Player Breakdown

Royals reliever Vin Mazzaro didn’t do much relieving Monday night against the Indians as he put together a pitching line for the ages…

V. Mazzaro 2.1 11 14 14 3 2 1 3.79 22.74

Yes, that’s 2.1 innings with 11 hits and 14 earned runs. The Indians put up a 10-run fourth inning all against Mazzaro, and the Royals decided to leave him in for the entire disaster of an inning. Plus, they let him come out for the fifth where he promptly gave up another four runs. How do you leave him out there to suffer a line like this?

Now there’s something you don’t see everyday in baseball. If you’re wondering when the last time a reliever gave up 14 earned runs in a single outing, it was during WWII in 1942 when Les McCrabb gave up 14 ER in 4.0 innings of work against Boston while pitching for the Philadelphia Athletics.

Since 1919 there have only been four relievers to give up this many runs in one game:

Player Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Les McCrabb 1942-04-16 PHA BOS L 4-19 4.0 14 14 14 2 0 2 31.50
Carl Doyle 1940-06-08 BRO CIN L 2-23 4.0 16 14 14 4 2 1 31.50
Dutch Schesler 1931-07-11 (1) PHI NYG L 5-23 8.0 22 16 14 0 1 4 15.75
Nelson Greene 1925-06-20 BRO PIT L 5-21 6.2 18 15 15 3 0 3 20.25
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/16/2011.

Not the kind of list you want to be a part of. And the Indians are up 19-1 at the moment and it’s only the sixth inning. The Tribe could continue to shatter some records tonight…or the Royals for that matter.


It’s official. Jose Bautista‘s 54-home run season last year was no fluke. His three home runs Sunday gives him 16 in less than two months, which is good for first in the majors. He’s doing it again. Actually, he’s only on pace to shatter that mark along with the single-season home run total by a cool eight bombs. Rational thinking would suggest that he won’t get there, but at this point I really cannot doubt this guy and the incredible run he’s been on over the past two years. Oh, plus he’s only hitting .368 this season.

Sure, as a lifelong Pirates fan, I could be bitter. Why? Because the Jose Bautista that played for the Pirates for parts of five seasons was nothing special. In 400 games over five seasons with Pittsburgh, Bautista hit just 43 HR with a slash line of .241/.329/.403. After struggling through another season in 2008, he was dealt to the Blue Jays on Aug. 21, 2008 for Robinzon Diaz. Yes, Robinzon with a Z. The change of scenery didn’t seem to help Bautista in the last month with Toronto or in 2009 where he still hit 13 HR with a .235 average…similar numbers to his years in Pittsburgh.

Then something seemed to just click, but it started before the 2010 season. I traced the date back to Sept. 7, 2009 when things all changed for Joey Bats and whatever change he made began paying off. From Sept. 7 to the end of the 2009 season, Bautista hit 10 home runs in 98 at-bats over his last 21 games to close out the season. This was after he only had three home runs on the year prior to Sept. 7.

Since then he has become the man, the myth and the legend in Toronto. He’s gone from the bottom of the order throw in to the premier hitter in the Blue Jays lineup and the guy opposing teams worry about and put a game plan together on how to pitch to him. He’s quickly becoming a household name. Just consider these ridiculous numbers:

Through his career until 2009 he hit 59 home runs total in 1,638 at-bats. A rate of one home run every 27.7 at-bats (nothing special). The past two seasons, he’s belted 70 home runs in 683 at-bats…a rate of just 9.75 at-bats per homer. That’s a dramatic difference. That’s Babe Ruth type home run numbers. Add in those last 21 games of 2009 when things started to click and he has 80 dingers in 781 at-bats or a rate of 9.76. Here’s the breakdown with his slash line added in…

Career until the end of 2009: HR every 27.7 AB w/ .238/.329/.400
WAR (Wins above replacement): -1.7

2010 and 2011 seasons: HR every 9.75 AB w/ .276/.402/.646
WAR: 11.1

What a ridiculous improvement. Teams and players alike fantasize about sluggers suddenly turning into this kind of legit power hitter. Look at the difference in the slash lines. His average went up about 40 points, his OBP skyrocketed 70+ points and his slugging percentage goes up about .250 in production. It’s absolutely remarkable.

