Before the movie Major League and before RIck "Wild Thing" Vaughn, there was a minor league pitcher who threw harder and was more unhitable. Left hand pitcher Steve Dalkowski not only had the velocity on his fastball, but the movement was as good as any hard thrower that ever lived. The only problem was: he had no idea where the ball was going. On this date in 1957, Dalkowski struck out 24 batters in a 9-8 loss. He also walked 18 batters and threw 6 consecutive wild pitches.
Dalkowski spent just about all 9 years of his minor league career in the Baltimore Orioles organization. He spent parts of seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Angels minor league teams. He was known for throwing his fastball as hard as 105-110 MPH, though it was unconfirned. But he walked as many as 262 batters in 1960 for Stockton of the California League and 245 for 3 teams in 1958. He finished his career with 1396 strikeouts in 995 innings pitched. That came out to 12.63 Ks per 9 IP. He walked 1354 batters over his career, 12.25 BBs per IP. He only gave up 682 hits, but because of the walks, he gave up 723 runs (616 ER). The walks were the reason he stayed in the minors for his entire career. His nine full seasons in the minors were a sign of how the potential continued to exist. Until the very last day, there was always hope Steve Dalkowski could figure out how to throw more strikes.
The New York Mets production has not been very good this season. Even though a lot of teams have struggled getting offense from their catchers, it has become a concern over whether the future behind the plate looks bright at all for the Mets. Josh Thole, known to be a hitter first, catcher second, is currently hitting .238 with just 18 RBI in 277 at bats this season. Though Kelly Shoppach has gotten off to a good start since being acquired from Boston, he does not profile as an everyday major league catcher. As the 2012 season is coming to an end, it seems planned out for Thole and Shoppach to split time behind the plate going into the 2013 season.
I think a fair case could be made that Thole has improved behind the plate as a defensive catcher. He seems to be catching the ball better and with help from pitching coach Dan Warthen, has called a better game than he has in recent years. But his defense is still below average and his offense does not make up for his imperfections behind the plate. The Mets sent Lucas Duda to AAA after a terrible slump earlier this season. Though Duda was hitting much worse, it was determined his offensive production was not enough to substantiate him being in the field where he was a liability. My question is when it will be determined Thole has the same value Duda did at that point.
Thole was expected to be a .300 hitter and it is pretty obvious he will not be. His approach at the plate is terrible. He is not aggressive and consistently takes fastballs right down the middle. And when he has two strikes, (which seems like every time up) he chokes up on the bat and tries to do anything he can not to strike out. He turns into a slap hitter (see Luis Castillo) and becomes extremely vulnerable.
Based on the recent couple of weeks, it seems Terry Collins has become more inclined to use Shoppach on more of a regular basis, even against right handed pitchers. The Mets need to upgrade at this position. It will not happen with Thole and Shoppach on the roster after this season. Though Shoppach is a free agent, it is likely the Mets will bring him back for next year. Having Shoppach and Thole will keep the Mets from pursuing another catcher.
What are the Mets options? They can try to trade Thole but lets be honest, even at age 25 he has little value. Perhaps he can be added to a trade as a throw in. That would be ideal. Since Thole is not arbitration eligible until after the 2013 season, he is unlikely to be non-tendered. The truth is, Thole is not a regular catcher, even as part of a platoon. I think the Mets need to move on from Thole before they can make an effort to upgrade the position. Maybe releasing him may be a little harsh, I can't think of anything more resonable for the Mets to do. Thole is still young enough to get a fresh start somewhere else. I wish him the best, but its time for Josh Thole and the New York Mets to part ways.
Its pretty obvious the Miami Marlins are doing what the Florida Marlins did the best: dismantling a team as fast as possible. Its safe to say no player is off-limits; maybe for the exception of Jose Reyes and Giancarlo Stanton. (for now) To this point, the Marlins have traded Hanley Ramirez, Randy Choate, Omar Infante, Anibal Sanchez, Edward Mujica and Gaby Sanchez, while letting teams know many others could be had. The Los Angeles Dodgers have shown interest in LHP Mark Buehrle, who is on the first year of a 4 year, $58 million contract. If Buehrle is traded, I think the Marlins will have hit an all time low.
