Posts Tagged ‘Anibal Sanchez’

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Nothing was the same in the middle ground point of the American League last year….well sort of. The Tigers did win the division for the third consecutive year, but they were not pushed by their usual rivals in the Chicago White Sox. Instead, it was a mixture of a coming of age revival in Kansas City, as well as a rebuilt and recharged Indians club that made the division quite interesting for the first time in a while.

2013 Finish

1. Detroit Tigers (93-69)

2. Cleveland Indians (92-70)

3. Kansas City Royals (86-76)

4. Minnesota Twins (66-96)

5. Chicago White Sox (63-99)

Looking ahead at this year, and there is perhaps no division with more clubs in “win now” mode than the Central. The Royals are at a boiling point coming off of their progressive 2013 campaign, with their young studs at a complete maturity point and their rotation anchor, that they traded the farm for just last season, likely in his last year in town. Likewise, the Indians have taken a few losses from last year’s surprise Wild Card-winning club, but are still laden with young talent and a manager in Terry Francona that proved he still has the innate ability to get production out of players they failed to see in themselves. Even the bottom feeders in the division have made strides to get back into the mix. The Twins moved their all-universe catcher in Joe Mauer to first base to get more from him more often, while the White Sox had an understated, but clear overhaul on their roster to attempt to reverse the free fall they spun into last summer.

Even the champs have refused to stay pat. While the Central has been the Tigers’ lair, they saw fit to make some stunning changes, shipping out a franchise cornerstone in Prince Fielder after only two years, and moving on All-Star pitcher Doug Fister, all in the name finding some sort of edge that is more than just being a regular division champion, but fizzling out before becoming much more. Will the winter of change be enough to shake things up in the AL Central? Or will it be more of the same when the summer dust settles?

All-Division Team

1. Austin Jackson—Tigers, Center Field

2. Torii Hunter—Tigers, Right Field

3. Jason Kipnis—Indians, Second Base

4. Miguel Cabrera—Tigers, First Base

5. Victor Martinez—Tigers, Designated Hitter

6. Alex Gordon—Royals, Left Field

7. Salvador Perez—Royals, Catcher

8. Trevor Plouffe—Twins, Third Base

9. Astrubal Cabrera—Indians, Shortstop

Mauer's move from behind the plate is the only thing that keeps him from his division's dream team. He has only hit beneath .315 once in the past six years, including finishing 2nd in the AL batting race a year ago.

Mauer’s move from behind the plate is the only thing that keeps him from the division dream team. He has only hit beneath .315 once in the past six years, including finishing 2nd in the AL batting race a year ago.

Starting Pitcher: Justin Verlander—Tigers

Starting Pitcher: Max Scherzer—Tigers

Starting Pitcher: James Shields—Royals

Starting Pitcher: Chris Sale—White Sox

Right Handed Reliever: Aaron Crow—Royals

Lefty Handed Reliever: Tim Collins—Royals

Closer: Greg Holland—Royals

Cleveland's decision to build around the multi-talented Kipnis was a good one. The fourth-year second baseman leads sneaky balanced team with a pennant chase under its belt now.

Cleveland’s decision to build around the multi-talented Kipnis was a good one. The fourth-year second baseman leads sneaky balanced team with a pennant chase under its belt now.

Lineup

1. Tigers

2. Royals

3. Indians

4. White Sox

5. Twins

Just taking a look back up at the all-division lineup tells you all you need to know about the potency of the Tigers lineup. Even without Fielder, their 1-6 of Ian Kinsler, Hunter, Cabrera, Martinez, Jackson and Alex Avila is just a gauntlet. However the Royals have a relentless balance of speed and line drive hitters, built around the ability to score in bunches. Likewise, the Indians have a lineup that could be more potent this year than last, as their core continues to develop.

Heart of the Lineup

1. Tigers

2. Royals

3. Indians

4. White Sox

5. Twins

Cabrera is the best hitter alive, and has won the previous three AL batting titles and previous two MVPs. Simply put, he’s better than the heart of a few teams lineups himself. However, KC could see an upswing in production from the heart of its lineup with the decision to move Gordon back into it, just as the White Sox should be more potent with the addition of Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu.

