BY Couchsideshow.com staff
Couch Side baseball insider Brandon J. Smith makes his debut on our podcast to discuss the NBA playoffs, Stan Van Gundy’s firing, I’ll Have Another’s chance at the triple crown and Dallas Clark signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Smith and Couch Side host Wade McMillin also have a great baseball debate about who is the better player — Josh Hamilton or Matt Kemp. See who the pair picks as the MLB’s best by following the links below:
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 writer
Designated hitter isn’t an easy position to play, even though in theory you’d think it would be. You can relax during the fielding portion of the game, and wait your turn to hit.
Historically this hasn’t been proven true. DH requires an adjustment that most everyday players will struggle to adapt, as it requires a different routine both mentally and physically. Some guys are cut out for it, some aren’t. And now, with the position being used to utilize platoon matchups, there are very few full time DHs. Thankfully there are enough to put together a top five list, so enjoy.
The rookie slugger was dealt this offseason from the Yankees to the Mariners for young flamethrower Michael Pineda, a rare trade of raw talent for raw talent. All the reports over the last several years indicated that Montero didn’t have what it took to be a full-time catcher, and was projected as a DH going forward. He moves from a friendly hitting park in the Bronx to the spacious and cavernous Safeco Field. Montero has power to all fields and most importantly, the opposite field as a right handed batter. The projection system ZiPS says that Montero will hit .257/.322/.438 with 21 home runs and 68 RBI. Consider the fact that Montero will be facing tough competition in Los Angeles and Texas, having to hit the majority of his games in a tough park, and the fact that the Mariners have ranked last in runs scored in the AL the past three seasons. Either way, Montero should far appropriately in his first go around, maybe not Eric Hosmer good, but still good.
Yes, we know that Dunn had one of the worst seasons in recent memory (any way you slice it; a .159 batting average is wretched.) Dunn has been pretty easy to project throughout his career; he strikes out at a high rate, walks at a high rate, and hits around 40 homers per season. Take the good with the bad and he’s been a reliable run producer for the first 10 years of his career with the Reds and Nationals. A move to the White Sox and a permanent DH position didn’t aide his usual stats, but a lack of adjustment in all phases of his game produced a pathetic 11 home runs in nearly 500 plate appearances. What’s even stranger is that he had 75 walks to 66 hits! I wonder how often that happens. Is there hope on the horizon for Mr. Dunn? We believe so, as these types of drastic regressions hardly ever happen, so you’d think and hope it was an exaggerated fluke season. If the law of averages equal out, Dunn should return to a semblance of his former self. (more…)
For part seven of Couch Side’s 12 part series on the best baseball players by position for 2012, I’m going the be showing a lot of love for the National League’s top left fielders. This list was an easy pick before I remembered that Ryan Braun’s suspension had been lifted. So although I don’t agree with his actions, until the man is proven guilty, he’ll lead off Couch Side’s list of the best in L.F.
Like it or not, Ryan Braun was the N.L. MVP last season. And hate it or love it, he will be playing this season despite some faulty handling of his drug test. With that out of the way, let’s focus on how this guy plays. Braun almost won the Triple Crown last season, falling just short in each category by the slimmest of margins. By hitting for power and contact last year, Braun proved that he may just be the best hitter in baseball. And it’s hard not to call a guy who hit 33 bombs, 111 RBIs and carried a .332 batting average just that. You never saw guys like Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire hit for average. That’s why it’s hard for me not to love Ryan Braun just a little. He may have cheated, but at least he didn’t gun for the single season home run record. Instead, he was Mr. Baseball last season. And if he is completely innocent, I feel like he could be one of the best of all time. After all, the guy is an extremely talented outfielder, feared hitter and a threat on the base paths with 33 swipes last season.
If Hamilton can avoid injury and any sort of bad press by “relapsing,” he may just have a breakout season this year. It’s a stretch to say a former MVP is still capable of a breakout season, but Hamilton is due after missing solid stretches of time during the past two summers. We all know he is capable of 30 or even 40 home runs and is a lock to secure 100 RBIs. With a full season, he may just throw his name back into the MVP hat and Hamilton will certainly be looking to improve his numbers, considering this is the final year of his contract.
