Tagged: Houston Astros

Juicebox Heroes: I Heart Baseball 2/14/18

And although still a bit nasty for Houston’s standards, Spring has arrived for the pitchers and catchers of our World Champion Houston Astros! Position players join them on the 19th at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches for their first full squad workout. The first spring training game set for the 23rd vs The Nationals. Hope SPRINGS eternal. Baseball is back and with that the dreams of all ball clubs as the boys of summer limber up and push to make squads, contracts and championships.  Every team is in it, except maybe the Marlins. (Who am I kidding no other team has a shot….GO ASTROS!)

palm beaches

Photo: Discover The Palm Beaches

 

Filthy I tell you, FILTHY.

This season the Astros return the core of the their 2017 roster intact, minus Carlos Beltran (retired), Joe Musgrove (trade to MIA), Mike Fiers (to DET), Luke Gregerson (new closer for STL) and various bench players that have yet to sign anywhere in Maybin, Liriano and Clippard.  They also made some key acquisitions to the pitching staff.  Gerrit Cole (from PIT via trade) as a starter, and Joe Smith (from CLE Free agent) and Hector Rondon (from CHI Free agent) as relievers. Of course you also get Mr. Upton errr Cat Daddy errr Justin Verlander for a whole season.

Cat Daddy

Cole projects to be a middle of the rotation arm which essentially means the Astros will have one of the deepest and most talented starting rotations in all of the majors.  They will be FILTHY. Verlander, Kuechel, Cole, McCullers and Morton should eat innings, keep you in games. and keep the bullpen rested.  Barring injury any one and all of these pitchers will push 20 wins with Verlander almost a lock to get that many.  This essentially leaves Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh out of the rotation.  Peacock will return to his long relief role while McHugh has been rumored in trade talks with Baltimore.  The Astros had been interested in Zach Britton last season to bolster their bullpen however with Britton recovering from a ruptured Achilles he won’t likely be pitching until July.

Rosenthal reports Baltimore’s interest in McHugh

The additions of Smith and Rondon  bolsters an already capable bullpen.  Smith struck out 71 batters in 54 innings of work while pitching for both Toronto and Cleveland last season. He has a plus slider that has a lot of movement due to his sidearm delivery and gives the Astros the odd look out of the pen they haven’t had since Pat Neshek left. Rondon likely wants to improve on his performance last year as he struggled with a 4.24 ERA while allowing over a base runner per inning.  He also struck out 69 in just over 57 innings of work for the Cubbies. He’s just two years removed from his championship with the Cubs and three years since he saved 30 games.  He has a 97 mhp 4-seam fastball and great command of the slider and sinker.  He will also bring some toughness to our pen.

Hector Houdini

Joe Smith Funk

The rest of the bullpen remains intact. Ken Giles will be back as the closer much to some people’s chagrin. While Giles seemingly imploded in the playoffs pushing him into a multiple inning role was not what he was accustomed to during the season.  With only 4 blown saves out of 38 chances he actually did pretty well during the regular season.  He also dropped his ERA by almost 2 runs while striking out 83 in just over 62 innings of work.  The base runners remain an issue and it certainly seems like it is an adventure with him but its his job to lose. His fastball remains his go to pitch. Teams will catch up to it occasionally.

100 Miles Giles

Along with Giles, Rondon, and Smith the bullpen will round out with Chris “Devo” Devinski, Will Harris, Brad Peacock and McHugh (barring a trade) as virtual locks while the rest of the spots come down to some questionable situations. Sipp, Gose, Boshers, Gustave, Hoyt, Martes, Paulino, Guduan, Rodgers, Perez, will all compete for the remaining spots. Hopefully a couple of these guys pan out.

Is that a Sipp jersey?

The Juicebox Heroes return

The Astros offensively will look to dominate again this season.  2017 saw the team first in almost every major offensive category. Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa anchor a lineup that has very few holes.  Alex Bregman is a soon to be All Star at third base and Marwin Gonzales returns at his role as super utility man (let’s get him into the All-Star game this season). Josh Reddick, Brian McCann, Yuli Gurriel, Jake Marisnick and Derek Fisher will round out the fielders.  Fisher will need to prove he belongs with a glut of talent that will be pushing him in the OF or for the bench spot.  Evan Gattis benefits the most from Beltran’s departure as he is slotted to get more at bats as our DH. He should easily improve on Beltran’s average of .231  from the DH spot last season. Gurriel will open the season with a five game suspension for his questionable gesture about Darvish in the World Series.

Yuli mocks Yu

Diamond Players

Altuve will follow up his MVP campaign with hopes of repeating his past success.  Having won the batting title 3 of the last 4 years and having over 200 hits 4 years in a row it is hard to believe he has room to improve.  Maybe RBI’s? He is possibly the only player in the modern era that has a shot at batting over .400.  In the last 6 years he has had 30 stolen bases or more. He’s fast, patient at the plate (except when he drives the first pitch) , hits for power, hits for average, hits lefties, hits righties, hits the fastball, hits on the road, hits the curve, hits, hits, hits and he’s got mad hits like Rod Carew. He even won a Golden Glove in 2015. Mighty Altuve can do it all. He will compete for the MVP again this season. Don’t be surprised if he wins it. He’s a Sure Shot. Again.

