Tag: Derek Lowe

2011 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Alert: Craig Kimbrel

It is the goal of every professional athlete to leave their respective sport on their own terms, riding off into the sunset on the heels of a championship season filled with praise and accolades. This was not the case for Billy Wagner, as his 16-year baseball career ended in pain and frustration last October as his Atlanta Braves fell to the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 MLB playoffs.

Wagner attempted to play through a painful hip injury that plagued him over the latter part of his career, but was unable to continue and his Braves failed to stay afloat in the playoffs.

The player who may be asked to fill Wagner’s shoes is Craig Kimbrel, a powerful young reliever who embodies similar stuff to his predecessor, including a high 90s fastball and a knee buckling slider. Drafted straight out of high school in the third round of the 2008 amateur draft, Kimbrel quickly made his way to the majors primarily due to his blazing fastball and his ability to strike batters out late in games.

He made his debut on May 7, and went on to pitch in 21 games for the Braves, posting an impressive 0.44 ERA with an amazing 17.4 K/9 ratio. He was a vital piece of a Braves bullpen that provided excellent support for Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe.

The two biggest knocks against Kimbrel are his high walk rate and youth, two things that are typically red flags for closers. If given the closer role, how well will the 22-year old pitcher handle the pressure? Will he continue to mow down opponents while raking up strikeouts at an amazing rate, or will he crumble under the pressure, forcing Fredi Gonzalez to demote him to a set-up role?

Only time will tell. 

I recently published an article titled A Beginner’s Guide to Fantasy Baseball in which I shared a few strategies for novice fantasy players. One topic that I touched on is the theory that it is okay to wait on closers in the draft, as there is value late and teams change closers quite regularly throughout the season. In the case of Craig Kimbrel, I recommend targeting him late in your draft as a sleeper pick. 

The casual player may not be aware of Wagner’s retirement, opening the door for educated fantasy players to cash in on a potential diamond in the rough. With that said, I do not advise drafting Kimbrel as a number-one or number-two closer, as there are too many unknowns for a fantasy owner to rely on such a young and unproven player.

This article was originally published on www.kramericasports.com, the home of free fantasy news, rankings, and advice.

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MLB Trades: Power Ranking the 50 Biggest Rip-Offs in League History

Trades are a funny thing.

They are a part of every sport, and the one common characteristic that can describe their nature is their inherent volatility. Trades can be a savior to teams, bringing them to the pinnacle of success. Or they can be the perpetual oppressor, blamed by fans for years of struggle and hardship. Sometimes, the same trade can be viewed either way, depending on the point of view of the fan.

No sport has such a voluminous history of transactions as America’s pastime, so it’s no surprise that deciding which were the absolute worst was no small task.

Think I have anything out of place or that I haven’t included a trade that deserved to be on here? Let me know.

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Atlanta Braves: Who Needs Starting Pitching? The Braves Sure Don’t

Rumors rumors everywhere.  Where will Cliff Lee land?  The Yankees, duh.

It seems every off season that pitching is the biggest issue for those teams looking to make a big splash in free agency.

The Atlanta Braves are looking at a 2011 season that very much like 2010 will include much depth at starting pitching.  Carl Pavano, Andy Pettitte, Jorge de la Rosa, Javier Vazquez, and Chris Young are just a few names that come quite popular upon the signing of Cliff Lee if and when Brian Cashman signs him to come to the Bronx.

The biggest need of the offseason was fulfilled with the trade for Dan Uggla on November 16, 2010.  His right-handed power will bring a much needed boost to the Atlanta Braves offense.

It is safe to say, I don’t see the Braves shopping for any above average starting pitching this offseason.  If anything, the Braves could consider adding a veteran arm to their bullpen.

Let’s take a quick peek at what the Braves have to look forward to in 2011 when it comes to starting pitching.

1.) Tim Hudson (Prediction: 210 IP, 18-9, 2.95 ERA, 135 Ks)

What can you say about Tim Hudson in 2010?  17-9 with an ERA of 2.83.  He does walk a batter from time to time but he held hitters to a .229 BAA last season.

What was the most significant part of 2010 for “Huddy”?  228.2 IP.  Not bad for a guy that just came back from major surgery the season before.  You could certainly make a case that Tim Hudson is as good as ever right now and that his only season better than 2010 was when he pitched for the A’s back in 2003.  He may very well be in the Cy Young race yet again in 2011.

2.) Tommy Hanson (Prediction: 215 IP, 15-10, 3.10 ERA, 200 Ks)

2011 will very much be a breakout season for the young Tommy Hanson.  Next season Tommy Hanson will be listed first and Hudson second.

Hanson has a knack for getting in trouble and blowing up, but he has also pitched his way out of trouble several times.  This is typical for a young star.  I don’t think he will compete for the Cy Young just yet in 2011, but in 2012 he will be running the show against the big boys.

