MLB

The art of trash talk in the MLB

When many people think of trash talking in sports, the first sports that come to mind are football, hockey and basketball.

Although baseball isn’t as rough or as physical as other sports, trash talk is still very present, with phrases such as “infield in” to “easy out.” Running your mouth, egging on opponents and being an annoyance are just some of the aspects of baseball many fans tend to forget.

Many players use trash talk to motivate themselves to play better by ridiculing the skill and toughness of their opponents. The goal of the art form is to get inside your opponent's head to try to take them out of the game mentally. If an opponent's mind is thinking about the trash talk, then he is not thinking about following his team’s game plan.

Many players are specifically known for their trash-talking abilities.

Atlanta Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski has a mouth that has gotten him ejected from many games, and baseball great Satchel Paige, who was completely confident in his own abilities, would make his defense sit in the dugout while he retired the side.

Former MLB pitcher Carlos Zambrano, who played for the Chicago Cubs and the Miami Marlins, had quite a mouth as well, getting into plenty of arguments with umpires and players. Zambrano was also known to “hold the mound” for an extended period to get underneath the batter’s skin.

The tension of rivalry games, such as the ones between the Red Sox and Yankees or Cubs and White Sox, always brings some of the most exciting in-game action. It also brings out the best trash talk.

Former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martínez, who was elected to the Hall of Fame this year, was a master of trash talk, and his biggest rival was former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada. Martínez admitted to making fun of Posada’s ears, calling him “Dumbo” after the famous cartoon elephant whose ears were so large that it enabled him to fly.

But Posada wasn’t shy either when it came to trash talk.

Martínez said there was bad blood between them after the catcher mentioned Martínez’s mother in a negative light. The bad blood eventually led to an all-out brawl in the 2003 playoffs, when Martínez threw then-72-year-old Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground. 

“Then he let it go a little bit too far with the Zimmer incident,” Martínez said on the 'Daily News Live' show earlier this year. “I did not appreciate that.”

Trash talk, at least for Martínez, sometimes resulted in intentional beanings as well.

After former Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens pegged a Red Sox player, Martínez didn’t hesitate with his retaliation and hit the next two batters he faced.

Throughout most of his career, Miami Marlins right fielder Ichiro Suzuki struggled to talk trash to opponents because he only knew his Japanese. Many players thought Suzuki could only speak English through his interpreter to reporters.

Suzuki, however, learned to speak Spanish through conversations with his teammates, so he could talk smack with some players in the MLB. 

Although he still can’t fluently speak Spanish, he was able to pick up some of the common trash-talking phrases.

“We don't really have curse words in Japanese,” Suzuki told the Wall Street Journal. “So I like the fact that the Western languages allow me to say things that I otherwise can't."

Baseball players get an adrenaline rush from the competition of the game, and competition fuels the fire of trash talk. Ultimately, the common bond between trash talkers in baseball is simple: It’s for the love of the game and winning.

Can we fix the Pro Bowl?

Why don’t I care about the Pro Bowl?

This may be the million-dollar question. The Pro Bowl is the NFL equivalent of the All-Star Game, but it fails compared to the MLB and the NBA ones.

Now, what is the reason for this? It can’t be because baseball and basketball are better than football; now that’s just ludicrous.

Maybe it’s the lack of value in the game. The MLB All Star Game actually matters. The winning division gets home field advantage in the World Series.

This could be a great thing for the NFL to adopt, but then they would have to have the Pro Bowl during the season.

The recent reformatting of the Pro Bowl has only made it worse. Firstly, they moved it to be before the Super Bowl, which excluded some of the best players each year. I mean, that’s obvious, they made it to the Super Bowl after all.

Secondly, it is no longer NFC versus AFC. This has really led to the demise of the Pro Bowl, not that it was ever great, but it was better than this. This year, for example, it was Team Irvin versus Team Carter. Each coach “drafted” players that were selected to the Pro Bowl by voting.

Now let’s be frank, this is just unnecessary. They are trying to model a pickup game of football. Why are you ruining something that could honestly be so great?

