Saturday, February 23, 2013

CLOSER: Major League Players Reveal the Inside Pitch on Saving the Game

These are the guys who get the power hitter to swing through the last pitch of the World Series. They go toe-to-toe with Derek Jeter in the 8th. Challenge Roberto Clemente with high heat in the 9th. Get called in to face Jim Rice with the bases juiced and the game on the line. When their teams are in a jam, they never decline the ball.

The Closer.

Some are anonymous. Some are infamous. Some are journeymen. Some are the face of the franchise. Some are soft-spoken. Some are mitt-pounding “Mad Hungarians”. Some are mercurial. Some are models of consistency and reliability. Some have a rubber arm. Some spend their careers attempting to recover from or elude injury. Some are remembered for failure. Some are remembered for sheer dominance. Closers are a unique breed, but there is something that connects them all: The ninth inning.

In “CLOSER: Major League Players Reveal the Inside Pitch on Saving the Game”, Foreword by Brad Lidge (Running Press, March 2013), co-authors Kevin Neary and Leigh A. Tobin cover all of those who have owned in the ninth in an effort to get into the mind of the closer and trace the evolution of the position and the role. The book highlights all of the great closers, from all-time greats like Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Trevor Hoffman to lesser-known closers who proved their mettle under the bright lights like Joe Page, Steve Farr and Gene Garber.

They are a fraternity that includes Hall of Famers, Cy Young Award winners, All-Stars, MVPs and World Series Champions. They sport some of the most colorful monikers in the game—like “Wild Thing”, “Mad Dog”, “Rags”, “Quiz”, “Flash”, “K-Rod”, “Tug”, “Goose” and “Mo”. They come in all shapes and sizes—tall, short, bespectacled, hats-askew, clean-shaven and handlebar-mustachioed—but they are all the perfect mix of the mental and physical elements of the game.

For each and every one of the pitchers highlighted in CLOSER, they embraced the role and embraced the pressure-packed and adrenaline-filled moments. Some are hot-wired to be a closer. Most are not. They work on developing their go-to pitch—the forkball, the splitter, the submarine-style riser, the knuckler, the fastball, the unhittable drop curveball, the cutter; they build routines; work on control; develop the warrior mentality that will serve them when Josh Hamilton digs in with a 3-1 count. Closers must be dominant. They must be feared. Or they hand the ball to someone else.

There is no average outing for a closer and the book delves into the unrelenting pressure and scrutiny in a game that demands perfection. It’s hard to put their moments on the mound into words, but CLOSER does it extremely well.  

CLOSER also covers:
*How some pitchers reinvent themselves as closers by plan or necessity.
*How in the earlier eras of the relief pitcher, the three-inning save was commonplace.
*How smaller pitching staffs in earlier eras meant that pitchers couldn’t be as specialized.
*The tragic story of Donnie Moore.
*Joe Carter’s dramatic 1993 World Series ending blast off of Mitch Williams.
*John Rocker’s controversial interview with Sports Illustrated that seemingly derailed his career.
*The near unanimous revelations of the two most respected closers in baseball history.

Neary and Tobin’s prose is humorous and insightful as they offer readers all of the insights and anecdotes of those men who thrive in the late innings. They highlight the shining moments and memorable disasters and baseball fans will relish every single page.  

CLOSER splits the great relief pitchers in the history of the game into three categories—“The Early Years”, “The Transition Years” and “The Modern Day Closer”—so that it can more accurately celebrate the greatest performers in the eras they played. As the game has changed and become more specialized, so has the role of the closer.

We celebrate all of the pitchers from Elroy Face to Fernando Rodney with full knowledge that different things were asked of different pitchers throughout the years, but all were elite closers and specialized in one thing—getting Major League hitters out.  

About the Authors
Kevin Neary has been a fan of the game his entire life. He worked with the Philadelphia Phillies for nine years. For the past twenty years he has worked for the Walt Disney Company, and is the co-author of Major League Dads.

Leigh A. Tobin worked for the Philadelphia Phillies for more than twenty years in PR as the writer of the club’s publications and later as the Director of Media Relations. She is the co-author of Major League Dads.

“CLOSER: Major League Players Reveal the Inside Pitch on Saving the Game” 
Authors: Kevin Neary and Leigh A. Tobin, Foreword by Brad Lidge
Publisher: Running Press Format: Hardcover; 288 pages;
Retail Price: $15.00
ISBN-13: 978-0-7624-4679-7
Publication Date: March 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

2013 Free Agent Squad



Spring Training is in full swing. Pitchers and catchers reported to Florida or Arizona earlier this week, and now the position players have filtered in to begin full squad workouts.  However, there are still plenty of "MLB" players at home just waiting to be invited to camp.  The team below is a 25-man roster composed of players that are free agents and appeared in at least 1 MLB game last season.