2010 showed that Hanson has good control when he is on his game.  His K to BB ratio was right around 3:1.  With a little more run support, I think Hanson would have been able to log a few more innings this season and get very close to 200 Ks.

3.) Derek Lowe (Prediction: 190 IP, 15-12, 4.10 ERA, 125 Ks)

If Derek had only been as dominant all years as he was in the month of September he would have been an easy pick for the Cy Young.  In the final month of the season Lowe went 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA.  With a little run support in the playoffs, Lowe could have pitched the Braves to a NLCS if he had just had a little more run support from an injury plagued lineup.

I think Lowe has reached his peak, but feel he will give the Braves one more good season.  His 2010 numbers aren’t out of reach, but I’ll suggest he will be slightly above average and more consistent this season.

4.) Jair Jurrjens (Prediction: 185 IP, 14-10, 3.80 ERA, 140 Ks)

If I were a betting man (which I’m not) I would suggest J.J. will be more similar to his 2008 and 2009 self in 2011.  Between his injuries (June through August) JJ carried a 6-1 record with a 3.75 ERA in 12 starts.  By September, Jurrjens was already beginning to feel the effects of his injuries.  I feel like this section of the season more clearly portrays what a healthy Jair Jurrjens will pitch like in 2011.  One day, Jair will be one of the most recognized pitchers in the league alongside Tommy Hanson.

5.) Mike Minor (Prediction: 165 IP, 9-13, 4.80 ERA, 155 Ks)

Mike Minor will be the man until Kris Medlen comes back from injury.  If Minor pitches well enough, Medlen upon his return could be used as a valuable bullpen arm in August or September of 2011.  Brandon Beachy may give Minor a run for his money in spring training, but the former Vanderbilt stand-out was drafted to be a Braves pitcher for several years to come.  My prediction will be based on a full season.  This is subject to change depending on what Fredi Gonzalez does with Medlen when he returns.

Aside from the five starters above, others will likely see some time in the rotation with a spot-start here and there.  Brandon Beachy as mentioned will give Minor some competition but will likely be used as a long reliever or a spot starter.  If he isn’t traded, Kenshin Kawakami may see some time on the big club if he can regain some form at AA early in the season.

What I believe most fans hope for is a late season return by Kris Medlen.  Medlen was a great benefit to the team last season and would be an excellent late season addition to what is expected to be a competitive Braves squad in 2011.

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Atlanta Braves 2011 Ideal Starting Lineup

To the best of my ability, I will lay out what I believe will idealize the Braves 2011 lineup.

I think there are a few things to be changed from the roster of the previous year, so here is what I believe will give the Braves a good postseason run.

And hopefully they’ll trample those Giants along the way.

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Atlanta Braves: Who’s Staying and Who’s Going This Offseason

2010 was a moderate success for the Atlanta Braves. However, with retirement, free agency and trades, there’s always the question of who will or will not be back playing for Atlanta in 2011.

We’ll take a look at free agents, potential retirees and trade bait.

We expect that core players like Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, Brian McCann, Jason Heyward and Chipper Jones will be back because there’s no logical reason why they wouldn’t be.

The bullpen was very solid, but it’s not out of the question to see one or more of them packaged in a deal for an outfielder. This means that Craig Kimbrel, Mike Dunn, Jonny Venters, Peter Moylan and Eric O’Flaherty should expect to be back. 

Backup catcher David Ross signed an extension mid-season for a reason.

Up-and-comers like Kris Medlen (after he returns from Tommy John surgery), Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Freddie Freeman may or may not spend the entire 2011 season in the majors with Atlanta, but if not they’ll be between the big club and Gwinnett, unless packaged in a deal for another outfield bat.

So, who does that leave. . .

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Giants Vs. Braves Live Blog: Giants Win Game 3-2 and Series 3-1.

Hello everyone, and welcome to this game four live blog of the Giants vs. Braves. The first two games have been one-run thrillers and tonight could very well be the same. Should the Braves lose this will be Braves manager Bobby Cox’s last game!

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MLB Playoffs 2010: Hope Survives, Teams That Came Back Down Two Games To None

Three of this year’s division series seem all but over. 

The Yankees, Phillies, and Rangers lead their best of five division series by two games to none.  Only a late inning rally by the Atlanta Braves prevented all four baseball series from being two games to none affairs and feeling all but over.

Baseball has been playing five game series since 1969.  In that year baseball added four new teams and expanded each league to two divisions. 

From 1969 to 1984 the winners of the Eastern and Western divisions in each league faced of against each other in a five game set to determine who would go to the World Series.

Starting in 1985, baseball changed the five-game format of the league championship to the current best-of-seven.

When the Wild Card was introduced in 1994 and four teams from each league began to make the playoffs, baseball again used the five-game series to determine the two winners in the divisional round. 

In all there have exactly 100 best-of-five playoff series in baseball since 1969.  In seven of them, a team has trailed two games to none and come back to win the series.

