Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Alfonso Soriano
Posted on: May 24, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: May 24, 2011 12:29 pm
 

The best and worst baserunners in the game

McLouth

By Evan Brunell


On Tuesday, Fangraphs unveiled a new statistic titled Ultimate Base Running. The calculation of UBR is similar to how the efficiency of outfield arms are calculated for use in Ultimate Zone Rating, one of the best freely available metrics to measure defense. Here's Fangraphs on how its calculated:
Whatever credit (positive or negative) is given to an outfielder based on a runner hold, advance, or kill on a batted ball is also given in reverse to the runner (or runners). There are some plays that a runner is given credit (again plus or minus) for that do not involve an outfielder, such as being safe or out going from first to second on a ground ball to the infield, or advancing, remaining, or being thrown out going from second to third on a ground ball to SS or 3B.

Runs are awarded to base runners in the same way they are rewarded to outfielders on “arm” plays. The average run value in terms of the base/out state is subtracted from the actual run value (also in terms of the resultant base/out state) on a particular play where a base runner is involved. The result of the subtraction is the run value awarded to the base runner on that play.

Enough with the mechanics of the statistic. Let's take a look at the season leaders are in UBR. Keep in mind two things: First, UBR is a cumulative statistic. That is, the more you play, the more your UBR will change, so those who haven't played much this season will rank low on the leaderboard in part due to lack of playing time. Next, it's too early to judge the effectiveness of UBR. The defensive statistic of UBR tends to need three full seasons of data to get anything usable for defensive judgement. It's not yet clear if UBR can be relied on immediately or if more time is needed. Still, this data is a leap forward in player evaluation, as baserunning skills (not to be confused with speed or stealing) were one of the few remaining hurdles to clear to get an overall look at a player's effectiveness.

Here are the top 10 baserunners in 2011 according to UBR, plus their career marks in parentheses. Data only goes back to 2002, so an asterisk will denote one season of missed data. For example, Ichiro Suzuki receives one asterisk as he played in 2001. Keep in mind that while this list can help strip out strong baserunners from those who bumble their way around the bases, it's still a list influenced by speed. Going second to third on a fly ball is easier when you run like Usain Bolt.
  1. Nate McLouth (pictured), Braves: 2.8 (12.5)
  2. Alex Rios, White Sox: 2.8 (14.5)
  3. Melky Cabrera, Royals: 2.7 (-0.2) -- So not only as Melky Cabrera completely turned his career around by becoming a better defender and rediscovering his stroke, he's positing a positive UBR for the first (and only) time in 2006. Maybe he really has screwed his head on.
  4. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox: 2.5 (10.3)
  5. Alex Gordon, Royals: 2.4 (6.5)
  6. Aaron Rowand, Giants: 2.2 (15.7*) -- Rowand was actually especially bad last season, with a -2.8 mark. And yet, with roughly a third less at-bats to date, he's already almost mirrored his negative mark from last season positively. That's a big jump in limited playing time.
  7. Brian Roberts, Orioles: 2.2 (11.6)
  8. Danny Espinosa, Nationals: 2.2 (2.8)
  9. Michael Bourn, Astros: 2.1 (13.9) -- Bourn had a 5.8 mark in 2009, which placed him fifth. Chone Figgins ran away with the top spot at a 7.9 mark, but Bourn has racked up strong numbers consistently the last few seasons. He may not hit for much power or even average, but he does everything else.
  10. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: 2.1 (24.0*)
There's a couple interesting names here, but by and large, this list is far from surprising. It's comprised of speedy or competent runners who need to bring value beyond their traditional offensive skill set to remain valuable.

