Tag: Bill Hall

MLB Spring Training 2011: 10 Things We’ve Already Learned About the Astros

The Astros are about two weeks into spring training and played their first game yesterday. I am sure no one wanted to start off the 2011 season like they did, falling to the Atlanta Braves 13-3.

However, after only nine innings of real baseball and a handful of practices, here are 10 things that we have already learned about this team.

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Bill Hall Finds a Home With the Houston Astros

I think if you asked a bunch of Boston Red Sox fans who was the MVP of the team in 2010, some would say Adrian Beltre, some would say David Ortiz, and others would say Bill Hall. If I had to vote for a team MVP for the Red Sox in 2010, I would vote for Hall.

The Red Sox had an injury-plagued 2010 season and Hall’s ability to play seemingly every position on the field helped the Red Sox tremendously. Hall actually played seven different positions including pitcher in 2010. And oh yeah, he also managed to hit 18 home runs and had his highest OPS since 2007 (.740).

Hall didn’t want to be a super-utility player again in 2011 and was looking for a full-time job this winter. He found that full-time job in Houston.

The Houston Astros signed Hall to a one-year, $3.25 million contract with a $4 million mutual option for 2012. While Hall can play a plethora of positions, he will be the Astros’ starting second baseman in 2011.

One year and $3.25 million is a good deal for Hall and the Astros.

Hall will join Clint Barmes, who was acquired by the Astros earlier this offseason, as the new Astros double-play combination. What’s interesting is that second base was Hall’s worst position defensively according to UZR. Though, if it’s any consolation, Hall did play the position at an above-average level from 2006 to 2009.

Offensively, Hall did a lot of good things in 2010. His 18 home runs were his highest since 2006 (35), his K percentage dropped by five percent, and his BB percentage was his highest since 2006.

What was interesting about Hall’s season was that the right-handed Hall was terrible against left-handed pitching. Hall only hit .199 in 163 plate appearances. His career BA against lefties is .259, so I expect him to improve on that number in 2011.

If Hall can replicate his 2010 for the Astros, then they will have a nice little signing on their hands.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Why Did the Toronto Blue Jays Re-Sign Edwin Encarnacion?

Baseball’s offseason player movement is in full swing at the moment, albeit with a certain team from New York being much quieter than anyone expected. Today, word came out that the Blue Jays had joined in on the fun and signed a free agent. “Fun” might not be the best word to describe the Jays’ dip into the free agent market, as they appear to have re-signed not-so-old friend Edwin Encarnacion to a one-year deal worth 2.5 million dollars with an option for a second season.

It wasn’t so long ago Jays fans thought they had seen the last of Edwin when he was claimed off waivers by the Oakland Athletics. But they cut him loose, he hit the market, and he came right back to Toronto to lock himself up with a roster spot for 2011. Encarnacion hit .244 with an uninspiring .305 on-base percentage but still managed an above average .339 wOBA thanks almost entirely to his career high .238 isolated power and 21 homers. It was a nice bounce-back from his disappointing 2009 season but still not quite up to par with his trio of .350-plus wOBA seasons with Cincinnati back in 2006-2008.

The principal reason for any lack of joy amongst most Jays fans, however, comes from Edwin’s by and large horrid defensive ability. He’s been affectionately know as “E5” for some time now in reference to the frequent number of defensive miscues from the third base position (the fifth defensive position for scoring purposes). In what can only be considered a Festivus Miracle, the fans and UZR are both in agreement with regards to Edwin’s defense; the defensive metric has him pegged as a -11.5 per 150 defensive games in his career at third.

The simple solution, besides not adding him to the team, would be to move the defensively challenged player to first base or DH. Which is all well and good except that his bat isn’t quite good enough to justify occupying any large number of at-bats at those two premium offensive positions. This type of player can be tough to find at-bats for because you either have to sacrifice defense and play him somewhere where his bat will be above average or hide his defense at first or DH for less than average production from those spots. Again, the problem could simply be solved by not signing the player in the first place.

