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4 Pitchers Working on New Pitches

With pitchers and catcher reporting to camp, spring training is finally underway. Although some fans might not be excited until the regular season starts, the players are certainly ready to get back on the field and prepare for the upcoming season.

Spring training is often a time for hitters to find their swing, base stealers to condition their legs, and pitchers to find their touch. In addition, often pitchers will try out new pitches during spring training to see if they can add another weapon in their arsenal of pitches.

Here are four pitchers everyone expects big things from this season and who are also trying out new pitches this spring.

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MLB Free Agency: The Best Player Playing for a New Contract at Every Position

When players are on the final year of a contract, it’s not uncommon for them to have some of the best years of their career. Whether it be because players are more motivated, are more focused on their performances or because they simply work harder, it always seems that the biggest seasons come when it’s a walk year. 

In this article I will look into who are the best players, at each position, that are on a contract year. 

NOTE: Players that have options are NOT included on this list (regardless of whether their options are likely to vest/be picked up or not). 

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Spring Training 2011: Each Team’s Player To Watch from Weekend’s First Games

Baseball season is finally here!

With the first spring training games played this past weekend, fans got to see the first look at what their 2011 team will look like. From getting to see their team’s big-time prospects to the veterans, everyone is starting to make their predictions on everything from how a particular player will perform in 2011 to the which team will in the World Series this season. 

Although not all teams played this past weekend, most did, and thus, we can start to get an idea of who we should keep an eye on this spring.

With that, based on this weekend and the talk about them this winter, let’s take a look at some of the players you should be keeping an eye on as spring training progresses. 

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MLB Trade Rumors: 10 Players Whose Names Will Be Common among Trade Talks

Spring training is here! 

The market for trades right now is pretty quiet, but as the season goes on, we can expect the trade talk to intensify rapidly. This slideshow lists 10 players who should be expected to have many trade rumors swirling around them this season. 

Typically, players with high levels of talent will only be traded if they are on a contract year and their current team doesn’t think the players will re-sign with them, or if the team is in the cellar and will be looking to rebuild in the season(s) to come. 

Although some of these players are really popular with fans of their current teams, the chances of their names being thrown around trade rumors this year are high. Only time will tell if they are actually traded, but here’s a list to get fans mentally prepared for the rumors that lay ahead.

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MLB: Every Team’s Top Player Under 26 Who’ll Make the Biggest 2011 Impact

Young players, whether they be mid-season call-ups or rookies who make the team out of spring training, tend to have a massive impact on their team’s success.

From players like Buster Posey and Jason Heyward to Neftali Feliz, more and more are young stars expected to produce immediately upon their arrival in the majors. 

Let’s take a look at who we can expect to have some of the biggest impacts on their team’s success in the 2011 season… 

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The New York Mets’ Offseason Grade: A Rebuttal to Jayson Stark’s Article

Earlier today Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote an article handing out offseason grades for all five of the National League East teams. While Stark is a great baseball journalist I have to disagree with his C- grade for the New York Mets

Using the most common way of judging a team’s offseason (analyzing the team by big signings and trades), Stark bashes the Mets and even goes as far to say that they were ‘BET (Barely Even Trying)’. He attacks their ‘bargain bin’ signings and says that the team simply let the winter go by while waiting for next winter so $60 million dollars worth will come off the books and the ownership situation can be straightened out.

While he is not wrong about the Mets wanting that $60 million to come off the payroll and the ownership situation causing some problems, I’m sure, to say they were ‘BET’ is just incorrect. When a team is rebuilding, like the Mets have started to do, often that team does not make many moves in the offseason – particularly that first offseason.

First of all, these ‘bargain bin’ signings are nothing to scoff at. How many times have we seen a player resurrect his career (whether he was coming back from an injury or his former team simply gave up on him). Guys like Chris Young, who the Mets signed, have shown the ability to be very effective at the Major League level in the past and thus an incentives based contract has nowhere to go but up. I’d prefer to see this type of signing than what the Yankees did with Pavano a few years ago.

