Just a bit outside

Three farewells

Yankees SS Derek Jeter, Mets OF Bobby Abreu and White Sox 1B Paul Konerko played for the final time Sunday.

Jeter reprised Mickey Mantle’s finale 46 years ago, ending a storied Yankees career at Fenway Park with an RBI-single for his 3,465th career hit. Jeter drew a standing ovation from a fan base he’s tormented the last 20 seasons after being pulled for pinch runner Brian McCann.

Abreu started for the first time since July 25, notching a walk before completing his final at bat with a hit. He was pulled by Mets manager Trry Collins for pinch runner Eric Young, Jr. Collins was Abreu’s first manager when he debuted for the Houston Astros in 1996. The Mets thumped the Astros, 8-3, as Abreu watched his Venezuelan countryman Jose Altuve secure his first batting title. 

Konerko went 0-3 against the Kansas City Royals and was pulled for Andy Wilkins. Konerko is the 10th first baseman to total at least 400 home runs and 400 doubles for his career. The White Sox lifer with an ALCS MVP and a World Series ring was traded twice — by the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds — before finishing the rest of his 16-year-career in Chicago. 

Not the best time to do an impression of the Three Stooges, but at least no one broke an elbow.

Not the best time to do an impression of the Three Stooges, but at least no one broke an elbow.

Updated AL Awards races

image

Jose Abreu’s got an effective ‘switch’ that he uses for professional reasons. No one but a dead cow gets hurt. He wields the switch to make money, the new concept of capitalism looking more adaptable by the day. 

Abreu’s rich, and in plain value terms, his then-record deal for a Cuban defector, can be rationalized as well worth it. The Bear leads the majors in slugging and on base plus slugging percentages. He may have struck out 121 times, but he’s hitting .321 BA, with a 173 adjusted OPS. 

So yeah he’ll win the AL Rookie of the Year award, leaving questions as to whether he and Masahiro Tanaka should be eligible in the first place for a later time. 

Until that issue is resolved, we’re left to figure out how valuable Abreu’s been beyond first year players. 

Abreu gets the grudging nod over Tanaka on what should be a non-story by now, but he’s also being undervalued by not being seriously considered for the MVP plume at all. 

In other years, his numbers — the higher batting average really — would run circles over Trout’s MVP bid. WArheads won’t have his back so much as taking on Alex Gordon’s cause. Crackpots are suggesting extending King Felix’s reign to the MVP world, and Robinson Cano’s bid will increase tenfold if the Mariners make the playoffs. 

Michael Nelson Trout will win his first MVP award after being unfairly juked the past two seasons. The only nod against his case is how much higher his batting average and stolen base totals were in the past, but I’d take this version because it hits the ball harder. 

Trout won’t win because of WAR. It’s because he’s clearly the game’s best player hitting second for the game’s best team. The greatest two-hole hitter of all time is doing his victory lap at age 40. The symbolism to usher out Jeter by giving the one closest to him the highest single-season individual award he was denied. 

But underneath all that, we’re still likely to properly credit one man’s pursuit because of his team’s failures. 

The not-a-playoff team card will be indirectly used to suppress Abreu’s arguable MVP numbers.

We can dice and chop Abreu’s slashes and totals to lessen the impact of what could also partly be luck. ESPN does this fancy thing with their home run leader boarding, classifying such things as speed off bat, distance, amount of time it took from batter’s box to landing spot outside the fair zone of play, as well as comparative tools, including how many parks it would have left yard in. But it pretty much all sums up the still arbitrarily determined no doubters vs. just enoughs. Abreu is a just enough kind of guy, his long fly balls having enough carry to plop out of a hitter’s home park. 

Such dicing shouldn’t take away from a great hitting season, in an era where runs are hard to come by. Here’s one example, you already know one of the batters is going to be Abreu, guess the next one:

Batter A: 175 OPS plus

Batter B: 164 OPS plus

Batter A is Abreu, duh. Batter B won an MVP ring, beating out Mike Trout and winning the Triple Crown. 

Read More

The K King goes to Oakland: Dunn announces impending retirement after the season

Adam Dunn has hit 460 career home runs, but he’s down to his final outs. 

