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MLB Notes
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 7/8/2008 6:38:00 PM
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It doesnít get much more impressive than Hiroki Kurodaís performance Monday night. Facing just 28 batters, Kuroda needed only 91 pitches in the gem. And itís always more satisfying when that first hit is legit, which Mark Teixeiraís certainly was. Kuroda was facing a Braves team that had flown across the country after waiting through a 1-hour, 50-minute rain delay in a 17-inning victory over Houston on Sunday, but nothing should be taken away from Kuroda, who has two complete game shutouts (17:0 K:BB ratio) in two of his last four starts.

Jacoby Ellsbury has really slowed down, stealing just one base over the past 18 games and having been caught on each of his past three attempts. Heís going to be an extremely valuable fantasy commodity for years to come, but heís also not exactly a superstar in real baseball. Outside of hitter-friendly Fenway Park, his line sits at .243/.302/.324 on the year.

Speaking of speedy outfielders playing for big markets, Brett Gardner is a must add (and itís probably too late) for any team looking for help in the stolen base department. With Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui sidelined, there should be plenty of opportunity for the rookie who had racked up 34 SBs in 282 Triple-A at-bats this season. As a 22-year-old, he swiped 58 bases and has a career success rate of 83 percent in the minors. As someone who can take a walk, Gardner could even outplay the disappointing Melky Cabrera.

Iím not sure who looks more pathetic at the plate right now, Wily Mo Pena or Andruw Jones, but either way, itís ugly.

Not that this is a new fad, but was there a rule passed without my knowledge disallowing the words ďBrettĒ or ďFavreĒ ever to be uttered separately? Speaking of whom, has anyone heard anything about what heís been up to these days during his retirement?

Since 2003, no major league outfielder has more RBI than Carlos Lee.

After watching Miguel Cabrera this year and J.D. Drew over the last two, Iím more convinced than ever that the impact on hitters switching leagues cannot be underestimated. Itís a definite issue in the short-term.

J.R. Towles needs to be reconsidered now back with Houston. His ceiling wonít be too high if he continues to bat eighth in the lineup, but he did post a .954 OPS with five homers and three steals in 61 at-bats after getting sent down to Triple-A. Sure, his first stint in Houston was dreadful, but since he plays catcher, the pickings are thin, and Towles offers unique HR/SB potential.

Making sense of the Rich Harden deal: I trust Billy Beane fully, but Iím surprised he couldnít get a bigger prospect in return, instead going with the quantity over quality route. Not to say thereís no quality in return, as the three major properties in the deal have all failed to live up to expectations in no small part because the Cubs have mishandled them. Matt Murton had a .977 OPS in Triple-A last year and possesses very good plate discipline. However, the power has disappeared this year, and itís unclear how the Aís will use him. One thingís for sure, it will be an improvement on how Chicago did. Eric Patterson has good speed with some pop, and his .875 OPS in Triple-A this season could translate into an adequate regular, especially if moved to the infield. Sean Gallagher is young enough to develop into the key of this deal, and he also might be the most fantasy relevant right away. As for Harden, his value gets an obvious boost with the move to the NL and to a team with a loaded lineup and excellent bullpen. But after looking at the return the Aís got, my guess is Beane thinks Hardenís arm is about to fall off.

An easy schedule has certainly helped, but watching him pitch (a sometimes dangerous way to evaluate), Ricky Nolasco looks simply fantastic. Where did this stuff come from? I recently wrote about him, so I wonít repeat myself, but would it be crazy to currently treat him like a top-25 starter? Or is that a perfectly sane food to eat?


Sometimes I get the feeling that Billy Beane just likes to trade. He got back enough value -- some spare parts who will give cheap production and some prospects who might pan out. But when does Oakland make a run at anything? The A's are only 5.5 back. That's not insurmountable halfway through July. Add a big bat to that lineup and take your chances with a very good rotation. When does Oakland compete? Or is it just about trading guys at their peak value? I'm not knocking Beane, but the guy has a pretty sweet gig -- absolutely zero pressure to win, an ultra-weak fan base and owners who provide excuses to fail. If he wins, he's a genius; if he loses, well, it's small-market Oakland.
Posted by Jason Thornbury at 7/8/2008 8:56:00 PM
I think Oakland was more than one big bat away. Did you look at the lineup they put out last night? Cust hitting 3rd, Emil Brown hitting 4th, Bankston, Hannahan, and Murphy. Yuck. It's no wonder that Murton and Patterson look appealing to Beane.

