Tag:Drew Stubbs
Posted on: March 4, 2012 10:21 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 10:22 pm
 

Spring primer: Cincinnati Reds



By C. Trent Rosecrans


With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder leaving the National League Central, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty saw an opportunity to take the division. Jocketty traded two of the team's top prospects to San Diego for Mat Latos and fortified the bullpen with the additions of Ryan Madson and Sean Marshall. With Joey Votto under contract for just the next two years, the Reds see these two years as their best chance to win, and the team is going for it.

Major additions: RHP Mat Latos, RHP Ryan Madson, LHP Sean Marshall, OF Ryan Ludwick
Major departures: RHP Francisco Cordero, RHP Edinson Volquez, C Ramon Hernandez, 1B Yonder Alonso

Probable lineup
1. Brandon Phillips 2B
2. Zack Cozart SS
3. Joey Votto 1B
4. Scott Rolen 3B
5. Jay Bruce RF
6. Ryan Ludwick LF
7. Drew Stubbs CF
8. Ryan Hanigan C

Probable rotation
1. Johnny Cueto
2. Mat Latos
3. Bronson Arroyo
4. Mike Leake
5. Homer Bailey

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Ryan Madson
Set-up: LHP Sean Marshall, RHP Nick Masset, LHP Bill Bray

Important bench players
C Devin Mesoraco, OF Chris Heisey, 3B Juan Francisco

Prospect to watch
The Reds sent Alonso to San Diego in the deal that brought Latos to Cincinnati, making many nervous about the post-Votto era. If Votto doesn't re-sign with the Reds, many saw Alonso as the heir apparent. Now that Alonso's out of the picture, the first baseman of the future is Neftali Soto. The 23-year-old was the team's third-round pick in 2007 and played shortstop, third base and catcher in addition to first base. But the team finally left him at first in 2011. The reason the team kept moving him was that his bat has never been an issue. Last season he hit 30 home runs in just 102 games at Double-A Carolina, missing a month with a broken bone in his left wrist. He doesn't walk much (just 103 walks and 375 strikeouts in five minor-league seasons), but he has plenty of power to all fields, with 10 of his 31 homers (including one in four games at Triple-A) were opposite field shots.

Fantasy sleeper: Homer Bailey
"The Reds have been conservative with Bailey and the team hopes that their caution will pay off this season. If he can stay healthy, Bailey has an excellent chance for a breakout season, as he has made steady improvements in his pitch selection, control and efficiency." -- Al Melchior [Full Reds fantasy preview]

Fantasy bust: Ryan Ludwick
"Some observers have pointed to Ludwick's career line at Great American Ball Park (.276/.321/.600) as a sign of an impending comeback season, and it's true that he has had the misfortune of playing in pitchers' parks for most of his career. However, Ludwick has just 19 plate appearances at GABP over the last two years, a time period during which he has seen an erosion of his power numbers, both at home and on the road." -- Al Melchior [Full Reds fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
Not only does Cueto improve upon his breakout 2011, but Latos is even better than he was in the second half of 2011, giving the Reds a dominant and young top of the rotation. Add to that a healthy Arroyo and see Bailey live up to his immense potential -- and the Reds have one of the best rotations in the National League. The offense continues to put up runs and Cincinnati eases into the postseason past the fading Cardinals and Brewers.

Pessimistic outlook
Injuries and unfulfilled potential lead to the second straight season of disappointment on the Ohio River. Not only does the starting pitching falter, but Stubbs breaks Mark Reynolds' single-season strikeout record, Bruce isn't able to make adjustments and rookies Mesoraco and Cozart play like rookies at the two most important defensive positions on the diamond. Milwaukee and St. Louis once again are the class of the division, while Pittsburgh improves and not only breaks its 19-year streak of losing seasons, but also leapfrogs the Reds for third in the NL Central. Adding insult to injury, Phillips leaves as a free agent and with the team in flux, Votto is sent away for prospects and another rebuilding job is underway.

