Top 100 Baseball Blog

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

An Interview with Greg Hibbard

There are untold numbers of baseball players who had promising careers derailed by injuries; a sad reality in a sport so connected with the fulfillment of dreams. Pitcher Greg Hibbard, who once won 50 games in a four year period was one of those players, and saw his playing career come to an end by the time he was 30.

Hibbard, a southpaw starter, was drafted in the 16th round of the MLB Draft out of the University of Alabama in 1986 by the Kansas City Royals. He was immediately dominant in the minors, and became so highly regarded that prior to the 1988 season he was acquired by the Chicago White Sox in a trade that included major leaguers Floyd Bannister and Melido Perez.

Two months into the 1989 season Hibbard was brought up to Chicago and never looked back. He settled into a role as a consistent middle of the rotation starter, with his best season coming in 1990, when he went 14-9 with a 3.16 ERA. He was left unprotected during the 1992 Expansion Draft and was snatched up by the Florida Marlins, but by the end of that day he was traded to the Chicago Cubs, for whom he went on to win 15 games in 1993.

During the 1993 off-season Hibbard reached a multi-year free agent deal with the Seattle Mariners. He struggled out of the gate before being shut down with a torn rotator cuff, finishing 1994 with a disappointing 1-5 record and 6.69 ERA. It was the last time he ever played professional baseball. He finished with a career record of 57-50 and 4.05 ERA over six seasons.

Since retiring as a player Hibbard has re-entered the game through the coaching ranks. This past season he was the pitching coach for the Rookie Level Mahoning Valley Scrappers, an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, and has been with that organization for the past 11 years. Before one of his games I had a chance to catch up with him and find out a little more about his time in baseball.

Greg Hibbard Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: I had an older brother who was four years older than I was. When I was coming up, around six or seven years old, he played; and just living around the ball park with my Mom, playing softball. It was kind of an interest for me because I grew up overseas in Guam and Hawaii, so a hotter climate where we could pretty much play softball or baseball year-round.

Did you have a favorite team or player when you were growing up?: No. I did live in New York City, and I went to a Mets’ game one time, but it wasn’t really a Major League team that I followed. Probably the Atlanta Braves when I was 13 or 14, growing up on the coast of Mississippi.

How did you first find out that you were going to be drafted?: Basically like how everyone else found out. I got a phone call right after the draft. The coverage of the draft is a little more interesting now; it’s more publicized. Back then I just got a phone call. We were in contact with the scout, and the organization called me shortly thereafter.

What is your favorite moment from your playing career?: Probably just the relationships with all the teams and players that you play with. Maybe a game was striking out Bo (Jackson) four times in a game was pretty fun; and also throwing a complete game in that game.  I had a complete game shutout, along with striking him out four times.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Mike Alvarez, when I was coming up with the Royals. He was pretty big early on. Guy Hansen as well. They were probably my two earliest coaches I had coming up. I learned a lot from them about my preparation and routines, and just learning the game.

Who was the biggest character you played with or against?: Probably Steve Lyons. He had a lot of energy. You just never knew what he was going to do or what he was going to say. Dropping his pants in Detroit that night was pretty interesting. Jay Buhner was pretty much a character as well. I think every team has that type of class clown guy who keeps the clubhouse loose.

Is there anything about your playing career that you would do differently?: Just would have played longer. I had some injuries shortly after my career started and just wasn’t able to come back. If I was able to do it all over again I would have probably have taken care of my arm a little better early on as a kid growing up. After the fact you learn some things about what to do versus what not to do. I think I would have taken care of my arm a little better.


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Monday, October 29, 2012

Interview with Christian Pelaez

Check out my interview with top high school pitching prospect Christian Pelaez at Compared to a young Gio Gonzalez, check out if this phenom is going to college or thinking about starting his pro career.


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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Some Brief World Series Thoughts

I am stuck in an airport trying to get home ahead of Storm Sandy. Decided to put out a few thoughts about the World Series.

It's hard to believe that the Tigers have struggled so much in this series. They have a well balanced team but have gotten cold at the wrong time. If they do end up losing they should feel comfortable heading into 2013 without having to make huge changes. An upgrade at closer is a near-must, given how shaky Valverde has looked. It will be interesting to see if they look within the organization or pursue somebody through trade it free agency.

The Tigers will receive a potential huge upgrade with the return of Victor Martinez. He won't offer much on the field, but is a veteran hitter and solid clubhouse guy.

The 2012 Giants are yet another example of what a team can accomplish with good pitching, defense, and chemistry. They may not look sexy on paper, but they produce.

 It turned out that the best pickup after the season started for any team was Marco Scutaro. I can't think of too many times that picking up a non-flashy middle infielder on the wrong side of 35 has helped swing a pennant race, but Scutaro seemed to act like Super Glue in bringing out the best in the Giants. Most assumed that if anything, acquiring outfielder Hunter Pence was going to be the most productive, however he has been a relative non-factor.

Friday, October 26, 2012

An Interview with Pitcher Michael Schlact

Every young baseball player has stars in their eyes when they begin their career, dreaming about the possibilities before them. With talent and hard work, anything is possible, and in time can tell who will ultimately realize their dreams. More often than not players see their careers take unexpected turns, but if they are able to roll with the punches they can still find success in baseball. Michael Schlact is about to enter his 10th professional season, having never pitched in the major leagues, but hasn’t let that stop him from achieving success and satisfaction in his career.

