Author Archives | Brett Kettyle

Verlander MVP talk picks up steam

While the Detroit Tigers have taken control of the AL Central, ace pitcher Justin Verlander has a similarly commanding lead in the AL Cy Young race and could win the pitching triple crown.

Verlander, who recently won his 22nd game of the year, is the American League Leader in all three Triple Crown stats; wins, strikeouts and ERA. Verlander is actually the MLB leader in two of those statistics wins and strikeouts.

While CC Sabathia and Jared Weaver will try to win the award down the stretch, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Verlander taking the award home if he wins the Triple Crown.

Even with the statistical revolution in baseball, Verlander stands a terrific chance of taking the award. He leads all pitchers in rWAR and is third overall in fWAR. His underlying statistics are terrific and regardless of the stats flaw, people will certainly take notice if Verlander becomes the first pitcher to win 25 games since 1990 and it may happen with the pace and streak he is on.

At this point Verlander would need a total collapse to not win it and if he does hit the 25-win plateau while leading the Tigers into the playoffs, he should draw significant MVP consideration.

Unlike Roy Halladay, who is pitching for a team full of aces, Verlander has pretty much been the only reliable starter in the Tigers staff (before they acquired Doug Fister) and leads an almost certain playoff team in WAR (whether you use fWAR or rWAR).

Dennis Eckersley is the last pitcher to win an MVP award and that was in 1992. To put the difficulty of a pitcher winning it in perspective, last year Roy Halladay finished sixth in the NL race.

While the American League has a number of strong MVP candidates, nobody has separated themselves from the field as much as J.V. and if he wins the Pitching Triple Crown, you can count on him racking in a ton of votes. And don’t forget about his no-hitter in May when he was one pitch away from a perfect game.

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for www.BravesFTW.com. He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Pirates implosion one for the ages

Just a month and a half ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates were tied for first place in the NL Central and primed to finish above .500 for the first time since 1992…just weeks later, the team is back in fourth place and 11 games under  the .500 mark.

A Cinderella, feel good story for the majority of the season, we took a look at the Pirates back on July 25th and pointed out that the Pirates would likely come back to earth, saying: “While the Pirates have been a terrific story so far, they will be hard pressed to hold off the Brewers and Cards.”

At the time, the Pirates were being held together by lots of luck, a solid pitching staff and Andrew McCutchen. The team was playing above their Pythagorean record and barely had a positive run differential. Their record was generous with stats like that. Going down the wire, the pitching staff was sitting 5th in ERA but we warned would “likely regress in the second half.”

Photo/Wikimedia Commons

At the time, the Pirates were 10th in the league in FIP, and their pitching staff has regressed as expected. While they are still average (currently eighth in the league) the staff has been unable to make up for the team’s continued stagnant offense (14th in OPS).

Andrew McCutchen, the team’s lone offensive standout throughout the first half has fallen off as well. He already had produced 4.6 fWAR at the time of the last writing, yet has less than 1 over the past month.

Since July 25th, McCutchen has hit just .240 with a .767 OPS.

Coincidentally, the Pirates first game after that earlier article came out was the 19-inning loss against the Atlanta Braves that came compliments of a blind umpire. Seeing as how the Pirates were lucky throughout the first half of the season, maybe this incredible loss that ended on the controversial call was the turning point in the Pirates season.

The Pirates are just 12-29 since July 25th and have fallen to 19.5 games behind the division leading Brewers; creating one of the quickest implosions in MLB in a while.

It appears that the series with the Atlanta Braves set the Pirates spiraling down. It would almost make sense, seeing as how the Pirates last winning season was ended with Sid Bream’s slide.

Luckily for Pirates fans, the team held onto the majority of its minor league players at the deadline (their only relevant acquisitions were minor ones for Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee) and spent a lot of money signing highly rated draft picks. With another losing season now a near certainty, Pirate fans can at least look at this season’s first half and their terrific draft for good things to come in the future.

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for www.BravesFTW.com. He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Kimbrel saves record may lead to ROY

Craig Kimbrel set a new record In the Atlanta Braves 3-1 win over the Washington Nationals this past week for one of the most pressure-filled positions in major league sports. The closer walked off the mound with a new record for most saves by a rookie.