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Posted on: February 9, 2012 4:51 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 10:47 am
 

Spring position battles: National League Central



By C. Trent Rosecrans


The National League Central is often looked down upon, but it produced both teams in the National League Championship Series last year, as well as the World Series. Both the Cardinals and Brewers have large voids in their lineup due to free agency, but all the teams have some questions when pitchers and catchers report to camp. Here's the NL Central spring position battles:

Chicago Cubs
Old vs. Young: Bryan LaHair and Marlon Byrd vs. Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson

For so long the Cubs' motto has been "wait 'til next year" -- that may have been changed to "wait 'til a couple of years" as Theo Epstein has fully embraced the rebuilding effort. The question is whether the braintrust thinks it's better for some of their younger players to learn at the big-league level or continue in the minors. The two biggest choices will be Rizzo and Jackson. Rizzo, 22, struggled in his call-up last season, hitting .141/.281/.242 with a homer in 153 plate appearances, but that was as a 21-year-old in San Diego. LaHair may only have 65 games in the big leagues, but that doesn't make him young -- just inexperienced. LaHair turned 29 in November and spent eight years in the minors. He hit .288/.377/.508 in his 20 games with the Cubs last season, but he's hardly anyone's idea of a long-term solution. Epstein drafted Rizzo while with the Red Sox and then traded for him when he took over the Cubs. It's Rizzo's job to lose. Meanwhile, Byrd is in the last season of his three-year, $15 million contract, so he's more likely to get traded than to be unseated in spring. The 23-year-old Jackson put up a .297/.388/.551 line at Triple-A Iowa with 10 homers in just 48 games after being called up from Double-A. The team's first-round pick in the 2009 draft will have a chance to show he's big-league ready. If the team does go with Rizzo and Jackson, it could be a sign of the team's future and the patience that Chicago will show going forward.

Cincinnati Reds
Left field: Chris Heisey vs. Ryan Ludwick

The Reds signed Ludwick to a bargain deal, hoping he can find the stroke he left in St. Louis. The 33-year-old has always hit well at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, putting up a .276/.321/.600 stat line with nine homers in 30 games and 112 plate appearances in his new home park. Both Ludwick and Heisey are right-handed batters who fare better against right-handed pitchers. Ludwick is a career .272/.339/.464 hitter against righties and .237/.316/.435 against lefties. Heisey's split is more extreme -- .288/.346/.539 against right-handers and .180/.248/.300 against lefties. One thing that helps Ludwick's case may be Heisey's strength as a pinch-hitter. Last year the 27-year-old Heisey hit .324/.333/.529 with two homers as a pinch-hitter. There's another option here, as well. If Drew Stubbs struggles at the plate, Hesiey could be an option to play center alongside Ludwick in left. That's a remote possibility, though. The Reds are high on Stubbs' power/speed combination and he is an excellent defender in center.

Houston Astros
Third base: Brett Wallace vs. Chris Johnson vs. Jimmy Paredes

The fact that the Astros are looking to move Wallace to third base may tell you what they think of Johnson and Paredes. If Wallace shows he can play third, he's the likely favorite. Johnson struggled in 2011 after showing promise in 2010. Paredes hit .286/.320/.393 after taking over the position for the last two months of the season, but he's not seen as a long-term solution. Wallace could be.

Milwaukee Brewers
First base: Mat Gamel vs. himself

With Ryan Braun's status resolved, the Brewers don't really have many question marks. All five starters return, as do its closer and top set-up man. The lineup, with a platoon of Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan and newcomer Aramis Ramirez at third base seems pretty much set -- barring injury. The only hole is a big one -- the one left by first baseman Prince Fielder. The position is Mat Gamel's to lose. The 26-year-old played in just 10 games last season, getting 27 plate appearances. His only extensive big-league experience came in 2009 when he hit .242/.338/.422 with five homers, primarily playing third base. However, he's never been able to establish himself and after playing both third base and the outfield, he played primarily first base at Triple-A Nashville last season, while making six errors in 20 games at third base. He's a first baseman now and a first baseman only. He's hit  well at Triple-A, hitting .301/.374/.512 in parts of four seasons at the top level of the minors, hitting 28 home runs for Nashville last season. Gamel will probably start at first on opening day even if he struggles in spring, but right fielder Corey Hart could be used at first if Gamel struggles even more. The team did sign Japanese outfield Norichika Aoki, who could play right if Hart moves to first.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Third base: Pedro Alvarez vs. Casey McGehee

