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Arizona Diamondbacks Acquire Trevor Cahill

The Arizona Diamondbacks bolstered their starting rotation Friday when they acquired Trevor Cahill in a five-player deal that will send the team’s top pitching prospect, Jarrod Parker, to the Oakland Athletics.

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Cards-Phillies, NLDS Game One Chat


Detroit Tigers Acquire Doug Fister

The Detroit Tigers made a move that will help them today and in the future, acquiring starting pitcher Doug Fister from the Seattle Mariners. The Tigers will also receive reliever David Pauley, and will send Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez and a PTBNL to Seattle.

With Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello already in place, the Tigers headed into the trade deadline looking for a back-end starter. Fister, owner of a 3.33 ERA, will slide in nicely behind Detroit’s other arms. While Fister’s ERA is certainly a result of Safeco Field and the Mariners’ defense, he is by no means a product of a great situation. Fister’s xFIP currently sits below 4.00, as does his SIERA. While his league-average numbers are all well and good, Fister’s value comes from his contract situation. The 27-year old won’t be arbitration eligible until 2013, giving the Tigers another year or two of very cheap production.

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NLDS Game Two Preview: Atlanta

After being shut down by Tim Lincecum in game one, the Braves get to hit the reset button in game two.

The Hitting
Even though Lincecum pitched well last night, a good chunk of his success stemmed from the Braves’ offensive ineptitude. Timmy was leaving fastballs up in the zone, and the Braves didn’t end up doing much with them. Making matters worse, most of Lincecum’s strikeouts were on balls out of the zone, so the Braves’ hitters need to do a much better job of controlling the dish and keep the flailing to a minimum.

Atlanta should have an easier go of things tonight, as Matt Cain doesn’t have nearly the same swing-and-miss stuff as Lincecum. The Braves are going to need to try to take advantage of Cain’s fly ball tendencies, and try to stroke shots into the gaps as much as possible.

The Starter
After being nailed in the eye during batting practice yesterday, Tommy Hanson is good to go against the Braves this evening. Hanson put up very similar numbers to Matt Cain this year, so I’m expecting a fair fight on the mound.

Hanson was a highly-touted prospect just a year ago, but hasn’t done anything spectacular in the bigs. Don’t get me wrong, he’s been worth 4.3 WAR this year, but his numbers are far from superstar status.

One of Hanson’s biggest problems this year has been finding a consistent release point, and a simple glance at a pitch f/x chart will show how erratic he has been. If there is any good news to be taken from his release point, it should be noted that he is not necessarily tipping his pitches, as he’s had trouble with all of his offerings.

As far as his actual pitches go, Hanson relies on a hard four-seam fastball, which should be clocking in around 93 mph tonight. He also has a slider with good movement that he can throw for strikes, along with a slower, looping curveball. None of his pitches get a whole lot of whiffs, so the Giants may be able to keep the strikeouts to a minimum this evening.

The Defense
According to UZR, the Braves defense has been one of the worst in the league, coming in at 34 runs below average. Hanson gives up fly balls and grounders at the same rate, but he should try to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible tonight, thanks to an outfield defense that is often, shall we say, lacking? If the Braves play Rick Ankiel over Nate McLouth tonight, the defense doesn’t look so bad, otherwise it could be a death sentence if the Giants can pound balls towards center.

Prediction
Accuscore has the Braves losing by a full run in their simulations, and I tend to agree. I see Cain shutting down Atlanta, with the Giants taking a two game lead thanks to a 3-2 victory.


ALDS Game Two Review: Minnesota

Continuing the theme of the 2010 postseason, the turning point of this game was a blown call by home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. With a runner on first and nobody out, Carl Pavano had Lance Berkman in a 2-2 hole, and threw a sinker that started inside and ran back over the dish. The pitch was right on the edge, and was called a ball by Wendelstedt. On the next pitch, a changeup below the zone, Lance Berkman smacked a double and scored Jorge Posada from first.

Moments later, the Yankees scored thanks to Derek Jeter being super clutch, and they never looked back. New York ended up loading the bases with only one out on the board, but Jon Rauch served as the human blood clot, stopping the bleeding before it got completely out of hand.