Turner Field Photo/Wikimedia Commons

With his 41st save, that came when he struck out Michael Morse, Kimbrel broke the record set just a year ago by former Braves prospect Neftali Feliz who is now with the Texas Rangers.

In recent years, more teams have been willing to go with rookie closers but none have been as dominant as Kimbrel. In the American League, closers Andrew Bailey and Feliz have won the Rookie of the Year award, something Kimbrel may do with one more spectacular month.

While the save is a somewhat useless statistic (there are a number of ways to get a save, including giving up two runs while recording a single out) Kimbrel’s season deserves the recognition that this record will give him. He is having arguably the best season of any rookie relief pitcher since the save became an official MLB statistic in 1969.

Since that time, no rookie reliever has struck out batters at a better rate (14.66 K/9) or posted as low an FIP (1.13) as Kimbrel currently has. With a month still left in the season, the reliever is already tied for second in fWAR for rookie relievers over that time and has pitched over 90 fewer innings than leader Mark Eichhorn who wasn’t a full time closer.

But Kimbrel isn’t just having a fantastic season by rookie standards; he is having one of the best relief seasons in history. Only Eric Gagne has ever posted a better FIP (0.86) over a full season than Kimbrel’s current mark. Only five relievers in MLB history have a higher strikeout rate than the one Kimbrel carries into September.

Heading into September, Kimbrel has a streak of 33.2 consecutive scoreless innings and last allowed a run on June 11th. Over that time he has struck out 15.77 batters per nine innings; a staggering stat.

If Kimbrel continue to pitch as like he has the season’s first five months, he will finish with the best relief season since Eric Gagne’s perfect year in 2003 and should walk away with the Rookie of the Year award.

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for www.BravesFTW.com. He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Jeter may collect more Yankees records

The New York Yankees have arguably the most history of any American professional sports team with 27 World Series Championships and dozens of Hall of Fame Players.

From murderer’s row to Mr. October the Yankees featured talented lineups filled with stars. Recently, Mr. November, Derek Jeter has topped all other Yankees in some select categories.

Jeter, the only Yankees player ever to join the 3,000 hit club in MLB, also passed Mickey Mantle for first place in

Photo/Keith Allison Wikimedia

games played. A feat that, while much less relevant than if Jeter had the career WAR record (which he has no shot of obtaining, as Babe Ruth holds a tremendous lead) it stands as a testament to The Captain’s legacy and what he has meant to the Yankee Franchise.

The Yankee record books are scattered with Jeter’s name. He is in the top 10 of over a dozen categories and is also first in at-bats, plate appearances, hits and stolen bases.

Before this past offseason, Jeter signed a four year deal (although the fourth year can be bought out) to keep him in a Yankees uniform. In the midst of his 17th season, if he plays through the duration of his contract he will have 20 years in the big leagues; all with the Yankees unless he approved a trade. But that’s unlikely and could start a riot in the Bronx.

Many Yankee records are out of reach, especially since Jeter is not a power hitter, however, he will have a chance to break some more records in the future.

Currently, Jeter is 205 runs scored behind Ruth for the all time Yankee lead. Throughout his career, Jeter has averaged over 100 per season so he should pass Ruth sometime in 2013.

Jeter is also close to breaking the Yankee record for doubles, as he currently sits just 46 behind Lou Gehrig. He could break that record by the end of next season.

Down the road, the Captain will have a shot to break the franchise record for total bases. He is currently over 800 behind Ruth and would likely need a full three seasons to make a run at the mark.

In a number of categories, Jeter will finish in the top 5 behind some combination of Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. While Jeter’s best days may be behind him, the Yankee Captain will continue moving up the Yankee record books as his illustrious career begins to wind down.

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for www.BravesFTW.com. He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Mike Flanagan suicide shocks O’s

Long time Oriole pitcher Mike Flanagan was found dead this past Wednesday after he committed suicide on his property in Maryland by way of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. He was apparently stressed out over financial issues and the current state of the Baltimore Orioles.

After his 18 year career in the Major Leagues ended, Flanagan worked for the Orioles as a pitching coach, in the front office and eventually, the broadcast booth. Flanagan was co-GM of the Orioles but was fired and put in the broadcast booth by owner Peter Angelos.

According to former teammate Ken Singleton, Flanagan was noticeably upset that some people online had partially blamed him for the poor state of the Orioles franchise.

