Hunter Strickland Needs To Lock It Up

There is a concerning trend developing with Hunter Strickland: the stare down post-home run ball.

Last night was not the first time it has happened. The Giants rookie reliever glared at Bryce Harper around the bases in Game 1 of the NLDS, doing the same two batters later when Asdrubal Cabrera also took him out. Harper took the heat after his Game 4 homer for hollering on the base paths and from the dugout, however, it was Strickland who again attempted to burn a hole in Harper after he hit that home run. Although the cameras didn’t have such a definitive shot after Matt Adams launched one in the ALCS, it is assumed that Strickland reserved a similar reaction towards Adams.

Fast-forward to Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday night. Having seen his hard-thrower already serve up four home runs this postseason to left-handed hitters, Bruce Bochy elected to bring in Strickland with two consecutive righties coming to the plate.

The first was Salvador Perez who got to two-strikes then found a gift that he got good extension on and drove it to left-center for a two-run double to put the Royals up by three runs.

Then, after taking a first pitch fastball for a strike, eight-hole hitter, Omar Infante (who hit only 6 HR during the season), sent a 98-mph fastball into the bullpen beyond the leftfield fence, a shot that all but put the game out of reach considering Kansas City’s bullpen. That is when things got fun.

Infante, a veteran and a pro, did nothing out of the ordinary, especially for a home run on that stage, for that guy, in that spot. Again, however, Strickland found it in his duties to make it known that he didn’t like serving up another big postseason homer and started having words with Perez at home plate all while making his way slowly toward the third base line where Infante was finishing his trot.

The bottom line is Strickland needs to get himself in check as his actions do not show well on himself and will quickly garner him a spot alongside A.J. Pierzynski and Alex Rodriguez among the games “most hated.”

Not one of the hitters have shown him up in any way after their home runs. It is fine that he is an intense player – it shows he cares – but you can’t go around screaming at every hitter that takes you out. Hell, his own teammate, Jake Peavy, is one of the most intense in the game but he keeps it mostly to and about himself and not directed at anyone, save for an occasion bad umpire call which apparently can happen from time to time.

With his location, it is possible Strickland just becomes used to giving up the long-ball as the number of hitters that hit one will start adding up quickly. More importantly, though, he needs to look at himself and realize that he is the one putting these pitches on a tee. Learn how to spot your fastball (and mix in a second pitch) and home runs will happen a lot less frequently – just ask Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.

Making Sense of All the Day’s Deals

July 31, 2014 will go down as an historic day in MLB history. The sheer number of deals combined with what many would consider significant, if not blockbusters, made the hours leading up to the 4pm ET trade deadline entertaining and exciting for baseball fans around the nation.

What follows are the team-by-team gains and losses from today’s deals plus a list of every one of them and some names that were floated but not moved.

The final tally for the day’s events are:
A’s gain – Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes, Sam Fuld
A’s lose – Yoenis Cespedes, Tommy Milone, Comp Round B pick

Astros gain – Colin Moran, Jake Marisnick, Frances Martes, Comp Round A pick
Astros lose – Jarred Cosart, Enrique Hernandez, Austin Wates

Braves gain – James Russell, Emilio Bonifacio
Braves lose – Victor Caratini

Brewers gain – Gerardo Parra
Brewers lose – Mitch Haniger, Anthony Banda

Cardinals gain – John Lackey, Corey Littrell
Cardinals lose – Allen Craig, Joe Kelly

Cubs gain – Victor Caratini
Cubs lose – James Russell, Emilio Bonifacio

Diamondbacks gain – Mitch Haniger, Anthony Banda, Peter O’Brien, PTBNL or cash
Diamondbacks lose – Martin Prado, Gerardo Parra

Indians gain – Zach Walters
Indians lose – Asdrubal Cabrera

Mariners gain – Austin Jackson, Chris Denorfia
Mariners lose – Nick Franklin, Abraham Almonte, Stephen Kohlscheen

