Results tagged ‘ ERA ’

Jeff Samardzija Winless In 2014 Despite Sub-Two ERA

The Cubs are a bad team; nearly everyone around the baseball world knows it. Jeff Samardzija, one of the best pitchers in baseball so far in 2014, has seen that first hand more than any other player currently on the Cubs, as regardless of his terrific outings, Samardzija is yet to win a single game.Jeff Samardzija

Sitting 0-4 on the year — part a winless streak that stretches back to August 24th of last season — Samardzija’s overall performance on the year could be missed if you were to look solely at his win-loss record. But possessing an ERA of 1.46 over 10 games pitched, Samardzija has been setting himself up for success all season long, however, the Cubs simply haven’t provided any run support in his starts — the fourth worst for any pitcher in baseball — going 1-9 in Samardzija’s starts this season.

In Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Yankees at Wrigley Field, Samardzija was outstanding yet again, going seven innings and not allowing a single run. But, as has been the case so often this season, it wasn’t enough, with the Yankees coming back to tie things up in the ninth, and going on to win the game, 4-2, in the thirteenth inning. Certainly a blow to Samardzija, who appeared to have his first win of 2014 secured upon his departure.

If Samardzija played for nearly any other team in Major League Baseball, such as the Yankees, there’s a chance that he could be 10-0 on the season. Given, that’s purely speculative, and a few of those games would likely have been losses or no decisions, the basic point being made is that a pitcher can only do so much. It also takes good performances by your teammates to win ballgames.

And therefore, the question many people are asking: What value does a win truly carry?

As far as the answer goes, I’m halfway in between. On one hand, a win can say a lot about a pitcher and how well he’s pitched over the course of his outings. When you pitch extremely well, the majority of the time (unless you play for the Cubs) you’ll pick up the win. But on the other hand, as has been proven with Samardzija, you can’t just look at a win-loss record and declare who’s the best pitcher in baseball. Right now, arguably, that accolade would go to Samardzija, even though he’s yet to pick up a win.

Some people go as far as to say that the win statistic is useless and should be taken out of the game all together. Although I agree that the win isn’t as useful as some of the other stats a pitcher can post — ERA, batting average against, strikeouts per nine innings, etc. – I still think it’s a big part of the game. While it might have meant more numerous years ago when a pitcher that was pitching well would stay in the entire length of a game, there’s something special about a pitcher hitting the 20-win plateau, or only loosing a few of their numerous games pitched in a season.

Though you now have relief pitchers racking up wins that, had their team performed better, the starting pitcher would’ve notched, in addition to pitchers with bad outings still receiving the win due to a ton of run support – Chris Tillman gave up 7 runs back on April 23rd and won the game – it’s still a fun statistic to keep an eye on.

But while the win isn’t everything, and Samardzija is very unlikely to go the full length of the season without a single win with the way he’s been pitching, it doesn’t help the Cubs’ cause in terms of influencing Samardzija to stick around for the long haul. When you do your job but still lose due to being apart of a team that is among the worst in baseball, I imagine you can get frustrated very easily. As one person put it in on Twitter, “Samardzija is one of the biggest wastes of talent in the game today”. It’s truly a shame.

In the end, whether or not you agree with the win being an important stat for pitchers, you have to agree that Samardzija is putting together an amazing 2014 season. Even though he’s winless, Samardzija seems to have figured things out over the past couple of seasons, and is one of the only bright spots on the Cubs. However, for the majority of the Cubs, if they can’t figure things out for themselves as a whole fairly quickly, they may face a situation without Samardzija at some point down the road.

Tanaka, Ellsbury Proving Me Wrong So Far In 2014

I have to admit it. I’m impressed.

When I published a post a few months ago about why the Yankees shouldn’t sign Masahiro Tanaka, I didn’t expect him to adjust to Major League Baseball so quickly. Given, the main point I was trying to make was that the money spent on Tanaka would be better used to sign other, cheaper free agents, I didn’t necessarily buy into the dominant pitcher that Tanaka was being hyped as. masahiro-tanaka

Even after going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan last season, I wasn’t convinced with everything that supposedly came along with Tanaka, and fully expected him, wherever he wound up, to struggle a little bit, having never pitched a game at the big league level.

But that hasn’t happened.

If anything, though he’s had his struggles at times, Tanaka has been better than his previous seasons in Japan, currently sitting in the top five among American League pitchers in the strikeout category, with 51 through 42.2 innings pitched. Only recording more strikeouts than innings pitched once in his seven year career in Japan, Tanaka is off to as good of a start as anyone – Yankees fans most of all – could’ve hoped for.

Moving to 4-0 with a 2.53 ERA after Saturday’s win against the Rays, Tanaka looks to continue stretching his winning streak without a single loss out as the season goes on. Although it’s very unlikely that Tanaka will remain perfect for the entire length of a second straight season, his performance each and every start will be a key factor in what kind of season the Yankees have.

However, even with the great pitching outings, Tanaka isn’t winning games on his own. The Yankees have been good, for the most part, up and down the lineup, with several players getting big hits in big spots to provide some run support. And that includes Jacoby Ellsbury just as much as anyone, who has been tremendous as their leadoff hitter.

As with Tanaka, however, I was quick to judge the Yankees’ offseason signing of Ellsbury.

Though Ellsbury can be a big impact player when healthy, that’s the issue — he hasn’t succeeded in staying healthy very often. While most of mlb_g_ellsbury_b1_400x600his injuries in the past have been freak injuries, Ellsbury comes along with a certain form of caution, and that lead to concern from myself to just what type of player the Yankees were getting. But with the way he’s been performing for the Yankees so far this season, Ellsbury could very well lose the injury prone tag that has stuck with him for years.

