Dust off “The Book”

More Dusty Baker fan mail via my brain…

Yonder Alonso started at 3B on Monday night against Philadelphia.  He played all 9 innings…he didn’t have to field a ball.  However, he did have to catch a ball thrown by Ryan Hanigan six times after strikeouts during the game.  Shocking.  I didn’t think he could play defense.  But…Alonso did go 0 for 4, so he deserves a couple of days out of the starting lineup…though, he did get two plate appearances after coming in as a DEFENSIVE replacement in the 6th inning, taking the pitcher spot in the lineup as part of a double-switch.  Tonight, though, he’s out of the lineup again.  Why?  Because Cliff Lee is on the mound.

Dusty goes by “the book,” you know, that old, out-of-date “how-to” guide.  Basically, if you’ve ever seen a Dummies Guide To _______ at your local bookstore, this is how you manage baseball games.  Yonder Alonso can’t hit Cliff Lee.  Three-Quarters of Major League Baseball can’t hit Cliff Lee.  Yonder Alonso CAN hit left-handed pitchers.  He has a .313 average against them this season at Triple-A in 112 at bats, but he is just 1 for 6 in Cincinnati, which is the same sample size that doesn’t allow Alonso to play left field more frequently, having just six chances there, too.

I am just a lowly blogger but I still know something.  Yonder Alonso is one of the best eight guys on the team.  If you won’t play him in left, where Adam Dunn and Jonny Gomes have played miserably over the last decade, why would you put him at third, a position he hadn’t played since high school?  It’s as if Baker and Walt Jocketty are doing everything they can to screw the guy up.  They are doing one of two things: 1) Over-managing and over-thinking things by using “the book,” or 2) saving Alonso from reaching 150 at bats so that he can win Rookie of the Year in 2012.  The Reds didn’t do this to Austin Kearns and Adam Dunn.  If it is about switching positions, maybe Votto should go to left, Pete Rose played five different positions that he was an All-Star at.  Votto isn’t moving though, because, as he says, Alonso hasn’t proven that he can hit Major League pitching…and Votto is a good first baseman.  Didn’t Albert Pujols play third again this season for St. Louis?  Isn’t Joe Mauer playing more games away from catcher?

It seems like the Reds have a lot of people who are more determined to do things “their-way” instead of what is good for the team and what the fans want.  The fans want a reason to go to the park.  A talented young player does that.  Apparently, ownership doesn’t care about that either.  That’s what has killed the Cincinnati Bengals.  I guess that is just how Cincinnati is.  As long as the bottom line isn’t in the red, it’s working.  Forget about the fan.  The choice of a few will continue to make the choice of the many, the fans suffer.  Just like government.  What a crock!


Bustin’ a Cap

Tis the season for innings caps, the death of all fantasy fans right in the peak of fantasy baseball playoffs.  Who will have an innings cap that you’ll need to monitor down the stretch?  I have a list of some names to monitor…you’re welcome

Justin Masterson, RHP, Indians – Career high entering 2011: 180.0 (2010)

Masterson has thrown 187 1/3 innings this season, eclipsing his previous career high already.  He has been the chief in a struggling Indians rotation down the stretch, but he is still just 10-8 despite a 2.83 ERA.  He’ll reach 200 but he may wear down like the rest of the Tribe staff in September.

Doug Fister, RHP, Tigers – Career high entering 2011: 171.0 (2010)

Could you actually enjoy getting “Fisted” in the playoffs?  Fister has already hit 174 2/3 innings this season, surpassing his career high.  He is 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA over 5 starts since joining Detroit.  Even if he starts wearing down, he should be a part of the Tigers race to the AL Central title.  He will probably do a solid job down the stretch since he doesn’t strike anyone out to begin with, so he’ll continue getting by on junk and a large ballpark.

