I've been saying it for years - get rid of the macho attitude and just get on base. Turns out that my message may have finally reached Mark Teixeira. What will the Nationals do with Bryce Harper to start the 2012 season. Could he actually break camp as a member of the starting lineup? The Astros signed Livan Hernandez. How does that move impact the rest of the Astros' rotation? And finally, I know he's coming off a terrific season, but just how good is this Adrian Beltre fella?
The End of Machismo?
I know that chicks dig the long ball, Tom Glavine and Mike Maddux proved that years ago, but haven't things gone a little toward the extreme end of things of late? We're so concerned with hitting the ball into the seats that it's almost like the heart of the game of baseball has taken a bit of a beating the past couple of decades.
I've been saying it for years. Why don't players bunt when teams put an exaggerated shift on them? Is it macho? Of course not. Are people going to laugh at a 35 homer hitter being a weenie and dropping a bunt down the line? Maybe. But in the end this strategic move will benefit the player and the team. To whit – Mark Teixeira of the Yankees says he will not turn away completely from the bunt if teams continue to pull the Ted Williams/Barry Bonds shift on him (where they rotate an extra fielder to the batters “pull” side). "If they're playing a big shift, I might lay some bunts down this year," Teixeira said. "I've been so against it my entire career, [but] I might lay down a few bunts. If I can beat the shift that way, that's important."
The name of the game is getting on base and scoring runs. Doesn't a bunt accomplish that or did I miss the class in second grade where they teach you that it doesn't matter how you get on base as long as you do? If you get on base via a hit, your batting average goes up, your OBP goes up, and you give your team a chance to score a run. What the hell is wrong with that? Stop being afraid of what people will think of you major leaguers, and start helping your team to win. Let's take the case of Teixeira.
Tex has hit .256 and .248 the past two years. Let's say he laid down an bunt once a month the last two years. Guess what his batting average would have been? How about .266 and .258. Not great, but clearly a step in the right direction. Let's also posit that because the defense had to play him more straight up because of the fear of the bunt that he had one extra hit a month that would have been caught by the middle infielder if the shift had been on. Then his average moves to .276 and .268. That's a pretty significant bump, isn't it? If he was on base 12 more times, how many extra runs would he have scored in a potent Yankees' lineup? A .373 career OBP for Mark is something he hasn't been able to produce since 2009. If we add in the 12 hits he blows past his career mark in 2010 (he finished the year at .365) and he'd be pretty darn close to it last year when he posted a .341 mark.
Lay a bunt down every once in a while Mark. The only reason not to do it is vanity.
Don't Forget About Jason Heyward
I was so excited about Jason Heyward's prospects for the 2012 season that I broke him down in a Player Profile all the way back in November. I laid out, in simple terms, why I thought he was in line to have a significant bounce back effort in 2012 and why, depending on how your league mates viewed him, that he might be available so late in your draft that it would be a coup to add him. With over two months of time passing since that piece, my thoughts haven't changed one bit. In fact, the news that came out earlier this week about Heyward's physique makes me even more excited about his outlook (and don't take that last season out of context. I don't want to see people on twitter saying I have the hots for Jason Heyward because he looks good in swimsuit).
Heyward had a strong rookie season, but he heard the whispers that a guy his size should hit more homers. Instead of realizing the real issue is the fact that he hits so many ground balls, he did what most 21 years olds would do – he hit the weight room. Heyward packed on about 10 lbs. but it didn't help, it actually had the opposite effect. “I didn’t feel that I could make my body do what my mind wanted to do. I wanted to make sure I have that feel, that control again.” So what did he do this offseason? He started a new workout regimen that dropped his weight from 256 down to 235 lbs. He stopped eating junk food and tried to eat some healthy foods. Remember, the guy is only 22 years old now, so maturation like this at this point of his life makes all the sense in the world.
I'm not predicting an MVP performance from Heyward, but I'd be shocked if he doesn't at least return to his rookie level (.277-18-72) if not posting even better numbers for the Braves.
Bryce Harper – Where Will He Play?
If you don't know the name of Bryce Harper you must have been stuck on an island with Tom Hanks and Wilson for the past two years. Harper is the uber prospect, the kid who is going to revolutionize the sport with his amazing talents at the dish. Harper is also a lightning rod of debate as we head into the 2012 draft season. Some see him as a potential star in his first season with the Nationals, and they think that he will be in the Nats opening day lineup. Others think he'll be in the minors until June so that the team can push back the start of his arbitration clock. Others think he'll merely be a September call up.
One man that is squarely in the 'he should be in the opening day lineup' is a man with a lot of juice, the Nats' manager Dave Johnson. At the same time, it appears that GM Mike Rizzo has a different take on the matter thinking Harper would be better served by spending some more time honing his craft in the minors.
What does intrepid sideline reporter Ray Flowers think?
Harper is 19 years old. He doesn't turn 20 until October. That's super young to be starting in the big leagues.
