amount of money closers receive in their contracts.

Now, set-up men and relievers are the bridge from the seventh to the ninth inning, where they hand the ball over to the manager. It’s the dirty work, and too often are these names forgotten, unless you glance over the box score and see the letter ‘H’ next to their names. Here’s a list of the top-5 set-up men in baseball.

5. Eric O’Flaherty, LHP, Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves lefty Eric O'Flaherty makes it tough for opposing teams to beat the Braves at the end of games. Photo by: Paul Kehrer / Flickr

The Atlanta Braves’ bullpen is pretty stacked, and most of the attention is given to Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel. In the 2010-11 season, O’Flaherty appeared in 78 games, and surrendered eight earned runs over 73.2 innings pitched. The right-hander sported a 1.09 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP while recording 32 holds on the year. Considering all the other arms on the team, not too shabby. O’Flaherty is one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball, he’s generated grounders 55.1 percent of the time over past three years combined. He’ll be called upon all season long, if he stays healthy.

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Spring Training Teasers: Couch Side’s top five right fielders for 2012


BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

In part nine of Couch Side’s series of the best players in the MLB by position, I’ll take a look at the top five right fielders for 2012.

I grew up playing the undesirable position in legion baseball, but I never let position No. 9 ever bother me. It’s one of the most valuable spots on the diamond, which is why managers choose to place their strongest throwing outfielders in the right corner. Despite Ichiro’s raw fielding ability, the Seattle Mariners never really thought bout placing him in center to chase down balls. His cannon was to valuable. It’s a position that may not get a lot of hype, yet we can never question it’s importance.

Here’s five right fielders in Major League Baseball who show us just how vital right field can be to a big-league club.

1. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista has hit at least 40 home runs during the past two seasons. Photo by: Josh McConnell / Flickr

When will teams start pitching around this guy? It had better be this year or MVP voters may want to give Jo Baut a little more love. Last season, the 31-year-old set a career high in batting average (.301) while smacking 43 home runs and 103 RBI. In 2010, he easily led the league with 54 homers and 124 RBI. To say the least, this guy is now just entering his prime and he’s doing it loudly. Bautista’s power numbers are somewhat unmatched. Not a single player has belted at least 50 home runs during the past two seasons and maybe only a couple have reached the 40-home run plateau last season. I expect nothing but great things in the future from Bautista. And if he ever gets on an actual contender, his numbers should only improve with more protection in the lineup.  (more…)


Spring Training Teasers: Couch Side’s top five center fielders for 2012


BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com contributor

As part of The Couch Side’s MLB positional power rankings, we turn to Centerfield, arguably one of the more important positions in the game.

But first, here is my 10-6 to build anticipation

10. Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres

9. Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies

8. Drew Stubbs, Cincinnati Reds

7. Chris Young, Arizona Diamondbacks

6. Shane Victorino, Philadelphia Phillies

Now onto the cream of the crop, the five best centerfielders in the game right now.

5. Michael Bourn, Atlanta Braves 

The Braves leadoff hitter split time between Houston and Atlanta last season, and he still led the NL in stolen bases with 61. He’s a fantasy goldmine, simply put. He has two gold gloves in his short career, and rates favorably with his defense. What is he expected to achieve this year? The projection model ZiPS has him hitting .270 with 97 runs scored, and 56 stolen bases. I’ll take that, you’ll take that, and we’ll all take that.

Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury set personal bests on batting average, home runs and RBI last season. Photo by: Chris Walton / Flickr

4. Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox 

This was a tricky one; Ellsbury in 2011 had a near MVP season at the dish, only to have his teammates do their best to sabotage those efforts, which they did. Assuming the Red Sox won’t self destruct with a montage of alcoholic behavior, and unhealthy food choices, they’ll be back in the postseason, and so will the 4th best centerfielder in baseball. Jacoby had a herculean spike in power last year. The HR totals from his first four healthy seasons look like this,

2007: 3

2008: 9

2009: 8

2011: 32

That’s pretty remarkable, almost Jose Bautista-like. The question of whether or not he has a season close to that production remains to be seen, but it would be hard to believe that his peripherals would enable him to improve on such a feat.

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Spring Training Teasers: Couch Side’s top five shortstops for 2012


BY BRETT MURDOCK, Couchsideshow.com writer

With the second basemen out of the way, its time to continue moving around the infield, this time stopping at the other middle infield position — shortstop. Here is writer Brett Murdock has to say about the position that is quickly turning into a hot commodity.

Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitski had the most home runs and short stops by all MLB catchers last season. Photo by SD Dirk / Flickr

1. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

Hard to argue with this one, as the Colorado Rockies star is probably the most complete at his position in the big leagues. A powerful offensive weapon, ‘Tulo’ hit .302 last season with 30 long balls and 105 runs batted in, a new career high. For the past three years, he has finished in the Top 10 of MVP voting, finishing fifth twice (2009 and 2010) and has cut down on his strikeout totals tremendously. Injuries have hampered him as he has never played a full 162 games, but nobody really does anymore anyway. Additionally, Tulowitzki is a back-to-back Gold Glove winner and should be a strong MVP candidate again this year.

2. Jose Reyes, Miami Marlins

The Miami Marlins big free agent splash this winter came in the form of the Dominican speedster. Reyes won the National League batting crown last year, topping off at .337 for the season, a full 45 points better than his career average. Never known as a power hitter, Reyes relies on his other weapons, mainly his speed to get by. Injuries have stalled him in recent years but when healthy, he is one of the best base runners in the game. His fielding percentage is lower than what some might expect and his 18 errors last season tied a career high. But, he is a team’s offensive ignition and should be a good fit for the Marlins in a competitive NL East.

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How Will Yu Darvish Fare in the MLB?


 

BY TREVOR GOULD, Couchsideshow.com writer

Starting pitcher Yu Darvish was phenomenal in Japan, but how successful will he be in Major League Baseball? Photo by: Keith Fujimoto / Flickr

With all the hype surrounding newly acquired Japanese pitching phenom Yu Darvish, it’s easy to forget there are other hurlers in the Texas Rangers pitching lineup.

Hailed as the premier pitching force in the Nippon Professional Baseball League, Darvish spent seven years throwing for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, posting an absurd stat line consisting of a 1.99 ERA, 1,259 strikeouts, and 93-38 win-loss record. Off the field, Darvish has lived the lifestyle typically associated with that of a rock star, dating adult film stars and engaging in erratic and somewhat childish behavior on a regular basis.

Standing at an imposing 6’5, Darvish is a righty who wields a versatile arsenal of pitches that include a sizzling 4-seam fastball, vicious slurve, cutter, splitter, curveball, and 2-seam fastball. Course, his total number of pitches will be diluted down in Spring Training,

As evidenced by his stellar career pitching stats, Darvish dominated his Japanese hitting opposition, winning the Pacific League’s MVP Award in 2007 and 2009.

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