The New York Yankees season ended, but they came away from the postseason different than other years. The Bronx Bombers looked old, slow and flat-out bad. Derek Jeter was injured, and surgery will sideline for several months. Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano seemed impatient at the plate. And it is safe to say plenty of players on the postseason roster will not be apart of the team come spring training. While most of the sports world is laughing at Yankee fans and the pain they currently feel, because they’re the Yankees, they’ll most likely have the last laugh. Lets not forget, it could be worse, I’m sure Boston Red Sox fans will agree. Here are five things Yankee fans can look forward to in the next couple of months.
1. The possible dismissal of A-Rod: Just so I can get this out of the way, Alex Rodriguez has probably seen his last days wearing pinstripes. Well, in a Yankee uniform at least, who knows what that dude will wear. A-Rod has looked pathetic this season. Since coming back from injury Sept. 3, Rodriguez ranks 170 of 173 in OPS vs. right-handers. The guy cannot hit a low-ball fastball pitcher. Check that, A-Roid can’t hit the fastball, or righties. But, the Yankees could be saved. The Miami Marlins, a team looking for anything and anyone to help the organization in some way, may want Rodriguez. A-Rod, a native of Miami, has a full no-trade clause and would have to waive it for a trade to any team. After hearing A-Rod in his closing interviews of the season, it sounds like he wants to stay in New York. He could just be saying that for PR reasons, but there is no way he wants to be somewhere he is no wanted any longer. Here’s a guy who is signed through 2017 and is still owed over $100 million and it is safe to say he probably won’t hit more than 20 home runs in a season for the remainder of his career. If the Yankees are able to dump him off to a team wanting to make a splash (if not Marlins, perhaps the Diamondbacks, Dodgers or Angels) then it’s a huge victory, no matter how much money the Yankees wind up paying. While there are plenty of obstacles for an A-Rod deal, the Yankees can get it done. (more…)
Is it possible for the LCS to top what transpired in the LDS? I inaccurately predicted 2 of the 4 division series, and I would have gotten them all right if not for those deadly due of Raul Ibanez and Pete Kozma. What will the next round offer? Let’s list off what it’s going up against in terms of drama and intrigue:
I dare the Tigers/Yankees and Giants/Cardinals series to match what was an incredible week of baseball, now onto the next round of wholly inaccurate predictions. ALCS: Tigers v. Yankees- Detroit could be at a slight disadvantage because of the forced travel in the wee hours of Friday night following the Yankee victory.
Kudos to MLB for being constrained by the television contracts and not guaranteeing an off day, unlike the NLCS. The game 1 matchup is Doug Fister v. Andy Pettitte, and it should be a good one.
One thing about Pettitte I find interesting is that Yankee fans love to tout his postseason success, as if he transforms into Cy Young during October. What I find more interesting is that his playoff ERA (3.83) is nearly identical to his career ERA (3.86), so it would be accurate to say he remains a consistently good Andy Pettitte regardless of the situation. He has almost a reverse platoon split against left handed hitters, which is peculiar considering righties should have an advantage right? (more…)
Earlier this week Ichiro Suzuki was traded the the AL East leading New York Yankees for two minor league relief pitchers the Yankees won’t miss. Although Ichiro is no longer the Japanese superstar who took the MLB by storm in 2001, a season in which Suzuki batted .350, notched a rookie-record 242 hits, stole 56 bases and won both the Rookie of the Year and AL MVP awards, he is still the player the Yankees have been missing since left fielder Brett Gardner‘s season ending injury.
Suzuki today, is probably faster than Gardner, even if his numbers don’t show it. Many scouts and analysts are saying the decline in Ichiro’s numbers aren’t due to age, but he was playing down to the basement level of the Seattle Mariners. I’ll go ahead and say it’s a mix of the two. The Mariners have been nowhere near sniffing the playoffs, so this change of scenery is long overdue. While Ichiro isn’t going to be hitting .350, he can flirt with .300 hitting in the bottom of the Yankees’ order for the remainder of the season. Suzuki puts the ball in play, and some time with hitting coach Kevin Long will help his approach at the plate. (more…)
BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com blogger
As of this writing, Derek Jeter is only 6 hits away from tying Cal Ripken Jr. at 3,184 for 14th on the all time hits list.
