Tag: Tom Gorzelanny

Milwaukee Brewers: Under-the-Radar Pitching Additions Greatly Improve Team

What have the Milwaukee Brewers done this offseason?

To an outsider looking in, it’s easy to say, “not much.” The Brewers went into the offseason knowing they weren’t going to be big spenders in free agency, and after some ill-informed rumors regarding big-name players like Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke passed, many began to wonder if the Brewers were going to add anyone.

Slowly but steadily, however, Milwaukee has acquired several new pitchers that are going to help bring this team back into contention.

The Brewers didn’t need Josh Hamilton. Many believed (myself included) that the addition of Hamilton would have been great, but with the Brew Crew’s offense already one of the best in baseball, the addition of another outfielder (an area of great depth for Milwaukee) seemed unnecessary.

Reacquiring Greinke would have made sense, but in the end, he ended up being far out of the Brewers’ price range.

And quite thankfully, the Brewers didn’t let themselves get sucked into any overly expensive mid-tier pitchers like Ryan Dempster or Kyle Lohse.

Instead, they added a few proven pitchers that are going to reverse the league’s worst bullpen from last season.

Ostensibly, John Axford, Jim Henson and Brandon Kintzler are the only Brewers returning to the bullpen this season. All three are high-power pitchers with a ton of potential, and Axford will be looking to carry his second-half momentum from last season into another complete season like he had in 2011.

The Brewers cut ties with Kameron Loe, Jose Veras, Manny Parra and Francisco Rodriguez, all of whom were poor performers with Milwaukee last season. They had work to do.

Some names they’ve added this offseason? Most notably, Burke Badenhop, Tom Gorzelanny, Michael Gonzalez, Michael Olmsted and Kelvim Escobar. They’ll also benefit from the maturation of young arms in the system like Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg and Mark Rogers, as well as the return of lefty starter/long-reliever Chris Narveson.

Lots of names. All of them under the radar, and all of them an improvement in some way.

Gorzelanny is perhaps the biggest name on that list. Converted from a starter to a reliever last season with the Washington Nationals, Gorzy shined in a big way, pitching in 72.0 innings, raking up a fantastic 2.88 ERA, 62 strikeouts and a K/BB ratio of 3.8, proving the lefty has strong command. He may compete for a spot on the starting rotation, but will likely hold the job as a long reliever, much like last season with Washington.

Badenhop is a sinker-baller and essentially a carbon copy of Loe, though much more effective. He’ll be good for 60 to 70 innings of low-3.00 ERA pitching. Like Gorzelanny, Badenhop had one of the best seasons of his career last season as well. He had a 3.03 ERA in 62.1 innings to go along with 42 strikeouts and a K/BB ratio of 3.50.

Michael Gonzalez is the lefty specialist that the Brewers haven’t had in years, posting outstanding numbers across the board, but especially against left-handers. A pitcher with a strong scouting report, highlighted by a good mid-90s fastball with great tailing action and the ability to strikeout batters. Gonzalez pitched in 35.2 innings last season, struck out 39 and posted a 3.03 ERA, most of his finest work coming against lefties.

The other two names—Olmsted and Escobar—will likely not make the opening-day roster, but could prove to be high-impact signings that came at a bargain.

Olmsted had a positively outstanding season with the Boston Red Sox organization last season. Between High-A and Double-A, Olmsted pitched to a 1.52 ERA in 59.1 innings while striking out 92, resulting in a ridiculous K/9 of 14.0. He has a career minor league ERA of 1.96 and an 11.9 K/9. Olmsted can reach triple digits with his fastball and was an absolute steal for the Brewers organization.

The very recent addition of Escobar is an interesting one—prior to being derailed by injuries, Escobar was a very good pitcher in the majors, proving to be a capable starter and reliever. His career numbers are very intriguing…in the major leagues, Escobar has a career ERA of 4.15, has appeared in 411 games, 202 of which have been starts, has a career K/9 of 7.8 and a record of 101-91.

He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2009, but he’s had strong recent outings in various other leagues, and major league scouts have clocked his fastball in the mid-90s. Several other teams were looking into Escobar, but the Brewers got him to sign to a minor league deal, and it could pay off big time in the long run.

Guys like Escobar and Olmsted are going to be fun to watch in spring training. If they bring their best cards to the table, they could be looking at spots on Milwaukee’s roster.

