Is Tim Lincecum’s Recent Hot Stretch a Career Revival or Mirage?

Tim Lincecum did it again. The San Francisco Giants right-hander won his fourth straight start by holding the National League West rival Arizona Diamondbacks scoreless over seven innings at AT&T Park on Friday night.

The Giants won 5-0 to take the first of a three-game set. More importantly, the win kept San Francisco tied atop the division with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost to the San Diego Padres, 6-3.

With Friday's outing in the books, Lincecum now has hurled a quality start in six of his past seven turns. Over that time, he's compiled a 1.86 ERA and 0.81 WHIP with 37 strikeouts in 48.1 innings.

Aside from the strikeouts (a mere 6.9 K/9), those digits look an awful lot like the Lincecum of old, back when he was winning consecutive Cy Youngs in 2008 and 2009 and was widely considered one of the very best arms in baseball for a handful of years.

And of course, this recent string has been built around that no-hitter Lincecum spun on June 25—his second in less than a year.

Despite all of the above, however, there are two reasons why this hot stretch is more mirage than late-career revival. Let's point 'em out here.

Lying and Underlying Numbers

It's no secret that Lincecum has lost more than a few ticks off his once high-90s heater and hasn't been all that good the past two seasons. So accepting that he's suddenly just regained his former glory simply isn't realistic.

In 65 starts across 2012-13, Lincecum posted a 4.76 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. His 3.95 FIP (fielding independent pitching) in that time looks a little better, but his ERA- (ERA adjusted for ballpark and league average) was 132—32 percent worse than average.

So how do those same underlying numbers, and a few others, look in 2014? Here's a rundown of Lincecum's stats this year compared to the previous two:

The point? By some measures, like K/9, BB/9 and FIP, Lincecum actually is pitching similar to, if not slightly worse than, he did in 2013 and not that much better than he did in his disastrous 2012—but this is masked by his strong surface stats.

 

Offensive Opposition

One key factor in all of this, and which helps explain why Lincecum's traditional statistics look better this year: the competition. Or lack thereof.

Over this six-quality-starts-in-seven-outings period, here are his opponents, as well as a look at where they rank in a few offensive categories:

Clearly, Lincecum has been taking advantage of a very pitcher-friendly slate of late.

In fact, the Colorado Rockies offense is the only one that can be considered better than even below average, and that outing was in cozy AT&T Park and came with both Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado—two of the better Rockies hitters—on the disabled list.

Otherwise, Lincecum has faced the sorry one-through-nines of the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals, as well as the the so-so lineup of the Arizona Diamondbacks twice, which to be fair is tougher for him than most other pitchers because of this: 

And to round things out, he's drawn the San Diego Padres, possessors of the worst offense in baseball—and perhaps baseball history—two times, the first of which was the no-hitter.

Skeptical much?

Bottom Line

Despite all the ragging on him above, Lincecum still can be an effective starter, as he's shown of late. He has the ability—if no longer the same raw stuff as when he was one of the best pitchers in baseball—to get through a lineup two, sometimes three times, and even dominate the opposition on occasion when everything is just so.

And he's certainly proved to be durable, having made at least 32 starts each of his six full major league seasons. That's not to be overlooked or underestimated, because pitching innings—even if they're only slightly better than league-average innings these days—is something that provides plenty of value.

Fact is, though, Lincecum is now 30 years old and has lost a lot on his fastball—more than two miles per hour since 2011—which requires him to be that much better when it comes to control and especially command.

And Lincecum showed that Friday, as Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson told Steve Gilbert of MLB.com:

He's got great command and he threw multiple pitches where he wanted to throw them. He had good sequences, kept the ball down in the zone. There was a low strike zone tonight and he made good use of it and used our aggressiveness against us and shut us down.

As more of a finesse pitcher, trying to be so fine can work, but there's less room for error. When Lincecum's location is off just a little or he can't get a feel for one of his off-speed offerings in a given start, then he could be in for a long night. Or a short one, as it were. And let's face it: With a career walk rate of 3.5 per nine, control has never been one of Lincecum's fortes.

Lincecum himself realizes as much, recently telling Chris Haft of MLB.com:

The difference between being good and bad is very minute, especially at this level. That's why I always try to stay even-keeled. You can't get too excited about the good things because they're not that far away from being bad, and vice-versa. It just helps you keep things in perspective. 

The takeaway from Lincecum's recent performance, including Friday's scoreless victory, is that he's showing he can have success while pitching differently than he used to when he still could overpower hitters. He's making adjustments, and that's paying off. At least for now.

But this isn't the Tim Lincecum of old. If anything, it's simply an older Tim Lincecum.