Last offseason, all we heard about is the "new Marlins." As the team has struggled to fill the new stadium just put into play this season, the Marlins are back to trying to save a buck whereever they can. Players like Buehrle, Heath Bell and Reyes moved to South Florida to take part in the festivities only to be quit on by the most incapable team president in MLB in David Samson. And particularly players like Reyes and Buehrle, who signed longterm deals, did so with the intention of staying in Miami for the duration of their contracts.
So, on to Buehrle. He signed the 4 year contract to be around his longtime manager Ozzie Guillen. Guillen also signed a 4 year contract. Buehrle had spent his first 12 seasons in Chicago, so moving to another city for a small stop probably was not in the planning. And its not like Buehrle has underperformed. He is 12-11, 3.62 in 26 starts, pitching 166 2/3 IP, striking out 99. His 1.212 WHIP is the lowest its been since 2005. Its safe to say he's gotten the job done. But the sneaky Marlins refuse to put no trade clauses in their free agent contracts, giving them a chance to unload a player whenever they want.
So, while nobody would be surprised to see Buehrle traded from a team that has quit (Miami) to a team that is spending ridiculously (LA), its something that should not happen. The Marlins already made a significant trade with LA, netting Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough in the Ramirez deal. I doubt LA will be able to provide anything but salary relief for the Marlins, who have reduced their payroll enough to this point.
I find it pretty interesting that some people sometimes confuse power hitting OFs Ted Kluszewski and Greg Luzinski. They both did play for the Chicago White Sox during a portion of their careers. Kluszewski led the White Sox to the World Series in 1959, where they lost to the Dodgers. Luzinski helped them to the postseason in 1983, where they lost to the Orioles in the ALCS. Though they were both power hitters who happened to play at different time periods, they were not very similar hitters.
Kluszewski (who lived from 1924-1988) made his debut in 1947 with the Cincinnati Reds and played from 1947-1957. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1958-1959 and for the White Sox in 1959-1960. He finished his career in 1961 with the Los Angeles Angels. His final line was .298, 290, 1028 with 290 2B, 492 BB and 365 Ks. Kluszewski had his best season in 1954, where he hit .326, 49, 141 while striking out 35 times. He had 40 Ks in 1955, while hitting 47, 117. Unfortunately, his run as a big time power hitter only lasted four seasons and was over by 1956.
Luzinski, on the other hand, was more of a free swinger who sustained his power a little longer in his career. Luzinski played with the Phillies from 1970-1980 and the White Sox from 1981-1984. He compiled a .276, 307, 1128 career line with 344 2B, 845 BB and 1495 Ks. Yes, he struck out a lot in a time where only Reggie Jackson and Dave Kingman would K at that rate. But, he also had a solid on base percentage because of his ability to draw walks. His best season came in 1977 with the Phillies when he hit .309, 39, 130. He hit 30+ HR 4 times (1975, 1977, 1978 and 1983).
Luzinski had more of a sustained success to his career. Kluszewski was more dominant; he was the top star on a Reds team that had Frank Robinson. Robinson was the better overall player, but Kluszewski was more dominant in those couple of years. Luzinski filled an important spot in the middle of the order, but was not as dominant as Mike Schmidt. I like Kluszewski's plate discipline, which had something to do with hitters not being as free swingers as they are now. 49 HR and 35 walks in a season is nothing short of amazing. Luzinski hit 32 HR in 1983 and only played one more season after that. Thinking about Kluszewski's career, injuries set him back in his last five or so seasons. I'd like to see what he could have accomplished had he stayed healthy.