All of these moves have been relatively overlooked by the baseball community. But when you add them up, as well as the farm talent and the already-potent offense, the Brewers are in for a fun season.

Dead weight in the pen has been cut, and the Brewers now have two new lefties to lean on in Gorzelanny and Gonzalez. They have a ton of options, and several low-risk, high-reward contracts to experiment with.

In short, the Brewers’ quiet offseason may prove to be one of the best in the majors by the time the playoffs roll around. 

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2013 Milwaukee Brewers: Why Tom Gorzelanny Could Be Key to Team’s Rotation

Starting pitching is perhaps the biggest question mark for the Milwaukee Brewers heading into 2013, but left-handed veteran Tom Gorzelanny could be a major key to the rotation.

Gorzelanny signed a two-year, $5.7 million contract with the Brewers last month. Although he most recently has pitched as a reliever, his role could be filling in where he is needed most in Milwaukee—the starting rotation.

With right-handed ace Yovani Gallardo being the only lock for Milwaukee’s rotation, questions have swirled about how the team will address the rest of the unit.

MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy recently detailed who he believes will compete for the four spots behind Gallardo. Candidates include returners Marco Estrada and Chris Narveson; youngsters Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers; and the newly signed Gorzelanny.

A veteran of eight major league seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals, Gorzelanny has a career 44-45 record with a 4.41 ERA in 193 games (111 starts). His best season came in 2007 with the Pirates, when he went 14-10 with a 3.88 ERA.

Gorzelanny struggled with consistency earlier in his career but has been much more consistent of late. Since 2010, pitching both as a starter and in relief, he has a combined ERA of 3.79 and averaged 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee’s general manager Doug Melvin likes the potential Gorzelanny brings to the pitching staff:

He’s versatile. He has pitched in a larger role, can give you some innings. He can also start if you need him to. He protects you in a couple of areas. And he’s familiar with the division, having pitched for the Pirates and Cubs.

Melvin indicated that Gorzelanny is currently slotted for the bullpen. However, given the team’s lack of solid starting pitching, allowing him to compete for a rotation spot would be a smart move.

In a separate article, Haudricourt wrote that the necessity of finding diamonds in the rough for the rotation comes from Melvin’s reluctance to give free-agent starters longer contracts because of previous signings that did not work out.

McCalvy reported that the Brewers had targeted Ryan Dempster earlier in free agency, but turned to finding more economic options after he rejected their offer and reached a two-year deal with the Boston Red Sox.

The 30-year-old Gorzelanny isn’t a power pitcher, with FanGraphs.com indicating his fastball has averaged 89.7 mph for his career. However, he gets good movement from his two-seamer, and also throws a slider and changeup to keep hitters off-balance.

Starting experience in one of Gorzelanny’s best attributes. In his 111 career starts, he is 35-42 with a 4.61 ERA. The pedestrian nature of those numbers is influenced from having only played on two teams with winning records in his career.

He has also had success against some of the best players in the NL Central. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran have combined for just 13 hits in 67 at-bats against him,  a matchup that could come in very handy in the competitive division.

Nobody should expect Gorzelanny to be an ace, but that’s not what Milwaukee needs. If the southpaw can earn a spot and pitch effectively at the back end of their rotation, he will go a long way in shoring up the Brewers’ most glaring need.


Statistics via BaseballReference

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Washington Nationals Offseason Review Part 1: The Big Picture

If you have been following the Washington Nationals’ offseason, you are aware that the team has now entered Phase Two.

If not, here is an explanation of what exactly Phase Two entails by Nats GM Mike Rizzo from Jayson Werth’s introductory press conference: “It kind of exemplifies phase two of the Washington Nationals’ process. Phase one was scouting and player development, building the farm system. Now it’s the time to go to the second phase and really compete for division titles and championships.”

Phase Two started with a bang—a $126 million bang, at that.

Unfortunately, it ended with a dud. As shocking and exciting as the Jayson Werth signing was, the Nationals’ front office has to be disappointed with their failure to find a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, an offseason goal set by Washington’s brain trust.

Again and again the Nationals’ targets landed elsewhere, and the team was forced to settle on a trade for Tom Gorzelanny. While Gorzelanny may not be the ace Washington was looking for, he will provide the Nats with an extra arm in case of an injury, a luxury the Nats have not had since the move to Washington.

