Baseball is seeing a sixth straight season in which runs are declining. The trendline since 2006, on a runs-per-game basis, looks like this: 9.72, 9.59, 9.30, 9.23, 8.77, 8.57, 8.55. Meanwhile, teams have access to more data and analytics on an increasing basis. Are the trends coincidental? Joe Maddon thinks not.
This has been a bad week for any team hoping to fill an organization hole at second base by making a big free agent splash in the next couple of years. Indeed, the growing trend in which teams hand out long and often expensive contract extensions to their stars before they ever reach the open market has been particularly noteworthy at second base. As a result, it could be many years before a star at that position can be had through free agency.
Someone forgot to tell the Yankees that run scoring is down this year.
About 10 minutes after the ball had landed, with the ballpark still reverberating from what it just had seen, Raul Lopez quietly put his hand on the shoulder of his only son, Christian, as they sat in an office within the bowels of Yankee Stadium.
Brewers star Ryan Braun's $105 million, five-year contract extension through the 2020 season seemed like it came out of nowhere, since Braun already had a deal in place that kept him in Milwaukee through 2015.
Every so often life assigns you a family: First at birth (when you meet the bozos who share your surname), again in college (when you're forcibly bunked with a stranger from Cincinnati) and again at marriage (when annexed by in-laws who suddenly call you "son"). In each case, you didn't choose these people, they certainly didn't choose you, but chance -- that sadistic matchmaker -- has thrown you together for life.
The rest of Derek Jeter's career begins next week. Coming off the worst of his 15 seasons and an ugly contract negotiation with the Yankees, Jeter will step into the batting cage with New York hitting coach Kevin Long to begin his spring training three weeks before the team's first full workout.
On September 4 at Target Field, the Twins' Delmon Young lifted a third inning flyball that Rangers centerfielder Josh Hamilton tracked back to the wall over his right shoulder. Upon hitting the warning track, Hamilton leaped, caught the ball, and slammed his left side into the padded centerfield wall. Hamilton grounded out in the top of the fourth, then, after playing the field in the bottom of that inning, was replaced in the field in the bottom of the fifth. He didn't play again until October 1.
NEW YORK -- A.J. Burnett threw a solid, skeptics-defying 97-pitch outing on Tuesday night.
With the 2010 regular season concluded, this final edition of Awards Watch presents my best guesses at to how the voting will shake out for the three major awards in each league. Be sure to check back in November to see how I did.
It turns out, after all the shout and tumult, the major award races aren't as difficult or controversial as you were led to believe weeks ago. It's amazing how much clearer issues become when you actually wait for the season to play out and postseason berths to be decided. Imagine that.
While the playoff races are just about decided, a few of the awards races will remain hot topics for debate until the results are announced later this month. The American League Cy Young award, the AL MVP and the National League Rookie of the Year could be among the closest and/or most controversial in years.
With just two weeks left in the regular season, there is still surprisingly little decided with regard to the major awards and a solid chance that the final two weeks do little to clarify matters. One of the questions readers of this column might ask is, "Where's Tulo?" The Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki has been on another planet this month, hitting .351/.407/1.000 in September with 14 home runs and 34 RBIs. Tulo's 14 homers and 31 RBIs over a recent 15-game stretch marked the most impressive 15-game outburst in September in baseball history, passing Hank Greenberg's 12-homers, and 32 RBIs in 15 games in September 1940. Tulowitzki, however, has not cracked my top three for National League Most Valuable Player.
With just three weeks left in the season, debates are starting to rage about the major awards in both leagues, and the races for all six major awards are tightening up. The one possible exception is the National League MVP race, where the prospect of a the first hitting Triple Crown in 43 years has added a unique level of drama to the one race where a clear winner would otherwise seem to have emerged. For some, this is time to choose sides and dig in their heels. Here at Awards Watch, those ideological battles add another layer of mystery and suspense to these already-compelling races.
With just four weeks left in the regular season, Awards Watch is moving into the lightning round. Instead of looking at one award per week on a rotating basis, I will now examine all three awards every Monday. In order to do that, I'm trimming my leader lists from the top five to the top three. With the possible exception of the American League Cy Young, where there has been considerable turnover in just the last two weeks, there seems to be little chance of an award winner emerging from beyond the current top three in each category. Our focus now becomes the week-to-week surges and slumps that could give one of the three players an edge over the others. Hold on tight, here we go ...
My fifth look at the Most Valuable Player races finds two top American League contenders knocked out of the race by injuries -- one permanently and one literally, as Kevin Youkilis had season-ending thumb surgery on Friday and Justin Morneau is continuing to struggle with the after affects of a concussion suffered in early July. Still, the AL award looks like a three-man race, while the NL chase continues to be dominated by two players who will do battle over the next three days for their division lead. Further down the NL list, we find this is a big year for second basemen in the senior circuit, despite Chase Utley's continued absence.
