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MLB Power Rankings: Picking the Best Hitter-Pitcher Combo in the NL East

This report will be a slideshow ranking each NL East team’s best pitcher-hitter combination, so there will be a total of five selections here. The pitcher can be a starter or a reliever, and the hitter can play any position.

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MLB Power Rankings:The 2011 Phillies and the 10 Biggest Preseason Favorites Ever

Offseason transactions through the history of baseball has often caused a hype for a team’s favor before the season even starts.

Sometimes this hype over a team is created by these transactions, and sometimes this hype can come just from the team’s performance the year before. Sometime it is the combination of both these factors that lead to a mania in favor of one team winning the World Series. We have seen that beginning this year with the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies who acquired Cliff Lee this offseason.

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Top 25 MLB Offseason Transactions For Players in New Colors for 2011

This offseason has seen a number of multi-million dollar transactions. Many of those deals were teams re-signing players who were on their team in 2010, such as Jorge De La Rosa by for the Rockies for two-years at $21.5MM, Aubrey Huff by the Giants for two-years at $22MM, Derek Jeter by the Yankees for three-years at $51MM, Paul Konerko by the White Six for three-years at $37.5MM, Hiroki Kuroda by the Dodgers for one-year at $12MM, and Mariano Rivera by the Yankees for two-years at $30MM.

Even though the last of these players had contact with a division, and probably the oldest, rivalry team, these players did sign with the team that signed their paycheck at the end of 2010.

Many players who were part of the 2010-2011 offseason dealings will, however, be wearing different colors for the 2011. Some of these players will be wearing the colors of a team not so far from where they finished their season in 2010 and will be forced to play their formal team as a new rival team.

Between all of the free agent signings and the big trades, this is the ranking biggest transactions of players who changed teams during this offseason.

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2011 MLB Offseason: Where Does Carl Pavano Fit in Minnesota’s Rotation?

Carl Pavano and the Minnesota Twins finally came to an agreement today for a two year contract worth $16.5 million.  After rumors about the possibility of Pavano returning to the New York Yankees or that the Washington Nationals were a favorite, he will be returning to the Twins for the next two seasons, where he could perhaps retire.

With the re-signing of Pavano, the Twins are faced with a tough decision as to who will be the official starters for the 2011 season.  Minnesota now has six potential starters to fill five rotation slots.  Besides Pavano, the Twins have Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing.  Duensing is the only one of these six potential choices to not have any wins or losses for the 2010 season:

Carl Pavano:  3.75 ERA, 17-11 record, 1.19 WHIP, 117 Ks, 37 Walks in 221 IP

Francisco Liriano:  3.62 ERA, 14-10 Record, 1.26 WHIP, 201 Ks, 58 Walks in 191.2 IP

Scott Baker:  4.49 ERA, 12-9 Record, 1.34 WHIP, 148 Ks, 43 Walks in 170.1 IP

Kevin Slowey:  4.45 ERA, 13-6 Record, 1.29 WHIP, 116 Ks, 29 Walks in 155.2 IP

Nick Blackburn:  5.42 ERA, 10-12 Record, 68 Ks, 40 Walks in 161 IP

Brian Duensing:  2.62 ERA, 10-3 Record, 78 K’s, 35 Walks in 130.2 IP


The Twins now have to decide which of these pitchers is the extra baggage that will not fit into the starting rotation for this coming season. 

Do they rid themselves of the high ERA and sub-.500 record of Blackburn, or cut Duensing? 

Do the Twins trade one of these other pitchers for prospects, or do they move one of the starters to a long relief position? 

My bet would be to move either Blackburn  into the bullpen or deal in a trade, but that is only prognostication.  The only thing I do know for sure is Pavano will be part of the rotation.

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Philadelphia Phillies Bullpen: Madson Reigns as Phillies’ Best Relief

With less than four weeks until pitchers and catchers are to report, the Philadelphia Phillies have already established the best rotation in baseball, and that is without knowing with a certainty that the fifth starter will be Joe Blanton or Kyle Kendrick. 

As of yesterday, Kendrick signed a one-year contract for $2.45 million, and Blanton is signed through the 2012 season being owed $17 million.  A lot of people had suspected that the Phillies would trade Blanton in order to free up some salary room after having signed Cliff Lee, as the Phillies are locked in at about $15 million more than what they had expected for 2011.  GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. stated that he does not feel comfortable dealing Blanton right now, and, honestly, there is no hurry to do so.