Table Setters

1. Tigers

2. Royals

3. Indians

4. White Sox

5. Twins

The place that the Tigers get most noticeably better is at the top of their lineup, by adding a bonafide speed/contact/power threat in Kinsler to join the ageless Hunter. But the addition of Norichika Aoki (.356 on-base %) in Kansas City, along with former Tiger Omar Infante (.345 OBP) gives the Royals a hellacious duo to lead off games as well.

Depth

1. Indians

2. White Sox

3. Tigers

4. Royals

5. Twins

Cleveland won with an everyman approach last season, and they return a team that is capable of pulling out all stops for contributions. With Mike Aviles and Ryan Rayburn as versatile weapons at his disposal, Francona can compete even at less than 100% roster availability. An increase in MLB-ready youth as made the White Sox deeper, with players such as Dayan Viciedo and Matt Davidson waiting in the wings, and experienced utility man Jeff Keppinger back in a more suiting support role.

The trio of Verlander, Scherzer and Sanchez give Detroit three All-Star starters that passed 200 strikeouts last summer.

The trio of Verlander, Scherzer and Sanchez give Detroit three All-Star starters that passed 200 strikeouts last summer, all before reaching the promise of Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly.

Rotation

1. Tigers

2. Royals

3. Indians

4. White Sox

5. Twins

Detroit boasts the AL’s best rotation, with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander (winners of the 2 of the last 3 AL Cy Youngs) headlining, and the underrated Anibal Sanchez (the 2013 AL ERA champ) coming out behind them. The Twins still have a ways to go, but added a headliner in Ricky Nolasco and solid rebuild project in Phil Hughes to help resurrect the Majors worst starting five from a year ago.

1-2 Punch

1. Tigers

2. Royals

3. White Sox

4. Indians

5. Twins

There is no better 1-2 combo in the game than Scherzer and Verlander, who have combined to win 67 games over the past two seasons. James Shields is perhaps the most indispensable member of any rotation that is slated to be in the pennant race this year, as his presence likely guarantees the Royals stay in the division and/or wild card race or if he is shipped out to help another contenders chances. In Chicago, it is tough (if not impossible) to name a better under 25-or-younger hurler than Chris Sale.

Holland ascended to the ninth inning elite a year ago, closing out 47 games while holding batters to a .170 clip against him.

Holland ascended to the ninth inning elite a year ago, closing out 47 games while holding batters to a .170 clip against him.

Bullpen

1. Royals

2. Tigers

3. Twins

4. Indians

5. White Sox

Spearheaded by Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins and Kelvin Herrera, the Royal pen led the AL in relief ERA by nearly half a run at 2.55 and had the lowest average against at .217. It is one of the premier units in all of the game, even with Luke Hochevar lost for the year. The Tigers’ Achilles heel has been locking down games late, but they spent top dollar on Joe Nathan (43 saves, 1.39 ERA) to end those concerns. Glen Perkins is one of the more underrated closers in the game, closing out 52 of the Twins tough earned wins over the past two years.

Defense

1. Royals

2. Indians

3. White Sox

4. Tigers

5. Twins

By a team defense measuring metric, the superb Royals defense saved 93 total runs last year. With Gold Glovers in Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez leading the way, the Royals cover their spacious home in Kaufmann Field exceptionally well. The addition of Adam Eaton to Alejandro De Aza in Chicago gives the Sox two very athletic outfielders to accompany an equally capable middle infield of Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez.

Manager

1. Terry Francona—Indians

2. Ron Gardenhire—Twins

3. Robin Ventura—White Sox

4. Brad Ausmus—Tigers

5. Ned Yost—Royals

Francona proved his worth as one of the game’s best game managers and motivators last year, pulling the Indians into the postseason in his first year in Rock City and becoming the AL Manager of the Year in the process. Ventura and Gardenhire are held in high regard, despite the lacks of talent they have at their command. Ausmus will be asked to fill in some sizable shoes in replacing the retired Jim Leyland.

Finances

1. Tigers

2. White Sox

3. Indians

4. Royals

5. Twins

The Tigers have shown the willingness to spend the extra dollar to add what is needed to win, and they may have to do so sooner than later to address their suddenly empty shortstop position. Conversely, the Royals and Indians are a pair of franchises that are all in financially entering the season, and finding that extra piece late in the year would take some maneuvering.

