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Jered Weaver Dominant in Shutout Against Oakland A’s

Jered Weaver‘s Final Line: 9 IP 7 H 0 R 0 ER 1 BB 10 K 1 GB/FB Ratio

Jered Weaver continued his dominant 2011 campaign with his second consecutive complete game and his first shutout of the season against the struggling Oakland A’s lineup. Weaver lowered his ERA to 0.99, and he has struck out 49 batters in 45.2 innings this season.

Weaver had excellent command last night, throwing 78 strikes out of 114 pitches (a 68 percent strike rate). Most importantly, he threw 75 percent of his offspeed pitches for a strike, including all 20 changeups for a strike and eight out of 10 curveballs for a strike. He also established a first-pitch strike to 65 percent of the hitters faced.

Weaver continued to show a slight increase in velocity. He was averaging 90.2 mph on his fastball coming into the start against the A’s compared to his average of 89.9 mph last season. Last night he averaged 90.8 mph on his fastball while maxing out at 93.7 mph a few times early in the start. He recorded four swinging strikes out of 61 fastballs, and he recorded six of his strikeouts with the pitch.

Weaver recorded a swinging strike percentage of 10 percent overall, and his slider induced five swings and misses with three strikeouts. His changeup induced three swings and misses with one strikeout.

Weaver worked into and out of trouble in the later innings, but his ability to consistently throw strikes and allow only one extra-base hit kept the A’s off the scoreboard. His early-season success has not come from any change in approach. The batted ball numbers are not drastically different from last season, but his strand rate currently sits at 90 percent, and he has benefited from a low .220 BABIP. Even with those numbers, his xFIP sits at 2.97.

The rest of the American League should be wary of the combination of Weaver and Dan Haren, but I still don’t think the Angels have enough in the bullpen and on offense to win this division. However, they will be in contention if both of their front-line starters keep pitching at this level, and Weaver is the early front-runner to be the AL Cy Young winner in 2011.

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Cleveland Indians: Can Josh Tomlin Keep Pitching at This Level?

Surprisingly the Indians are seventh in baseball in ERA, led by the strong performance of the starting rotation. Arguably Josh Tomlin has been the Indians’ most consistent pitcher this season, behind Justin Masterson, after throwing another quality start against the Royals last night. His ERA currently sits at 2.33, and his WHIP sits at a stunning 0.89.

The question that remains is whether Tomlin has changed his approach and if he can keep pitching at this level. Well, let’s take a look at Tomlin’s approach in 2011 compared to last season.

In 2010 Tomlin pitched to a 4.56 ERA in 72 innings with a 5.30 K/9 and a 2.34 BB/9. Tomlin pitched to an extreme fly-ball rate (50.4 percent), and his ground-ball rate (28.6 percent) was close to his line-drive rate (21.1 percent). He also had a favorable .271 BABIP, showing that Tomlin got some breaks, but not enough to affect his performance. His xFIP of 4.76 indicates that he pitched as well as he could have in 2010 given these factors.

Tomlin has made some improvements this season. This season, even though Tomlin’s velocity has been down a touch and his K/9 rate is down to 5.0, it is worth noting that his swinging-strike percentage has increased to 10.1 percent from 7.9 percent in 2010. Opponents are making less contact (81.9 percent) against Tomlin in 2011 compared to 2010 (92 percent).

Tomlin has also improved his batted ball rates. He has improved his ground-ball numbers to 43 percent and decreased his fly-ball percentage to 35 percent. Those are steps in the right direction for Tomlin, who was victimized by the home run in 2010.

However, there are numbers that indicate Tomlin has benefited from all of the breaks this season. Tomlin’s BABIP is at an unsustainable .182, and his strand rate is above average at 86.5 percent. I was wrong in thinking that he would pitch to an ERA close to 5.00. He has made the necessary adjustments to stay in the league, but he won’t finish the year with an ERA below 4.00.

Tomlin is going to come back to earth, and Indians fans should act accordingly. Remember when Mitch Talbot got off to a great start last season? With that said, I can’t deny the fact that he has helped propel the Indians to a 13-7 record and to first place in the AL Central. Just enjoy it while you can.

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Bullpen Meltdowns: Ryan Franklin’s Luck Has Run Out

Tony La Russa has gotten away with using Ryan Franklin as the Cardinals‘ closer for two years, and today should be the day he makes a change that is two years overdue. Franklin is nothing more than a replacement level pitcher who has benefited from high strand rate (85.7 percent in 2009), low BABIP (.249 in 2009 and .267 in 2010), and home run-to-fly ball ratios (3.2 percent in 2009 and 8.2 percent in 2010) during his reign as closer.