Currently batting .356 on the year to go along with ten stolen bases, and hitting his first home run of the season on Saturday, Ellsbury has been a key piece to the Yankees’ team, and one of the reasons they’ve been able to get off to such a good start, currently sitting atop the American League East division standings.

The bottom line: Masahiro Tanaka is good, Jacoby Ellsbury is good, and the Yankees apparently know what they’re doing. Though I’m sure I’ll find myself doubting certain trades and signings next offseason, the performances of Tanaka and Ellsbury, along with many others, proves that you never truly know whether a move is a good one or a bad one until the season starts. Until then, there’s always the chance that you can be proven wrong.

This particular time, it appears to have happened to me twice.

3/8/14: NC State Vs. Notre Dame

Normally, I don’t blog about college baseball games that I attend. They simply don’t have the same talent level that comes with a Major League Baseball game – or even a minor league game, for that matter — and it’s not usually worth writing about. But the NC State versus Notre Dame game that my dad and I went to on Saturday was a bit different.

First of all, the projected number one overall 2014 draft pick, Carlos Rodon, was scheduled to make the start for State, and with his previous track record — going 10-3 with a 2.99 ERA last season — Rodon certainly goes a long way in making this year’s NC State team something special. But Rodon isn’t the only standout on the team.

In addition, Trea Turner, who’s predicted to be a top ten pick in the upcoming draft, adds excitement to each and every game, none more so than with his above average speed. With both Rodon and Turner, this year’s State team is a must see.

Which is why I found myself out at the ballpark on Saturday afternoon. I wanted to witness it all for myself before they both leave following this season.

While Carlos Rodon is usually NC State’s Friday starter, as most college aces are, a rainout on Friday forced the game to be made up as part of a double header with visiting Notre Dame on Saturday, with Rodon pitching game one:

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Although he hadn’t started off the year too well, going 1-2, I was optimistic that Rodon would turn things around in his first warm start of the season.

And for the most part, I was right.

Rodon appeared to be locked in out of the gate, as he gave up just one hit, and struck out two (one of which was Craig Biggio’s son, Cavan Biggio) through the first two innings. In the third, however, Rodon lost a bit of his composure, allowing three hits, but impressed me with his ability to keep things from getting too out of hand, allowing only one run.

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But while Rodon had a great start to the game, he didn’t receive any run support, as State failed to get a man across the plate through the first four innings, due to the equally strong start from Notre Dame’s Sean Fitzgerald. But Fitzgerald finally struggled enough in the fifth to allow a single run, bringing the score to 1-1.

At that point in time, I made my way around from the third base side to the first base side, which is where I spent the rest of the game, just so I could get a glimpse from a different angle of Carlos Rodon . . . . :

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. . . . and Trea Turner:

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When I first found my way over to that side of the ballpark, I heard of a rumor that Craig Biggio was actually in attendance to watch his son play. But since I never actually saw him, I can’t say for sure that it was true. But I digress. Back to the game.

Both pitchers continued to do well until the sixth, when each allowed two runs to the opposing squad, raising the score to 3 runs apiece. Fitzgerald was replaced after the sixth, but Rodon was left in, which would turn out to be huge for State.

Recording what would be the game winning hit in the eighth, State’s Jake Armstrong proved to be the difference maker, as he singled in Bubby Riley and Trea Turner, whose speed likely aided in his ability to score, making it 5-3, State.

Rodon finished out the game a bit shaky, allowing two hits in the ninth, but promptly got a game ending double play to lock up the fifth complete game of his career:

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Rodon received the win, bringing his win-loss record up to 2-2, to go along with a 2.40 ERA on the season, striking out seven and allowing 10 scattered hits on 121 pitches. My overall impression was that Rodon was good, but not overly fantastic in this particular game, but that’s not meant to take anything away from Rodon. He’s a great pitcher, and will undoubtedly be a star in the majors at some point down the road (as will Trea Turner, who went 1-4 on the day).

As you may have inferred, I didn’t try for any autographs at this game as I usually do every time I go to a baseball game, but that’s simply because I’m going to be seeing NC State again next month, when they take on UNC at the newly renovated Durham Bulls Athletic Park on April 15th. Rodon isn’t scheduled to pitch, so I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get him to sign for me, along with Trea Turner. But either way, it’s sure to be a fun time, as always.

Ten Players Who Need to Have A Good 2014 Season

Spring Training is well underway, and many players are beginning to find their grooves that they hope will carry over into the coming regular season. With just over three weeks until Opening Day, on March 31st, there’s not too much time remaining for players who struggled last season to get things back on track for this year. With that said, some players certainly need to have a good year more than others.