And now, your trailers, a list that is wholly unsurprising:
  1. Paul Konerko, White Sox: -4.4 (-44.2*****)
  2. Casey McGehee, Brewers: -4.1 (-4.2)
  3. Brett Wallace, Astros: -4.0 (-4.0)
  4. Chipper Jones, Braves: -3.6 (-4.4********) -- A lot of missed seasons for Jones, but the trend is clear: he used to be a decent baserunner... until his knees went to hell.
  5. David Ortiz, Red Sox: -2.8 (-40.5*****) -- Ortiz is the anti-Larry Walker, who was hailed for his baserunning acumen despite lack of speed. Ortiz and a few other guys on this list are considered the slowest runners in the game, so it's not much of a surprise.
  6. Ryan Howard, Phillies: -2.8 (-22.5)
  7. Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: -2.5 (-27.2****)
  8. Alfonso Soriano, Cubs: -2.4 (3.9***) -- Soriano posted his first negative mark in 2006 (discounting missing 1999-2001 numbers), his last season before joining the Cubs. In five seasons with Chicago, he's only posted two positive marks.
  9. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: -2.1 (-12.8)
  10. Yadier Molina, Cardinals: -2.1 (-19.0)
Want more? How about the top and bottom five from 2002 to today?

The top:
  1. Juan Pierre (43.6)
  2. Chone Figgins (41.7)
  3. Jimmy Rollins (33.6)
  4. Carlos Beltran (30.5)
  5. Rafael Furcal (28.6)
Former/kinda current speedsters who have had age and injuries affect their speed. Unsurprising.

The bottom:
  1. Konerko
  2. Ortiz
  3. Jim Thome (-33.9)
  4. Pat Burrell (-30.6)
  5. Kevin Millar (-30.2)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: May 20, 2011 1:41 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2011 1:42 pm
 

Who will DH in interleague for NL teams?

Soriano

By Evan Brunell


Interleague play is upon us, which means that we'll be seeing some players in the National League get more at-bats over the weekend (and later in June, when interleague play really gets going) while AL teams will grouse about losing one of their best bats in NL parks.

“Any time that you get to interleague play and get the opportunities to get the guys some more at-bats is big,” Astros manager Brad Mills told the Houston Chronicle. “Get some guys some playing time and to have [Carlos Lee] DH is really nice for when we start playing National League games again and having those guys have at-bats under their belt.”

It's pretty easy to figure out which players in the American League will lose playing time -- just look at whose been DHing the most all season and go from there. The NL, though, is a different story, who now have to fit someone from the bench into the starting lineup. Looking at just this weekend only, which players stand to benefit from interleague play?

Cubs vs. Red Sox
: Alfonso Soriano (pictured) is a man without a position, even though he'll go down in history with well over 700 games in left field to his name once he retires. But for the next three days, DH will be his home. Soriano still doesn't have an OBP over .300, but his power stroke is still going with 11 bombs so far. Tyler Colvin was recently demoted, so he won't get the playing time in left, so that job will fall to both Reed Johnson and Tony Campana. Johnson will absolutely be in the lineup Friday against a lefty, but with right-handers going the next two days, Campana could earn his first two starts of the season. Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt could also figure into the equation.

Nationals vs. Orioles: Bank on Matt Stairs DHing, as manager Jim Riggleman termed him the "leading candidate" to the Washington Post. The pinch-hitting extraordinaire has just 21 at-bats on the year with two hits, but regular at-bats could get him going. Other contenders include Mike Morse, who has lost a lot of at-bats in left field to Laynce Nix lately, so this would represent an opportunity to get Morse going.

Reds vs. Indians: Jonny Gomes, despite recently being pushed into a three-way platoon, is the favorite to DH all three games in Cleveland. Gomes has been the DH in 16 of the last 18 interleague matchups for the Reds and will assume that position again in Cleveland which frees up left for Chris Heisey; Fred Lewis will likely also grab some at-bats.

Mets vs. Yankees
: Manager Terry Collins says that Fernando Martinez will DH the first two games with Carlos Beltran going on Sunday to take some pressure off his creaky knees, the New York Post writes. The Mets didn't want to call up F-Mart so he could get regular at-bats in the minors, but were forced into the move earlier. This will allow the Mets some type of justification for the move by getting Martinez into a game.