Abreu is a major part of both the immediate and impending scene with on the South Side. He has plus power and the chance to be built around in the cleanup spot.

Abreu is a major part of both the immediate and impending scene with on the South Side. He has plus power and the chance to be built around in the cleanup spot.

Impact Additions

1. Joe Nathan (Tigers via free agency)

2. Jose Dariel Abreu (White Sox via free agency)

3. Ian Kinsler (Tigers via trade)

4. Omar Infante (Royals via free agency)

5. Norichika Aoki (Royals via trade)

The Royals made a series of moves in the offseason to add quality depth, at reasonable costs. The outcome was Infante, Aoki, Jason Vargas and Danny Valencia. Going in the completely different direction, the White Sox made a leap of faith in giving $60+ million to Abreu to add some needed life to a shiftless lineup.

Leap Forward

1. Danny Salazar—Indians

2. Drew Smyly—Tigers

3. Jose Quintana—White Sox

4. Adam Eaton—White Sox

5. Kyle Gibson—Twins

Salazar played so well down the stretch he was chosen to pitch the AL Wild Card game after only 10 games. The club believes in him enough that it was comfortable with letting Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez leave this winter. A similar belief in Smyly allowed the Tigers to move on from Doug Fister and his impending contract negotiations.

Rookies/Propects To Watch

1. Jose Dariel Abreu—White Sox

2. Nick Castellanos—Tigers

3. Yordano Ventura—Royals

4. Matt Davidson—White Sox

5. Erik Johnson—White Sox

No longer is Castellanos log jammed behind an out of position Cabrera at third base, and he will enter the season as a favorite to push for AL Rookie of the Year. The White Sox youth movement is based around acquiring a handful of quick to play rookies such as Abreu and Davidson, who they will put into the mix immediately this year.

PREDICTIONS

1. Detroit Tigers

2. Kansas City Royals

3. Cleveland Indians

4. Chicago White Sox

5. Minnesota Twins

The AL Central has long been a class struggle of a mix: the bourgeoisie, the proletariat and the impoverished all very clearly separated. But if things play out the way they could this year, it could be a mostly competitive division. The White Sox are better, as are the Royals. It doesn’t seem like it, but the Twins are slowly pulling it together and have one of the game’s best managers to oversee it. The Indians have more fight than any other team, and while some pieces are gone, they are far from has beens.

Then there are the Tigers, and they are….well different than they have been before. But that is a good thing, because what was in place, while good enough to win the division every year, had peaked and needed to be adjusted. They made some stunning moves, but stayed strong where they already were and got more versatile in the process—all while keeping the game’s best hitter and two of its premiere pitchers in two.

But the Royals should not be underestimated. In many ways, they resemble the Pirates of last year in they got a taste of the race, return an improved mix of vets and matured talents and have talent on par with both of the teams that finished ahead of them the previous year. In the end, the Tigers are still the class of the division and will push for the league’s best record as they always do, but the Royals will push them all summer and break into the postseason for the first time in a generation.

For more on the year as it approaches in the Central, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

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The week here in the CHEAP SEATS has been dedicated to chronicling the best of the best from 2013 Major League Baseball season. Now at the end, it is time for business to pick up, because now its time to get down to an award that’s named for simply the most dominant pitcher of all-time.

While Cy Young gets a rightfully respectful nod in the award that bears his name, he was simply no Walter Johnson. The Big Train won 476 games, while carrying a 2.17 ERA and an untouchable record of 110 shutouts. Basically, if there’s going to be an award given for a flash of pitching excellence, the honor of association should be with him. And this season, while the best pitcher in Johnson’s former league of affiliation did not record a single shutout, there was nobody else that oppressed AL lineups nearly as effectively as he did.

2013 American League Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

MaxScherzer_Image

The Numbers: 21-3, 2.90 ERA, 214.1 IP, 240 K/56 BB, 0.97 WHIP, 0 CG/0 SHO, .198 BAA

Perfection.