Catcher:
Matt Treanor - 36 G, .175/.563, 11 R, 6 XBH, 10 RBI, -0.4 WAR.

Infielders:
Carlos Lee/1B - 147 G, .264/.697, 53 R, 27 DBL, 9 HR, 77 RBI, -0.4 WAR.

Adam Kennedy/UTL - 86 G, .262/.702, 22 R, 11 XBH, 16 RBI, 0.2 WAR.

Ryan Theriot/UTL - 104 G, .270/.637, 45 R, 16 DBL, 28 RBI, 13 SB, -0.4 WAR.

Scott Rolen/3B - 92 G, .245/.716, 26 R, 17 DBL, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 0.3 WAR.

Orlando Hudson/UTL - 86 G, .204/.572, 21 R, 14 XBH, 28 RBI, 6 SB, -0.1 WAR.

Aubrey Huff/1B/OF - 52 G, .192/.608, 7 R, 5 XBH, 7 RBI, 0.2 WAR.

Adrian Cardenas/2B/OF - 45 G, .183/.552, 5 R, 6 DBL, 2 RBI, -0.3 WAR.

Munenori Kawasaki/UTL - 61 G, .192/.459, 13 R, 7 RBI, -0.4 WAR.

Outfielders:
Johnny Damon - 64 G, .222/.610, 25 R, 12 XBH, 19 RBI, 4 SB, 0.1 WAR.

Scott Podsednik - 63 G, .302/.674, 19 R, 8 XBH, 12 RBI, 8 SB, 0.3 WAR.

Bobby Abreu - 100 G, .242/.693, 29 R, 15 XBH, 24 RBI, 6 SB, -0.4 WAR.

Lineup:
1. Scott Podsednik/CF
2. Adam Kennedy/2B
3. Bobby Abreu/RF
4. Carlos Lee/DH
5. Scott Rolen/3B
6. Johnny Damon/LF
7. Ryan Theriot/SS
8. Aubrey Huff/1B
9. Matt Treanor/C

Rotation:
Kyle Lohse - 33 GS, 211 IP, 16 W, 143 K, 2.28/1.09, 3.9 WAR.

Carlos Zambrano - 35 G, 20 GS, 132.1 IP, 7 W, 95 K, 4.49/1.50, 0.2 WAR.

Chris Young - 20 GS, 115 IP, 4 W, 80 K, 4.15/1.35, 0.7 WAR.

Carl Pavano - 11 GS, 63 IP, 2 W, 33 K, 6.00/1.40, -0.8 WAR.

Roy Oswalt - 17 G, 9 GS, 59 IP, 4 W, 59 K, 5.80/1.53, -0.3 WAR.

Bullpen:
Jose Valverde - 71 G, 69 IP, 3 W, 35 SV, 48 K, 3.78/1.25, 0.5 WAR.

Juan Cruz - 43 G, 35.2 IP, 1 W, 3 SV, 33 K, 2.78/1.63, 0.6 WAR.

Francisco Rodriguez - 78 G, 72 IP, 2 W, 3 SV, 72 K, 4.38/1.33, -0.2 WAR.

Todd Coffey - 23 G, 19.1 IP, 1 W, 18 K, 4.66/1.35, -0.1 WAR.

Guillermo Mota - 26 G, 20.2 IP, 24 K, 5.23/1.55, -0.4 WAR.

Justin Hampson - 13 G, 10 IP, 4 K, 1.80/1.10, 0.1 WAR.

Derek Lowe - 38 G, 21 GS, 142.2 IP, 9 W, 55 K, 5.11/1.62, -0.4 WAR.

Livan Hernandez - 44 G, 67.1 IP, 4 W, 1 SV, 48 K, 6.42/1.49, -1.5 WAR.

Offense Notes:
I'm making Aubrey Huff my backup/emergency catcher, he's big enough to block pitches...really, all options suck.  Not even one of the available players under the stipulations of appearing in the Major Leagues last year has even caught an inning in the minors.

Pitching Notes:
I went with 13 pitchers because I was unable to carry a true backup catcher, cutting down 1 position player. Kyle Lohse is the staff ace.  Valverde will serve as the closer, with Cruz and K-Rod handling setup duties.  Hampson is the LOOGY.  Derek Lowe will serve as the swingman. 

Reserves:
Jamie Moyer, JC Romero, Kip Wells, Brian Wilson, Dustin Moseley, Randy Wolf, Willie Harris, Carl Pavano, Chien-Ming Wang, Brad Penny, Francisco Cordero, Jose Contreras, Matt Maloney, Mike MacDougal, Ryota Igarashi, Roman Colon, Enerio Del Rosario, Vinnie Chulk, Jason Repko, Jack Egbert, Josh Bell, Brett Carroll, and Jason Bartlett.

