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MLB 2011: Kings of the Hill, 10 Leading Pitchers Who Can Win the Triple Crown

Perhaps the greatest statistical achievement for a Major League pitcher to accomplish is that of the Triple Crown of pitching.

In the history of Major League Baseball, only 35 times has a pitcher led his respective league in wins, ERA and strikeouts.

In the American League, 10 pitchers have combined for 15 Triple Crown seasons. In the National League, it has been done 20 times by 15 pitchers.

Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Lefty Gomez, Roger Clemens, Christy Matthewson, Grover Alexander and Sandy Colfax are the only pitchers to accomplish the feat more than once.

Since 1970, it has only been done eight times, and it’s happened just three times since 2000.

The last pitcher to win the Triple Crown was Jake Peavy in 2007.

With so many dominant pitchers in today’s game, will 2011 be the year that we see someone win a Triple Crown for the first time in five seasons?

Who will be the 26th pitcher to win baseball’s Triple Crown of pitching and join this “Who’s Who” list of pitching legends?

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MLB Spring Training 2011: Most Likely Player To Join 30/30 Club on Every Team

Hindsight might be 20/20, but foresight is 30/30—at least when it comes to baseball.

Major League Baseball’s 30/30 club is made up of players who have hit at least 30 home runs and stole 30 bases in the same season.

What’s so special about 30/30?

It’s simple. A player has to show a unique combination of power and speed over the course of an entire season in order to reach both milestones.

The feat was actually quite common in the 1990s and early 2000s, but it has become more rare in the last five years.

Only Alfonso Soriano reached the 30/30 plateau in both 2005 and 2006.

In fact, Soriano became only the fourth player in MLB history to reach 40 homers and 40 steals in one season when he recorded 46 and 41 respectively in 2006.

Jimmy Rollins, David Wright and Brandon Phillips joined the 30/30 club in 2007.

In 2008, Grady Sizemore and Hanley Ramirez accomplished the feat.

Ian Kinsler join the club when he hit 31 home runs and stole 30 bases for the Rangers in 2009, the only player to do so that year.

Last season, no player reached the 30/30 club. It was the first season since 1994 that no one did so, and 1994 was a strike-shortened season which ended in mid-August.

How about 2011? Which players have the best shot at joining MLB’s 30/30 club?

Rather than making a list of the top 10, 15 or 20 players who are most likely to reach 30/30, I’ve tried to identify one player on each MLB roster who I think has the best shot at having a 30/30 season.

Ironically, there are exactly 30 teams in the Major Leagues.

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MLB Spring Training 2011: Top 10 World Series Contenders This Season

Only one team will be crowned World Series Champion in 2011, and there are probably only five serious contenders according to most baseball pundits.

However, that doesn’t mean that other teams can’t or won’t win the World Series this year.

Technically, it might not be “World Series or bust,” for all of these teams, but each one on this list has made moves this offseason and have the pieces in place to make a serious run at a title if things fall into place.

Some have made blockbuster free-agent signings or trades. Others have locked up stars on their roster from last season. Then there are those squads that are just counting on their stars to stay healthy this season after coming off injuries in 2010.

Where will your favorite team be ranked on the list of teams with the best shot at winning the Fall Classic?

Let’s start in the American League with the Los Angeles Angels.

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MLB Hot Stove: Bombing In The Bronx? Grading Yankees’ Offseason Moves

Is it just me, or are there any other people scratching their heads over the Yankees’ personnel decisions this offseason?

This is the time of the year that the Pinstripes are supposed to re-tool for another run at another World Series crown, isn’t it?

So far the Yanks have failed to sign a top-tier free agent outside of Rafael Soriano who will be paid $10 million to pitch the eighth inning in front of Mariano Rivera.

Perhaps the most telling fact about the Bronx Bombers’ offseason mediocrity is the rejection of Cliff Lee when he turned down the Yankees and signed with Phillies for less money. You have to go back to 1992 to find the last time that a free agent turned down a better offer from the Yankees to sign with another team when Greg Maddux opted to sign with Atlanta rather than wear pinstripes. That’s almost 20 years!

Do the Yankees make the grade with their offseason moves thus far?

Let’s take a look at some of their notable offseason transactions. Then, you decide.

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2011 MLB Offseason: Future Hall of Famers By Position

At any given time, there are arguably 30-35 active players in the Major Leagues who are deserving of a spot in Cooperstown once they call it a career. Whom among those on an active roster for 2011 are most likely to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame sometime in the future?

The following is a position-by-position list of players who, in my opinion, can start thinking about their acceptance speeches right now.

Disclaimer – In writing this list, no special consideration was given to the “Steroid Era,” and no players were excluded from the list because of suspicion or admission of steroid use.