At no point this season has the contrast between the depth of the rookie fields in the American and National Leagues been as strong as it is right now. The challenge in ranking the top five candidates in the AL is finding a fifth rookie worth including. The challenge in ranking the top five candidates in the NL is paring down a list of 12 while keeping an eye on more than another dozen top prospects and hot performers. Consider that among those who didn't make my NL list this week are the major league rookie home run leader Tyler Colvin (16 homers), rookie RBI leader Ike Davis (53 RBIs, plus 15 homers, and this bobblehead), the red-hot Chris Johnson of the Astros (.341/.371/.530) and Jon Jay of the Cardinals (.378/.427/.571) -- who inspired St. Louis to trade 2008 All-Star Ryan Ludwick -- Brewers closer John Axford, and left-handed Braves reliever Jonny Venters (1.21 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 52 innings). That list doesn't include the many top prospects called up mid-season and having
The top contenders continue to separate from the pack in my fourth look at the Most Valuable Player races. Yet, while the lower-ballot contenders in the American League simply shuffle positions, there is again massive turnover in the National League, where the field of honorable-mention candidates includes roughly 20 players, all of whom could wind up receiving votes in October (30 men received votes for NL MVP in 2009).
We're halfway through a terrific baseball season. So of course, it's time for the envelopes please ...
Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long put second baseman Robinson Cano under a strict order in spring training this year: never swing at the first pitch.
Robinson Cano stories from the SI Vault
Two very different races are emerging in this year's Most Valuable Player chase. In the American League, three primary candidates are beginning to separate themselves from the pack and should generate a heated debate about the relative value of each as the season progresses. In the National League, a lack of break-out candidates has resulted in a great deal of turnover with five new names making the list, one of them debuting at number-one, plus a sixth returning after falling off the list last week. The comparatively weak NL field makes one wonder if this might be the first time in 18 years that an MVP award is won by a pitcher.
Starting today, and for the remainder of the regular season, I will take a weekly look at the competition for baseball's major awards by ranking the top five candidates in each league for Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year honors, taking on one award per week on a rotating basis (MVP today, Cy Young next week, Rookie of the Year the week after, repeat). To be sure, it's still early in the season but it's not unusual for candidates to announce themselves by now and in some cases -- like Zack Greinke did with the AL Cy Young last year -- put a stranglehold on a major award before the calendar officially turns to summer.
1. Let's be honest: The Angels didn't show well in New York. In three games at Yankee Stadium, Los Angeles went 0-3, committed seven errors, walked 17 batters and looked jittery. I am starting to believe that there really is something to my East Coast Baseball theory. West Coast teams went 1-6 this postseason in New York, Philadelphia and Boston. That makes West Coast teams 3-19 (.136) when they come to the Northeast for postseason baseball since 2003, and 10-38 (.208) in the wild-card era. The advantage may be that Northeast teams play in postseason-type environments all year long, where baseball means so much to the fan base that every 0-for-12 streak is a two-hour talk radio rant.
ANAHEIM -- CC Sabathia's 89th pitch on Tuesday night came on an 0-2 count against Angels catcher Mike Napoli, with one out in the top of the seventh inning and Sabathia's Yankees leading 5-1. The pitch was significant not only because of its result -- Sabathia struck out Napoli on a foul tip to Jorge Posada -- but because it put Sabathia's transcendent performance into stark relief against that of the Angels' starter, Scott Kazmir, who threw 89 pitches of his own. Whereas Sabathia's first 89 pitches resulted in 20 Angels outs, Kazmir's 89 pitches produced just 12 Yankees outs, and manager Mike Scioscia pulled him after he allowed a single to the first batter he faced in the top of the fifth.
NEW YORK -- Two Tuesdays ago, on the afternoon before these playoffs began, television cameramen and reporters massed around Alex Rodriguez's locker in the Yankees clubhouse, as they usually do, waiting for him to come in from a workout and dispense a few of his typically banal morsels. Relief pitcher Phil Coke didn't even seem to notice. First, Coke's locker has been two away from A-Rod's for a full season now, and he's used to the media crush. Second, Coke's attention was on this day diverted by a gift that had shown up on his chair that morning, as these things tend to do when you're a member of the Yankees: a brand new media player, from whom he did not know. "It's cool," Coke said. "It plays music, it plays movies, it stores photos." Someone pointed out that they lend out the machines in first class of some airlines. "I wouldn't know," Coke said. "I've never been on a plane like that."
1. Tonight for Game 3 of the NLCS the Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda becomes the third pitcher in as many days to start a championship series game after not starting in the division series. The Phillies' Pedro Martinez, of course, was masterful on Friday, throwing seven shutout innings and allowing only two hits and no walks (though Philadelphia's bullpen blew the lead and the game). The Angels' Joe Saunders tossed seven innings of two-run ball last night, exiting in a 2-2 tie, a game that the Yankees won 4-3 in the 13th inning.
NEW YORK -- It was cold, but not freezing, and it rained, but only a little and never hard.