Franklin has gotten off to an ugly start this season. He has allowed six hits on eight hits, two walks, three home runs and striking out two in 4.2 innings. Franklin’s disastrous start to the 2011 season has nothing to do with diminished stuff, or an undisclosed injury. It comes down to the amount of contact Franklin has pitched to. Franklin’s BABIP this season is at .294, which is four points above the 2010 average.

His 2011 velocity remains at its 2009-10 levels (91.1 mph), but he is only generating the lowest amount of swinging strikes for any closer in baseball at 3.5 percent. In fact, he has the lowest percentage among all closer’s with 110 innings pitched since 2009 at 7.3 percent. Amazingly opponents have been able to make contact on 93 percent of Franklin’s pitches, and 93 percent of the pitches he throws out of the strike zone.     

It is a general rule of thumb that a closer should strikeout opponents at an above average rate, and induce a high amount of swinging strikes. Closers should be able to get out the most difficult situations without allowing a run, and they need to be able to have the ability to strikeout any hitter in these situations. Franklin’s highest profiles blown save,  2009 NLDS Game 2, serves as an example.

Franklin won’t pitch this badly for the rest of the season. His 37.5 percent home run to flyball ratio is unsustainable, but as noted earlier, his BABIP does not inflate his current .364 batting averaged against.

There may not be a great reliever in the Cardinals bullpen, but Boggs, then Motte, deserves a chance to close games. The Cardinals can’t afford to go down this bumpy road any longer.  

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What to Make of Lance Berkman’s Power Surge in Arizona

Lance Berkman has shown the rest of baseball that he still has some life left in his bat during the Cardinals last few games in Arizona. Berkman had been struggling heading into Arizona with a .214/.290/.286 line with zero home runs.

Berkman had an incredible three games in Arizona, and coming into today’s off day, he has a line of .293/.356/.634 with four home runs. Berkman had one home run in his 123 plate appearances for the Yankees.

The real question remains whether Berkman went to the well for one last surge, or can Berkman return to numbers he put up in the last decade? 

There is some evidence in favor of comeback season for Lance. Berkman’s first week struggles were influenced by some bad luck. Overall, his season BABIP sits at .258 (the average is currently at .293), and his strikeout numbers (17 percent) and walk numbers (10 percent) were pretty solid before heading to Arizona.

Berkman’s batted ball numbers have been better during the first two weeks of this season. He is back to a lower groundball rate at 43 percent after a career high of 47.6 percent in 2010. Berkman has also been hitting the ball relatively hard with a 25 percent line drive rate.  

Looking at video of Berkman’s at-bats during the series, it is obvious that he found his power stroke to left and left-center field as a left-handed batter. Berkman’s power as a left-handed hitter has always been to that direction.

His most impressive home run was his opposite field grand slam on a 91 mph fastball on the outside corner from Ian Kennedy. Three of his four home runs came on fastballs that were hit to the opposite field, and the other came on a slider that was lined to right field.  

Berkman’s case becomes murky mostly because of where and against whom Berkman had his tremendous three games. Arizona’s Chase Field, like Coors Field or the Great American Ballpark, is known as a hitter’s haven.

Add to the fact that the Diamondbacks have one of the poorer pitching staffs in baseball. They have given up the second most home runs per nine innings, of course Chase Field inflates that number, and they have the third highest WHIP in baseball.

Juan Gutierrez, Sam Demel, Armando Galarraga and Ian Kennedy were the pitchers who served up Berkman’s long balls, Kennedy being the only above-average one of the bunch. 

Berkman has still struggled from the right side of the plate. In a very small sample size, he is currently 0-for-8 with two strikeouts. Berkman looked lost as a right-handed hitter last season, and while he has always been better from the left side, he usually supplied some power as a right-handed hitter.

With this small sample size, it is hard to say where his right-handed swing is, but it I have a hard time believing it is in good shape.

I think we can say after this week’s performance that Berkman won’t have a terrible repeat of 2010, when he battled health issues to start the season.

However, I don’t think we will see a complete return to his mid-2000 form (may be if he played all of is games in Arizona). I still expect a season of 20 home runs with a .270/.380/.475 line, somewhat closer to his 2009 numbers.   

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Breaking Down Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando’s Impressive Starts to the Season

Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando had two terrific performances which have helped propel the Rangers to a 9-1 record and an early lead in the AL West. The Rangers toyed with the idea of starting Neftali Feliz this spring training, and there was considerable support to put him in the depleted rotation. However, the Ogando switch has taken pressure off of Jon Danlels and Nolan Ryan off the hook for not making the move, and Tommy Hunter’s injury has allowed both Harrison and Ogando to flourish while Feliz remains in the closer’s role.     