It is not something that meets the pitching mound often, yet when Max Scherzer reached his 13th win, and had not yet suffered his first loss, it was clear it was beyond time to pay attention to the special summer he was authoring. When he took the mound to start the All-Star Game in July, it was clear he had stepped out of the shadow of Justin Verlander and was not only the best arm in Detroit, but he had become among the best in all of baseball.

Gone were the days where high pitch counts and careless fastballs curtailed his clearly superior fastball and biting slider combo. This summer, while he more effectively unleashed his change-up, he evolved from a strikeout pitcher only (he’s topped 230 K’s the past two summers) and had become among the stingiest arms in the game, as he was one of only two pitchers to allow less than one runner per inning in baseball. This control over the game allowed him to become one of three pitchers to ever post a 19-1 record.

There’s a growing idea that the win is an overrated statistic for measuring the effectiveness of a pitcher, and to a certain extent, there is some truth to that. Yet Scherzer’s fantastic 2013 saw him factor into the decision in all but eight games he started, and the Tigers as a team turn in a 25-7 record on days he took the mound, with him personally being credited with 23 of them. That’s the type of dominance that proves it’s still all about the W, especially when it so often is tied to one man’s impact. And nobody made the impact more often than Scherzer did this summer.

The Rest:

2. Yu Darvish—Rangers: 13-9, 2.83 ERA, 209.2 IP, 277 K/80 BB, 1.07 WHIP, 0 CG/0 SHO, .194 BAA

The irony is that Darvish, who carried a perfect game through 26 outs and saw another no-hit bid end in the seventh inning, didn’t finish with a single complete game or shutout. But what is clear is that he was the most oft-dominant AL pitcher this season; his 277 strikeouts were the most in the league in 14 years.

3. Bartolo Colon-Athletics: 18-6, 2.65 ERA, 190.1 IP, 117 K/29 BB, 1.17 WHIP, 3 CG/3 SHO, .264 BAA

The continually evolving Colon put up the most shockingly effective season of his career at age 40. Colon posted the lowest ERA of his career throwing fastball’s 90% of the time, and keeping batters off their bases. He won 11 games in the first half, and tied for the AL lead with three shutouts.

4. Koji Uehara—Red Sox: 4-1, 1.09 ERA, 74.1 IP, 101 K/9 BBs, 0.57 WHIP, 21 Saves/13 Holds, .130 BAA

Uehara’s dominant season transcended just the confines of relief work, and made him the most effective pitcher in all of baseball. His impact on the year was more properly honored in the Goose Goosage Award summary.

5. Hisashi Iwakuma—Mariners: 14-6, 2.66 ERA, 219.2 IP, 185 K/42 BB, 1.01 WHIP, 0 CG/0 SHO, .220 BAA

There may not be a more infuriating pitcher in all of baseball than Iwakuma. He throws at least five different pitches that he combines with a deceptive motion and precise control. He finished second in the AL in ERA.

6. Anibal Sanchez—Tigers: 14-10, 2.57 ERA, 182 IP, 202 K/54 BB, 1.15 WHIP, 1 CG/1 SHO, .229 BAA

7. Chris Sale—White Sox: 11-14, 3.07 ERA, 214.1 IP, 226 K/46 BB, 1.07 WHIP, 4 CG/1 SHO, .230 BAA

8. Felix Hernandez—Mariners: 12-10, 3.04 ERA, 204.1 IP, 216 K/46 BB, 1.13 WHIP, 0 CB/0 SHO, .242 BAA

9. Ubaldo Jimenez—Indians: 13-9, 3.30 ERA, 182.2 IP, 194 K/80 BB, 1.33 WHIP, 0 CG/0 SHO, .239 BAA

10. Justin Masterson—Indians: 14-10, 3.45 ERA, 193 IP, 195 K/76 BB, 1.20 WHIP, 3 CG/3 SHO, .222 BAA

Award season continues on the next few days here in the CHEAP SEATS, as the season’s past raps and the one to come gets its shine…

Wednesday: NL/AL Goose Gossage Relief Pitchers of the Year: Koji Uehara & Craig Kimbrel

Thursday: Willie Mays Rookies of the Year” href=”https://cheapseatsplease.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/the-award-tour-2013-nlal-willie-mays-rookies-of-the-year/”>NL/AL Willie Mays Rookies of the Year: Jose Fernandez & Wil Myers