Think about it. A game where Aaron Rodgers is throwing to Odell Beckham Jr. Does that sound awesome or does that sound awesome?

On paper, it should be. In reality, it is similar to watching paint dry.

So, why can’t we have the Pro Bowl midseason like the NBA and MLB do?

Maybe the reason the NFL is opposed to this is because of the physicality of the sport.

However, the NFL plays the fewest games per season compared to these sports. Yes, I understand football is literally running into someone and getting hit. But playing 82 basketball games a season probably isn’t too easy either.

Regardless of the levels of physicality, you play any sport at a professional level that often, your body will feel it.

I’m not asking for the NFL to play 50 games. I’m asking for one more game halfway through the season, I’m asking for 17 games. Give these guys an All Star break.

There won’t be any defense until the fourth quarter. It will just be exciting and electrifying plays for the fans. That’s all they really want.

Does anyone watch the NBA All-Star Game for a good matchup? No. We watch it to see a dream team that will never exist elsewhere. We watch it to see Chris Paul lob the ball to James Harden. We watch it to see LeBron throw the ball to the perimeter for Carmelo to shoot a three.

Why can’t we have this in football?

I want to live in a world where I can see Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy in the backfield together for one game a year.

Am I really asking for that much? No, no I am not.

So please, give me an NFL All-Star Game that everyone will watch.

Millions tune in to watch the NBA All Star Weekend. Millions tune in to watch the MLB All Star Game. Let’s add the NFL to that list.

There won’t be a dunk contest, but there could be a 40-yard dash contest, a one-handed catch contest, and a throwing contest.

Basically, it could be a casual combine. I mean, why not?

Do it for the fans. Bring the Pro Bowl back to life. Honestly, the NFL could use all the good press it can get right now.

MLB: pace of the game

For years, baseball fans have complained about how long an average baseball game lasts: around three hours and two minutes in 2014. Their complaints have been reconciled.

In his first year as MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred is doing his best to speed up the game. Manfred announced on Friday that significant changes are being made to speed up the pace of an average baseball game. These moves hope to accelerate the instant-replay process and decrease the average game time.

The new rules changes will require hitters to keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times, establish a time limit for breaks between innings and speed up the process of challenging a call during the game.

The rule changes will be implemented during spring training and the MLB will evaluate the results after the season.

“The most fundamental starting point for improving the pace of the average game involves getting into and out of breaks seamlessly,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a news release. “In addition, the batter’s box rule will help speed up a basic action of the game.”

Another element added to the rule change is the installation of timers on the outfield scoreboards and behind home plate. Immediately following the last out of a half inning, the timer will count down from two minutes and 25 seconds for locally televised games and two minutes and 45 seconds for national games. The next hitter is expected to be in the batter’s box with 20 seconds left on the clock.

There will obviously be some exceptions to these rules, including if the pitcher or the catcher were the last out of the inning or on base. These rules will be enforced through a warning and fine system but no fines or warnings will be granted during spring training or April 2015.

Another component to the rule change is that managers will no longer have to walk on the field to issue an instant replay challenge. The manager may make the call from the top-step in the dugout.

"After a year of just going out there and biding time and having friendly conversations with an umpire, I think we got tired of going through that whole charade," Philadelphia Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "I used to take my time going out there. To just get to the top step of the dugout and hold play for a second and then get the replay, which takes about 10 or 12 seconds, I think that's all good. I think it's all for the betterment of the game.

One rule that is not in place yet is the 20-second pitch clock, where pitchers would only have 20 seconds between deliveries. No plans have scheduled this rule change in the majors but it was implemented in the Arizona Fall League last year and will be utilized in Double-A and Triple-A in the upcoming season.

Hopefully Manfred’s rule changes will speed up the game and eventually make baseball America’s sport again.

 

MLB Division Series Analysis and Predictions

The 2014 MLB postseason got kicked off with a bang in two very different Wild Card games.

On Tuesday night in the American League Wild Card game, it took 12 innings and a late rally in the eighth for the Kansas City Royals to win their first playoff game since 1985. A Salvador Perez walk-off carried them to an intense, hard-fought 9-8 victory over the Oakland Athletics.