Harrison has shown improved velocity in his two starts against the Red Sox and Orioles. Harrison’s four and two seam fastballs have shown a lot of life and movement this season. He has averaged 90-91 mph on his fastball as a full time starters and 92.2 mph as mostly a reliever last season. However, he has averaged 93 mph in his first two starts, and he has topped out at 97.6 mph in his last start. All of his pitches, which include both fastballs, a cutter, curveball, change and slider have shown more movement in 2011. With the increased velocity and movement on his pitches, Harrison has been getting more swinging strikes (9.2 percent), and he has struck out seven per nine innings up from his career mark of five per nine.  

Harrison has shown better control so far, averaging 1.93 BB/9, better than his career 3.61 rate, and has induced groundballs at a 50 percent rate. His xFIP is impressive at 3.42 and if Harrison is able to keep his home run rate lower than in previous seasons, he could stick in the rotation for the rest of the season.   

Ogando’s starts against the Mariners and Tigers have been just as impressive. Ogando does not throw as hard as a starter, but his 93.8 mph is still above average (96 mph in 2010 as a reliever). Some scouts worry about his ability to retire left-handed batters, but he did not allow a hit to one in today’s start and he struck out two. 

Ogando’s xFIP of 3.89 indicates that he might be relying on too much contact, but he had similar numbers during his stellar 2010 season. I am a little concerned about his groundball percentage at 29.5 percent along with his reoccurring blister problem. However, Ogando’s slider has been excellent with increased usage to both types of hitters. I don’t think he will be as successful later in the season, but he is a better alternative than the lucky Tommy Hunter.

With these impressive starts, the Rangers have shown depth in a rotation that some considered average. No one believes that this group will be as a good as they have been during the first week and a half, but with this offense they don’t need to be. 

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Brett Myers: Why Yesterday’s Quality Start Shows Signs of Upcoming Trouble

By all accounts Brett Myers pitched a strong seven innings for the Astros during yesterday’s disappointing loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. Myers threw a quality start, pitching seven innings and allowing two earned runs on three hits, three walks and no strikeouts. However, a closer look at yesterday’s box score, radar gun and pitch/FX data show that Myers’ stuff may have regressed. 

Myers threw 85 pitches during his seven innings and recorded one swing and miss the entire game on a 88 mph fastball to Ben Francisco during the seventh inning. Myers does not throw a dominant fastball, but the fact he could not get a one single swing and miss on a slider or curveball is troublesome. Last season, Myers recorded a swinging strike percentage of 8.6. Yesterday’s total was 2.2 percent.   

Both his slider and curveball were instrumental to his success in 2010. The pitch/FX data indicates that both pitches had approximately two inches less horizontal break. He threw 18 total sliders (one hit for a double) and 13 total curveballs (one hit) without one swing and miss. However, Myers had good command of his slider, 66 percent were strikes, but he could only get his curveball over 30 percent of the time.  

Myers’ fastball was noticeably below average during yesterday’s start. He averaged 87.1 mph on a combination of fastballs, a number down more than two mph from last season (89.3 mph). Along with the velocity troubles, Myers struggled to locate the pitch, only getting them over for a strike at a 44 percent rate. Myers threw his changeup with more velocity during yesterday’s game (82.9 mph) than his 2010 average (82.5 mph). The lack of differential between the pitches causes some concern. 

It is one start in April, and some of my detractors might argue that he still provided a quality start, but anyone who witnessed the performance knows that Myers got away with some poor pitches. Citizens Bank Park or Minute Maid Park won’t be so forgiving in the summer months.   

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Pitch Values: Top 10 Changeups of 2010 MLB Season

Before the start of the season, I wanted to see which pitchers statistically had the best fastballs, curveballs, sliders, cutters, changeups and splitters of the 2010 season.

Here are a look at the top curveballs of the 2010 season. A few notes:

The Pitch Value data was created by I will be using the statistic, wCH, which denotes the runs above average for a particular pitch—in this case a curveball.  

The “wCH” stat benefits starting pitchers and pitchers who throw a certain pitch more often. Because the more often you throw a pitch, the better the chances are of it being successful.

Sometimes, PITCH/FX does not sort pitches into the right category. For example, Brandon Morrow’s splitter was categorized as a fastball. 