After being traded to the struggling Oakland A’s for minor league Nolan Sanburn* Sunday, in a move that required Dunn to waive his partial no-trade clause, the Big Donkey is calling it quits, reports 670theScore’s Bruce Levin. 

*In the tradition of Balfour, Furbush et. al., effective relievers at one point or the other with unique last names, Sanburn’s upside is drawn not from what he’s done in the minors but what his ancestors decided to call themselves. 

Among active players Dunn ranks third behind Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi with 1,311 walks*, a trait A’s GM Billy Beane salivated on — back in the early ’00s. He’s fourth on the active* home run list, behind Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and David Ortiz.

*Technically, Dunn ranks fourth in walks and fifth in home runs because Manny Ramirez is still toiling in the minors as a player-coach for the Cubs. 

Ah, but there is one category where Dunn leads all active players, trailing only the great Mr. October Reggie Jackson and Jim Thome on the all-time list. By retiring after his age-34 season Dunn, he guaranteed not to creep on that record. Without telling you what it is, here’s the total for the top three hitters in said category:

- Jackson — 2,597

- Thome — 2,548

- Dunn — 2.352

Because those numbers are too low for career RBI  numbers, it could only mean one thing — Dunn will avoid leading the MLB for most career strikeouts. It’s an amazing accomplishment, and rates-wise, Dunn blows ‘em out of the water. Jackson took 21 years to get there. Thome took 22. Dunn retires after 14 season.

Dunn’s career retrospective, which puts Dave Kingman’s to shame in both good and bad ways, is by no means a HOF career. Reaching 500 homers would have made him the second to be excluded with finality, and the first perceived drug-free one to do so.

The K’s, of which he’s king, will keep him out. His 16-WAR career is nowhere close to the average for a first baseman and left fielder. Yes, people. Dunn may have sold his last glove on eBay, but he played most of his career playing both sides, which is more than what Paul Molitor could say. But he’s been so bad defensively, offset in the past by the consistent ability to hit 40 or more home runs, that we’ll probably remember him as the designated hitter he was in Chicago. 

Dunn hit 40 or more in five consecutive years, and six times overall. Jackson hit 40 or more once. Thome hit more than 40 four times, one of which was a career high 51 home runs. Never did he string five consecutive years of doing so. ManRam hit 40 or more five times, stringing together back-to-back seasons of doing so. Giambi hit 40 or more three times. Alex Rodriguez did it eight times, six consecutive. Sly King Dave “Fucking” Kingman, Dunn’s closest statistical comparison via Baseball Reference, has hit 40 or more once. Greg Vaughn, who as you might not recall, almost became THAT guy who broke Roger Maris’ single season record, hit 40 or more three times. I only bring Vaughn* up because he’s Dunn’s closest age-related comp at 34-years-old. 

*Vaugn hit 28 home runs for the Devil Rays, after signing a contract that defined Devil Rays baseball. Devil Rays baseball is galaxies away from Rays baseball. 

Dunn will go down in history for more than the K’s. His career epitaph reads “died by the Shift,” that one defensive innovation* that’s been destroying extreme pull hitters that’s left their home run totals intact, but has otherwise destroyed their batting averages, and in the eyes of fans, their usefulness. Dunn isn’t its only high profile victim. Mark Teixeira was once considered a good-all around hitter before the shift turned him into an exclusive power hitter. Chris Davis looked like he was going to beat the shift, but is in danger of finishing below the Mendoza Line this year. And on and on.  

*Hello, Rays baseball!

Dunn will most probably sign the last big contract for an exclusive. I say probably because the White Sox get high on DH’s, and Victor Martinez is set to become a free agent. Still, probably is too much because Dunn inked a four-year $56 million deal that’s paid him $15 million annually for the past two seasons to do three things — walk, strike out or hit one out of the park. 

And there’s value in such swingers. Jack Cust had a pretty good peak that naturally came with the A’s. Russle The Muscle Branyan smashed 31 playing most of his games at Safeco. At 37*, he was signed mid-season by the Cleveland Cavaliers, after plying his wares with Kenny Powers in Mexican baseball. The Milwaukee Brewers found out you can use those guys to good effect, platooning Mark Reynolds with decidedly non power Lyle Overbay. Imagine a platoon of young Dunn and old Olerud. Damnit, why didn’t that happen?