While every player, obviously, wants to have a good, healthy season, there are numerous players who pretty much have to produce a good 2014 for one reason or another — whether it’s personal reasons, statistical reasons, or for team success as a whole. Although there are more players than those in my list below, here are the top ten players (in no particular order) that I feel need to have a really good 2014 season:

1.) Albert Pujols

After recording twelve straight seasons of 30 or more home runs (all but one of which included 100+ RBI’s) Albert Pujols faced the first bit of adversity of his career in 2013. Dealing with a nagging foot injury, Pujols only managed to post 17 home runs and 64 RBI’s, along with a .258 batting average — absolutely terrible by his standards – in 99 games played. With the down year coming as a shock to many people, especially after the acquisition of him led many to predict playoff pushes for the Angels, there will be many eyes on Pujols from his very first at-bat of the season to see if he can bounce back. I personally feel that if Pujols is healthy, the numbers will be there, and he will be a top candidate for American League comeback player of the year, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

2.) Ryan Braun

mlb_u_ryan-braun_mb_400x600In January of 2013, a list was made public by the biogenesis clinic in Miami, Florida, connecting numerous players to performance enhancing drugs, including Ryan Braun. After being connected to PED’s back in 2011, the list raised many red flags, but Braun denied any drug use, yet again. But finally, after a 65-game suspension by Major League Baseball, Braun came clean and admitted to having used PED’s, upsetting many people around the league. Therefore, unlike anyone else on my list, Braun (who had a good season, batting .298 with 9 homers and 38 RBI’s in 61 games) needs to have a good 2014 more for his personal image rather than his talent level image. Everyone knows he’s a great player, but it will take some time for fans to get over Braun’s consistent denial of PED use — and a great season would certainly help with that.

3.) Ryan Howard

Battling injuries over the course of the past two seasons, Ryan Howard needs to have a bounce back year for him to once again be considered the major power threat that he once was. Playing in only 80 games in 2013, Howard batted a mere .266 with 11 home runs and 43 RBI’s. Considering the fact that Howard hit 33 home runs just two years prior, making it the sixth 30+ home run season of his career, the Phillies’ former star first baseman really needs to show signs of his former self this season. If Howard can perform anywhere near his previous level by staying healthy and putting many a ball into the outfield seats, not only could he very well win the 2014 National League comeback player of the year award, but the Phillies could have a real shot at having a memorable year.

4.) Derek Jeter

Announcing that 2014 would be his final season playing Major League Baseball last month, Derek Jeter needs to have a good final season to top off an already incredible career. In 2013, Jeter struggled with injury after injury, managing to play in only 17 games, and posting a .190 batting average, to go along with a single homer and 7 runs batted in. After accumulating over 3,300 hits in the big leagues over the course of his career, Jeter doesn’t need to have a good final season to be remembered as one of the best players of all-time — he’s already on that list for many people — but rather to finish out his career in Jeter fashion, going out on top of his game. I truly hope he can have a great 2014 season, and I feel he will do just that.

1vysec_AuSt_695.) David Price

When David Price won the 2012 American League Cy Young award, recording 20 wins and posting a 2.56 ERA, many (myself included) felt he had a good chance at doing the same again last season. But instead, Price was faced with a midseason injury that caused his numbers to take a tumble. Posting a win-loss record of 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA — not too terrible, but somewhat disappointing for him — Price needs to bounce back in 2014 for both his sake and the sake of the Rays. Price truly can be the key for the Rays, who always seem to be on the brink of playoff baseball every season. With an improved American League East division for the coming year, Price’s season could be the difference maker for if the Rays are able to make the postseason or not.

6.) B.J. Upton

Arguably the biggest disappointment of the 2013 season, batting .184 with just 9 home runs and 26 RBI’s after a 2012 season of 28 homers and 78 runs driven in, B.J. Upton has to have a good season this year for him not to be considered a trade bust by the Braves. The Braves managed to win their division last season by a rather large margin without much production from Upton, and if they can get Upton back to his former self, the Braves could have an even better year. It will be interesting to see how B.J. Upton does in the coming year with so much negative criticism surrounding him from the 2013 season. If he can have another good season, the down year he experience will be a forgotten aspect of the past.

7.) Stephen Strasburg

There are some players that are tagged with a major amount of hype from their first appearance in the big leagues, and Stephen Strasburg is one of them. While he hasn’t disappointed for the most part, going 8-9 with a 3.00 ERA last season, Strasburg also hasn’t managed to blow everyone away and completely dominate like many believe he can. It’s been reported that Strasburg has added a new pitch to his arsenal and is throwing better than ever, and that could mean good things for both him and the Nationals. If Strasburg can find a way to tally even ten more wins than he did this past year, the Nat’s could find themselves in the running for the National League East division title, assuming everything else goes right for the rest of the team.

8.) Mike Moustakas628x471

Having the potential to be an All-Star third baseman season after season, Mike Moustakas has yet to post an exceptional season at the major league level. Batting only .233, with 12 homers and 42 RBI’s last season, Moustakas needs to have a good season this year for him to be seen as the above average player he can be moving forward. The Royals still have several holes in their lineup, but Moustakas performing well each year would go a long way in helping them move back into contention. He’s still fairly young, at just 25 years old, and therefore has time left to live out his former hype, but Moustakas could use a strong statistical season to prove to many that he’s one of the top third baseman in the game of baseball today.

9.) Matt Kemp

Although he’s still not fully healthy, Matt Kemp is already on the radar of many people who think he will have a good 2014 season. The only question mark being his health, playing in only 73 games last year. If healthy, as with many players on this list, the numbers will be there, as Kemp is one of the premier talents in the game today, possessing 40 home run, 40 stolen base ability (coming one home run shy of doing just that in 2011, when he placed second in MVP voting). Although there is great depth in the Dodgers’ current outfield, which includes players such as Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig, if Kemp can show signs that he’s healthy, he will certainly get plenty of playing time in the coming season. He’s too good of a player to count out.

