Posted on: December 15, 2011 11:14 am
Edited on: December 15, 2011 12:27 pm
By Matt Snyder
What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.
The most interesting thing about our latest installment in this series is that I believe this would have been one of the better teams in the majors had we done the exercise three or four years ago. How good would a Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt, Freddy Garcia top three in the rotation have been a handful of years ago -- along with Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence and Bobby Abreu leading the offense? Alas, we're doing it now and some of that sounds far less enticing. Still, let's check it out.
1. Hunter Pence, CF
2. Jose Altuve, 2B
3. Ben Zobrist, RF
4. Lance Berkman, LF
5. Bobby Abreu, 1B
6. Chris Johnson, 3B
7. John Buck, C
8. Aaron Miles, SS
1. Johan Santana
2. Roy Oswalt
3. Wandy Rodriguez
4. Bud Norris
5. Jordan Lyles
Closer - Brad Lidge
Set up - Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Troy Patton, Fernando Abad,
Long - Felipe Paulino, Freddy Garcia
Notable Bench Players
Ramon Castro, Carlos Guillen, Drew Sutton, Brooks Conrad, Brian Bogusevic
The trio of Pence, Zobrist and Berkman makes the front part of the offense look really attractive and Abreu offers decent protection for the Puma. Fitting in that two-hole would also do wonders for the development of the young Altuve. Can we assume health in this exercise, considering it's for fun? Sure, I will. So the starting rotation looks pretty good -- albeit not dominant anymore -- with Johan as the ace and Oswalt a good number two (remember, back issues hampered him last year). If Lyles isn't ready yet, we can plug in Garcia or Paulino as the five.
Lidge and Qualls aren't bad, but there is nothing in front of them worth much except two starting pitchers -- and, again, we may need one of the two in the rotation. The bottom part of the batting order isn't very good either and the bench is thin. But let's focus on what is really bad: The defense. I fought back and forth with whether to put Abreu or Berkman in LF, but either one is a bad choice. I just feel like Berkman can move better at this point. I also had to shift Pence to center, even though he's better suited in right. Miles is much better used at second base and he's not even really good there.
Comparison to real 2011
Well, the 2011 Astros were the worst team in the majors and in franchise history. This team isn't particularly good, but it's better than that. With that rotation, a decent back-end of the bullpen and some offense, these Astros should be able to work close to the 75-win range. One thing is for sure, they wouldn't be the worst team in the NL Central. I also feel like the best news for Astros fans is there would actually be some name players here to root for, after having seen the likes of Oswalt, Berkman, Pence and Michael Bourn traded over the past two real seasons. Still, you can't help but think that there are enough pieces here that the Astros could have properly built a real-life team that was still in contention in 2011 -- had they made the right moves.
Next: Los Angeles Dodgers
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Tags: Aaron Miles, Astros, Ben Zobrist, Bobby Abreu, Brad Lidge, Brian Bogusevic, Brooks Conrad, Bud Norris, Carlos Guillen, Chad Qualls, Chris Johnson, Drew Sutton, Felipe Paulino, Fernando Abad, Freddy Garcia, Homegrown, Hunter Pence, Johan Santana, John Buck, Jordan Lyles, Jose Altuve, Lance Berkman, Matt Albers, Matt Snyder, NL Central, Ramon Castro, Roy Oswalt, Troy Patton, Wandy Rodriguez
Posted on: October 4, 2011 7:19 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 11:09 pm
By Evan Brunell
Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...
Team name: Tampa Bay Rays
Record: 91-71, 2nd place AL East, 6 games back. Wild card champions, lost to Rangers 3 games to 1 in ALDS
Manager: Joe Maddon
Best hitter: Ben Zobrist -- .269/.353/.469, 20 HR, 99 RBI
Best pitcher: James Shields -- 16-12, 249 1/3 IP, 11 CG, 4 SHO, 2.82 ERA, 65 BB, 225 K
The Rays have now reached the postseason two years in a row, but dropped its second straight ALDS to the Rangers, making it to four games before the season ended. It was a remarkable run for a team that had to remake its bullpen and replace Carl Crawford in left field.