While I thought about the possibility of Erik Bedard returning to the Baltimore Orioles, I took some time to evaluate a player who recently passed through waivers. Though Andres Torres has not torn the cover off the ball, he has done about what most educated fans could expect. The Mets put him in a tough position, making him the everyday centerfielder when Torres was more qualified to be a forth OF.
My initial thought was Torres could return to the San Francisco Giants, where he spent the past couple of years. Torres excelled in 2010, and despite his 2011 struggles, he was well liked in the organization and in the clubhouse and was a fan favorite. Add in the fact that Melky Cabrera will miss the rest of the regular season due to his 50 game ban for the use of PEDs, my answer became "Why not?"
Its not that the Giants do not want him back. I just think the team has its sights on an OF that can impact the team a little more than Torres can. Scott Hairston would be a better fit, as he was claimed by an unidentified team only to be pulled back today. The Giants would want more of an everyday player than Torres, who as I said before, is nothing more than a forth OF. Torres is hitting .230, 2, 32, with 11 2B, 5 3B and 10 SB in 99 games for the Mets. The Giants are getting slightly better production from Gregor Blanco, who is hitting .240, 5, 31, with 11 2B, 4 3B and 19 SB in 109 games for the Giants. Blanco is very comparible to Torres and has emerged the same way Torres did in 2010. Blanco is also making $516 K this season as Torres is making $2.7 million. And the Giants do not need both Blanco and Torres; both essentially do the same thing.
But it should still be an avenue for the Mets and Sandy Alderson to explore. Nothing wrong with checking with the Giants to see if there is any interest. The need to move his salary should not take presidence over getting any type of return, even if its not much. But the Mets lack of depth in the OF may be reason enough to keep Torres around. But moving Torres could clear September for Matt den Dekker to get a chance to play CF. Torres is a non-tender candidate after this season and it would be worth it to move him if possible. I just don't think it will be possible.
Maybe its worth taking a look at some playoff teams who may need a 4th OF. The Nationals are a possibility as well as Cincinnati and the Chicago White Sox. All three teams could use a defensive replacement. But the question is, are any of these teams willing to part with anything of value, even if it is in the lower levels in the minor leagues?
Pittsburgh Pirates LHP Erik Bedard has been released. The Pirates opening day starter was 7-14, 5.01 in 125 1/3 IP, struggling mightily in his past three starts. The Pirates had a little bit of a logjam in their rotation after acquiring LHP Wandy Rodriguez from the Houston Astros. The initial move was to put Kevin Correia in the bullpen, a move that led to Correia asking for a trade. Now it seems Correia will return to a rotation that includes AJ Burnett, James McDonald, Rodriguez and Jeff Karstens.
As far as Bedard is concerned, I see some teams having interest in using him to make a couple of starts down the stretch. I could see the Nationals, Yankees and Dodgers having interest. Perhaps the most intriguing fit may be in Baltimore with the Orioles. Of course, Bedard was the budding star LHP that was traded to Seattle after the 2007 season for a prospect named Adam Jones. Jones is now the franchise player in Baltimore as Bedard has yet to surpass 130 IP since leaving Baltimore. I know the Orioles just added Joe Saunders, but Bedard could provide some depth for the back of a rotation that has struggled for consistency.
Baltimore has had performance issues with Tommy Hunter, Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz, among others, and has had to deal with an injury to new found ace RHP Jason Hammel. Bedard, to me, would be a fit in Baltimore, a team not looking to spend a ton of money on a contract. Bedard signed a 1 year, $4.5 million deal with Pittsburgh, but that means nothing since the Pirates released him (assuming he clears waivers.) The signing team would be on the hook for a prorated portion of the MLB league minimum.
Nobody can deny the fact that Los Angeles Angels OF Mike Trout has had an excellent rookie season. Similar to Justin Verlander being part of the discussion last season, some people have an issue with the same player winning the ROY and MVP just like Verlander winning the Cy Young and MVP last season. What Trout has done in just 105 games is staggering. His .337, 24, 72 line with 100 runs scored, 144 hits and 41 stolen bases would be excellent lines for an entire seasons. I'm extremely curious to see where he finishes numbers wise for the season.