The Nats failure to land a front-line starter may have actually been a blessing in disguise. After Cliff Lee, the 2010 crop of free agent pitchers was relatively weak, and overpaying—whether it be in the form of money or prospects—may have stunted the teams development.

As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were the 1927 Yankees, for that matter.

With Strasburg set to return in 2012 and Bryce Harper likely to make his major league debut in the same year, it would be foolish for the Nationals to put all their eggs in one offseason’s basket, especially an offseason preceding a transition year, which the 2011 season will be for the club.

The goal of any offseason should be to improve the team, and the Nationals have done that. Will it manifest itself in an improvement on last year’s 69 wins? I don’t know, but the franchise is in a better place than it was this time last year, that is for sure.

Yes, Washington overpaid for Jayson Werth, but they had to. And the effects of that deal will be felt for offseasons to come.

One, the Nationals obviously have a good relationship with Scott Boras, who represents some of the game’s biggest stars, which may give them the inside lane on his clients in the future.

Two, the Nationals are now officially players in the offseason—exemplified by the rumors that the Nats were close to signing the crown jewel of the offseason, Cliff Lee.

Lastly, the Nats’ front office has now shown that they are willing to spend, which will help keep players like Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg—a Boras client—in Washington.


In Part 2—or should I say Phase 2—we’ll look at more of the Nationals offseason moves and their impact on the 2011 Nats.

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2011 NL East Pitching Preview: the Stephen Strasburgless Washington Nationals

Coming to fans everywhere, the latest installment of Washington D.C. baseball…National Treasures: The Missing Strasburg. Starring the D-list celebrities of the fantasy baseball world: Livan “National League Harlot” Hernandez, Jordan “Not That Zimmerman” Zimmermann, and featuring Jason Marquis and John Lannan as trusty sidekicks.

Looking back at last year’s chapter of National Treasures, it seems like not many will buy into the 2011 version. 

There might be fantasy relevance with the Nationals’ pitching this season with Tom Gorzelanny doing his best President Obama impression. Coming to Washington D.C. from Chicago, Gorzelanny is a strikeout pitcher with two sub-4.00 ERA seasons under his belt.

It’s likely he’ll be towards the beginning of the Nationals rotation, but the question remains if Gorzelanny will be used primarily in relief like in Chicago each of the last two years. I think he is meant to stay in your league’s free agency this year, but in super deep or NL-only leagues, there is some potential.

From Florida to San Francisco to Washington to Arizona to Colorado to New York and now back to Washington, Livan Hernandez certainly gets around the National League. 

Usually bringing his ghastly ERA and bloated WHIP, Hernandez will have another crack at it with the Nationals this year. He actually had one of the better seasons of his career last year, posting a 3.66 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 22 quality starts.

However, he only managed to win ten games in 2010, and had one of his lowest K/9 ratios (4.8). I can’t see Livan in many 2011 lineups, especially with age not helping as he enters his 20th season in the majors.

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Victor Martinez a Start, but Detroit Tigers Are Still a Bat and a Starter Short

One of the orchestrators of the biggest deal of both the 2007 and 2009 winter meetings, many were shocked not to hear from Dave Dombrowski and the Detroit Tigers at the meetings this past week.

The reason they were quiet is simple: even with spring training more than two months away, they’ve already accomplished quite a bit thus far this offseason. Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta were brought back to secure the left side of the infield, and Joaquin Benoit was signed to set up for Jose Valverde (albeit at an absurd price tag).

Undoubtedly though, the prize of the team’s offseason thus far is Victor Martinez. A lifetime .300 hitter and four-time All-Star, Martinez should be a major upgrade over both Johnny Damon (who got on base but hit for virtually no power) in the DH spot, and Gerald Laird (who brought literally nothing to the table offensively) as the backup catcher.

It’s been a productive offseason so far for Dombrowski and the Tigers. Does that mean they’re done for the winter? Not if they expect to improve on their third-place finish from 2010.

If the Tigers are going to win the AL Central next season, they still need a right fielder who can hit in the middle of the order and a quality starting pitcher.

As far as right field goes, the solution is right in front of Dombrowski’s eyes. Finding another starter is far more complicated.

