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Kansas City Royals

AL Central Preview: Can Anyone Beat the Detroit Tigers?

Much like the their Senior Circuit brethren, the question for the AL Central is easy: can anyone beat the Detroit Tigers?
 
The answer is: no. No, they can’t.
 
Probably.
 
The Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins are all just playing for second…and hopefully an accompanying Wild Card berth.
 
Baseball writers and bloggers all across the inter-web are quick to anoint the Tigers, but without proper recourse. And that’s why you come to MAMBINO, right? So that we can make you sound smarter than you are. Let’s take a second to describe the reigning American League Champs. They run out a very good, very healthy starting five headed up by the best (or second best, depending on who you ask) pitcher on the planet, Justin Verlander. Behind him, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister are walking no-hitters ready to happen. 24 year-old former first rounder pick Rick Porcello has disappointed in the past, but if you believe reports out of spring training, he’s poised for a breakout year.
 
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers are mighty similar to the Anaheim Angels in that they can beat you in almost every single way. They’ve got Gamma-powered mashers (2012 AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, 1B Prince Fielder), speedy leadoff men (OFs Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter) and patient hitters that can spray the ball all over the field (DH Victor Martinez, OF Andy Dirks and 2B Omar Infante).
 
The bullpen is the only real question for the extremely well managed Tigers, as skipper Jim Leyland is currently without a closer. Phil Coke was certainly overextended as the team’s 9th inning man last October, but managed to look the part even though his stuff never really has. Detroit will close by committee for the moment, with Joaquin Benoit, Coke and Octavio Dotel all getting shots. However, the Tigers are all-in this season; if one of the incumbent relievers (or Triple-A closer-in-waiting Bruce Rondon) don’t claim the role, the front office is certain to go out and pay whatever price necessary to bring in a shut down hurler.
 
Make sense now? You’re welcome!… Read more...

(Not So Instant) Trade Analysis: James Shields to the Kansas City Royals

Tampa Bay Rays get: OF Wil Myers, SP Jake Odorizzi, SP Mike Montgomery, 3B Patrick Leonard

Kansas City Royals get: SP James Shields, SP/RP Wade Davis

“This could be the deal that brings Moore’s time in Kansas City to an end”–Keith Law, ESPN

“Hell yeah this was a desperate trade. More than a quarter-century of irrelevance tends to foster desperation.”–Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports
“The Royals got owned on this one,” said an NL executive, who marveled at Friedman’s huge haul of young talent.”–Jerry Cranick, ESPN.com
Just three out of hundreds of opinions that suggested that the James Shields-centered trade from late Sunday night was nothing more than a heist for the Tampa Bay Rays. In many ways, how could you argue that? The Kansas City Royals look like Randy Travis–a drunk, pantsless victim of larceny.
The Rays dealt a fine, fine pitcher, who’s averaged 33 starts, 222 innings, a 3.80 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP for the past six seasons. He’s an extremely healthy player, especially considering that he’s such a prolific strikeout artist, sitting down 7.8 batters per nine innings. Shields placed third in Cy Young voting last season, which combined with this season, count as a great right-hander settling into his prime. He’s started 33 games each of the past two seasons, with a 3.15 ERA, 8.5 Ks per nine, a 3.64 SO/BB ratio and giving up just 403 hits in 477 innings pitched. In other words, Shields has emerged into a rotation work horse, capable of taking on big innings matched with premium results. He’s not a bonified “ace”, but he’s close.
His fellow ex-Ray Davis isn’t a slouch either. As a starter, he averaged 176 innings and 29 starts over two seasons, throwing 4.27 ERA ball, with a 1.36 WHIP. However, his fatal flaw was that in stretching his arm out, he hardly struck anyone out, with a paltry 5.6 Ks per nine innings. Davis was converted to a reliever last year with much deadlier results–70 innings, 2.43 ERA, 87 strikeouts to only 29 walks and a remarkable 1.09 WHIP. Going forward, Davis is probably better off as a reliever, though his contract makes him paid as a starter. It’d probably be a mistake to put Davis “out of position” to “justify” activating his three team options after 2014 (for $7, $8 and $10 million), but the Royals currently plan to have Davis start. Perhaps his true destination is to end up at closer, but for now, he’ll hit the mound every five days.
Kansas City probably got better with this deal in the short term, though if Odorizzi blossoms this year into an above average young starter and Wil Myers turns into the second coming of Andruw Jones (though hopefully a better ending), it could be up for debate. In my mind, Tampa got the better end of the deal, with two premium prospects, one of which seems like a sure thing to be an impact player in the Majors, as well as two other young players whose ceilings rank them as every day major leaguers. When trading a proven, work horse arm like Shields, the Rays certainly did well. They were dealing from a place of strength in the organization, and Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Alex Torres or any number of starters could come in and fill Shields role–this season just in innings, but perhaps next in performance as well.