Schlact, a tall right-handed pitcher, was chosen by the Texas Rangers in the 3rd round of the 2004 MLB Draft out of Wheeler High School in Marietta, Georgia. The Rangers pushed Schlact through their system as a starter, moving him up a level each year until he reached Double-A in 2007. Their aggressiveness had mixed results, as he often struggled with consistency. He couldn’t get above Double-A, playing there each season through 2010. His time with the Rangers came to an end because of a shoulder injury suffered that year, but fortunately did not end his career.

Instead of hanging up his glove, Schlact did the rehab and resumed pitching in the independent Atlantic League. He has continued to battle injuries, but has not given up on his baseball journey and continues to play and see where the game will take him. He has appeared in 163 professional games, posting a 40-54 record with a 5.28 ERA. More information on his statistics is available at

Schlact has become one of the most accessible players in baseball, routinely blogging and maintaining an active presence on Twitter. I had an opportunity to interview him last off-season and found him to be a great representative of professional baseball. The end of his baseball journey is still being written, but it is clear the affable pitcher is having a good time along the way. 

Michael Schlact Interview:
Who was your favorite team growing up, and why?: My favorite team growing up was the Atlanta Braves. I was a hometown kid, and I went to Fulton County Stadium and Turner Field every summer with my friends and family.

What was the process like getting drafted by the Rangers in 2004?: It was crazy. I listened to the draft on the Internet with my entire family, and when my name was called we all went crazy. From there it was a whirlwind because I had to negotiate a contract and then head off to play ball.

If you could do anything differently about your career in the minor leagues, what would it be?: I would cherish every single second. Sometimes you get so caught up in making it to the big leagues that you forget to enjoy the ride.

What is your favorite moment from your playing career?: Probably the Atlantic League All-Star game from 2011. It was the first time I'd ever been a part of something like that. 

Who has been your favorite coach or manager?: Last year (2011) I played for a first year manager named Patrick Osborn. He was awesome. He had fire, determination, and knew the game. He made it fun to show up at the yard every day.

You have become known for things like blogging and doing "Live Roadtrip Tweeting." What led you to get involved in that type of social media/interaction?: My wife's brother introduced me to Twitter, and then boredom led me to doing it. When I was rehabbing my shoulder, I figured I could tweet about my experiences and my trials. The rest is history.

How much of a goal is making it the major leagues to you?: I would love it, of course. Honestly, I'm enjoying playing the game so much, and I know that I've worked as hard as I can. I'm exploring every option and leaving no stone unturned, so if it doesn't work out for some reason, I can look in the mirror and know I gave it my all.

Who is the biggest character you have ever played with or against?: With: Christian Lopez. The guy is amazing. Against: Luis Lopez. 

What do you think you will do once you decide to stop playing?: I haven't thought too much about that, but possibly coaching or broadcasting. I'd love to stay around the game. 


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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Interview with San Francisco Giants Prospect Chris Heston

Check out my interview with San Francisco Giants pitching prospect Chris Heston for Heston is one of the best sleeper prospects in baseball and has been remarkably consistent. Look for him in San Francisco in the near future!


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Monday, October 22, 2012

Playing Matchmaker for Some of the Top Free Agents This Off-Season

Even with the playoff action at a fever pitch, it’s not too early to look ahead at the free agent class of 2013 and how they might impact teams next season. Ultimately the number of zeroes on the checks will determine where the players sign, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean that they will go where they would be the best fit. Every player about to enter free agency has one landing spot that would work well for them and the team; it just depends on if they both realize it and if the money is right.

If I were playing matchmaker, here is who I would pair up this offseason:

Josh Hamilton- Baltimore Orioles: It’s funny to think that a player coming off a 43 homer season may have played himself out of the good graces of his team and fans, but Hamilton may have pulled off that feat with his quirky absences from the lineup and lackadaisical dropped fly ball in the Wild Card game. It may be that he needs a change of scenery, and the Orioles could offer just that.

In the past Baltimore had jumped into the free agent fray, but was unable to score big, as nobody wanted to take their money because of their miserable losing tradition. Now that they got the monkey off their back with their magical 2012 season, they will be looking to build momentum. Signing Hamilton to play leftfield and act as their lineup anchor between Adam Jones and Matt Wieters would be a major power move in the AL East and announce that the team is a serious contender beyond their magical 2012 season. Hamilton has killed the ball at hitter-friendly Camden Yards throughout his career (.370, 9 home runs, and 26 RBI in 20 games), so playing 81 games a year there would be great for him and the Orioles.

Zach Greinke- Milwaukee Brewers: Just because the Brewers traded Greinke earlier this summer doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do everything in their power to bring him back. They already have the talent to compete on a yearly basis, but sorely lack an ace. The Brewers should pull out a hammer and smash their piggy bank to do their best to sign Greinke because there literally isn’t a better option for them.

Something magical happens whenever Greinke toes the rubber at Miller Park. In 24 career games there he has gone a perfect 15-0 with a 2.89 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 149.2 innings. Plus, if you buy into the frequent disclaimer that Greinke is a better fit in a smaller market because of his anxiety, Milwaukee certainly fits that bill. It’s too perfect a marriage to happen, but here is hoping they both figure it out and get it done.

Nick Swisher- Boston Red Sox: Swisher fills needs for Boston on multiple levels. He plays right field and first base, both positions that are currently black holes in Boston. His plate discipline and ability to reach the short foul poles in Fenway make him an attractive upgrade to a Red Sox lineup that dissolved into Triple-A status by the end of this past season.