 

Statistics come from MLB.comBaseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, except where otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

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San Diego Padres Reportedly Interview Kim Ng for GM Position

The San Diego Padres took a major step toward possibly hiring the first female general manager ever after reportedly interviewing Kim Ng for their GM vacancy, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:

Ng is among the highest-ranking women in baseball, serving as senior vice president for baseball operations for Major League Baseball. There has never been a female GM in MLB or any of the other major sports.

She was assistant GM of the New York Yankees from 1998-01 and had been the Los Angeles Dodgers' assistant GM for nine years before joining the commissioner's office.

Ng interviewed with the Padres in 2009 after Kevin Towers was fired. The job eventually went to Jed Hoyer.

The Padres are having a lot of trouble finding viable candidates, especially after A.J. Hinch and Omar Minaya removed themselves from consideration, per CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman and Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal:

Ng is the eighth person the team has interviewed, per Jeff Sanders of The San Diego Union-Tribune:

Hinch, who serves as the team's assistant GM, told the AP that he "wished (the Padres) well in their search to find the right leader for them."

"In the meantime, my focus will be to continue to work in the best interest of the organization at an important time of the year," he added.

Writing for The San Diego Union-Tribune, Matt Calkins argued that Ng is more than simply a publicity ploy on the part of the Padres and that San Diego should seriously consider her for the position:

Some theorize that she is a token interview—MLB's way of trying to look progressive when, in reality, those positions were never within her reach. But that can't be the case. Not when Ng has achieved as much as she has with as many teams as she's worked for.

No, what is more likely true is that nobody has been willing to take a chance on her. Nobody wants to be the guy who got suckered into hiring a woman when it becomes evident she was in over her head.

Well, this is the Padres' chance to be bold. This is President Mike Dee's opportunity to make what would be both the correct and historical choice.

There's no question that hiring Ng would be a major gamble for San Diego. Appointing a new GM is always a leap of faith, but this would obviously be a much different situation.

The organization would be viewed as a joke by some critics who think that hiring a female GM is somehow beneath an MLB team.

However, the fact that Ng has continued to rise in a male-dominated field is a testament to her ability. She wouldn't have gotten as far as she has if she wasn't extremely good at her job.

The Padres have one winning season since 2008 and haven't made the playoffs since 2006. They clearly need an organizational shakeup, and maybe Ng is the person who can make that happen.

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Reds’ Billy Hamilton Uses Hesitation Move to Avoid Tag, Arrive at First on Bunt

"And that's an easy play...oh, he missed him!" 

The play-by-play announcer says it all, as Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton pulled off one of the most elusive moves of the season to avoid a tag from Pittsburgh's Gaby Sanchez and get on first. 

With what appeared to be an easy out coming, Hamilton did a full hesitation move to avoid the tag and dive for first base. 

[MLB]

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest on Marlon Byrd, Joakim Soria and More

The home stretch is always the most difficult.

In this instance, that refers to the complex machine that is the MLB trade rumor mill as the deadline looms at the end of July. It can also refer to the fact that the Midsummer Classic is upon us, meaning franchises are more willing to wheel and deal for the postseason push after the break.

And in a few rare instances, it refers to what will be a frantic few weeks for franchises that just suffered a major loss and will need to compensate for maneuvers.

For fans, though? It's party time, as the endless possibilities can breathe new life into any team, both in the short and long term. With rumors flying every which way, here is a look at some of the most notable recent updates.

 

Cardinals on the Hunt for Molina Replacement?

At 50-43 and in second place in an intense race in the NL Central Division, the St. Louis Cardinals had little wiggle room for an injury to take away one of their elite players.

Alas, catcher Yadier Molina will miss perhaps the rest of the season after suffering a thumb injury, as explained by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

A major loss at home plate, Molina was also finally turning things around in the batter's box, going 11-for-31 in his last 10 games. Tony Cruz, who has appeared in 22 games this season and is batting .241 with eight RBI, will take over as the starter.

ESPN's Jerry Crasnick provided some insight as to what the loss means:

As the Elias Sports Bureau notes, the Cardinals have a staff ERA of 3.53 with Molina and 3.81 without him over the past five seasons. They've erased 40.9 percent of opposing base stealers during that time frame, compared to 31.9 percent with all their non-Molina catchers.

"It's the equivalent of losing Adam Wainwright," said an American League scout. "Yadi is one guy in the lineup, but this affects 12 guys on the pitching staff. Tony Cruz is a great backup and I guarantee you he's learned a ton from Yadi just by osmosis. But there's no way he can replace Yadi offensively, and Yadi is by far the best defensive catcher in all of baseball. It's going to be a challenge."

Goold notes that, in an effort to better guarantee the position is secure going into a postseason push, general manager John Mozeliak and the front office will have "their eyes toward the market for available catchers."