The money being spent on Encarnacion is not that big a deal, but the roster spot he now occupies could have just as easily been given to twenty-four year old Brad Emaus, whom the Jays just lost in the Rule Five Draft to the New York Mets. Emaus had a solid 2010 season at both Double- and Triple-A, hitting a combined .290 with a .397 OBP, a .186 ISO, 15 homers and 13 steals in 15 attempts. The Jays would’ve been better served handing him a 40-man roster spot and giving him a shot at the Opening Day roster.

He might not have out-produced Edwin at the plate, there’s no way Emaus could equal his power, but with anything close to average defense, his value might have matched Encarnacion’s at a fifth of the cost. More so than the cost of his salary, the Jays would’ve gotten a good luck at Emaus’ potential and possible future with the club. Emaus’ ceiling is probably that of a utility infielder, but every team needs one and he’d be cheap for years to come if he could do the job. Now the Mets will get to find that out, while the Jays get to see more of the same from another, unnecessary, season of the Edwin Encarnacion Experience.

Even after the loss of Emaus to the Mets, the Jays still could have gone into the free agent market and come home with someone more useful and worth rostering than Encarnacion. That someone would be Bill Hall, formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners and most recently the Boston Red Sox (who are having themselves quite a Christmas). Hall put up extremely similar numbers to Edwin as he too enjoyed a bit of a bounce-back 2010 season. Hall hit .247 with a .316 OBP and a .209 ISO while hitting 18 homers. Very similar numbers to Encarnacion’s.

Their abilities are not so similar when trotting out to man a defensive position. Hall is rated for his career to be above average at both shortstop and third base and slightly below average at second. He’s also spent time in both outfield corners, making him an extremely versatile guy to have around. Hall might end up costing more than Encarnacion but he’d have been worth it for his defensive ability and versatility.

In the end, this, like most of the Jays’ moves this off-season, isn’t a significant development. It is however, for this writer anyways, the first head-scratcher of a move that initially appears indefensible for why it was made. It’s not a long-term move, and with the Shaun Marcum trade a solid sign that the Jays aren’t going for it in 2011, it’s not much of a short-term move aimed at pushing the team into contention, either. Not that signing Encarnacion would push the Jays closer to contending. For now, though, don’t dwell on it too much, and remember that the American League East team currently having the worst off-season is in New York, not in Toronto.   

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Hall Call: Why the New York Mets and the Veteran Utility Man Are a Perfect Match

It’s not often you will read an article that’s primary focus is on utility player who has never been an All-Star, has one season of 30-plus home runs, and has seen his playing time consistently dwindle.  This, however, is one of those articles.

If Sandy Alderson and the rest of the New York Mets’ brass are reading this, I suggest they pay close attention. 

I proclaim that Bill Hall would be a perfect fit for the 2011 New York Mets.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Mets are in need of a utility player—a guy that can play virtually anywhere on the diamond.  While they have had plenty of these types of players in the past (Joe McEwing, Edgardo Alfonzo, Fernando Tatis, etc.), they lacked that versatility in 2010, and seem poised to do so again in 2011.

David Wright can only play third base.  Jose Reyes is a shortstop.  Ike Davis is stuck at first. And aside from Angel Pagan, the Mets’ outfielders are pretty much entrenched in their respective positions.  It makes it very difficult to give anyone a day off or make defensive switches when you don’t have many players that can play multiple positions.

But, adding a guy like Bill Hall could help solve all of that.  In 2010 while playing for the Red Sox, Hall played at least one inning at every position aside from first base and catcher (yes, he even pitched a scoreless inning for them). 

And, while being Mr. Utility—Hall was an offensive threat as well.  He hit 18 home runs, his highest total since his breakout season in 2006 when he smacked 35 long balls. He also showed decent speed, stealing nine bases in 10 attempts.

He’s still only 31 years old, and the veteran knows how to play the game.  He could be a great addition to a jubilant clubhouse.  And as a utility man, he could come rather cheap.  Coming off that remarkable ’06 season, the Brewers signed him to a four year, $24 million contract in 2007.  Hall, now a free agent for the first time in his career, could be worth a one or two year deal, about $4 or $5 million per.

