The Rangers weren't sure whether to be buyers or sellers, but things are looking up for Texas after three straight walk-off wins.
The Wednesday Takeaway
If you’re going to claw back into a division race, you might as well do it in style. And after their general manager fell short in his 11th-hour bid to upgrade his lineup, the Rangers made their boss look good for the third night in a row.
Ron Washington’s club came into the week six games behind the first-place Athletics in the American League West, a shaky position that apparently left Daniels and the front office wavering on their deadline plans. With the threat of a 50-game suspension for Nelson Cruz hanging over their team, Daniels turned over many a stone in search of a power hitter who could approximate the right fielder’s production. But he was unable to pry either Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion from the Blue Jays and opted to stand pat following the acquisition of Matt Garza from the Cubs earlier last month, perhaps reassured by the news that Cruz intends to appeal his ban.
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How did Chase Utley become the best percentage basestealer in baseball?
To understand why Chase Utley, a man who is not very fast or really much of a base-stealer at all, stands alone as the most efficient base-stealer in modern baseball history, you have to look a little bit farther down.
Not much farther down, usually just a spot or occasionally two in the Phillies order. Stop when you get to Ryan Howard. The big first baseman, not any left-hander’s pickoff move or any right arm behind the plate, has been the biggest deterrent to Utley’s steals.
Paul Maholm assumes the mantle of the sub-60-mph strike.
Last season, there were 21 called strikes thrown slower than 60 miles per hour. Nineteen of them were eephus pitches by Vicente Padilla, and the other two were slow curves by Randy Wolf. Padilla is now pitching for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, and Wolf will spend the whole season recovering from October Tommy John surgery. So we wondered—those of us who wonder about these things—who would take up the mantle of the under-60-mph strike thrower in 2013.
It happens every spring: we talk way too much about reserve outfielders.
Just before spring training ended, an email arrived from two friends of mine. They’re both Philadelphia Phillies fans. As you are likely aware, the Phillies have the greatest starting pitching staff in the history of ever, but they aren’t without problems elsewhere. Ryan Howard’s recovery from a ruptured Achilles and Chase Utley’s on-going knee injuries have ripped the heart out of an offense that was once the National League’s best. Their stranglehold on the NL East is now in doubt.
None of that was discussed in the email. Neither was Jonathan Papelbon’s ridiculous contract, or the disintegration of the farm system, or the aging nucleus, or even Charlie Manuel, possibly the funniest manager in baseball history. Nope, none of that.
The defending NL East champs should gather their titles while they may, since the same Phillies that flower today tomorrow will be dying.
It’s been six seasons since the Phillies finished anywhere other than first in the National League East. Last year, they led the major leagues with 102 wins, their highest total during their recent run of success. Over the winter, they signed Jonathan Papelbon, the top closer available on the free agent market, and saw their jilted former closer, Ryan Madson, blow out his elbow before he could throw a meaningful pitch for a competitor. Their starting rotation will be headlined by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, who project to be three of the 15 most valuable pitchers in baseball. Their lineup will be bolstered by a full season from Hunter Pence. On the surface, most signs point to continued success. But the Phillies’ competitive window may be closing quickly.
There are four Phillies ranked between 51 and 100 on ESPN’s list of the top 500 players for 2012: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Shane Victorino. It’s conceivable that none of those four will be both ranked in that range and in uniform for the Phillies in 2013. Howard was worth less than two wins in each of the past two seasons and finished 12th on his team in WARP last season, so he’s already out of place that high on the leaderboard. This could be the season his reputation starts to reflect his recent performance: Even after he recovers from the ruptured and subsequently infected Achilles tendon that could cost him the first two months, his on-field decline will likely accelerate at age 32.
Tommy John surgery claims several more pitchers, and Joba Chamberlain suffers an extremely gruesome ankle dislocation.
Ryan Madson, Cincinnati Reds (Tommy John Surgery)
On Friday, one of the most surprising bits of news with the greatest impact was that Madson needs Tommy John surgery. Madson had battled elbow trouble throughout the spring, but it looked like he was turning a corner as recently as last week. Unfortunately, in the few days prior to his scheduled debut, he suffered a setback and was sent to Dr. Tim Kremchek for further evaluation. Dr. Kremchek found that the ulnar collateral ligament was torn (some of it off the bone), and that the tear appeared to be recent because of the amount of bleeding present.
Madson signed a one-year deal with the Reds over the winter after his four-year deal with Philadelphia fell through. Madson’s injury throws everything in flux for the Reds’ pitching corps, but for now, Sean Marshall is the heir apparent as closer. General manager Walt Jocketty has not ruled moving Aroldis Chapman back into a bullpen role this year but insists nothing is set in stone. The only sure thing is that Madson will miss 2012 and will have a hard time convincing teams to sign him next winter as he completes his rehabilitation.
The Phillies are slammed by injuries to key players, and the results are in for Miguel Cabrera's busted eye socket.
Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies (Bilateral Knee Soreness)
Both of Utley’s knees are in pain. They likely degenerated further from his 2011 condition despite modifications to his strength and conditioning program. Last year, the second baseman dealt with chronic patellar tendinitis and trouble with the cartilage on the back of the kneecap. The patellar cartilage has very little ability to heal itself; if it generates pain, surgery is required. The surgery would most likely involve a microfracture technique, something that would put Utley out for at least several months.
The cartilage isn’t the only issue, though. The tendon undergoes changes to the point it’s not really tendon tissue any longer; it changes at the cellular level. In tendinosis, those changes lead to tendon weakening and make the tendon more prone to rupture. It’s one of the reasons why there is an increased chance of Achilles tendon ruptures with cases of chronic Achilles tendinitis.
Injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley make the Phillies' chances of maintaining the NL East crown slimmer.
Have you already penciled the Phillies in atop your projected NL East standings? Well, you might want to find an eraser.
Ryan Howard is going to miss the first two months of the season while recovering from the Achilles injury he suffered last October, and it now appears that Chase Utleywill be joining him on the disabled list with recurring knee woes. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels should hold down their end of the fort, but questions about the Phillies’ offense are looming rather large as the season approaches.
Cano, Utley, Asdrubal, and Iannetta step into the Keeper Reaper's office this week.
Robinson Cano | New York Yankees
Shallow (30 keepers): YES Medium (60 keepers): YES
Deep (90 keepers): YES
NL-only (60 keepers): YES
Super Deep (200 keepers): YES
Last year, Cano was the tenth most valuable player in deep leagues according to PECOTA, registering $31 in auction value. The best part for fantasy owners is that he did so without doing anything unusual.