Signing Swisher would be a lot cheaper than Hamilton and be a lot safer on potential return. Because of how he fizzled in this year’s playoffs his price may be a little lower than originally expected. Swisher is also exactly the type of player Boston needs; an intense grinder on the field and a laugh-a-minute clubhouse glue guy off it. His addition would go a long way in rebuilding veteran leadership that has been decimated in recent years by trades and poor attitudes.

BJ Upton- Texas Rangers: If the Rangers allow Josh Hamilton to walk this offseason (as I expect they will) they will need someone to replace him in centerfield. They have no obvious answers in their minor league system, so Upton would make a lot of sense. His speed allows him to patrol vast patches of outfield, which would greatly assist Nelson Cruz and David Murphy; the two pillars of salt who currently play the corners.  Upton is also the bat who might best mitigate the loss of Hamilton, as his speed and raw power have traditionally played well at Rangers Ballpark, where he has a career .987 OPS.

Upton never became the star he was projected to be when he was the number two overall pick in the 2002 draft, but he is a very useful player with a specific skill set that becomes even more enhanced in the right environment. He stuck out like a sore thumb in Tampa, where he was often needed as a focal point in their anemic lineup. In Texas has enough beef in their lineup that would take a lot of that pressure off and allow him to concentrate on his game of speed and 20-30 home runs.

Any time a team signs a free agent they hope that it will pay off in production, wins, and fan approval. There is always extraordinary risk involved, but the best way to get a new partnership off on the right foot is making sure that it is a good match for both sides. Seeing the numerous free agents who have fizzled over the years it seems that such advice is rarely heeded. Perhaps that trend will change in 2013, as there are truly some great matches out there for some of the top players on the market.


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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Baseball Notes for Sunday, October 21, 2012

As the playoffs continued, this past week remained busy in the world of baseball. Despite the impending end of the season, major stories keep emerging and demonstrating that the upcoming off-season will be both busy and interesting.

***The New York Yankees were swept out of the ALCS by the Detroit Tigers in shocking fashion. Not only was New York’s .188 team batting average this postseason the lowest in MLB playoff history, but stars Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, and Curtis Granderson looked overmatched to an extreme degree. A fascinating storylines to follow this winter is seeing how the Yankees proceed. They are all but certain to pick up 2013 options on Cano and Granderson, and will probably allow Swisher to leave via free agency. The wildcard will be A-Rod, who because of the $114 million (plus possible incentives) he is owed over the next five years and his ability to veto any trade, makes him tough to move. But considering his flagging production (5 consecutive years with a declining OPS) and his questionable behavior on the field, the Yankees may decide to eat a major portion of his contract and try to find a trade partner- with the Marlins appearing to be a top potential fit.

***The Yankees are also reeling with bad news about injuries to two of their key players. Derek Jeter fractured his ankle in Game 1 of the ALCS. While he is expected to make a full medical recovery in about 4-5 months, there is no guarantee that the soon-to-be 39 year old shortstop will regain his effectiveness on the field. How he plays upon his return will set the tone if the Yankees have reached a crossroads with their franchise.

***Joining Jeter on the Yankees’ M*A*S*H report is ace C.C. Sabathia, who is reportedly set to visit famed surgeon Dr. James Andrews to have his balky elbow checked out. Pending the diagnosis the Yankees are sure to sweat out the possible outcomes, which could range from medical clearance to surgery, including the possibility of a Tommy John procedure. In the worst case scenario, which is Sabathia being out for a significant length of time, the Yankees will have to move hard and fast after starting pitching, including making free agent Zach Greinke a top priority.

***The Arizona Diamondbacks wasted little time in getting active in the off-season trade market. On Saturday they finalized two deals; sending outfielder Chris Young to the Oakland A’s for shortstop Cliff Pennington and minor league infielder Yordy Cabrera; and then flipping Cabrera to the Miami Marlins for much maligned closer Heath Bell and cash. The moves seem to indicate that the A’s are likely to pick up the $10 million 2013 option on shortstop Stephen Drew’s contract and also explore trading an outfielder, as they now have a surplus with Young, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, and Yoenis Cespedes on the roster.

***It will be interesting to see Arizona’s plans for Bell, as they just exercised their 2013 option on incumbent closer J.J. Putz’s contract. Reports indicate the Marlins will cover $8 million of the $21 million on the remaining two years of Bell’s contract, but that is still a lot of money for an aging reliever in decline with an undefined role. This indicates a near certainty that Bell will be on the move again before next season’s opening; perhaps in a swap for another team’s bad contract.

***The Boston Red Sox have finally hired themselves a manager. Late last night it was announced they had agreed to acquire John Farrell from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for shortstop Mike Aviles. Toronto will be sending back cash or another player (rumored to be Adam Lind) to the Red Sox in order to complete the deal. It’s still unclear to this writer what Boston’s obsession is with Farrell, but at least the team can now move forward with the significant work they must do this off-season. Farrell being the choice of so many fans the move may have also bought them additional time to right the ship.

*** The Giants and the Cardinal are on tap this evening for Game 6 of the NLCS. I expect the Giants to continue their improbable comeback behind a strong performance from tonight’s starter, Ryan Vogelsong.


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Friday, October 19, 2012

How A-Rod Has Derailed His Yankee Career and Defined His Legacy

Alex Rodriguez’s alarming inability to make contact during the playoffs leads many to believe that the clock is about to strike midnight on his immensely talented but polarizing career. The Yankees are likely to find the 5 years and $114 million he is due after this season to be an unpalatable mouthful to swallow, making his trade or release a real possibility this off-season. His departure may now be further hastened by his attempt to obtain two female fans’ phone numbers during a Game 1 ALCS loss in which he contributed a hollow 0 for 3 with a strikeout. Some may see this as no big deal, but it is fair criticism and vintage A-Rod.