Re. Towles, also needs to be mentioned that his BABIP was well under .200 on his first stint with Houston. For the year, he now sits at .168 BABIP. Nobody can remain THAT unlucky for an extended period.
Posted by MPStopa at 7/9/2008 5:12:00 AM
I'll say this... if I'm a brewers fan last night I'd feel pretty sick to my stomach watching the cubs get a guy who is the equal of Sabathia in talent (though he can't EVER stay healthy - so it's unlikely he'll last the season active) for no where NEAR what the BRewers paid. AND on top of that, Harden has a club option for 2009 that I assume will be carried over contractually for the Cubs, so they might get him for a 2nd year while Sabathia pitches for the Yankees.

Then on top of that, Sabathia labors through his first Brewers start with 6 innings 5 hits 5 walks and 3 runs.

"Quality" start by definition and they got the win - but that's only thanks to the bats waking up a bit
Posted by billgoofnow at 7/9/2008 5:31:00 AM
The A's were in the ALCS the year before last, so I wouldn't say they never compete. I applaud Beane for not unrealistically thinking they had a chance this year (the wild card is out of the question). Oakland should be thinking about the future, when guys like Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, etc. are ready. But I do agree with your theory Thorn that Beane is currently in somewhat of a can't lose situation.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 7/9/2008 7:02:00 AM
Good point about Towles' BABIP...Love all this trading. Brewers fans have to cringe seeing the different haul Oakland got compared to Cleveland, but I still prefer CC by a decent amount.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 7/9/2008 7:04:00 AM
Just like in fantasy, trades in real baseball are all about timing. Here, the timing was right to trade Harden. Brewers' fans will be laughing at Cubs' fans in 2 weeks when Harden is on the DL. Look at his last two starts - only 5 IP in each and 4 walks last start. When a guy is injured, that's usually the first sign. It might seem innocent enough, but this is Harden. As for Beane, he will get lauded yet again when Harden is on the DL in a couple of weeks.
Posted by MPStopa at 7/9/2008 8:26:00 AM
I think Harden hits the DL soon. Chad Gaudin might turn out to be the arm that carries the Cubs the rest of the way. Talent wise, unlikely. But he has shown spurts in the past.
Posted by mr crunch at 7/9/2008 8:31:00 AM
Sabathia in the real baseball world is worth twice whatever Harden is. The A's "sold high" on this one. Harden has 2 CGs, Sabathia has 19, both started in the majors in 2003. Oakland seems to be the land of the mediocre outfielders-I didn't look it up but I'd imagine they've had more different OFs play in the last 2 years than any team. 3D caught the King of Kong last week on your recommendation-interesting movie, my wife even watched part of it. That Mitchell guy seems like a wuss for not playing heads up live. Who's hotter right now-Ankiel, Hardy or *Cabrera*. I don't trust Nolasco like I don't trust Dempster from here on out-they're not used to pitching this many innings. Lastly, is it time to look at players to target for the second half (Cano, Tex, etc.)? Good blog as always.
Posted by kevinccp at 7/9/2008 9:44:00 AM
That A's team two years ago capitalized on a weak division then got swept in the playoffs. Instead of building on that, Beane mothballed that team and started over. Fair enough, but two years later he's in the same spot -- a team that could win a weak division but isn't a World Series team -- and now he's done the same thing. Two years from now he'll do it again. When does he go all-in? That said, 2008 was supposed to be a rebuilding year for A's, so maybe Beane is just following through on his original plan, which no doubt included trading the fragile Harden. All I'm saying is, *sometimes* you have to wonder if the plan ever has an end-game.
Posted by Jason Thornbury at 7/9/2008 10:00:00 AM
I don't blame the Cubs at all for making this move - in fact, I think they should have. Patterson and Murton weren't even in their future plans, and Harden has the upside of being baseball's best pitcher from here on out. However, the odds are overwhelming that he'll be on the DL sooner rather than later. He even complained of a "dead arm" after his last start.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 7/9/2008 9:30:00 PM
Kevin - Great point about CGs - Sabathia is FAR more likely to go deeper into games, which is a big advantage. The A's def. have too many similar OFs...Did you like King of Kong? Michell is such a wuss. No doubt. Didn't that drive you crazy?...Cabrera is en fuego...At least Nolasco threw 140 innings 2 years ago, but I agree, that's a legitimate concern.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 7/9/2008 9:37:00 PM
Thorn - I hear you. And the A's have even outscored their opponents more than the Angels this year. So it's not like they have been getting by on pure luck. Still, that Angels team didn't have Lackey for six weeks, and clearly guys like Duchsherer are playing out of their head. This past offseason Oakland dealt Haren and Swisher with the plan toward playing for the title in 2-3 years, and switching that up now seems short-sighted to me. They are aiming toward fielding a truly contending team come the new stadium. That said, I do understand your questioning, especially with this latest haul lacking a truly elite prospect. There better be an "end-game" soon enough.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 7/9/2008 9:44:00 PM

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