Archive for the ‘Trendspotting’ Category

Minnesota Twins catcher Joe  Mauer takes fielding practice at first base before Dodgers game in Minneapolis

Catching is a tough gig. The abuse heaped upon your body – just about every part of your body – is difficult to fathom. Knees and legs tire from the innumerable squats performed each game. The weakening of the catching hand after repeated exposure to fastball after fastball. To say nothing of the foul tips bombarding the body at a moment’s notice, deflecting off the face mask or otherwise unprotected joints and digits.

It’s a grind and it is not for the faint of heart. On top of the physical difficulty of the job, it is an increasingly demanding defensive role as the ability to frame pitches, call games, and eliminate running threats on the bases are prized by keen baseball decision makers.

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MLB: Cleveland Indians at Oakland Athletics

There was a time when Ubaldo Jimenez was the best thing. He was the [Insert Awesome Pitcher's Name Here] of 2010, spawning GIFs in the nascent days of turning our entire world into one long animated yet soundless image. He threw harder than most guys with more movement than most guys – a deadly combination and treat for the eyes.

Unfortunately, Ubaldo could not match his performance over the first half of 2010. He was eventually traded from the Colorado Rockies to the Cleveland Indians in 2011 as Cleveland made their first of two ill-fated first half charges. It looked like a good deal at the time for both sides, as Colorado received some well-regarded prospects and the Tribe picked up a potential ace on an attractive contract.

Not only did Jimenez fail to replicate the form of his 2009-2010 run of domination, when he posted more than 13 rWAR over 439 innings, he started looking like he might be a non-tender candidate. He was a below replacement-level starter for Cleveland across his first 40 or so starts in the American League.

As Cleveland geared up over the winter for a potential dash toward the playoffs, their rotation was the biggest question mark. What could they reasonably expect from the unpredicatable likes of Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and the rest of a middling group of starters? More to the point: which Ubaldo would show up?

Over the last month of so, Cleveland has happily watched as the Ubaldo of old returned, leading the Tribe to within a half game of the AL Wild Card. Not a moment too soon, either.

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MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins

2013 has been nothing but a disappointment for the Washington Nationals. After all the bluster and hype, the team expected to dominate the National League saw their season end almost before it even began. Injuries, underperformance and regular old bad luck stopped the Nats in their tracks. In a move reeking of desperation, they fired their hitting coach at the end of July. The barn door closed just as the last of the horses disappeared from view.

Except that the Nationals are not dead yet. The second wildcard gives them new life and a glimmer of hope. A glimmer that would have been snuffed out long ago were it not for Jayson Werth.

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees

If you were to, say, create a leaderboard of American League outfielders and, by chance, order it by on-base percentage, your list would feature Mike Trout in the top spot. Obviously. The next player on the list, more than 30 points ahead of the number three qualified outfielder, might surprise you. Because it is Daniel Nava, the increasingly valuable Red Sox outfielder.

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