Wednesday’s National League Wild Card game was less action-packed, but impressive nonetheless. San Francisco’s ace Madison Bumgarner threw a dominant, complete game shutout with 10 strikeouts and allowed just four hits. Brandon Crawford made history with his fourth inning grand slam- the first ever hit by a shortstop in the postseason. For the Texas baseball loyal out there, former Longhorn Brandon Belt went 2-for-3 with two walks, a run and three RBIs to help the Giants send the Pittsburgh Pirates home.

Though I had the A’s advancing to their division series, I find it difficult to be too upset with the Royals because they played with so much heart. It helps my ego a bit knowing that the experts weren’t expecting that high-scoring of a game, either. At least the Giants made me look good.

Next up, we have four, best-of-five division series match-ups. Here’s my breakdown of each and my predictions on who will get one round closer to the World Series.

 

American League

 

Detroit Tigers (90-72) vs. Baltimore Orioles (96-66)

 

The Tigers will send RHP Max Scherzer (18-5, 3.15 ERA) to the mound and the O’s Chris Tillman (RHP, 13-6, 3.34 ERA) for game one of this division series.

The O’s haven’t announced their other starters, but expect to see Wei-Yin Chen (LHP, 16-6, 3.54 ERA) and Bud Norris (RHP, 15-8, 3.65 ERA) get a start at some point. The Tigers have penciled in Justin Verlander (RHP, 15-12, 4.54 ERA), David Price (LHP, 15-12, 3.26 ERA) and Rick Porcello (RHP, 15-13, 3.43 ERA) in that order for games two, three and four.

When it comes to pitching staffs, I have to think Detroit has a slight advantage. The numbers may not be terribly different, but the Tigers have a lot of veterans that know how to step up in big game situations. Detroit’s pitchers don’t give up the long ball too often either, which will be crucial to continue since homeruns are a big part of Baltimore’s game.

Offensively, I feel the Tigers have the advantage due to consistency throughout the line up. The Orioles hit an MLB-best 211 homeruns this season, led by Nelson Cruz’s MLB-high 40. Adam Jones (.281 batting average, 29 HR, 96 RBI) and Nick Markakis (.276, 14 HR, 50 RBI) provide some explosive offense, too. But the solid bats of Detroit’s Victor Martinez (.335, 32 HR, 103 RBI), Miguel Cabrera (.313, 25 HR, 109 RBI) and J.D. Martinez (.315, 23 HR, 76 RBI) are more consistent, I feel. The Tigers also have lots of guys who get on base and aren’t afraid to run.

Not to mention, the Tigers have the best team batting average (.277) in the majors and a better on-base percentage than the Orioles. Add to that the fact that the O’s stole just 44 bases all season while the Tigers stole 106, and it seems that Detroit’s offense is better-rounded and will find a way to get to Baltimore’s pitchers.

Since the Orioles have home field advantage through the ALDS, it’s possible they could jump out to an early series lead. But I think the Tigers are just a better, more experienced team and will advance to the championship series.

 

Kansas City Royals (89-73) vs. Los Angeles Angels (98-64)

 

The Royals will be using the momentum they created Tuesday night when they face the MLB-best Angels. The set pitching duels for the first three games of the series are as follows:

Game 1- KC Jason Vargas (LHP, 11-10, 3.71 ERA) v. LAA Jered Weaver (RHP, 18-9, 3.59 ERA)

Game 2- KC Yordano Ventura (RHP, 14-10, 3.20 ERA) v. LAA Matt Shoemaker (RHP, 16-4, 3.04 ERA)

Game 3- LAA C.J. Wilson (LHP, 13-10, 4.51 ERA) v. KC James Shields (RHP, 14-8, 3.21 ERA)

 

I have to give the pitching advantage to the Angels. Their staff has really come along throughout the season and seems to be heating up at just the right time. Kansas City also has a good staff, and their bullpen is as good as anyone’s. I’m especially looking forward to game two of this series because Ventura and Shoemaker have been lights-out in their last 10 starts.