At that point, the Twins were still within two runs and facing a starter who had been sitting and cooling off during this entire rally. They still had a 24% chance to win, but Pettitte got through the bottom of the seventh without a hitch, dropping the Twins chances to 15%. Kerry Wood looked dominant in the eighth, and Mo Rivera did his thing in the ninth, putting the Twins on the verge of elimination.

Before the seventh, the game was a back and forth battle in which no one seemed to be in command. Both teams were trading runs, with both Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano hitting their spots and keeping the damage to a minimum. Pavano got into some trouble in the sixth (and seventh), but other than that, he was in control of Yankee hitters the rest of the night. He was hitting his spots on the outside corner like a sniper, and doing a good job at getting grounders early on.

Even though the Yankees’ seventh inning is what ultimately did the Twins in, I will direct you back to the bottom half of the second inning. The Twins loaded the bases in the second with only one out, yet managed to score only a single run on a sacrifice fly. That was a big disappointment, and scoring a run actually lowered their Win Expectancy.

If I had to pick an MVP for the Twins, it’d have to be Orlando Hudson or Denard Span. Hudson hit a big homer and was first on the team in WPA, while Span did a great job of working the count and making Pettitte throw pitches, something that won’t show up in the boxscore.

THE CRAIG SAGER SUIT WATCH
When Jack and I discussed doing this feature before the series began, I expected The Salton of Suit to give us more material. On Thursday night, Sager’s suit was actually…reasonable. Sure, he looked like a tablecloth, but it was mild by Sager’s standards. I think he’ll break out the pinstripes when the series moves to New York, and you can bank on that.


ALDS Game Two Preview: Minnesota

A popular theory going into this series was that the Twins needed to win game one if they wanted to have a shot at winning this thing. I disagreed. While having a one game lead is a nice luxury, it’s not a death sentence. With all of the concerns about the Yankees’ number two and three starters, Minnesota has a chance to jump ahead in the series, so game two will be the most important spot for the Twinkies.

The Starter
Carl Pavano gets the call in game two, and he’ll have his work cut out for him. While Pavano’s never been one to fan many batters, he had an especially hard time during the month of September, posting a K/9 of 2.81. Yet, his whiff rate was roughly the same as it had been all year, and he still managed to have a K/BB of 2.00.

Pavano’s control puts him at a huge advantage against the Yankee’s lineup. New York has been the second best team in baseball when it comes to drawing walks, but their patient approach won’t do them much good against Pavano, one of the best in baseball when it comes to throwing strikes.

As far as his arsenal goes, nothing Pavano throws moves all that much or gets to the plate in a hurry. His changeup is easily his best offering, and he uses it as his strikeout pitch. I’d expect to see a lot of sinkers and changeups tonight, as Pavano will look to keep the ball away from the Yankee’s hitters.

The Defense
One of the things that Pavano has done well this year is get a ton of ground balls, and that plays right into the Twins’ strength. According to UZR, The Twins’ outfield defense was worth almost 12 runs below average this year, but their infield defense is another story. Orlando Hudson, Danny Valencia and J.J. Hardy are all well above average defenders, so while Michael Cuddyer isn’t very good at first base, the Twins will be able to gobble up a majority of the grounders that Pavano can deliver.

The Lineup
As Jack mentioned last night, the Twins’ lefties really struggled against Sabathia, and they won’t get much of a reprieve tonight as the Yankees are sending Andy Pettitte to the hill. While Pettitte is certainly no Sabathia, he may have a fairly easy time keeping Jim Thome and Jason Kubel off balance at the plate. If the Twins can take pitches and force Pettitte to work hard early on, they could open up a big inning and chase him from the game sooner, rather than later.

Sager’s Suit
What will Craig Sager dig out of a dumpster tonight? Probably something subtle. You know, something like a pink polka dot jacket with a yellow shirt.


The Ryan Ludwick Trade: San Diego’s Perspective

In a surprising move, the Padres have pried outfielder Ryan Ludwick away from the Cardinals as part of a three-way deal with the Indians. In exchange, the Padres will be giving up two (currently unknown) prospects, and it appears one will go to the Indians with the other reporting to St. Louis.

Ludwick has been a hitting machine this year, raising his LD% into the 22% range, thus reaching base at a higher rate. He has kept the strikeouts in check, and is walking at the same rate he was last year. Add in a SLG% that has risen closer to .500, and you have a hitter good for a .354 wOBA. It’s not quite the .406 wOBA season he had in 2008, but it’s still good. However, transitioning to Petco poses a potential problem. But it’s not the biggest worry in the world, because even if Ludwick’s home runs decline, he should still be able to crush doubles into the gaps.