Acquiring the veteran McGehee from Milwaukee could be seen as a kick in the pants for the second-overall pick of the 2008 draft. Alvarez hit just .191/.272/.289 in 74 games last season and the team may be getting worried about whether he'll ever develop into the star as expected. McGehee is coming off a rough season of his own, hitting just .223/.280/.346 with 13 homers after hitting 23 homers and 104 RBI in 2010. McGehee was replaced by Jerry Hairston Jr. at third base during the playoffs and by former Pirate Aramis Ramirez after the season.

St. Louis Cardinals
Second base: Skip Schumaker vs. Daniel Descalso vs. Tyler Greene

General manager John Mozeliak has insinuated he'd like to see Greene win the job. The 28-year-old has yet to produce at the level expected of him, hitting just .218/.307/.313 in 150 games and 359 plate appearances. Descalso filled in for the injured David Freese last season and responded with a .264/.334/.353 line, while Schumaker is the incumbent having hit .283/.333/.351 while starting 89 games at second, but none in the World Series. All three have some positional versatility.

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Posted on: January 29, 2012 11:43 am
Edited on: January 29, 2012 1:17 pm
 

Roger Clemens strikes out 2 in UT alumni game

Roger ClemensBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Even at 49, Roger Clemens can still bring the heat. The seven-time Cy Young Award winner struck out two of the three University of Texas batters he faced in Saturday's alumni game.

Clemens threw a perfect inning in the game that featured the current Longhorn team against for Texas players. The Longhorns are ranked No. 13 in Baseball America's preseason rankings after appearing in the College World Series last season.

Clemens, who won the College World Series with Texas in 1983, started the game and struck out the first two batters, Cohl Walla and Taylor Stell. Neither Walla nor Stell were alive when Clemens picked up his second Cy Young in 1987. By the time the freshman Stell was born in 1993, Clemens had won 152 games and three Cy Young Awards.

New Padres closer Huston Street relieved Clemens, striking out a batter, and also played second base. Street singled and also scored a run in the 2-0 victory by the alums.

The Mariners' Chance Ruffin, the Reds' Drew Stubbs, the Rangers' Omar Quintanilla, the Cubs' James Russell and former big leaguer Brooks Kieschnick all played for the Texas alums.



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Posted on: November 30, 2011 2:13 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Cincinnati Reds

Joey Votto

By C. Trent Rosecrans


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 of this feature, click here.

During the series, we've seen some lineups that would be completely foreign to the hometown fans, and some a little less so. The homegrown Cincinnati Reds, for better or worse, look quite similar to the team that took the field at Great American Ball Park this past season. While there are similar strengths, the same problems also crop up.

Lineup

1. Jay Bruce, RF
2. Justin Turner, 2B
3. Joey Votto, 1B
4. Adam Dunn, LF
5. Juan Francisco, 3B
6. Drew Stubbs, CF
7. Devin Mesoraco, C
8. Zack Cozart, SS

Starting Rotation

1. Johnny Cueto
2. Mike Leake
3. Homer Bailey
4. Travis Wood
5. Zach Stewart

Bullpen

Closer - Aroldis Chapman
Set up - Todd Coffey, Logan Ondrusek, Jordan Smith, Josh Roenicke, Enerio Del Rosario
Long - Sam LeCure

Notable Bench Players

Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Adam Rosales, Ryan Hanigan, Chris Heisey, Chris Denorfia, Chris Dickerson. The Reds hypothetical situation behind the plate is the same as their current situation, one underrated catcher and two promising prospects, a problem most teams would envy. The hypothetical Reds also have no real spot for Alonso, although a short leash on Dunn could have this homegrown team toy with the notion of trying Alonso in left -- just like the real Reds.