As a proven RBI guy who can burn opposing teams for pitching around Cabrera and a switch-hitter who can balance the lineup, it makes the most sense for Victor Martinez to hit fifth in Detroit’s order. As such, they still need an all-around hitter who can hit third. Looking at the team’s depth chart, it makes the most sense for that player to be a right fielder.

Some writers and fans have wondered if the team will forgo adding another outfielder, and give the job to Brennan Boesch or Casper Wells. If this happens, I’m going to automatically pencil the Tigers in for another third-place finish in 2011.

Call me harsh but it’s my belief that Boesch was so awful after the All-Star break (.163 AVG, two HR, .459 OPS in 221 AB), there’s no way he should even be in the conversation as far as right field is concerned. Growing pains are one thing; looking absolutely hopeless at the plate for nearly three months is something else.

Nothing in Boesch’s minor-league track record (.753 OPS in 453 minor league games) suggests he can be counted on to regain his pre-All-Star break form next season and maintain it over the course of a full season. All things considered, I think it’s far more likely the first half of Boesch’s 2010 was the fluke, not the second half. The Tigers are in serious trouble if they’re expecting him to be their everyday right fielder in 2011.

I’m a far bigger fan of Wells, and I think he should be ready to at least be the team’s fourth outfielder. He impressed in limited playing time in 2010 and unlike Boesch, is an asset in the field and capable of playing all three outfield spots. There’s a lot to like about his game.

Bottom line: While a better option than Boesch, Wells is an unproven commodity. The Tigers lineup is already littered with question marks. How much will Austin Jackson regress? Will Alex Avila keep making strides? Is Scott Sizemore or Will Rhymes a viable Major League second baseman? What, if anything, can be expected of Carlos Guillen?

As of right now, aside from Boesch and Wells, the Tigers’ best options to accompany Cabrera and Martinez in the 3-4-5 hole are Guillen (who hasn’t played a full season since 2007) and Ryan Raburn (who would be best utilized hitting either second or sixth in the order).

The Tigers are counting on enough young players as is. They cannot entrust both right field and a spot in the middle of the order to two players with fewer than 600 career AB between them.

Fortunately, the solution here couldn’t be more obvious: re-sign Magglio Ordonez.

After the Martinez signing, some wondered if the Tigers still had room for Ordonez. Not only do they still have room for him, they need him.

It’s really a shame his 2010 season was cut short by an ankle fracture, because it really looked as though Ordonez had rediscovered his 2006-2008 form after a rough season in 2009. In 323 AB, Ordonez posted a .303/.378/.474 batting line with 12 HR and 59 RBI.

When he, Cabrera and Boesch were producing this summer, the Tigers looked like legitimate contenders in the AL Central. With Martinez taking the place of Boesch, the Tigers could post a very potent middle of the order in 2011 if Ordonez is retained.

A great pure hitter with decent power who doesn’t strike out often, Ordonez is a prototypical No. 3 hitter. Making the match even more logical is that Ordonez himself has stated his first choice is to stay in Detroit, and it’s easy to see why. He’s comfortable there, the fans adore him and four fellow Venezuelans (Cabrera, Martinez, Guillen, Armando Galarraga) are on the team’s roster.

The biggest roadblock to a reunion between the Tigers and Ordonez is his agent, Scott Boras. Quick negotiations are hardly Boras’ cup of tea, and it is said he is seeking at least a two-year, $20M contract for Ordonez.

If Boras is expecting much more than that, he’s delusional. Two years at $20M might be too much given Ordonez’ recent ankle injury and the fact that he turns 37 in less than a month. On the other hand, perhaps the two-year demand is a good thing for the Tigers; other teams less familiar with Ordonez might be more hesitant to offer a second year.

Bottom line: The Tigers can’t afford to split hairs as far as salary goes. Even if they signed Ordonez at an annual rate of $10M, the 2011 Opening Day payroll would still fall short of $100M.

A reunion between Ordonez and the Tigers is too good a fit for all sides to not eventually happen. No team needs him more than Detroit and as such, no team should be more willing to give him what he wants salary-wise. In the end, I do eventually see him re-signing with the Tigers for something in the neighborhood of two years and $20M.

Assuming Ordonez is re-signed, I don’t expect the Tigers to have much trouble scoring runs next year.