Mad hits like Rod Carew

IMG_1419

Photo: 20th Century Fox and Roy Bonario Jr.

Altuve’s middle infield counterpart, Correa will also be looking to improve on his 2017 campaign. His thumb injury was a major concern last season but he overcame it just in time for the playoff run.  He showed no ill affects in the playoffs going a robust .288 with 5 HR’s and 14 RBI’s. He will return to his clean up spot in the Astros lineup where he ended up the initial 162 with a .315 BA along with 24 HR and 84 RBI’s . It could have been a whole lot more.  Arguably when he got injured last season he, along with Altuve, were both MVP candidates. This season will be his 4th and we still haven’t seen his ceiling. 30 HR power and 100+ RBI’s should become a staple year for him. He also pulled the smooth move and asked his girlfriend to marry him right after clinching game 7 in LA.  Hopefully he hasn’t been too distracted. That may be wishful thinking.

Steve Harvey on Correa Proposal

The Infield rounds out with a stud youngster, a wily veteran and a should be All Star.  Bregman proved last season that he has the talent to be one of the best third baseman in the league.  Starting with his grand slam on Derek Jeter night in NY, to his game winner off of Jansen in game 5 of the World Series. He just oozed clutch.  His throw out at the plate of Frazier vs NY in the ALCS was also a one in a million throw.  Nobody but nobody gets that out. But he did.  Don’t forget he hit down in the lineup most of last season, this season he should be hitting in front of Altuve. He will see a lot of pitches to hit which should prevent some of the slumps he has been prone to have over his first 204 big league games. He also went beast mode in the weight room for three months. BAM POW!

71A451AE-D0AA-4F38-9603-3BDBD7FDA592

Photo: Instagram-Thekevinpoppe Premier Baseball League of Texas

Gurriel despite his gestures and Sideshow Bob hair flirted with .300 all year long. He also hit a crucial game tying HR off of Kershaw in game 5 of the World Series. That hit changed that game and it was awesome to see him jog to first while looking at the dugout as if to say. “See. I told ya.” Worries about his glove and handling first base are largely gone now.  He is just a good fit for this squad. His numbers were virtually identical to Bregmans. Almost 20 HR, 75 RBI’s .290-.300 BA. Expect pretty much a repeat to those here in 2018.

Marwin Gonzalez plays all infield and outfield positions.  Need a Left Fielder? Marwin. Need a Shortstop, 1st base? Marwin. Pitcher? Marwin??? Well this player without an everyday spot probably could pitch after we saw him gun down Bird in Game 1 of the ALCS (After which he spent the night at the hospital welcoming his third child into the Astros family). His HR off of Jansen in game 2 of the World Series was also as clutch as it gets. He didn’t try to pull the pitch. Just swung where it was and tried to drive it. As contract situations loom for this squad many believe Marwin will be the odd man out. If he keeps the power numbers rolling and the average above .300 it will be a tough player to possibly let go.  He’s also the only switch hitter left in the lineup which again emphasizes his flexibility. How does a guy that finished 19th in the MVP voting not make the All-Star team?

MarWIN!!!

Outside the Diamond

Oh George. How we love thee. Your World Series MVP run is the stuff that legends are made of.  I will note that Hinch stuck with Springer despite his struggles in the ALCS vs the Yankees. Hinch’s confidence was repaid a thousand times over with 5 World Series HR. #SpringerDinger alone was responsible for over $100,000 being donated to #HR4HR the campaign T-Mobile tabbed as Hurricane relief during the World Series. He isn’t the prototypical leadoff batter but he certainly makes it work with 34 regular season HR’s and a .367 on base percentage.  He is also a plus defensive player in Centerfield even if he occasionally gambles as he did in Game 5 of the World Series.  His play will land him a gigantic contract soon and at least he was rewarded with a raise to break arbitration at 12 million per year for the next two.  He is an anchor for this club. His importance cannot be understated.  Hinch is right to have him in the leadoff spot because he simply sets the tone.