Marlins gain – Jarred Cosart, Enrique Hernandez, Austin Wates
Marlins lose – Colin Moran, Jake Marisnick, Frances Martes, Comp Round A pick

Nationals gain – Asdrubal Cabrera
Nationals lose – Zach Walters

Orioles gain – Andrew Miller
Orioles lose – Eduardo Rodriguez

Padres gain – Abraham Almonte, Stephen Kohlscheen
Padres lose – Chris Denorfia

Rays gain – Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin, Willy Adames
Rays lose – David Price

Red Sox gain – Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Joe Kelly, Kelly Johnson, Eduardo Rodriguez, Comp Round B pick
Red Sox lose – Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jonny Gomes, Andrew Miller, Stephen Drew, Corey Littrell

Tigers gain – David Price
Tigers lose – Austin Jackson, Drew Smyly, Willy Adames

Twins gain – Tommy Milone
Twins lose – Sam Fuld

Yankees gain – Stephen Drew, Martin Prado
Yankees lose – Kelly Johnson, Peter O’Brien, PTBNL or cash

All of today’s deadline deals:

Athletics receive:
Jon Lester
Jonny Gomes
Red Sox receive:
Yoenis Cespedes
Comp Round B pick

Twins receive:
Tommy Milone
Athletics receive:
Sam Fuld

Red Sox receive:
Allen Craig
Joe Kelly
Cardinals receive:
John Lackey
Corey Littrell

Brewers receive:
Gerardo Parra
Diamondbacks receive:
Mitch Haniger
Anthony Banda

Mariners receive:
Chris Denorfia
Padres receive:
Abraham Almonte
Stephen Kohlscheen

Orioles receive:
Andrew Miller
Red Sox receive:
Eduardo Rodriguez

Nationals receive:
Asdrubal Cabrera
Indians receive:
Zach Walters

Yankees receive:
Stephen Drew
Red Sox receive:
Kelly Johnson

Tigers receive:
David Price
Mariners receive:
Austin Jackson
Rays receive:
Drew Smyly
Nick Franklin
Willy Adames

Yankees receive:
Martin Prado
Diamondbacks receive:
Peter O’Brien
PTBNL or cash

Braves receive:
James Russell
Emilio Bonifacio
Cubs receive:
Victor Caratini

Marlins receive:
Jarred Cosart
Enrique Hernandez
Austin Wates
Astros receive:
Colin Moran
Jake Marisnick
Francis Martes
Comp Round A pick

Other big names rumored but not traded today:
Kurt Suzuki, Alex Rios, Cole Hamels, Mat Latos, Marlon Byrd, Chase Utley, Jason Hammel, Joaquin Benoit, Ian Kennedy, Cliff Lee, Shelby Miller, Bartolo Colon, Daniel Murphy, Koji Uehara, Ben Zobrist, Josh Willingham, AJ Burnett, Ryan Ludwick, Matt Kemp, Gordon Beckham, Brett Anderson, John Danks, Dayan Viciedo, Chris Carter, Addison Reed and Aaron Hill.

Pre-Spring Power Rankings

Given that there are still numerous free agents available that could move a club up a spot or two, these rankings are a bit premature. That said, many teams’ rosters are mostly set heading into the reporting week for pitchers and catchers.
Putting the ranks together was actually quite difficult as many teams in the different tiers are very evenly matched.
Here are thet first power rankings of the 2014 season!