Small ball plays a big part in Kansas City’s offense and I expect it to be a factor throughout this series. They have some power as well when you look at guys like Alex Gordon (.266 average, 19 HR) and Salvador Perez (.260, 17 HR). But the aggressive base running backed by speedy guys like Jarrod Dyson (.269, 36 SB) and Alcides Escobar (.285, 31 SB) sparks them most.

The Angels rely on power and consistency. Mike Trout (.287, 36 HR, 111 RBI), Albert Pujols (.272, 28 HR, 105 RBI) and Howie Kendrick (.293, 14 SB) are just a few of the big offensive names this team has to offer. The Angels score often and early, and I don’t foresee them having too much trouble doing so against the Royals.

Though I’m taking the Angels by a pretty large margin in this series, I’m not anticipating a sweep. I expect Kansas City to take game three at home with Big Game James on the mound, but I’m not sure if they’ll get any others.

 

National League

 

San Francisco Giants (88-74) vs. Washington Nationals (96-66)

 

After cruising to a victory over the Pirates, the Giants will have more of a challenge when they face the Nationals in this division series. The starting pitchers for the first three games are as follows:

 

Game 1- SF Jake Peavy (RHP, 7-13, 3.73 ERA) v. WSH Stephen Strasburg (RHP, 14-11, 3.14 ERA)

Game 2- SF Tim Hudson (RHP, 9-13, 3.57 ERA) v. WSH Jordan Zimmermann (RHP, 14-5, 2.66 ERA)

Game 3- WSH Doug Fister (RHP, 16-6, 2.41 ERA)

 

The Nationals pitching staff has been one of the best this season, boasting the lowest ERA (.303) in the MLB. They’ve also given up the least homeruns, which is an important aspect of San Francisco’s offense. They’ve watched their ace Strasburg’s pitch count and innings pitched carefully over the past couple of seasons for the moment they have now- a postseason berth and a team that could be playing for a while. All of Washington’s starters are heating up at the right time, collectively having the second-lowest ERA in the majors through the month of September.

Aside from Bumgarner, the Giants’ pitchers have been a little shaky lately. They’ve done a lot of moving the bullpen around and it has cost them. And with Washington’s offense heating up as well, I’m giving the pitching advantage to the Nationals.

Offensively, I have to go with the Nationals again. Their line up is stacked with guys that get on base, drive in runs and have a good amount of power- examples being Anthony Rendon (.287, 21 HR, 83 RBI), Jason Werth (.292, 16 HR, 82 RBI), Adam LaRoche (.259, 26 HR, 92 RBI) and Bryce Harper (.273, .344 OBP).

The Giants have a solid offense as well, with veterans Buster Posey (.311, 22 HR, 89 RBI), Hunter Pence (.277, 20 HR, 74 RBI) and Pablo Sandoval (.279, 16 HR, 73 RBI) leading the way. They showed they can score quickly on Wednesday, with Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt performing well. I just feel like Washington’s pitching and defense will be too much for San Francisco’s offense to overcome.

If you haven’t guessed so already, I’m expecting the Nationals to move on to the NL championship series.

 

St. Louis Cardinals (90-72) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68)

 

The only set pitching duel we have for this match-up is possibly the best of all four series. The Cardinals will send RHP Adam Wainwright (20-9, 2.38 ERA) to face the winningest pitcher in the majors this season, Clayton Kershaw (LHP, 21-3, 1.77 ERA).

The Dodgers haven’t announced the rest of the rotation, but expect to see Zack Greinke (RHP, 17-8, 2.71 ERA) and Dan Haren (RHP, 13-11, 4.02 ERA) start at some point. St. Louis has penciled in Lance Lynn (RHP, 15-10, 2.74 ERA) for game two, John Lackey (RHP, 14-10, 3.82 ERA) for game three and Shelby Miller (RHP, 10-9, 3.74 ERA) for game four. It’s a close call, but I have to give the pitching advantage to the Dodgers.