These type of incentive based contracts, to me, are the best kind for a team and the player. If the player performs well then he gets paid for it and the team gets what they were hoping for (everyone wins), but if the player gets hurt again, or doesn’t meet expectations, the team doesn’t have to pay the player for a job he was unable to do.

Second, and the thing that bothered me most about Stark’s article is the grade of a C- for the Mets’ offseason. What Stark fails to realize is that Sandy Alderson, the new Mets GM, is taking the right approach to ‘right the ship.’

For the past four season Mets fans have seen their team fail time and time again. It’s time for a change. The team needs to be rebuilt. And Stark needs to realize that rebuilding a team properly doesn’t mean going out and buying more players (like a lot of the big market teams do). 

Instead, rebuilding a franchise involves moving the dead weight salaries, unloading players you’d like to keep but realize that, by the time the team is competitive again, these players will be past their prime, reinvesting in the scouting and development department and keeping yourself from taking on those long, expensive free agent contracts many players get now-a-days. 

While the Mets may have benefited from moving Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, or Luis Castillo this winte,r the fact is you cannot blame Alderson or the Mets for not doing so. In the case of Beltran his return will be a lot higher if he can show he is healthy.

Likewise, the value of either Perez or Castillo is below the basement floor and so there may be nothing to do but to eat their contracts. Because the Mets did not add a big player to the team or because they were unable to move players who are almost unmovable does not mean the Mets were ‘barely even trying’.

In fact, I applaud the Mets for their off season. Instead of being pressured by the media to go after a big signing and try to turn things around quickly, the Mets have taken the criticism and instead appear ready to rebuild in the appropriate fashion.

As I have shown in my other articles about how to build a championship team (Part 1 and Part 2), you don’t buy championships…you build them. Bravo to the Mets for seeing this and realizing what needs to be done. 

With that said, I’d like to applaud Sandy Alderson and the Mets again on their successful off season of starting to clean house and work toward rebuilding the franchise. It won’t get done overnight and they are likely to lose more fans before it gets better, but look at the Phillies, they’re living proof that winning heals all and will bring the fans back to the stadium. 

Back in 2009 I wrote an article detailing how the Mets should go about rebuilding their team. Since the topic has become more popular now, I have revised my article and have restated many of the same choices I made in the 2009 article. To read my new article follow this link

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MLB Rumors: Breaking Down Every Team’s Interests in the Free Agent Market

It’s almost February and that means pitchers and catchers will be reporting to spring training in just a few weeks; it also means that the free agent signings are coming to an end. It’s rapidly becoming time for coaching staffs to be extending training camp invites to a group of players – a few of which may be lucky enough to land the last few rosters spots on a team. 

Even though, for the most part, all the real impact players have long been signed to teams,organizations are still paying attention to some free agents that can make a difference for a contender or fill a vital role/position for any team. Just look at the San Francisco Giants in 2010 if you’re wondering why teams are maintaining interest in the players left unsigned (they’re World Series run couldn’t have been achieved without players like Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, etc).

So, let’s take a look at each team, individually, to see who they’re still interested in… 

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MLB Rankings: The 30 Teams on Offensive ‘Clutchness’ in the 2010 Season

Being able to perform in the ‘clutch’, when the game is on the line and there is no room for error, is a unique ability. Feeling 50,000+ pairs of eyes watching your every move and knowing millions more are watching on their TVs in their homes can be nerve-racking, to say the least. 

Nonetheless, professional baseball players are often faced with a situation like this and how they perform in them can becoming a defining characteristic. A great baseball player can lose respect, and ultimately significant money in his contract, if he is known for not getting the big hit when needed; likewise, a player can prolong, or even make, a career out of timely hits. 

Lenny Harris, for example was a career .269 hitter but he got the hits when it counted most. Over his 18 season career, much of which was either has a platoon player or pinch hitter, Harris batted .294 with tow outs and a runner on third; he also batted .323 with the bases loaded. 