1. St. Louis Cardinals – Stacked pitching, stacked offense
2. Boston Red Sox – Defending champs, platoons should make up for at least some of the Jacoby Ellsbury loss.
3. Washington Nationals – We’ll find out if last year was just a dissapointment (as many think it was) or if it is the norm.
4. Detroit Tigers – Pushed to the four spot because of Washington’s superior starters (barely).
5. Los Angeles Dodgers – Better be good if you’re paying a pitcher $30MM annually.
6. Oakland Athletics – Get the edge over Tampa and Texas because there’s no reason they got worse.
7. Tampa Bay Rays – Hanging onto Price means front office believes in this team.
8. Texas Rangers – Addition of Prince will pay big dividends.
9. Atlanta Braves – Good pitching with the all or nothing offense, save Freddie Freeman.
10. Pittsburgh Pirates – Even if pitching regresses, still should be good.
11. New York Yankees – Age and injuries combined with proven talent could swing them either way on this list.
12. Cincinnati Reds – No real push to get better this offseason.
13. Los Angeles Angels – Improved pitching and bounce back seasons could see them join the top 10.
14. Arizona Diamondbacks – Solid team, should play well in the West.
15. Kansas City Royals – Could be the year KC breaks into the playoffs.
16. San Francisco Giants – Need some help from previously dependable starters.
17. Baltimore Orioles – Great offense, average pitching
18. Toronto Blue Jays – In the mold of “are they good or aren’t they good.”
19. Cleveland Indians – Need to see them do it again.
20. Seattle Mariners – Cano isn’t the answer to all their other problems.
21. San Diego Padres – A popular sleeper pick to contend this year.
22. Chicago White Sox – Great offseason adding young and import talent.
23. Colorado Rockies – Also potential to be better than their current ranking.
24. Philadelphia Phillies – Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels aside, the Phils are in rough shape. Although, Cody Asche looks like Chase Utley Jr.
25. Milwaukee Brewers – Potentially very good pitching staff.
26. New York Mets – Waiting until 2015 when Matt Harvey returns and Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler are settled in.
27. Miami Marlins – On the rise.
28. Minnesota Twins – Testing the theory of “how many number 3 and 4’s can we put into a rotation?”
29. Chicago Cubs – Not sure what the plan is here.
30. Houston Astros – Good offseason, preparing for the future.

Hall Of Fame

Hall of Fame ballot

Greg Maddux – No brainer
Tom Glavine – Actually did have to think, but not very hard
Frank Thomas – Obvious
Craig Biggio – Solid choice
Mike Piazza – Best offensive catcher ever
Edgar Martinez – Defined a position

Now into more thought provoking candidates:
Jeff Bagwell – See Biggio comment
Lee Smith – One of the best relievers of his time
Fred McGriff – Great player, his swing follow-through should be in even if he never gets there

I can’t put my finger on it, but Raines, Morris and now Mussina don’t do it for me and I still can’t get past the PED thing (McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Bonds, Clemens) even though at the time, the Summer of ’98 was one of my best baseball moments. Schilling and Kent don’t get much consideration because of the character issues. And guys like Walker, Trammell, and Mattingly just aren’t Hall of Famers. Too bad Richie Sexson didn’t have a better career because he was just awesome.

Looking ahead, the ballot promises to continue giving many solid options with Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield headlining next year’s first-year eligibles; Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman joining the fray in 2016; Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Jorge Posada and Ivan Rodiriguez in ’17; and Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel in ’18. The 2019 class already features Mariano Rivera, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte and Roy Halladay with other storied careers from guys like Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, Paul Konerko, Jason Giambi and Tim Hudson (presumably after his fresh 2-year deal) nearing their end.

Team Needs – NL Central

Chicago Cubs
Believe it or not, the Cubs are mostly set heading into 2014. Because they have a few guys who could be #5 starters or slide into the bullpen, they could possibly look to add a starter with some of the others filling out the ‘pen. Other than that, a backup outfielder is about all for now as they wait for the youth to arrive on the North Side.

Cincinnati Reds
Like last offseason, Reds GM Walt Jocketty doesn’t have much to do this time around, either. It’s just about adding depth to the rotation, bullpen and outfield at this point in the winter.