Obviously A-Rod’s latest misstep didn’t contribute to the Yankees losing the game or impact their recent offensive slump, but it was terrible form; particularly for a 19 year MLB veteran playing on baseball’s biggest stage. Players typically pride themselves on professionalism and doing things “the right way;” something A-Rod has struggled with throughout his career.

Those who may believe this A-Rod debacle is being overblown by the press need to consider the following comparison. If a person worked for a struggling business and their own performance had noticeably declined, they would face severe reprimand or worse if they came on to a customer during company time. It was an inappropriate action by A-Rod that was exacerbated by its timing and the Yankees being swept out of the playoffs by the Tigers just a few days later.

For the staggering numbers A-Rod has put up in his career he has gotten shockingly little recognition from the media or fans, and it’s mainly because of how he has conducted himself on and off the field. His career .300 batting average, 647 home runs, and 1,950 RBI put him in rarefied air with peers who need no further explanation other than their last names- Ruth, Mays, and Aaron. Despite the relative ease in which he has accrued his own numbers, A-Rod just doesn’t have the baseball cred to put him on par with such legends.

Flirt-Gate is another in a long line of incidents throughout A-Rod’s career that has made him appear somewhere between aloof and buffoonish. Of note there has been standing up to the well-respected Jason Varitek and getting his lunch handed to him; an ill-conceived and executed slap in a playoff game against the Red Sox; violating a pitcher’s sanctuary; Little League attempts to distract his opponent; and his biggest faux pas of all; admitting he took performance enhancers. His perceived inability to “get it” has only magnified the negative attention and public disdain he has received throughout his career, and permanently mangled his legacy.

No, A-Rod attempting to get a date with an attractive woman or two isn’t the end of the world, but it may well be viewed as a prime reason why his career with the New York Yankees came to an end. Because of his free-fall in production (5 consecutive seasons of declining OPS) and bad press, the Yankees are expected to look into finding a team to unload the remainder of his albatross contract. A logical fit has already been identified in the Miami Marlins, who would be able to offer up some their own bad contracts, like pitchers Heath Bell and Mark Buerhle. A-Rod has previously expressed a desire to play in Miami, and if the Marlins are willing, the opportunity would be too good for the Yankees to pass up.

If A-Rod’s time as a Yankee has indeed come to a close, it will be a sad but fitting ending for such an accomplished player. If his numbers could do the talking for him, he would be considered a baseball treasure and among the titans of the game. Instead he has allowed his awkward and often unlikable behavior define who he is, which will leave him finding it harder to obtain fan respect and reverence than the number of a pretty girl.


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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Terry Doyle: Minor League Pitcher Circling the Globe to Get His Major League Shot

Projections are an increasingly important part of baseball; particularly young player development. With myriad statistics and tools of evaluation, teams often look past players who can’t be defined by criteria like how hard they throw a ball or their physical measurables. It’s a safe approach that allows teams to move quickly through an ever-surging tide of prospects. Unfortunately this can leave some players struggling to find opportunity, even when all they have done is consistently produce. Pitcher Terry Doyle has found himself in such a situation, and though he has gone to Japan to continue playing baseball, he hasn’t given up on his dream of one day playing in the major leagues.

Doyle, a big right-handed starter from Boston College, was a late (37th round) pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2008. Over the next five seasons he became one of the most consistent pitchers in the organization, posting a 33-27 record, with a 2.94 ERA and striking out close to a batter per inning. His work moved him all the way to the top of the minors, but wasn’t enough to earn him a ticket to Chicago.

Lacking a true dominant pitch, Doyle simply gets hitters out. Although he has a track record of success, baseball evaluators have a hard time envisioning him repeating his performance at a major league level, leading to him being bypassed by less productive prospects.

Not wanting to stagnate, Doyle took an opportunity mid-way through this past season to jump from the Triple-A Charlotte Knights to the Fukouoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League. He hasn’t missed a beat since joining his new team, putting up his typical stellar numbers. He is currently further from home than he has ever been before, but his goal remains unchanged. As long as he is pitching he still has a chance to play in the major leagues, and that keeps him going and hoping that he will eventually be noticed and receive the credit he is due.

Terry Doyle Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Growing up there were a lot of players I really enjoyed watching. Greg Maddux was probably my favorite non-Red Sox player but being from 45 minutes north of Boston, the Sox were king. I played a lot of shortstop growing up and John Valentine and Nomar were my two favorite players. When I got to middle/high school, Pedro Martinez was at his best, and he became my favorite player. The thing that I loved was how every pitch he threw; he challenged the hitter to beat him. He was never intimidated or scared. Always knew he was going to get the out. I loved that.

Do you have any regrets not signing with the Dodgers when they drafted you in 2007 (21st round)?: Every day we make choices that affect the outcome of our lives, but not signing with the Dodgers is one that I never second guess. Just like my choice where I attended college (Boston College). I went back to school, had a fun year with my classmates, who are still my best friends, and got my degree and teaching certification, which ended up being a very important part of my career so far. I hoped I would get an opportunity to play professional baseball the next year, and the White Sox gave me that opportunity. If I had signed with the Dodgers things may have turned out a little differently but I don't see them being that much so.

Can you describe what your 2007 draft day experience was like with the White Sox?: Draft day 2008 was great, but awful at the same time. Going into the day, I knew I wasn't going to be drafted high. But at the same time I had talked to about 15 teams leading up to that day, so I was very confident I was going to be picked. By the time the 37th round came along I was feeling pretty disappointed. At the same time, getting the phone call from my scout, Chuck Fox, was a great feeling. I was able to look forward to starting my career.