2/3 of the Earth is covered by water, the rest is covered by George Springer

Look, I can play, Centerfield

Josh Reddick will reprise his roll in Right Field.  Many will be quick to point out his .169 postseason batting average but that doesn’t tell the whole story on this veteran. His hit to tie Game 4 vs Boston was crucial. His presence in the locker room kept this team focused.  His channeling of Ric Flair got the “WOOOOOO”s going for the fans.  And his ceremonial  wrestling belts gave the team something to strive for daily and kept things loose.  A .314 average, 82 RBI’s and his gun in right field didn’t hurt either.  I think he was pressing some in the playoffs so he certainly gets the pass there.  His numbers should see no significant regression in 2018.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

That leaves the Left Field spot which is generally up for grabs.  Whereas Marwin was a fixture there throughout the postseason either Derek Fisher or Jake Marisnick will man the short porched area in front of the Crawford Boxes during the 2018 campaign.  Marisnick is coming back from injury and more than likely will project as the defensive replacement for late innings or as a pinch runner.  Although his average topped out at .239 through the 106 games before injury he did find some pop in his bat stroking 16 HR’s. The interesting situation may be with Fisher. He batted .318 at Triple A last season with 21 HR’s in 84 games.  He will need to prove he is ready for the big leagues at the plate but he has the ability to field his position. He will struggle but should nail down a majority of the innings in Left Field barring another player having a stellar Spring.

Fisher has some wheels

Jake’s Gun

Channeling Ausmus

Brian McCann and Max Stassi look to be our catchers going into the season with Evan Gattis, as mentioned before,  primarily working in the DH spot.  McCann isn’t the offensive player he has been in the past but he still commands great respect at the plate and certainly knows his way around hitters.  His age is a concern and being that he may move on back to Atlanta following this season or next, I would not be surprised to see the Astros make a move in this area. The Astros have shown interest in the Marlins J.T. Realmuto but their asking price thus far has been fairly steep wanting phenom minor league OF Kyle Tucker. Realmuto projects to be one of the best catchers in the league for at least a 5 year window and trading for him might mean sharing some at bats out of the DH spot as well.  The other option is signing Astros fan favorite Jonathon Lucroy who is still a free agent. Formerly with the Rangers he likely will want an everyday roll again meaning he might have to take some at bats at DH if he signs here. I don’t think this position is settled as of yet.

Tucker for Realmuto

Best of the Rest

AJ Reed, Tyler White, Kyle Tucker, Tony Kemp and Max Stassi all look to compete this Spring for a roster spot.  Reed, White, Kemp and Stassi have all had at least a cup of coffee in the bigs.  None really doing enough to stick.  Tucker is the real deal and if he doesn’t make the squad it will be because they want him to develop some more at Triple A.  More than likely he will play for the Astros this season as a call up or injury replacement.  Reed and White are both vying for the similar spot on the roster so their battle seems to be against each other. Stassi may make it as the back up catcher. Kemp batted .329 in the minors but only .216 in 17 Major league games last season.

I’m just playing a Hinch

A.J. Hinch returns to helm this 101 win team from a year ago. The major coaching change being that bench coach Alex Cora will now be sitting in a dugout in Boston. Hinch really works at being a player’s coach. He worked diligently at creating a great atmosphere and keeping the attitude of his players positive despite injury struggles, slumps and Hurricane Harvey. Does he focus on analytics too much or too little? Is he making the right decisions with making pitching changes too late? Has he ever ordered a hitter to bunt a runner over? 162 different lineup cards? He has the luxury of moving a very versatile lineup around. Why wouldn’t you want to tinker some to keep players both sharp and rested for a long post season run.  He may lose a few games by having confidence in his players but sometimes it really truly works out. He will manage this team now with a huge target on its back.  He also will have more pitching at his disposal than he has ever had as a manager. Criticism aside he is one of the better managers in the MLB.

Bregman on Hinch

Projected Opening Day Lineup and Bench

Starters

1-Springer CF

2-Bregman 3B

3-Altuve 2B

4-Correa SS

5-Gurriel 1B

6-Gonzalez LF

7-Gattis DH

8-Reddick RF

9-McCann C

Rotation

Verlander, Kuechel, Cole, McCullers, Morton

Relievers

Giles, Smith, Rondon, Harris, Devinski, Peacock, McHugh, Sipp

Bench

Marisnick, Fisher, Reed

 

trophy parade

Photo: Associated Press

2018 Predictions

2016 showed that even with everything looking good on paper, teams can struggle. 2017 was a special year for the Astros. This season the Astros certainly look like an improved team.  They have the makings of a elite dynasty.  Teams will be circling their showdowns with the Astros and certainly the teams we played in the 2017 post season all have made incremental improvements.  This season will be hotly contested, especially in the post season.  I predict they will get to 100 wins again and win their division.  They should also be able to repeat their Championship run becoming the first team since the 1998-2000 Yankees to win back to back championships. Go Astros!

 

Written by Trey Looney

@3TimesLooney

Treylooney99@gmail.com

 

Advertisements

Ghosts of Seasons Past

It has already been some time. For most that means the luster may have left a little, the excitement has waned. Maybe a few have even forgotten those moments of despair and struggle throughout October that were eventually overcome. (That is unless you obsessively watch the video of every run the Astros scored in Game 5 of the World Series. That pivotal, roller coaster ride of the century.) It was a great time to be an Astros fan.