Those lines tell me these are two completely different players. So what changed? It wasn’t playing time because he played full seasons in Pittsburgh with even one year of 600 plus plate appearances. It wasn’t a change of scenery because the old Jose Bautista showed up for at least a year in Toronto before he started launching the ball at an unreal rate.

Is it steroids? I’m sure there will always be people who wonder that his sudden power is because of the juice, but he plays in a league that now tests for steroids throughout the year. If he’s never been suspended for testing positive then you can’t use steroids as the easy answer for his turnaround.

I’m no scout, but he obviously made adjustments with new coaches in Toronto, he started pulling the ball more and he started gaining confidence, which can make any hitter dangerous. I honestly don’t think he would have ever been this new player if the Pirates had held onto him. He had his chances and didn’t take advantage of it. Plus, the Pirates just aren’t that lucky ever. Simply put to me, he just looks like a completely different ball player than when he was in Pittsburgh, and the Blue Jays are reaping the benefits.

Justin Morneau did it again to me. Since winning the AL MVP award in 2006, Morneau has made a name of himself as one of the premier power hitters in the game. Last year, Morneau had a stellar first half with 21 HRs, 70 RBI and a line of .311/.390/.575 but after slumping in the second part of the season he finally was diagnosed with a stress fracture in September and missed the rest of the season and playoffs. Of course I had Morneau last year in fantasy baseball and reaped the benefits for his first half spoils, but he was missing when it counted. Just like he was for the Twins.

Well this March when people were shying away from Morneau in fantasy drafts, there I was suckered in again by the numbers he put up when he was healthy. Hey, he was injured last year for the second half, he’s primed for a big year, I thought, especially in new Target Field. And for the first 81 games, I looked like a genius as Morneau tore the cover off the ball, hitting .345/.437/.618 with 18 home runs and 25 doubles. At one point, he was leading the AL in WAR and getting on base at a .500 pace for the first three months. He was on his way to one hell of a season. Until July 7th when he was suffered a concussion. He missed the All-Star game and has not played another game so far this season. And a repeat from last year, here I am in the fantasy playoffs without one of my top picks and legit hitters. Currently he’s in jeopardy of missing the playoffs again as there’s no timetable for his return with the Twins once again storm toward the playoffs.

Morneau has always been a notorious second half slumper throughout his career, but since signing his six-year deal with Minnesota, he’s now having a problem staying healthy. Whether it’s training or just plain bad luck, the guy can’t stay healthy and put together a solid second half. Which begs the question, if he’s not around for October when the Twins need him the most, what is he really worth?

Over the next couple of weeks I will be breaking down different players’ seasons with the 2010 campaign quickly winding down. Yesterday, I wrote about Evan Longoria‘s 30 2B/20 HR feat and today I want to talk about the only side of the spectrum—the hard luck 2010 for Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf.

In 2009, Ohlendorf enjoyed a semi-breakout year where he posted an 11-10 record with a 3.92 ERA in 29 starts. Hey, for the Pirates to get that from a second year pitcher who came over in a trade, that’s f’n spectacular. This year, however, Ollie has been victorious in exactly one game. He’s 1-11 on the season despite a decent ERA of 4.07. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that wins as a top stat to define a pitcher is clearly overrated. There are plenty of other factors that go into wins for a starting pitcher that they don’t have any control of throughout the game—how many runs your offense scores behind you, how did the defense play, etc. But 1-11? That’s pretty unlucky, even historically unlucky.

Consider this. Since 1901, Ohlendorf is only the second pitcher in MLB history to make at least 20 starts, sport an ERA under 4.50 and record one win in a season:

Rk Player W GS ERA Year Age Tm G CG L IP
1 Ross Ohlendorf 1 21 4.07 2010 27 PIT 21 0 11 108.1
2 Jack Nabors 1 30 3.47 1916 28 PHA 40 11 20 212.2
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/10/2010.

Ah yes, remember those great days of Jack Nabors of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1916? The poor guy went 1-20 despite a 3.49 ERA. Ouch. He only pitched three seasons and finished 1-25 in his career. Talk about tough luck. But that’s it. Ross matched a dubious feat only seen one in over 100 years of baseball. Boy, it’s fantastic to be a Pirates fan! Ugh.