2011 SEASON RECAP
Tampa began the season as an afterthought in the eyes of many. After all, how were the Rays supposed to contend with New York and the revamped Red Sox? That didn't stop the team from producing, though, posting a record over .500 each of the first three months. The team got quite a bit of attention in April when Manny Ramirez retired instead of serving his 100-game suspension for failing a drug test for the second time. They weathered it though, despite losing someone that was supposed to be integral to the lineup. Sam Fuld dazzled the team for a while, but the Rays limped through the season offensively until Desmond Jennings was promoted in late July.
July wasn't kind to Tampa, finishing with a 11-15 record but they turned on the jets after that, going 35-20 and winning the wild card on the last swing of the regular season, with Evan Longoria's homer disappearing over the fence minutes after the Red Sox completed their collapse.
The Rays have a decent amount of overturn coming, set to lose two starters from their lineup in Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon. Backstop Kelly Shoppach and reliever Juan Cruz also played integral roles, but the important thing to notice here is that none of Tampa's important players are free agents. That's huge, and while the Rays will doubtless be making some moves -- and if you see below, I have them making two significant trades -- they should enter 2012 with a team fairly recognizable from this year. This is a team poised to contend, and the riches in the minors will keep on boosting the team. Their postseason may have been cut short, but they'll be back plenty of times in the coming seasons.
FREE AGENTSRP Juan Cruz
DH Johnny Damon
RP Kyle Farnsworth ($3.3 million club option)
1B Casey Kotchman
C Kelly Shoppach ($3.2 million club option)
Posted on: September 29, 2011 4:05 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 2:57 pm
By Evan Brunell
Game 1: TB @ TEX, Sept. 30, 5:07 p.m. -- Matt Moore (1-0, 2.89 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94)**
Evan's take: The Rangers are a fearsome club, there's no doubt about that. The offense is awe-inspiring and the pitching has the ability to hang tough with Tampa Bay. The Rangers basically cruised to the division title in September, so it's easy to overlook the club because of lack of press, but those who overlook the club are making a mistake. I selected the Rays in four because in the postseason, I believe far more in pitching than offense. I also give credence to how teams played down the stretch. Tampa went 17-10 in September (of course, Texas went 19-8, so there's that) and was in playoff mode for two weeks, constantly playing must-win games then seeing it all pay off when Evan Longoria's second homer of the night went over the fence to give T.B. the wild card. The combination of pitching and the hot hand tilt me toward predicting the Rays to advance.
Tags: 2011 playoffs, Adrian Beltre, AL East, AL West, ALDS, B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist, C.J. Wilson, Casey Kotchman, Colby Lewis, David Murphy, David Price, Derek Holland, Desmond Jennings, Elvis Andrus, Evan Brunell, Evan Longoria, Ian Kinsler, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, Jeremy Hellickson, Joe Maddon, John Jaso, Johnny Damon, Josh Hamilton, Kelly Shoppach, Kyle Farnsworth, Matt Harrison, Matt Joyce, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, Mitch Moreland, Neftali Feliz, Nelson Cruz, Rangers, Rangers-Rays, Rays, Ron Washington, Sean Rodriguez, Yorvit Torrealba
Posted on: September 28, 2011 1:35 am
By Matt Snyder
Red Sox offense. They really, really needed this one. And you have to give the Red Sox credit, they came through when it mattered. They fell behind 1-0 in the first inning, but then Jacoby Ellsbury hit a two-run homer. Marco Scutaro would also hit a 2-run homer later in the game. Still, the Red Sox pitching staff allowed seven runs against the Orioles and a huge effort was needed from someone offensively. It was provided by an unlikely source, as emergency catcher Ryan Lavarnway hit two home runs and drove home four in the Red Sox's 8-4 victory. The two blasts were the first two of his career and he became the youngest Red Sox player to homer twice in the same game since Nomar Garciaparra did it in 1997 -- and they were the exact same ago to the day (Ian Browne via Twitter).