Check out all the Astros’ runs from Game 5 of the World Series

htown strong la times

(Eric Christian Smith / Associated Press)

A lot has been said too about Houston Strong, about the summer that saw our city soaked to the bones and our World Series bound Astros forced from home. About how Harvey brought a city together, brought a team together to get past their struggles, to prevail.  Houston has had their fair share of heartache and, Harvey aside, our sports teams have always struggled.  Until now the only glorious rise to the top was limited to the spring times of ’94 and ’95 when Hakeem the Dream Olajuwon lifted the whole of Houston and all of his Rockets teammates upon his back and carried them to the promised land. (Some even believe that because Jordan wasn’t in the league that the ’94-’95 Rockets championships are tainted.) It was a city that was in a quasi sports purgatory.  One that had celebrated great victories, great teams and even greater players, but by the grace of the sports gods always came up short.  There is a reason that when H-town natives and fans hear the name Frank Reich they shudder and possibly convulse.

Something has always happened. In ’80 JR had a stroke, in ’86 the Mets clipped Hatcher’s heroics. Buddy Ryan punched Kevin Gilbride and the House of Pain became painful for Oiler fans. The Twin Towers came up short vs Bird.  Renfro caught that ball but the refs stole that game for the Steel Curtain. The Chicago White Sox (had) swept the Astros in their only World Series appearance. Yao goes down vs LA. They are still looking for the ball Pujols hit off of Lidge.  Joe Montana twice gunned Houston down, once with Notre Dame, once with Kansas City. Valvano makes a great story but Phi Slamma Jamma should have never lost that game. Even the Texans, in their most successful season to date, wore letterman jackets to a showdown in New England only to further show Houston sports needed more schooling. Always coming up short.  Good enough to say we were close, not great enough to get past, Bad News Bears status, “Just wait until next year…”

10 most disappointing losses in Houston Sports History

 

That is until now.

reddick trophy

(K. Djansezian / Getty Images)

When the final out was cast. When the ball was trapped by Altuve and thrown on the infield side of first base. When Yuli gripped that ball in the back of glove. When the Astros beat the Dodgers in the seventh game of the World Series. At that moment there was a weight lifted. Downtown Houston went from below sea level to 10 feet above. At that moment the demons of many Houston failures were let loose. They were gone. Tears flowed, minds exploded, hell froze over (Or at least got flooded from Harvey.) They had won it for Houston. And that also meant they won it for a lot more.

They won it for Mike Scott. For Jose Cruz and Nolan Ryan. For Glenn Davis, Daryl Kile and Craig Biggio. For Shane Reynolds and Jose’ Lima…..Ken Caminiti, Enos Cabell, Richard Hidalgo, Craig Reynolds, Joe Neikro, JR Richard, Sean Berry, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Hampton, Jim Deshaies, Julio Lugo, Gene Elston, Daryl Ward, Octavio Dotel, even Randy Johnson. It was for Larry Dierker, Ricky Gutiérrez, Phil Garner, Terry Puhl, Luis Gonzales, Mark Portugal, Lance Berkman, Art Howe, Roy Oswalt, Cesar Cedeno, Mike Lamb, Billy Wagner, Tim Bogar, Charlie Kerfeld, Scott Elarton, Kirk Saarloos, Buddy Bell, Casey Candeale, Matt Galante, and Brad Lidge. It was for Joe Morgan and Jimmy Wynn, Bud Norris, Jed Lowrie, Moises Alou, Dickie Thon, Brad Ausmus, Don Wilson, Hunter Pence, Miguel Tejada, Bill Spires, Luke Scott, Joaquín Andújar, Chad Qualls, Jason Lane, Bob Knepper and Bob Watson. For Alan Ashby, Eric Bruntlet, Tony Eusibio, Rafael Ramirez, Bill Doran, Pete Incaviglia Carlos Lee, Jeff Kent, Kevin Bass, Bob Aspromonte, Larry Anderson, Danny Darwin, Steve Finley and Derek freaking Bell. For Adam Everett, Wandy Rodriguez, Doug Henry, Curt Schilling, Morgan Ensberg, Carl Everett, Denny Walling, Wade Miller, Geoff Blum, Milo Hamilton, Bobby Abreu, Brandon Backe, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Rusty Staub, Roy Hofeinz, Don Wilson, Bill Virdon, Tal Smith, Doug Rader, Hal Lanier, Joe Sambito, Dave Smith, and Billy Freaking Hatcher. For Pete Harnisch, Chris Burke, Aubrey Huff, Willy Taveras, and Michael Bourn.

It was for Dan Pastorini. For Bum Phillips, For Earl Campbell and Carl Mauck. For Mike Renfro, Bruce Matthews, Haywood Jeffries, Ken Stabler and Warren Moon. For Lorenzo White, Greg Bingham, Dave Casper and Coach Glanville. For White Shoes Johnson, Elvin Bethea, Kenny Borrough and Vernon Perry. For Cris Dishman, Earnest Givens and Lamar Lathon. For Drew Hill, Ray Childress and Jack Pardee. Alonso Highsmith, Mike Rozier, Alan Pinket, Sean Jones and Ray Childress. For Mike Munchak and Eugene Seale. Mike Barber, Cody Carlson and Robert Brazile. Giff Nielsen, Will Fuller and Al Smith.