10.) Tim Lincecum

Once a Cy Young caliber pitcher, having won back-to-back awards in 2008 and 2009, Tim Lincecum has really fallen off as of late. Each of the past two seasons, Lincecum has posted an ERA over 4.00, and in addition had losing records. While the win-loss record isn’t the most important thing when evaluating a pitcher’s season, an ERA anywhere above 3.50 usually means they had a disappointing year. But with the talent that Lincecum has shown in the past, I’m not giving up on a turnaround just yet. He just really needs to have a good 2014 season — perhaps more than most of the players on this list — for him to become ‘The Freak’ pitcher he once was considered. I truly hope he can, because when Lincecum is on, he’s one of the most fun pitchers to watch in all of baseball.

JUST MISSES

There are a few players who need to have a good 2014 season who just barely missed my above list because their stats were slightly too good. One of those being Josh Hamilton, who was a major disappointment after signing with the Angles, but when you check the stats, he actually had a decent year, hitting 21 home runs and driving in 79 runs. Another example of that being Yoenis Cespedes, who had a down year average wise, hitting just .240, but posted 26 homers and 80 RBI’s. Not too bad of a season for most players.

Joining those two on the list of just misses are Giancarlo Stanton, who was injured in 2013 but still managed to hit 24 home runs and amass 62 RBI’s, along with Dan Uggla, whose .179 batting included 22 homers and 55 RBI’s, which really isn’t all that terrible. While all the players listed under the just missed category had down seasons by their standards, they managed to have somewhat decent years as far as the major league average goes. Even so, they could each use a good 2014 season to prove what they’re capable of.

Which player needs to have a good 2014 season the most? Leave a comment below.

Q and A With Mark Appel

Mark Appel was drafted out of high school by the Tigers in the 15th round of the 2009 draft. However, due to his commitment to Stanford University, Appel didn’t sign, and instead went to pitch at college.

At Standford, Appel began as a relief pitcher, only receiving three starts his freshman year, where he posted a 5.92 ERA over 38 innings. Once he was made a full time starter again the next season, Appel excelled, lowering his ERA down to 3.02 for the year. In his junior year of college, after he went 10-2 with a 2.56 ERA, Appel was once again drafted, this time by the Pirates as the eighth overall pick. Many felt that Appel would begin his professional baseball career, but he decided to return to college to finish out his baseball career (and degree) at Stanford.

BBM-BeesvQCBandits-Appel-118Despite some flak from people around the baseball world for returning to college, Appel showed just how good of a pitcher he is, improving to have his best season at Stanford; setting the all-time collective strikeout record, in which he went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA. After such a successful final year, Appel was drafted yet again, for the third time, by the Astros as the first overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Beginning his professional baseball career with Low-A Tri-City, Appel made it up to Single-A Quad Cities in 2013, going a combined 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA. Due to the 106 innings Appel had already pitched in 2013 at Stanford, he was shut down after just 38 professional innings pitched, bringing his innings up to roughly 144 for the season.

Appel has an average, to slightly above average, fastball, ranging from the lower to mid nineties, but he can crank it up to upper nineties when needed. He also possesses a good slider and a work in progress changeup that many think will come along.

Heading into his first major league Spring Training, it’s been reported that Appel could, potentially, make the big leagues out of camp “if he is one of the best five pitchers out of Spring Training”. However, as many people feel, it will likely be later in 2014, or early 2015, when Houston — his hometown – gets its first glimpse of Appel. But no matter when that is, with all of the other top prospects in the Astros’ farm system, the future would appear to be bright for them as an organization moving forward, with Appel soon to be leading the way.

Mark Appel — top pitching prospect in the Astros’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I first became interested in baseball when I was very young. For as long as I can remember, I have been playing some version of the sport. Growing up, my parents, as well as certain coaches throughout the years, really influenced me and encouraged me to pursue my dream of playing baseball as a way to educate myself in college and professionally.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

Nolan Ryan was one of the all-time great pitchers and the player I looked up to the most as far as what I wanted to be on the field. He was a fierce competitor who gave his all every single time he got the ball. He competed no matter the score, circumstance, or previous result. Win or lose, you knew he was going to go out and compete again the next time he got the ball.

3.) You were drafted by the Astros in the 1st round of the 2013 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The draft process is very interesting. As someone who has gone through it three different times in three unique situations, I feel like I have seen it all. Someone expected to get drafted goes through “interviews”, both on and off the field. In my situation, I spoke with general managers and scouting directors, as well as the local area scouts. Answering their questions off the field is important for their evaluation process so they can have a good understanding of the type of person you are. But the factor that matters most is the results on the field — how good you are at playing baseball.

The Astros and I had a number of conversations leading up to the draft and on the day of the draft, as well as a few other teams. When the time came for the pick to be made, I felt peace in knowing that I would be exactly where God wanted me to be, whether it was Houston or another team. Bud Selig announced my name and my friends and family who came to visit California (I was preparing for graduation the following week) all celebrated! It was a surreal feeling, knowing that I would be able to have a chance to play in my hometown and the team I grew up rooting for was now the same organization I was a part of. God’s grace is too great.

4.) Before being the number one overall pick in 2013, you were drafted by the Tigers in 2009, and the Pirates, eighth overall, in 2012. What made you decide to attend college instead of going pro out of high school? Why did you decide to return for your senior year at Stanford in 2012 after the Pirates drafted you so high?  

Like I said, I have been drafted three times and each were unique situations.

appelIn high school the Tigers drafted me in the 15th round, even though I told all the area scouts I spoke with that I was planning on attending Stanford. Dreaming about being a pro baseball player, it was fun to entertain the thought of signing as a senior in high school, but I knew that Stanford was where I needed to be for my future, both in baseball and in life. Unsure if I was ready to play minor league baseball, I knew college would allow me to grow up, become a man, and still play baseball at a very high level.