What's Good?

The lineup's going to put up runs, that's for sure. There are some lineup construction problems, but this team can flat out hit, especially in their home ballpark. The defense isn't as good as it is in real life, it's still not too bad (with the exception of Dunn). The team has a lot of talent behind the plate and the bench is deep with some versatility.

What's Not?

The Reds were unable to repeat their 2010 division title in large part because of the failings of their starting rotation -- that's not fixed with these five. There's also no real answer to the team's search for a leadoff man, just like the real Reds. This bullpen isn't as experienced or strong as the real thing, either.

Comparison to real 2011

While there are some key personel missing, like Brandon Phillips and Francisco Cordero, there's also an added boost to the lineup of Dunn (we'll just assume he would have performed closer to his career numbers than his historically bad 2011 in the familiar confines of Great American Ball Park than in Chicago), the offense would have been about the same. The pitching, though, is still a problem, so this squad may fair a bit worse than the team's 79-83 record. However, the team is interesting, talented and young.

Next: Kansas City Royals

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 1:28 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Cincinnati Reds

By C. Trent Rosecrans

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: Cincinnati Reds
Record: 79-83, 3rd place, 17 games back
Manager: Dusty Baker
Best hitter: Joey Votto -- .309/.416/.531 with 29 HR, 103 RBI
Best pitcher:Johnny Cueto -- 9-5, 24 GS, 156 IP, 2.31 ERA, 104 K, 47 BB

Coming off the 2010 National League Central title with pretty much the same team intact, the Reds were expected to challenge for the title again. However, the team could never quite get consistent starting pitching and were on the outside looking in by the All-Star break, close enough not to become sellers at the deadline and ultimately irrelevant for the last two months of the season.

2011 SEASON RECAP

Cueto took a step forward in his development and Votto showed he was anything but a one-hit wonder, while Brandon Phillips played at an All-Star level. Other than that, most every other Cincinnati Red took a step back from their 2010 performance. Bronson Arroyo and Drew Stubbs set dubious marks -- Arroyo allowing 46 homers and Stubbs striking out 205 times. Opening-day starter Edinson Volquez was twice demoted to the minors and third baseman Scott Rolen was limited to just 65 games. Lefty Travis Wood struggled in his second year and right-hander Homer Bailey has yet to find consistency. The team's gaping holes at shortstop and left field were magnified and its rotation wasn't as deep as promised in the spring. In all, disappointment was all around in 2011 as Cincinnati was unable to defend its crown.

2012 AUDIT

The Reds need to follow the lead of the Brewers, who decided to go for it in 2011 instead of worrying what would happen when Prince Fielder left. The Reds still have two more years of Votto, they need to take advantage of that and try to win before Votto goes to greener pastures, not fret about what's going to happen in two years. The Reds still need some help at the top of their rotation, a right-handed power bat for the middle of the lineup and to make a decision about left field and shortstop.

FREE AGENTS

CL Francisco Cordero (team holds a $12 million option for 2012)
2B Brandon Phillips (team holds a $12 million option for 2012)
C Ramon Hernandez
SS Edgar Renteria
LHP Dontrelle Willis

