MLB’s Most Overrated and Underrated Players

Wainwright

Discussing the most over and underrated players in baseball is an annual exercise that creates a lot of spirited debate and reaction. There’s no scientific formula to determine or verify who falls where; just opinion, eye-tests and carefully manipulated stats to prove points. That being said, the best reason to do it is because it’s fun.

Here are some players I believe are among the most over and underrated in the game today. Continue reading

My 2012 Predictions: NL Central

I am continuing my 2012 prediction series by revealing my NL Central standings and adding a few positive and negative predictions for each team. In case you missed it, I have already revealed my AL East Predictions, AL Central Predictions, AL West Predictions, and NL East Predictions and we, as a staff, revealed some of our overall MLB predictions. Enjoy. Continue reading

2012 Chicago Cubs Outlook: Bullpen

In my second installment of looking towards the Cubs 2012 season, we’re going to examine the options the Cubs have in to fill out their bullpen roster.

Key Departures

Sean Marshall: Marshall is one of the best left handed relievers in the game at this current moment. I think very highly of Sean Marshall both in terms of a player and human being. As much as I hated to see him go, Epstein and Co. made the 100% correct decision and sell Marshall high.

John Grabow: Not a very good last couple of injury laden seasons for the lefty. Marshall replaced him the last two seasons as the go to lefty, and when given a chance didn’t pitch effectively. Recently signed an MiLB deal with the Dodgers.

Angel Guzman: Not quite a key departure so to speak, but the one time “end all be all pitcher” for the Cubs has finally left the organization. He had major shoulder surgery 2010 that  was deemed career threatening, and was working his way back up the minor league chain. He recently signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers.

Locks

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Some Early Season Yucksters

When a player has a slump or a hot streak in the middle of a season, the player has enough of a sample size to put those things in perspective. But when a player starts hot in the beginning of a season, we all notice. For example, the hot starts by Matt Kemp and Jared Weaver prompt tons of articles both admiring and cautionary. The same holds true for those who start the season so badly that the sky seems to be falling and the boos come out in droves from their hometown fans. Most of these early season victims will bounce back to near their normal career productivity. But it sure is ugly while the early season funk drags on. What follows is a few of those whose early season play has been extremely yucky.

Two players have an OPS below .400. That’s pretty hard to do. They are Brad Hawpe and Dan Johnson. Hawpe has come to symbolize the awfulness of the San Diego Padres’ offense. His dreadful slash line in 64 plate appearances: .136/.188/.186. Eww! Hawpe has a way to go before his OPS+ of 7 equals his #11 uniform number. He is nearly matched by Johnson, who at least gets covered up by other guys in the Bay Rays’ line up: .131/.185/.197 in 65 plate appearances. Johnson, a terrific and prolific power hitter in the minors just can’t seem to get his major league career going despite some heroic late inning moments the last couple of seasons. Hawpe is a mystery as he was a good player not too long ago for the Rockies. The last two years have been brutal.

There are eight players with 80 or more at bats with an OPS of under .500: Vernon Wells (.481), James Loney (.470), Alexis Rios (.466), Alcides Escobar (.476), Carl Crawford (.441), Chone Figgins (.479), Raul Ibanez (.484) and Will Venable (.476). All are batting below .200 except Escobar and Loney. Many of these players will bounce back and have fine seasons. But April will be a month they hope to soon forget.

Brent Morel and Vladimir Guerrero have combined for 154 plate appearances without taking a walk. Morel has a .458 OPS in 67 plate appearances. But even so, Ozzie Guillen is such a fan that he says Morel will be a Number 2 hitter before the All Star Break. Hmm…

Jack Cust, Jason Bartlett, Will Venable, Paul Janish and Carlos Pena have all compiled more than 70 plate appearances while only compiling one extra base hit. And Cust and Pena are power hitters. Strange. Conversely, Adam Dunn and Jorge Posada are batting .150 and .145 respectively. Ten of their eighteen combined hits have been for extra bases.

The speedy Brett Gardner is batting .145 with a .197 on base percentage. And when he does get on base, that hasn’t been working out either. He’s been thrown out stealing three times in six attempts after he was successful in 83 percent of his 56 attempts last year. Gardner has also struck out twenty times in 62 at bats. Gardner is one of four MLB players with more than 60 plate appearances with an OBP less than .200. The others are Hawpe, Johnson and Jose Lopez.

Albert Pujols and Torii Hunter both have around 100 plate appearances and both have already hit into eight double-plays. That’s a lot of outs.

We’ve been picking on the batters quite a bit. It’s time to pick on some pitchers.

Ryan Dempster, Jake Westbrook, Mike Pelfrey, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Niemann and Nelson Figueroa all have pitched at least twenty innings and have an ERA over 7.00. Combined, these pitchers have given up 117 earned runs in 139.2 innings pitched. Woof!

Javier Vazquez, Jeff Samardzija, Tim Collins, Aroldis Chapman and Jerry Blevins have pitched a combined 66.2 innings and have walked a combined 61 batters. That’s a lot of free passes.