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Atlanta Braves Ace Tim Hudson Deals Stephen Strasburg His Second Loss

The Atlanta Braves continued their winning ways as veteran right-hander Tim Hudson outdueled rookie sensation Stephen Strasburg.

The Braves threatened in the first two innings but were unable to score against Strasburg. Melky Cabrera was thrown out trying to score in the first, and Blanco grounded into an inning-ending double play in the second with two men on.

The two hurlers matched zeros for six innings before the Braves broke through courtesy of an Ian Desmond error in the bottom of the seventh. The gaffe prevented a likely double play.

Hudson pitched around trouble in the top half of the frame to escape unscathed.

Strasburg came out after the seventh inning stretch and walked Chipper Jones on four pitches and gave up a single to Brian McCann.

Desmond then bobbled a grounder from Troy Glaus to load the bases with no outs. That’s when it all came crashing down for the Nats.

Jones scored from third on an Eric Hinske sacrifice fly. Yunel Escobar ended Strasburg’s night by driving in McCann with a single to left to give the Braves a 2-0 lead.

Gregor Blanco greeted Sean Burnett with an RBI bunt single, and Escobar scored on an infield single by Omar Infante to extend the lead to 4-0.

Martin Prado capped off the five-run seventh inning with a fly ball to right that scored Blanco.

Strasburg pitched 6.1 innings and gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits; he struck out seven and walked two.

Hudson pitched seven scoreless innings and gave up just five hits; striking out six and walking three. Jonny Venters pitched two clean innings in relief for the Braves to secure the 5-0 victory.

With the loss, Strasburg is now 2-2 with a 2.27 ERA despite his fourth quality start in five career outings. Hudson improves to 8-3 with a 2.37 ERA through 16 starts. He is now 5-1 at home this season.

The Braves are 45-32 with a 1.5-game lead over the Mets in the NL East. The Nationals are now 33-44 and have lost five straight games.

Chipper Jones extended his hot hitting and has now hit safely in 11 straight games.

Derek Lowe (9-4, 4.42) will take the mound for Atlanta against Craig Stammen (1-2, 5.34) of the Nationals on Tuesday at Turner Field.

First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.

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Atlanta Braves: Chipper Jones Heating Up, Extends Hit-Streak to 10 Games

Fear not, Braves fans. Chipper Jones has apparently found his stroke after a painfully slow start to the 2010 season.

He extended his hitting-streak to 10 games on Saturday with a three-run home run, and his bat is looking livelier than it has for a long time.

During the streak, he’s batting .389 with 10 RBI, 6 runs, 2 home runs, and two stolen bases. He has five walks and struck out six. The streak also includes three multi-hit games.

That being said, he’s still only batting .256 on the season with 32 RBI, 28 runs, and 5 home runs.

When you look at his numbers month-by-month, it’s easy to see that he’s improving.

March and April

In the months of March and April, Jones batted an awful .230 and was slugging just .393 He had just six RBI, 10 runs, and two home runs in 61 at-bats.

He only managed to six hits for extra bases and 24 total bases in the first two months of the season.


Jones hit .265 in 83 at-bats in May, but his slugging percentage dropped slightly to .373 for the month. Still, his OBP went up from .390 in March and April to .410 in May—slightly higher than his career OBP of .406.

During the month of May, he recorded 15 RBI, 10 runs, and one home run. He also had six doubles and 31 total bases.

While not good numbers by any means, there was definitely improvement in the areas of RBI, batting average, and OBP.


So far in June, Chipper is batting .271 in 59 at-bats. He has 11 RBI, eight runs, and two home runs. His OBP has slipped to .353 for the month, but his slugging percentage has gone up to .424 in June.

Those numbers are a little bit more reasonable when you consider that Jones has missed eight games in June compared to six games from March to May.

Putting Everything Together

If Chipper stays on track, his hits will have increased every month of the season. While the power isn’t there yet, his bat is showing some signs of life—especially over the last two weeks.

When the dust settles, I wouldn’t be too surprised if Chipper finishes the season with around 90 RBI, 90 runs, and 20 homeruns with a .285 batting average. If he does, it will be the first time he’s scored 90 runs and reached 90 RBI since 2007.

The Braves could use his bat if they want to create some space between them and the rest of the division. Going into Sunday, only 3.5 games separate the Braves, Mets, and Phillies at the top of the NL East.

* On a seperate note, the Braves’ Kenshin Kawakami finally won a game after starting 0-9.

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Hat Trick: Tampa Bay Rays Get No-Hit Again, This Time By Edwin Jackson

Maybe it’s an aberration, but the Tampa Bay Rays were the victims of being on the wrong end of a no-hitter—again.

Dating back to July 23, 2009, The Rays have been no-hit three times; two of those being perfect games.

