Baseball’s Opening Week

April 4, 2013

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After a long off-season, players finally took to the field for baseball’s opening week. Good storylines were all over the place.
Yu Darvish of the Rangers had a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning. The next batter lined a single through Darvish’s legs and past shortstop Elvis Andrus for a clean base hit. There have been a total of 23 perfect games in the long history of Major League Baseball. While they are never predictable, the matchup of a good young pitcher facing a young and very bad Astros team definitely created a good environment for one.

The Rangers starters in the three game series against Houston all set or tied their career high for strikeouts in a game. The Astros could make a strong run at 120 losses this year, and are a lock for 100 losses.

Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus himself made history earlier by signing an eight year contract extension worth $120 million. That’s a ton of money for a 24 year old, especially one whose game is predicated on defense and speed. However, teams now seem to be valuing up the middle defense, and Andrus is a good fielder. Also, as his body matures, he may add a bit more power. How long he will stay at shortstop, however, is an open question. He is currently blocking Jurickson Profar, the top prospect in baseball. At some point, second baseman Ian Kinsler is going to be forced to a different position and Profar and Andrus are going to be at second and short.

(What is this, A Rangers blog?)

On Wednesday night, Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay struck out 9 batters in 3 ½ innings. However, Halladay also gave up six hits, three walks, five runs, and threw 95 pitches. The Braves continued to whiff against the Philadelphia bullpen, striking out a total of sixteen times … in a game they WON 9-2. Halladay’s fastball velocity was down significantly during spring training, and it doesn’t seem that he has regained that velocity yet. Is this a bump in the road – or time for the Doc to hang up his stethoscope?

The Yankees have stumbled out of the block. This isn’t surprisingly, with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson all on the DL. Oh, and did I mention that Sabathia, like Halladay, has lost a few mph from his fastball? As the veterans line up for their AARP cards, the window for the Yankees is closing … and if they allow second baseball Robinson Cano to leave as a free agent, the window will slam shut on Joe Girardi’s finger.

The low budget Marlins made new by adding 20 year old Cuban exile (and pitcher) Jose Fernandez to their roster. Fernandez is a bona fide top prospects, and he has maturity beyond his years, but many observers question the wisdom of bring him up, consider his lack of high level minor league experience.

Is Albert Pujols Washed Up?

May 2, 2012

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Prince Albert in a slump

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 10:  Albert Pujols wear...

Is Albert Pujols a $240 million mistake?

The big news around baseball so far has been the performance of Albert Pujols. Much was expected after he signed a $240 million contract with the Angels. So far, Pujols has managed exactly zero homers. As a point of references, that’s exactly how many homers I have this year.

I caution those who would write off Albert as a washed-up has been. Players have bad months all the time. Look at the early season struggles of David Ortiz in recent years as an example. It’s also important to realize that Pujols is learning the tendencies of an entire league’s worth of pitchers, whereas the opposing pitchers have a relatively smaller pool of league-crossers to study. Remember how Matt Holliday struggled early in 2009 after being traded to the A’s? Then you probably also remember that his May OPS was 250 points higher than his April OPS that year. No? Don’t remember that? It’s true.

Harper, Trout called up

SEATTLE - AUGUST 30:  Mike Trout #27 of the Lo...

Is Mike Trout better than Bryce Harper?

Over the weekend, top prospects Bryce Harper of the Nationals and Mike Trout of the Angels were called up. 19 year old Harper would likely have spend more time in AAA, but injuries gave decimated the Nationals lineup and they needed another bat in the fray. 20 year old Trout was expected to compete for a roster spot in spring training, but was sidelined by illness and really never got his legs under him.

Trout struggled a bit in a call-up last year, but the organization believes that he will be a great player. It’s probably to his benefit that Harper was called up on the same day. Harper is the most hyped hitting prospects in a decade or so, and this should allow Trout to fly under the radar a bit and feel much less pressure that he otherwise would.

Yu and the Rangers

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 20:  Pitcher Yu Darvis...

Yu Darvish is living up to the hype.

In the off-season, the Rangers watched the Angels snap up Albert Pujols in free agency – and also saw them nab C.J. Wilson. This was the second straight year they lost a star pitcher to free agency – Cliff Lee bolted to Phillies after the 2010 season. The Rangers didn’t skip a beat, signing Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish to a deal. While many people didn’t think it made sense to essentially trade a known quantity (Wilson) for an unknown one (Darvish), I personally think the move was brilliant. Darvish cost them only money – no draft pick compensation. On the other hand, having the Angels sign Wilson gave the Rangers two draft pick – one of them coming at the expense of the Angels.

The move has paid off in spades, at least in April. While Wilson has put up stellar numbers (3-2, 2.70 ERA) Darvish has been even better (4-0, 2.18 ERA) and seems to be improving with each start. After allowing 13 walks in his first 17 2/3 innings, Darvish has allowed just 4 in his last 15 1/3 innings.

The “surprising rise” of the Nationals

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Stephen Strasbur...

Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg

The Nationals spent a good chunk of April in first place in the NL East. Their rise has seeming caught many observers by surprise. I’m really not sure why this is the case, when the Nats have been building toward this for a number of year, with some smart free agent moves and by obtaining excellent talent in the draft. And while the front office is getting a lot of credit for building the team, it’s important to note that the reason why they have the cornerstone pieces – Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and Ryan Zimmerman – is because they were consistent losers for a long period of time and were able to stockpile draft top draft picks. It didn’t take any sort of brilliant scouting to figure out that Strasburg and Harper were the guys to pick in the draft – they were the most highly touted pitching and hitting prospects in a generation. It simply required the Nationals to lose more games than anyone else. So while it’s true that the Washington front office has made some good decision, it might be prudent to mute the praise just a bit.