Tomorrow: NL/AL Connie Mack Managers of the Year

Monday: NL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year

Tuesday: AL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player

Wednesday: NL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player

The Josh Hamilton deal sent the shock waves through an entire league, and the core of franchises in both Texas and California. However, while that took the big headlines, the reactions throughout the AL also made a big ripple. No deal after the fact said more than the Tigers’ urgency in resigning Anibal Sanchez, who could have become a target for the Angels as well. His return to the Detroit rotation gives them a benefit that LA, or very few other clubs, can boast this winter.

While the Tigers set up the future, handling the now continued in the AL East, with both the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox continuing to rapidly rebuild their cores. With the Toronto Blue Jays continuing to be the kings of the winter, and the Rays making changes to their core, the division mainstays have to stay active as well. Will any of their hired guns make a difference, and hold off the upstarts? We’ll see, but should they fall, it surely won’t be for lack of trying.

The Tigers may have made the best long-term signing of any AL team by re-enlisting Sanchez.

The Tigers may have made the best long-term signing of any AL team by re-enlisting Anibal Sanchez in the rotation.

Here’s the updated impact of the recent signings in the MLB, and who came out on top…as well as who reached too far.

 

2. Josh Hamilton—Outfield, Signed w/ the Los Angeles Angels: 5 yrs/$125 million

I broke the impact of this, both now and later, down in-depth at The Sports Fan Journal.

5. Anibal Sanchez—Pitcher, Resigned w/ Detroit Tigers: 5 yrs/$80 million

The Tigers ended up holding on to their big trade deadline acquisition from this summer, albeit after a competition for his services in the last second. After outbidding the Chicago Cubs by about $5 million, the Tigers landed a promising young arm who’s sub-.500 career record belies his real abilities. With a mid-90’s fastball and a power slider, Sanchez makes the Tigers rotation perhaps the most complete offering in the American League. He has the roof to grow into either a very high level #3 or legit #2 starter.

16. Kevin Youkilis—Third Baseman, Signed w/ New York Yankees: 1 yr/$12 million

The Yankees rent-a-team efforts continued with another one year deal. However, this signing may be their smartest addition of the winter yet, due to the security and versatility that Youk brings. With A-Rod out until at least June due to hip surgery, he become their everyday third baseman who can either stay there or move to DH when A-Rod returns. They paid more to land him, but it really was a must sign.

17. Stephen Drew—Shortstop, Signed w/ Boston Red Sox: 1 yr/$9.5 million

The Red Sox also paid more for Drew, who rode his status as the only true starting shortstop on the market well, however the same value is not here. Drew is an offense first SS, that hasn’t managed to hit over .270 in three years. This was an overpay for a guy that will hit in the bottom of the lineup, and probably a bit of a reaction to other moves happening in the AL East, which is a tendency the Red Sox have done well to remove themselves from, until now.

20. Ryan Dempster—Pitcher, Signed w/ Boston Red Sox: 2 yrs/$26 million

The Sox did however hit value in landing Dempster. Not only did they get a modest $13 million per season rate for the highly sought after veteran, they also got him to end his pursuit of a 3-year deal, which would have made this a bad move for the 35 year old. But now they have landed a solid top of the rotation arm that will keep their rotation competitive.

35. Ichiro—Right Fielder, Resigned w/ New York Yankees: 2 yrs/$13 million

There was a ton of positioning on both sides, but the Yankees ended up making a smart, and team friendly, commitment to Ichiro. It does leave the club with a definite lack of power in the corner outfield spots, but Ichiro reacted well to Yankee Stadium, hitting .322 in two months in pinstripes. If he can keep close to that for even a year of the deal, it’s a strong value for around $6 million per.

66. Ty Wigginton—First Baseman, Signed w/ St. Louis Cardinals: 2 yrs/$5 million

The Cardinals landed the versatile Wigginton to provide a right handed bat off the bench with some pop, one of the few things they needed. They came in the winter looking to plug bench holes, and this was their solid effort to do so on offense.

 

For more on the signing season around the MLB, and the impact after the fact in real time, follow me on Twitter