It’s a bit surprising that this story hasn’t been bigger in terms of the ESPN media conglomerate, or elsewhere, everyone is too busy dissecting the NBA Finals to fully appreciate great contextual moments in baseball history no doubt. In fact, Jeter hasn’t been that a big story since his 3000th hit last July, so maybe the shock and awe of reaching 3K hasn’t carried over to passing up these hall of fame players this season:
Dave Winfield- 3,110
Tony Gwynn- 3,141
Robin Yount- 3,142
Paul Waner- 3,152
George Brett- 3,154
Three of the most successful hitters in baseball history in Gwynn, Yount, and Brett and Jeter speed past them without looking back. Once Cal is passed, Jeter’s next big hurdle will be Willie Mays at 3,283 (of which I suspect will be a big deal coverage wise) and Carl Yastrzemski at 3,419, much to the chagrin of Red Sox fans. (more…)
BY ZAC CORDOVA AND JUSTIN MILLAR, Feedcrossing.com syndication
• 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.
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.
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…)
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.
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.
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
Now onto the cream of the crop, the five best centerfielders in the game right now.
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.
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,
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.
We are well into the 2012 spring training season and continuing with our theme of previewing each position in the big leagues, Brett Murdock turns his attention to the second basemen. Here is what he has to say about the spot.
The diminutive player out of Arizona State may be small in stature, but is possibly the Red Sox’s most important player. He does a little bit of everything and plays with a fiery passion. Pedroia won the AL MVP in only his second full year in the bigs and is also a 3-time All-Star. Last year, he finished with a .307 average with a career high 21 home runs and a .990 fielding percentage, committing only seven errors in 722 defensive chances. He is probably the most complete second basemen in the game.
In part three of Couch Side’s 12 part series on the best position players going into 2012, we’ll take a look at what could be the deepest position in the MLB – first base. Although this is my top five, one guy you won’t see on the list is Miguel Cabrera, who is expected to move across the infield to third with the Tigers’ addition of Prince Fielder.
With that said, let’s take a look at my top five first basemen heading into the new season.
When a season consisting of a .299 batting average, 37 home runs and 99 RBIs, is considered a “down season,” you know you’re one of the game’s best. That was Pujols’ line from a year ago and it snapped his 10-year streak of hitting .300 with 30 home runs and driving in 100 runs. This season, Pujols moves out West following 11 seasons with the Cardinals fresh off his second World Series title, but nothing short of a “bounce back” season is expected from him. Pujols is a career .348 hitter in interleague play, so although the jersey may have changed, the colors haven’t and if there’s such a thing as a sure-bet, Pujols is just that. There’s a reason why he’s called The Machine. “El Hombre” or not, the Angels need their new $240 million acquisition to the man if they hope to reclaim their spot atop the AL West.
Until last year, A-Go had spent his previous five seasons in the spacious confines of Petco Park and still managed to knock out 32 dingers a season as a Padre. So expectations were sky-high moving to the American League where he could swat balls over the short right field porch at Fenway with that sweet lefty swing. Well, Gonzalez actually only managed to hit 27 balls out of the park, but in exchange he hit a career-high .338, more than 30 points above his previous career-high, and topped 200 hits for the first time. This year, the batting average might dip a little, but I expect an increase in his home run production between 30-35 in that murderer’s row that is the Red Sox lineup. Oh and he’s also won three Gold Gloves in the last four years, so there won’t be any Bill Buckner moments with this guy.
Athletes like major league catcher Jorge Posada are truly a thing of the past.
The 40-year-old backstop hung up his cleats last week, officially retiring from baseball and the New York Yankees, a team he spent all 17 years of his professional career with. Like many of the Yankee greats before him, Posada stuck out every single minute of his major league tenure in one uniform. It doesn’t happen often, but ball players who wear the Yankee pinstripes seem to know a thing or two about being faithful.
In the completely unusual instance that the Yanks actually bring up a minor leaguer from their own farm system, it seems that player will stay in the Big Apple until they’re ready to call it quits. It must be the nostalgia of the pinstripes or just the history behind the team. Whatever it is, players who come up through New York’s system are some of the most faithful athletes to one team than literally any other sport I can think of. It’s somewhat hard to believe considering the Yanks are regarded by most fans as the Sith Lords of baseball with their high-dollar spending. But the proof is out there for anyone to validate my claim.