A couple of players that come to mind are St Louis' Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 and Mike Piazza in 1993. Ichiro won the AL MVP in 2001, hitting .350, 8, 69 with 242 hits, 127 RS and 56 SBs. Pujols hit .329, 37, 130 with 194 hits, 112 RS and 47 2B in the same season. Piazza hit .318, 35, 112 with 174 hits and 81 RS in 1993. Trout has the second highest average in this group and is on pace to have more RS than Ichiro. Looking at stolen bases, though its an overrated stat, Trout can reasonably exceed the 56 Ichiro had in 2001.
All my sabermetrics friends will be happy about me mentioning WAR. Though I am not a proponent of the use of that stat, it will state that Trout has an 8.8 WAR, while Pujols finished at 7.5 in 2001, Piazza at 6.8 in 1993 and Ichiro 6.3 in 2001. Trout's value to the Angels is very clear since the team is struggling at 66-62. Though the Angels are fading, Trout has continued to put up the good numbers. But, unlike Ichiro leading the Mariners to not only the postseason in 2001, but a MLB record 116 regular season wins, Trout may lose out on MVP votes if the Angels miss the postseason.
Trout has had more of a power season than Ichiro, but I think Ichiro had more of an MVP season. If Trout would win the AL MVP, I would not be surprised. Perhaps Trout could pay the price for the Angels not using him at the start of the season. But maybe it makes what Trout has done even more incredible. With about five weeks left in the MLB season, Trout can finish with 180+ hits, 55 SB, 130 RS, 30 HR and 90 RBI. In my opinion, that season ranks with the before mentioned. In spite of all that, I still see Miguel Cabrera getting the award.
Lou Pinella retired as MLB manager on this date two years ago. It is very easy to say that he did not have a successful career as a manager. Especially since he managed the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Chicago Cubs his last 7 seasons. Looking over his finished product, it may be a surprise how successful he was over his managerial career. He falls short of the Hall of Fame standards, mostly because he only won one World Series (with the Reds in 1990).
Pinella was part of four New York Yankees teams that reached the World Series, losing in 1976 and 1980 while winning in 1977 and 1978. His first experience as a manager was with the Yankees in 1986. He led the Yankees to 90 and 89 wins in his first two seasons only to be replaced by Billy Martin for the start of the 1988 season. After Martin was fired for the 5th time by owner George Steinbrenner, Pinella returned to finish the 1988 season. He was let go in favor of Dallas Green after that season. His first season in Cincinnati, the Reds won the World Series. After a losing season in 1991, the Reds won 90 games the next season.
He then moved to Seattle, an organization that had a history for losing. During his ten years, the Mariners won three division titles. The Mariners also had winning seasons in 7 of the 10 years, including the MLB record 116 wins in 2001. Yes, his three Tampa Bay seasons were forgetable, but he had better success in Chicago than most of us think. He led the Cubs to division titles in 2007 and 2008 and won 83 games in 2009 before retiring during a tough 2010.
He finished his mangerial career at 1835-1713, 122 games over .500. Take away his three seasons in Tampa Bay, where he was 95 games under .500, and he would be 217 games over .500. Though the greats in the game were all 400+ games over .500, Pinella's career stands out. In his 23 years, he led his teams to 6 division titles and finished with 14 winning seasons. He had two out of three winning seasons in NY, two out of three winning seasons in Cincinnati and three out of four winning seasons in Chicago. Like I mentioned before, this goes with the seven out of ten winning seasons in Seattle. Thats 14 out of 20 winning seasons, minus his time in Tampa Bay.