Preventing runs? That’s another story.

I could be in the minority on this but I believe that after right field, the team’s most pressing need is a quality mid-rotation starter.

In Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, the Tigers have a dynamite one-two punch, the best in the AL Central I’d argue. Some have argued they have the best front three in the division, which I think is ludicrous.

Why the difference in opinion? The answer is the amount of faith I have in Rick Porcello.

While I shake my head and laugh at those foolish enough to think the Tigers ruined him in bringing him to the majors so soon, I’m taking an “I’ll believe it when I see it” approach with Porcello. Others are convinced he’ll improve in 2011. He struggled too mightily in 2010 (4.92 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, .288 BAA) for me to assume as much.

Even if Porcello gets back to his 2009 form, when he was the team’s third starter and they nearly won the division, uncertainty still surrounds the back end of the team’s rotation.

I think moving Phil Coke (he of one major-league start) from the bullpen (where he was very solid in 2010) to the rotation and expecting him to be the fourth starter is, as far as competing in 2011 goes, incredibly risky.

If Dombrowski and Jim Leyland have seen enough to believe said transition will be smooth and Coke will be a dependable starter, fine. I as a fan have no choice but to take an “I’ll believe it when I see it” approach here as well. Coke has good stuff and mound presence but without a track record as a major-league starter, I just cannot assume that will equal success.

As for the fifth spot in the rotation, the Tigers are content to allow Armando Galarraga and Andy Oliver to duke it out for that spot, which I have no problem with. As a Tiger fan, I’d simply feel a lot more comfortable if Coke was a part of that competition, rather than being given a spot outright.

While I’m not comfortable with what the Tigers have in the rotation beyond the top two, I understand the Tigers’ desire to solve this dilemma from within. There is no clear answer to this problem either on the free-agent market or the trade market.

Before you ask, Cliff Lee is not an option, as Dombrowski has said. He is a risk they cannot afford to take. The only justification for giving a pitcher a contract that pays him over $20M in his late 30s is if you win a World Series. I’m not comfortable tying the success of an $140-160M contract to whether or not the team wins a World Series.

Furthermore, the Tigers don’t need Cliff Lee. They already have an ace (Verlander), another pitcher who has all the makings of one (Scherzer), and yet another pitcher described as having ace-potential who is still young enough to fulfill that potential (Porcello).

I’m not too keen on giving Carl Pavano a three-year contract and forking over a draft pick to the Twins (something that has second-guessing written all over it) either. After Lee and Pavano, the free-agent market thins out pretty quickly as far as dependable starters go. The two pitchers I thought were the best fit for the Tigers prior to the offseason, Ted Lilly and Jorge De La Rosa, are off the market.

Even given that the Royals have said they will not trade Zack Greinke within the AL Central, the trade market offers some intriguing possibilities, none more so than Tampa Bay‘s Matt Garza. The Tigers got a first-hand look at his ability back in July when he no-hit them. With a front three of Verlander, Garza and Scherzer, it would be hard not to like the Tigers’ chances going into 2011.

The drawback is what it would take to acquire him, as the Rays need relievers and would be in a position to require Ryan Perry or Daniel Schlereth as part of the return package. The Tigers would fill a spot in the rotation, but simply create another hole in the bullpen.

Florida‘s Ricky Nolasco is another option, as he is due a raise through arbitration and the Marlins seldom hesitate to move a player when he’s about to get more expensive. He wouldn’t come cheap either though, and many believe he and the Marlins will eventually come to an agreement on a new contract.

In a perfect world, the Tigers would add a pitcher who profiles at least as a No. 3 starter. Finding a pitcher of that caliber might just be so hard that they’ll have to count on Rick Porcello to step up. That said, even if it’s not a headline-grabbing move, they must at least add a pitcher who can compete with Galarraga and Oliver for a spot in the rotation.

The only pitcher the Tigers have been linked to thus far this offseason, Chicago’s Tom Gorzelanny, fits that bill. A 28-year-old lefty who’s had some success with the Pirates and Cubs, Gorzelanny wouldn’t be a sexy pick, but Dombrowski could certainly do worse. In the event that Coke and Galarraga locked down spots in the rotation, he could be moved to a long relief role (a role suddenly vacated with Eddie Bonine and Zach Miner both gone).