What was something extravagant you did for yourself or your friends/family after you signed?: After I got drafted I didn't do anything extravagant for my family or friends. As a senior, anything outside of the top ten rounds means a signing bonus of around $1,000. For that much money I could maybe afford to take my family to McDonald's and treat them to anything their hearts desired. Hopefully I can treat them to a trip to my major league debut sometime in the future!

Which pitches do you throw; and which is your best; and which do you believe needs the most work?:  I throw a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball which some would call a sinker, a curveball, slider, and a changeup. I think every pitcher’s best pitch is their fastball. If you can locate a fastball, it's a hard pitch to hit no matter how hard you throw. Besides that, I would consider my curveball my best pitch. My changeup is definitely the pitch I’m least comfortable with, which is why I'd call it my worst pitch.

Given the success you had in the minors, why do you think you didn't advance further than you did?: I think that the reason I didn't reach the big leagues is simple; I don't have anything that makes me stand out. The way I feel anyways is that after a game hitters are asking themselves ‘how come I didn't hit that pitch better?’ To me, it doesn't matter why the hitters miss a pitch, but scouts are trying to predict success at the next level, which is hard to do, especially when someone like myself doesn't have anything that stands out as being above average. It's difficult to predict success at the next level when my "stuff" is defying the odds at every level I've played at.

Can you elaborate how you came to play in Japan?: Japan came about really quickly. I was in Charlotte and my agent called me the morning we were flying to Toledo for an eight game road trip there and in Columbus. He asked me if I was open to the idea of playing in Japan. I said yes, figuring it would be a fun experience and be a good career move for me. By the end of the four game series in Toledo, the Hawks had made an offer to the White Sox to purchase my contract, and they had worked out a contract with my agent that we had all agreed to. I spent the next series in Columbus knowing that after that, I would be heading home and then on to Japan. It really happened extremely fast and was completely unexpected!

How was playing in Japan and adapting to that culture?: Japan is a very different country from America. The baseball has a very different style and the culture is different. Every day here in Japan I'm noticing little differences. One of the first things I noticed is that when people sneeze they don't say anything. It's like nothing happened. I grew up in a house where it was rude not to excuse or ask to be excused after a sneeze. I'm a very easy going person and lots of the differences I don't really think about. The baseball is very different, but it's a lot easier to explain during a game. Scoring is harder here, so teams play for a run every inning. I've seen teams sacrifice bunt with the number three hitter and a 6 run lead. Very different from America.

What are your plans for 2013?: Next year is still up in the air. The team I’m with has an option to pick up for me, but if they decline it I’ll be a free agent. Hopefully I’ll have lots of options between America and Japan. I'll be 27 on Opening Day, so I’m still young enough that I'm about to enter my prime and still learning lots about the game every day. We'll see what happens with it all though!


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Monday, October 15, 2012

Rookie Davis: Pitching Prospect With Great Nickname Sets Sights on Yankee Stadium

It’s widely assumed that the annual success of the New York Yankees is due to the vast sums of money they spend acquiring players. They certainly aren’t strangers to opening up their wallet, but they are just as effective in drafting and developing their own talent. Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Phil Hughes, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera are just a few homegrown players on this year’s roster. Hoping to one day join this parade of talent is pitcher Rookie Davis, one of the newer prospects to the Yankees’ system.

Davis, whose real first name is William, is a big right-handed pitcher, who was taken by the Yankees in the 14th round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Dixon High School in Holly Ridge, North Carolina. He was nearly unhittable as an amateur, going 25-4 with a 1.67 ERA, and 422 strikeouts in 209.1 innings. His school has already retired his jersey number (24), which is something most 19 year old athletes can’t claim.

The Yankees have limited Davis’ innings early in his career. He made his debut in 2012, appearing in 7 games in the GCL, spanning just 17 innings. He pitched well in that small sample size, posting a 2.65 ERA and 17 strikeouts. More information on his statistics is available at Injuries sidelined him for much of the season, but he is poised to break out in 2013.

Last off-season I had an opportunity to ask Davis some questions about his experiences in baseball and what he was looking forward to as he began his career. He is a prospect worth paying attention to, as he seeks to develop as a player and one day pitch in Yankee Stadium.

Rookie Davis Interview:

Who were your favorite team and player growing up and why?: I never had a favorite team growing up, but my favorite players were Cal Ripken Jr. and Roger Clemens.
Can you run through what your draft experience was like?: It was a great experience. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and just to be able to land with a franchise like the New York Yankees made the experience more memorable.

Your first name is William; how did you get the nickname of Rookie?: I have had that name since I was born. It’s always stuck with me and that’s the only thing that I will answer to. My dad told everyone that my name is Rookie and that is just what I have been called ever since. Not a bad baseball name to have.