OFFSEASON FOCUS

  • Sell high on first baseman Yonder Alonso. In his first extensive big-league action, the 2008 first-rounder was impressive, hitting .330/.398/.545, displaying a keen understanding of the strike zone. That said, the Reds struggled to find places to play him, considering he's a first baseman and the guy they have there is one of the game's best players. Alonso played 16 games in left field, and aside from a rough weekend in Wrigley Field, didn't embarrass himself. He also played a game at third base without a single ball coming his way. In the end, he's a first baseman. That's where he'll thrive and that's where some team could certainly use him -- just not the Reds. See what you can get for Alonso in a package or straight up. At 24, he's young for a major leaguer, but old for a prospect. His highest value is this offseason.
  • Make a play for a true ace. Yes, Cueto has the potential to be an ace and he looked at times to be an ace this season. However, the Brewers could have said the same thing about Yovani Gallardo after last season. Be bold and bolster the top of the rotation. The Reds were second in the National League in runs scored and fifth in OPS -- there's enough offense to win if the pitching is sound. Sure up the rotation and by default you sure up the bullpen. The Brewers thought bold and they didn't have half the farm system the Reds have. You can send some combination Alonso, Billy Hamilton and one of the two catchers -- Devin Mesoraco or Yasmani Grandal -- away in a deal or two for true front-of-the-rotation help.
  • Pick up Phillips' option, but don't sign him to the long-term deal he's seeking. Phillips will win his third Gold Glove this year and is as good as anyone defensively. He also hit .300/.353/.457. However, he'll be looking for a Dan Uggla-like deal (five years, $62 million), and that's just not something the Reds can afford, especially at non-premium position like second base. He adjusted well to the leadoff role late in the season, hitting .350/.417/.573 in 39 games (38 starts) at the top of the order, but he's still a career .322 OBP guy and his .353 on-base percentage this season was a career-best by .021, aided by a career-best .322 BABIP. Bottom line is he's the best second baseman in the National League, but that comes at a price -- and a price the Reds won't be able to afford past this season.
  • Speaking of not overpaying a specific position, the team vastly overpaid for closer Cordero after the 2007 season, giving him a four-year, $46 million deal plus a $12 million club option for 2012. There's no reason to pick that option up, even though the team has reportedly been talking about an extension with Cordero. Any extension would likely be two years for more than the $12 million he'd make by just picking up the option for next year, but would include a yearly pay cut. Again, that's a move big market teams can afford, but the Reds cannot. Even with likely deferred payments (much like last season's Arroyo extension), Cordero is too costly. He's done his job well in his time in Cincinnati, solidifying a bullpen that had been in tatters before his arrival, but it's too much to pay for a closer. Follow the lead of the Rays and Diamondbacks who were able to rebuild bullpens for less than $12 million based on scrap parts. It's risky, but no more risky (and less expensive) than paying inflated prices for relievers.
  • The team held on to Hernandez even when other teams were desperate for catching. That means either nobody was that desperate for catching, or Hernandez and his agents already told the team he would not accept arbitration -- or both. If the Reds can offer Hernandez arbitration without danger of him accepting it, they'd likely receive two draft picks if Hernandez qualifies as a Type A free agent. With Ryan Hanigan signed through 2013 at a team-friendly rate and Mesoraco left with nothing left to prove in the minors, it's time to move on from Hernandez, who has been productive in his time in Cincinnati. They also have Grandal waiting in the wings, plus Tucker Barnhart, who won the Minor League Gold Glove at catcher.
  • If the Reds are going to go young at shortstop with Zack Cozart and in left field with Chris Heisey, they need to commit to it -- no messing around with another veteran shortstop that will just take up playing time, like Edgar Renteria or Orlando Cabrera. In left, Heisey needs to play and play more, even against left-hander, even though he struggled against them. Juan Francisco has improved at third base and should be the first choice if Rolen isn't healthy.
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Posted on: September 21, 2011 1:13 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Papelbon falls in Sox loss



By Evan Brunell

Eric Hosmer, Royals:  Hosmer was lights out, going 5 for 5 on the night, driving in three runs and blasting his 18th home run of the season. His batting average is now a cool .300, and Hosmer seems like he should finish no lower than second in Rookie of the Year voting. Jeremy Hellickson likely has the award sewn up, but it's been a great year for Hosmer, whose five-night night was the first since Billy Butler accomplished the feat in July 2009.

Mat Latos, Padres:  Latos pitched his best start of the year on Tuesday, coughing up just one run in 8 2/3 innings against the Rockies. That lone run came in the ninth inning on a RBI single, but Heath Bell came on to finish out the game. Latos has only approached this kind of dominance once before, back on May 25 against the Cardinals. It's encouraging to see Latos finish the season strong, as his ERA has dropped in each of his September starts, entering the month at 3.82 and now resting at 3.60.