Astros vs. Blue Jays: As Mills alluded to, Carlos Lee will be the DH in Toronto, with Brian Bogusevic and Jason Michaels picking up outfield starts as a result. Anytime the Astros get Lee out of the field, they become a much better club. Granted, that still leaves them in bad shape. Lee is hitting .245/.274/.390 in 168 plate appearances in his second straight year of struggling. There's only one year left on his deal, which the 'Stros can't wait for to end. He notched his 2,006th hit last Saturday.

Dodgers vs. White Sox: The Dodgers will probably go with Jay Gibbons, as he's been working his way into more and more playing time in left. With the DH around, though, Gibbons should slide over to make room for Tony Gwynn, Jr.'s move into left field. Gibbons hasn't really gotten going yet, and this weekend series will be a great way for him to focus on just hitting while L.A. doesn't have to worry about sacrificing defense.

Cardinals vs. Royals: The Cardinals get some fortuitous timing of interleague as both Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday are hobbled due to injury. Only one can DH, but it will still get one of the two best bats on the team in the lineup. Bet on Holliday, who had a sore left leg. Berkman's injury is a bit more severe, with a right wrist sprain that limits his ability to swing a bat. John Jay, who earned starting time last season, has found the going much tougher this year, collecting just 78 at-bats despite appearing in 48 games. Jay tends to enter games as a defensive replacement, but has received four consecutive starts because of current or previous injuries to Holliday, Berkman and Colby Rasmus.  He's at .302/.397/.460 on the year.

Braves vs. Angels: To no surprise, Chipper Jones will receive a respite from his balky knees over the next two games as he recovers from a slight meniscus tear that could eventually require surgery. He'll play third on Sunday, though, which will open up DH for someone else. The guess here is the injury-prone Jason Heyward draws a start at DH, with Joe Mather or Eric Hinske patrolling the outfield as a result.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: May 16, 2011 11:43 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 11:54 pm
 

Quade fumes after Cubs blow game

By Matt Snyder

Things were going pretty well for the Cubs through 5 1/2 innings Monday night in Cincinnati. Carlos Pena had just hit a two-run home run -- his fourth in the past 11 games -- to put the Cubs on top 4-0. Starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano had only allowed one hit through his five shutout innings and really only needed to get through one more before handing the ball to Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol.

Instead, things came unraveled. The Reds tagged the Cubs for a seven-spot in the sixth, en route to a 7-4 victory. After the game, Cubs manager Mike Quade reportedly let loose on his ballclub behind closed doors before seeing the media and venting his frustration.

"That was embarrassing and that [expletive] has got to stop," he said.

"Nothing's [expletive] easy up here. We're not good enough to coast at all in any aspect of the game," he continued. (CSNChicago.com via Twitter)

Quade also reportedly noted that he was including himself and that everyone needed to get better.

For whatever it's worth, Quade's tirade didn't seem to fall on deaf ears. Marlon Byrd told reporters he was sick of it and he starts with himself in terms of where improvement is needed. Zambrano also took the full burden of the blame.

"It was all my fault ... disappointed in myself," he said, also adding that he was sad to have let down his teammates. (Paul Sullivan via Twitter)

In the sixth inning, there were a number of factors that contributed to the Reds' seven runs. Zambrano walked Edgar Renteria with one on and Joey Votto on deck. Alfonso Soriano was nothing short of a debacle as he backpedaled on Scott Rolen's game-tying, RBI double (I'm not sure he could have caught it, but an average left fielder would have). Marcos Mateo threw a wild pitch on his first offering and it allowed Jay Bruce to score the Reds' go-ahead run. Mateo then gave Jonny Gomes a fastball on a silver platter that resulted in a two-run homer. Defensively, things could have been sharper from Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome on separate occasions.