He was a valuable asset for the Red Sox in 2010, and could prove just as, if not more, valuable to the Mets in 2011.

Other versatile players the Mets could target include: Willie Bloomquist, Jerry Hairston Jr., Julio Lugo, and Miguel Cairo.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Trade Rumors: 10 Moves the Texas Rangers need to Make a Rebound in 2011

Despite a disappointing ending, 2010 was a fantastic year for the Texas Rangers; they won the AL West, and captured their first AL pennant in team history.

However, if the Rangers want to rebound and make it back to the Fall Classic in 2011, there are a few things they have to address.

Like every team, the Rangers have questions at a few positions that must be answered during the off season.

These 10 moves could help bring the rangers back to post season success.

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Jed Lowrie Or Marco Scutaro: Who Will Be The Red Sox Starting Shortstop In 2011?

One month ago and this conversation would not have even scratched the surface of Red Sox nation.

But after Jed Lowrie’s 4-for-4 performance (including a home run and three singles) in a 10-8 win over the New York Yankees, the debate suddenly becomes a valid one.

Lowrie has become Boston’s starting shortstop after a rotator cuff injury sidelined opening day starter Marco Scutaro.

Scutaro will be healthy for 2011 and will be in the final year of his contract. Lowrie, however, will also be healthy for a change and offers more upside than the 34-year old journeyman. 

So who will manager Terry Francona decide to go with?

Here is a breakdown of the case for each player and a suggestion of what the final decision might be. Share your thoughts below.

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Boston Red Sox Continue To Ride Momentum Behind Bill Hall, Clay Buchholz

The Boston Red Sox have been successful despite a mountain of injuries and a sub-par pitching staff. Today, in their series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays, they relied on one of their replacements and their only consistent pitcher, riding the momentum train started on Saturday by Jed Lowrie’s game winner.

On paper, the team has one of the better pitching rotations in baseball. But currently they only have one efficient pitcher, Clay Buchholz, whom they have been close to trading multiple times over the years.

And, with his play this season exemplified in his start against Toronto, he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. He entered with the best earned run average in the American League, and he only lowered it with another brilliant outing.

The 26-year-old right-hander worked out of a first and third, one-out jam in the opening inning, struck out the side in the second, then pitched around a one-out walk in the third to strike out two more.

He allowed some hits, issued a few walks, but was as crisp as he has been all year long, and especially all month long. He hadn’t allowed a run in his previous two starts, blanking the Angels over seven innings and these same Blue Jays over eight. Total in the month of August, he had relinquished just four earned runs in 30 1/3 innings.

That earned run total remained the same following Sunday’s performance, as Toronto was once again blanked by Buchholz, this time over six sparkling innings in which seven Jays were struck out.

Buchholz wasn’t given any support in the first four innings, as Shaun Marcum matched him zero for zero. Buchholz ran into some trouble over the course of his outing, but he wouldn’t allow that big hit. Marcum, however, eventually succumbed to the opposition.

Buchholz had just thrown his 22nd consecutive inning without an earned run when David Ortiz strode to the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning to face Marcum. Ortiz took a changeup for a strike then turned on a curve that hung in the zone, stinging it into the left-center gap. Center fielder Vernon Wells was shaded over to right-field, playing Ortiz to pull, and could not cover enough ground to snag Ortiz’s liner, which resulted in a triple.

Adrian Beltre, Boston’s top RBI-man and one of the better overall hitters in the American League this year, wasted no time in scoring the game’s first run, lacing a double down the left-field line to plate Ortiz.

Marcum collected himself to retire Mike Lowell, who will retire after the season, and the aforementioned Lowrie, but then had to face Hall.

Hall, 30, played his first seven-plus seasons in Milwaukee, becoming a very well-liked player there. He was versatile, with the ability to play all three outfield positions as well second base, third base, and shortstop. His best season average-wise came in 2005, when he hit .291 with a .342 on-base percentage, and his best all-around season was in 2006, when he socked 35 homers, drove in 85 runs, and scored 101 runs.

From there, though, it was all downhill. He lost his ability to hit and increased his ability to strike out, and his struggles to carry a batting average above .250 and an on-base percentage above .300 led him to Seattle, where he mustered only 24 hits in 104 at-bats.