For all those bank experts who keep saying players will never get the money they ask for, how come it keeps happening? Jose Reyes got $106 million when many said he was not worth it, Carl Crawford for $142 million and of course, Jayson Werth got $128 million from the Nationals. Not to mention the contracts Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder got this past offseason. Nick Swisher is a free agent at the end of this season. Of course, he will shoot for as much money in a long term deal as possible, which will probably end his four year career in New York.
We all know the Yankees are currently not the big spenders they were under George Steinbrenner. Hal Steinbrenner wants his payroll to be under the $189 million luxary tax line within the next couple seasons. Factor in the impending longterm contracts to OF Curtis Granderson and 2B Robinson Cano, there is not enough money to commit to a player like Swisher. He says the right thing about loving NY and wanting to be a Yankee, but he will have to take a home town discount to stay with the Yankees. Hey... maybe he will.
Swisher has amassed 203 HRs in his career to this point. If he gets to 20 this season (he already has 18), that will be 8 straight seasons of 20+ HRs. Despite his injury this season, he plays in almost all games going back to his time in Oakland. The Yankees fan may be critical over the fact that Swisher has struggled in the postseason. His impact on the Yankees will interest some teams, as they will refer to his presence in the clubhouse. But how much will that be worth to that team? Its safe to say he will get a multi-year offer from another team.
To me, it has to do with the amount of money he has to leave at the table. In a similar contract offer, he would take less money to stay with the Yankees. Even though its crazy to think a team will offer him $100 over 7 years, nobody though the Nationals were going to give the deal they did to Werth. And factor in the suspension of free agent-to-be Melky Cabrera, only Michael Bourn and possibly BJ Upton remain as more desirable OF FAs. Regardless of what some people think, somebody will overpay. Will the move be criticized? Yes. But I think Swisher will get paid a lot more money than he is worth.
I think its impossible to speculate what team will spend that kind of money on Swisher. If you don't think a team will overpay, how come most teams have multiple players on their team they have spent to much on? It has happened and will continue to happen. So just because fans cannot see NIck Swisher being a $100 million player, it doesn't mean an owner doesn't feel the same way. All it takes is one team.
I think the Houston Astros showed how little clue they have by firing manager Brad Mills. The firing itself was not a surprise, with the Astros sitting at 39-83, worst record in the major leagues. On the surface, it seems just that a manager who has guided his team to that bad of a record deserves such a fate. Especially this is his third straight losing season, starting out 76-86 in 2010 and going 56-106 in 2011. So its safe to say the team has done worse since he took the helm after being Terry Francona's bench coach in Boston.
The honest truth is the Astros first hired Mills, then took his team away. First they moved Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman in 2010. Then they traded Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn in 2011. They finished off with getting rid of Brandon Lyon, Brett Myers, Chris Johnson and Wandy Rodriguez in 2012. Is that Mills fault? Was he supposed to talk the front office into keeping his good nad even marginal players? A fair case could be made that the Astros were going nowhere whether they moved these players or not. Touche' but its a steep challenge to make a stripped team overachieve. I doubt John McGraw, Joe McCarthy, Bobby Cox or Tony LaRussa would have done any better with this mix. Even Casey Stengel could not make the 1962 Mets into winners.
Maybe the Astros took their stand by blaming Mills. The Houston Astros will not stand for this kind of losing and its time to change the manager. Managers get fired all the time. I can't make a fair assessment of how Brad Mills is as a manager. Sure he showed some flaws, but most managers do when their team stinks. Hopefully he gets another chance somewhere, then a better conclusion could be made. But to inply that he is directly 100 % responsible for this terrible record and team is a dillusional statement. If the current Houston Astros team was playing a AAA schedule, it would still not be very good.
I think it is more of a joke that the Astros have stopped competing to get ready for a move to the AL. They will essentially move into the other league as an expansion team. They deserve to be treated as one. While we all remember the Pittsburgh Pirates last making it to the postseason in 1992, we will all point to 2005 as the last time the Astros made the postseason. Hopefully, it won't be 2025.