Best Fastballs

Best Cutters

Best Sliders

Best Curveballs

Begin Slideshow

Baltimore Orioles: 2011 MLB Season Preview


Last year: 66-96, 5th place in AL East 

Manager: Buck Showalter 


C- Matt Wieters (S)

1B- Derrek Lee (R)

2B- Brian Roberts (S) 

3B- Mark Reynolds (R)

SS- JJ Hardy (R)

LF- Luke Scott (L) 

CF- Adam Jones (R) 

RF- Nick Markakis (L)

DH- Vladimir Guerrero (R)

The lineup struggled in the first half of 2010 without leadoff man Brian Roberts. When Showalter took over and Roberts returned, the lineup took off. If Roberts is healthy, he should hit .285/.355/.420 with 10 home runs and 25 stolen bases.

Derek Lee struggled in 2010 posting his lowest isolated power numbers in years. I think he will have a rebound year hitting in Camden Yards and should post a .280/.365/.490 line with 25 or so home runs.

Mark Reynolds will strikeout almost 40 percent of the time, but he has the ability to hit 45 home runs every season. He does get on base, but his average will always be a problem because of his record setting ability to strikeout. I see a .230/.330/.490 line with 35-40 home runs and 10 stolen bases.

JJ Hardy is a significant offensive upgrade over Izturis. He should hit 15 home runs with a .255/.320/.420 line.

Matt Wieters struggled with the bat in his first full season. He has too much talent not to improve this season, and I think he should hit 15-20 home runs with a .280/.350/.430 line.

Vladimir Guerrero had a great start to the 2010 season, but he seemed to fade over the last few months of the season. Guerrero will hit in another hitters’ ballpark this season, and he should be able to reach the 25 home run mark with a .290/.340/.485 line.

Nick Markakis was another Orioles hitter who under performed in 2010. He should bat in the number two spot in the lineup, where he will hit 15-20 home runs and posting what should be an impressive .300/.375/.465 line.

Adam Jones should improve with another full season under his belt. He will hit 20 home runs but he needs to cut down on strikeouts and improve his three percent walk rate. 

Luke Scott was the club’s most productive hitter last season. He’s a safe bet to hit 25-30 home runs with a .260/.345/.480 line. 

The Orioles ranked 21st in UZR rating last season. This season may be worse with Scott playing the outfield on a regular basis. The outfield defense is one if the worst in the league.

Luke Scott is a liability in LF, and should not play there on a regular basis.

Based on 2010 UZR, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are below average in the OF.

Wieters is one of the best defensive catchers in the game. He has a great arm, and is one of the best at blocking pitches in the dirt. T

he infield defense will be improved with the addition of Reynolds, Hardy, and Lee. Reynolds is above average, and Hardy was one of the top five shortstops in terms of UZR. Lee is still above average at 1B.  


IF- Robert Andino (R)

IF- Cesar Izturis (S)

OF- Felix Pie (L)

C/1B/3B- Jake Fox(R) 


RHP- Jeremy Guthrie 

LHP- Brian Matusz

RHP- Brad Bergersen  

RHP- Jake Arrieta

RHP- Chris Tillman  

The biggest weakness of Orioles team is their starting rotation. It will be hit hard in the very competitive AL East.

Guthrie and Matusz pitched well in the second half of the year, but Guthrie is not a number one type of starter. Guthrie throws a good two seamer and four seamer along with a good slider, decent changeup and occasional curveball. He should throw 200 innings with a 4.10 ERA and a peripherals of 5.50 K/9 and 2.50 BB/9. Matusz is featured later in the piece.  

Brad Bergensen features a 90 MPH sinking fastball with a decent curveball and change. He had trouble locating his sinker early in 2010, but improved in the second half. He should only have a strikeout rate of 4-5 K/9 but his walk rate will be 2 BB/9. I think he will bounce back and pitch at a 4.30 ERA.

Jake Arrieta has good stuff as the number four starter.  He does average 92.7 MPH, but only averaged 4.6 K/9 and walked 4 per 9. If he can get that strikeout rate to his minor league levels (7 K/9), he could pitch at a 4.40 ERA.

Chris Tillman will fill out the last spot of the rotation. He has struggled in his stints in the major because of his below average strikeout and walk rates. His average velocity dropped two mph, and I am not sure he will be able to keep his spot. If Justin Duchsherer is healthy, he might take the spot.   