In many ways, this feels like the trade of two years of Mark Texeira back in 2007 to the Atlanta Braves, where the Rangers got a young Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz as their bounty. KC man

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Burning Qs for the 2012 MLB Season (Part 2)

The MLB season has partially gotten underway (16 teams have yet to throw a single pitch as of Friday morning), so to prep, we started our world famous internet renowned popular burning questions for 2012. We launched part 1 back on Wednesday, and here are, what we think, the most important questions from now until October.

Are the Rays the best team in the AL East?
BockerKnocker: No, of course not.


But they will give the Yankees and Red Sox fits, possibly all the way through game 162, just like last year. As everybody knows, Tampa’s rotation is one of the best in the bigs. David Price and James (dare I say “Big Game,” KOBEsh?) Shields form one of the best 1-2 punches in the game, but it is the #3 and #4 slots in the rotation that has the folks in Florida beaming. Matt Moore is probably the game’s brightest prospect right now, including The Bryce Harper Experience. Moore struck out 15 in 9+ innings last year and was credited with the Rays’ lone win against Texas in the ALDS. Then again, he struck out 15 in 9+ innings last year. To anoint this guy so quickly is problematic; not only will this be his first big league season, but he will probably be pitching on an innings limit. Following Moore will be an absolute stud in Jeremy Hellickson, who proved that he can win on the big stage last year. Hellickson posted an ERA under 3 in the vaunted American League East on the way to the Rookie of the Year award. Hellickson, however, had an awful spring, allowing an earned run per inning pitched. Veterans are usually able to shake off the effects of a horrendous spring training, but how the young buck deal with it remains to be seen.

Got to get it together, BJ

The pitching will carry the Rays all year. Even if a starter gets injured here and there, the team has some minor-league depth in Wade Davis and Alex Cobb. The problem for the Rays lies with their lineup card. The franchises in New York and Boston will produce hitting clinics all summer, featuring brand names like Cano, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Gonzalez, and Granderson. Tampa struggled to put runs on the board all year, so they did what any bat-starved team would do. They went out and signed Luke Scott, daily golden sombrero candidate and Rays retread Carlos Pena, and Jeff Keppinger. Nice. There are some familiar faces returning in Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist. But even if those guys have the years everyone knows they can have, the team will need breakout seasons from B.J. Upton (seriously, B.J., we’ve been waiting forever for one from you) and Desmond Jennings.

The Toronto Blue Jays have become somewhat of a sexy sleeper pick to make the playoffs with the extended wild-card format. The always dangerous Jose Bautista leads a decent hitting squad, especially at home, but the Jays just don’t have the firepower on the mound to make a significant move in this 3-horse race. The Baltimore Orioles round out the AL East, but they don’t deserve any more than 1 sentence because they lost to a COMMUNITY COLLEGE team on Tuesday.


Are we in any danger of seeing the Orioles, Pirates, Mariners or Royals ending their years-long futility?
KOBEsh: No, don’t be silly Peter Pan. But that doesn’t mean there’s not signs of life.

There’s not a team in that sad bunch of glorified minor league teams that I would guess play for better than third-place in their divisions, and that’s partially because the Mariners play in a four-team division.

Out of the four, the O’s have the greatest opportunity to continue their tradition of absolute abject suckitude. Looking at … Read more...