Of course, the Orioles, who are in the midst of yet another losing season, can only blame their horrible owner Angelos for the team’s decline.

Flanagan spent the better part of 15 seasons with the Orioles making one All-Star appearance and winning the Cy Young Award in 1979. He also spent a few years with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was one of the best left-handed pitchers of his era and finished with a career record of 167-143 and won a World Series with the Orioles in 1983.

In the front office, Flanagan was instrumental in bringing Lee Mazilli in as manager for the Orioles. However, many within the organization wanted Sam Perlozzo to take over and Mazilli was eventually fired (reportedly for not signing a document supporting Rafael Palmiero after he was caught on steroids).

Many Orioles players have spoken about the untimely passing of their friend and teammate. Jim Palmer called Flanagan “family” while echoing sentiment from others who played on the Orioles.

Despite his strong 18 year career (which landed him in the Orioles Hall-of-Fame) Flanagan was clearly incredibly upset over things that went wrong after he stopped playing. Our thoughts go out to the Flanagan family with his untimely death.

Used with permission of the author.

Along with contributing to Sports Climax, Brett Kettyle is the Atlanta Braves Community Leader on Bleacher Report and maintains a Braves column for MTR Media. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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‘Z Implosion IV’ features five HRs and ejection

The plan for the night was for the Atlanta Braves to retire the Bobby Cox No. 6 jersey but after nailing five homeruns and dominating the game 10-4, they may have also sent Carlos Zambrano into retirement.

Zambrano has developed a reputation for losing his cool in recent years making this at least “Z Implosion IV.” Just last year Zambrano and former teammate Derrek Lee got in a heated argument that resulted in Z throwing a water cooler and don’t forget about the all-out fistfight that occurred in the Cubs dugout and the…well, you get the  picture.

Photo/Wikimedia Commons

At Turner Field on Friday night, Zambrano was the one getting sucker-punched by the hot Braves’ bats. Dan Uggla continued his hot 32-game hitting streak, smashing two home runs and Chipper Jones blasted a three-run shot in honor of Cox. Adding to the frustration for Z, Freddie Freeman hit a monster shot to the gap in left-center and ‘bat-licking’ Jose Constanza lined one just over the left field wall.

Following Uggla’s second homerun, Zambrano had had enough and threw two pitches at Chipper Jones (after hitting Uggla in his plate appearance between the homeruns) and was ejected by umpire Tim Timmons.

Did the Cubs team make a statement here?

When the Braves bench emptied after Chipper was thrown at, the Cubs bench barely moved indicating Z may have been on his own. Can you imagine of the Braves stormed the mound and Zambrano were left out there alone to take on an entire team in a slugfest?

After the Braves bench emptied, Zambrano hit the showers then hit the streets. Before manager Mike Quade had a chance to talk to him after the game, Zambrano had cleaned out his locker and told everyone he was retiring. Quade blasted Z when he learned his controversial player had taken his ball and gone home:

“His locker is cleaned out. He’s gone, I don’t know what else to make of that. I’m running a ballgame and I’ve got twenty-four guys that I care about, so I didn’t have time to speak to him.”

Although Zambrano was once an ace for the Cubs, his performance had declined in recent years even though he is only 30 years old. Last year Zambrano earned a demotion to the bullpen for two months before returning to the starting rotation.

He finished the season on a tear (8-0, 1.41 ERA) after returning to the rotation.

The Cubs may not complain after Z’s latest implosion. The hot-headed clubhouse cancer is still owed over $20 million which the team won’t have to pay if he retires.

Quade was understandably angry with Zambrano after the game, calling him out for leaving his teammates. At least this time the team won’t have to order Z to see a doctor.

Used with permission of the author.

Along with contributing to Sports Climax, Brett Kettyle is the Atlanta Braves Community Leader on Bleacher Report and maintains a Braves column for MTR Media. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Selig ignoring Jays sign-stealing storm

While the Jose Bautista has been a great story for the past year and a half, the Toronto Blue Jays have been unable to make as much noise as the Red Sox or Yankees in the challenging AL East.

Originally drafted by the Pirates back in 2000, Bautista finally made it to the show in 2004. After being tossed around the next several years like an unwanted gift with stints in Pittsburgh, K.C., Baltimore and Tampa Bay, he finally landed in Toronto midway through the 2008 campaign.

