Matt Harvey Will Be Available

Posted May 5, 2018 by Burly
Categories: Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants

The New York Mets are reportedly going to designate for assignment Matt Harvey, and Harvey has made it clear he won’t accept a minor league assignment, so he will be available.

The Giants certainly have a need with Johnny Cueto just on the disabled list and Madison Bumgarner still a ways from coming back.

Harvey hasn’t been good since 2015, but he’s still only 29 years.  He’s worth a tryout at the minimum wage once he clears waivers, which he certainly will since his 2018 contract is a too robust $5.625 million for someone of his recent performance.

I don’t see that the Giants have anything to lose giving Harvey a few starts at the minimum wage, if Harvey is willing to pitch in San Francisco.  The Mets only gave Harvey four starts, so it’s entirely possible they gave up on him too soon.

Andrew Suarez‘s May 1st start may have made Harvey a whole lot less desirable to the Giants than they might otherwise be.  I certainly think it would be worth demoting Derek Holland to the bullpen and D.J. Snelton to AAA for three Harvey starts, since Harvey has more upside.

I have to say that the 2018 Giants season is so far better than I thought it would a week into the season.  They are a game over .500 (and leading 8-3 in the 7th today, and they’re ahead of the Dodgers.  That’s two things to be thankful for through 31 games.

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Tetsuto Yamada May Be Back

Posted May 4, 2018 by Burly
Categories: Anaheim Angels, Baseball Abroad, NPB

27 games into the NPB season Tetsuto Yamada, after a slow start, is slashing .282/.413/.603.  That’s comparable to his 2015-2016 seasons, and a blame sight better than 2017, when he played in all 143 of the Yakult Swallows’ games, but he slashed a brutal (for him and his future MLB prospects) .247/.364/.435.

I suspect that Yamada hurt himself late in the 2016 season and was still healing from it in 2017, even though the team felt it had to play him every day and he apparently didn’t ask for time off.  Maybe he’s fully healed this year, and he’s back on track while still only 25 this season.

If he’s all the way back, he’s NPB’s best hitting prospect for MLB now that Shohei Otani is in Anaheim.  He’s got another year or two of service with the small market Yakult Swallows after this season, but the Swallows will almost certainly post him once his seven full seasons are recorded.

Hideto Asamura is also off to a start that is his best start since his terrific age 22 season in 2013.  He’s slashing .304/..358/.536.

Asamura played mostly 1B in 2013, and the Seibu Lions moved him to 2B next year.  Presumably, he has had to spend more training in the field and less taking batting practice.  Still, he’s young, and he plays for a small market team, so if his 2B defense is major league adequate, he could provide some value to a small market MLB team.

Yoshihiro Maru and Yuki Yanigita are off to terrific starts, but they won’t be so young when they become available to MLB.  Yoshitomo Tsutsugo isn’t off to the kind of start that you want to see for potentially aspiring MLBers.  It’s early in the season, though, and Tsutsugo isn’t far off his mark at .233/.345/.478, so if he heats up with the Japanese summer, he could still be worth considering.

Ichiro Is Done

Posted May 4, 2018 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, NPB, Pittsburg Pirates, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners

Ichiro retired into the Mariners’ front office where he will presumably work to bring more elite Japanese players to Seattle.  He finishes at age 44 with 3,089 hits, after all those hits in Japan.

Suzuki may the last of the hitters in the Paul Waner, Rod Carew, Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn line, the pure hitters.  Power’s too important in today’s game, perhaps unless Japan can produce another Ichiro, or at least another better than Nori Aoki. the poor man’s Ichiro.

If it’s a style that all but gone, Ichiro brought a talent set to MLB that will be missed if we don’t soon see it again.

Dice-K Sighting

Posted May 3, 2018 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, Boston Red Sox, NPB, Uncategorized

Diasuke Matsuzaka won his first NPB game since 2006 two days ago.  It was a long time in coming, as he’s been out of MLB since 2014. Matsuzaka has been trying to re-start his Japanese career ever since, but arm problems limited him to a total of 15 games pitched at various levels from 2015 through 2017.