RHP- Kevin Gregg (closer not named)

RHP- Koji Uehara 

LHP- Mike Gonzalez 

RHP- Jim Johnson 

RHP- Jason Berken 

RHP- Jeremy Accardo

RHP- Josh Rupe 

The Orioles bullpen will be improved this year. It has some good depth, but Showalter has yet to name an official closer. Gregg has a good repertoire (92 MPH fastball, cutter, splitter and slider) but he gives up too many home run and his control is iffy. If Gregg struggles, Uehara and Gonazlez might some save opportunities.

Uehara pitched well in the closer role during the second half of the season, posting a 2.86 ERA. ( xFIP was 2.91) He averages 88 mph on his fastball, but he has a good splitter and great command of both pitches. He should only strike out six or seven per nine innings. 

Gonzalez was signed to be the closer last year, but I think he is better suited as a left-handed set-up guy who can get right and left handed batters out. He features a 92-94 MPH fastball and very good slider.

Jim Johnson has a reliable arm, who uses a power sinker to neutralize opponents. He has been the most impressive reliever in spring training, and he could get some save opportunities.

Berken provides a solid arm as a the Orioles swing man. His stuff is better suited in the bullpen and he should have a strikeout rate close to 7 K/9.

I am interested in seeing Jeremy Accardo, the Blue Jays former closer in 2007. He has always had a good stuff, featuring a low 90s fastball, good splitter, and cutter.  



I was impressed with him in his starts I watched last year. His control was a little higher than his career mark at around 3.2 BB/9 innings. Expect him to get that down to the 2.5 mark. With his good strikeout numbers, I think he might finish the year with a 3.70 era (around 3.8 FIP). While he doesn’t have an overpowering fastball, but he hides the ball well and compliments it with a good curve and change-up. 


Britton is the Orioles top pitching prospect. He was a third round draft pick in 2006, and has worked his way up to AAA last year. He is an extreme ground ball pitcher (64 percent) and recorded 7.6 K/9 innings last year. I expect him to make the rotation sometime in July, especially if there are injuries and if Arrieta or Chris Tillman (sixth starter on depth chart) struggle. 


I expect the Orioles to improve over last year, and I think the offense will keep the team in games. The starting pitching is still has problems, but I like what the club has done with the bullpen. I have a feeling they will finish a game or two better than Toronto and finish fourth. 

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Texas Rangers: 2011 MLB Season Preview


Last Year: 90-72, 1st in AL West  

Manager: Ron Washington 




C- Yorvit Torrealba (R) 

1B- Mitch Moreland (L)

2B- Ian Kinsler (R)

3B- Adrian Beltre (R) 

SS- Elvis Andrus (R)

LF- Josh Hamilton (L)

CF- Julio Borbon (L)

RF- Nelson Cruz (R)

DH- Michael Young (R)

The Rangers’ offense is still just as strong as last year’s group that went to the World Series. Led by AL MVP Josh Hamilton, they have a great balance of power and speed that makes them tough for other teams to deal with.

Hamilton has all the offensive tools. His combination of power and ability to hit for average make him one of the game’s most dangerous hitters. He should hit .315/.370/.580 with 30 home runs.

Nelson Cruz is a dangerous right-handed bat who should hit behind Hamilton. Like Hamilton, Cruz has an ability to hit for power and average. One facet of Cruz’s game that is overlooked is his speed.

The key with Cruz is staying healthy.  If he does, I see a line of .290/.365/.545 with 30 home runs and 17-20 stolen bases.

Julio Borbon is a contact/speed hitter with little plate discipline. He will split time with David Murphy, who is the better overall hitter.

Michael Young will DH and spot start all around the infield. Young can be counted on for a .290 average and 17-20 home runs. 

Mitch Moreland should be a breakout player for the Rangers this season. (His projections are below in BREAKOUT PLAYER).

Ian Kinsler has dealt with injuries last year that seemed to zap some of his power. Kinsler is capable of putting up 20-plus home runs with a solid average between .275 and .290 and 20 plus steals.

He is a really solid player who can get on base and can quietly change the course of a game.

Elvis Andrus seemed to lose what little power he had in 2010, but he showed in the playoffs he can change the course of a game with his speed.

I like him improving on his 2010 season with 4 home runs, 35 stolen bases, and a line of .290/.360/.360.

I’m not sold on Adrian Beltre’s offense even in Arlington. I think he greatly benefited from playing in Fenway Park for half the season in terms of his average, and his OBP is lower than it should be.

He can still be counted on for 25 home runs but his line will drop to .275/.315/.475.

Torrealba is not bad offensive option at catcher with his 5-8 home runs, a solid average and good OBP.  

The Rangers were 10th in UZR during the 2010 season, and that number should improve with the addition of Adrian Beltre.