Los Angeles has the upper hand in all major offensive categories, but both teams have deep line ups. The Dodgers are led by Adrian Gonzalez (.276, 27 HR, 89 RBI), Yasiel Puig (.296, 16 HR, 69 RBI) and Matt Kemp (.287, 25 HR, 89 RBI) and have a great supporting staff. The Cardinals’ offense is led by Matt Adams (.288, 15 HR, 68 RBI), Matt Holliday (.272, 20 HR, 90 RBI) and Jhonny Peralta (.263, 21 HR, 75 RBI) and is sparked by a number of guys that get on base consistently and know how to extend at-bats.

This series was the hardest for me to pick. When I sit back and look at the stats objectively, I have to pick the Dodgers. But there’s just something about the way the Cardinals play ball in October. They’re seasoned, deep, well-rounded and just find ways to win. These teams faced each other in last year’s championship series which the Cardinals won 4-2.

I wouldn’t mind being wrong in this series, but I have to go with the Dodgers pulling it off and advancing to the NLCS. I’m expecting this one to be really fun to watch.

MLB playoff picture beginning to shape up as October approaches

The start of the MLB postseason is just one week away, and with five of the ten teams that will be making it out of the regular season already known, the playoff picture is almost complete.

 

The reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox won’t be making an appearance in this year’s postseason, but potentially five teams that chased the pinnacle of baseball success last season will be doing it again in 2014. And for some teams, playing baseball in October once again has been a long time coming.

 

American League

The Baltimore Orioles clinched the AL East crown and will be returning to the postseason for the first time since 1997. They have home-field advantage throughout the ALDS and a strong offense led by the MLB home run leader, Nelson Cruz (39), to help them chase their fourth World Series title.

 

The Los Angeles Angels also have home-field advantage when they start postseason play for the first time since 2009. They won the West division title and currently boast the best record in the majors. The Angels have been playing great baseball and could make a lengthy run in October with arguably the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, leading the way.

  

The Detroit Tigers currently sit atop the Central division, but just by one game. Breathing down their necks are the Kansas City Royals, who haven’t made the playoffs since they won the World Series in 1985.

 

Whoever ends up second in that division will most likely be playing the Oakland Athletics. The A’s are up one game on the Royals in the wild card standings and are looking for their third consecutive postseason appearance.

 

Playoff prediction:

AL Wild Card- OAK v. KC

ALDS- OAK/KC v. LAA

ALDS- BAL v. DET

 

National League

The Washington Nationals hold the NL East division title and are ready to make up for missing the postseason last year. Though they’re still trying to claim home-field advantage in the NLDS, they have been playing solid baseball in the month of September led by impressive outings from their pitching staff, particularly ace Stephen Strasburg.

 

The Los Angeles Dodgers will be coming out of the NL West for their second straight playoff appearance currently only two wins away from a division title. A great pitching staff featuring probable Cy Young and NL MVP Award winner Clayton Kershaw will be the backbone to a World Series run for the Dodgers.

 

The St. Louis Cardinals clinched a playoff berth out of the NL Central for the fourth consecutive year and are four wins away from capturing their division crown. The Cardinals will look to their pitching staff, topped by 20-game winner Adam Wainwright, to help them win their second World Series title in four years.

 

In the NL wild card race, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Francisco Giants sit five games up on the Milwaukee Brewers, who are seemingly out of postseason contention. The Pirates and the Giants, both with 85-71 records, look to finish the season well enough to face each other in a one-game playoff on Oct. 1.

 

Playoff predictions:

NL Wild Card- PITT v. SF

NLDS- PITT/SF v. WSH

NLDS- LAD v. STL

 

Sophomore C.J. Hinojosa got a double off of TCU's Brandon Finnegan, who surrendered just four hits, and struck out 11 in eight innings. 

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

With the weekend series having moved up a day for Easter, TCU took a rainy game one 3-0 as No. 6 Texas had no answer for junior pitcher Brandon Finnegan, a projected first round pick in the 2014 MLB draft, in front of 20-plus scouts at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. 

“This night belongs to [Finnegan],” Garrido said.