*That’s like, now. Branyan is on a major league roster. 

Dunn won’t play for the A’s everyday. He’ll likely hit against righties, where 18 of his 20 home runs come against. Oakland GM Billy Beane has brought platoon splits back in style. Dunn’s already an upgrade. On a must-win Sunday game vs. the L.A. Angels of Anaheim, Alberto Callaspo filled the DH spot against Matt Shoemaker. 

There are other numbers in play. 

Oakland’s offense seemingly died in the second half, ranking just ahead of the Phillies for the least runs scored in the month of August. The trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to Boston is an easy scapegoat. In a small sample size, Cespedes has been slightly worse in Boston, so whatever advantage his .277 BA / .299 OBP / 112 OPS plus in 26 games since the trade is minuscule at best. 

And throughout 2014, Dunn may have been the better hitter. At worst, acquiring negates Cespdedes’ loss. Cespedes had a 115 OPS plus in Oakland. Dunn has a 117 OPS plus. Forget overall value, because no one’s crying about losing Cespedes’ glove in left, aside from the run-preventing highlight plays and Best Throw Ever putouts at home plate. 

Oakland needed a bat. In theory, the last month of Dunn’s career could help account for whatever was lost when Cespedes got traded for two months of Jon Lester. In reality, Beane’s still got to worry about the eight other guys who’ve stopped hitting. 

Dunn OK’d the trade because he’s never been in the postseason. Through no fault of his own, he might miss it again. On the bright side, Oakland’s the closest he’ll get after playing for terrible incarnations* of the Reds, Nationals, Dbacks and White Sox. 

*Cincinnati, Washington and Arizona made the playoffs post Dunn. The White Sox may not be far behind. 

South Side, baby. 

Slugger and Slug
Jose Abreu had three singles and scored a run when the Big Donkey homered off Max Scherzer in the third inning.

Slugger and Slug

Jose Abreu had three singles and scored a run when the Big Donkey homered off Max Scherzer in the third inning.

Tim Lincecum’s replacement pitcher broke a record today, and it’s pretty impressive

image

   Yusmeiro Petit has been pitching like the big man on campus. In 27 relief appearances, he had a 1.84 ERA, with opposing hitters slashing .150 BA / .226 OBP / .246 SLG. Petit, a big league journeyman, was making hitters look like blind Cliff Pennington past his career peak while taking hacks with a toothpick. 

   Petit was so boss. Tim Lincecum was so awful. Naturally, with the calendar about to turn September, giving San Francisco about a month to chase after a postseason berth, a two-time Cy Young winner with two no hitters was deposed for a guy who’s bounced around three times before failing to make a MLB roster from 2010 to 2011, mid-career.

   Thursday morning, Giants fans woke up to a day of mourning. Lincecum, for the first time in his career, was missing a regular season turn because he wasn’t good enough. Petit was going to take Lincecum’s turn because of how good he’s been — off the ‘pen. 

   Petit turned the dirge into merriment after six strong innings of a 4-1 Giants victory against the Colorado Rockies. In the third inning, Rockies SP Jordan Lyles doubled with the bases empty. Before that, Petit had cruised through the first two innings. By the time he struck out Charlie Culberson, Petit had strung together 46 perfect frames, breaking Mark Buehrle’s streak of retiring 45 straight batters. Buehrle’s record, accomplished in 2009, came as no surprise, coming off three starts, including hurling a perfect game and then retiring the first 17 batters he faced the next game. 

   Petit broke the franchise and National League record at the same time after retiring 3B Nolan Arrenado on a flyout in the second inning. Former Giants pitcher Jim Barr was perfect through 41 innings over a two-year span, and has owned both records since 1972. Like Petit, Barr was a hybrid starter-reliever when he set the record. Bobby Jenks, who retired 41 straight batters for the Chicago White Sox, was used exclusively in relief. 