Still, despite a poor bat, his relative youth, great character, and versatility found him a home in Boston on a one-year contract. His average is nothing to jump up and down about, but his overall statistics are very satisfactory.

He entered the game with 15 homers, a solid amount for someone with his recent history, and especially so for a utilityman. And he ended with 16, a majestic drive that flew over the Green Monster in left and completely out of Fenway Park. A two-run homer, giving Buchholz and the bullpen all the support they needed.

Two insurance runs were scored in the eighth in run-scoring singles by Victor Martinez and Ortiz, but it was the six shutout innings tossed by Buchholz—which resulted in a 14th victory and lowered his ERA to 2.26—and Hall’s timely longball that propelled Boston to their fourth victory in their last six games.

Buchholz has been stellar all year, as have the replacements, including Hall, who was the latest unsung hero for a team remarkably still in the playoff hunt.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Fantasy Baseball Forecast: Week 19’s Two-Start Pitchers & More..

The season is long and right now it’s coming down to the wire for the top owners in their respective leagues.  These few players that are poised for either a huge week or a week you will want to avoid.  Pay attention, this could mean winning or not winning your league.

Start ‘Em:


Bill Hall | Boston Red Sox | 2.1% :  Take a walk on the wild side with this streaking player.  In his last 15 games Hall has crushed 4HRs with an OPS of .979.  In the next week he’ll be playing at both Yankee Stadium (Number one HR factor field) and the Ballpark in Arlington (Number two HR factor field), two of the best places to hit for power.


Chris Johnson | Houston Astros | 52.5% :  Chris Johnson has been hotter than the sun over the last two weeks.  While he probably wont be able to maintain these astounding numbers, he will most likely be able to post large numbers for the upcoming week.  Five of the six starters that Johnson will face are right handers.  Hitting righties is Johnson’s strength: .364 avg. 1.000 OPS in 107 ABs.  He also has 4HRs and 20RBIs against righties as well.


Jon Jay | St. Louis Cardinals | 7.8% :  Since his call-up, Jay has been a pure hitter.  He’s been raking ever since and has yet to stop.  In his 32 ABs this year against the Reds and Cubs Jay is hitting .406 with an OBP of .441.  Unfortunately, Jay is mainly a three-trick pony depending on how many categories your league has.  He can typically be expected to help in average, on-base, and runs.


Sit ‘Em:


Jay Bruce | Cincinnati Reds | 76% :  Bruce’s upcoming stretch against the Cardinals is going to be brutal for his owners.  Bruce’s career numbers against the Cardinals are: .199 avg, .259 OBP.  Not to mention he is currently on a long cold streak, hitting .188 over the last 30 games.


Jack Cust | Oakland A’s | 10% :  Jack Cust and the rest of the Oakland A’s have the worst schedule for power this upcoming week.  They will be playing at Safeco and Target Field next week.  These two fields are the third-worst and worst fields for homeruns.  Cust has also slowed down as of late, hitting .222 over the course of the last seven games.


Two-Start Pitchers To Use:


Max Scherzer | Detroit Tigers | 86% :  Scherzer has been fairly dominant as of late.  Fantasy players should look for him to continue this dominance through his upcoming two-start week.  His first start comes against the Rays at home.  Scherzer is 6-2 at home this season and has a 2.90 ERA since the All-Star game.  Further supporting his start, the Rays are hitting .091 (2 for 22) against him for their career.  Scherzer has pitched against the White Sox twice this year with fairly strong numbers.  In the 14 innings against them Scherzer has a 3.14 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP and a K/9 ratio of nine.


Ervin Santana | Los Angeles Angels | 86.8% :  Santana has been on a skid as of late but he should be able to correct this with his upcoming two starts.  His first opponent is Kansas City then Toronto, both starts coming at home.  In a combined 33.1 innings this year against both teams Santana has 2.47 ERA and a 3-1 Win-Loss record.  In over 250 ABs, the players of both teams have a combined career batting average against Santana of .255.