In 2012 the Pirates drafted me with the 8th pick in the draft. The decision to return to school for my senior season was the toughest I have ever had to make. There are a number of factors that go into a decision of that magnitude: baseball development and career, education, regrets (I will explain this one later), desires, and money. Also, as a follower of Jesus, relationships with my coaches, teammates and fans, combined with being a part of what God is doing in this world, is very important to me.

For the baseball development, I did not see an advantage to either signing or returning to school. Development really comes down to how badly you want to get better as a player. I knew that I would be able to improve both at Stanford and in the Pirates’ organization. As far as education went, it was a no-brainer to return to school. Playing my senior year allowed me to finish my degree in Management Science and Engineering. As far as regrets go, when I made my decision, I did not want to have any regrets. I didn’t want to spend my idle time thinking about what it would have been like if I chose the other option. Going back to Stanford meant I would have a chance to play in Omaha (which we didn’t achieve), finish my degree before starting a professional career, and continue to be involved in campus ministries that I had been involved with the past three years.

Those are some things that I would have wondered about a lot if I had signed. When it came down to it, money out of the question, I wanted to go back to school, not for the lack of things signing professionally had to offer (which wasn’t much), but for the mlb_a_appel_cr_400opportunities I had during my senior year at Stanford.

But, as everyone knows, money was involved. And it was a lot of money. There are two somewhat conflicting things going on with my situation. On one hand, I was offered a lot of money, and I mean a lot. And on the other hand, I wasn’t offered what I believed my value for my talents was in the draft market under the current rules. So do I stick to principle and go back to school, or do I chase the money and sign? It was a tough question to comprehend.

There are financial benefits to both options, as well as financial risks (well, maybe there were only risks for returning to school). If money was the most important thing to me, I would have signed 100 percent. I knew by returning to school, I would give up 3.8 million dollars. I also knew there were a few things that could go wrong: injury and underperformance were the two main risks. I also knew there were benefits: education, relationships, the opportunity to get better, and a potential financial gain. The thing most people don’t realize is that I had zero regrets. No matter the outcome of my senior season and the draft that followed, I would have been extremely happy with the decision.

As confirmation that I was exactly where God wanted me to be, within the first two weeks of being back at school four members from the Stanford baseball team had accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior through the team bible study! It was so cool to be a part of the work of the Holy Spirit!

5.) In your senior year of high school, you were a part time relief pitcher and didn’t become a full time starter again until your sophomore year of college. Having been both a starting and relief pitcher, which did you find more challenging?

Both relieving and starting have their challenges. I have much more experience as a starter, and at higher levels of competition, I have only started. Personally, I think the difference is the mentality and routine. A reliever needs to mentally prepare himself to pitch 1-2 innings every single night, in general. A starter must prepare mentally to pitch five or more innings once every five days. The two are difficult to compare. With that being said, I would say that starting has been more challenging for me, probably due to the difference in talent level between high school and college, but also because there is so much to learn as a starter. I feel like I learn something new every single day.

6.) Talk a little bit about life on the road: What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?

Life on the road can be very difficult. There are many things that, as a Christian, I need to prepare for. Wherever you go, you will have decisions to make from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed that will affect both how you play and how your teammates see you — as a man of integrity or a hypocrite. From how I spend my time in the hotel room to where I go and what I do after the games, there will be temptations of various kinds; whether it is alcohol, drugs, etc. For me, reading is something that I enjoy doing, starting with the Bible, but also books for entertainment purposes. Reading engages the mind to learn and grow, especially when playing baseball every day can get repetitive and mundane at times.

Spending time with teammates is a great way to spend your free time. These are the guys that you hope to win a championship with, and in my opinion, the better the team knows and respects each other off the field the more we will play together as a unit. I also believe that building relationships is the first step to discipleship, what Jesus has called us to do as believers. Coming along side people and meeting them where they are, encouraging them and building them up, investing in their lives speaks a lot louder than just telling them about an alternative lifestyle through knowing Jesus that would be better for them. Actions always speak louder than words.

7.) The Astros haven’t been doing well lately, finishing with over 100 losses the past two seasons, but they have great talent down in their farm system. With players such as yourself, Carlos Correa and George Springer, among others, how do you see the teamMark Appel faring over the next few years?

Being a part of the Astros’ organization is an incredible blessing. Not only are they my hometown team, but I believe they are a team that will be good quickly and good for a long time. Buying in to the system now and getting to know all the players right now will build a foundation for the future of the organization at the big league level.

I believe that the Astros will be the most improved team this year, and will continue to improve year after year. As we develop and add new players to the major league team, the chances we win more and more games only increases.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2013? What are your goals for 2014?

My 2013 pro season was great. I’m not necessarily pleased with the end of year statistics as a whole, but I do believe I continued to improve and to learn about professional baseball and what to expect for my 2014 season.

This season my goals are simply to work as hard as I can every single day and allow God to take care of the rest. I am not going to worry about which level I start out at or when I make it to Houston this year (if at all). The great thing about being a disciple of Jesus is knowing that wherever I am in life, I have purpose and there is work to be done for the kingdom of God. Don’t get me wrong, I am going to work with all that I have in order to reach the big leagues, but while I’m working, I’m not going to worry, and I’ll have some fun!

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

Favorite TV show: Currently, ‘Parks and Recreation’. I can really identify with Ron Swanson. Favorite food: Steak.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

My advice to kids hoping to play pro ball is to work hard in school, first and foremost. Secondly, have fun while you are playing. Don’t let the fun of the game be overshadowed by the worry and fear of not achieving the goals that you have for yourself. Baseball is a fun game, and I have seen too many players in college and pro ball not enjoy it because they want to be the best so badly that their desire for perfection has removed the joy they once had while playing the game. Don’t lose that childlike spirit.