Michael Pineda, RHP, Mariners – Career high entering 2011: 139 1/3 (2010)

Pineda has been spectacular this season, but his season is about to be over.  The Mariners are out of it and they are going to protect their golden arm, as Pineda has already thrown 153 innings in 25 starts.  He may have a turn skipped or he may be shut down, but he got you to where you are because you bought in on him.  Good for you if you did.  He’ll be Seattle’s 1B next season.

Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, Rockies – Career high entering 2011: 177 2/3 (2008)

The Rockies rode the arm of Chacin hard in 2008, really upping his innings.  He’s thrown 170 so far this season and I could see them riding him hard to finish off the season.  Though, being 12 games out, they could just save him and wait until next year.

Brandon Morrow, RHP, Blue Jays – Career high entering 2011: 146 1/3 (2010)

Morrow has thrown just 142 2/3 innings this season, but you have to remember that this is still his 2nd full season as a starter since the Mariners screwed around more with him than any player in baseball history…opinions are fun.  Morrow missed a few starts early this season but needs to finish strong to lower his ERA and show that he can get something solid to go with the strikeouts that he tempts everyone with at draft time.

Tim Stauffer, RHP, Padres – Career high entering 2011: 168 (2004)

Stauffer has had arm issues in the past and the fact that he hasn’t hit 130 innings in a season since 2007 is cause for concern when he is already at 166 innings after 27 starts.  He has been solid this season for a terrible team, but his history and his innings should be a cause for concern if you’re thinking about him now and going forward.

Derek Holland, LHP, Rangers – Career high entering 2011: 150 2/3 (2008)

Holland has some skills and has been a little all over the place with them, but he will be a foundation to the Rangers rotation going forward.  He turns 25 in October, but he had gone back and forth between starting and relieving for the Rangers in 2009 and 2010 before starting full-time this season.  The old C.J. Wilson treatment, just diving right in with him.  He has surpassed his career high by tossing 165 1/3 innings already and he will probably work well into October when the Rangers make the playoffs…sorry Angels.

Jordan Zimmerman, RHP, Nationals – Career high entering 2011: 134 (2008)

Zimmerman has already been shut down.  Congrats if you depend on my site for immediate news.  His final start was on the 28th of August.  If you were counting on him, you’re dumb.  He had an AMAZING season, posting an 8-11 record and 3.18 ERA over 161 1/3 innings.  He should play nicely as the #2 starter behind Stephen Strasburg in 2012…oh…and he’ll be another season removed from his 2009 Tommy John surgery.  Washington is looking really good.

Too Soon?

To say that fans are falling for the Rangers right now is just wrong; however, what the hell is going on in Arlington?  A man died this year already and now another fan has fallen 21 feet from a staircase to a landing, and a rough landing at that.  The stadium was built to code, so why is it that fans are falling there so frequently?

Since it is an issue in sports, it is only a matter of time before Congress takes time out of actual important issues to bring this to the front of political debate and reports are created like those of George Mitchell.  I was at the Old Yankee Stadium and never thought I could walk up or down the stairs in the upper deck without falling to my death, but it didn’t happen.  I don’t know if I could manage the same in Arlington right now.

Nolan Ryan and Company will need to figure something out soon or lose their ownership in a class-action lawsuit.  The falls and deaths are piling up like…a group of people falling…which is why this is a huge issue.

Is He Dunn?

If he didn't play first, he'd never touch it...poor guy.

Adam Dunn hasn’t ever been a batting title contender.  His career best batting average is .267, which came in 2009 as a member of the Washington Nationals.  However, Dunn has still managed to be very, very productive.  From 2004-2010, Dunn averaged 40 homeruns, 101 RBI, 94 runs scored, and 107 walks, getting on base often, even while striking out 180 times per season.  But…things have changed this year.

Dunn signed a four-year, $56 million deal with the Chicago White Sox this past offseason.  The thought of Dunn in U.S. Cellular Field’s confines left many fantasy players salivating, but they would have thought about grabbing a bib and a backup if they knew this was coming.  Adam Dunn is having the worst season of his career and, possibly, of all time.  Adam Dunn is being grouped with Rob Deer due to his futility this season.  Rob Deer was considered an “all-or-nothing” type of hitter, a label that Dunn doesn’t deserve since he still manages to take a walk.  Deer’s career OBP was .324, Dunn’s .375.  Dunn is headed for a record that Deer holds, though: the lowest batting average in a full season by a player with at least 500 at bats.