Ben Revere, Twins: Revere has hit in seven straight games, including a 4-for-5 night on Tuesday, swiping his 33rd stolen base. His batting average is now up to .264. Add in strong defense and the ability to swipe 40 bases a season, and Revere's stock is on the rise. The Twins will have to decide whether to keep both Revere and Denard Span and play one off the bench or deal one of the two for help. Odds are you'll see Span traded, likely to the Nationals, for middle infield and/or relief help.



Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox:  The last time Papelbon allowed a run, it was July 16. Unfortunately, that streak is now snapped after a bout of lousy timing thanks to a bases-loaded double scoring three Orioles runs that pushed Baltimore to a 7-5 victory. Papelbon came in with one out after Daniel Bard allowed two singles. While Papelbon punched out Chris Davis, he couldn't avoid another single and then a double to further send Red Sox fans into a pit of malaise.

Drew Stubbs, Reds:
Drew Stubbs punched out twice on Tuesday, giving him 200 strikeouts in a season. That gives him the distinction of being the first player not named Mark Reynolds to accomplish the feat. Even Adam Dunn hasn't done it, which shows you just how difficult it is to reach 200 strikeouts. "It is what it is," Stubbs told Eye on Baseball's C. Trent Rosecrans after the game. "It's not something anyone's ever proud of. I don't know. I don't know what else to say." Stubbs struck out a ton last season as well during a year where he notched a 20/20 season but has become a bit of a free swinger this year which may have something to do with his disappointing year at the plate. He's been increasingly hacktastic the last couple of months.

Rich Harden, Athletics: Ever since the trade deadline, Harden has been alternating clunkers with good games. There's the 10 strikeout game against the Royals... coughing up six runs to the Yankees ... blanking the Jays over seven innings... and Tuesday night, allowing five earned runs to the Rangers in just three innings, spiking his ERA to 5.17. Despite the late tailoff, Harden's talent is still so great that he'll get plenty of calls this offseason to be either a starter or reliever.

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Posted on: August 6, 2011 1:12 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Major-league debuts are a blast

Giovatella

By Evan Brunell


upJohnny Giavotella, Royals: The rookie Giavotella, who hit .338/.390/.481 for Triple-A, is the newest wave of Royals youngsters. This one is poised to hold second base for a long time on the strength of his bat and he got things started Friday against the Tigers with a 2-for-3 effort with a walk and run scored, getting his first major-league hit off of Rick Porcello. The 24-year-old tacked on an RBI for good measure, singling home Eric Hosmer in the seventh during a three-run outburst to tie the game. Detroit pushed a run across in the top of the 10th to win the game.

Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays: Lawrie, like Giavotella, was making his major-league debut. This time it was over with Toronto, and he wasted no time showing why he's ticketed to be the Jays' third baseman for the next 10 years by collecting two hits in four trips to the plate, driving in a run with two out. He batted ninth, but that will quickly change. Lawrie could have been called up in early June but took a pitch off the hand a day before he was getting called up which cost him months of recuperation. He's finally up, though, and Toronto's pieces for a nice run starting in 2012 is clicking into place.

Carlos Quentin, White Sox: Another powerful day for Quentin, who rocketed two homers and totaled four RBI on the day to bump his overall line to .259/.346/.512. It's a resurgence for the oft-injured righty, who is on pace to post 34 home runs, just shy of his career high of 46 in 2008. Giving how good pitching is these days though, this could be Quentin's most impressive season.



KarstensJeff Karstens, Pirates: Karstens has been pitching way above his head this year and paid for it Friday with a regression to the mean. He coughed up nine earned runs in 3 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out two. His ERA spiked from 2.49 to 3.05. Still, Karstens has gotten this far pitching this well, so he must be doing something right. While he's simply not a 2.49 ERA kind of pitcher -- and not quite 3.05 either -- he has shown that he can be a very good pitcher.