Matsuzaka seems to be healthy this year, but he’s now 37 years old and his command doesn’t appear to be back to where it once was.  Given how much he’s accomplished in his professional career and how much money he’s made, it’s a testament to his desire to keep pitching that he’s kept at it through what must have been three very long and difficult seasons when he couldn’t get or stay healthy.

He hit 91 mph on the radar gun on April 30th and threw 114 pitches over six innings, which is lot for a pitcher of his age and injury history.  It certainly remains to be seen if can put in one final strong season before he elects or is forced to call it quits once and for all.

Josh Hader Strikes out Eight of Eight Batters to Record the Save

Posted May 1, 2018 by Burly
Categories: Milwaukee Brewers, National League

Josh Hader pitched a 2.2 inning save today.  He struck out all eight batters he faced to become the first reliever in MLB history to strike out eight batters in less than three innings pitched.  You can see the eight strikeout pitches here.

He throws hard, with his fastball hitting 95 or 96 miles an hour, but what really seems to make the difference is his motion.  He kind of slings it ala Randy Johnson, and just watching the video, it looks like his pitches are extremely hard to pick up coming out his hand, at least until the Senior Circuit’s hitters become more familiar with him.

With time, the league’s hitters will get better at laying off of pitches out the strike zone, but right now aren’t able to.  I’m not sure if left-handed hitters as a group will ever be able to hit him consistently.

Hader isn’t a big man by MLB standards, listed as 6’3″ and 185 lbs in his age 24 season.  The Milwaukee Brewers like to use him less often for more innings, often pitching two or even three innings in his relief appearances.  Given the results, you can see why.

Still, it raises questions about how long Hader will hold up, particularly if the Brewers continue to be in contention and have strong incentives to overwork him.  So far this season, however, the Brewers’ bullpen has been tremendous, with six of the top seven in innings pitched with ERAs below 2.08 and four with ERAs below 1.40.

Knuckleheads

Posted April 28, 2018 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, Mexican League, Minor Leagues, NPB, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers

One thing every baseball blogger needs is something to get exercised about.  Knucklehead ballplayers are a great source for vituperative writing.

For that reason, I kind of miss the end of the professional careers of Milton Bradley and Sidney Ponson.  They provided countless opportunities for my digital venting.

Now, if a player is kind of a jerk, but really, really good, everyone in the baseball world kind of puts up with him, at least so long as he remains at the top his game.  Think Barry Bonds.  But the moment the player begins to slip, then everyone is quick to jump in and get their digs.

With that in mind, I’ve kept my eyes open for a knucklehead worthy of Bradley and Ponson.  Some players are just so bad, they’re disgusting and quickly out of the game like Aaron Hernandez.  Other promising contenders like Matt Bush end up (apparently) learning something and turning their lives around .

What you need is a guy who is just bad enough that he hangs around so you can be righteously indignant every time a team that should know better signs him anyway.

A guy I’ve got my eye on is former marginal MLB pitcher Josh Lueke (pronounced like loogie with a k).  You may or may not remember Lueke for an incident that happened back in 2010 when he was a throw-in prospect who went to the Mariners in the deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Rangers.

The Mariners at the time were taking a leading role in MLB in speaking out against violence against women.  However, the Mariners traded for Lueke, who had spent most of the previous summer in the Bakersfield, California jail after being accused of sexually assaulting a young woman he brought home from a bar, which even a cursory internet search would have revealed (which I well know: I was one of the first to report Lueke’s legal problem which I had discovered through a cursory internet search when the trade was announced).  The allegations were pretty disgusting, but there was a lot of alcohol involved, and ultimately Lueke got off relatively easy in all respects except for his reputation.