Deer hit just .179 for Detroit in 1991, while Dunn is hitting .165 in 363 at bats for the White Sox.  Dunn is on pace for just 14 homers, 50 RBI, and 40 runs scored, all career lows.  He is just 3 for 81 against left handers, a .037 batting average.  His best month was May, when he hit .204.  It is like hitting a bird with your car and watching it land in your rear-view mirror, just sad…One thing working for Dunn on his road to suckdom is his current pace of just 456 at bats.  There are just 33 games remaining and it is possible that the White Sox will sit him at times.  There is still no stopping Dunn from ranking in the worst seasons of all time.  His contract allows him to play three more seasons, but you have to wonder if he will keep playing (he has already mentioned retirement in his frustration), or if the White Sox will put up with this again in the future, though they have no choice if he shows up.  At least he isn’t Bill Bergen, who, from 1901-1911 hit .170/.194/.201 over 3,028 at bats.  Ouch.

Yonder Alons…OH…he isn’t playing?

Another Reds rant because it is my blog…deal with it.  I don’t really care for Dusty Baker, if you haven’t been reading or you don’t know me.  I wasn’t a fan of his shenanigans in Chicago with the young pitching, I’m not a fan of his toothpick, and I am not a fan of his veteran loyalty.  With that being said, he was the luckiest S.O.B. on the planet last season, when everything he did went right.  It’s unfortunate because it gave hope to Reds fans.  This season hasn’t gone his way, though.  He forced the Reds to keep Ramon Hernandez at the trade deadline because he didn’t want Devin Mesoraco gaining experience in a playoff run…how has that worked out now that the Reds are 13 1/2 games out?  But that isn’t it…Now, Baker has really crossed the line and become dumber than any manager that I have ever witnessed in Cincinnati, even the one who gambled on games didn’t do things this STUPID.

Yonder Alonso is 24-years-old.  He is a first baseman long-term because he is not very fast, smooth, or any other desired adjective that goes along with an outfielder.  However, there isn’t a DH in the National League and Joey Votto has earned the right to stay at first.  Therefore, you HAVE to move Alonso.  Left field is the easy choice, especially because you have Bruce in right and Stubbs in center, but even more so because you can afford to have him there.  Baker can’t stand that Alonso has made some defensive mistakes in left.  Alonso has played 29 innings in left – 6 chances, 5 putouts…1 error.  How in the HELL are you going to judge the future of a player on 6 chances when you are nearly 14 games out on August 24th?  Alonso didn’t start either game in a double header today, clarifying his doghouse reputation that he has earned by making ONE error in left field in 29 innings and SIX opportunities to get an out.

Alonso can afford to make a mistake here and there defensively when MIGUEL CAIRO is hitting fifth at any point in a season for your team.  Alonso can’t afford to be on the bench when he is hitting .448/.529/.759 in 29 at bats.  It’s a small sample size but you’re going to waste your time putting Fred Lewis and Dave Sappelt in the lineup instead?  Sappelt is a decent 4th outfielder long-term, I don’t want to rip him apart, but Alonso is the real deal with the bat.

Look…if Boston could put Manny Ramirez in left field for 8 seasons with the Green Monster behind him, I think that Yonder Alonso can play left in Cincinnati.  Want to know who else played an UGLY left field?  Jonny Gomes.  He started 253 games for the Reds in the outfield from 2009 until he was given to the Nationals in July.  He played below league average defense there, posting 12 errors in those 253 games and a .985 fielding percentage.  The future of Cincinnati Reds baseball depends on the bats of young players and the arms of young pitchers that are developed in the system.  Walt Jocketty isn’t going to hand out a six-year, $120 million deal to anyone while the G.M. of a small market like Cincinnati.  Dusty Baker isn’t going to be here in 2013, but guess who is…Yonder Alonso.  Get his ass in the lineup, Baker – you and your career .985 fielding percentage aren’t one to judge someone else’s deficiencies in the outfield.