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Big thanks to Mark Appel for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @MAppel26

Q and A With Tyler Pike

Tyler Pike was drafted by the Mariners in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. Since the draft, after forgoing a scholarship from Florida State University by signing out of high school, Pike has put together a couple of good years, going a combined 9-5 with a 2.18 ERA g258000000000000000592177d2aa97fa2f9d62b665955b2b58f948e88csince making his professional debut.

In 2013, Pike went 7-4 with a 2.37 ERA over the course of 22 games started, holding the opposition’s batting average to a mere .194, and earning him a spot on the Midwest League All-Star Game Western Division roster.

Despite an average arsenal of pitches — fastball, curveball, changeup – Pike is able to use all three effectively, leading many to believe that Pike could be on a fairly quick path to the majors, should things continue to go smoothly for him.

At just 20 years old, Pike is still young and has plenty of time to develop into the major league quality starting pitcher many feel he can become. Even so, it’s likely that Pike will be making his debut up in Seattle sometime in the next year or two, if all goes well.

Tyler Pike — top 10 prospect in the Mariners’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

Ever since I could walk my dad put a ball in my hand, and baseball has never left me since then. My dad was definitely my biggest influence growing up. He pretty much taught me the game and how to play it, and he also played pro ball for a little. So he’s always been my idol.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

Even though I’m a pitcher now, I never had a favorite pitcher, but my favorite player was Ken Griffey Jr. I just was in awe of his athleticism and how hard he played the game. Without his injuries, he was the best player to ever play, in my opinion.

3.) You were drafted by the Mariners in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

It was a long process, stretching back to almost a year before I was drafted; playing in front of scouts in tournaments and showcases. I was at my house during the draft, with a couple of my friends, and the Mariners initially told me they were going to draft me in the 6th round. So in the 3rd round I was watching to see who they were going to draft, and my name popped up. I was very surprised, along with my friends. My parent weren’t even home. It was truly a great feeling, and a moment I’ll never forget. Then, later that night, I graduated high school. Great day in my book.

4.) You had originally planned on attending Florida State University before deciding to sign with the Mariners instead. What ultimately made you choose to go ahead and begin your baseball career?

It came down to wanting to start my career and dream job early, not having to wait, and with the money they offered me, I just couldn’t turn it down. I love FSU and all the baseball coaches, and still talk to them every once in awhile. It was definitely a difficult decision.

5.) It would seem that going from high school straight to professional baseball would be fairly challenging, but you have had a good deal of success so far. What has enabled you to make the easy transition? What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed between professional baseball and the level of baseball you had played up until that point?

It was definitely hard at first, just being away from home and not being comfortable and things. But once you’re on the field none of that crosses my mind. You can’t let outside things bother you while you play. Just block it out and focus on the task at hand. The biggest difference was knowing that everyone can play at the pro level. They got drafted for a reason. You can’t take anyone lightly. Have to play hard every pitch.

6.) Talk a little bit about life on the road: What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?

Life on the road isn’t all that bad. The long bus rides aren’t that fun, but you’re pretty much at the field all day, so it’s just baseball, baseball, baseball. We usually just watch TV or talk about baseball to pass the time. On off days we would sometimes go fishing or just hangout and cookout as a team.

7.) Is there any one stat that you pay attention to throughout the season? Or do you try to steer clear of them altogether?

I pretty much didn’t look at my stats at all. Stats are just a number, they don’t tell you a lot. You have to watch someone pitch to tell if they’re really good or not.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2013? What are your goals for 2014?

A lot went well in 2013. I worked hard on and off the field, pitched pretty well, and had a great time. 2014 brings another year and a lot of new challenges. I’ll be ready for whatever comes my way.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

My favorite TV show is ‘The Walking Dead’, and my favorite food is a good plate of spaghetti.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

Never give up, and trust that The Lord has a plan for you, whatever it may be.  Just work your hardest and everything will take care of itself. (“Jesus said to them, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’” – Mark 9:23)

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Big thanks to Tyler Pike for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @tpike10

Yankees Get Tanaka On 7-Year, 155 Million Dollar Deal

Although I felt the Yankees would be better off using their money to sign other free agents to fill their bullpen and positional needs, the Yankees have decided to lock up Masahiro Tanaka for seven years, giving him a contract worth 155 million dollars. As many people around the baseball world are discussing, this is truly a lot of money for a pitcher who’s never played in the Major Leagues. 201311030731270873836-p5

Despite reportedly wanting to remain under the 189 million dollar luxury tax threshold, this deal to Tanaka blows right past that. The Yankees have now spent nearly 500 million dollars this offseason, with the biggest additions being Tanaka (155 million), Jacoby Ellsbury (153 million), Brian McCann (85 million) and Carlos Beltran (45 million). But even with all the money spent, they still have holes in their overall team.

The Yankees need at least one more good bullpen pitcher, preferably a solid closer, and have an average, at best, infield. With it uncertain how Derek Jeter will perform this season — coming of an injury plagued 2013 season – there are still a lot of questions surrounding the deal. (Now that the Yankees have passed the threshold, I suppose spending more money to acquire their needs isn’t that big of a concern.)

It’s been reported that the Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, White Sox, Astros and Diamondbacks all made runs at Tanaka, with at least one team possibly outbidding the Yankees. But ultimately, Tanaka chose the bigger stage of New York City, where he will likely begin as the second or third man in their starting rotation.