It was reported Quade was angry about "baserunning, defense and third base coach Ivan DeJesus' decision-making." (Chicago Tribune)

Quade and the Cubs could also be upset about back-to-back strikeouts by Soriano and Byrd to end the first inning after Homer Bailey had walked the bases loaded.

In related news, struggling outfielder Tyler Colvin has been optioned to Triple-A, which is absolutely the correct move. He's been awful at the plate this season (.113 with a .449 OPS) after a bit of a breakout last season (20 HRs in 358 at-bats), so he's in need of everyday at-bats to work through his issues.

The Cubs are 17-22 and six games out of first place in the NL Central.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: April 30, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Alfonso Soriano pounding home runs

Soriano

By Evan Brunell

So far, Alfonso Soriano is justifying his $18 million salary.

Yes, Soriano hasn't quite lived up to the billing of his eight-year, $136 million deal, but that was a fait accompli from the start. No one could have envisioned his fall to merely a "good" player, however. Now, two years removed from his worst season as a professional by hitting  .241/.303/.423, Soriano's power is back in a big way as he slammed two home runs Friday night to push his season total to nine.

No one thinks Soriano will hit his projected total of 58 home runs, but is it that outlandish to think he could reach 40? His strong April start has certainly put that into consideration. Looking at his career totals, Soriano has 323 career homers in what amounts to 10 and a half career seasons. That generally works out to 63 months and a touch over five home runs a month. A rudimentary calculation to be sure, but it ges the job done for comparison's sake. Assuming he hits five home runs a month for the remaining months of the year, that puts him at 34 home runs, so 40 isn't far fetched.

Even those 34 home runs would represent a high for Soriano in a Cubs uniform, as he hasn't cracked 30 since his inaugural year of 2007 with 33 home runs, concluding a streak of five out of six years with at least 30 blasts, reaching 46 with the Nationals in '06.

It's not all peachy for Sori, however. Home run display aside, he's actually had a rather disappointing year as his batting average is .247 -- continuing a new trend established over the last three years as someone who struggles to hit over .250. His OBP is also poor, checking in at just .269. Soriano has never been known for his plate discipline, but his current walk rate of 3.2 percent would be his worst since 2002's 3.1 percent, his second full season as starter.

Fortunately, while Soriano's plate discipline markers are low, so is his batting average on balls in play, so he should rebound in that department, raising his average. He also isn't significantly diverging from his career numbers at swinging both in and out of the zone. Couple that with his power outburst, and it's easy to posit that his newfound barrage is due to pitchers challenging him more given his eroding skills, ala Lance Berkman, another hitter who has exploded so far this season.

Even if Soriano's power numbers are bound to decline, his average should rise, and while it's too early to speculate on whether this is a revitalization or just a hot start, the numbers are promising so far. If the Cubs hope to shock everyone and win the division, they're going to need balls flying over the fence from Sori's bat.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
Category: MLB
Posted on: April 17, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:10 pm
 

Pepper: Dangerous game for fans, too

Jose Salazar

By C. Trent Rosecrans


When I went to Class A game the other day, I sat in the front row just to film from that angle and I was shocked at just how close I was sitting -- and how little the fans around me were paying attention.

Of course, it's worse at the minor-league level and in spring training where the stadiums are smaller, but it's still dangerous at the big-league level. Last night in Los Angeles, a fan at the Dodgers game was hit by a foul ball from Matt Holliday and carried off on a stretcher and taken to the hospital. [Associated Press ]

This spring, of course, Braves minor league manager Luis Salazar was struck in the face by a foul ball and lost an eye.

On Friday, Salazar returned to manage the Lynchburg Hillcats.