It was for every member of the Houston Cougars Phi Slamma Jamma.

It was even for Tracy Mcgrady, James Harden and Yao Ming.  For Carl Herrera and Ralph Sampson, For the Dream and Drexler…….

It was for the current Astros roster. The one that sweated three years of 100+ losses. That weathered a switch to the AL, Hurricane Harvey, and won in spite of Bud Selig. It was for a city that has taken so much disappointment in stride. It was for people tearing out the walls in their houses while listening to the game. It was for the world, but most of all it was for us, the Houston fans. For all the heartbreak.  The champions.  Thank you Houston Astros.  Thank you!

scott no hit

  (Howard Castleberry / Houston Chronicle, Houston Astros)

 

-Trey Looney

@3timeslooney

 

 

 

Money Haul – Signing High Priced Free Agents Is Not Always The Answer

By Mike Moosbrugger

I originally wrote this article near the end of the 2014 season. 2015 is now over and we are now officially entering into the off season free agency feeding frenzy. I figured it might be a good time to re-visit the state of the “big contract” in Major League Baseball. Fans want the big players and along with that comes some big risks. I identified 19 out of the top 30 highest paid players in 2014 that were a flop as compared to what they were being paid. Many of those players will never regain the form that earned them the contract in the first place. Be careful what you wish for folks. You just might get it!

Originally written in August 2014:

the Yankees signed C.C. Sabathia to an 8 yr. / $128 mil contract in 2009. First 4 years were great. The last 3 were awful with one year left to go.

The Yankees signed C.C. Sabathia to an 8 yr. / $128 mil contract in 2009. First 4 years were great. The last 3 were awful with one year left to go.

The numbers are staggering when you start to break them down by the player, years; annual salary etc. $100 to $150 million contracts are becoming common in baseball. However, what is not common is for those contracts to yield productive results from the players throughout the duration of the deal. There is no shortage of contracts in the $150 to $200 million range as well. There are very few over $200 million but some none the less. Every which way you look at the highest paid players in baseball and the seasons that they are having in 2014 you can’t help but scratch your head. Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, and his “Moneyball” philosophy looks smarter and smarter every day. Moneyball was a book published in 2003, about the Oakland Athletics baseball team and its general manager Billy Beane. Its focus is the team’s analytical, evidence-based, sabermetric approach to assembling a competitive baseball team, despite Oakland’s disadvantaged revenue situation. A film based on the book starring Brad Pitt was released in 2011.

I took a close look at the top 30 highest paid players in MLB for 2014. I was surprised but not shocked at what I found. Keep in mind that in 2014 Mike Trout is making $1,000,000. His big contract of 6 years / $144 million contract starts in 2015. Clayton Kershaw is only making a salary of $4,000,000 in 2014. He appears on the list because he had a huge signing bonus in 2014. His 7 year / $215 million contract starts in 2015. Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million contract kicks in for the 2015 season. The outcome of those deals will remain to be seen.