Cardinals' offense. Starting pitcher Jake Westbrook was awful, and the Cardinals trailed 5-0 after three innings. It was of no matter in the end, though, because they'd piece together 13 runs in the final six frames to win the game. On the whole, the Cardinals pounded out 17 hits, including four doubles, a triple and two home runs. The biggest hits were Skip Schumaker's three-run double in the fourth, Ryan Theriot's go-ahead, two-run triple in the seventh and Allen Craig's three-run homer in the eighth to put the game out of reach.
Matt Joyce, Rays. Ben Zobrist hit a two-run homer earlier in the game and the Rays bailed themselves out with a huge triple play, but neither would have mattered if Joyce didn't come through with a pivotal three-run bomb in the bottom of the seventh to put the Rays on top 5-3. That was the eventual final score.
Bonus Up No. 1, Prince Fielder: Three home runs is a pretty decent night, don't you think? He hits home runs a lot (230 in his career now and he's only 27), but this was the first three-homer game of his big-league career.
Bonus Up No. 2, Jose Reyes: He went deep twice and maintained his percentage-point lead for the batting title.
Bonus Up No. 3, Jarrod Parker: The 22-year-old Diamondbacks' prospect made his major-league debut against the Dodgers. He went 5 2/3 shutout innings and allowed just four hits. If you don't take the D-Backs seriously yet, imagine them with Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Parker, Trevor Bauer (third overall pick this past June) and Archie Bradley (seventh overall pick this past June) in the rotation a few years from now. Oh, and Justin Upton's only 24. That's a strong foundation. And while we're here ... a walk-off grand slam after trailing 6-1 in the 10th? C'mon. Big ups to Ryan Roberts for imitating Kirk Gibson as he rounded the bases, too.
Derek Lowe, Braves. Four innings, six hits, five earned runs, a loss and the Braves are now tied in the NL wild-card race. Oh, and Lowe makes over $15 million a year.
Bronson Arroyo, Reds. How about this one? According to Elias Sports Bureau -- via a Reds' press release -- Arroyo is now the second pitcher in major-league history to have allowed at least 40 home runs and less than 50 walks in the same season. We've all heard the phrase "trust your stuff" when pitchers walk too many hitters. Maybe Arroyo should trust his stuff a bit less. Trade some of the bombs for free passes.
Russell Martin, Yankees. He hit into a huge triple play, but that's just a ground ball with bad timing. My issue came when he tried to beat the throw by diving into first base. See last night's 3 Up 3 Down -- the Nick Punto entry -- for the rant relating to that. (What, is it spreading?)
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: 3 up 3 down, AL East, Allen Craig, Ben Zobrist, Braves, Brewers, Bronson Arroyo, Cardinals, Derek Lowe, Diamondbacks, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jake Westbrook, Jarrod Parker, Jose Reyes, Marco Scutaro, Matt Joyce, Matt Snyder, Mets, NL Central, NL West, Prince Fielder, Rays, Red Sox, Reds, Russell Martin, Ryan Lavarnway, Ryan Roberts, Ryan Theriot, Skip Schumaker, Yankees
Posted on: September 17, 2011 7:30 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2011 10:04 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Tampa Bay won't sweep in Boston, but they could win three of four against the Red Sox and head to New York just two games behind the current American League wild card leaders. With Saturday's 4-3 victory over Boston, the Rays moved to within three games of the Red Sox with a seeming mismatch of David Price against Tim Wakefield on tap for Sunday.
Jeff Niemann lasted just five innings for the Rays, but gave up only two runs, while rookie Matt Moore -- in just his second big-league appearance -- went three big innings in relief, allowing a run on two hits. Moore, manager Joe Maddon told CBSSports.com senior writer Danny Knobler, may just be the Rays' "wild card" in the wild card race.
Tampa Bay finishes its four-game series in Boston on Sunday before heading to New York for four more games against the Yankees. It should be noted, the Yankees' lead over the Red Sox is just 4.5 games, so things could get interesting in that race as well, if the Rays continue to play tormentor against the AL East powers.