What have you done with the Yankees organization since signing this past summer?: Just tried to get a solid routine. Worked hard and kept grinding everyday on whatever it was that needed the most work at the time. Always putting in the extra time in the weight room and doing that thing that will push you the extra mile is something that I learned early on. You have to be self-motivated in this business and I have learned that since day one. Just trying to get stronger and better every day is the goal for now.
What pitches do you throw, and which one is your strongest and which one needs the most work?: I throw a four-seam and two-seam fastball. Right now I am only focusing on the four-seam, that way I can command that pitch before I try to start throwing the two-seam as well. I feel that my four-seam fastball and my circle changeup are my best pitches at the moment. My curveball needs to be a little tighter and maybe increase some speed with it as well. But we will develop all four pitches and go from there.
After you signed, what is something you did or bought for yourself or your family/friends to celebrate?: We had a signing party and there were a lot of people from my hometown there, and all of my family. The high school that I went to held the event and there were 600-700 people there for the event. It was a way of having the community there for my special day and also a going away party before I had to leave to report to Tampa after signing.
What are you looking forward to the most in your first professional season?: Just competing every start and going out there and trying to win every game. I am a competitive person and as a pitcher I go right at hitters. So I am looking forward to just getting out on the field and doing what I can to give my team the best chance to win that day. Also, just learning more and more every day and continue the progress from last fall.
Have you had any interactions with any Yankee players yet, past or present?: There have been some guys down here working out that are on the 40-man roster and I will pick their brains sometimes about how the minor league life is. But I haven't really had the opportunity to sit and talk with any of the big league guys. Right now I am just soaking everything up and looking forward to getting after it in the 2012 season.


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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Baseball Notes for Sunday, October 14, 2012

There are only four teams still playing baseball, but this time of season is just as busy as any other. Here are a few thoughts on some of the stories playing out over the past few days…

***The broken ankle suffered early this morning in the waning innings of the Yankees Game 1 ALCS loss to the Tigers puts New York in a major hole for the remainder of the playoffs and potentially 2013. I wouldn't bet against Jeter making a full recovery, but the team looked old and a step slow before the injury. Next year the Yankees could be trotting out the oldest team in baseball, with Ichiro, A-Rod, Teixeira, Jeter and Rivera all coming off major injuries or significant decline. Even Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and C.C. Sabathia will be past their 30th birthdays. Having such an elderly roster is generally a recipe for disaster, so it will be interesting to see how New York decides to proceed.

*** The Red Sox are in the process of interviewing managerial candidates like Tim Wallach and Brad Ausmus; both former players who lack any major league managing experience. I find it hard to believe that unless blown away by one of those candidates, that the Sox will hire someone without experience and/or a pedigree. At the same time I don’t put much stock in the rumors that Joe Torre is open to returning to managing, and possibly with the Sox. Boston doesn’t currently have the roster or the likelihood of building a roster in the near future that would make splurging on a skipper like Torre worth the price tag.

*** There has been enormous grumbling since Stephen Strasburg was shut down for the season, particularly now that the Nationals were knocked out of the playoffs in such shocking fashion this week. People need to lighten up. Only the Nats had access to Strasburg’s medical records, and it is unlikely they benched their best player without very good reason. If GM Mike Rizzo had ignored medical advice, thrown caution to the wind, and continued pitching Strasburg, he may have gotten lucky. However, such a move could have also ruined Strasburg for good, which would really have fans up in arms.

*** Everyone talks about the fantastic playoff stats so many Yankees players, especially because of the frequency they have been in the postseason. A player whose playoff stats deserve even more attention is Cardinals’ outfielder, Carlos Beltran. He may have “only” played in 28 total October games, but has hit .375 with 13 home runs, 9 stolen bases, and a ridiculous 1.306 OPS (which is nearly 100 points better than Babe Ruth’s career playoff mark of 1.211).

***The fact that the Yankees didn’t sell out all 50,291 seats in Yankee Stadium for Game 1 of the ALCS (announced attendance was 47,122) is an indictment of how out of control pricing has gotten. When the biggest city in the country, combined with the most storied baseball team of all time and a great 2012 postseason, can’t sell out a playoff game, something is wrong. Between the high licensing costs the Yankees slapped on many seats, and the exorbitant prices charged by ticket brokers, Yankees baseball is rapidly moving out of reach for the average fan.

Fans should be in for more great baseball, as ALCS Game 2 and NLCS Game 1 are played later today. Look for the Yankees to win big against Anibal Sanchez, and temporarily silence the attention they have been getting about their weak hitting and misfortune. Madison Bumgarner and Lance Lynn look to be a terrific pitching matchup in San Francisco, but I expect the Giants to win in a close game. Playoff baseball; you’ve got to love it!


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Friday, October 12, 2012

Picking the 2012 MLB Award Winners

With the focus in baseball being on the fantastic matchups being waged in the playoffs, the intense debate about the end-of-season awards has been tempered for the time being. It’s a temporary lull that will heat up again once the announcement of the award winners near, as many will try to get in their opinions in the form of parting shots, in the attempt to support the various candidates. There have been some truly incredible performances this season, and there are literally no categories without multiple candidates having legitimate chances to have their name drawn from the proverbial envelope. That being said, here are my picks for the 2012 baseball awards.

AL MVP- Mike Trout: Miguel Cabrera may have won the Triple Crown by leading the American League in batting average, home runs, and RBI, but Trout was tops in runs scored, stolen bases, and OPS+. Can anyone really say which of those stats are more valuable than the others? Regardless, there is nothing that says the Triple Crown guarantees an MVP, and advanced stats show that Trout was just as, if not more effective offensively than the Tigers first sacker. When you throw in Trout’s major edge in base running and defense, he was clearly the best all-around player in the AL. Those who argue that the Tigers made the postseason, while the Angels went home after game 162, must keep in mind that the Angels won more games (89 to 88), while playing in a tougher division.

NL MVP- Buster Posey: For overall value, Ryan Braun, Yadier Molina, Andrew McCutchen, and Posey were fairly evenly matched, but when you look at what they meant to their respective teams, Posey emerges as the pick. He was an absolute anchor for the Giants, whose remaining lineup could only be kindly described as subpar. Posey hit a blistering .385 after the All Star break, ultimately winning the NL batting title, which became even more important when Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games. Although he’s not the equal of Molina behind the plate, Posey did a fine job handling the Giant’s vaunted pitching staff and leading his team into the playoffs, making him the MVP.