Beltre is a significant upgrade at third base over Michael Young. Beltre paired with Andrus, one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, should make the best right-side infield combo in baseball.

Mitch Moreland showed he was an average first baseman in 2010, and Ian Kinsler is above-average at second base.

The Rangers also upgraded at the catcher position with Torrealba, who is a great catch and throw guy.

Throw in the great outfield defense, where every fielder is way above average, the Rangers might be one of the best defenses in baseball. 




OF- David Murphy (L)

IF- Andres Blanco (S) 

1B/C- Mike Napoli (R)  




LHP- CJ Wilson 

RHP- Colby Lewis 

RHP- Tommy Hunter (on DL until May)

LHP- Derek Holland 

LHP- Matt Harrison

RHP- Alexi Ogando

The depth in the rotation took a hit with the departure of Cliff Lee during the offseason. CJ Wilson becomes the ace of the staff after his first full season as a starter in the majors.

Wilson doesn’t have the best command (4.10 BB/9) but he gets most of his outs via the strikeout and groundout. Wilson has a five pitch repertoire, and every pitch is above average. (90.5 MPH fastball, curve, slider, cutter, and change-up.)

Colby Lewis, who was excellent in the postseason, slots behind CJ Wilson as the No. two starter.

Lewis has decent control and fastball (averaged 90.1 MPH), but he relies heavily on his slider and curveball. His breaking balls and his ability to locate his fastball allowed Lewis to strikeout almost 200 batters last year.

Wilson and Lewis were thoroughly impressive last year and I believe they will put up similar strong numbers this season. 

Missing Cliff Lee hurts the bottom half of the Rangers’ rotation. I’ve never been a fan of Tommy Hunter, who will be on the DL until May, and his 2010 line was not indicative of his ability.

His 3.73 ERA was helped by a ridiculously high left-on-base percentage, and low BABIP (.255). Hunter’s ERA should be around 4.50 this season.

Derek Holland has the promise to be a top pitcher for many years to come. He averages 92.1 MPH on his fastball and compliments it with a filthy slider, decent change, and average curveball.

2011 could be the year he puts it all together, and and he should post an ERA in the high 3’s and almost 8 K/9 innings. 

Alexi Ogando emerged as a strong set-up man in 2010, but will be shifted to the rotation with the injury to Hunter. He should head back to the bullpen in May. 

Ogando will throw a hard fastball (avg 96.3 MPH) and a good slider. His best attribute is his ability to keep the ball in the park.

Harrison will probably remain in the rotation because I don’t see Webb coming back any time soon.

Harrison throws a low 90’s fastball with a slider, change, and occasional curveball. His slider has a tendency to flatten out and he should try to mix in more curveballs, a pitch he has had success with.

Harrison doesn’t strike out many hitters (5.29 K/9 in 2010), and he will walk close to four per nine innings. In addition, with his high home run rate, Harrison should have a 4.80 ERA in the rotation and could loose his spot if Ogando performs. 




RHP- Neftali Feliz (Closer) 

RHP- Darren O’Day

LHP- Arthur Rhodes

RHP- Pedro Strop 

LHP- Darren Oliver 

RHP- Mark Lowe 

RHP- David Bush

RHP- Mason Tobin 

Neftali Feliz anchors this strong Rangers bullpen. Feliz has shown good control and the ability to strike out any hitter with a 96 MPH fastball and a strong curveball. He has the ability to start, but it sounds like the Rangers are keeping him as the closer this season.

Right-handed side-armer Darren O’Day and Darren Oliver return to the Rangers bullpen to work as situational pitchers. O’Day is tough on righties, and Oliver will be used during the middle innings.

Arthur Rhodes was signed to be the primary left-handed specialist. Rhodes doesn’t pitch well against righties, unlike Olver, and will use his tough slider and low 90’s fastball to get lefties out.

Pedro Strop throws in the mid 90’s with a slider and splitter. He has strikeout stuff, but his command is in issue.

Mark Lowe, essentially a throw away in the Cliff Lee deal, missed most of last year with an arm injury. Lowe, who also throws a 96 MPH fastball and can average 8 K/9 innings, will establish himself as another good option for Ron Washington.

David Bush will be the team’s long reliever after failing to win a starting job. 



BREAKOUT PLAYER: Mitch Moreland 

I really liked what I saw from Mitch Moreland in the second-half of the season and the playoffs. He always seemed to put up tough at-bats, and he had an impressive OBP.

He gained Ron Washington’s trust during the playoffs, and Washington let him hit against lefties.