Two-Start Pitchers To Avoid:


Jair Jurrjens | Atlanta Braves | 77% :  Jurrjens has pitched with mixed success since coming back from the DL this season.  Now is not the time to take a chance on the two-start opportunity he faces this upcoming week.  His career against the Dodgers goes to the tune of a 4.03ERA, a 1.61 WHIP, and a .284 BAA.  Meanwhile, the heart of the Dodger’s order (Ethier, Kemp, Loney) have a collective career .360 avg. against Jurrjens.  Jurrjens has faced the Astros a limited amount and has not done much better.  His ever descending GB/FB rate should put his start in the Band Box of Minute Maid Park.


Edwin Jackson | Chicago White Sox | 40% :  Jackson’s two-start week is bound for disaster.  His first start is against Baltimore, at Baltimore.  Normally Baltimore is not much of a threat, but in three starts at Camden Yards Jackson has a 6.48 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.  His next start against his old team the Tigers at his new home at U.S. Cellular Field.  At U.S. Cellular Field Jackson has a career 4.88 ERA 1.63 WHIP, and players are hitting .301 against him.  Fantasy owners have to also take into account that U.S. Cellular Field is the second-most homerun friendly park in existance.


Hind Sight:


For curiosity sake, here is how last week’s predictions held up through games as of 8-6:


Start ‘Em:


Jorge Cantu: One for four.  Played in only one game.


Josh Willingham: .357 avg. .438 OBP, 0R 0HR 1RBI.  The hitting is great, but there is more to fantasy than two categories.


Rajai Davis: .200 avg. .273 OBP, 3R 1HR 2RBI


Sit ‘Em:


David Wright: .063 avg. 1 for 16 as of print time.  Gotta pat myself on the back for this call.


Matt Kemp: .400 avg. .471 .OBP, 2R 1HR 3RBI.  His 5-5 game inflates last week’s line


Carl Crawford: .125 avg. .222 OBP, 2R 0HR 2RBI.  The Runs and RBI are decent, but Crawford should be held to higher standards.




Travis Wood: 7IP 2H 0ER 1BB 4K


Mat Latos: 6IP 4H 2ER 2BB 6K


All Statistical Information was obtained through ESPN.com


Written exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com by James Bryce.  James is a Grad student at UCSD and is currently in his 13th year of fantasy sports.


Got a two-start pitching candidate for week 19?  
Leave a comment and let us know, or reply to us on twitter @TheFantasyFix


Here are some more articles that will bring you success…

Fantasy Baseball 

The Numbers Game: Forecasting Week 18 in Fantasy Baseball  
Fantasy Baseball’s Top 50 Pitchers Post All-Star Break   
MLB Fantasy Baseball Second Half Ranks: Third Base

MLB Fantasy Baseball Post ASB Positional Ranks: Catcher


Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Boston Red Sox: Season May Already Be Over

Weeks ago, most of Red Sox Nation seemed to give up on the idea that the Sox could overtake the Yankees and win the AL East. The conventional wisdom was that the team was now fighting to overtake the Rays for the Wild Card spot.

But things have recently changed. 

In the last 10 games, the Yankees are 5-5, while the Rays have gone 9-1, tying New York for the AL East lead. 

For their part, the Red Sox are 6-4 in the last 10 games. But they are just 8-9 since the All Star break, putting them 6 ½ in back of the Yankees and Rays for both the AL East title and the Wild Card. 

It is increasingly looking like 95 wins won’t be enough to get the Sox into the postseason this year. To win 100 games, they will need to go 40-16 the rest of the way, which includes 10 games against the Yankees, six against the Rays, and seven against the first-place White Sox.

I’m not here to say that’s impossible, but it’s fair to say it’s highly unlikely.

The Red Sox are the walking wounded and look like a MASH unit. Last night, Eric Patterson, Ryan Kalish, and Daniel Nava played in the outfield. Who could have imagined that in April? Most fans had never even heard of any of them.

Jason Varitek, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury are all out. As customary, Terry Francona never knows when JD Drew will be hurt and unable to play.