RANK NAME TEAM POS SALARY YEARS TOTAL VALUE AVG ANNUAL
      1 Zack Greinke LAD P $ 28,000,000 6 (2013-18) $ 147,000,000 $ 24,500,000
      2* Ryan Howard PHI 1B $ 25,000,000 5 (2012-16) $ 125,000,000 $ 25,000,000
      3* Cliff Lee PHI P $ 25,000,000 5 (2011-15) $ 120,000,000 $ 24,000,000
      4 Robinson Cano SEA 2B $ 24,000,000 10 (2014-23) $ 240,000,000 $ 24,000,000
     5* Prince Fielder TEX 1B $ 24,000,000 9 (2012-20) $ 214,000,000 $ 23,777,777
     6* Cole Hamels PHI P $ 23,500,000 6 (2013-18) $ 144,000,000 $ 24,000,000
     7* Mark Teixeira NYY 1B $ 23,125,000 8 (2009-16) $ 180,000,000 $ 22,500,000
      8 Albert Pujols LAA 1B $ 23,000,000 10 (2012-21) $ 240,000,000 $ 24,000,000
      9* Joe Mauer MIN 1B $ 23,000,000 8 (2011-18) $ 184,000,000 $ 23,000,000
    10* CC Sabathia NYY P $ 23,000,000 5 (2012-16) $ 122,000,000 $ 24,400,000
     11 Felix Hernandez SEA P $ 22,857,142 7 (2013-19) $ 175,000,000 $ 25,000,000
     12* Masahiro Tanaka NYY P $ 22,000,000 7 (2014-20) $ 155,000,000 $ 22,142,857
     13 Miguel Cabrera DET 1B $ 21,943,026 10 (2014-23) $ 292,000,000 $ 29,200,000
     14 Adrian Gonzalez LAD 1B $ 21,857,142 7 (2012-18) $ 154,000,000 $ 22,000,000
     15* Matt Kemp LAD OF $ 21,250,000 8 (2012-19) $ 160,000,000 $ 20,000,000
     16 Jacoby Ellsbury NYY OF $ 21,142,857 7 (2014-20) $ 153,000,000 $ 21,857,142
     17* Carl Crawford LAD OF $ 21,107,142 7 (2011-17) $ 142,000,000 $ 20,285,714
     18* Matt Cain SF P $ 20,833,333 6 (2012-17) $ 127,500,000 $ 21,250,000
     19* Jayson Werth WSH OF $ 20,571,428 7 (2011-17) $ 126,000,000 $ 18,000,000
     20* Justin Verlander DET P $ 20,000,000 7 (2013-19) $ 180,000,000 $ 25,714,285
     21 Adam Wainwright STL P $ 19,500,000 5 (2014-18) $ 97,500,000 $ 19,500,000
     22* David Wright NYM 3B $ 19,329,646 8 (2013-20) $ 138,000,000 $ 17,250,000
     23 Mark Buehrle TOR P $ 19,000,000 4 (2012-15) $ 58,000,000 $ 14,500,000
     24 Clayton Kershaw LAD P $ 19,000,000 7 (2014-20) $ 215,000,000 $ 30,714,285
    25* Alfonso Soriano NYY DH $ 19,000,000 8 (2007-14) $ 136,000,000 $ 17,000,000
    26* Brian McCann NYY C $ 17,000,000 5 (2014-18) $ 85,000,000 $ 17,000,000
     27 Adrian Beltre TEX 3B $ 17,000,000 5 (2011-15) $ 80,000,000 $ 16,000,000
    28* Josh Beckett LAD P $ 17,000,000 4 (2011-14) $ 68,000,000 $ 17,000,000
    29* Tim Lincecum SF P $ 17,000,000 2 (2014-15) $ 35,000,000 $ 17,500,000
    30* Josh Hamilton LAA OF $ 17,000,000 5 (2013-17) $ 125,000,000 $ 25,000,000

The average annual salary for the top 30 highest paid players in baseball for 2014 is $21.1 million. 19 of those top 30 (* next to the 19 players) highest paid players have either been injured for part or most of the season or are having a very unproductive year or both scenario’s combined. Several of them are out for the year. In the case of Alphonso Soriano he is not even playing anymore, just mail him the $19 million and thank you so much. Soriano was released by the New York Yankees earlier this year.  The Cubs paid $14 million of that bill and the Yankees are only responsible for $5 million of Soriano’s 2014 salary, a mere bag of shells for the Bronx Bombers. Also keep in mind that the Yankees Alex Rodriguez is not even part of the top 30 because he was suspended for the year for violating the league drug policy. Arod was due to earn $25 million in 2014 which would have put him in the top 5 but due to the suspension the Yankees are only responsible to pay him $3.8 million for this season.  Below I have listed a few of the most egregious contracts the way that I see it. My assessment of the worst contracts listed below is based on a combination of salary, age of player, production, team financial health etc. The players are in no particular order. Bad is bad.

Joe Mauer C Minnesota Twins: Contract Status-Mauer is in the middle of an 8 year 184 million contract. He will make $23 million this year. I like Joe Mauer. Everybody likes Joe Mauer. Mauer’s contract? Nobody likes that, least of all the Twins. I think if the Twinkies could have a do over on this one they would never have signed Mauer to this kind of deal. It made very little sense at the time and makes even less sense today. Small market teams like Minnesota have much less margin for error. The contract is an anchor that they are now saddled with. Mauer is often injured and no longer is a catcher. He has been moved to first base in an attempt to keep him healthy. He has never hit 30 homers in a season and never driven in 100 runs. Don’t look now folks but Mauer has been in the league for 10 years. That kind of money at the very least should be reserved for major run producers. Mauer has averaged .313 with 8 homers and 54 rbi’s in the first three full seasons of this deal prior to 2014. That kind of production can be had by many players in the league for about $5 to $7 million a year. Case in point is James Loney in Tampa Bay. He will probably put up the same or better numbers than Mauer in 2014 and he is only making $6 million this year. Loney has a salary of only 1 million but has a signing bonus for $5 million for this year. A difference of $17 million from what Mauer is making.

Ryan Howard 1B Philadalphia Phillies: Contract Status – In the middle of a 5 year $125 million contract that expires after the 2016 season. He will make $25 million this year. In the first 2 years of his contract he was injured and averaged 75 games played with 12 homers and 49 RBI’s. This year in the third year he is hitting .220 with 18 homers and 77 RBI’s. Howard has at least been healthy and producing something. However, he is 34 years old and he simply looks lost against left handed pitching. He will struggle to keep his batting average above the Mendoza line going forward. The Phillies would love to unload him but alas there will be no takers unless the Phillies pay the bulk of the salary.

