The tater trots for August 1: four different multi-home run days, including a very interesting reviewed home run from Asdrubal Cabrera.
It was a good day for multiple tater trots. Four different players in three different games each hit two home runs on Monday. Asdrubal Cabrera, Dan Uggla, Rick Ankiel, and Derrek Lee each pulled off the feat, with Uggla and Ankiel each doing it while the other was in the field. I'd like to imagine it means there was a "multi-home run" star in the sky last night - maybe Wezen was in the Third House (or the 44th or 25th Houses) - but it's probably just one of those weird coincidences. Darn.
The Cardinals, who simultaneously put a bad situation out of its misery and increased their postseason chances, lead the parade of trade deadline winners.
In over a decade of writing professionally about baseball, I have never stooped so low as to write a “trade deadline winners and losers” piece. Normally, I run from a cliché like the Wehrmacht withdrew from a battle, attacking even as I back away. This is probably why I have never been invited to many parties. Normally, the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline is such a violent anticlimax that there isn’t much to say, making it acceptable to dismiss it as if it were a guest-star on Downton Abbey, issuing no more than a single word, a hostile glance, and a pregnant pause. The 2011 trading deadline was so active it demands a more thorough going-over. Today winners, tomorrow losers, and Wednesday I will be invited to the King’s Charity Ball (but no one will tell me it isn't a costume party).
Winners Atlanta Braves Between injuries and disappointing performances, the Braves were being strangled by their outfield. The unit as a whole has done less hitting than that of any team in the league except the Padres. Center field was a particularly sore point, as it has been for a number of years—in 2008, Braves center fielders ranked eighth in the NL in True Average, then dropped to 13th in 2009, 15th last year and again this year. Bourn isn’t Ty Cobb, but should represent a serious upgrade for the Braves in the center-field line, as he ranks fourth among all NL center fielders in TAv (250 PA and up department). Braves leadoff hitters have also been among the worst in the league, having hit .254/.306/.365 overall. Weird stat alert: In 57 plate appearances at Turner Field, Bourn has never drawn a walk. Having hit only .218/.289/.348 against southpaws to date, the Braves needed a right-handed bat and didn’t get one, but Bourn’s value should hardly be dismissed in light of that. They gave up two solid pitching prospects, a third that should be rated a throw-in, as well as an outfielder that has proved he can’t play in the majors, at least for them. That’s not a bad deal for a part they needed so badly and who also remains under contract. Baltimore Orioles
Unlike some rebuilders who pretended they had no need to sell (hellooooo, Cubs!), the Orioles got something, moving the underrated Koji Uehera and the superannuated Derrek Lee in separate deals. The returns aren’t particularly special. Chris Davis will give the lineup the left-handed power it has been missing all year, but potentially nothing else—he’s arbitration-eligible after the season and has a strike zone wider than a rhino’s buttocks. Tommy Hunter pitches to contact and thus will be undermined by the league’s worst defense. Aaron Baker is a 23-year-old first baseman in High-A ball, which likely means we will never hear his name again. Nevertheless, a roll of the dice is better than standing pat with decayed assets.
Boston Red Sox
Theo Epstein got off to a shaky start, giving up future Generic Second Baseman Yamico Navarro and a Standard Model Reliever for Mike Aviles, which seems like a high price to pay for a 30-year-old defense-second infielder who has hit .222/.261/.395 this year. Given Jed Lowrie’s shoulder injury, Kevin Youkilis’ frequent day-to-dayness, and Marco Scutaro being, well, Marco Scutaro, it’s understandable that they felt they needed more depth, having already been forced to resort to Drew Sutton and an ahead-of-schedule Jose Iglesias. Still, Aviles is a sneeze away from being out of the league altogether, whereas Navarro has some long-term value.
It's red-on-red violence between two founding franchises, but who'll wind up dead?
Back in the '70s, the Phillies and the Reds were half of a quartet of clubs that basically owned the National League. Dial up National League post-season action, and you'd get the Reds or the Dodgers from the old NL West, and the Pirates or the Phillies from the old NL East. That foursome won nine pennants and 18 of the 20 playoff slots from 1970-79; get picky and run from 1971-80, and it's still niine of 10 and 17 of 20. Yet for all that, this will be just the second time two of the league's founding franchises get to square off. You have to be a fan of a certain age or owe a bit to Joe Posnanski to have much memory of the 1976 NLCS, which was the Big Red Machine's stepping stone to its second (and last) pennant—they had to go through crushing the Phillies first, sweeping three in the best-of-five, with the third game decided in Cincinnati after an exchange of blown saves.
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Ramirez and Tulowitzki are the cream of this crop, according to our expert.
Moving through the infield, we will look at the shortstop rankings. Shortstop is easily the worst position-the number of one-star players is depressing-but there is plenty of production to be found if you are willing to select it early or spend the auction money on it. As for the previous rankings in the series, check out first basemen, second basemen and third basemen. Now, here are the changes to this year's ranking system:
The 10 best free agents at the skill positions, plus who to avoid, and more.
The up-the-middle positions are known as the skill positions for a good reason. Catchers, shortstops, second basemen, and center fielders are hard to find. And the ones who play the positions well defensively? They're even harder yet to find. And if you find one that hits well enough to make you forget he's "just" an up-the-middle guy, I'm sure there are some inquiring minds who would like to know how you found him.
Last night's victors face a tall order in their Bronx confrontation.
The Yankees have been pretty sure they'd be playing in the postseason since not long after the All-Star break. The Twins didn't have much chance of doing so until about two weeks ago, and only found out for sure about 18 hours before the first pitch of the Division Series. That's just one reason of many why this AL Division Series matchup is one of the most lopsided in the 15-year history of the three-tiered playoffs.
Why the non-controversy over Type-A compensation in this winter's cold market needs to be seen as such.
In the discussion of Type-A free agents this winter, the term "first-round pick" is used about as often as "the" or "of." The perceived relative values of major league talent and first-round draft picks have been moving in opposite directions for a long time, and it appears that this winter, the two have crossed. Teams are less willing than ever to sign players and sacrifice that selection in the upcoming draft, and they're becoming more aware of how important good young baseball players who can be paid well below market value are to a baseball team.
What kind of team could be made from the remaining free agents, and how much would it cost?
I hadn't watched much of the MLB Network since its launch on January 1, mostly because I haven't been home much since then. Yesterday, however, I had the channel on all day, catching a replay of the Mexico/Puerto Rico game, and then most of the Tuesday Caribbean Series doubleheader, with an edition of MLB Hot Stove between the two games. I'll spare you a review of the coverage, as I wasn't really watching for that purpose. It was just good to see baseball in February, even if the rosters were a bit watered down due to the upcoming World Baseball Classic. There were some great pitching performances, and a couple of huge hits. The studio show had former players. Lots of them.