Drew has played in 94 games so far this season. If he plays in the remaining 56 (an unlikely scenario), he will reach 150 games, or four more than he’s ever played in any season of his 12-year career.

Francona is dealing with unpredictability on a nightly basis. 

Darnell McDonald has played in more big league games this season than in his entire career with three previous clubs. And when the season started, who could have guessed that Bill Hall would have appeared in 76 games and have over 200 at-bats for the Sox? That’s more than Varitek, Ellsbury, and Cameron; simply unpredictable.

The surprising Red Sox offense has suddenly cooled. In the 17 games since the break, the Sox have scored more than four runs just six times. And they have scored three or less seven times. 

Increasingly, Red Sox starters have to be dominant, and go at least seven innings, for the team to win. The Sox’ bullpen has been lamentable, to say the least, this season.

Yes, there are still waiver deals that can be completed in August, but it’s likely that none of them will have significant impact. For better or worse, this is the team.

Yes, they will eventually see the returns of Varitek, Pedroia and perhaps even Ellsbury (don’t hold your breath). But by then, it may be too little, too late.

To further add to the team’s woes and misery, Kevin Youkilis was placed on the 15-day DL today due to a ruptured muscle in his right thumb. If the muscle fully tears, it would result in a serious injury requiring surgery. Such an injury could potentially affect his career.

As it is, Youkilis’ season, like that of the Red Sox, is in jeopardy. 

In this decade, it’s unusual to declare that the Red Sox season is over and lost in August, but at this point, that seems to be the case.

One hundred wins is just wildly unrealistic.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Versatility Personified: MLB’s Premier Super-Utility Players

Fans in every city throughout the league know full well who the stars in baseball are. They’re instantly recognizable with their gaudy stats, household names, and exorbitant contracts. As if immortals descended from Mount Olympus to thrill us with their power, grace, and athletic prowess, these men sell the jerseys and pack the stadiums.

Teams aren’t just constructed of high-profile stars however. Players possessing a variety of skill sets are vital to a well-balanced team. Of course, a general manager would love to fill his 25-man roster with five-tool players at every position, but that’s not realistic. All baseball players have their own unique strengths and weaknesses that they bring to the team, and the manager must strike the perfect balance in order to achieve success.

Enter the super-utility player. Often possessing a vast range of fundamental baseball talents, these ultra-versatile players help to bridge the gaps in the team and offer their manager increased roster flexibility, while also providing cover for injuries and the ability to make important personnel decisions as unique situations may dictate.

There are plenty of players who are athletic and coordinated enough to play a few different positions. These are professional baseball players after all. Many guys grew up playing in various spots throughout their youth, and since they usually aren’t very far removed from those days, they can often recall the necessary skills to at least cover a position or two somewhat adequately.

Super-utility players are more than that though. They’re not simply a guy you can move from third over to first, or a corner infielder with the ability to play left field if called upon. These ultra-versatile performers possess the skills necessary to play a multitude of positions, and often one of the more specialized, premium spots such as short-stop, center-field or even in a pinch, catcher.

Often, these super-utility players shine in this versatile role for only a limited time, as the best of them usually graduate to full-time status at a particular position at some point in their careers.

Over the last several years, we have seen a slew of fantastic super-utility guys who provided so much value to their teams, that management found it increasingly difficult to keep their names out of the lineup on an everyday basis.

Players such as Chone Figgins, Marco Scutaro, Mark DeRosa, Brandon Inge, and Mark Loretta have all excelled over the last decade in a super-utility role for their respective teams. Loretta is now retired, but the remaining guys have all gone on to varying degrees of success as regular players with mostly one clearly defined position.

Another type of versatile player, guys like Darin Erstad, Mark Kotsay, Nick Swisher, and Lance Berkman, have all bounced around the entire outfield, while also putting in time at first-base, before generally settling on one position after several seasons of the nomadic lifestyle.

Increasingly, those in the game have begun to appreciate the role that these unique players bring to their teams. We even witnessed one of these guys named to the National League All-Star team.

Let’s examine a few of baseball’s top super-utility players while they still hold that title, before they settle down in one position and we have an entirely new generation of versatile ball players emerge.

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