Around baseball

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp is off to an otherworldly start, batting .409 with 12 homers and 25 RBI. As a result, the Dodgers are 17-7 and hold a 4 game lead in the NL West. It would seem that the Dodgers, now free from the shadow of Frank McCourt, are positioned for a playoff run. As a fan of the Rockies, I’m operating under the assumption that Kemp is going to cool off at some point, and that the Dodgers will face off their pace at that point.

The Angels are eight games out of first place. I can’t imagine that too many people expected that. It’s still very early in the season, but L.A. can’t afford to have the Rangers stretch out their lead much more.

The Red Sox and Phillies were buried deep in the standings after the first few weeks, but have started to make up some ground recently. The Phillies are now within 2 1/2 games of the Nationals, while the Red Sox are 4 games back in the AL East.

The Devil Rays recently pushed their way into first place, pushing past the … Baltimore Orioles. I have to believe that the 15-9 record of the Orioles is a mirage at this point.

The most competitive division so far has been the AL East, where the Indians, White Sox, and Tigers are effectively tied for the lead. The Indians are percentage points ahead, with a record of 11-10. The division also features the two teams with the worst records in baseball – the Royals and Twins.

Tim Beckham

Tim Beckham

The Cardinals have managed to hang on to first place in the NL Central, even after losing Albert Pujols. The Cardinals signed Carlos Beltran as a free agent in the off-season, which allowed them to shift Berkman to Pujols’s old position. Beltran’s numbers have been solid – a .378 on base percentage and 5 homers so far. He’s not likely to match Pujols’s season numbers, but his addition allowed the Cardinals to at least patch the hole.

2008 #1 overall pick Tim Beckam (Devil Rays) has been suspended 50 games for a second violation of baseball’s drug policy.



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Questions About Yu Darvish

December 20, 2011

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Last night, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters formally accepted an $51.7 offer from the Texas Rangers. This gives the Rangers an exclusive 30 day window to negotiate a contract with Darvish.

But didn’t Darvish get $51.7 million?

No, his team got $51.7 million.  More accurately, his team gets $51.7 million if Darvish and the Rangers reach an agreement.  If Darvish doesn’t sign with the Rangers, the Fighters get nothing.

Why is the team getting fifty million bucks?  Because they are allowing Darvish to leave with two years remaining on his contract.  They are being compensated for the loss of his services.

How much will Yu get?

Almost certainly in excess of $50 million, as he has a strong desire to surpass the deal Daisuke Matsuzaka signed with the Boston Red Sox.  It’s quite possible that he will end up signing a six year deal worth around $75 million, bring the total cost to the Rangers to around $125 million.

I’d be very surprised if the length of the deal was shorter than six years, as six years would buy out Yu’s arbitration years.

Can the Fighters help?

If Darvish and the Rangers end up a few million dollars apart, the logical thing would be for the Fighters to kick in the extra cash to make sure the deal gets done – otherwise they’d risk losing the $51.7 million fee.

However, this is not allowed.

Is he worth the money?

That’s the $125 million question.  Japanese pitchers have had a spotty performance record in MLB.  Part of this is due to the fact that it can be difficult to judge talent when they are playing against Japanese hitters who are a notch below MLB players (but still very good players).  Also, Japan uses smaller baseballs than the US, so there’s an actual physical adjustment.

There are inevitable comparisons to Matsuzaka, but I think Darvish stands to be a better pitcher in MLB than Matsuzaka.  Althought Matsuzaka’s numbers in Japan were very good (108-60, 2.95 ERA), Darvish has been phenomenal, with a 93-38 record and a 1.99 ERA.  Darvish, at 6’5″, is also nearly a half foot taller than Matsuzaka.  (If that seems really tall for a Japanese player, it might be worth pointing out the fact that Yu’s dad is from Iran).

What this all boils down to is that Darvish will likely cost the Rangers a total of $16 to $20 million per year for the duration of his contract (counting the money paid to Darvish and well as the money paid to the Fighters.)  That’s a lot of money, but there won’t be any other cost associated with the signing.  They won’t have to give up prospects in a trade, surrender draft picks by signing a free agent, or even use their own draft pick on him. 

The Rangers were trying to plug the hole left by the departure of C.J. Wilson.  With the acquisition of closer Joe Nathan allowing Neftali Feliz to join the rotation, and now the possible addition of Darvish to the mix, the Rangers should again be a force to be reckoned with – although the Angels, fortified by the addition of Wilson as well as Albert Pujols, should also be a great team.

What’s a Ham Fighter?

The Ham Fighter is a cornerstone of Japanese mythology.  The ham fighter is a pig who takes a sword and shield into battle alongside brave samurai …

Are you believing any of this?  No?

OK, let’s look at the team’s name: Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

  • Hokkaido – This is the location of the team.  Hokkaido is the norternmost of Japans four largest islands.
  • Nippon Ham – This is the company that owns the team.  They sell meat, most notably ham. Nippon is Japanese for “Japan”.
  • Fighters – This is the team’s name, equivalent to “Cubs” or “Yankees” for MLB teams.  Calling the team the Ham Fighters is just silly.

How much will Yu’s wife get?

Yu is in the midst of a divorce.  However, I know nothing about Japanese divorce law, so I have no idea how much his wife could get.

Can I buy a “I heart Yu” shirt?


I Love Yu shirt
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