On the defensive end, Ludwick won’t kill the Padres while attempting to cover ground in spacious Petco Park. UZR has been very kind to him this year, and he projects to be a slightly above average defender going forward.

The Padres have been trying all kinds of things in right field, with six players seeing at least five games there. Will Venable has seen the biggest chunk of playing time, but his offensive game hasn’t been up to snuff. He’s a good defender, but not a player who’s on the same level of Ludwick.

Next season will be Ludwick’s final turn through arbitration, and it won’t be cheap. Ludwick’s 2011 salary will likely be around $8 million, which could make him the Padres highest paid player. He’ll be worth the money, but you have to give props to San Diego ownership for be willing to shell out the bucks to put a winning team on the field. This is a good move by the Padres, who show they are willing to spend money to win, and stay competitive in a tight NL West race.


The Edwin Jackson Trade: Chicago’s Perspective

One of the league’s most active teams when it comes to the trading deadline, the Chicago White Sox have acquired Edwin Jackson from the Diamondbacks for pitchers Daniel Hudson and David Holmberg.

Jackson is now in his fifth organization since he made his major league debut in 2003. Either he’s a very valuable commodity, or someone that teams views as easily acquired rotation filler.

While Jackson is a White Sox for now, do we know if he will be one on Saturday evening? There has been rumored interest in a three-way swap between the Diamondbacks, Nationals and White Sox, with Adam Dunn ending up in Chicago and Jackson landing with the Nats.

While Jackson’s strikeout and walk rates haven’t been great this year, he’s made up for it by getting ground balls. His GB% has been hovering around 40% most of his career, but he’s brought it up to an impressive 50.5% this season. This made up for the possible detriment that is Arizona’s home park, and should help keep balls from flying out of The Cell. Since Jackson has pitched in the AL Central before, his numbers shouldn’t unexpectedly decline (or increase for that matter).

Jackson is under contract for $8.35 million next year, thanks to a two-year deal from the D’Backs that was heavily back loaded. While Jackson isn’t a stud, he’ll be worth his contract and a little more. After next season, Jackson will be a free agent and should be able to command about $10 million a year on the open market.

As for what they gave up, Hudson was the team’s top pitching prospect, but there are questions about his long term role. He’s got a decent fastball and change-up, but his breaking ball is inconsistent. While he showed some good GB rates in the minors, he’s been an extreme flyball guy in his brief time in the big leagues, and the White Sox may have decided that he gives up too many balls in the air to succeed in their park, especially since he doesn’t have a knockout pitch to rack up a ton of strikeouts. Still, he’s a decent young arm, and one that will be under team control through 2016.

Kenny Williams likes to deal, but this is not one of his better ones. One may expect the price for Jackson to be lower than what the White Sox paid, given what the returns were for superior pitchers in Roy Oswalt and Dan Haren. Instead of keeping Hudson and letting him fill the rotation spot that Jake Peavy vacated, the White Sox decided to go out and fill it with a more expensive source. While Jackson probably won’t be enough by himself to change the direction of the White Sox’s season, he is a good piece for this year and beyond. All that remains to be seen is if he will stay a White Sox for long.


Angels Acquire Dan Haren

In a deal that comes as a major shock to the system, the Angels have acquired Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks. The Angels were never mentioned during the discussion of potential destinations for Haren, so this deal flew under the radar until it’s completion and subsequent announcement.

Even though his ERA isn’t pretty this year, Haren is still a pitcher on the top of his game. Haren currently ranks 4th in the Majors in strikeouts, and was tied for the NL lead before he was traded. Guys of Haren’s caliber aren’t usually available for acquisition, and the Angels pounced when the opportunity presented itself to them.

While there are always worries about players moving from the NL to the AL, Haren should be an exception. Haren has had past success in the AL, contributing 13 wins to the Athletics from 2005-2007. Plus, the AL West isn’t exactly an offensive division, so Haren should have no problems sustaining his production going forward.

The Angels are currently 6 games back of the Rangers in the AL West, and 8.5 games behind the Rays for the AL wild card, making them unlikely to make the playoffs. However, they still have a small chance of rallying in the final two months and sneaking their way into the postseason. If they can, pairing Haren with Jered Weaver would make the Halos a scary team to face in October.