This weekend, it was a feel-good story to see Salazar back in uniform, but it was so close to being different. [Lynchburg News Advance ]

STRANGE BALK -- Take a minute to watch this -- last night Justin Verlander tried to pick off Daric Barton at first, but caught a cleat in the dirt, so instead of making a bad throw to first, he threw home and hit David DeJesus. Home plate umpire John Hirschbeck ruled it a balk, awarding Barton second base. DeJesus later walked. Verlander said afterward, even he laughed at how it looked. [MLB.com ]

BRADEN LEAVES EARLY -- A's starter Dallas Braden left Saturday's game with shoulder stiffness after five innings. There's no update yet, but it could be bad news for the A's. [San Francisco Chronicle ]

AFRICAN-AMERICAN PARTICIPATION DECLINES
-- As teams honored Jackie Robinson this weekend, the Mets' Willie Harris finds the lack of African-Americans in the game "sad." Only 9.1 percent of major leaguers on opening day 2010 were African-American, while 20 percent were in 1995. Harris said he doesn't think MLB markets its top African-American stars, such as Torii Hunter, Carl Crawford and CC Sabathia, well enough. [New York Daily News

Rockies STARTER FALLS - - For the first time this season, a Rockies starter picked up a loss in the game. Jason Hamel was the first Rockies starter to earn an L, falling 8-3 to the Cubs and ending the Rockies' seven-game winning streak. [Associated Press ]

AND THERE'S THAT
--The other day White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he has the league's best bullpen, despite his relievers blowing six saves and converting just one. On Saturday, he said he knows he has a good defensive team, despite its 15 errors this season, 13 in the last 10 games. [Chicago Tribune ]
 
SPEAKING OF -- The A's lead the majors with 17 errors, including one more on Saturday. First baseman Daric Barton -- widely viewed as one of the best defensive first basemen in the game -- is tied for the team-lead with three errors. Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff has three, as well. [MLB.com ]

EARNING HIS KEEP -- Could this be the year Alfonso Soriano lives up to his promise and salary? Soriano leads the Cubs with five home runs and 12 RBI. [Chicago Tribune ]

NO LEFTY -- The Dodgers don't have a left-handed reliever in their bullpen after Hong-Chih Kuo was place don the disabled list and replaced on the roster by right-hander Ramon Troncoso. [Los Angeles Times ]

ROYAL PEN -- One of the reasons the Royals are leading in the American League Central is their bullpen, well, almost all of their bullpen. In a reversal of expectations, only closer Joakim Soria, one of the best closers in baseball the last couple of years, has struggled. Manager Ned Yost said his closer is just "human" and should be fine. Still, the likes of Tim Collins, Jeremy Jeffress and Aaron Crow have impressed. [Kansas City Star ]

NEW PITCH -- Giants closer Brian Wilson is playing coy about a new pitch in his arsenal. Wilson, who will talk about most subjects, isn't discussing a new pitch he's throwing to right-handed batters. It may be a two-seam fastball, a cutter or even a screwball. [San Jose Mercury News ]

ATTENDANCE WOES -- This month six teams have set records for their lowest attendance since their current park opened -- the Braves, Indians, Mariners, Cardinals, Yankees and Twins. Overall attendance is down just two percent this year, which is less than I expected. [USA Today ]

HOW LOW CAN IT GO? -- Seattle is being hit particularly hard at the turnstiles. [Seattle Times ]

UBIQUITOUS OBLUQUE -- I missed this earlier this week, but heard Tim McCarver bring it up during yesterday's Mets-Braves games -- Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times wrote a great article about the oblique injury, noting 14 players had gone on the DL this year with an oblique injury. Also, before MRI technology improved to its current point, the injury had been called rib cage or abdominal injuries, the diagnosis is just better nowadays.