2012 Free Agent Class – Starting Pitchers

Just like the hitters, this is a list of impending Free Agent starting pitchers for those of you who like teams who need to rebuild, or, if you like a team that buys talent each offseason.  I am not ranking relief pitchers because teams can build bullpens out of scrap pieces, like Ryan Franklin a couple of years ago, so if G.M.’s give millions to set-up men (see Soriano, Rafael and Cashman is an IDIOT), I will take their jobs.  Enjoy (age as of Opening Day 2012).

Mark Buehrle, LHP, 33-years-old: This man has started AT LEAST 30 games in each of the 10 seasons and is well on his way to his 11th, AND he has thrown at least 200 innings in each of them, including 2,389 1/3 innings since the start of 2001.  Sure, he has a lot of wear on his arm, but he doesn’t throw 95 mph and never has.  He is a model of consistency.  He has made over $91 million in his career, so he could settle for less and go where he wants, which was rumored to be St. Louis several years ago.  We’ll see.  To me, he is the best pitcher available this winter.

C.J. Wilson, LHP, 31-years-old: I guess you could call him a late bloomer, but Wilson is going to cash in BIG TIME this winter.  He doesn’t have the name and track record that Buehrle has, but the results speak for themselves.  He started 6 games in 2005, then made 234 relief appearances from 2006-2009, THEN…2010 happened.  Wilson has started 60 games, going 28-13 with a 3.23 ERA over 385 innings.  You can look at it two ways: 1) He has lots of innings left on his arm and is more valuable than any starter on the market, or 2) He is a risk due to his lack of starting history and sudden climb in innings over the last two seasons.  In terms of value on a long-term deal, Wilson is the BEST signing in the starting pitcher class of 2012.  Even with the depth in the Rangers system, I doubt he is going anywhere else, but his name will fly around the East Coast when Free Agency begins.

Edwin Jackson, RHP, 28-years-old: Team number 7, 8 if you count the hours he spent as a Blue Jay, may finally be the team that Jackson settles down with.  I can see him getting an Oliver Perez-type of offer: a guy that hasn’t done much, has amazing stuff, and gets a solid offer because of it…and he can get it because Scott Boras is his agent.  I wouldn’t say that the team that signs him will be suckers like the Mets, because…well…it’s the Mets we’re talking about.  Whatever can happen will.  He has the stuff to become a good #2 starter, but it is a matter of putting it together consistently.  That is enough for someone to spend large.

Freddy Garcia, RHP, 35-years-old: Garcia has pitched very well for the Yankees, posting a 3.16 ERA in 20 starts.  That could get him a $15 million/year deal if he plays his Posada-Rivera-Jeter card with Cashman this winter, but he’ll probably settle for one-year deals until he hurts his shoulder again.  Garcia looks to have shown that he can be counted on to hold up over a full season again, so he could be signing with competitors for nice little contracts for the next few years as their #4 starter.

Chien-Ming Wang, RHP, 32-years-old: Wang is still in recovery mode, working his way back from shoulder issues that cost him nearly 18 months of pitching.  He isn’t really showing much, posting a 4.33 ERA over 5 starts, throwing 27 innings with his typically ugly 7/6 K/BB.  However, he wasn’t ever one to strike out many, posting just 180 K’s over 417 1/3 innings in his back-to-back 19 win seasons in 2006 and 2007.  Wang isn’t someone to count on, but he is worth the gamble.  He needs a good defense behind him with his high contact rates, so look for a team that can offer that to be at the top of his list.  Washington, who has been more than generous monetarily and with patience in his recovery, would fit the bill again.