Tanaka becomes the receiver of the fifth largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history, just behind Clayton Kershaw’s 215 million over 7 years, Justin Verlander’s 180 million for 7 years, Felix Hernandez’s 7-year, 175 million dollar contract, and C.C. Sabathia’s 160 million for 8 years. That says a lot for the type of pitcher Tanaka is, but it’s somewhat risky, even for a pitcher who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year in Japan, since, as stated earlier, he has never pitched a single MLB inning.

If everything works out as the Yankees planned, and are certainly hoping for, then the signing of Masahiro Tanaka could go a long way to helping them return to the playoffs in 2014 (many people are predicting just that). But if there are any bumps in the road, you could be seeing a lot of regret in New York.

As things look now, however, the future looks to be bright.

Why the Yankees Shouldn’t Sign Masahiro Tanaka

There are multiple teams around Major League Baseball that are currently looking to sign another pitcher to add to their rotation, and there is no pitcher on the market better than Masahiro Tanaka. Going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season in the Japanese League, Tanaka is being sought after by numerous teams, and has until January 24th to make a decision.

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Though multiple organizations around the country are reportedly interested in Tanaka, the New York Yankees are the team that could use him the most, in the minds of many, of the teams that can actually afford to make the deal. The Yankees have made a few good moves so far this offseason, and signing Tanaka to add to their somewhat weak rotation would make an immediate impact for the 2014 season.

Joining a rotation of C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda, among others, Tanaka would likely be the Yankees’ number two pitcher, behind Sabathia, and could potentially become their number one. Tanaka certainly has the talent, though there’s always the risk that he could fail in the Major Leagues, as has happened to multiple Japanese pitchers in the past. Most people, however, don’t see that occuring with Tanaka, as he has incredible stuff.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean signing Tanaka is the right thing to do.

While the Yankees are likely going to be able to use the money previously owed to Alex Rodriguez, who is going to miss all of the 2014 season, they need to look at the big picture, in my opinion. Yes, picking up Tanaka would make them a good team, but signing other players with the money would make them a really good team.

Tanaka is going to take a lot of money to sign — probably leading them to overspend to beat out the competition. To me, it would better serve the Yankees to use the A-Rod money to sign multiple, cheaper free agents to fill their needs, such as their closer role, as well as other starting pitching options.

The Yankees are rumored to be interested in Grant Balfour, who was picked up by the Orioles last month before having his deal canceled after failing their physical, reportedly due to knee and wrist issues. Assuming Balfour is actually healthy, the Yankees should be able to get him for a decent price, and, while he’s no Mariano Rivera, he would do a great job at closing out games for them, posting 38 saves with a 2.59 ERA last season.

As far as starting pitchers go, Ubaldo Jimenez would be a great alternate option for the Yankees, as I’ve felt for awhile. Though Jimenez has had his share of ups and downs over his career, he has the potential to be a good pitcher, showing that ability over the last half of the 2013 season in which he was tremendous. Should Jimenez have a bounce back year in 2014, he could easily be a steal by the Yankees.

All things considered, there are several options for the Yankees moving forward this offseason, many of which don’t include Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka.

Therefore, if I were the Yankees, I’d have to pass on Tanaka.

Q and A With Steve Cishek

Steve Cishek was drafted by the Marlins in the 5th round of the 2007 draft. Since the draft, Cishek has had a good deal of success, hi-res-149450835_display_imageposting stellar numbers over the past four years, finishing each of his big league seasons with an ERA below three.

Cishek made his major league debut in 2010, and began serving as the on and off closer for the Marlins in 2012, before becoming the full time closer for the 2013 season. Despite a rough start, Cishek finished 2013 with a 2.33 ERA over 69.2 innings pitched, striking out 74 while tallying up 34 saves.

With his consistency, Cishek should continue to serve as an effective closer for the Marlins for years to come. Regardless of his unconventional sidearm delivery, he has deceptive stuff that should lead him to more of the same success down the road.

Steve Cishek — closer for the Marlins — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

My Dad would always tell me that when I was a kid I always wanted him, or anyone capable of throwing a round object, to pitch to me. That’s all I would say – “Pitch to me.” So I have loved baseball as long as I can remember. I also really enjoyed watching the Red Sox, especially when Mo Vaughn was hitting. And then when Nomar became popular he was my favorite to watch.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

My favorite player growing up was definitely Nomar Garciaparra. He was the best on the team, and it was like a rivalry with Yankees fans and Jeter. So I had to cheer extra hard when Nomar was playing the Yanks.

3.) You were drafted by the Marlins in the 5th round of the 2007 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The process was exciting/nerve wracking. I filled out a lot of player profiles for almost every team; it was like extra homework. But when it came to draft day, I was pretty nervous. When my name popped up on the draft board we all freaked out. We had dial-up internet then, so the draft board was loading sooo slow. I was losing my mind. But my name popped up, and I got a phone call soon after from the Marlins’ scout, and I realized I had a new and unique journey that was about to unfold.

4.) Why did you decide to pitch with a sidearm delivery versus a traditional delivery? When did you first begin using it?

I didn’t realize I threw from my arm slot until I got to college. Even today I feel like I throw over hand. But back in high school and college I was a low 3/4 slot, and I think when I got to pro ball and the big leagues my arm slot got lower because I was throwing a lot more often.

5.) You took part in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. What was the overall experience like? What did you take away from it?