BOSTON (AP) -- Derek Jeter hit the first pitch of the game for one of New York's five homers off Josh Beckett, CC Sabathia became the majors' first 15-game winner, and the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 8-4 Sunday night.
Alex Rodriguez will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a labral tear on his right hip and the procedure is expected to keep him out six to nine weeks. That would have him returning sometime in May. In the ultra-competitive AL East, which sent the Rays and Red Sox to the playoffs last year, this could be a decisive blow against the Yankees. Then again, contrary to the conventional wisdom, it may not matter much at all.
On Tuesday the Mets made headlines at the winter meetings by signing closer Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year deal. On Wednesday, the Yankees went bigger, handing out a seven-year, $161 million deal -- the largest contract ever for a pitcher -- to CC Sabathia. But where Mets general manager Omar Minaya got a bargain and minimized his team's exposure to risk, Yankees GM Brian Cashman bet a whole lot of money on a very big pitcher's ability to stay healthy for a long time.
For the purposes of this exercise, I'll assume there's no turning back the clock. Colleague Joe Sheehan rightly upbraided Yankees GM Brian Cashman for failing to offer Bobby Abreu and Andy Pettitte arbitration, and those decisions are in the books; I won't cheat by hitting the magic "undo" button. We move on.
Tuesday night's Red Sox win made it official: The Yankees will miss the 2008 playoffs, making this the first season in the Division Series era in which October will kick off without the Bronx Bombers. That's a reason for celebration in many quarters, and a cause for distress in others, but the team's failure to make the postseason inspires one question from everyone: What now?
Everyone already knows about the man-crush* I have on Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.
Jason Giambi launched a blast and later a game-winning bullet, rocking the aging house for what was surely the last Yankees-Red Sox game at this Yankee Stadium. The heroics by the lame-duck former star at the about-to-be-demolished ballpark salvaged a game, spared some more bad feelings and brought rare glee. Yet, they only temporarily put off thoughts of the storied club's inevitable elimination.
These players came up just short of the top 50. To view the players ranked 50-26, click here.
Plus the guys talk about their VMA competition and the new Jonas show
Latest in a series of scouting reports provided to SI.com by the network of former scouts, players, coaches and executives at the Baseline Group. See below for past reports.
The Yankees and Robinson Cano have reached a preliminary agreement on a contract that will guarantee him $30 million over four years and could pay him about $56 million over six years. Once contract language and a physical are completed, the deal will be done.
I. Godzilla's rampage: Originally created after World War II as a filmographic metaphor for the United States and its atomic devastation, Godzilla terrorized Japan for half a century over 28 Toho Company movies. In July, the tables were turned when Japanese native Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui obliterated American League pitching over an amazing 31-day stretch.
As the regular season trudges on and fewer and fewer roster moves are available to fantasy owners on the fringes of contention, it becomes imperative to know which players are having a material impact on their season-long numbers following slow and hot starts. In order to better look at that, let's turn to PROTRADE.com's Sports Stock Market, where players are always being traded up and down, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Oh, and if you don't think Justin Upton will be at the top of this list come next Thursday, you're crazier than Fitzcarraldo ...
Some fantasy news, analysis, and opinion delivered through the framework of Tuesday night's box scores:
The midpoint of the season is a good time to do a little maintenance. You change the oil in your car every few months. You see the dentist once a year. So why not do the equivalent on your fantasy team? The season is slightly more than half over, which makes "checking the oil" very easy. For example, you should verify your innings pitched is on pace with league requirements. Double your current innings and see if you're over the limit.
Emerging, finally, from an exit at Yankee Stadium, Roger Clemens strode into the last hour of golden daylight last Saturday. He wore black slacks, a royal blue dress shirt and a fresh pruning from the team barber. Down below, in a corridor outside the Yankees' clubhouse, a handful of yellow-shirted security guards were able to smile at last. One of them clicked open a pen and ran a line of black ink through clemens on a sheet of paper listing all of the New York players. Clemens's name, again, was the last to be crossed out, some two hours after the Yankees' 11-8 win over the Mets had ended. Only now could the guards go home.
I. '03 World Series heroes: During the Marlins stunning World Series upset of the Yankees back in 2003, a pair of youthful hurlers -- Brad Penny and Josh Beckett -- led the way for the Fish. At the tender age of 25, Penny prevailed in Games 1 and 5, posting a 2.19 ERA. And a 23-year-old Beckett earned series MVP honors after tossing a complete-game shutout in definitive Game 6 (pitching on just three days rest).
In concept, the Ultimate Fantasy Draft is pretty simple: If you were starting a team from scratch, which players would you build around? Here's Nos. 21-30. (Last year's rankings in parenthesis.)
After 14 straight postseason appearances, the Yankees' dominance of the AL East should continue, albeit amid the kind of soap opera atmosphere that Joe Torre, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada & Co. have long tried to avoid. To address some unrest in the clubhouse, G.M. Brian Cashman moved the volatile Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson, neither of whom was a fantasy force in his final season in the Bronx.
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