According to Elias Sports Bureau at ESPN, Ricky Nolasco struck out 11 batters in eight scoreless innings on Wednesday, in what was likely his last start this August. Nolasco is 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA this month; Zack Greinke is 5-0 with a 1.23 ERA; Clayton Kershaw is 3-2 despite a 1.01 ERA. Nolasco and Greinke will be only the fourth pair of teammates in the last 75 years each to go 5-0 (or better) with an ERA under 1.75 in the same month. The three who have done that: Bob Gibson and Ray Washburn for St. Louis in July 1968; Bob Welch and Fernando Valenzuela for the Dodgers in July 1985; and Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello for the Tigers in May 2009.
Don Ruiz at The News Tribune got some interesting commentary from manager Eric Wedge in the following. “I want to have that to be an option where you can steal more, you can hit-and-run more, you can use the bunt game a little bit more; whether it be for a hit or a safety squeeze or a regular squeeze,” he said. “I think we’re going to have some guys that can do those things if we can stay healthy. You look at Franklin, you look at Miller, Seager to a point; but Ackley and Saunders, those are good things. You have to get rid of some of these cloggers: You can have one or two, but you can’t have three or four.” As for leadership, Wedge sees potential in some of the young guys, too. But he said the leadership bar wasn’t set as high he would have liked by this season’s veterans. “I think they’re going to get to the point where they hold each other accountable – ride each other,” Wedge said. “I think there have been some positives with the veterans with that this year; also disappointments with the veterans regarding that this year, and I don’t mind saying it. It’s tough to find leadership in people. Everybody wants to be liked, and everybody’s afraid of confrontation. Show me a leader (who is like that) and I’ll show you a bad leader.”
“By not firing Gibbons, Anthopoulos showed he wasn’t looking for a scapegoat for the team’s problems, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca says. Instead, Anthopoulos suggests he needs to investigate the Jays’ issues with injuries. “I know injuries happen but we have had our fair share the past two years and that’s something we need to look at,” Anthopoulos says. Davidi notes that the Red Sox have enjoyed a dramatic decrease in injuries after restructuring their medical staff last offseason. Of course, as Davidi points out, causation isn’t easy to prove there, but it’s still worth investigating why, for example, the Jays have suffered so many oblique injuries in 2012 and 2013.
By Charlie Wilmoth MLB Trade Rumors
Chat Chaff – Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors
Comment From Conroy: Who’s starting in right field next year for St. Louis? Tavaras or Beltran? (Some Ms fans have mentioned Beltran as a 2014 possibility.)
Steve Adams: I’ll go the unconventional route and say neither. I imagine Taveras will get a little more time to be healthy in the minors. The Cards might sign a veteran guy to play there for a month until he’s ready or he forces their hand.
Comment From Jacoby Ellsbury: What are the chances I stay in Boston next year and beyond?
Steve Adams: I think Ellsbury’s going to sign a pretty hefty deal with another team. I’m sure Boras will be in touch with Cherington, and in an ideal world the Sox would love to have him, but he’s going to get a massive deal and they do have in-house replacement options. (Note Dave Cameron’s views on this subject below.)
Comment From Alex: Where do you see Jacoby signing this offseason?
Steve Adams: So, so early to predict that. Mets, Cubs, Mariners will all be involved I imagine
Comment From Brewer Fan: What would Aoki’s trade value be (now or offseason)? Should the team consider moving him? (Aoki is a possible cheap OF option.)
Steve Adams: Very high… he’s only making $1.5MM next season… that’s crazy. His numbers have fallen off somewhat this season but he’s a solid OBP guy with decent speed who can easily be a 1.5-2 win player, if not more.
Chat Chaff – Dave Cameron of FanGraphs
Comment From Chris: You think Ellsbury will get 7/150?
Dave Cameron: No, I think he gets 7/125. (This would be a $17.85MM Average Annual Value.)
Comment From rinchond fontaine: How much would you pay Jacoby Ellsbury in free agency?
Dave Cameron: I’d probably top out around 6/100. (This would be a $16.666 AAV.)
Comment From Dan: Pretend I’m a guy who wants to use statistics to learn more about the quality of a player. I go to FanGraphs search for Player X and Player Y. What stats should I start with (e.g. Level 1 stats) and what stats should I investigate further (e.g. Level 2 stats)?
Dave Cameron: For hitters, I’d start with BA/OBP/SLG, then look at things like his BB/K/ISO/BABIP to see whether those numbers are based on a normal skill set or if there’s something weird. For pitchers, ERA/FIP/xFIP, then look at BABIP, HR/FB, and LOB%.
Mariner’s potential off-season targets
Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors with input from Ben Badler of Baseball America weighed in with some news on a couple of international players who could be of value to the Mariners and a lot of other teams. In reference to Masahiro Tanaka Adams noted that “in a subscription-only piece, Badler also profiles Tanaka’s most recent start in Japan, during which he whiffed eight hitters over seven scoreless innings to improve to 18-0 and drop his ERA to 1.15. Badler notes that Tanaka has “arguably the best splitter in the world,” and reached 97 mph with his heater on his 108th pitch of the night. Tanaka would have to be posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles to make the jump to MLB.” Tanaka will turn 25 on November 1, 2013 will probably be the best pitcher available this off-season, with the possible availability of David Price being uncertain. Regarding Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports that Abreu’s lofty price tag will likely lead the Twins to “loosely monitor” him rather than become serious players for his services. He adds that the Twins are still in on Alexander Guerrero but not as deeply as other suitors. The Mariner’s for power should have them closely monitoring Abreu. As a 1B he would not necessarily make Smoak redundant as he could replace Morales as the DH and spell Abreu if need be.