Keep a close eye on the Cardinals, as Cruz's success will likely have a major impact on whether or not the franchise elects to make a move. The team was in a similar spot a season ago, and the demons of that situation—teams trying to steal great prospects knowing the deadline was very close—will certainly play a factor in a potential move.

 

Joakim Soria

A 30-year-old arm with 16 saves and a 2.76 ERA is, of course, a hot item on the market any year with the deadline on approach. 

Oh, and don't forget that said arm has fanned 40 batters and issued just four free passes.

This is where the Texas Rangers are with Joakim Soria at this point. He has managed to rise above what is a rather deep staff, and not only that, he touts a very favorable contract that pays him $5 million this year, with a team option next year for $7 million, per Spotrac.

Other teams obviously covet a contract like Soria's, especially those looking for a rental. Fox Sports' Jon Morosi says there are at least three teams on the prowl for his services:

From Soria's perspective, the best place to go if he is moved would be Los Angeles, as that gives him the best chance to remain a closer. But it's hard to imagine the Rangers, hanging out in fifth place in the AL West, would want to help out a division rival currently fighting with the Oakland A's for first place.

For his part, Soria is just focused on continuing to do his job well, as captured by Evan Grant of the Dallas News:

I can’t control it. And if I can’t control it, I shouldn’t worry about it. If I don’t worry about it, it won’t be a distraction. It’s part of baseball. Rumors start and that’s it. I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to have a second chance to be a Major Leaguer. How can I be frustrated over anything when I’ve been given a second chance.

Soria is but one rung on the free-agency ladder that includes names such as Jonathan Papelbon, so a deal will have to blow the Rangers away to come to fruition. That certainly does not mean it won't happen, though.

 

Marlon Byrd

At 36 years old and in possession of a rejuvenated bat and a two-year contract worth $8 million per year through 2016, per Spotrac, Marlon Byrd is living the good life with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Of course, that won't stop teams from coming after Byrd, whose numbers continue to rise and show no signs of stopping at this juncture:

According to Crasnick, the Seattle Mariners, stuck in third place in the AL West, have shown a serious interest:

One problem: Byrd has a no-trade clause that covers four teams.

The Mariners are one of them.

Per Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, the teams are the Mariners, Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays, although he does not view the clause as "ironclad."

“I don’t want to get traded,” he said Thursday in Milwaukee. “I signed a two-year deal here for a reason. The thought process was to retire as a Phillie. At the same time, this is a business and I know how it works. If trading me makes the organization better, I have to go with it.”

If a team like Seattle tries hard enough, there is an outside chance some traction can be gained. But Byrd is in rare form for his age and is quite content, so expect this saga to drag out right up to the deadline.

 

Follow Chris_Roling on Twitter

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Cleveland Indians’ Trade Deadline Strategy Blueprint

The Cleveland Indians have some work to do at the upcoming July 31 trade deadline. The team currently sits at 45-46, 7.5 games back of the division-leading Detroit Tigers and 3.5 games back of the Seattle Mariners for the second wild-card spot.

The Indians need help in a couple of different areas, including the starting rotation and the bench. Aside from those two areas, the team has a collection of players who are simply underperforming. For a team with limited funds, and limited willingness to give up top prospects, it can be difficult to bring in the pieces necessary to put themselves over the top.

In any event, the team needs to do something, and that's what I'm here to help sort out. Over the next few slides, I'll break down the club's biggest areas of need, their moveable pieces, some possible targets and even propose a few deals the Indians could look at to bolster their roster.

Let's get started.

 

All stats are current through play on July 10, 2014 and come courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and Fangraphs.com unless otherwise noted.

Begin Slideshow

Cleveland Indians’ Trade Deadline Strategy Blueprint

The Cleveland Indians have some work to do at the upcoming July 31 trade deadline. The team currently sits at 45-46, 7.5 games back of the division-leading Detroit Tigers and 3.5 games back of the Seattle Mariners for the second wild-card spot.

The Indians need help in a couple of different areas, including the starting rotation and the bench. Aside from those two areas, the team has a collection of players who are simply underperforming. For a team with limited funds, and limited willingness to give up top prospects, it can be difficult to bring in the pieces necessary to put themselves over the top.

In any event, the team needs to do something, and that's what I'm here to help sort out. Over the next few slides, I'll break down the club's biggest areas of need, their moveable pieces, some possible targets and even propose a few deals the Indians could look at to bolster their roster.

Let's get started.

 

All stats are current through play on July 10, 2014 and come courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and Fangraphs.com unless otherwise noted.

Begin Slideshow

Angels’ Mike Trout Fastest to 500 Hits in Franchise History

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout stormed his way into the record books Thursday night, using a four-hit performance against the Texas Rangers to become the fastest player in franchise history with 500 career hits, per Angels Director of Communications Eric Kay.