Dealing Blanton is still a definite possibility, if the proper situation arises, but Amaro is not actively seeking a deal.  If a team, such as the Minnesota Twins if they were unable to resign Carl Pavano, desires Blanton, there very well could be a trade, but there are no dealings currently on the table. 

That being said, Kendrick and Blanton were both starters in 2010 (see article on Blanton and Kendrick here:, but Blanton will take the fifth spot in the starting rotation if he remains a Phillie, which will leave Kendrick coming out of the bullpen.

With Blanton being the fifth starter, the Phillies currently have Ryan Madson, Danys Baez, J.C. Romero, Jose Contreras and Kyle Kendrick, with Brad Lidge as the closing pitcher.  Kendrick is easily the youngest of the six pitchers in the bullpen, being the only one under 30 at the age of 26.  The rest of the pitchers are 30, 33, 34, 39 and 34, respectively.

The bullpen is certainly on the older side, and the performance of the bullpen has always been a question mark for the Phillies.  Looking at their statistics, Madson reigns easily above the rest, even though the numbers for Kendrick for 2010 are his numbers from starting, not relieving.

Their statistics show:








































































Of all of the relievers, Madson had the second most innings pitched in 2010, with the best ratio of walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP), most strikeouts per nine innings, most strikeouts per walk, most strikeouts and fewest walks (excluding Kendrick since he was a starter) and, most importantly, he allowed the fewest earned runs for the best ERA.

Madson is the future of the Phillies bullpen, and, since his contract expires after this season, it would be of the team’s best interest to extend his contract soon.  He is young and the best producing reliever on the team, and his numbers made great improvements in 2010, which shows he is growing as a pitcher. Overall, Madson has proven that he is a reliable and dependable pitcher, more so than any of the other relief options that the Phillies have to offer.

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MLB Rumors: 10 Reasons Phillies Can’t Risk Playing Hard Ball with Cole Hamels

With the Philadelphia Phillies picking up Cliff Lee in a deal that shocked all of baseball last month, there has been a lot of talk about the how good the Phillies current rotation is, which ranks probably within the best five rotations in baseball history. The 2011 Phillies rotation compares to the rotations of the Atlanta Braves from the mid-1990s, the 1971 Orioles with Jim Palmer, and the 1966 Dodgers with Sandy Koufax.

Sadly for the Phillies fans, this rotation has a life of probably no more than two years. After the 2011 season, two of the pitchers of this potentially legendary rotation could be seeking new contracts. Cole Hamels’ contract ends after this season, and Roy Oswalt has a $16 million club option for the 2012 season. It is possible that the option might occur for 2012, but he is only 33 and may be seeking a multi-year contract following 2011.

Assuming that Oswalt will be looking for an opportunity following 2011 to find a multi-year deal to retire with, it is vitally important for the Phillies to sign Hamels to a contract very soon in order to avoid a contract war. Hamels is not eligible to be a free agent until after the season of 2012, but he is due arbitration following this coming season, which would put his value much higher than his current contract. The 2010-2011 offseason has seen a great deal of pitcher changes, and the Phillies need to insure soon that Hamels is not among that list for next season.

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RISP Factor: A Key Element in Determining Philadelphia Phillies’ Wins or Losses

Since the Washington Nationals signed Jayson Werth to a mega deal for $126 million over seven years in December, the Philadelphia Phllies lost Werth’s ability to hit for power, which is a valuable asset to have in a player.  However, power is not necessarily what makes or breaks a team.  Many teams are very successful by playing small ball baseball or contact hitting.

A player does not need to swing for the fences every time he steps up to the plate.  Getting hits at the right time often determines when a team will win.  It is especially important for a team to get hits with runners in scoring position (RISP).  Although Werth was a dangerous offensive weapon when he was in Philadelphia, the Phillies will still be able to still have an explosive offense as long as they can continue to clutch hit with RISP.

In 2010, the Phillies had the best regular season record in baseball at 97-65.  The Phillies were largely able to win games when they were able to hit well with RISP.  In 2010, the Phillies batted .262 with runners in scoring position, with 371 hits in 1,415 attempts.