In part six of Couchside’s spring training previews, we take a look at baseball’s men at the hot corner. Whereas you didn’t find Miguel Cabrera in my top five first basemen, you’ll find him here, but you won’t don’t look for Jose Bautista’s name since he’s expected to play the outfield this season now that phenom Brett Lawrie is here to stay in Toronto.
Longoria suffered an oblique injury that cost him all but the first two games in the month of April last season and never really got going. As a result, he hit a career-worst .244. However, despite playing in just 133 games, he did manage to crank out 31 homers, just two shy of his career-high, and walked a career-high 80 times. Not to mention that he had his best month of the season when it counted the most in September as the Rays made their push to overtake the Red Sox for the AL Wild Card, posting a .289 average with seven dingers and 22 ribbies while reaching base at a .454 clip. The two-time Gold Glove winner is one of the cornerstones for a Rays team that is a legitimate contender for the AL pennant this year and is poised for a huge season. Is it possible for a guy to have a breakthrough season if he’s already a three-time All-Star?
The only reason Miggy isn’t first on this list is the questions surrounding whether he can be adequate defensively at third base. The last two seasons that he played third base full-time (2006, 2007) he had a combined 40 errors, so the questions don’t come without some basis. But the guy has reportedly lost a ton of weight to prepare for his move across the diamond, and there’s no denying the bat that he carries to the plate. On this side of Albert Pujols, there may not be a more pure hitter than Cabrera. He is the reigning AL batting champ after a career-best .344 last season and has hit better than .292 in each of his eight full seasons in the big leagues. In addition, he’s also failed to hit 30 or more homers just once and has driven in at least 100 runs in each of those eight seasons while totaling no less than 177 hits. The guy will never be mistaken for a defensive wizard or a speed demon, but he’s as consistent as they come in the batter’s box, and one can only think of the offensive numbers he’ll put up this season regardless whether he hits in front or behind Prince Fielder. Can you say a second coming of the Bash Brothers?
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.
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 two of Couch Side’s 12 part series on the best position player going into 2012, I’ll examine the MLB’s top backstops. A couple of catchers on my top five missed a big chunk of the 2011 season because of injury, but they’re both still considered two of the best in the game.
Here’s a closer look at the best from behind the dish in 2012:
It’s weird to think a 30-year-old wouldn’t reach his prime until his career was almost halfway over, but it appears that’s the exact case for Mike Napoli. The six-year veteran set career highs in home runs, RBIs and batting average last season for the Texas Rangers and he played a key factor to their American League Championship run. The most impressive of Napoli’s personal highs last year had to have been how he hit for average. Don’t get me wrong, his power numbers were very impressive, but before last season, Napoli never hit higher that .273. In 2011, the Florida native hit an amazing .320. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Napoli yet and that’s saying a lot. It will be tough for him to make a repeat performance after an incredible 2011 season, but now that the Rangers are contenders, he’ll play with that bad taste of losing a World Series lingering in his mouth.
BY JON FRANK, Couchsideshow.com contributor
So what’s the deal with all the coverage on this Josh Hamilton relapse? Anybody else find it a bit, odd?
So the guy has a drinking problem, “relapses”, whatever that means, and it makes headlines on ESPN and SI.com. Dude has to come out and have a press conference addressing media, explaining that he had “a moment of weakness”.
This is ludicrous.
Does anybody, outside the Texas Rangers clubouse and Hamilton’s family and friends, really care? Nobody even seems to know what happened, other than that he went to a bar for X amount of beers. Must be a slow day in sporting news. I get it. Hamilton’s had issues in the past, he’s about to be a free agent and nobody wants to deal with an alcoholic on their team. But how does a guy struggling to keep his shit together going to a bar, having a few and catching himself wind up on Pardon the Interruption? Mind you, Hamilton didn’t do anything illegal, within the vicinity of illegal, or even immoral. He went out for a beer.