Individual clutch performances can greatly affect a player’s career and it can also give his team an extra win or two but the combine clutch offensive performances of an entire team can have a huge impact on the team’s season. A team with a lot of talent but who doesn’t get the big hits often misses the playoffs whereas a team with less offensive talent but gets the big hit when it matters most can win the World Series (see the 2010 San Francisco Giants). 

This slideshow is ranking the 30 MLB teams from least to most clutch, as a whole, for the 2010 season. In order to fully analyze the ‘clutchness’ of a team I used 8 different statistical categories.

This includes: WAR (wins above replacement), BT Wins (adjusted batting wins – which measures a hitter’s contribution to his team’s wins with only his bat), Clutch (which measures the win probability of a team having a particular player), Productive Outs Percentage (which measures a player’s ability to make productive outs – i.e. moving a runner along, etc.), BA with Two Outs and RISP, BA in Late+Close games, BA in High Leverage Situations, and, finally, BA in Extra innings. 

With this extensive list of stats of the entire teams combined offensive stats, I was able to fully analyze each team’s ability to perform in the clutch and, thus, rank them from least to most clutch. 

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Johnny Damon and 12 Other AL Players Who Would Struggle in the NL

The Designated Hitter—home of the offensively talented and the defensively challenged players. By not having to play the field many players have been able to prolong, or even make, a career through offensive contributions alone. 

American League teams use the DH position for a variety of different reasons: from protecting a player’s health to finding a role for an aging player and everything in between. Despite the variety of reasons a particular player is used as a DH most of these players have a common trait—they can all hit but, usually, they are also a major liability in the field. 

Unfortunately, NL teams are not afforded this luxury; since there is no DH in the National League every player in the lineup must be on the field (so instead of a DH, who takes the place of the pitcher, in the NL, the pitcher must hit for himself). Because of this, NL teams must be more judicious in deciding which players to carry on their 25-man roster. 

Even if a player can undoubtedly contribute offensively he may not make a NL team because he will either not get many at bats (if he is used solely a pinch-hitter so to avoid him playing the field) or he becomes a major weakness in a team’s defense (if he is put in the field—either as a starter or to play more than a few innings…Pat Burrell started for the Giants in 2010 but when the Giants had a lead past the sixth inning Burrell would usually be pulled from the game for a defensive upgrade).

While some NL teams opt to have these type of players on their roster (Prince Fielder of the Brewers and Pat Burrell of the Giants, for example) most of these type of players are found in the American League. 

To help us look at fielding abilities, I use the sabermetric stat of Range Factor Per Nine Innings (I use this stat, rather than Range Factor Per Games so playing nine innings versus playing one inning is waited more equal). 

Let’s take a look at some American League players who could not, and should not, play for a National League team because their poor defensive would hurt the team more than their offense would help. 

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MLB Predictions: Power Ranking the Top 50 Players for 2011

With about only three months before the first regular season game, the time for baseball writers/bloggers to make their predictions about the 2011 MLB season is beginning to draw near. There are a lot of questions that will be answered in the 2011 season, such as: have the Phillies created a dynasty, can the Yankees rebound after losing out on big players this winter, and can Joey Votto carry the Reds back into the playoffs?

When making predictions for an upcoming season there are three important factors that I weigh into my decision making.

First, the stats; sabermetrics is an unbelievable tool and, with the right analysis, can really give you some unprecedented insight.

Second, the gut; sometimes you have to look past stats and trends and go with the gut feeling. Numbers are very helpful, but they can only take us so far – don’t underestimate your gut feelings.

Third, and finally, luck; anything can happen – from a sore elbow finally requiring surgery to a player hurting his leg trying to tie a shoelace…some things cannot be foreseen. 

Without further ado here is a look at, what I believe, will be the 50 best players fore the entirety of the 2011 season along with a speculation as what some of their year end stats may look like…

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