Aaron Harang, RHP, 33-years-old: Harang had an ugly finish to his time in Cincinnati, but he is regaining some relevancy at this point.  He may just be another in a long line of Petco Park revitalizations, especially when you consider that his 6.4 K/9 IP is his lowest since 2003.  So, what that means is that when he didn’t have his “stuff” and he was 18-38 from 2008-2010 for the Reds, he may have still been better than he is now.  The joys of spacious ballparks.  He is from San Diego, so he should probably stick around, but it is possible someone else bites on the “Harang-atan”.

Rich Harden, RHP, 30-years-old: Can you trust this guy?  He hasn’t ever pitched more than 200 innings (reaching 189 in 2004), he has made 30 starts in a season just one time (31 in 2004), he has a 4.53 ERA since the start of 2009 season, in which, and he has made just 53 starts since 2009, as well.  Stuff is great; however, you have to stay healthy.  Oakland gave Harden $1.5 million and have just 9 starts out of him.  He’ll probably get an incentive-laden contract this winter, but it’ll be a high-risk move by a team in desperate need of a starting pitcher.  It’s a shame, too, because Harden really has electric stuff.

2012 Free Agent Class – Hitters

It’s August in Cincinnati, which means that I’m already thinking about 2012 for the Bengals…and now the Reds.  So, who is going to be out there this winter, not only for the local team, but for everyone?  Below are some names to keep an eye on going forward, as they could be traded if they clear waivers, and they will be the talk of the town when football is over and baseball becomes relevant again…Oh, to be a baseball fan when it mattered…(ages are Opening Day 2012)

Catchers: A weak group but a couple of difference makers if a team needs offense or veteran leadership

* Ryan Doumit, 31-years-old: Doumit has club options for 2012 and 2013 that MUST be picked up after the 2011 season.  The only issue is that they are for $7.25 and $8.25 million.  My guess is he isn’t going to get that when a guy like Mike Napoli will earn about the same in arbitration and be younger and healthier.  However, Doumit is a solid option for about $10 million over 2 years if he does become a Free Agent.  He can catch, play right or first, so his versatility makes him very useful.  Needless to say (he played in just 124 in 2010 and just 49 so far in 2011), Doumit won’t play 162 games in a season, but he would post a solid .269/.333/.439 line with 33 doubles and 18 homers

*Ramon Hernandez, 35-years-old: Hernandez is old but he has been very productive while splitting catching duties with Ryan Hanigan in Cincinnati.  He won’t be back in Cincy with Mesoraco and Grandal on the way, but he would be a great player to have around with another young catcher or another veteran to share time.  Since the start of the 2010 season, Hernandez is hitting .295 over 573 at bats with 30 doubles, 18 homers and 81 RBI while throwing out 36% of base stealers with just 3 passed balls.  He is still useful and could get one-year deals for the next three winters before disappearing into the sunset.

First Base: I’m not talking about Pujols and Fielder.  If you don’t know that they are going to be free agents, go get on the short bus or find a soccer website.  Tool.  There are some useful players coming available, though, who won’t set franchises back with enormous contracts.

* Casey Kotchman, 29-years-old: Talk about a deal, Kotchman was signed to a one-year, $750,000 deal by the Rays for 2011.  He’ll make a lot more than that this winter.  Kotchman is finally reaching a point of productivity that makes him become an every day player.  While he still isn’t hitting for power, he is getting on base.  His .326/.385/.459 is complemented by his 23 doubles, 8 homers, and 41 RBI.  His numbers could have been a little more impressive if he wasn’t sharing first with Dan Johnson earlier in the year.  Kotchman is an ELITE defensive first baseman, so if he continues to be productive going forward, even as a slap-hitter, he would be an excellent signing.

* Jim Thome, 40-years-old: Why not play one more season?  Thome could DH or be hidden defensively at first by a National League team.  He is still very productive and he is a great clubhouse guy.  Thome is hitting .270 with 28 doubles, 37 homers and 99 RBI in his 474 at bats since the beginning of 2010.  He is making $3 million this season.  He could double that this offseason.