Milwaukee Brewers
Regardless of what they do, it’ll be another tough year for the Brew Crew being in the same division as St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. It’s no secret a first baseman has been needed for a few seasons now and the bullpen also looks short one or two arms.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Yeah, they’re set.

St. Louis Cardinals
The only that the NL Champs could use is a bullpen piece. If and when Jaime Garcia comes back this year, they’ll be in great shape, as usual.

Team Needs – AL East

Taking a look at the needs of the AL East teams.

Baltimore Orioles
The O’s are coming off a strong but disappointing season that saw them lose momentum from 2012. Heading into 2014, they have some work to do, most notable a closer. They thought they had one in Grant Balfour, but the front office balked at medical reports, so back to square one.
Another starting pitcher wouldn’t hurt, either, and some bench help in the infield and outfield is needed, as well.

Boston Red Sox
The World Series champs of 2013 appear quite set. They have six legitimate big-league starting pitchers, a solid bullpen, and all of the positions filled. The only argument could be made for the left side of the infield where it will either be Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks or a shortstop not currently on the roster, Bogaerts at third and Middlebrooks the odd man out.

New York Yankees
Pitching is of top need for the Yanks – relief and starting. It would not be surprising if they land a free agent starter and could even add a closer if an internal option doesn’t convince them. Oh, and clarity over the Alex Rodriguez situation would help, too.

Tampa Bay Rays
One thing the Rays don’t need is pitching. In fact, there are no real glaring holes to fill. Let’s revisit this thought if David Price gets traded.

Toronto Blue Jays
For a team that played so poorly last season, there isn’t a whole lot to be done. Even after coming off a nice season, Dionner Navarro is not a starting catcher. The Jays seem content going with a platoon of Erik Kratz, Josh Thole, and Navarro. A second baseman would be helpful as well, since Maicer Izturis would be better suited to a utility role.

Team Needs – NL West

This is the beginning of a six installment piece looking at what teams need to round out their roster for the season. If there is an established starter (or strongly expected starter) at a position, an “upgrade” will not be listed as a way to improve the roster.

Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks appear the most set of the five NL West clubs in bullpen depth. They can, however, add another starting pitcher to join Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill and Patrick Corbin.
Adding a backup catcher and some infield bench depth should also be priorities.

Colorado Rockies
Like the Diamondbacks, Colorado can use another starting pitcher and backup catcher. Brett Anderson will be a huge upgrade for the rotation, if healthy, but they could still use another arm. They’ve also made the bullpen one of their main offseason targets, one more piece may be needed to complete the rebuild.

Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers still have a starting hole to fill – second base. They have Alexander Guerrero as a possibility there, but he has no major league experience, although if any team is high on Cuban players right now, it would be L.A. Anyone heard of Yasiel Puig?
After that, some infield depth would help, as well as adding a bullpen arm.

San Diego Padres
From not enough starting pitchers to a surplus in just one season, the Padres may possibly have the most starters to choose from in the game with 14 guys that could be called upon to start if needed. What the Padres do need is bullpen help and to even out the roster. Right now they have too many OF/1B types.

San Francisco Giants
The 2012 champs are short on starting pitching. As it is now, they’ll be banking on a turnaround from Ryan Vogelsong. Behind him there aren’t really any fallback options. They could also use one to two more bullpen arms and to solidify the bench.

Destinations for the Top Targets

Many of the biggest free agents have already landed this offseason, but there are still big names available via trade.

