MLB
Five Minute Frags - Underestimating Bryce Harper
Category: MLB
Tags: MLB Washington Nationals Bryce Harper

 

It goes without saying that I have spent a considerable amount of time angling against Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper. I have openly questioned the Nationals' decision to recall the then 19-year-old phenom and make him a permanent member of their starting line-up. I then chided Tony LaRussa and Major League Baseball for naming Harper to the National League All-Star team instead of Martin Prado of the Atlanta Braves. And then to close out the trifecta, I (a man who has absolutely no say in the matter) chose Wade Miley as my pick for the NL Rookie of the Year award, a trophy that inevitably went to Harper.

 

Some would read that and say that I have a personal ax to grind with the aforementioned Harper. It is actually quite the contrary. I feel he is a phenomenal talent, but my posts were backed up with thoughts of rushing a 19-year-old and playing to media sensationalism. Of course, Harper proved me wrong in terms of his maturity and his readiness to be a Major League star. And while I won't cave on my argument for Prado a year ago, the right evidence could easily beat me on the Rookie of the Year voting.

 

Well, I'm here today to prove that I am capable of change.

 

Harper has been on fire to start the spring and is already in mid-season form in regards to his cockiness and his desire to be in the line-up at any given time. Reading that lead me to reviewing what the stat pundits are predicting for the affable outfielder heading into his sophomore season. Before we get there, let's have a look at his stat-line from 2012, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com:

 

2012 - 597 AB/ 98 R/ 144 H/ 26 2B/ 9 3B/ 22 HR / 59 RBI/ 18 SB/ .270 BA/ .817 OPS

 

Not bad at all for a 19-year-old who played just 56 games above A-Ball in his career. It shows just how advanced Harper was, but it also showed that there was room for improvement. So with that said, one would expect that the experts would see Harper as making a steady climb in 2013, right? Not exactly.

 

Noted statistician Bill James sees Harper making just modest gains in 2013:

 

659 PA/ 24 HR/ 105 R/ 65 RBI/ 20 SB/ .823 OPS

 

Dan Szymborski at The Baseball Think Factory, the man behind the ZiPS projections is a little more generous to Harper, but not much:

 

651 PA/ 26 HR/ 89 R/ 70 RBI/ 21 SB/ .834 OPS

 

So I have ask myself what these guys are seeing, or rather not seeing, from Harper's game? When all is said and done, their projections seem to be nothing more than extrapolating Harper's 2012 numbers over a full season. They don't seem to lend any real room for improvement, which you would have to expect from a player with such a lofty ceiling.

 

Sure, someone could point to the fact that a full winter of preparation by MLB scouts will help pitchers attack Harper better. That said, wouldn't we have seen a similar response to him later in the season, after he had been around the league once or twice and the book got out on him? Instead, we saw Harper have his best split in the season in September/October:

 

Sept/Oct - 126 PA/ 27 R/ 37 H/ 8 2B/ 3 3B/ 7 HR/ 14 RBI/ 5 SB/ .330 BA/ 1.043 OPS

 

With that in mind, and a full year of maturity under his belt, if Harper is half the player that we are made to believe, than one would expect him to improve on last year's campaign, with his performance in the last month of the season as proof that he is adjusting to the league rather than the other way around.

 

While I am not predicting that Harper will have the astronomical numbers that Mike Trout had a year ago (Trout likely won't either for that matter), you have to give the man credit. He has proven the naysayers wrong and shown that he a more mature ballplayer than any other player at his age.

 

Isn't it time we start giving Bryce Harper credit where credit is due

FYI, this is just a placeholder post. My real post got wiped out last night and I am in the middle of rewriting it and will have it up later today. I apologize for the delay, but thought you might enjoy this in the meantime.

 
2013 YouGabSports Fantasy Baseball
Category: MLB
Tags: MLB Fantasy Baseball

It is that time again for YouGabSports and its faithful readers and compatriots to engage in baseball warfare. That's right, it is time to fire-up your draft skills and get ready for fantasy baseball!

This year, we'll be running two leagues.

The first league will feature the same teams as last season, as long as those players intend to return to the league. If you do, please respond below noting that you are activating your team or comment on the league message board to let me know you are still playing. If a team fails to do so in the next week, I will have to offer their slot up to another interested party.

The second league is being founded in order to accommodate those members that have joined up since last season's league was founded. I'll commission both leagues, so we'll only need 11 more teams for this league.

Leagues are head-to-head, category wins. The draft order will be randomized by ESPN and we will draft in the typical snake format.

Are you interested? Time to join up! Comment below and I will send an invite to the email address you used to register for The Gab!

Could Braves Set New Strike-out Standard
Category: MLB
Tags: MLB Atlanta Braves

 

In 2012, the upstart Oakland Athletics set an American League record by striking out 1387 times as a team. For a team that hit just .238 as a squad, it was a testament to their pitching staff that they reached the postseason at all. Still, Oakland's futility with the wood was not even close to the all-time mark. That honor belongs to the 2010 Arizona Diamondbacks, who fanned a record 1529 times that season, lead by Mark Reynolds and his 211 breeze inducers.

 

Another member of that illustrious Diamondbacks team may have a say on the chances of his new squad eclipsing that mark.