Second Base: Ugly.  There are some guys with options (Brandon Phillips, Aaron Hill, Robinson Cano) but there isn’t much here.

* Kelly Johnson, 30-years-old: Johnson has ripped 46 extra-base hits this season, BUT…he has struck out in nearly 31% of his at bats and he was hitting .209/.287/.413 when he was traded from Arizona to Toronto on Tuesday for Aaron Hill and John McDonald.  Johnson seems to be an every other year player (similar to Aubrey Huff) after having less than stellar seasons this year and in 2009, while having All-Star worthy seasons in 2008 and 2010.  He is still young enough to contribute, but he’ll have to take a one-year deal to show that he can still do it.  He would be a solid fit for Florida or the Dodgers in 2012.

*Jose Lopez, 28-years-old: Shouldn’t he be, like, 35 by now?  He has been around forever!  His stock has fallen in recent years, but he is just two seasons removed from slugging 42 doubles, 25 homers and 96 RBI while playing half of his games in Seattle (his 2009 stats).  He has been playing second for the Marlins after playing third almost exclusively in 2010, so he is building some versatility value now.  He could be a nice stopgap for several teams.

Third Base: More gross players with just a couple of exceptions…

* Aramis Ramirez, 33-years-old: A-Ram is having a great season but a season that isn’t worthy of his $16 million option for 2012 for the Cubs.  When they pay a $2 million buyout, he’ll head to the Angels, where he will get a contract that he isn’t worth: see Hunter, Torii or Wells, Vernon, as players they like to collect.  Ramirez has guaranteed himself about $50 million this winter with his .311/.356/.530 line, and as third base continues to weaken, his value will only increase towards November.

* Wilson Betemit, 30-years-old: Betemit is useful because he can play anywhere in the infield, though his range at short would be Jeter-esque.  He has played in 162 games since the beginning of 2010 and he has hit .293 with 39 doubles, 18 homers and 82 RBI.  Plug him in and see what he can do.  He just needs a full-time gig at second or third now.

Shortstop: Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, and…a bunch of leftovers.  Really, only two other “regulars” in…

* Rafael Fucal, 34-years-old: If a G.M. signs Furcal and thinks that he is going to play more than 120 games, the owner of the team needs to punch him in the throat.  Furcal is great…when he is on the field.  He would be a good player for the Cardinals to re-sign, for the Reds to sign to play in front of Zack Cozart (which they would until Furcal gets hurt because Dusty Baker is an assclown and doesn’t like young players), or to Milwaukee if they let Betancourt walk.  And…

* Alex Gonzalez, 35-years-old: Going into Edgar Renteria mode, signing on with contenders or ending up on one in a trade, Gonzalez still has pop, posting 61 doubles, 34 homers and 131 RBI since the beginning of 2010.  His glove is still solid, too, as his .982 fielding percentage is better than the league average of .971 for shortstops.  Probably a one-year deal type of guy until he hangs ’em up.

Outfielders: Guys with options who may not have them picked up include: Grady Sizemore, Nate McLouth, and Nick Swisher.  Solid bats outside of Carlos Beltran, include:

* Michael Cuddyer, 33-years-old: The guy does it all.  He has played right, first, second, and pitched an inning this year!  Cuddyer has been one of the more productive Twins hitters for the last six seasons, completely disregarding, because I choose to, a horrendous 2008 season.  He is a super-utility-all-star.  He clearly is a team player and would make a great addition to any team.  His bat is just icing on the one night stand, err, cake.

* Josh Willingham, 33-years-old: An .838 OPS in 2,588 career at bats is about all that you need to know.  Willingham has been very productive when he gets at bats.  He is one of the hottest hitters in baseball since the All-Star break, posting 11 homers and a .968 OPS.  Someone should have taken him out of the craphole of Oakland at the deadline.  Having played for the Marlins, Nationals, and A’s, it would be very interesting to see what he could do in a hitter’s park.