The game, quite predictably, turned into a pitcher’s duel as the top two pitching teams in the Big 12 trotted out their typical Friday night starters. Junior Parker French (4-3) and his 2.27 ERA paired up against Finnegan (7-2) and his 1.56 ERA.

“I don’t think anyone in the nation would be hitting [Finnegan] tonight,” French said.

After four, quick, scoreless innings, the Horned Frogs (24-13, 8-5 Big 12) finally broke through for three in the fifth inning after a lead-off double got things started.

An RBI single drove in the first run and put men at the corners. Then, with two outs, French threw a pick-off throw to first away to allow another TCU run. With the same batter at the plate, a grounder off the glove of the diving junior second baseman, Brooks Marlow, allowed TCU to tack in the third run of the inning.

“I felt good tonight,” French said. “That one inning, though, kind of got away from me.”

That was all the Horned Frogs would manage against French, who went 6.1 innings, allowing six hits and two earned runs, followed by sophomores Travis Duke, Chad Hollingsworth and Ty Culbreth’s combined hitless 2.2 innings. But TCU wouldn’t need any more.

Finnegan mowed down the Longhorns, going eight innings, allowing just four hits — none after the third — while striking out 11. Texas had opportunities early but couldn’t push home any runs.

The Longhorns’ (30-9, 9-4 Big 12) first major chance came in the second after junior designated hitter Madison Carter’s bunt moved sophomore shortstop C.J Hinojosa, who doubled to lead off the inning, to third. But a freshman first baseman Kacy Clemens strikeout and a freshman third baseman Zane Gurwitz fly out to center ended the threat.

In the third, for the second straight inning, Texas got a runner to third. A two-out bunt single by senior centerfielder Mark Payton extended his nation-leading on base streak to 78. He then stole second and advanced to third on the throwing error. But freshman catcher Tres Barrera’s strikeout kept third base full for the second straight inning.

“Truth of the matter [is] we didn’t score early,” Garrido said. “In those three innings, we were as good as anybody. Great pitchers do what he did after that. He took his game up a notch.”

Texas managed no more hits after the third as Finnegan got into a groove.  

The series will continue Friday at 6 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk field with junior Dillon Peters (5-2, 2.70 ERA) paired up against TCU’s Preston
Morrison (4-3, 1.80 ERA).

The Dominican Republic has become a notorious hotbed for Major League Baseball teams to find big-time players over the past few decades, according to Alan Klein, a Northeastern University sociology-anthropology professor who spoke at the University on Wednesday.

Klein was interviewed by Talmage Boston, a Dallas lawyer and sports writer, on his research in the Dominican Republic baseball and his new book “Dominican Baseball: Old Pride, New Prejudices.” With the population of professional baseball players in MLB from the Dominican Republic sitting between 20 to 25 percent, Klein began researching the Dominican baseball culture.

In the interview, Klein said the significant amount of Dominican baseball players in MLB today resulted from academies built in the Dominican Republic in the 1980s.

“Once we got to the mid to late ’80s, academies were being developed,” Klein said. “[Academies] took players who were coming through the Dominican amateur system, they signed them to contracts with major league clubs … they grew them into the kind of ball players that could move into the United States.”

Klein said that today there are a number of academies ranging at different levels. In charge of these academies are people who are known as “buscones.” Buscones are in charge of looking for young Dominican players who they can bring into their academies in hopes of sending them to the MLB.

“[The buscone’s job] is to find that 12- or 13-year-old boy and to literally train him to be a sufficient caliber of player so they might entice some team at tryouts,” Klein said. “It’s a process of up to five years.” 

According to Klein, this often leads to the children neglecting their education.

“When you approach this problem, you have a 13-year-old boy who neglects his education with the idea of investing all of his energy in, and future in, academies,” Klein said.

Boston said Dominicans live off very little income, which gives families incentive to have their kids sent to these academies and on to the MLB.

“[Players] start out incredibly poor making a dollar and a quarter a day,” Boston said. “He’s taken out of his family … they get put into these buscone arrangements … so that they’ll be in a position to get drafted.”