  Petit’s run at history began July 22, when he retired Grady Sizemore in the fifth inning of a spot start in place of the injured* Matt Cain. Over the next six appearances, Petit allowed no hits or walks, working mainly as a multiple innings relief pitcher. In six of those appearances, he pitched two innings three times, 4.1 innings once and one inning twice. He struck out 21 batters over 12.1 innings before Thursday’s game. He added two more strikeouts before yielding a double to Lyles. 

   *Subsequently lost for the season. 

   Petit hasn’t been spectacular since almost throwing a perfect game in late September, settling for a complete game, one-hit shutout when Arizona Diamondbacks 3B Eric Chavez broke up the bid in the ninth. 

    No one noticed his run at history, which began a good month ago, because seriously, who keeps tabs on Petit? No one noticed because no one outside from the woman who birthed Petit cared enough to celebrate his promotion — not when it came at the expense of the beloved Lincecum. 

   But there you have it. 

   Petit almost pitched the quietest perfect game in recent memory. Having fallen one short of accomplishing that feat, he assaulted a tough record, succeeding long before the guns* were fired. 

*I.e. media talking heads, blah blah blah Petit what who not Andy’s brother no. 

Red Sox win Castillo derby, sign Cuban import to record $72.5 million contract

image

Meet La Potential. 

Not satisfied with acquiring LF Yoenis Cespedes — La Potencia, The Power — the Boston Red Sox may have upgraded its outfield yet again after agreeing to a record seven-year $72 million with Cuban CF/SS Rusney Castillo, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports.

In replacing Jacoby Ellsbury, the third time’s the charm. Maybe. Quite possibly. The Sox and 28 other teams seem to think so. We’ll see. Sooner rather than later.  

The heavily back loaded deal begins in 2014, with little guaranteed money this season that allows Boston to spread Castillo’s cap hit to just above $10 million a year, offering a rich team luxury tax relief in the next six years.

The chase for Castillo, who hasn’t played organized baseball in 2012 but wowed contending teams in his workouts, including the Giants, Tigers and Yankees, with an ability to hit the ball for power in all fields. He’ll likely see action in the majors as soon as possible*.

*Castillo, currently on a visiting visa, needs to apply for a work visa to start playing. He had until the end of August to secure the visa and be eligible for playoff rosters. By signing with Boston, grossly out of contention at this point, he can still play and not worry about missing the August deadline, though he could have beaten the August deadline anyway. For an extra $20 million (initial estimates had Castillo signing a $50 million, six-year deal), he’s not going to miss October play too much. 

Unlike his contract, which blew past the deal 1B Jose Abreu clinched with the Chicago White Sox for the highest ever given to a Cuban defector, Castillo’s bat, speed and glove aren’t guaranteed. 

Baseball American’s Ben Badler compares him to Detroit CF Rajai Davis*. Scouts agree on his attributes — good speed, a line-drive stroke and a playable glove, though they disagree on assessing his Major League potential. Per the scouts Badler spoke with at the University of Miami workouts, some say he’ll be an everyday regular, while others believe he’ll be a fourth outfielder.

*Castillo’s also compared to Brett Gardner, but with more power. We’ll see. Gardner is an elite defender, and I’m not so sure “more power” becomes much of a difference after Gardner’s home run outburst this year. One thing’s almost certain — despite owning what’s reported to be uncanny bat speed, Castillo will likely take a hit on his batting average (and his on base percentage) if he decides to swing big for 15 to 20 homers. Why? Because Major League pitchers throw harder, and they’re throwing harder with movement.  

Castillo, 27, is built like a compact Humvee at 5’9” and 205 pounds, adding muscle, Badler noted it to be about 20 pounds, since coming stateside. In 360 games in Cuba he slashed .319 BA / .383 OBP / .516 SLG, mashing 51 home runs and stealing 76 bases. 

The combination of speed and power is all too alluring for the Red Sox front office, which lately has concentrated on drafting athletic types like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. The former is a natural center fielder, the latter a converted second baseman.

Read More

Boo, Jordan Danks. BOO!

Run’s safe. On catcher’s interference, his leg becomes home plate.