However, when the Phillies won a game, their batting average with runners in scoring position was .300, with 295 hits in 984 attempts.  In contrast, for the games that the Phillies lost, their batting average with runners in scoring position was only .176, with 76 hits in 431 attempts.  If the Phillies are able to have a high average in 2011 with runners in scoring position, they can be the same offensive team that they were last year.

The Phillies may no longer have as much power at the plate, but they do have a great potential to win games by playing small ball, which is also strengthened by the fact that the Phillies have four ace starting pitchers.  RISP is a key factor in determining if a team will win games, and if the Phillies can average the same or improve upon their 2010 RISP, the team will have great results in 2011.

By the way, it should be noted that although Werth is a good power hitter, his batting average with runners in scoring position for 2010 was 186. He certainly was not a key contributor to aiding the team’s average with RISP.

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Cliff Lee Was Werth It; Ben Francisco Can Fill the Holes in Lineup and Outfield

With former Philadelphia Phillie Jayson Werth signing with the division rival Washington Nationals for $126 MM for seven-years, it allowed GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. to have a play at the former Phillie and much longed for Cliff Lee.  Amazingly, that deal shocked baseball as Cliff Lee left millions of dollars on the table to return to a team that he was comfortable with and enjoyed.  As a Phillies fan, I am extremely excited to have Lee back on the team, especially since I spent twelve months criticizing Amaro for getting rid of Lee to begin with.  Werth, being 32-years-old, would not be worth the money that the Nationals are paying him once he gets a few years older, and it is certainly worthwhile to bring Lee back at the cost of Werth, as many Phillies fans agree.  As much as the team improves with the addition of Lee, there has been a lot of discussion about how to fill the whole that Jayson Werth left.

Jayson Werth was certainly a productive player for the Phillies and has helped them to their four consecutive NL East championships.  He did not solely help the Phillies to this achievement however, since baseball is, after all, a team sport.  Werth will be 39-years-old at the end of his contract.  He may still be a productive player, but it is unlikely that he will be as productive in the latter years of the contract that he has been in the past few years, especially if he became injured again or as he becomes slower with age.

With Werth no longer in the Phillies lineup, there has been a lot of discussing about how to and who will replace Werth in right field and as a right-handed hitter.  There has been a lot of discussion about a platoon in right field consisting of Ben Francisco and Ross Gload or Dominic Brown.  However, I think that splitting right field with either Gload or Brown leaves much to be desired since they both are left-handed hitters, and Brown also had very disappointing numbers at the plate in the winter league.  The Phillies, having picked up Lee, do not have a great deal of expenses that they could use to acquire a new right fielder, plus the pickings are thin by now.

So why not just use Ben Francisco as the starter?  He may not be as productive as Jayson Werth, but there is not a huge gap between their numbers from the stats for 2010, and Francisco was largely used as a pinch hitter and not a starter.  If he had chances to start everyday, he could find a rhythm and become more productive than an off the bench player.

Comparing Francisco’s stats to Werth’s stats for 2010, we can see there is not a big difference, excepting the number of games played and at bats.  In 554 at bats for 2010, Werth batted for an average of .296 with 27 home runs and 85 RBIs.  Werth’s on base percentage was .388 with a slugging average of .532.  Werth did lead the league in doubles with 46 and had 13 stolen bases, but he did have 147 strikeouts.  Doing the math, that means that almost 27-percent of the time that Werth was batting, he struck out.

Francisco had 179 at bats in 2010, which is just shy of a third of the at bats that Werth had.  During those 179 at bats, Francisco batted for .268 with 6 home runs and 28 RBIs.  Francisco had an on base percentage of .327 with a slugging average of .441, which is not much less than Werth’s relative numbers.  He also had 13 doubles and 8 stolen bases.  If we multiply his numbers by 3 to make it comparative to having played a full season, that would equal 18 home runs, 84 RBIs, 39 doubles, and 24 stolen bases, assuming everything was directly proportionate through the season.  If those numbers proved to be the true production of Ben Francisco over a whole season, he would be a perfect replacement for Jayson Werth.  Cliff was certainly Werth the loss, and Ben Francisco can be a great replacement for Jayson Werth if he is given a chance to prove himself.

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