Perhaps the top name out there with a reasonably high expectation of being available is David Price. And for good reason: Price is an ace. Because of this, he is in demand and there are many teams that would be interested, but perhaps only a few that have the pieces to satisfy Tampa Bay’s appetite for young talent. One of those teams is Seattle. Coming off the heels of landing the biggest free agent of this offseason, why not go after the biggest trade target, as well. Reports have them balking at sending Taijuan Walker to Tampa as part of the deal, but if they decide they can part with him, we may very well see a King Feliz, David Price one-two punch in the Pacific Northwest.
Other possible destinations: Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City, San Francisco, Texas, Washington

It is hard to imagine a scenario where Matt Kemp finds himself the odd man out, but this offseason may very well be the time. While it is no secret the Dodgers have four starting outfielders for three spots, it is not entirely clear who may get traded. Kemp’s agent thinks it will be Kemp, however, so here we find ourselves contemplating possible landing spots for the talented-when-healthy center fielder.
Possbile destinations: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Seattle, Texas

Mark Trumbo to Arizona make a lot of sense. We’ve seen how small Justin Upton made that park look, Trumbo would be no different. It could be a good opportunity for the Halos to reclaim Tyler Skaggs in the trade.
Other possible destinations: San Diego, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay

A sleeper candidate could be Brett Anderson. When healthy he can be a legit #2-3 starter. There are many teams that could be suitors for that type of lefthanded starter.

Best Rotations and Lineups from 2013

Well, we’ve had a hiatus, and we are back! At the beginning of 2013, we previewed which teams might have the best lineups and rotations. An injury here, an underperformer there and we were left with drastically different outcomes from those predictions.

Based on total team runs and OPS for lineups and WHIP and ERA+ for pitching staffs, here are the top hitting and pitching teams from 2013:

T-5.) Los Angeles Angels – At the beginning of the year, one may have place the Angels higher on this list with the presumed firepower lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, and Mark Trumbo. But, with down years from Pujols and Hamilton, the Angels’ offense was largely viewed as a disappointment.
T-5.) Cleveland Indians – Cleveland’s front office went free agent spending before 2013 and it paid off, landing them tied for the fifth best offense.
4.) Baltimore Orioles – CHRIS DAVIS. Adam Jones was pretty good, too.
3.) Oakland Athletics – Based on Oakland’s light-hitting reputation, this would be quite surprising until you see Josh Donaldson with a MVP-caliber year, Coco Crisp setting a career-high in home runs, Yoenis Cespedes having a nice follow up to his rookie season and Brandon Moss leaving the yard 30 times.
2.) Detroit Tigers – Came up with a predictably nice season.
1.) Boston Red Sox – Boston was far and away the best offense in 2013.

T-5.) Detroit Tigers – Imagine if they had a bullpen.
T-5.) Kansas City Royals – Picking James Shields paid off. A great year from Ervin Santana didn’t hurt, either.
4.) Pittsburgh Pirates – Good pitching played a huge part in Pittsburgh’s comeback season.
3.) Los Angeles Dodgers – Clayton Kershaw, anyone? Oh yeah, they also had Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu have great seasons. Now they’re getting greedy in the current David Price discussions.
2.) Cincinnati Reds – Even without Johnny Cueto for much of the season, the Reds still managed to have the second-best pitching staff in the majors behind Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and strong bullpen.
1.) Atlanta Braves – Yes, the Braves had the best pitching in 2013. With many guys still in their early to mid-20’s, could we be seeing a flashback to vintage pitching dominant Braves teams?

Quarter-Season Power Rankings

Major League Baseball is already at the quarter pole, so it is time for another look at the power rankings.

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Texas Rangers
3. New York Yankees
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Detroit Tigers
6. San Francisco Giants
7. Cincinnati Reds
8. Atlanta Braves
9. Boston Red Sox
10. Washington Nationals
11. Arizona Diamondbacks
12. Tampa Bay Rays
13. Pittsburgh Pirates
14. Cleveland Indians
15. Kansas City Royals
16. Colorado Rockies
17. Oakland A’s
18. Philadelphia Phillies
19. Seattle Mariners
20. Minnesota Twins
21. Milwaukee Brewers
22. Chicago White Sox
23. San Diego Padres
24. Toronto Blue Jays
25. Los Angeles Angels
26. Los Angeles Dodgers
27. Chicago Cubs
28. New York Mets
29. Miami Marlins
30. Houston Astros