Here’s where this story takes a spin.

After hitting just 13 homeruns in his first full season with the Blue Jays in 113 games, Bautista came out of nowhere to

Photo/Keith Allison

lead the majors with 54 dingers in 2010. Leading the league again in 2011, many have questioned how Bautista went from fringe starter to one of the most feared sluggers in MLB.

While Bautista may simply have turned the proverbial corner, it’s also possible he may be the largest beneficiary of the Blue Jays stealing opponents’ signs.

ESPN surfaced a story about a man standing in the outfield signaling with his arms over his head in a variety of stances, looking like he was tipping opponents pitches. Toronto shrugged it off as rumors but opposing players have gone on record stating they spotted the same man signaling whether a fastball or off-speed pitch was coming at multiple games.

Since MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is sitting on his hands through yet another controversial incident, there is no way to force the Jays to admit to cheating but ESPN looked at some statistics and the results are shocking.

While all teams seemingly benefit from some sort of home-field advantage, the Blue Jays had a number of players with home-road splits that would make the pre-humidor Rockies blush.

The Jays enjoy a home-field advantage about seven times more than the average team. Either the best of the players comes out when they’re surrounded by ice hockey and Canadian health care, or the Jays are up to something like…well…like stealing signs.

Bautista is the biggest question mark among the Jays. Transforming from a guy who was bad even by Pirates standards to the star of the American League will turn lots of heads. Now, as more teams are picking up on the Jays sign-stealing (the Yankees and Red Sox have used multiple signs even with the bases empty) Bautista has taken a turn for the worse.

Since the 2011 All-Star game he is hitting just .214 with a pair of homeruns and an OPS over 400 points below his first half number.

As expected, the Jays players aren’t taking kindly to the rumors. Catcher J.P. Arencibia called the media clowns for the reports but normally when stories like this surface, there’s a respectable amount of truth to them.

Even if the issue somehow makes its way in front of Selig, don’t expect him to take action for fear of “ruining the integrity of the game.” Only in Selig’s mind are blatant miscalls by umpires and turning your back on cheating (think the early part of the steroids era) considered acceptable.

Just last year the Phillies bullpen coach was caught with binoculars yet the team was let off without punishment because “stealing signs has been around for 100 years.” While stealing signs doesn’t seem to be as widespread as steroids were in their heyday, it appears baseball may need  another gabber like Jose Canseco to bring the issue to light before it is taken seriously.

Used with permission of the author.

Along with contributing to Sports Climax, Brett Kettyle is the Atlanta Braves Community Leader on Bleacher Report and maintains a Braves column for MTR Media. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Are the Pirates for real?

While the four best teams in baseball currently reside in The East in places like Philly, Boston, the Bronx and Atlanta the most surprising teams of the 2011 season are in the Central Division.

After the Cleveland Indians surprised baseball fans and media by taking over the AL Central early in the season and starting with the best record in MLB, they continue to compete after All-Star break. As the overachievers on Lake Erie attempt to reclaim their division from the Detroit Tigers another central team has become even a bigger surprise.

To say the Pittsburgh Pirates have been struggling through recent years would be an understatement.

The team hasn’t had a winning season since the 1992 season when it finished first. Since winning three straight division titles, the Pirates organization had come apart at the seams following Sid Bream’s famous slide in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS.

Not having a winning season since ’92 sounds bad enough but here’s a worse stat; the Pirates haven’t finished higher than fourth since 1999 and finished the past four sitting dead last.

With the 4th lowest payroll in MLB, the team is currently tied for first place with the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers in the competitive NL Central but can they hang on?

Andrew McCutchen has been the only standout player on the team so far, producing 4.6 fWAR (no other player has 2) and has excelled both offensive and defensively. The pitching rotation has a number of solid starters but no real ace.

Going down the wire, the pitching staff who is 5th in ERA will likely regress in the second half. The plus-four run differential the Pirates have is third in the division, and they are currently playing above their Pythagorean record.

While the Pirates have been a terrific story so far, they will be hard pressed to hold off the Brewers and Cards and with the trade deadline just a week away, the team would be wise to hold onto all their top prospects.