Remaining schedule: 1 vs. TB, 4 vs. BAL, 3 @ NYY, 3 @ BAL
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 85.8 percent
Tampa Bay Rays
84-67, 3 GB
Remaining schedule: 1 @ BOS, 4 @ NYY, 3 vs. TOR, 3 vs. NYY
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 5.1 percent
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
82-69, 5 GB
Remaining schedule: 1 @ BAL, 4 @ TOR, 3 vs. OAK, 3 vs. TEX
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 0.6 percent
Posted on: September 13, 2011 1:38 am
Edited on: September 13, 2011 9:06 am
By Evan Brunell
B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist, Rays: Zobrist (pictured) helped propel the Rays to three games behind Boston for the wild card, ripping a double and driving in three. His three-hit night lifted his overall line to .274/.356/,464, strong numbers anywhere but especially powerful from a second baseman, notwithstanding that Zobrist can also fill in elsewhere in a pinch, making him tremendously valuable. Upton, meanwhile, doubled twice and received two jwalks, setting a franchise record by reaching in nine straight appearances. He struck out in the eighth to snap the streak.
Juan Francisco, Reds: Francisco hammered a 502-foot home run off of the Cubs' Rodrigo Lopez, the first time a ball has ever been hit completely out of the park over the right-field bleachers, landing on the southern sidewalk of Mehring Way. It's the second-longest ever hit at the park, second to Adam Dunn's 535-footer in 2004 off of the Dodgers' Jose Lima, which went out over the bullpen and bounced into the river, technically into another state as the river belongs to Kentucky. Oh, the rest of game? Francisco went 2-for-4 as the third baseman in a 12-8 loss.
Brett Myers, Astros: Myers stupified his former team of Philadelphia, who were also returning ex-Astros in Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence. While Oswalt got roughed up, Myers went eight strong, allowing just one run while walking one and striking out four. A nice debut season last year with Myers earned him an extension, but he's regressed this year. He's come around as of late and has a 4.52 ERA on the season and is a prime candidate to be traded this offseason.
Dontrelle Willis, Reds: The D-Train had walked at least five batters in three straight starts coming into Monday's game. He paid for it against the Cubs, lasting just 3 1/3 innings as he was teed off for eight runs, walking three and whiffing zero. It was a massive dose of reality for the lefty, who had enjoyed a brief run of success mixed in with luck. His ERA is all the way up to 5.04 after coming in with a 4.10 ERA at the beginning of the month.
John Danks, White Sox: It was a bad night in a season of disappointment for Danks, who has been consistently good the last three seasons, but seemed like he could break out this season. Instead, he's regressed. After Monday's stinker, his ERA is now 4.36, the highest since his rookie season of 2007 when he had an unsightly 5.50 ERA. Danks gave up eight runs, seven earned, in five inningsm walking three and striking out five, allowing two home runs to the Tigers, who won their 10th straight. "I don't know if there is hotter team out there right now," Danks told the Associated Press. "It's embarrassing but at the same time you have to realize how good they're playing."
Mike Trout, Angels: Trout had been making noise lately, riding a hot streak into more playing time and optimism. But he's still just 20, and his bat has cooled as of late. The sky is the limit for Trout, but he was exposed on Monday night by striking out three times in four hitless trips to the plate, dropping his overall line to .220/.282/.420 in an even 100 at-bats. Trout may or may not start the season with the Angels, but he will absolutely be a rock in that lineup for years to come. This night is just the early struggles of a blossoming star.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 25, 2011 2:08 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Sean Rodriguez, Rays: Rodriguez didn't get the big hit -- or any hit for that matter -- but after walking as a pinch-hitter in the 10th inning, his sprint to second on a grounder gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 victory over Detroit. In a perfect example of how hustle helps a team, Rodriguez was on first with bases loaded and two outs in the 10th inning when Elliot Johnson hit a grounder to Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge. Inge went to second to try to end the inning, but second baseman Ramon Santiago couldn't get to the bag before Rodriguez, who was safe, allowing Ben Zobrist to score the winning run on a fielder's choice.
Coco Crisp, Athletics: Crisp went 4 for 4 with two homers -- one from each side of the plate -- in the A's 6-4 victory over the Yankees in 10 innings. His three-run homer in the top of the 10th off of Rafael Soriano was good for the game-winner. Crisp finished with five RBI. Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher also hit two homers (both from the left side) in the losing effort.