Jake Westbrook, Mike Pelfrey, Barry Enright, Jeff Niemann, Jo-Jo Reyes, Nelson Figueroa, James McDonald, Erik Bedard, Madison Bumgarner, Casey Coleman, James Russell, Jordan Smith, Matt Maloney, Phil Hughes, Marcos Mateo and Juan Gutierrez have pitched a combined 268.1 innings and have given up a combined 389 hits. Staggering. Jordan Smith and Juan Gutierrez are the only two of those pitchers that doesn’t have an OPS+ against them of 150. That means that everyone they pitch against is a superstar.

Luke Hochevar, Armando Galarraga, Ryan Dempster and Colby Lewis have pitched a combined 111.2 innings have have already yielded a combined 33 homers. The combined homer per nine inning rate for this group is 2.67. That’s a lot of umpire waving.

And finally, Armando Galarraga, Colby Lewis, Ryan Dempster, Barry Enright and Clay Buchholz all have slugging percentages against over .550 (50 innings minimum). That is a lot of total bases.

Again, it has to be noted that many of these players will end up having good seasons. If they had bad stretches like this in the middle of the season, perhaps they would go unnoticed. But all of these players have come out of the gate heading in the wrong direction and they will have to gallop like the wind to end up where they need to be.

The Cubs Need To Cut Carlos Silva

Prior to spring training last season, Jim Hendry made a move that would send troubled soul Milton Bradley to the Mariners for underachieving Carlos Silva with a super bloated contract in a “you take our bad contract we’ll take your bad contract” deal. Milton Bradley continued to have anger problems in Seattle last season and hardly did anything at the plate while Silva started the season off 8-0 for the Cubs with an ERA in the 2’s. Silva eventually ended the season going 10-6 with a 4.22 ERA for the season. Not exactly 2nd half of a season you’d like to follow up the fast start.

After last season, I said to myself and colleagues, “If Silva doesn’t even pitch next season, the deal with still favor the Cubs”. This was before the latest assault story involving Bradley; further cementing the validity of my statemet.  At this point in spring training, I hope my thought becomes a fact. Silva has done nothing positive in spring training unless you consider fighting with teammates a positive! So far this season he’s thrown 11.1 innings while giving up 26 runs (20 earned) and allowing batters to hit at a .453 clip which includes four home runs.


(AP)

Yes, it’s spring training, and all things need to be taken with a grain of salt, but I actually see zero positives in any of his performances. As stated earlier, Silva has already gotten into a fight with fellow teammate Aramis Ramirez following a bad first inning to a start where there were a couple of errors, including one by Ramirez, that cost Silva three unearned runs in a six run inning. The two had to be separated and Silva had to be physically removed from the sport complex. I wouldn’t want a player like that on my team, personally. Yes, Carlos Zambrano got into a fight last season and was suspended for a while. I was ready to ship off Zambrano to any team at that point and wouldn’t have looked back. Having good team dynamics (as a team, maybe not outside the game) are a very important part to the success of a team. Silva doesn’t bring any long term plans to the team that say some of these younger pitchers would bring, and I think it can be assumed he will not be back with the team next season with his contract coming to an end this season.

Looking at fellow Carlos [Zambrano], we can see he got lit up for 6 runs pitching 4.2 innings in yesterday’s game, but prior to that outing he’s pitched effectively. He hasn’t been super flashy striking a lot of batters out, but he’s getting outs in that Arizona air which is the most important thing he can be doing right now. The ball carries well in the air, and the ground is hard making ground balls faster than normal infields. It should help out a lot mentally for Zambrano by not actually being the opening day starter and “ace” for the Cubs, so I’m confident we’ll see better things this season from him on the hill.

Individual game stats thus far in spring training (As of 3/18):

Date Team IP H R ER BB K HR
3/2/2011 MIL 1 3 6 3 1 0 2
3/7/2011 LAA 2.1 10 8 8 0 0 0
3/12/2011 CIN 5 5 4 4 0 2 2
3/18/2011 CIN 3 11 8 5 1 1 0
Totals   11.1 29 26 20 2 3 4

Those totals are very unimpressive, spring training or not. The good news is that he’s not walking batters, but that means he’s leaving too many pitches over the plate and they’re getting hit hard. I think it might time to cut ties with him and let some of these young pitcher get some big league experience. Andrew Cashner has pitched well enough so far this spring that he might have an upper edge on the other pitchers for the fifth spot in the rotation, should Silva not break camp with the Cubs, moving Jeff Samardzija to the long relief role. This can only occur if Cashner cuts down on the walks. He’s got really good stuff, he just needs to trust it, and keep it in the strike zone. This could allow Chris J. Carpenter (not Cardinals Cy Young winner) fill in a reliever spot since he’s had a great spring thus far whose only run given up thus far was a solo home run.

Player lines (As of 3/18):

Player IP H R ER BB K HR
Andrew Cashner 11.1 11 5 5 7 6 1
Jeff Samardzija 6 8 5 5 2 6 0
Chris J. Carpenter 3.2 3 1 1 2 4 1

The other interesting thing to note between Samardzija and Cashner, Cashner has two starts in four appearances and Samardzija has zero starts in six appearances totaling those six innings he’s pitched. That seems like a sign they expect Samardzija to pitch out of the bullpen. There have been a few teams scouting Silva that needs a starter in their rotation. The names I’ve seen in rumors have been the Nationals and Yankees. It’s possible he can be moved for a bag of peanuts or a toaster and allow Cashner to start. If that doesn’t happen, perhaps just cutting ties now, and eating his salary for the season makes the most sense.

stats courtesy of mlb.com