I see Moreland getting 500 at-bats this season and putting up a line of .270/.360/.480 with 20 home runs. 



PROSPECT TO WATCH: RHP Tanner Scheppers 

The Rangers believe this young pitcher could impact the big league club later in the season. With an upper 90’s fastball, curveball, slider and change-up, many think he could make an impact in the starting rotation.

Looking at his stats, it seems like he would be a better fit in the bullpen where his fastball can reach triple digits. I could seem him being the closer in 2012 with Neftali Feliz heading to the rotation. 




The Rangers should be in line for another division title. The lineup is as strong as last year (maybe better), the team plays great defense, and the bullpen is slightly improved.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Michael Young is traded for another starting pitcher during the next few weeks since the starting rotation is lacking depth.

The A’s have improved, but I see the Rangers holding them off to win the division. 

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Kansas City Royals: 2011 MLB Season Preview


Last Year: 67-95, fifth in AL Central 

Manager: Ned Yost



C: Jason Kendall (R) (will start season on DL)

DH/1B: Kila Ka’aihue (L)

1B/DH: Billy Butler (R)

2B: Chris Getz (L)

3B: Mike Aviles (R)

SS: Alcides Escobar (R)

LF: Alex Gordon (L)

CF: Melky Cabrera (S)

RF: Jeff Francoeur (R)

During the 2010 season, the Royals were second in baseball in terms of batting average. However, the offense had trouble scoring by the lack of power (19th in SLG) and the average rate of getting on base overall (14th in OBP).

Billy Butler is the Royals’ best hitter. Butler will hit over .300, but his power declined over last year. He did cut his strikeouts by 20 and increase his BB total slightly. I expect close to 20 home runs, a .390 OBP and a .480 SLG line for Butler.

Kila Ka’aihue will provide the power in the KC lineup. He has never had more than 200 big-league at-bats in a season but always had great power numbers and BB totals in the minors. I expect a little more than 20 home runs and a stat line of .250/.360/.460.

Chris Getz provides little production at 2B. He will hit .260 with two home runs and will probably lose his job to Mike Moustakas (Mike Aviles will move back to 2B).

Alcides Escobar had a bad rookie year for the Brewers in 2010, but I expect him to rebound and provide some speed in the lineup. Projected line: .275/.330/.370 and five home runs. Aviles, with his projected eight to 12 home runs and .290/.250/.415, plays better at 2B.  

Jason Kendall provides little offensive value at the catcher position with no power and a below-average OBP.

Alex Gordon may be the most important player in the lineup if the Royals are to exceed expectations. A former No. 2 draft pick, Gordon has really struggled since his debut in 2007. He has never hit above .260 or hit more than 16 home runs. I don’t think Gordon will be the George Brett-type player many envisioned, but he might be able to be a successful LF for a while. Projected line: .265/.360/.465 with 20 home runs.

Melky Cabrera will never be anything more than a fourth outfielder on a good team, and Jeff Francoeur hasn’t put up since 2007. The Royals need to upgrade in the OF if they are to improve in the future. 

Looking at the advanced fielding stats, the Royals were the third-worst defensive team in baseball and had the least range (Royals UZR was -44.5). The infield defense should dramatically improve with the acquisition of Alcides Escobar. Escobar is one of the more athletic SS in baseball, and he will be a major improvement over the defensively impaired Yuniesky Betancourt.

Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue will play 1B. Ka’aihue is the better defensive player, while Butler is considered below average.

Mike Aviles had a rough year defensively at 2B, but that had a lot to do with his injured throwing elbow that required Tommy John surgery. He has never played 3B on a regular basis.

Chris Getz is considered average at 2B. Jason Kendall is a veteran and calls a good game behind the plate, but his overall skills are slightly below average. Melky Cabrera had an awful 2010 in CF for the Braves. He has lost some weight this year, and I believe he will play closer to the average range he showed with the Yankees. Jeff Francoeur and Alex Gordon will provide very good defense in the corners.



OF: Mitch Maier (L)

IF: Wilson Betemit (S)

OF: Jarrod Dyson (L)

C: Bryan Pena (S)

C: Matt Treanor (R)



RHP Luke Hochevar  

LHP Jeff Francis 

RHP Kyle Davies 

LHP Bruce Chen  

RHP Vin Mazzaro (starts season in minors until fifth starter needed in mid-April)

After the Zack Greinke trade became official, the Royals were left without a true ace to lead the starting rotation. All signs point to Luke Hochevar taking the ball Opening Day.