BIG DRAFT -- What if you had to pick from Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Justin Upton, Ricky Romero, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Mike Pelfrey, Wade Townsend, Chris Volstad, John Mayberry Jr., Jacoby Ellsbury, Colby Rasmus or Clay Buchholz? The 2005 draft offered those choices. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ]

WRIGLEY GRIDIRON -- The Cubs and Northwestern want to continue playing football games at Wrigley Field, despite the challenges they faced this season. In the end, money wins. [Chicago Tribune ]

TUCSON HOME -- Padres owner Jeff Moorad said Tucson will be the Triple-A home for the Padres for at least another year and could be an option if the team isn't able to get funding for a park in Escondido, Calif. [Arizona Daily Star ]

A DIFFERENT MANNY -- Manny Ramirez changed when he went to Boston. [Akron Beacon-Journal ]

HOT DOGGIN' -- A look at the best and craziest hot dogs at ballparks this season. I'm thinking about getting that Meat Lovers Dog at Great American Ball Park later today. I'll take pictures. In the name of "journalism" of course. I'm also curious about the Bahn Mi Dog at Nationals Stadium and [SeriousEats.com ]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb  on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.


Posted on: April 12, 2011 6:12 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 6:16 pm
 

When home boobirds attack

By Matt Snyder

As we get close to the end of two full weeks of baseball in the 2011 regular season, we're already being treated to our fair share of boobirds in many major-league stadiums. It's a long season, but out of the gate every fan base has at least a modicum of hope for the campaign. When things don't go as planned, players get booed. That's nothing new.

It's just that, on a personal level -- and I'm sure I'm not alone -- some of the booing frustrates me. Allow me to use an example to illustrate.

Vernon Wells was traded to the Angels in the offseason and the deal was met with mostly venom from Angels fans. He's gotten off to a poor start and is getting booed. Presently in the OC Register 's Angels Blog , there's a poll to see why fans are booing him. Shockingly (I'm being sarcastic), the No. 1 reason he's getting booed is because of his contract. Not because he's making mental mistakes or isn't playing hard. Nope, because he makes too much money.

It reminds me, in a way, of Alfonso Soriano in Wrigley Field. He leads the Cubs in home runs and RBI while sporting a nice .871 OPS thus far. He's had several clutch hits at home. But when he failed to haul in a fly ball -- on a dead sprint up against the wall in the corner, mind you -- he was booed. It wasn't even ruled an error. Meanwhile, Tyler Colvin is hitting .115 with a horrible .503 OPS and hasn't heard a single negative word. Reverse the stat lines and imagine how much Chicago would be in love with Colvin and despising Soriano. The reason for this is obviously the difference in contract.

My annoyance with things like this exists on several levels.

First of all, every single player in the league is loaded. The league minimum is $414,000. What percentage of fans make even close to that? If you want to just hate all rich people, please stop watching network TV shows, attending movies and definitely don't listen to most music. Those people all make way more than you, too. And if their performances could be measured in such things, they wouldn't be hitting a home run every single time out either.

Secondly, the players I mentioned above are playing hard and aren't bad clubhouse guys. I can't think of a time I ever heard a cross word from teammates of Soriano or Wells. We aren't talking about Milton Bradley and Manny Ramirez here.

Also, let us not forget someone had to offer those contracts. If you're Soriano, are you going to turn down that money, saying you are going to be almost 40 years old before it expires and there's no humanly way you'll be even close to the 40/40 mode by then? If you're Vernon Wells, should you tell the Angels not to make the trade because you aren't nearly as good as the contract you were offered by Toronto brass?

Look, there's definitely a place for booing. If someone pulls a Manny and dogs it because he doesn't feel like running out a grounder, by all means boo loudly. If someone makes a series of mental mistakes, again, bring those boos down. If a player is selfish enough to get suspended for using PEDs and returns, let him hear it. The players are professionals and shouldn't be giving anything less than 100 percent effort or professionalism -- just the same as none of us should in our respective professions.

I also understand that when you purchase a ticket you have every right to boo players for whatever reason you wish, but do you really wanna be that petty, jealous person who just screams and boos based upon salary? I just don't understand how booing a player for physical performance due to a salary he was offered by someone else is productive for anyone.

If he's giving it his all, someone like Wells should at least be allowed time to bust out of his early funk. After all, he's played 10 games. In 157 games last season he hit 31 home runs with an .847 OPS. He'll start hitting sometime soon.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: April 5, 2011 12:03 am
 

3 up, 3 down for 4/4: Hip hip Jorge!