 

The 2013 Atlanta Braves will not be taking cuts lightly this season. After a winter that saw them acquire both B.J. Upton and his younger brother Justin Upton, the aformentioned former D-Back, this team will now feature five of the top 56 victims of the strike-out from 2012. In fact, when examining their project line-up for 2013, you'll see where it could be a real possibility that Atlanta will be the new home of the K.

 

For the sake of argument, namely my own, let's use each player's 162 game average season.

 

Andrelton Simmons - 69

Jason Heyward - 141

Justin Upton - 154

Freddie Freeman - 140

B.J. Upton - 171

Dan Uggla - 161

Brian McCann - 91

Juan Francisco - 113

Total - 1040


Now granted, 162 game averages are subjective at best, and the stats of Simmons and Francisco stats are extrapolated without having ever played a complete season in the Major Leagues. Even so, the primary fallback option for Francisco at third base is Chris Johnson, who himself carries a 162 game average of 152 and struck out 132 times during the 2012 season. Other bench players like Reed JohnsonJordan Schafer, and Gerald Laird project similarly over a full season.

 

This is a team that will mash the ball, but they will do so while also striking out in droves, and almost all of the above players do so with a nearly 2:1 K/BB ratio. That's not to say that the Braves are a lock for the record., but it will bear watching as the season moves forward.

 

And could be point of contention in regards to the Braves playoff chances as well. Those last place Diamondbacks from 2010 can attest to that.

Bourn Finds Identity With Indians
Category: MLB
Tags: MLB Cleveland Indians Hot Stove Michael Bourn

 

 

Michael Bourn can finally claim to know exactly who he is again after the free agent outfielder officially signed with the Cleveland Indians on Monday. The 30-year-old Bourn signed a 4-year, $48 million deal with the Tribe, which includes a vesting option for a fifth season worth an additional $12 million.

 

Bourn was an All-Star in 2012 after hitting .274 with 9 home runs, 57 RBI, a .739 OPS, and 42 stolen bases for the Braves last season. His 6.0 bWAR was the highest of his career and many fans felt he was robbed of a Gold Glove award for his play in center field. Overall, Bourn is a career .272 hitter and has 276 total stolen bases.

 

The fleet footed outfielder was one of the top free agents on the market this winter, but floated out there on the market for quite a bit of time. While his asking price - and his agent Scott Boras - was one of the reasons he had trouble finding a home, Bourn suffered due to the fact that he also had a compensatory draft pick tied to him after turning down a qualifying offer from Atlanta earlier this winter.

 

The Mets were known to be looking at Bourn as well, but with the 11th pick in the draft, the team did not want to lose its unprotected pick. At one point, there was talk that the Players' Union would petition on behalf of Bourn and the Mets in order for them to keep their pick since they technically had the 10th worst record, only falling out of the protected pick range due to the Pittsburgh Pirates being guaranteed the 10th pick after failing to sign their first round pick in 2012.

 

The Indians are already giving up their second round pick to the Yankees. They will now surrender their competitive balance pick (69th overall) as compensation for signing Bourn.

 

Bourn will immediately become the Indians new center-fielder, with Drew Stubbs and Michael Brantley likely platooning in left field. The Indians have made quite a splash this winter in free agency and trades, also signing Nick Swisher and acquiring Trevor Bauer in a deal with Arizona and Cincinnati earlier this offseason. Last week, the team also inked Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jason Giambi to minor league deals.

 

Next up for Scott Boras, find a similar situation for Kyle Lohse, who has been similarly handicapped after rejecting the qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals.

Elbow Issues Threaten to Dethrone King Felix Extension
Category: MLB
Tags: MLB Seattle Mariners Felix Hernandez Hot Stove

 

Just three days ago, we sat here and commended the Seattle Mariners for their decision to extend Felix Hernandez with a record-setting contract. The news that the two sides had come to an agreement that would keep the ace right-hander in Seattle for the next 7 seasons was music to the ears for those of use that appreciate when the small market teams hold onto their weapons.

 

Now, with those three days having passed, comes news that the Mariners and Hernandez have yet to finalize the agreement. Apparently, if different sources are to be believed, an elbow issue has popped up during Hernandez's physical, throwing the deal into limbo while the two sides work out what to do next.

 

I guess we shouldn't be surprised at this stage. The 26-year-old Hernandez has carried quite a workload over the last 7 seasons, averaging 219 innings during that span. Narrowing that down to the last four seasons, Hernandez has thrown an average of 238 innings a season. That's a lot of innings for a pitcher that broke into the big leagues at the age of 19 and was immediately thrust into the role of team ace.

 

To put that into perspective, C.C. Sabathia has averaged 226 innings pitched during that span, and Justin Verlander has averaged 238. That said, Verlander is 29 and Sabathia 32, meaning that those two took on that burden at an age where their arms were more seasoned.

 

News of Hernandez's possible elbow issue will only serve to fuel the debate over whether an extension is wise at this stage. On one hand, when you have a talent like Hernandez, you lock him up, especially if your other talent is right there ready to join him and make the team competitive for a number of seasons. On the other hand, trading Hernandez prior to learning of his issue, would have netted the team an untold ransom of prospects that could have helped with the development process as well.

 

In the end, neither side of the argument wins when an a red flag goes up. Hopefully the two sides continue on the path they started down, and protect themselves with the proper language in which to ensure that neither gets handicapped by a poor decision.

 

Its a worthwhile gamble for both the Mariners and King Felix to take.

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