To make matters worse, Ohlendorf’s season took a scary turn on July 28 when he took a line drive from Troy Tulowitzki‘s bat off his head against the Rockies. Amazingly enough, he suffered no concussion and return to the mound five days later. He pitched four more effective starts (0-2, 2.45) before leaving August 23’s game against the Cardinals after just two batters due to a muscle strain in his right shoulder, effectively ending a season he wishes he could forget.

Heading into that Aug. 23 game, Ohlendorf had pitched solid over his last 10 starts. Since June 22, he posted a 2.35 ERA (53.4 IP/14 ER) while recording his only win of the season. One win during that stretch of pitching that including seven quality starts is insane. Nothing went right for him this season.

Of course some people (mostly sabermetric gurus) will argue that his xFIP of 4.98 suggests he’s been a bit lucky this year and his ERA could easily be higher, but the bottom line is that it’s not higher. His BABIP was up almost 30 points from last year from .265 to .293 so you could argue that he was unlucky on the balls hit into the field and it could have even been lower. Moreover, he exited eight games this year after allowing only two earned or less. His ERA may have been lower than what it should have been, but he was equally unlucky in how his team played behind him in the win column.

The 2010 season was one that Ross and the Pirates will love to move on from because his luck would appear to have nowhere to go but up for next reason…right? I sure hope so anyway.

Evan Longoria is obviously a great, young ballplayer, but sometimes with the accomplishments and milestones happening these days, for some reason I tend to forget how young and productive he’s actually been in just under three seasons. On Sunday, Evan Longoria joined a group of elite company in the history of major league baseball.

The third overall pick of the 2006 draft blasted a two-run homer off Chris Tillman for his 20th home run of the season. OK, 20 home runs isn’t that special these days. Well, with that home run Longoria became just the fifth player in history to record at least 20 home runs and 30 doubles in their first three big league seasons.

So who else is in that club? Oh, only Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Orlando Cepeda and Albert Pujols. Now, that’s some elite company. Think about that for a minute. That’s three Hall of Famers, including two of the greatest hitters to ever grace the diamond and a guy that’s a lock for the Hall. Not too shabby.Longoria’s power numbers are a bit off with 21 homers to his 33 last year, but he’s made up for it in the double category as he’s one two-bagger shy of his career high (44) with 26 games left in the season. Also, he’s already been to one World Series and looks to be on his way for a second postseason appearance as the Rays currently lead the wildcard.

I’m not sitting here saying that Longoria is a guaranteed future Hall of Famer, but the sky’s the limit since you pretty much can’t start a career any better.

As I wrote earlier, instead of going through countless rumors about these three pitchers (speaking of which, see what I mean?), let’s do something a little different. If you were a GM in the majors right now and forget about ballpark and league switches, no-trade clauses or what prospects you would have to give up, which pitcher would you want for the remainder of the season to try to shore up the rotation for a playoff run—Roy Oswalt, Dan Haren or Ted Lilly?

It may not be as clear-cut as you think, but let’s break down the numbers…

Haren (29 yrs old) is having a down year by his standards with a 4.60 ERA in 141 ip, one complete game and 9.0 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 with a 2.6 WAR. His strikeout/walk ratio is still very good, but he’s giving up home runs at a crazy pace already allowing 23 home runs. Haren’s ERA is most likely a bit unlucky though as he BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is high at .350.

Oswalt (32 yrs old) has made 19 starts in 2010, posting a 3.12 ERA in 124 innings with one complete game as well. He has an 8.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 while 11 home runs. Despite a much lower ERA than Haren, Oswalt’s WAR is 2.9, just 0.3 better than Haren, which is an indication that Haren has pitched better than his ERA shows this year.

Last by not least is Cubs starter Ted Lilly. Lilly (34 yrs old) sports a 3.88 ERA through 17 starts in 111.1 IP. He does not own a complete game this year and has a 6.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 while serving up 19 long balls. Lilly’s WAR value is just 1.0, significantly lower than Haren and Oswalt, but Lilly’s last two starts have been stellar with a 2.51 ERA, including 10 strikeouts on July 21 to possible raise his trade value.