AL Cy Young- Justin Verlander: Although he won 7 fewer games, Verlander’s 2012 campaign was not all that different than 2011, when he won the Cy Young and MVP awards. This year he led the league in innings pitched, strikeouts, and ERA+, while winning 17 games with a 2.64 ERA.  He also pitched a significant number of additional innings than his main competition; David Price (27) and Jered Weaver (50). He may not have been as flashy as last year, but that doesn’t mitigate his dominance and deserving his second Cy Young.

NL Cy Young- R.A. Dickey: When it comes down to raw stats, Dickey, Clayton Kershaw, Gio Gonzalez, and Johnny Cueto all have legitimate claims to the award. What pushes Dickey forward are the noteworthy ways he stayed in the spotlight this year. As a knuckleball pitcher who achieved his breakout season at the age of 37, voters will have a soft spot for the unusual nature of his candidacy. He also had a streak of 44.2 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, wrote a book, and was the only reason to watch an otherwise miserable Mets squad. Even if he earns votes for being the most prominent pitcher in the media, his 20-6 record, 2.73 ERA, and leading the league in innings and strikeouts make him a worthy choice.

AL Rookie of the Year- Mike Trout: It would be pretty difficult to not give Trout this award when he is a frontrunner for the MVP. He became the first player in major league history to have at least 30 home runs, 45 steals, and 125 runs scored in a season, making further discussion of his worthiness unnecessary.

NL Rookie of the Year- Wade Miley: Highly touted Nats’ outfielder Bryce Harper may be a sexier pick, but Miley did it better and more consistently than the teenaged phenom. The Diamondbacks’ lefty went 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA in 32 games (29 starts). Despite tiring over the last month of the season (5.40 ERA over his final 6 starts), he was remarkably consistent, serving as the team’s ace, while losing consecutive games just once. Harper was relatively mediocre until the final six weeks of the season, but his hot finish  (.330 with 7 home runs in his final 31 games) wasn’t enough to catch Miley as the senior circuit’s top rookie.

AL Manager of the Year- Bob Melvin: On pure improbability and managerial genius this award should be a complete toss-up between Melvin and Orioles skipper, Buck Showalter. What gives Melvin the slight edge is how he took the Oakland A’s from being a likely 100 loss team to winning 94 games, and doing so in the competitive NL West, which was a slightly tougher division than the AL East, where Boston had an unexpected down year. Voters really can’t go wrong with Melvin or Showalter, but the A’s manager gets the nod because of his higher degree of difficulty, by the slimmest of margins.

NL Manager of the Year- Dusty Baker: Like the American League, the NL had multiple distinguished managers. What set Baker apart from the rest was guiding the Reds to an impressive 97 wins, despite losing his best player, Joey Votto, for a third of the season. The Reds may have just been knocked out of the playoffs, but Baker deserves a lot of credit for the success of his team, which was built more around lunch pail type players than mega stars. Baker saved his best for the second half of the season, as the Reds went 50-27 after the All Star break and turned a close NL Central race into a runaway.


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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lane Adams: The Royals' Basketball Star

Although the Kansas City Royals finished with a ninth consecutive losing season, the number of young prospects they have accumulated should help them end that streak in the near future. Some young players like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have already made their mark in the majors, and others like Wil Myers are poised to make a similar leap. There are also others still working their way up through the Kansas City system, with one of those up-and-comers being outfielder Lane Adams, who just broke out in a major way in 2012.

Adams was a basketball star for Red Oaks High School in Oklahoma. Upon graduating he had scored the fifth-most points (3,521) in the history of Oklahoma high school hoops. He was heavily recruited by mid-major schools and considered accepting a scholarship with Missouri State, but declined believing his future existed in another sport that he was also pretty good at; baseball. In 2009 he was drafted by the Royals in the 13th round of the MLB Draft and opted to sign and start his baseball career.

The right-handed Adams battled injuries and cautious handling by the Royals during his first several seasons in the low minors. Finally playing a full season this year, the outfielder broke out in a major way.  In 135 combined games between Kane County (A-level) and Wilmington (High-A) he hit .269 with 11 home runs and 69 RBI. He also stole 19 bases and played excellent defense in all three outfield positions.  More information about his statistics is available at

Prior to the start of this past season I had an opportunity to ask Adams some questions. Get to know this rising Royals prospect a little better!

Lane Adams Interview:

Who were your favorite team and player when you were growing up, and why?: Growing up I was big White Sox kid. I Loved Robin Ventura. Not sure why (could be because he went to Oklahoma St.).

How did you know that the Royals were interested in you?: Royals scouts started coming to my high school games my sophomore year.  The Oklahoma scout was a good friend of my high school coach and he told me that they were really interested in me.  I was invited to a private workout my senior year before a game.  By that time I knew they were really interested in me and I'm glad they were able to pick me in the draft.

Can you describe what your draft day experience was like?: The draft was a little hectic. I was on campus at Missouri State for summer workouts and classes.  I left class and went to a hotel to listen to the draft with my scout. I wish I could've been with my family, but I was on the phone with my mom when they called my name. It was very exciting at the moment but then I realized that I had a decision to make.

How pleased have you been with the progress you have made during your first few professional seasons?: From where I was my first year playing in the AZL I've made some big strides. I still have a lot to learn. I knew when I first started I was behind everybody baseball-wise since it wasn't my main focus growing up.