As reported by Tom Verducci@Sports Illustrated, “the Pirates, who inquired about Marlon Byrd on July 31, finally acquired him along with catcher John Buck and cash from the Mets for minor league second baseman Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later, executing the deal just days before newly-acquired players will be ineligible for playoff rosters. The largest immediate impact here will be Byrd taking over right field in Pittsburgh. The Pirates’ right fielders, led by Jose Tabata and the injured Travis Snider, have hit just .232/.297/.369 this season. Byrd, who was a non-roster invitee with the Mets this spring after a miserable 2012 season that ended in a steroid suspension, has hit .285/.330/.518 with 21 home runs and 71 RBIs on the season. Since May 29, he has hit .304/.350/.561 with 17 of those homers. That’s a tremendous upgrade for a team that already ranks among the best in baseball and should make the National League Central race all the more compelling down the stretch.” As he will not have been with the Pirates all season long they will not be able to make him a Qualifying Offer, so he will not cost a new team acquiring him in the offseason a high draft pick. It has been noted that the Mets may try to reacquire Byrd during the off-season.
Charlie Wilmoth of MLB Trade Rumors reports that, “Nelson Cruz has been working out at the Rangers‘ facility in the Dominican Republic. Cruz isn’t forbidden to do that, even though he’s currently serving a suspension for his involvement with the Biogenesis scandal. The Rangers want to have the option of turning to Cruz in the postseason.” Cruz, who had rung up 2.1 bWAR before being suspended, with a .841 OPS with 26 dingers, 76 RBI and a 123 OPS+ will be a free agent after this season and is worthy of at least cursory consideration for the Mariners outfield rebuild. The 33-year old (on July 1) was scheduled to make $10.5MM this year but his suspension should cost him about $3MM of that. His PEDs issue will impact his future cost to some degree, as will his age and the fact he is used to calling the Rangers bandbox home, it’s pretty much the anti-Safeco.
According to Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors, the Marlins announced that they have activated Casey Kotchman from the disabled list and released him. The 30-year-old Kotchman signed a minor league deal with the Marlins this offseason but appeared in only six games for the Fish before hitting the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Upon being activated from the 60-day DL in June, he suffered an oblique strain that has kept him on the shelf since. Kotchman went hitless (0-for-20) in his six games with the Marlins but is a career .260/.326/.385 hitter in parts of 10 seasons with the Angels, Braves, Red Sox, Rays, Indians, Mariners and Marlins.
The Pirates have released Kelly Shoppach from their Triple-A affiliate, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Twitterates. Shoppach, 33, didn’t appear in a major league game for the Pirates after being signed to a minor league deal earlier this month. Pittsburgh was the catcher’s third team this year, as he began the season with the Mariners but was released in June after hitting .196/.293/.346 in 35 games. He then signed a minor league contract with the Nationals in early July, but opted out of the deal without reappearing in the big leagues.
On the farm
San Horn of The News Tribune noted after Tuesday night’s game that, “James Paxton is fourth in the PCL this season with 128 strikeouts. Paxton and the rest of Tacoma’s pitching staff have combined to strike out a franchise-record 1,089 batters this season, breaking the previous mark of 1,079 set in 2001. “Paxton looked like a future major leaguer tonight,” Tacoma manager John Stearns said.
Ryan Divish’s story on the Mariners Arizona Fall League (AFL) contingent in The News Tribune included the following commentary; “Carson Smith and Dominic Leone Leone and Smith are both top relievers. Leone, who started the season in Class A High Desert and moved to Double-A Jackson, has a fastball in the upper 90s and has hit 100 mph numerous times this season. In a combined 542/3 innings, he has struck out 53 batters. “Not a lot of people know about him, but he’s a guy that we’ve been watching all year long, and he’s got everyone’s attention,” Zduriencik said. Smith is a hard-throwing side-arm pitcher with a nasty slider. He has made 42 appearances for Jackson and has a 1.88 ERA with 14 saves. Divish also had some interesting input on Ji-Man Choi, a recently promoted player. He noted that, “in the bottom of the inning, the Rainiers scored on Rich Poythress’ two-run double to left off starter Billy Buckner (7-3) and Ji-Man Choi’s two-run home run to right off reliever Jeremy Berg. Choi also had a two-run homer in the series opener Monday. “Choi has got tremendous talent with the bat, and he’s starting to show it after a slow start,” Stearns said. “He’s really coming around now. We’re seeing the real Choi.” Oh boy, real Choi!
“Nothing is more important in today’s game than keeping your starting pitchers healthy. Over the past five years, only 14 teams had four starters make 30 or more starts. Ten of those 14 teams made the playoffs, including all five world championship teams.” – Tom Verducci@Sports Illustrated
“A baseball manager is a necessary evil.” – Sparky Anderson
“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” – Babe Ruth
“Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand.” – Leo Durocher
“Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.” – George F. Will