Mark Buehrle: 2014 Comeback Player of the Year?

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

What in the name of Oh Canada has gotten into Mark Buehrle in 2014? The veteran left-hander continues to marvel out on the mound, and has just picked up his fourth win in as many starts. Can the 35-year old continue at this pace north of the boarder all season long?

Buehrle has never been a dominant starter in terms of strikeouts or a high win total. In 15 seasons, he has only surpassed 15 wins four times. However, what he does bring to the table is a reliable arm that takes the ball every fifth day. Buehrle has made over 30 starts the last 13 years.

While his win total may never be high, his loss total is never high either. One time in his career as Buehrle posted a losing record, and that was a 12-13 record. You simply know what you get when Buehrle is on the bump. That is a competitor who works quickly, throws strikes, and challenges hitters. He is a multiple All-Star, multiple Gold Glove winner, and also owns a no-hitter, and perfect game on his resume.

But now somewhat forgotten in Toronto, Buehrle is off to one of his best starts ever. In four starts for the Blue Jays, he has tossed 28 innings allowing 21 hits and just two earned runs. He has close to a 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio, and his 0.64 ERA currently leads all of baseball.

It is truly incredible that Buehrle has been able to jump out to this kind of start for the year. With all of the power arms in the game today, and the ultra-competitive AL East, the Blue Jays and Buehrle are at times an afterthought. If he can keep up this pace, Buehrle will certainly be at the forefront come the second half of the season.

In his career, he has started one All-Star Game, this year could be a second. He has finished in the top-5 in Cy Young voting once, and this year could be a second if Buehrle can continue to win. After a down year, Comeback Player of the Year considerations can also be in the discussions as well for one of the good guys in the game.

In some regards, Buehrle can be considered a left-handed version of Greg Maddux. The “Mad Dog” will be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this summer. Is Buehrle on a similar path as well?

 

For more MLB News and Updates Follow OPSN’s Nick Schaeflein @ptchr2424.

Aaron Harang fires seven hitless innings in Braves victory vs Mets

The Atlanta Braves are getting an amazing season from an unsung hero in their pitching staff. The dominance of Aaron Harang so far this season is unfathomable. In two of his four starts, he’s taken a no-hitter into the seventh inning and owns a 0.70 ERA overall. Friday he took one step forward as he no-hit the New York Mets for seven frames. He was relieved of his duties after seven innings because of pitch count.

Follow OPSN’s Andrew Vigliotti on Twitter for more MLB updates @Andrew_Vig

 

 

VIDEO: Pujols Belts Home Run Number 497

The Angels were already leading the Tigers 8-1 when Albert Pujols came to the plate in the top of the sixth inning with two on and nobody out. Facing Luke Putkonen, Pujols launched a three-run shot putting himself that much closer to the 500 home run club and giving the Angels an 11-1 lead. It was Pujol’s 497th career home run. The Angels went on to defeat the Tigers 11-6.

For MLB news and updates follow OPSN’s  Jen Rainwater @OakAsSocksGrl on Twitter.

Vince Lombardi’s Week 3 MLB Power Rankings

As we have completed three weeks of the baseball season, there are only six teams that are not within three games of having a .500 record. When you have twenty-four teams that are six games apart you have a lot of movement potential in the rankings week to week. Last week we had some ups and downs and I would expect to see more next week. All that said, we have the Brewers staying at the top and the Diamondbacks still on the bottom.

Now here are my week 3 power rankings:

Rank          Team Record Previous Rank
1.       Milwaukee Brewers 12-5 1 Tied in leading the league in quality starts and still have the best record in baseball.
2.       Atlanta Braves 11-5 8 Let up one run in the last three games. Won 6 of last 7.
3.       Oakland Athletics 11-5 9 Bullpen back in order, looking like the best team in the American League.
4.       San Francisco Giants 10-7 4 Beat the Dodgers 4 out of 6 this year and starting pitching is getting better.
5.       Los Angeles Dodgers 10-7 5 Need to get better at home, but Kershaw is close to returning.
6.       St. Louis Cardinals 10-7 13 3-2 in the middle of 11 game road trip, could make a bigger move up next week.
7.       New York Yankees 10-7 16 Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda have been Cy Young candidates.
8.       Washington Nationals 10-7 3 Pitching not up to speed yet, but the team is scoring runs.
9.       Texas Rangers 10-7 17 Martin Perez off to a strong start.
10.    Detroit Tigers 7-6 2 After 4-0 start, team has struggled in the starting rotation.
11.    Baltimore Orioles 8-7 21 Winning games against AL East counterparts.
12.    Toronto Blue Jays 9-8 10 Big week ahead to see if they can compete against AL East all year.
13.    Kansas City Royals 8-7 23 Pitching is solid and the team is starting to hit.
14.    Colorado Rockies 8-8 19 They can score runs, which is going to keep them hanging around.
15.    Los Angeles Angels 8-8 18 Team can hit, but this week’s road trip we will see if they are the real deal.
16.    Tampa Bay Rays 8-9 7 Injuries in the starting rotation are hurting them.
17.    Minnesota Twins 8-8 22 Kyle Gibson has been a surprise in the rotation.
18.    Pittsburgh Pirates 8-9 11 Pirates struggling on the road, but have important early home stand this week.
19.    Chicago White Sox 8-9 12 Three losses in a row and a tough road trip coming up.
20.    Boston Red Sox 7-10 14 World Champions struggling losing 4 out of 6 games.
21.    San Diego Padres 8-9 27 Padres have a solid rotation, which you need out West.
22.    New York Mets 8-8 24 6-3 on their recent road trip, let’s see if they can translate that into a strong home stand.
23.    Philadelphia Phillies 7-9 26 Phillies are playing like a team that will hover around .500 all season.
24.    Cincinnati Reds 7-9 29 Hitting and Pitching coming together a strong road trip this week will shoot them up the rankings.
25.    Seattle Mariners 7-9 4 Big drop in rankings due to losing 6 of 7 including 4 in a row.
26.    Cleveland Indians 7-9 15 Lost 6 of last 8 and young pitching staff continues to struggle.
27.    Miami Marlins 7-10 20 After strong start losing 9 out of 11 will drop you in the rankings.
28.    Houston Astros 5-12 28 Lost 5 in a row. It is going to be another long year in Houston.
29.    Chicago Cubs 4-11 25 Cubs are close to finding themselves in the cellar.
30.    Arizona Diamondbacks 5-14 30 Pitching and NL West is going to keep this team in the basement all year.