Jayson Werth OF Washington Nationals: Contract Status – In the 4th year of a 7 year $126 million contract. In the two full seasons of the deal that Werth was not injured he averaged .270 with 22 homeruns and 70 RBI’s. This season he projects to hit about .280 with 17 homeruns and 83 RBI’s. This is hardly the production worthy of over $20,000,000 a year. Werth never drove in 100 runs prior to the Nats signing him to this deal and he still has not done it till this day. This is a good example of an ill-advised signing that made no sense.

David Wright 3B New York Mets: Contract Status – In the second year of an 8 year $138 million deal. This one is off to a shaky start to say the least. Wright has not hit 30 homers in a season since 2008 and has not driven in 100 runs since 2010. He won’t drive in 100 this year either. With 6 years to go and what seems like a cavernous pitchers park in Citi Field I think the only way this one works out is if the Mets move the fences in and hope.

I think you all get the idea. You can do the math on other players like CC Sabathia, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Josh Beckett, Josh Hamilton,Tim Lincecum etc. It is worthy of noting that the Dodgers and Yankees each have 5 players on the list. The Phillies are next with 3 players. In 2001 the Yankees signed Derek Jeter to a 10 year $189 million dollar deal. They got 10 years of all-star play from Jeter for their money. Jeter played every day and produced and was an outstanding post season player. That example is not the norm. 10 years is a long time to guarantee anything in this world let alone athletic performance.

The bottom line for me if I was a General Manager of a major league baseball team is simple. You have two choices to field a competitive team without taking huge monetary risks:

  1. Teams can try to sign players to deals for a lot less money when the team has control of the player’s future in the first 6 years of their career. If you believe in a player instead of paying him the major league minimum of $500,000 a year you could offer him more money up front to keep him happy and show good faith. However your real goal should be to buy out those arbitration years where the player is more likely to get more money if he has performed well. If you could buy out a year or two of free agency then you are really on to something. The Indians did something like this with Manny Ramirez in the late 90’s. Ramirez was paid the major league minimum in 1994 and 1995. Then he signed a 4 year / $10.1 million deal which was a lot more than minimum and much less than what he might have earned through arbitration. Ramirez out produced that contract by far and away. His next deal was for $160 million. The Astros attempted to do something like this with George Springer but Springer turned it down. The Mets, Cubs and Astros will all be faced with tough challenges going forward trying to keep good young talent.
  1. Teams can spend more money on scouting and player development for international players that don’t go through the amateur draft like a Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers or Jose Abreu from the White Sox for example. Abreu signed a 6 year $68 million contract with an interesting twist. He has the ability to “opt back in” to the arbitration process when eligible after completing his third season. He is due to make $10.5 million in 2017. If his performance warrants it then he may go to arbitration and get a raise. Puig signed a 7 yr / $42 million contract with the “opt back in” clause as well. Abreu is already out producing his contract as Puig has yet to fully develop. It will be interesting to see how it turns out when they are arbitration eligible.

I think it makes more sense to take risks with smaller amounts of money with multiple players very early in their careers then it does to drop $150 million on one player for 6 or 7 years and hope for the best. Chances are you would be signing that deal with the player after he has already been in the league for at least 6 years so who is to say when his performance will start to go down. Most players by then will be in their late 20’s and you would be signing them to deals taking them into their early to mid 30’s. Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners will be 40 years old when he plays the last year of his 10 year $240 million contract. Sounds like a ton of risk on the back end of that deal to me. Teams like the Mets, Cubs and the Astros will be interesting to watch over the next few years. Let’s see how they handle and keep all their young talent. They could be shaping the future economics of major league baseball payroll philosophy. The current philosophy leaves a lot to be desired and is unsustainable going forward.

KC vs. The Sunshine Band

By: Trey Looney

springer

There is no denying the upstart team that the Astros have become this season is part über talent, part youth, and part general attitude. This team is made up of fantastic talent; Built for speed and power, Nails defense, Lively arms. It’s built from homegrown talent where most players are still under their original contracts. (Besides the cubs the youngest team in playoffs) And attitude??? Call it Mojo, moxy, luck, dumb luck, enchantment, wizardry etc…but this team doesn’t know any better. They don’t know to shy away. They don’t know to pucker. They don’t understand intimidation. This team has risen from the depths of 100 loss seasons and they truly feel they can keep rising as long as they believe. AND AJ Hinch has anchored that belief. Molded it. Directed it. Sold it up and down that clubhouse so much so that the buy in is complete and total. This is a team that believes it can win. And that now is the time…

And on AJ Hinch, his hunches have played out beautifully over the last month. So much so they should be called Hinches rather than Hunches. A few cases on that point:

Hinch 1-Continue to believe in a bullpen even when they are struggling to close the season out.

Hinch 2-Sit one of your trade line acquisitions (Gomez) the last month of the season and bring him back for a payback HR in the wildcard game.