The Pirates probably won’t win the division title and end their playoff drought this season but if they can finish over .500 it may trigger the start of a new era and help their fans forget Bream’s slide and Skip Carey’s voice bellowing “Braves win! Braves win! Braves win.”

MORE MLB: LAPD makes arrests in Dodgers beating case….again!

Used with permission of the author.

Along with contributing to Sports Climax, Brett Kettyle is the Atlanta Braves Community Leader on Bleacher Report and maintains a Braves column for MTR Media. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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With stars missing, ASG feels like Pro Bowl

While the All-Star game “counts” now, many players will not be participating in the 2011 edition of the event. A record 84 All-Stars were named this year and since players who are at the game and not playing are still announced, introductions may feel like the length of the Home Run Derby.

Several pitchers are unavailable for the game because they took the mound over the weekend while another group of players are on the Disabled List or simply opting not to play.

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who recently recorded his 3,000th hit, is taking some criticism for bowing out of the line-up despite being healthy and playing for his team in the days leading up to the All-Star break.  Jeter did recently come off the DL but after going 5-for-5 in a career day on Saturday, seems healthy enough to play in the game.

With all the players (equivalent to half of one teams roster) missing the game, it’s starting to feel less like anything that matters and more like the NFL Pro Bowl.

With the NFL game now before the Super Bowl, the best players are often unable to play. Even players not in the Super Bowl typically opt out due to small injuries.

While being named to the All-Star game is undoubtedly an honor, the game itself seems to be becoming less important with each passing year. With players switching leagues all the time, there is hardly a connection between many players and the league they suit up for.

While losing Jeter costs the game star power, losing the group of talented pitchers (including Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain) who pitched over the weekend hurts the game itself.

Besides Jeter, a few other game staples including Chipper Jones and Jose Reyes are not expected to play while they recover from injuries.

Without the best players playing, the ASG is beginning to feel like a gimmicky exhibition much like the NFL Pro Bowl than something that decides home field advantage for the World Series.

Used with permission of the author.

Along with contributing to Sports Climax, Brett Kettyle is the Atlanta Braves Community Leader on Bleacher Report and maintains a Braves column for MTR Media. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Yankees Cashman vs. A-Rod

As the New York Yankees and New York Mets battle in the Subway Series comments from Alex Rodriguez and Brian Cashman may have sparked a battle off the field over which team has the better player.

Before the series started, A-Rod stated, “They have the world’s greatest player playing shortstop over there, and the most exciting. I turn on the TV every time I get a chance to watch him.”

This season A-Rod has a fair point. Reyes is leading the NL in fWAR and has kept the Mets afloat in trying times (although a player in the Yankees division, Jose Bautista is leading the entire MLB).

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman took exception to Rodriguez’ comment, likely wanting people thinking the best player is on the Yankees.

In a statement Friday night, Cashman said there was more to being the best than electricity, and that consistency should be taken into account as well. He said, “Robinson Cano is the best player on the field.”

After talking more about Reyes, he said “Cano’s probably the premier player at his position in baseball, and he’s done it consistently now for two or three years.”

Cashman may have a point. While Reyes has accomplished more (at least stats wise) in his overall career, Cano has been the better player of the past couple years while Reyes has battled injury. In that period, Cano has produced 13.3 fWAR to Reyes’ 8.9.

Either way, it seems both are wrong. If talking about just this season, Jose Bautista has been better than Reyes. If talking about a period of a couple years, it’s hard to pick any hitter not named Albert Pujols.

On the field, the Yankees have won the first two games of the series of the game (and are in the midst of a seven game win streak) while the Mets have fallen back below .500 on the season. The Yankees have the best record in baseball after winning and maintain a 2.5 game lead on the Red Sox in the AL East.

Reyes left Saturday’s game early with tightness in his left hamstring which could cause concern to some Mets fans. Reyes missed time in 2009 with an injury to his right hamstring and has dealt with other leg issues at different times in his career. He is scheduled to have an MRI Sunday to determine the extent of the injury.

The Yankees took Saturday’s game 5-2 with the Subway Series wrapping up Sunday with Freddy Garcia facing R.A. Dickey.

Used with permission of the author.

Along with contributing to Sports Climax, Brett Kettyle is the Atlanta Braves Community Leader on Bleacher Report and maintains a Braves column for MTR Media. Follow Brett on Twitter.

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