Harper has 515 professional at-bats. Five hundred fifteen. That's one season of at-bats. It's not like he played college baseball much either (just the one season of JC ball). Moreover, Harper has 129 at-bats above Single-A ball, and in those 129 Double-A at-bats he hit .256 with three homers an a .724 OPS, hardly inspiring numbers.
If you ask me, the Nationals would be off their medication if they allowed Harper to start the year in Washington. He's too young an inexperienced to be in the Nationals' starting lineup, no matter how talented he is. It's kind of like when you buy a Ferrari (we all know what that feels like, right?). The day you drive it off the showroom flop you want to hammer the gas peddle and open up that engine. But you do the prudent thing. You drive it around a while to make sure the engine is “broken in” before you pull your best Danica Patrick. The Nationals should do the same thing with their sport scar.
Father Time Signs With Astros
Livan Hernandez agreed to terms with the Astros on a minor league deal. Given the state of the Astros' pitching staff (both Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers are oft mentioned in trade talks), it would be a minor miracle if he doesn't end up in their starting rotation at some point. Let's take a look at the candidates for the five spots.
Wandy Rodriguez: Easily the best pitcher they have, Wandy would be a top-3 option on every team in the game. He's got the talent to be a legitimate #2 pitcher for any club, and he's clearly the ace of the stiff. Here's his Player Profile.
Brett Myers: Has gone over 200-innings each of the last two years. For the last three years he has kept his BB/9 mark under 3.00. He's averaged 170 Ks the past two seasons. None of that jumps off the page, but he would make a terrific #4 or #5 starter on a team with serious playoff aspirations. Myers continues to be a victim of the long ball, his HR/9 mark has been at least 1.18 in seven of the last eight years, so if he is moved make sure it's to a park that suppresses homers before you go all in on him.
Bud Norris: This hard throwing righty added 30 innings to his total in 2011, up to 186, and he posted a second straight effort with a K/9 rate of at least 8.50. He also knocked a full batter off his walk rate getting his BB/9 down to 3.39, just about the big league average. He may not improve substantially on last years numbers (3.77 ERA, 1.33 WHIP), but he's a decent bet to repeat them.
J.A. Happ: One of the more overrated pitchers in the game. He's not 2010 good (3.40 ERA) or 2011 bad (5.35 ERA), he's somewhere in the middle. Through 445.1 big league innings he owns a 4.00 ERA and 1.38 WHIP and a 0.82 GB/FB ratio, numbers that are decidedly big league average. He is coming off a strong effort in the K/9 category (7.71), but in each of the last two years he has walked at least 4.78 batters per nine innings. I want no part of a pitcher who does that.
Jordan Lyles: The Astros hope to build around him moving forward but he really sucked wind as a rookie. Lyles went 2-8 with a 5.36 ERA an a 1.48 WHIP over 94 innings. On the plus side he didn't issue many free passes (2.49 per nine) and posted a league average 1.08 GB/FB rate. Still has time to grow and might end up as a solid #3 big league arm.
Livan: He's won at least eight games season season since 1997. He's tossed at least 175 innings each season since 1998. No other pitcher in the game has a current streak of more than 11-straight 175 inning efforts (Mark Buehrle and CC Sabathia). With that ends the positive support of Livan Hernandez. I could of just said this. He's old. His skills are average. He takes the ball every five days. In the world of the Astros that might be enough to make him a fixture in the rotation.
Oh, in case you were wondering, yes, it is a painfully slow news day or why would I waste 500 words on the Astros' starting rotation. We're nothing if not thorough at Fantasy Alarm, I mean, where else could you find this breakdown? Point made.
Did You Know...
As good as Adrian Beltre was last year, and he was pretty special in just 124 games hitting .296 with 32 homers and 105 RBIs, that he's really never been more than just really good. Check out some of these facts about him. Though he has been a full-time player for 13 big league seasons he has...
Only two seasons in which he has hit .300.
Only two seasons with 30 homers.
Only three seasons with 100 RBI.
Only once season of 90 runs scored.
Only one season with an OBP over .360.
Only two seasons with an OPS over .900.
Miguel Cabrera has hit .300 with 30 homers, 100 RBI and 90 runs scored each of the past two years.
Michael Young has hit .300 seven times.
Josh Hamilton, and his drug and injury limited career has hit 30 homers twice.
David Ortiz has 100 RBI six times.
Austin Jackson has played two big league seasons, and both times he has scored 90 runs.
Adam Dunn has posted an OBP of .360 seven times.
Pablo Sandoval already has two seasons with an OPS of .900 in just three full seasons in the big leagues.
I'm not saying that Beltre hasn't been very good, he has, but he's not as good as most people seem to think he is.
Ray Flowers can be heard on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio on The Drive at Sirius 210 and XM 87. You can find more of his baseball analysis at BaseballGuys.com, and you can follow him at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account as well.
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