Hinch 3-Pitch your ace on 3 days rest and leave him in with 2 on and 2 out in the 6th to face the most dangerous Yankee hitter in A-Rod (of course after going to the mound for a “heartbeat” check.)

Hinch 4-Leaning on Carter who had struggled at the plate all year only to transform himself to HR hitting, On base percentage giant to close the year.

His fingerprints are all over this team. Which is precisely why the rotation decisions should surprise no one going into the playoff series vs the Royals. With McHugh pitching game 1 and a surprise Kazmir for game 2 in KC. Hinch is banking on stealing one in KC and he has a 19 game winner to start and a player who faded the last part of the year pitching in game 2. The Hinch here is that Scott Kazmir has pitched well against this team before. (7 innings, 0 earned runs and only 3 hits, all singles in his Astros Debut)  This also sets up Kuechel in game 3 at home where he is undefeated this season.  The thought is possibly to bring Kuechel back in the 5th game if necessary on 3 days rest again.  (The game 4 and 5 SP’s have not been announced at this point)

First off the Royals starting pitching is hittable. They posted a collective 4.34 ERA which is the highest of all the playoff participants (Astros starters combined for a 3.42 ERA). KC’s bullpen however is a different story and why they like close and late games. The Royals who cruised through the AL last playoffs in a similar run to what the Astros would like this season are still dangerous and now come in with some experience in playoff games. Both teams this season scored a similar amount of runs but they do it in different fashions. KC base by base- Contact hitting, put the ball in play-see what happens. Astros like to take all 4 bases at once, and if they only get 1 they are likely to steal the next one. The Astros  strikeout a lot, The Royals very little.  The Astros walk a lot, The Royals very little. This bodes well for the Astros strong defense but also means they might have a few warning track fly-outs in pitcher friendly KC.  The key will be who gets the timely hit and if the Royals can avoid giving up a big inning early to the Astros who will be looking to post crooked numbers against their starters in these contests.

The Astros owned the season series winning it 4-2 while posting a 3-0 advantage at home.  This is a close matchup on paper but I think the Astros will steal one in KC which will set them up to close it out in Houston.  Astros advance in this series in 4 games.

 

-Trey Looney

Photo Credit- Foxnews.com

Mojo…What Mojo…and on to KC!!!

By: Trey Looney

Kuechel

After pitching 6 strong innings of shutout ball Tuesday night in New York at Yankee’s Stadium, Kuechel sluffed off any talk of only 3 days rest even being a problem going forward.

“I felt better than a week’s rest, I’ll tell you that,” said Keuchel. “I think with the command I need and the stuff I possess, I really feel like I’m better suited for shorter rest than longer rest, and I think a lot of those guys would say the same thing.”

His dominance of course extended further than just last night as he became the all time leader in consecutive shut out innings pitched against the storied NY franchise.  22 innings, 12 hits, 2 walks and 28 K’s.  Do the Math.  For every Base runner that is two Strikeouts, a .545 WHIP, ZERO runs allowed—In other words; Complete Dominance.  Even A-Rod concluded after the 0-4 night that Kuechel already has the stuff of legends, “He’s Greg Maddux from the left side, with a little better slider,” Alex Rodriguez said.

Many pundits felt the youth of this team and the fact that they were going up against a historical juggernaut might make the Astros fade their bravado.  That was simply not the case.  All reports indicated this team was loose and although Tanaka cruised through the first inning The perennial long haired rock-star, Colby Rasmus, didn’t feel any pressure at all golf balling the first pitch he saw deep into the right field seats.

“We had some good vibes going, and with Dallas on the mound, I think that gave us a calming sense,” Rasmus said. “Thankfully I was able to hit that home run to get everybody feeling loose and having fun and not tight. I think we stayed poised in this environment, and guys fed off it.”

Given his propensity for multiple HR’s in a game it was surprising he didn’t jack another one. That’s OK though because Gomez came up in the top of the 4th and deposited his first pitch into the left field bleachers.  Jose Altuve added an insurance run in the 7th on a bloop single to left.  This was after pinch runner Villar had stolen second base getting a great jump on reliever Dellin Betances.  The pitch to Altuve was low and away but he was still able to get the barrel on it and lift it into left field.  For those that have seen Altuve play this season they will know this was classic Altuve.  Taking a pitch outside of the strike zone and simply getting the job done.

This all set the stage for the bullpen when again the pundits raised their heads and declared victory for the Yankees.  The Astros bullpen which had been at times shaky to finish the year off came in and at least at first it looked as if they might give up some runs.  Sipp however pitched through some of his jitters and after a walk got a key strikeout of Greg Bird in the seventh on a perfect 3-2 slider on the low outside part of the plate.  Will Harris followed with a 1-2-3 8th and Luke Gregerson was untouchable in the 9th spotting his fastballs with an untouchable slider.

All of this adds up to a division series with the Royals of Kansas City.  Check out the preview tomorrow in the AM.