This slide show is a look at the seven ball clubs who accomplished the feat. 

For those in Minnesota, Cincinnati, and Tampa Bay, this is a reminder that there is still hope. 

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2010 MLB Playoffs: Derek Jeter, Cliff Lee and 10 Thoughts for the Weekend

The 2010 MLB Playoffs are only just underway—each NLDS series is only one game old—and we’ve got both drama and storylines. Rarely has the first six games of a baseball playoff season been so eventful.

As we head into this weekend’s games, here’s a look at the storylines that have begun to develop. Some teams are doing the opposite of what we expected, while Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees are doing exactly what we expected.

Let’s have a look.

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MLB Playoffs: Recap of Atlanta Braves at San Francisco Giants, Game 1

Game 1 of the NLDS between the Atlanta Braves and the San Francisco Giants set up to be a tight one. We headed into this series thinking that pitching would reign supreme and offense would be something of a luxury for either team. Needless to say, Game 1 certainly met expectations.

Derek Lowe pitched arguably his best game of the year only to be outdone by his paper-thin counterpart in Tim Lincecum. Lincecum had, as they say, “Roy Halladay stuff” on Thursday night and he was almost as unhittable. 

Timmy went the distance, striking out 14 and allowing just three runners to reach base. Lincecum’s dominance comes as no surprise given the level at which he has been pitching lately. Combine that with a slumping Braves lineup and you get nine innings of near perfection.

The lone run came as a result of a blown call on a steal at second base on what turned out to be a busted hit-and-run attempt as Pat Burrell swung and missed on a 3-2 pitch. Posey later scored on a two-out base hit by recently acquired Cody Ross. 

The first game went off without much surprise, but Game 2 sets up to be an interesting one. The Giants will be starting their other young ace Matt Cain. Cain nearly sent the Giants into a one game playoff with the San Diego Padres for the division after a poor outing on the second to last day of the season.

He will match up against Atlanta’s young right-hander Tommy Hanson, who is making his postseason debut—but then again who isn’t in this series?

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Tim Lincecum: Giants Win Game 1 As Lincecum and Lady Luck Bail Out Bochy

With a gem of a shutout by Tim Lincecum, it’s hard to look at game one of the NLDS through anything but rose colored glasses for Giants fans.

The Incredible Hulk (Lincecum) pitched a two hitter, struck out 14, broke a Giants postseason record for Ks in a game, and tied a major league record for most Ks in a postseason debut.

But as great as Lincecum was, Lady Luck was even greater because Atlanta Braves starter Derek Lowe was also dealing.

Buster Posey led off the 4th inning with a single.Then, Pat Burrell swung and missed for strike three on a hit and run.

Posey slid into second base and tried to dodge the tag of 2B Brooks Conrad. Posey joked after the game, “I’m glad we don’t have instant replay.”

It was his first stolen base at the Major League level. And probably his last.

After Uribe struck out, Braves Manager Bobby Cox intentionally walked Pablo Sandoval so Derek Lowe could square off against Cody Ross.

Lowe would try to dance around Ross with Lincecum on deck and an open base.

But Lowe made a mistake and threw a 2-0 pitch too close to the plate.Ross smashed it to the left of third baseman Omar Infante.

Lady luck took over as Infante misplayed the ball.

Even though it was scored a single, anyone watching the game could see it was a misplay and should have been ruled an error.

So the Giants tripled up on luck in the inning to score the only run of the game: Posey’s stolen base, Lowe’s mistake, Infante’s error and Cox’s gamble in not intentionally walking Ross.

You may recall the reverse happened to the Giants earlier in the year versus Colorado when Bochy let Lincecum nibble at Clint Barmes.

Barmes got a hit and Colorado won the game, so maybe the Giants were owed one.

In any event, this game was decided in the tiniest details.

Most of the Giants postseason games probably will be.

Which makes the other managerial blunder so hard to take.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Posey led off with a double and got to third on a fielding error.

After Burrell struck out, Juan Uribe walked to give the Giants runners on first and third with one out.

This was the nail in the coffin moment. If the Giants put another run or two on the board, that was it.

Cox knew it, so decided to turn Pablo Sandoval around by making a pitching change to lefty Jonny Venters.

It was Bochy’s turn to return serve.

He could have pinch hit Aaron Rowand or Edgar Renteria, and in case Cox fired back he had lefties Fontenot, Ishikawa, and Schierholtz ready as well.

But with several options, he just let Cox’s serve go right by him.

Giants fans all knew what the most probable outcome was: Pablo Sandoval would ground into a double play. It would probably be a first pitch swing, and out of the strike zone.

It doesn’t take any statistical analysis or a PhD in probability theory to know it was a terrible, terrible move by Bochy.

It was like torturous slow motion as the exact thought in the back of every Giants fan manifested itself on the field.

So on a night that might inspire cautious optimism, it’s important to remember reality.

Thank Lady Luck and hope the Braves keep playing bad defense.

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