Hochevar, a former No. 1 overall pick in 2006, throws a 93 mph fastball with some sink. He possesses a vast repertoire that includes a cutter, slider, changeup and curveball. The key with Hochevar, as it is with most pitchers, is fastball command. With improved command and secondary pitch variety, Hochevar could be poised to that show he is the ace of the Royals rotation.

Jeff Francis was a low-cost signing for GM Dayton Moore, and Francis might be able to shore up the Royals rotation. Francis came back from shoulder surgery last year and showed some rust. He did post a 5.00 ERA, but he showed good command and showed fastball velocity (87.2 MPH) that he has missed since 2006.

I see Francis returning to the form he showed when he helped take the Rockies to the World Series in 2007. A 4.10 ERA, 6.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 should be within his 2011 range. 

After a good 2008, many have been predicting Kyle Davies to be a breakout candidate for the Royals. Instead, Davies has disappointed with average strikeout rates and poor control. At this point I think Davies is what he has shown in the last few years, and I don’t expect much improvement. Expect a high 4.80 ERA, 6.0 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9.

Bruce Chen, Vin Mazzaro and Sean O’Sullivan will be battling for the last two spots in the rotation. Mazzaro has the highest upside of the three. He throws a low 90s fastball, a very good slider, a good changeup and a respectable curveball. Mazzaro’s fastball is a little too straight, which accounts for the high number of home runs allowed.

Bruce Chen pitched well for the Royals in 2010 but was fortunate to post the numbers he did. Chen is a soft-tossing fly-ball pitcher who benefited from a low BABIP and a high Left on Base percentage. Like the rest of the Royals staff, he averages six K/9 and has iffy control. Consensus is that Chen takes a step back this year.

O’Sullivan, who relies on a 90 MPH fastball and good offspeed stuff, does not strike out many and has iffy control. He does have some options, which makes him the likeliest candidate to be sent down.



RHP Joakim Soria (Closer)

RHP Robinson Tejeda

RHP Aaron Crow 

RHP Jeremy Jeffress 

LHP Tim Collins 

RHP Kanekoa Texeira

RHP Nathan Adcock

RHP Sean O’Sullivan

The Royals have one of the top closers in the game anchoring the bullpen. Joakim Soria uses four above-average pitches, and I am surprised the Royals have never attempted to make him a starter. He should have another very good year, but he might be on another team by the end of the season. With the Royals rebuilding, other teams will be calling the Royals for Soria during the middle of the season.

Robinson Tejeda might be the best of the rest. He employs a 93-95 MPH fastball plus a good slider and changeup. His control is iffy, but he will put up very good K numbers.

The rest of the bullpen is full of rookies. There isn’t a set LHP to come out of the pen for the Royals, so I figure Tim Collins has a very good shot at making this team. He was acquired from the Braves in the Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel deal. Collins has put up great strikeout rates in the minors, which should be enough for the Royals to give Collins serious consideration.

Kanekoa Texeira uses a moving 90 MPH fastball with iffy control and has posted a below-average strikeout rate (4.84). Jeremy Jeffress could surprise this season; he throws 95 mph with a good curveball.

O’Sullivan will be the long reliever in the pen. He features an 89-92 mph fastball with a good curveball and changeup. Again, he does have some options, which makes him the likeliest candidate to be sent down when Mazzaro comes back.

I don’t know much about Adcock other than he was a Rule 5 pick who has never been above Single-A, and Crow was a starter for the Royals in Double-A.



There isn’t much statistical evidence to prove he will have a breakout year, but I am going on the fact that he took some small steps in 2010 plus the evolution of a young pitcher. 2011 just might be the year he puts it all together. 


PROSPECT TO WATCH: 3B Mike Moustakas (L)

Watch out for Mike Moustakas. He was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft after David Price, and I think he will eventually be called up in May to take over the 3B job (very similar to Evan Longoria in 2007). He has great power and put up .322/.369/.630 in the minors last year. The only player standing in his way is Wilson Betemit. I think his power will translate right away to the majors, and he will be a rookie to watch.


PROJECTED FINISH: Fourth in AL Central

The Royals have been maligned for the last two decades. In addition, GM Dayton Moore has gotten some bad press with some acquisitions (Yuniesky Betancourt) and what seems to be a disregard for advanced statistics. With that said, everyone in baseball seems to agree that he has stockpiled the best farm system in baseball.

The Royals may not have a very good year in 2011, but they have the talent to become competitive in the future, much like the recent surge of the Tampa Bay Rays. The 2011 team has enough talent to keep them out of the cellar for this year and hopefully will start an upward trend for the KC franchise.

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