Follow OPSN CO-Founder and CEO Vince Lombardi Jr. On Twitter

VIDEO: Giancarlo Stanton’s Walk-Off Grand Slam

Going into the bottom of the ninth on Friday the Mariners and Marlins were stuck in a 4-4 tie. The Marlins loaded the bases bringing up Giancarlo Stanton to face Yoervis Medina, still with nobody out. Stanton launched a monster home run, grand slam to propel the Marlins to an 8-4 victory over the Mariners. It was Stanton’s second career walk-off grand slam and his 123rd career home run giving him sole posession of 6th place on the Marlins all-time home run list. He had previously been tied with Gary Sheffield.

For more MLB news and updates follow OPSN’s  Jen Rainwater @OakAsSocksGrl on Twitter.

Twins’ Jason Bartlett To Retire

The Minnesota Twins were told on Friday that 34-year-old infielder Jason Bartlett will be retiring.

The Twins have have asked Bartlett to reconsider his decision to retire from baseball, however the club believes that he will most likely not change his mind.

Prior to his decision to retire, Bartlett had been working on a rehab assignment in Class A Fort Myers after an ankle sprain landed him on the 15-Day Disabled List earlier this month. He sat out all of last season following an injury-riddled and ineffective 2012 season with the San Diego Padres.

In his ten year big league career, Bartlett batted .270/.336/.366 along with 31 homers and 286 RBI. His best season came back in 2009 with the Tampa Bay Rays – when he batted .320/.389/.490 along with 14 homers and 66 RBI. He also swiped a career-high 30 bases that season en route to his first (and only) All-Star Game selection.

Bartlett was set to make $1 million this season.

Make sure you follow Outside Pitch Sports Network’s Anton Joe on Twitter @AntonJoeMLB for all the latest news and updates from around baseball.

What Can Be Expected From This Weekend’s MLB Action?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

This week, baseball has certainly seen some top performances. It all started with the celebration of Jackie Robinson Day on Tuesday, and in some cases Wednesday around the league. With home runs being hit at an alarming rate this season, this week has seen some much-welcomed dominant performances by a few pitchers as well. But what can be expected from this weekend’s action on the diamond?

The offensive highlight of the week may have been the two-day home run derby put on by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds. It was a game that featured ten home runs, and needed a second day to complete.

Wednesday was the showcase of the right-handed pitchers. Masahiro Tanaka, Johnny Cueto, Julio Teheran, Jose Fernandez, and Andrew Cashner all had dominating performances out on the bump. Combined, the five produced four wins, two complete game shutouts, and 41 total strikeouts.

Then on Thursday, it was the southpaws that took the stage. While David Price did struggle, CC Sabathia, Jon Lester, and Chris Sale all dazzled as some of the game’s top left-handed pitchers. After four starts, Lester, Sale, and Price are currently one, two, and three in strikeouts among big-league lefty starters.

Perhaps this weekend could be a showcase of the young stars of the game. The Houston Astros just called up their top prospect in George Springer to provide a spark to the lineup and fan base. After two hits in his first two games, Curious George will now travel to Oakland to showcase his talents. Springer will be up against the league’s top rotation, but look for him to perhaps have a big weekend as his career gets under way.

Baseball has a way of producing stories each night, and this week has been no different. What could be expected this weekend is more great action, and often the unexpected.

 

For more MLB News and Updates Follow OPSN’s Nick Schaeflein @ptchr2424.

Mets trade Ike Davis to Pirates

The New York Mets have traded 27-year-old first baseman Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for RHP Zack Thornton and a player to be named later, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish.

It was figured that he would eventually be traded, but the question was always to whom he would be traded to. The Pirates were in most need of the suitors for a first-baseman and it was them who landed him.