Bottom line: The Tigers seriously lack rotation depth at the moment. Whether they trade for Gorzelanny, someone else or sign a free agent, it’s an issue that must be addressed by Opening Day.

There is a sense among Tigers fans that after a few disappointing seasons, things may finally come together in 2011 and the team can win its first division title since 1987. That hope is not unfounded; there are many reasons to feel good about the team heading into next season.

For that hope to be realized though, the Tigers still must add a right fielder who can hit in the middle of the order and a starter who at least improves the club’s pitching depth. Whereas bringing back Magglio Ordonez is the obvious answer in right field, there is no clear-cut solution to the rotation issue.

Dave Dombrowski still has plenty of time to figure it all out. With a couple shrewd moves, 2011 might just be a special year in Motown.

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Brad Snyder Hits an RBI Single in the Ninth, Chicago Cubs Beat San Diego Padres

Since the September call-up, the Cubs rookie outfielder Brad Snyder has had the privilege of enjoying two double-RBI games in his first eight major league games.  On Thursday afternoon, he reached another level of enjoyment by hitting out first game-winning RBI. 

His single in the ninth inning generated the winning run for the Chicago Cubs who took the four-game series finale with a 1-0 victory over the San Diego Padres in PETCO Park.  With the win, the visitors snapped their two-series losing streak and dimmed the Padres’ chance to make the playoffs.

Both teams’ pitching staffs performed creditably, especially for both starting pitchers, Tom Gorzelanny and Jon Garland who formed an outstanding pitching dual witnessed by a crowd of 28,576 in the last getaway day of the 2010 season.

Gorzelanny returned to his top form after a few disappointing recent outings.  The southpaw tossed six scoreless innings scattering three hits with three strikeouts and four walks. 

A couple of great defensive plays helped him to pass through those innings clean.    

In the second, Yorvit Torrealba led off with a single but with one out, Gorzelanny picked him off, and threw him out at second in a base-stealing attempt.  He gave up another single to Chase Headley, but stranded him at first.

In the sixth, the hurler gave up back-to-back walks to David Eckstein and Miguel Tejada.  He then forced Adrian Gonzalez to hit a 6-3 double play which crossed out Tejada at second.  Moving to third, Eckstein became the only Padre who reached as far as third base in the game.  But he was not sent home after Ryan Ludwick hit an inning-ending fly-out to center-field.

The other game starter, Garland, pitched hard to help his team to close gap with the NL West leaders, the San Francisco Giants who procured their fourth victory in a row against the Arizona Diamondbacks on the same day. 

Garland had already recorded a win against the Cubs in Wrigley Field on August 17, when he pitched seven scoreless innings.  He had the similar line today but did not get the win for his team.

Since allowing a single to lead-off Blake DeWitt in the first, he retired 14 consecutive Cubs before issuing a walk to Alfonso Soriano in the fifth.  He left the game after blanking the Cubs in 6.1 innings on four hits and striking out eight with a walk.

The Cubs scored the game-winning run in the ninth. 

The Padres closer, Heath Bell (6-1), replaced Mike Adams and gave up a lead-off single to Aramis Ramirez who was then substituted by pinch-runner Darwin Barney.  Xavier Nady followed with a sacrifice bunt which sent the potential go-ahead run to second.  Having struck out twice in three previous at bats, Snyder hit a high-bound groundball that passed between shortstop and third base to left field to tally Barney.

Sean Marshall (7-5) who relieved Andrew Cashner in the eighth inning was credited with the win.  Carlos Marmol retired the side in the ninth including striking out Gonzalez and Ludwick for his 37th save of the year, his 15th straight in as many save situations.

The Cubs left San Diego after the game for Houston where they will play their last series of the year against the Astros.  Meanwhile, the Padres will start their do-or-die series tomorrow in San Francisco as they skid to three games behind the Giants in the NL West standings.

This article is also featured on www.sportshaze.com.

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Pittsburgh Pirates: Time for Another Autumn Ambush?

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been a cellar-dwelling team for as long as most fans remember. But often, in September, they have their moment of glory by taking three games from a division leading team in PNC Park.

This is what may be happening now, against the Atlanta Braves. A win tonight would result in a sweep. Even a loss would not change the fact that the Pirates have already clinched the three game series.