Tim Lincecum, Giants: Forget his usual dominating performance on the mound -- eight innings and four hits with five strikeouts is pretty much par for the course for the Giants' ace. No, it was his bat that made Wednesday night different. While the struggling Giants have been looking for offensive help, Lincecum answered the call with an RBI single in the fifth inning on a high chopper over Padres first baseman Jesus Guzman, scoring Brandon Belt from third. It was Lincecum's first RBI of the season and proved to be the game-winner in the 2-1 San Francisco victory.
Aneury Rodriguez, Astros: With bases loaded in the 10th inning, Rodriguez uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Troy Tulowitzki to score the winning run for a 7-6 Colorado win. Rodriguez walked Tulowitzki with one out in the inning and after allowing a single to Jonathan Herrera, a wild pitch allowed Herera to move to second, taking away the double play possibility. With first base open, the Astros chose to intentionally walk Kevin Kouzmanoff to get to Eliezer Alfonzo. With a 1-1 count, Rodriguez bounced a ball well wide of the plate, allowing Tulowitzki to score easily.
Jaime Garcia, Cardinals: After walking the first two batters he faced in the third inning, Garcia allowed six consecutive hits, good for six Dodger runs. The left-hander went on to take the loss as Los Angeles added another run off of him in the fifth inning and two more off of Kyle McClellan in the sixth inning for a 9-4 victory as the Dodgers finished off their first sweep in St. Louis since 1993. Garcia hasn't won in his last six starts and lasted just five innings in four of his last five. Since going 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his first 10 starts of the season, Garcia's gone 5-6 with 5-6 ERA in his last 16 starts.
Texas Rangers: The Rangers have now lost three of their last four games and have been outscored 34-7 in those three losses, including a 13-2 loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday. Starter Matt Harrison gave up seven runs on 11 hits to earn the loss for the Rangers, while the offense wasn't too hot either -- the Rangers trailed 6-0 before they picked up their first hit, a solo homer by Mike Napoli in the fourth inning. With the loss and the Angels' victory, Los Angeles moved to just 2 1/2 games behind Texas in the American League West with their sixth consecutive victory.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 11, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 1:05 pm
By Evan Brunell
This just in: The talent assembled in the AL East is really, really good.
Just take a gander at the lineup for the AL East All-Stars on your lower right. Where exactly is there a hole? It's so deep that Curtis Granderson leads off despite boasting the second-most homers in all of baseball, tied with teammate Mark Teixeira with 25 apiece behind only Jose Bautista. It's so deep that Yunel Escobar, who leads off for the Blue Jays, is slapped into the nine spot as a second leadoff man. No matter how good any of the other division all-stars are -- the NL East, NL Central and NL West, along with the AL counterparts in the Central and West -- there simply is no stopping the offensive barrage this lineup has.
Let's take a look at who makes up the lineup, plus whose strolling to the mound and getting a win virtually any time this team plays.
C Matt Wieters, Orioles: Russell Martin got off to a strong start, but tailed off. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek have recovered from a lousy April, but April counts, plus the two split playing time. J.P. Arencibia is hitting .216/.280/.424. The Rays catchers... who are they, again? That leaves Wieters, who is hitting .267/.323/.410. Not great, but miles better than the average catcher is producing (.236/.305/.378 in the AL). He also receives strong marks for fielding and has caught 24 of a potential 54 would-be basestealers, a percentage that no other catcher is close to duplicating.
1B Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: Freed from Petco Park, Gonzalez is annihilating pitchers in his first season with the Red Sox, rapping out a .352/.412/.589 line, slamming 17 home runs and contributing in virtually every facet of the game except stealing bases. And that's not necessary at all for Gonzalez to be one of the best players in the league.
2B Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: Entering play Sunday, Pedroia and Cano were virtually the same hitter on offense, with a .373 mark in wOBA, essentially a better version of OPS, scaled to OBP. So why did Pedey get the nod? Because hitting's not the only part of the game -- fielding is. And there, Pedroia is flashing leather that could win the Gold Glove while Cano has slipped to being below average after showing progress in recent years.