Davis batted .205 with nine homers and 33 RBI last season. He also struckout 101 times last year. He only played 103 games last season, as he missed most some time due to injury.

The Pirates have been rumored to have been looking for a first baseman since last winter. They have mostly been relying on Travis Ishikawa and Gaby Sanchez so far this season at first base. Davis could possibly put some pressure on Ishikawa to improve as a hitter, as Ishikawa has not been hitting well as of late, and share time with the right-handed-hitting Sanchez, who has been performing well.

Follow Max Wildstein on twitter at @MaxWildstein for more updates.

A’s, LHP Sean Doolittle Agree to Contract Extension

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Oakland Athletics and left handed reliever Sean Doolittle have agreed to a new five-year contract that will take him from this season through the 2018 season the club announced Friday. The contract includes club options for 2019 and 2020. The first five years of the new contract take Doolittle through his first three years of arbitration. If the club decides to utilize their options for 2019 and 2020 it will cover his first two years of free-agency. No financial terms of the contract were announced but should be within days.

Doolittle was converted from a first baseman to a pitcher in just 2011 and primarily only threw a fastball for his first two seasons in the majors. He made the fastball work for him by using starting very far to the first base side of the rubber as well as having an unusual release point right next to his ear. It made it hard for players to see the pitch clearly and it worked for him nicely.

Doolittle played his first big league game as an Athletic in 2012. He made 44 pitching appearances that year, throwing a total of 47.1 innings. He ended the season with a 3.04 ERA and 60 strikeouts. In 2013 Doolittle, who can pitch the late innings from the seventh to closing, pitched 69.1 innings in 70 appearances. He once again kept his ERA to a minimum at 3.13 and had a high number of strike outs accumulating 60 once again.

Over the off season Doolittle worked on adding a slider and a change up to his repertoire and while they are not perfected yet, they are effective. The more experience he has throwing these new pitches the better a pitcher he will be. He’s appeared in eight games in 2014, given up three runs, struck out nine and currently has an ERA of 3.12.

This is a great move by A’s general manager Billy Beane. It’s key to have a strong southpaw in your bullpen, especially one that is versatile, can come into the game in almost any situation and who will likely only continue to improve. This is a great move by Beane that will instantly make the fans happy. During the off season Beane traded away Doolittle’s friend, and fan favorite, fellow southpaw Jerry Blevins to the Nationals in exchange for the speedy prospect Billy Burns. Doolittle became a fan favorite almost instantly since joining the club with his hilariously clever personality and  awesome ability to get people out.

I’d imagine that this contract is also great for Doolittle. He was grew up a fan of the Oakland A’s, embodies what they A’s are all about, is one of the leaders of the team and has always expressed how much he loves playing in Oakland.

For more MLB news and updates follow OPSN’s  Jen Rainwater @OakAsSocksGrl on Twitter.

The Los Angeles Angels are falling apart

The Los Angeles Angels have issues. Lots of issues.

Over the past few years, MLB fans have set high expectations for this Angels team, and rightfully so. With players that include Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver, and others, comes high expectations. But every year, they crumble and fail to even come close to the high expectations set for them.

And once again, the Angels are struggling, sitting at a record of 7-8, third in the AL West. Although it’s still very early in the season, the Angels might be done already, and their future doesn’t look bright at all, with risky contracts and aging players.

thebiglead.com

thebiglead.com

Albert Pujols’ decline 

What has happened to Albert Pujols?

The 34-year old went from being a .300 +, MVP-type hitter, to a first baseman struggling to hit just 20 home runs. Ever since he signed that huge deal with the Angels, his numbers have dropped tremendously.

St. Louis Cardinals (11 seasons): .328 BA, .420 OBP, .617 SLG

Los Angeles Angels (3 seasons): .272 BA, .336 OBP, .486 SLG

The decline of Albert Pujols is very scary.

Josh Hamilton’s injuries 

While Josh Hamilton hasn’t been putting up the type of numbers he used to, he is still arguably the most important player to this team. But the major issue with Hamilton has always been injuries.

2007: 90 GP

2008: 156 GP

2009: 89 GP

2010: 133 GP

2011: 121 GP

2012: 148 GP

2013: 151 GP

And with Hamilton already going to miss 6-8 weeks this season with an injured thumb is huge. The 32-year old outfielder was hitting .444 with 2 home runs and 6 RBIs before his injury.

Jered Weaver’s cold start 

Angels’ ace Jered Weaver is off to a horrible start to the season, and with the team currently ranked 23rd overall in ERA makes things even worse.

In three starts this season, Weaver has a 0-2 record and a 5.79 ERA. He hasn’t even been able to make it through six full innings yet.

Against the Seattle Mariners, the 31-year old allowed 6 hits on 3 earned runs. Versus the Houston Astros, Weaver pitched just 5.2 innings and gave up 5 hits, 5 runs, and 4 home runs. And against the New York Mets, he allowed 3 hits on 4 runs and one home run.

The Angels are falling apart, and I don’t see how they could possibly turn it around.

Follow Emily Gruver on Twitter for more MLB updates

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