In 2006, the Pirates swept the New York Mets in three games at home, thereby delaying their clinching of the division. Two of the winners were lefties Paul Maholm and Zach Duke. In the third game, Tom Gorzelanny, also a southpaw, started, but was rescued by a “committee” of  relievers, with closer Matt Capps getting the win.

Last year, the Bucs took three out of four at home from the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. Paul Maholm, Dan McCutchen, and Zach Duke all pitched good games, but only Duke got a win; the other two were “no decisions” for the two starters and split 1-1.

The remaining game was pitched by a committee, with Jeff Karstens being lifted after three innings, Donnie Veal getting the win in a 3-1 game, and three more relievers protecting the lead.

On the other side was a reliever named James McDonald (traded by the Dodgers to the Pirates in July 2010 as partial consideration for reliever Octavio Dotel).

Monday night, Brian Burres put up one of his better starts against the Braves, giving up only one run in six innings (This is his third quality start, giving up a total of four runs in nineteen innings, all at home.). Even the Pirates were good enough to score three runs off Tommy Hanson, resulting in a win.

Last night, James McDonald pitched seven scoreless innings, including finding his way out of a couple of jams. Veteran Tim Hudson put up only six blank frames, and then came apart in the seventh, to the tune of five runs, leading to a 5-0 victory for the home team.

In his best three (home) games, against the Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, and Atlanta Braves, McDonald has given up one run in twenty innings. But his five inning, five-run start against the Mets, though technically in PNC Park, was of “away” game quality, and his four away games have been (mostly) this bad.

The last game of the current series features Zach Duke, the hero of the previous two series. Paul Maholm will open the next one.

In the two earlier years, the losses to the Pirates were just speed bumps on the way to the division leadership for the Mets and the Dodgers. This year, though, the impact on Atlanta may be more meaningful.

They’ve already lost their division lead as a result of the past two losses. Another loss tonight could push them down into a tie for the wild card if San Francisco wins.



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Fantasy Baseball Scouting Report: Is Cubs Lefty Tom Gorzelanny Worth Owning?

The Chicago Cubs have moved Tom Gorzelanny around, from the rotation to the bullpen and then back again. With the talk of Carlos Zambrano returning to the bullpen, if he ever returns to the active roster, it appears that Gorzelanny is entrenched into the rotation.

The question for fantasy owners is if he can prove usable in the second half. First, let’s take a look at his numbers through 17 appearances (11 starts):

3 Wins
68.0 Innings
3.31 ERA
1.43 WHIP
69 Strikeouts (9.1 K/9)
35 Walks (4.6 BB/9)
.321 BABIP


He has 62 strikeouts in 61.2 innings as a starting pitcher. Clearly, the strikeout rate is not a function of working in relief. While he hadn’t shown the strikeout rate in the major leagues prior to 2009 (6.2 K/9 over his career heading into ‘10), Gorzelanny was a strikeout pitcher in the minors.  In 437.1 minor league innings, he posted an 8.6 K/9.

It simply appears that it took him time to figure things out in the major leagues, but his strikeout rate is very much for real.

Gorzelanny’s control has actually regressed from his younger days. He posted a BB/9 of 2.8, including three different stints at Triple-A, over his minor league career:

  • 2007 – 2.4 (99.2 IP)
  • 2008 – 1.0 (35.0 IP)
  • 2009 – 3.1 (87.0 IP)


It’s odd, but his control has been worse in the bullpen then in the rotation, though that’s not to say that he’s been good as a starter. He has 29 walks over 61.2 innings as a starting pitcher (4.3 BB/9).

Given his history, the potential to improve his control just makes Gorzelanny all the more attractive to fantasy owners.

He’s not a groundball pitcher (43.8 percent in ‘10 vs. 42.5 percent over his career), yet he’s allowed just four home runs this season. That’s one issue to watch, because it’s highly unlikely that he maintains a 0.5 HR/9. A regression there is going to hurt his ERA, although it’s not all bad.

Gorzelanny has been slightly unlucky, with his .321 BABIP.  An improvement there, as well as a decrease in the walk rate, will mean fewer runners on base. That will help to offset the increase in home runs, so his ERA should continue to be strong.