By Matt Snyder


3 UP

Jorge Posada, Yankees. The former catcher seems to be enjoying himself as a designated hitter. He went deep twice Sunday and then hit his third home run of the season in his first at-bat Monday night. That's a two-day total of three home runs and six RBI in eight at-bats. With a slugging percentage of over .800 and his OPS a robust 1.188, he's off to a good start.

Craig Kimbrel, Braves. Carlos Marmol's K/9 record set last season might be seriously challenged already. Kimbrel struck out all three batters he faced en route to his second save of the season Monday in Milwaukee. He has only seen six batters all year, retired all six, and struck out five of them. That means that in his young major-league career, he has punched out 45 of the 94 batters he has faced. In just 22 2/3 innings, he's struck out 17.9 hitters per nine innings. Marmol's record last season was 16.0. And if you aren't impressed with the numbers or wanna cry small sample size, watch Kimbrel pitch. His stuff is insane.

Alfonso Soriano, Cubs. He's only collected four hits this season, but all four have been game-changers. He had a game-tying RBI single Saturday, a go-ahead home run late Sunday and two big knocks Monday in a Cubs victory. He tied the game with a solo home run in the third and then later singled in an insurance run. Considering Marmol was coming off a blown save and would be throwing his third straight game -- not to mention his penchant for walks -- the insurance was much needed for comfort. Soriano is the poster-child for Wrigley Field boobirds due to his contract, but if he keeps getting big knocks like this, some of that may go away -- at least temporarily.

3 DOWN

Rick Porcello, Tigers. The youngster is looking for a bounce-back campaign after a huge step-back year in 2010. He didn't get off to a good start Monday. The Orioles had little trouble knocking him around the park, as he surrendered nine hits and five earned runs in five innings. A three-run home run by Brian Roberts ultimately did Porcello in, but he simply got hit too hard. Four of the nine hits were of the extra-base variety.

Takashi Saito, Brewers. With the Brewers clinging to a one-run lead and looking to avoid a four-game losing streak to start the season, Saito allowed both Martin Prado and Dan Uggla to take him yard in the eighth. Considering the issues the Brewers have already seen from John Axford, this can't feel nice ... even if there are 158 games left on the schedule.

Albert Pujols, Cardinals. Here's a name you won't find here often. Pujols did score a run after drawing his first walk of the season Monday, but he was held hitless for the third time in four games in this young season. He grounded out to third three times Monday and is now 2-16 (.125 average) with a .176 on-base percentage. I will most certainly not be among those doing so, but it's conceivable to see people start questioning if he's distracted by the contract situation if the swoon continues. Mark my words, someone will do it. And then he'll explode with a seven-homer week.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: April 4, 2011 5:30 pm
 

Cubs win in front of lowest attendance since '02

By Matt Snyder

Sure, there are outliers, but usually when you watch a game involving the Cubs and Wrigley Field, it's a rarity to see more than a few empty seats. As you can see from the background of the picture here, it was a veritable ghost town in Wrigley Monday afternoon.

The paid attendance was actually 26,292, so there were thousands and thousands of no-shows. The 47-degrees and 23 m.p.h wind likely contributed to the decisions of so many people to skip out on the game. Even so, the paid attedance was the lowest figure since September of 2002. (Paul Sullivan of Chicago Tribune via Twitter)

The few who did show up saw a Cubs victory. Randy Wells served up a home run to Willie Bloomquist to open the game, but the Diamondbacks didn't score again the rest of the game. A solo home run for Alfonso Soriano tied the game in the third and a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Carlos Pena in the fourth tied it up. The Cubs added two insurance runs in the eighth before Carlos Marmol bounced back from Sunday's blown save to lock it down in the ninth. It took Marmol a second to get himself into gear, too. He walked the first batter he faced and then went 2-0 to Kelly Johnson. He then settled in and didn't allow a baserunner the rest of the way.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com