Let’s take a look at them.

On July 23rd of last year, Mark Buehrle pitched a perfect game against the Rays at US Cellular Field in Chicago. He struck out six batters on 116 pitches (76 for strikes).

There’s no shame in that. Buehrle is a four-time All-Star with eight career shutouts and over 1,200 Ks. He ranks fifth all-time in strikeouts, sixth in starts, and eighth in wins in White Sox history.

On May 9th of this year, Dallas Braden of the A’s threw a perfecto in Oakland on Mother’s Day. He also fanned six Rays. He threw 77 of his 109 pitches for strikes.

Prior to that game, the only thing Braden was known for was getting into a spat with Alex Rodriguez when A-Rod crossed over the mound in the middle of an inning.

Braden has gone 0-5 since then and the Rays are winless in all eight of his starts dating back to Mother’s Day.

Most recently, Tampa was no-hit by former Ray Edwin Jackson. This time it was at Tropicana Field.

Jackson threw only 79 strikes in 149 pitches and walked eight batters through nine innings. He also had six strikeouts.

The Rays had two stolen bases and left nine men on base (BJ Upton was hit by a pitch). They were 0-7 in scoring opportunities.

There’s something wrong when a pitcher struggles that much with his command and you still can’t manage a run—let alone a hit.

Is it just a crazy coincidence or a cruel twist of fate? I don’t think so—at least not entirely.

Many people are left scratching their heads because, on paper, Tampa is too good of a team to be the victims of two perfect games and a no-hitter in one calendar year.

Sure, they’re not the Yankees or the Red Sox, but they’re not the Mariners or Orioles.

They’re in the middle of the pack in the AL in batting average, hits, and home runs.

They lead the AL in stolen bases and are fourth in both runs and RBI, but they’ve also struck out 286 more times than they’ve walked.

It’s not otherworldly offensive production, but it’s not that bad either.

So what’s the problem?

This is my opinion, and it’s a little subjective. However, I think there is some merit to it.

The Rays have a fairly young team of very talented players. However, when they find themselves struggling in a game, they push too hard and try to do too much.

Instead of staying within themselves and being disciplined at the plate, they start swinging for the fences on every pitch.

Whatever the cause, they allow themselves to go on tilt too easily, and there really isn’t that guy to bring them back down to earth.

Until they learn to weather the storm and avoid these highs and lows, they’ll be vulnerable to being no-hit again.

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Breaking News: Bobby Valentine to be Next Florida Marlins Manager’s Jon Heyman is reporting that Bobby Valentine is going to be the next manager of the Florida Marlins.

A source close to the team has told Heyman that the Marlins have a tentative deal with the former Rangers and Mets skipper.

It is being reported that Valentine could take over managerial duties as early as Monday. That is when the Marlins will be beginning a three-game series at home against his old team—the New York Mets.

ESPN previously reported that the Marlins were prepared to offer Valentine a four-year contract to manage the team.

The Marlins job became available after the team fired Fredi Gonzalez on Wednesday. That same day, Valentine withdrew his name from consideration for the Baltimore Orioles’ vacancy.

He’s coming into a familiar situation, having managed in the NL East for seven seasons from 1996-2002.

He’ll also be taking over a competitive Florida Marlins team. They are 35-37 and only six-and-a-half games behind Atlanta for the division lead.

Oh, and the Marlins are getting a fancy new stadium in 2012 equipped with a retractable roof and an aquarium behind home plate.

Valentine isn’t the only winner in the deal.

The Marlins are getting a veteran manager with a winning record (1,117-1,072) and a World Series appearance.

Not too bad.

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Breaking News: Chicago Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano Suspended Indefinitely

The Chicago Cubs have suspended pitcher Carlos Zambrano indefinitely after a dugout tirade during Friday’s 6-0 loss to the cross-town White Sox.

Zambrano had to be restrained and separated from teammate Derrek Lee after he gave up four runs in the bottom half of the first inning at US Cellular Field.

Presumably, the issue was that Lee let a ground ball get by him at first base prior to Zambrano giving up a three-run home run.

Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry had this to say about the suspension:

“His conduct wasn’t acceptable… his actions toward his teammates and staff were not acceptable.”

“He will not be at the ballpark tomorrow. We’ll play with 24. We’ll play with 24 before we tolerate that kind of behavior.”

Cubs Manager Lou Piniella added, “He was ranting and raving and out of control.”

“We just couldn’t tolerate that. It was embarrassing. There’s no excuse for this, none at all.”

Piniella also said that he supported Hendry’s decision.

Lee would not discuss the situation, but said the team would stick together.

It’s been a rough year for Zambrano, who has gone 3-5 with a 5.10 ERA. He was also demoted to the bullpen earlier in the season.

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