Whenever you have a pitcher with the potential to strikeout a batter per inning, he’s likely to have value. When you look at Gorzelanny, you see the strikeouts and a potentially improved WHIP (improved luck and a potential drop in walks) in his future. What’s not to like? He has the potential to have value in all formats, which makes him worth stashing if you need strikeouts.

What are your thoughts? Is Gorzelanny someone you want to own, or do you think he’s going to decline in the second half?

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Crosstown Rivalry: White Sox Get To Carlos Zambrano

This article is also available on The Daily Cub and The Chicago Perspective .

After taking two out of three games in their first series against the Cubs, the White Sox were able to rattle Carlos Zambrano’s cage enough to give him a mental breakdown and get him taken out after one inning. Zambrano was also involved in an altercation with Derek Lee in the dugout.

In the first inning, the White Sox were able to put four runs on the board, mostly thanks to Carlos Quentin’s three-run homer that brought in Alex Rios and Paul Konerko.

Zambrano was noticeably livid heading into the dugout. The episode ended with Lou Piniella and Alan Trammel escorting Zambrano into the clubhouse. Zambrano was consequently told to go home.

ESPN is now reporting that Zambrano has been suspended, but they don’t have information on how long the suspension will be.

The altercation overshadowed another outstanding performance by Jake Peavy, who went seven scoreless innings for the White Sox, bringing his consecutive scoreless inning total to 21.

As for the Cubs, the bullpen did a great job of stopping the bleeding, only allowing two runs through the next eight innings.  Gorzelanny was fantastic, allowing just one run over the next 3.1 innings.

The Cubs bats were silent as they only had six baserunners through the game.  Meanwhile, the White Sox were able to score six runs on seven hits and two walks.

The White Sox now lead the crosstown rivalry 3-1 on the season, and the Cubs are going to have to win these next two games to pull off another tie on the season.

It is going to be tough, however, as the White Sox have won 10 straight games since losing the series finale to the Cubs in their last meeting. The Sox have won 14 of their last 15 games.

Meanwhile, the Cubs are nine games below .500 and are 2-4 over their last six.

I’m Joe W.

Joe Willett also write at The Daily Cub and The Chicago Perspective .

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Cubs Should Thank Tom Gorzelanny for Making Rotation Decision Easier

On the one hand, the Cubs have Mr. Gorzelanny to blame for losing the game yesterday, as he allowed seven runs in five innings.

But at least it solves one dilemma; it solidifies the decision as to which starter will be replaced by Carlos Zambrano next week.

While the offense continues to struggle scoring runs (three runs in Tuesday’s win, three of their five runs yesterday were scored after the game was 7-2, and only two hits through seven innings today), Gorzy never really gave the Cubs a chance to win.

Still, he doesn’t necessarily deserve to be booted from the rotation, as he had been pretty good this season. Not to mention that the Cubs need another lefty in the bullpen like they need more no-trade clauses. 

Yet it does appear that if he can’t be traded, Gorzy will move to the ‘pen to make room for Zambrano when he returns to face the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Not that this is any surprise, as Gorzelanny has been the odds on favorite since the announcement that Big Z was returning to a starter’s role.

I mean, we know the Cubs aren’t going to move a guy who is 6-0 and making big money to the bullpen. Er, I mean a guy who is 6-0; we already know the salary wouldn’t prevent that from happening.

And while some have suggested moving Ryan Dempster, since he has previous bullpen experience, that doesn’t make any sense either, as he is pitching solid baseball.

Meanwhile, at least the ridiculous experiment is over, and what a failure it was. It not only gave the public yet another chance to ridicule the Cubs, it was absolutely pointless.

What did it prove that we didn’t already know?

I’m not suggesting that Zambrano will pitch any better than, or even as well as, Gorzelanny.

But if you can’t move his salary, you have to start a guy who makes $18 million per season. That is, unless you eat his contract, something the Cubs don’t have the appetite to do.

Jacking around the rotation is about all this crazy “college of coaches” type of move accomplished.

Until today’s outstanding performance, maybe the Cubs could have placed Ted Lilly on the DL, but that no longer seems like an option.

So, barring injury or trade, it does appear that Gorzelanny will be the sacrificial lamb for Zambrano.

Hey, we Cubs fans are supposed to be optimists, right? So, while his performance was brutal yesterday, at least it did accomplish one thing.

It created the fall guy.

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