The M’s understandably caught a lot of flack for the move, and they eventually traded him off to Tampa Bay, although not until after he had gotten lit up for a 6.06 ERA in 25 major league relief appearances for them in 2011.  Lueke has a major league arm, but after unsuccessful major league stints with the Rays in each of 2012 through 2014, he ended up in the Mexican League in 2015, presumably because at age 30, he was no longer worth the baggage that came with him.

Lueke not surprisingly had a big year in the Mexican League — he’s got a major league arm — and was signed by the Yakult Swallows in 2016 for an estimated $330,000.  He had a good year, posting a 3.06 ERA and 60 Ks in 64.2 relief innings pitched, and the Swallows brought him back in 2017 for an estimated $687,000, a hefty raise and MLB money anyway you slice it.

Lueke was even better in 2017, recording a 2.97 ERA, 22 holds and seven saves, while striking out 70 in only 60.2 innings pitched.  Lueke had made a success of himself in a league that would pay him major league money and where few likely knew much if anything about his past.

Alas, the knucklehead in him struck again.  The Swallows are a small-market NPB team, and apparently their offer for the 2018 season wasn’t to Lueke’s liking, because he skipped a team practice on October 2, 2017, the day before the Swallows’ last game in a season in which they finished dead last 29.5 games out of the play-offs (team practices in these circumstances are not usual in NPB — it’s a Japanese thing — fighting spirit and all that).  The Swallows suspended him for the last game, didn’t bring him back in 2018 and no other NPB team did either.

As an American (and a knucklehead), you can’t necessarily expect Lueke to understand how important it is in Japanese baseball for players to show respect and for the team to save face.  Still, that’s usually one the first things players from the Americas are told by the foreigners already there, and Lueke had been in the league two seasons.

Anyway, in 2018, Lueke is back in the Mexican League as the league’s best closer.  Now aged 33, MLB teams apparently decided he was too old for his baggage to offer him a minor league no matter how well he had pitched in NPB the year before.

So, Lueke has apparently worn out his welcome in both MLB and NPB, and he’s presumably making somewhere between $8,000 (the official league cap) and $15,000 (more likely if the rumors are to be believed) a month to pitch in Mexico, but in any event far, far less than the $800K or $900K the Swallows almost certainly would have been willing to pay him if he hadn’t stepped on his dick.

If, in fact, no NPB team can or will bring Lueke back to Japan, then his opportunities for better future pay-days are extremely limited.  KBO and CPBL teams only sign starting pitchers, and Lueke hasn’t started a game in his professional career.  A relief pitcher of Lueke’s abilities who wears out his welcome in both MLB and NPB is certainly a worthy candidate for Knucklehead of the moment.

Too Soon for Orioles to Trade Manny Machado?

Posted April 27, 2018 by Burly
Categories: Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees

Only 25 games into the 2018 season and the O’s are already 13.5 games back.  Is it too soon for the Orioles to trade Manny Machado to the Yankees for Miguel Andujar and two or three more prospects?

The Red Sox look for real, and the Yankees are currently a strong second.  Andujar at age 23 is a legitimate prospect, but he’s no Manny with the glove at third base, and he’s at the beginning of his major league learning curve as a hitter.

It’s no secret that the Yankees are going to be players for Manny’s free agent services next off-season, and it would obviously make sense to bring him in now so Manny can see if he likes playing in New York during a pennant race.  Equally obvious is the fact that the sooner the Yankees were to trade for Machado, the more he’d be able to help them this season.

It probably comes down to how quickly the O’s are willing to throw in the towel on the 2018 season, and how willing the Yankees are to blow up their chances of staying under the salary cap in order to bring in Manny this year.  The latter is probably the more important factor, because if it isn’t already obvious that the O’s are going nowhere this year, it will be soon enough.  Once that decision is made, then it’s all about maximizing the return for trading Manny.

If the Yankees are willing to take on Manny’s contract, then negotiations should start immediately, even if no final agreement is reached until much closer to the trade deadline.  It’s always struck me as kind of counter-intuitive that player trade values rise as the trade deadline approaches.  Five months of Manny Machado’s performance is obviously worth a hell of a lot more than two months.