*Free agent information gathered with the use of both MLBTradeRumors.com and BaseballAmerica.com

Monday, February 11, 2013

2013 Minor League Contract Team

It's that time of year when pitchers and catchers report to spring training to get some early workouts in and wait around for the rest of the team to show and go through stretching, drills, and games that are nothing more than glorified practice sessions. The players in this post were brought together to create a 25-man roster constructed from guys signed to minor league contracts. They are not guaranteed a MLB job, but they all want it, and if they remained together they could possibly outperform the Houston Astros. Check it out...

Catcher:
Miguel Olivo/Reds - 87 G, .222/.620, 27 R, 14 DBL, 12 HR, 29 RBI, 0.4 WAR.

Rod Barajas/Diamondbacks - 104 G, .206/.625, 29 R, 11 DBL, 11 HR, 31 RBI, -1.0 WAR.

First Base:
Travis Ishikawa/Orioles - 94 G, .257/.757, 19 R, 17 XBH, 30 RBI, 0.5 WAR.

Juan Rivera/Yankees - 109 G, .244/.661, 30 R, 14 DBL, 9 HR, 47 RBI, -0.9 WAR.

Second Base:
Omar Quintanilla/Mets - 65 G, .243/.673, 25 R, 12 XBH, 16 RBI, 0.1 WAR.

Third Base:
Mike Fontenot/Rays - 47 G, .289/.683, 13 R, 5 RBI, 0.1 WAR.

Short Stop:
Cody Ransom/Padres - 90 G, .220/.722, 29 R, 14 DBL, 11 HR, 42 RBI, 0.3 WAR.

Utility Infielder:
Yuniesky Betancourt/Phillies - 57 G, .228/.656, 21 R, 22 XBH, 36 RBI, -1.2 WAR.

Donnie Murphy/Brewers - 52 G, .216/.661, 13 R, 11 XBH, 12 RBI, -0.3 WAR.

Outfield:
Austin Kearns/Marlins - 87 G, .245/.733, 21 R, 10 XBH, 16 RBI, 0.3 WAR.

Rick Ankiel/Astros - 68 G, .228/.694, 15 R, 17 XBH, 15 RBI, -0.8 WAR.

Ryan Sweeney/Red Sox - 63 G, .260/.675, 22 R, 19 DBL, 16 RBI, 0.5 WAR.

Shelley Duncan/Rays- 81 G, .203/.676, 29 R, 10 DBL, 11 HR, 31 RBI, -0.6 WAR.

Lineup:
1. Ryan Sweeney/CF
2. Mike Fontenot/3B
3. Travis Ishikawa/1B
4. Austin Kearns/RF
5. Juan Rivera/DH
6. Cody Ransom/SS
7. Shelley Duncan/LF
8. Omar Quintanilla/2B
9. Miguel Olivo/C

Rotation:
Freddy Garcia/Padres - 30 G, 17 GS, 107.1 IP, 7 W, 89 K, 5.20/1.37, 0.0 WAR.

Aaron Cook/Phillies - 18 GS, 94 IP, 4 W, 20 K, 5.65/1.47, -1.3 WAR.

Erik Bedard/Astros - 24 GS, 125.2 IP, 7 W, 118 K, 5.02/1.47, -0.8 WAR.

Miguel Batista/Rockies - 35 G, 5 GS, 52.2 IP, 1 W, 36 K, 4.61/1.73, -0.2 WAR.

Chris Volstad/Rockies - 21 GS, 111.1 IP, 3 W, 61 K, 6.31/1.62, -1.9 WAR.

Bullpen:
Juan Cruz/Phillies - 43 G, 35.2 IP, 1 W, 3 SV, 14 HLD, 33 K, 2.78/1.63, 0.6 WAR.

Matt Capps/Indians - 30 G, 29.1 IP, 1 W, 14 SV, 18 K, 3.68/1.09, 0.2 WAR.

LaTroy Hawkins/Mets - 48 G, 42 IP, 2 W, 1 SV, 6 HLD, 23 K, 3.64/1.38, -0.1 WAR.

Scott Atchison/Mets - 42 G, 51.1 IP, 2 W, 5 HLD, 36 K, 1.58/0.99, 1.7 WAR.

Tim Byrdak/Mets - 56 G, 30.2 IP, 2 W, 17 HLD, 34 K, 4.40/1.17, 0.0 WAR.

Jamey Wright/Rays - 66 G, 67.2 IP, 5 W, 6 HLD, 54 K, 3.72/1.51, 0.0 WAR.

Mark Lowe/Dodgers - 36 G, 39.1 IP, 1 HLD, 28 K, 3.43/1.22, 0.7 WAR.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Tuesday, February 05, 2013