How much instruction have you received from former Royals greats like George Brett and Frank White, etc...?: George Brett and Frank White both have spoken to us a number of times. George talks to all the minor league camp at every spring training. It's definitely one of the highlights of the spring. He comes around and watches us take batting practice and play games. The best thing I've taken from him is you can always control how hard you play but you can't control the results you have at the plate. Just play hard, have fun, enjoy the game and play to win. This past spring training Aaron Guiel was in camp. I talked to him every day about the mental approach to the game. Talking to him every day really helped me out and got me prepared for this season.

If you could do anything differently about your baseball career to date, what would that be?: Definitely make baseball my number one sport growing up. I never worked on baseball just went out and played the game, went home, changed clothes and went to the gym for my basketball workouts. So, pretty much put the same time and effort into baseball as I did basketball growing up.

How much attention did you receive from scouts and colleges in high school for basketball compared to baseball?: I never received one letter for baseball in high school. The only college coaches that called me were basketball coaches, which was fine with me because that’s what I wanted at the moment. My teammate and best friend's brother was a coach at a Junior College 10 miles up the road. He told me I could go there and play both if I wanted.

What is the best prank you have seen get pulled in the minors?: Set all the clocks forward by 3 hours in me and my roommates’ condo, went outside and called him and asked him why he wasn't at the field. I watched him come running out of the door a few seconds later. Funny sight. His heart was racing he was so nervous. It was our second or third week in our first year of pro ball.


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Monday, October 8, 2012

Some Completely Useless But Fun Numbers From The 2012 MLB Regular Season

The 2012 baseball regular season was one of excitement and surprises. Only part of the story is what was seen from game to game, and taking a closer look at numbers can bring even more richness to what transpired over the past six months. I love statistics, particularly when they are within the context of baseball, and while completely useless, there are all sorts of interesting numbers from this past year that elaborate on another great season. Just a few that I found include:

***Knuckleball pitchers are known for their inability to hold base runners, as evidenced by the Niekro brothers, Charlie Hough, Tom Candiotti, and Tim Wakefield, who allowed a combined 2,000 stolen bases during their illustrious careers. By comparison only 7 players even attempted to steal against R.A. Dickey this season, with only 4 (Everth Cabrera, Todd Frazier, Dexter Fowler, and Jose Reyes) being successful.

***The Minnesota Twins weren’t very good, going 66-96, but when they won, more often than not it was because of star Joe Mauer. The catcher played in 59 of those wins, hitting a blistering .433 with 7 home runs, 63 RBI, and a Bondsian .520 OBP.

***Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel was a strikeout machine, fanning an unbelievable 16.7 per nine innings. Even more impressive were his 120 total strikeouts, which were 18 more than team ace Tim Hudson, despite pitching in 116.1 fewer innings.

*** Kimbrel failed to record a strikeout in only 7 of his 63 games. Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman was even better, failing to punch out at least one hitter in only 6 of his 68 games

***Fernando Rodney was nearly unhittable as the Tampa closer, posting a 0.60 ERA on the year. He only strengthened as the season wore, on, allowing just 1 earned run after the All Star Break; good for a 0.25 ERA in his final 36 games.

***Orioles’ slugger Mark Reynolds made the most of playing the majority of his games in the AL East. In divisional games (61) he hit .255 with 17 home runs and 42 RBI. In his other 74 games he slumped to just .191/6/27.

***Adam Dunn turned out to be pretty predictable, striking out (222), walking (105), or homering (41) in 56.7% of his plate appearances.

***The Colorado Rockies had the worst team ERA in the majors at 5.22. They were so putrid that only one pitcher, Jeff Francis (113), even cracked 100 innings on the year.

***The Boston Red Sox were 43-32 when rookie Will Middlebrooks played, and 26-61 in all other games.

***The Pittsburgh Pirates starting outfield of Alex Presley, Andrew McCutchen, and Jose Tabata combined for 137 RBI, which were only 9 more than outfielder Josh Hamilton had all on his own in 710 fewer at bats.

***J.D. Martinez led the Houston Astros with 55 RBI, which is the lowest number to lead a team since catcher Tom Haller drove in 53 with the 1968 Los Angeles Dodgers.

***Mike Trout stole an impressive 49 bases, while getting thrown out just 5 times. The Mariners had his number, as they nabbed him 3 times. By contrast, Trout stole 15 bases in 16 attempts in just 18 interleague games.

*** The last time Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched without walking at least one hitter was July 11, 2010, against the Toronto Blue Jays- a streak of 32 consecutive games.

***Clayton Kershaw hasn’t allowed 10 hits in a game since July 22, 2008 against the Rockies, during his rookie season- meaning his current streak stands at 142 consecutive games. In fact that game marks the only time he has allowed double digits hits in his career.

***The last time Justin Verlander went less than 5 innings in a game was June 22, 2010, when he lasted 2 innings in an 8-5 loss to the New York Mets. Since then he has made 85 consecutive 5+ inning starts.

***Although he only hit 9 home runs on the year, San Diego Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin led the majors in average homer distance, with an impressive 427.1 feet per blast. His stats were padded by a 485 foot bomb he hit against the Trevor Cahill and the Diamondbacks on July 2nd.

Much of the beauty of baseball is that behind every statistic there are a hundred stories that can be told. These stories spawn debate and discussion, and are a prime reason why fans are so drawn to the game and constantly seeking new ways to interpret what they have seen. These numbers may be relatively useless in the grand scheme of things, but they are part of the lifeblood of the game, and that makes them worthwhile to many.


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