J.A. Happ, Astros: Ugh. Happ's ERA is now a sky-high 6.26. That's in 22 starts, so it's a legit 6.26. Happ had a 18-8 record from 2009-10 between the Phillies and Houston, posting a 3.09 ERA. Those who looked at peripherals and/or advanced statistics knew this was all a fluke. Those who saw nothing but the win-loss record were delivered a blow this season, as Happ gave up six runs in four innings to the Brewers, walking three and striking out two. Oh, and his record? 4-14. The Houston Chronicle's Zachary Levine notes that Happ is the first pitcher in Astros history to allow at least five runs in eight consecutive starts. Oh, and he's the fourth pitcher since 1948 to allow five runs in eight straight starts.

Drew Stubbs, Reds: Stubbs has skidded this season with a .252/.327/.386 mark. This wasn't supposed to happen, not after Stubbs notched a 20-30 season last year with a .255/.329/.444 mark, but his power has all but vanished this year and leads baseball with 145 strikeouts, three of which came against the Cubs on Friday, going hitless in four at-bats. The loss was the second straight for the Reds, who have gone 4-6 in their last 10 and are now 8 1/2 games out of first with a 54-58 record. If they're going to get to the postseason, they need to at the very least stop losing ground.

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Posted on: July 8, 2011 5:03 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 1:05 pm
 

Offense rules in NL Central

By C. Trent Rosecrans
2011 All-Star Game

SEE THE OTHER DIVISION ALL-STARS: AL East | AL Central | AL West | NL East | NL West

The National League Central has the most teams, some of the game's brightest stars and perhaps its best story in the Pittsburgh Pirates. How deep is the talent in the NL Central? The last two men to win the National League MVP are first basemen in the division and neither makes this NL Central All-Star team. The pitching isn't too deep, at least in terms of starters, but this lineup can absolutely mash the ball.

Ramon HernandezC Ramon Hernandez, Reds: This one is a surprise, as Yadier Molina -- perhaps the game's best defensive catcher -- is an All-Star and a deserving one at that. But the nod here goes to the guy Reds manager Dusty Baker calls "Clutch Man Monie." On opening day, his three-run homer gave the Reds a walk-off victory and he's been producing at the plate since, including a ninth-inning homer yesterday against Brewers closer John Axford and the delivered the game's winning hit in the 13th inning Wednesday night in St. Louis. Hernandez's overall line -- .316/.374/.526 -- makes up for the difference between his defense and Molina's. Molina is hitting a respectable .279/.329/.408, but Clutch Man Monie has been money, especially for a player who is still essentially splitting time with Ryan Hanigan.

Prince Fielder1B Joey Votto, Reds: Votto was the National League MVP in 2010, but Prince Fielder's been the league's MVP for the first half of this season. Fielder is hitting .302/.418/.588 with 22 home runs and 71 RBI, tied for the most in the league. Votto's been good as well, but Fielder's power numbers put him over the top. So why is Votto listed here instead of Fielder? Because as I filled out the lineup card, I looked and had Votto as DH and Fielder at first. Anyone who has seen those two with gloves on their hand know you'd rather have Votto (especially with Starlin Castro also in the infield) playing the field. So Fielder wins the spot, but Votto gets the nod, if that makes sense.

Lineup
No. Name Team Pos
1 Andrew McCutchen PIT CF
2 Rickie Weeks MIL 2B
3 Joey Votto CIN 1B
4 Prince Fielder MIL DH
5 Lance Berkman STL RF
6 Ryan Braun MIL LF
7 Aramis Ramirez CHI 3B
8 Ramon Hernandez CIN C
9 Starlin Castro CHI SS

Rickie Weeks2B Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Another Brewer nips a Red. While Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips is far and away a better defensive player, Weeks is having an incredible offensive season so far. Weeks is hitting .275/.345/.476 with 15 home runs. Phillips has 10 more RBI, but that's not all that surprising considering Weeks is used as a leadoff man. 

Aramis Ramirez3B Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: It's easy for Ramirez to get lost among the Cubs' mounting losses, but the 33-year-old is having a solid season, which may be his last with the Cubs. The Cubs hold a $16 million option on Ramirez for 2012, with a $2 million buyout. The Ricketts family may want to find a cheaper option, but Ramirez has produced this year, hitting .298/.346/.495 with 14 home runs and 49 RBI. He's also playing a decent third base, much better than his reputation would suggest. 