SS Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays: In the midst of what can only be characterized nicely as a bad year in 2010, Escobar was traded to the Blue Jays among questions about his maturity and commitment to the game. I think Toronto's happy with his commitment, as the Cuban has a cool .292/.368/.441 line. Yes, the AL East is rather thin on productive shortstops (sorry, Derek Jeter), but Escobar would deserve this spot in almost any other division.
LF Ben Zobrist, Rays: One could argue that Zobrist has been the most valuable Ray this year. While he's been primarily playing second base, he's also been one of the best hitters with a .272/.359/.480 line, stealing 10 bases and being a fantastic fielder. Zobrist has moved around the diamond so much, playing every position over his career other than catcher. He only played one game in left last year of a career 24, but you make the All-Star team not just on hitting, not just on fielding, not just on stealing, but how valuable you are. And the ability for Zobrist to move around the diamond and play any position is ginormous.
CF Curtis Granderson, Yankees: As mentioned above, Granderson trails only Jose Bautista in home runs, having knocked 25. He's leading off because... well, just look at that lineup. But it also helps that he's corrected his struggles against left-handers, boasts a .362 OBP and has swiped 15 bags on the year. When New York first acquired Granderson prior to the 2009 season, many felt he had at least one 40-homer season in store thanks to the short right-field porch in (new) Yankee Stadium. That didn't happen last year, but barring injury or a major dropoff, Granderson will reach that mark this season for the first time in his career.
RF Jose Bautista, Blue Jays (pictured): File under "Duh." Joey Bats has been the best player in baseball by far this year. That's what happens when you have an unconscionable (in the post-steroids era, that is) 31 home runs by the All-Star break with a sterling .468 OBP. If his .702 slugging percentage holds up, he will be the first player to crack that mark since Barry Bonds with .812 in 2004. And if you don't count Bonds because of his "alleged" steroids use -- nor Sammy Sosa, the last person is Larry Walker way back in 1999 with a .710 mark. But the dude had Coors Field helping him. So let's move on and bypass Mark McGwire too. You land on Jeff Bagwell's .720 way back in 1994. That's nearly two decades ago. Two other players also broke the .700 mark in '94 -- Frank Thomas with .720 and Albert Belle with .714. Before that, you have to trot all the way back to 1957 and Ted Williams' .731 mark. And that's why he bats third in this lineup.
DH David Ortiz, Red Sox: Surprisingly -- at least, surprisingly to those who jumped in a time machine from any time prior to this April -- this was an easy choice. Big Papi has raked all year and will represent the AL in the All-Star Game on Tuesday as the starting DH. Showing power not seen since 2007, the lefty has blasted 19 home runs in 343 plate appearances and has trimmed his strikeout rate to 13.4 percent. That's a career low for Ortiz, who is hitting .304/.391/.579 overall.
SP James Shields, Rays: Let's take a look at where James Shields ranks among all pitchers entering play Sunday. Seventh in innings pitched with 134. Ninth in ERA with a 2.47 mark and sixth in xFIP (ERA minus all the things pitchers aren't entirely responsible for, such as qualify of the defense behind him) with a 2.87 line. Ninth in K/BB ratio with a even 4.00 mark on the strength of 132 strikeouts against just 34 walks (one intentional). He's also tied with Roy Halladay in complete games with six. But we've got to put that in past tense, as Shields registered yet another complete game on Sunday, allowing just one unearned run to drop his ERA to 2.33. There's no question he belongs here.
RP David Robertson, Yankees: Roberson has really come on this year and brings the heat with an average fastball velocity of 93 mph, pairing it with a curveball that befuddles batters. All that's handed him 56 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings. We'll forgive his 23 walks given he's causing batters to windmill enough to power all of New York City, if not the state. Potentially Mariano Rivera's successor down the line, he has a 1.27 ERA on the year, with a more sane -- but still excellent -- 2.57 xFIP.
CL Mariano Rivera, Yankees: If this feature had been running since Rivera first became closer way back in 1997, he's probably working on a 15-year streak. Oh well, he'll settle for being the inaugural AL East closer. Rivera has had some triceps issues lately, but that hasn't prevented him from being his usual automatic self, racking up 22 saves with a 1.85 ERA -- his fourth straight season with an ERA under 2.00 and eighth of nine seasons.
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