Communications professor Mike Cramer added that young Dominicans who grow up in poverty use baseball as a way out.

“The kids in the Dominican who grow up with nothing — they’re literally playing with sticks and rocks and newspapers on their hands instead of gloves,” Cramer said. “They see the way out as baseball. Sports has been a way out for years for people.”

Andy Pettitte never earned a Cy Young Award.

He never pitched a no-hitter, nailed triple digits on a radar gun or secured a $100 million contract. But over the course of his stellar career, Pettitte did one thing better than just about anybody else — win, and he deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame. 

Pettitte was the ultimate competitor. A 22nd round pick in 1991, the 41-year-old lefty admits he gritted and grinded to make every pitch, retire every hitter and compete in every start. Nothing came easily for him, but now 18 seasons and 256 wins after his MLB debut, Pettitte retires as perhaps the greatest starting pitcher to ever don the Yankee pinstripes.

The lefty’s regular season accomplishments alone should be enough to garner a plaque in Cooperstown. He finishes his career as just the 26th pitcher to post a career record at least 100 games above .500. Of the first 25 to do so, 18 already hold a spot in the Hall of Fame, and five others await enshrinement once they become eligible in the next few seasons.

Pettitte’s 256 wins place him 11th all-time among left-handers and are more than that of 32 current Hall of Fame pitchers. Additionally, Pettitte remains the only player in MLB history to pitch at least 15 seasons without a losing record. His complete game gem in the final start of his career Saturday against Houston pushed his record total to 18 seasons.

His career 3.85 ERA is the biggest knock against Pettitte’s numbers, but it should not be ignored that he pitched through the heart of the steroid era, when batters and, non-coincidentally, home run totals seemed to get bigger by the season. His 117 adjusted ERA, which considers home ballpark and time period, figures to be a fairer indication of his success, and it puts him in line with current Hall of Famers Burt Blyleven, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry and Ferguson Jenkins.

Simply put, all of this means that Pettitte fits in as one of the best pitchers of his generation, but it’s his postseason achievements that cement him in baseball lore.

Pettitte won five World Series and eight pennants with the Yankees and Astros. His 19 postseason wins are the most all-time and are more than that of eight MLB franchises.

Additionally, Pettitte tops the list for innings pitched in the postseason, where he posted a 3.81 ERA against baseball’s best teams each year. In 2009, he became the first pitcher to ever start and win the clinching game in each round of the playoffs en route to the Yankees’ 27th World Series title.

The case can be made that Pettitte’s postseason numbers benefit greatly from playing 15 seasons with Yankees teams that contended annually. The same case can be made that those Yankees teams suffer without Pettitte in the rotation, and they likely failed to capture five World Series titles between 1996 and 2009 without their postseason ace.

Pettitte’s link to HGH remains unshakable, but it’s worthwhile to clarify that his usage — under a trainer’s recommendation to recover from an elbow injury — came in 2002, three years before the substance became banned by baseball. While some voters still figure to hold this against him, a number of studies failed to find any ways that HGH could enhance the athletic prowess of an athlete. Some even believe HGH could be a lower risk alternative to surgery, and it’s not impossible that the hormone will be legalized by MLB by the time Pettitte is eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Pettitte never dominated a game or overmatched a hitter the way Sandy Koufax or Randy Johnson did, but his accomplishments are undeniable. His remarkable consistency and prowess for winning the big game helped lead the Yankees to five World Series championships, and he deserves a spot in Cooperstown. 

 

Baseball's Mark Payton will return for senior season

Senior Mark Payton announced that he will return to Texas for his senior season. He announced Friday afternoon that he would be turning down a contact with the Cleveland Indians who selected him in the 16th round of the MLB draft last month. Before starting at Texas, Payton was drafted in 2010 by the Minnesota Twins in the 31st round.

"I love playing at Texas and I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to go professional, but we weighed both options and decided it was best for me to come back to school, finish up my degree and take another run at the College World Series," Payton said. 