Starlin CastroSS Starlin Castro, Cubs: Sure, he's a mess defensively, but the kid can absolutely rake. Castro is hitting .305/.334/.428 with two home runs and 38 RBI, while stealing 10 bags as well. The 21-year-old is the player the Cubs will build around in the future, and for good cause. He also doesn't have a lot of competition in this division. The Pirates' Ronny Cedeno has been good defensively, but lacking offensively. The Cardinals' Ryan Theriot is hitting well, but was a below-average defensive second baseman and now he's playing short and then there's Yuniesky Betancourt, who has been terrible offensively and defensively.

LF Ryan Braun, Brewers: Talk about a stacked offensive division -- in left field you've got Matt Holliday and Braun. Braun, though gets the nod. He's been healthy (of course, Holliday's problems may make his numbers more impressive) and produced, hitting .320/.402/559 with 16 home runs and 62 RBI. He's also stolen 19 bases to boot.

Andrew McCutchenCF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: If Bruce Bochy doesn't want him, I'll sure as heck take him as my starter in center. A Gold Glove-caliber fielder, plus a .291/.389/.491 slash line and 12 homers and 15 stolen bases. McCutchen should be in the MVP discussion with the season he's had. If it weren't for McCutchen, Michael Bourn would be the pick. Bourn's hitting .288/.350/.399 with 35 stolen bases. Between those two and Cincinnati's Drew Stubbs, you could put together a heck of a relay team.

Lance BerkmanRF Lance Berkman, Cardinals: Sure he's a first baseman playing in the outfield, but who cares because he's made up for his atrocious defense with an offensive rebirth. The Cardinals gambled on Berkman this offseason and have been rewarded to the tune of .287/.399/.598 with a league-leading 23 home runs and 62 RBIs. The division also has Jay Bruce, Corey Hart and Hunter Pence, so it has right fielders to spare (not to mention Jon Jay, who played right field while Berkman was playing first for Albert Pujols.)

Prince FielderDH Prince Fielder, Brewers: This is a bit of a cheat, since I initially picked Fielder at first base. The decision here was between Votto and Holliday, and in a toss-up, I went with the reigning MVP, although either has a good case. Votto's hitting .319/.434/.497 with 12 home runs and 52 RBI, while Holliday is hitting .320/.417/.570 with 13 home runs and 46 RBI. Votto's seen fewer pitches to drive than he did a year ago, but is still producing. And once I was filling out the lineup card, I went with Votto at first base and Fielder as the DH.

Johnny CuetoSP Johnny Cueto, Reds: This division doesn't have a Cy Young candidate in the bunch, but does have several good young pitchers, including the 25-year-old Cueto, who started the season on the disabled list but is 5-3 with a 1.77 ERA in 11 starts this season. The Cardinals' Jaime Garcia is 8-4 with a 3.23 ERA and one of the best young left-handers in the game and Chicago's Matt Garza has been a victim of pitching for the Cubs, going 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA and an xFIP of 2.86.

Sean MarshallRP Sean Marshall, Cubs: The Cubs' left-hander is 5-2 with a 2.40 ERA, striking out 43 in 41 1/3 innings, while walking just nine. His xFIP is 2.27 and he's induced ground balls on 60.4 percent of the balls put in play, a good characteristic for a middle reliever, who will often come into the game with runners on base. Apologies to the Reds' Bill Bray and the Cardinals' Jason Motte.

Joel HanrahanCL Joel Hanrahan, Pirates: Hanrahan leads the division in saves with 25 and hasn't blown a single save this season.  Of the eight runners he's inherited this year, none of scored. He has 33 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings and eight walks. He's allowed just six earned runs (good for a 1.37 ERA). The division has several good starters, including the Reds' Francisco Cordero (17 saves, 1.69 ERA), the Brewers' John Axford (23 saves, 2.90 ERA) and the Cardinals' Fernando Salas (15 saves, 2.41 ERA).

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