The WBC was the best baseball experience I have ever had. It was so humbling to look around the locker room and see the caliber of players in there. I never imagined I would be wearing the same jersey as any of these guys, let alone be wearing a USA jersey. And the games — I hadn’t been that nervous in a game probably ever. There was nothing like playing against another country while representing your country (from a sporting standpoint). I got to pitch in high pressure situations, so I learned a lot about taking a step back and relaxing/calming my nerves. So I felt that it prepared me for high pressure situations during the season.

6.) As the Marlins’ closer, how do you prepare yourself mentally to come into the game in the ninth inning, knowing it’s your job to hold down the lead for the team win?

I prepare to close a game the same way I would prepare for any other situation. I go through my routine and after the 6th inning I like to stand for the rest of the game so I don’t get lazy. I get pretty fired up when my name is called to go in but what makes my job more stress free than the other person is that I am playing for Him, and not to please people. I pull a card that reads Colossians 3:23  ["Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."] out of my back pocket to remember that before every outing. And no matter what, if I do well or poorly, I know God still loves me and I am satisfied with that.

7.) Despite a rough start to the year, you pulled things together to have the best statistical season of your career thus far. What changed that enabled you to have success in the remainder of the season?

Baseball is so mental, and I went through a period where I was playing scared. We were not winning many games and when I went in it was only when we were winning. So I put a lot of pressure on myself to get the job done and that resulted in me playing scared. My coaches worked with me a lot, but ultimately it took two Christian brothers, Juan Pierre and Chris Coghlan, to come confront me and basically tell me I need to let it go and leave it in God’s hands. I asked God for forgiveness for playing to please man and I accepted His will.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2013? What are your goals for 2014?

I felt like the team showed flashes of being a great team. From late May to early July, we had the 2nd best record in the NL. We have great young talent that is so close to being ready for the big leagues; I can’t wait to see what we are capable of in the future. Our goals are obviously to win a championship, but I feel it is much more important to have smaller goals that lead up to that big goal. My goal is just to get better everyday and to try and be a light as much as possible on and off the field.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

My wife and I are really into a lot of TV shows. We enjoy suspenseful shows and ’24′ is on that list. When we have down time, especially after a long day, we may come home and watch an episode, just to relax and enjoy each other. My favorite food is definitely chicken parm. Anytime I go to a new restaurant, I have to try it if they have it on the menu.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

I would tell them to leave the video games alone until night time and enjoy playing outside. When I was growing up we played every sport and we competed every day in our neighborhood. I am so thankful for the neighborhood we grew up in because we were always playing outside. You name the sport, we played it. So make sure you stay active and play other sports too. You don’t want to get burnt out playing baseball all the time. And when you are old enough to concentrate on one sport: (1) Play for His glory (2) Work as hard as you can at it (Col. 3:23), because someone else is probably working harder than you.

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Big thanks to Steve Cishek for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @srSHREK31

Maddux, Glavine & Thomas Elected to Hall of Fame

For the first time since 1971, there will be six living Hall of Fame inductees enshrined in Cooperstown on July 27th, in this the 75th anniversary of the museum. It was announced on Wednesday that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas would be joining Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, who were elected in December, as part of the 2014 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class.

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Maddux, Glavine and Thomas – the first player elected to have played the majority of their games as a designated hitter – all received above 80 percent of the vote, and each were elected on their first time on the ballot. This marks the first time since 1999 that three first-ballot nominees (Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount) were elected, and just the second time in history.

Maddux saw the most votes, earning 97.2 percent of the 571 voters’ approval, making him the eighth highest vote getter in Hall of Fame voting history, behind Tony Gwynn (97.61), Hank Aaron (97.83), George Brett (98.19), Ty Cobb (98.23), Cal Ripken Jr.(98.53), Nolan Ryan (98.79) and Tom Seaver (98.84).

All three players were extremely deserving, no doubt about it, but many people feel that a couple of players who were just as “deserving” didn’t get enough recognition.

None more so than Craig Biggio, who received 74.8 percent of the vote, falling a mere two votes shy of the 75 percent necessary for induction. Biggio becomes the third player to miss getting in by two or fewer votes, joining Pie Traynor and Nellie Fox, who both eventually made it into the Hall of Fame.

Mike Piazza is another player that didn’t earn enough of the vote to be elected, but could’ve easily been elected in. Piazza’s percentage, as with Biggio, was likely hurt by the great amount of talent on this year’s ballot, but it’s still surprising to me that he didn’t come a bit closer.

Nonetheless, both Biggio and Piazza will likely be voted in next year.

Players who may not ever be elected, however, include Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who all saw drops in percentages from last year, and are all linked in one way or another to performance enhancing drugs (PED’s). Clemens was the top vote getter of them all, but received just 35.4 percent of the vote, down from 37.6 percent in 2013 — no where near the percentage needed. Rafael Palmeiro, who is also associated to PED’s, didn’t even receive the necessary 5 percent to remain on the ballot for next year, getting just 4.4 percent.

Palmeiro is one of 16 players from this year who will not be on the ballot for next year. Those players include the likes of Eric Gagne and Kenny Rogers, among others, who were good players but not good enough for the Hall of Fame. Jack Morris will also not be returning next year, as although he received 61.5 percent of the vote, this was his 15th and final year of eligibility.

Looking forward to the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield and Nomar Garciaparra will all be making their first appearance, and that could make it tough for really good players such as Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent, who received 20.3 percent and 15.2 percent of the vote this year, respectively, to make much progress. Only time will tell how the voters decide.

But one thing is for sure: Next year’s Hall of Fame class has the potential to be even more exciting than this one. And that’s truly saying a lot after the memorable class of 2014.

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