But, because Haren’s contract runs through 2012, with a club option for 2013, this move isn’t an all-or-nothing push for the 2010 postseason. With Kendry Morales returning next year, and the monetary woes possibly continuing in Texas, the Angels will enter 2011 as a favorite to reach the postseason. Weaver, Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro will all still be under contract for next season, leaving the Angels with one of the top rotations in all of baseball.

While we still await word on who the PTBNL will be, it appears the Angels didn’t mortgage the future to win now. Instead, they figured out a way to give themselves a chance to make a run in 2010 while vastly improving their odds in 2011. Let the celebrating begin.


Organizational Rankings: Current Talent – Phillies

Coming off their second World Series appearance in as many years, the Phillies have a talented group of players on their roster. The Phillies made moves this offseason in an attempt to push themselves over the hump and win another title this year.

Even after making it into November the past couple of seasons, and acquiring some big time talent this offseason, the FanGraphs FANS projections only have the Phillies winning the NL East division 23% of the time, and making the playoffs 34% of the time. CHONE agrees to some degree, placing the Phillies second in the NL East but winning the wild card by a 4-game margin. While I don’t think any casual fan would agree with the FANS or CHONE projections, the fact that multiple systems are agreeing that Philadelphia will fall off of their NL East throne is interesting, if not convincing.

Behind the plate, the Phillies don’t have a big name catcher, but two players with substantial time in the majors. Carlos Ruiz has had at least 370 plate appearances in each of the past three seasons, but never more than 430. Ruiz can draw a walk and was one of the 13 players who walked more than they struck out in 2009. While they may have been able to hand over more at bats to Ruiz, they decided to sign veteran Brian Schneider to help keep “Chooch” healthy. Schneider is below average, so his new backup role should suit him well.

Once you get past the man behind the plate, the rest of the Phillies offense is very familiar, with most players being household names. Ryan Howard will have another 40+ home run season at first base, with a wOBA around .390. While Howard is seen as a big bad power hitter and an one dimensional player, he doesn’t get enough credit for his defense. A half season in 2005 was the only time Howard has posted a below average UZR. Howard will barely be above average once again, but any positive defensive value from a fantastic hitter is great. Chase Utley is one of the most underrated players in the league, posting 8 WAR seasons in 2007 and 2008, and was worth over 7.5 WAR in 2009. After posting 5+ WAR seasons from 2006-2008, Jimmy Rollins was worth only 2.4 WAR last year. While he is on the decline, Rollins will be better in 2010. Acquisition Placido Polanco will be moving over to third base, where his value will still likely hover around 3 wins. The infield is aging, with no starter under the age of 31, but still have a couple of prime years left.

In the outfield, the age problem is still prevalent. Shane Victorino is under-30, but he’ll be joining the “Big 3-0″ club a month after the season ends. The other two starters, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez are already in the club. However, like the infield, they will all be successful and worth close to 3 wins apiece. However, Ibanez won’t be helping his team in the field again, barring a minor miracle. Ibanez posted a -38.4 UZR from 2006-2008, but he was 8 runs above average in the field in 2009. There is no reason to expect him to be good again, with the FANS and CHONE have him in the -5 to 0 range.

Compared to the start of last year, the rotation is leaps and bounds better. Compared to the rotation they entered the offseason with, it is barely better. Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton will be worth somewhere around 12.5 WAR, combined. The rest of the rotation is suspect. J.A. Happ will be the fourth starter, but he stranded 85.2% of runners last year and allowed hits on balls in play only 27% of the time. Both rates will go through some regression, but Happ will still be close to league average as a starting pitcher. The fifth starting spot won’t be pretty, with Jamie Moyer slotting into the role barring another injury problem.

The bullpen is going to be a mess that Charlie Manuel needs to figure out, and quick. Brad Lidge won’t be ready to start the season, so the ninth inning job falls to Ryan Madson. Danys Baez could also get a few chances. J.C. Romero, Chad Durbin, and Jose Contreras will all see innings in the bullpen, which is not good news for fans.

The Phillies have some great pieces in place to win this year, but all most of them are aging and getting ready to fall. While some projection systems may like the Braves to win the division, I like the odds of the Phillies repeating as division champs. If the Phillies don’t make the playoffs with their all-star roster, heads will roll.