Payton has started 167 games through three years at Texas and currently has a career batting average of .319 with 35 doubles, 14 triples and 83 RBIs. With his 14 triples, Payton is tied for sixth in the Texas record books. 

Last season, Pyton led the Big 12 in batting average with an average of .393, which ranks fourth in the last 40 years. He was a unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection.

"We are thrilled to have Mark Payton coming back for his senior year," head coach Augie Garrido said. "His experience and leadership will play a key role in getting us back to winning championships at The University of Texas." 

 

5 names you should know for the upcoming MLB draft

The 2013 MLB first-year player draft, held on June 6-8, is almost a month away and what more can a reeling Astros fan look forward to than take a look at potential players his team could take in the draft.

This is the busiest time of the year for baseball scouts, as they bustle from game to game trying to help their respective teams decide who to take where on each day of the draft. After some scouting of my own, here’s a look at my top prospects for the 2013 MLB Draft.

1. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma

I saw this kid completely overpower the Texas offense in March, as he allowed one unearned run and struck out eight Longhorns in 6 2/3 innings. At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, he has the size and power to that MLB scouts drool over to project as a potential front-end starter in the future. He currently holds a 1.09 ERA this season and has struck out 91 batters in 74 1/3 innings pitched. His fastball sits around 95 mph with movement and has shown that he can run it up to 102 mph multiple times. He still needs to work on command of his slider, but it is a consistent out pitch for him at the college level. Gray also possesses an above average changeup even though it lags behind his two other pitches.

2. Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford

This is another guy who roughed up UT bats early in the season. On March 1 in Palo Alto, Appel struck out 14 Longhorns and pitched his way to a complete game three-hitter. His slender 6-foot-5 has the projection to make MLB scouts drool. He has a three-quarters arm slot, which is a small cause for concern for arm problems further down the road, but his 93-96 mph fastball causes most scouts to overlook that. He has been known to get up to 98 mph when he needs to. He might have the most polish and control in terms of prospects with electric stuff in this year’s draft, shown by his ability to go deep into games. He has a 1.54 ERA this season and has compiled 84 strikeouts and only 12 walks in 70 1/3 innings pitched.

3. Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego

This 6-foot-5 physical specimen has improved his draft stock more than anyone in the country over the past few months. He clearly possesses tremendous power due to his size but also has shown surprising athleticism, with six stolen bases on the year. Bryant has MLB bat speed already and has a great approach to hitting, as he can hit for power to all fields. He is an average defender at third base, but his athleticism helps him project to a corner outfield position as well. This year he is hitting .350 with 20 home runs and 42 RBIs. Of his 49 hits, 32 are extra-base hits.

4. Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville HS, committed to Georgia

It’s always risky drafting a high school prospect so highly in the draft, especially position players, but when it does happen, the player is usually a five-tooler who is too projectable to pass on. Clint Frazier fits that bill. He runs a 6.4-second 60-yard dash (which translates to a 4.3-second 40-yard dash), throws 98 mph from the outfield, and can hit for serious power. Like most high schoolers, his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame has some room to fill out, but it’s easy to see why he is most likely a Top 10 lock in this year’s draft.

5. Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina

Moran is probably the most MLB-ready bat in this year’s class, as he has spent 3 years in college, unlike most top prospects. He has great bat control and fluidity to his swing, almost unseen at the college level. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Moran has the size to be a solid first baseman since his fielding and range at third is not MLB caliber. Even though he has increased his power numbers from three homeruns last year to 10 this year, some still worry about his MLB power potential. However, I can see him being a .300 average, 15-20 homerun guy once he finally settles in to the majors. He also has 15-20 pounds of weight to add to his frame once he reaches the majors. Perhaps the most impressive stat, regarding Moran this year is that he has only struck out eight times in 163 at-bats.

Honorable Mentions:

Aaron Judge, OF, Fresno State

Austin Wilson, OF, Stanford

Dominic Smith, 1B/OF, Serra High School - committed to USC

Kohl Stewart, RHP/OF, St. Pius X High School - committed to Texas A&M

Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State

Austin Meadows, OF, Grayson High School - committed to Clemson