Oswalt has had the better overall career to this point, there’s no denying that, but his health history isn’t the greatest and you never know when his back problems will creep up. Moreover, at 29 years of age Haren is younger than both Oswalt and Lilly. Therefore I rank the pitchers I would want in this order: Haren, Oswalt and Lilly. I think Haren has more to offer at this time and when he’s on, he can be one of the top pitchers in the game. His BAPIP indicates that he’s been unlucky, so I think he poised to have a sterling second half and suddenly pitching in a pennant race may just be what he needs to turn it up a notch.

Haren is also slightly cheaper than Roy. Haren is owed $12.75MM in 2011 and 2012 while Oswalt gets $16MM next year with a club option for 2012. Lilly ($13MM this year) would be more of a rent-a-player since he will become a free agent next year. Haren or Oswalt could give you a couple of years of top of the rotation stuff.

Out of the three, who would you want to help pitch your team into the playoffs?

After saving 37 games for the Brewers in 2009, Trevor Hoffman began the 2010 season just nine saves away from being the first closer to reach 600. Halfway through the season, Hoffman stands at 596 for his career and has not pitched in a save opportunity in more than a month. And there’s been no indication that this will change anytime soon.

The Brewers handling of Trevor Hoffman has become a disgrace.

It’s become a sad situation to watch in Milwaukee. Don’t get me wrong, Hoffman has been horrendous this year. It’s easily his worst season of his career at a time when it was destined to be one of his most memorable years with the 600-plateau accomplishment. Hoffman blew five saves by mid-May. He’s 2-4 with an 8.04 ERA in 28.o IP of work this season. After blowing a save on May 18 to the Reds when he allowed three runs while not recording an out, Trevor has been relegated to mop up work as a reliever while John Axford took over closer duties. Hoffman’s last appearance was a scoreless inning Friday night in a 9-3 win over the Braves.

What I don’t get is how the Brewers are handling this situation. Management has a save count board put up at Miller Park, but the thing continues to sit at 596 while Hoffman does not get opportunities. I agree that they needed to let someone else close for a while, but at least throw him the occasional opportunity. Let him get four more saves sometime this season, and then he can make the retirement decision in the offseason after he’s hit the accomplishment. I think he’s earned that much.

The Brewers aren’t exactly going anywhere this year with a record of 42-51 and rumors of Corey Hart, Prince Fielder and others being traded away any day continue to swirl around Wisconsin. A perfect example of what I’m talking about happened the weekend before the All-Star break with the Pirates in town. The Brewers held a 4-2 lead heading into the top of the ninth and brought Axford on to close the Buccos down. Why not throw Hoffman against the lowly Pirates, who managed six hits in the previous eight innings? If you aren’t going to give him a chance to close a game against the Pirates, when exactly are you going to throw him…if ever?

The coaches continue to say publicly that he could return as the closer at anytime. Brewers manager Ken Macha had this to say on June 23:

“I certainly would like Trevor to reach his goal, and (if) that’s getting 600, we’d like to get that done for him,” Macha said. “Or 610, or whatever he wants.”

That was on June 23. Pretty much a month ago. Hoffman has had zero opportunities since that time. Yeah right, Ken. This situation has become a disgrace for Hoffman.

He’s basically a $7.5 million liability of a middle reliever for the Brew Crew. If you really aren’t going to give him any more chances to reach 600 then just trade him or cut him to give him the opportunity to do it elsewhere. It would be a less than stellar parting from the team, but this situation is already a mess. It’s almost like the Brewers front office is waiting for Hoffman to make the first move and say, “Hey, I quit if I’m not going to get to pitch, or trade me to another team that will use me.”

Hoffman is the type of guy that may never say that to management and so we sit here and wait. It’s a shame to see a great career like Hoffman’s go down this road in his final chapter. Even if he finally hits the mark in Milwaukee, he probably already has the “no one wants me here” feeling and if he doesn’t and they hold onto him until the end of the season, it could get very ugly. I just have the feeling that this situation is going to get worse before it gets good again.

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