Trout reached the milestone in just 423 games, surpassing the record of 428 games previously held by Garret Anderson.

The 22-year-old outfielder entered Thursday's contest with 498 career hits and proceeded to fill out the box score in a 15-6 blowout victory. Not only did Trout record a hit in four of his five at-bats, but he also finished the night with a home run, three runs and four RBI.

Set to turn 23 August 7, Trout is already shaping up as a threat to take down Anderson's franchise record of 2,368 hits.

While never considered a true superstar, Anderson played for the Angels from 1994 to 2008 and was a productive hitter for most of that span. In addition to the franchise hits mark, he also holds Angels records for games (2,013), runs (1,024), RBI (1,292) and total bases (3,743), among others. His 272 home runs in a Halos uniform are good for second in franchise history, trailing only the 299 of retired slugger Tim Salmon.

Trout still has a ways to go before reaching Anderson in any of the counting stats, but he's the all-time franchise leader in both on-base percentage (.403) and slugging percentage (.553).

Even more impressive, Trout is responsible for the two best seasons in franchise history as measured by wins above replacement (WAR), having posted a 10.8 WAR in 2012 and 8.9 WAR in 2013, per Baseball-Reference.com.

Assuming he sticks around in Anaheim for the long haul, Trout could one day be the Angels' all-time leader in nearly every significant offensive category.

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5 Prospects the Cubs Should Give a Shot in the Second Half

It's no secret that the Chicago Cubs possess more exciting players in the minor leagues than they do in the major leagues. As sad as it is, most of the core of the team's future hasn't played a major league game yet.

While the Cubs have gotten mixed results from their top prospects, there are a select few who deserve a shot at the big leagues this season. 

If nothing else, calling up a couple of top prospects who are expected to be ready by Opening Day next season will let them take their lumps when it doesn't really matter. That isn't to say that they won't take their lumps in 2015, but it could really ease the transition process.

For these five prospects, promotions are in order by September at the latest.

Begin Slideshow

Deal Of The Day: 44% Off On MondoHub

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Some of you may remember we wrote about the MondoHub just last wednesday. It’s this massive 28-port USB hub, which should satisfy your USB-pluggin needs for years to come. 24 of these are USB 2.0, while 4 sport the considerably faster USB 3.0 variant. Each port can be switched on or off manually, and there’s even over current protection and the ports are hot-swappable. It’s a capable device that should sell for $99, actually sells for $62 on Amazon, and is being discounted down to $54.99 with this deal.

[ 44% Off On MondoHub ]

The post Deal Of The Day: 44% Off On MondoHub appeared first on OhGizmo!.

2014 MLB All-Star Game: Complete Rosters and Predictions for Midsummer Classic

There are many traditions in baseball that make it America’s pastime, but none have the history and excitement associated with the MLB All-Star Game. The 2014 edition of the Midsummer Classic will live up to the lofty expectations.

With many of the top players in the league taking the field at the same time, fans will be treated to an amazing battle between the best pitchers in baseball and the elite hitters in the sport.

Here are the full rosters for both the National and American leagues and predictions for the 2014 MLB-All Star Game.

 

 

Breaking Down the 2014 All-Star Game

While the hitters on both rosters will make it difficult for opposing pitchers to shine during the All-Star Game, the vast array of top hurlers on either team will be the ultimate difference-maker.

Fans will be expecting elite batters like Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutchen and Yasiel Puig from the NL side and Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and Jose Bautista from the AL side to dominate, but the pitching depth is even more impressive.

The key to victory for both teams will be the pitching.

On the American League side, look for starters like Yu Darvish, Felix Hernandez, Jon Lester and David Price to carry the team for most of the game. If the AL coaching staff can get two innings out of each elite pitcher, there will only be one inning for the relief pitchers to worry about.

While there is a strong cast of characters in the bullpen for the American League with Sean Doolittle, Greg Holland, Glen Perkins and Dellin Betances, the coaching staff would like to leave the ball in the hands of proven stars when possible.

As stellar as each reliever played to reach the All-Star Game, none have achieved the long-term success that will instill unquestioned confidence. Expect the AL to lean more on the starters than the relief pitchers.

Boston Red Sox manager and American League shot-caller John Farrell spoke about the importance of the game with Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com:

I will say having going through this the first time you’re handed an awful lot to make sure you include so it begins to narrow the selections quickly. You want to do what’s right for the individuals who’ve had great first halves of this season and then you look at what’s the best roster particularly when you look at the spare players or the extra players in event of a need late in a game. So that also factors into it as well. We have an obligation to do everything we can to win the game for home field advantage in October.

On the National League side, there is just as much pitching prowess. With bona fide stars like Johnny Cueto, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner and Adam Wainwright all earning a spot on the roster, the NL coaching staff will be looking to get eight innings out of the top five starting pitchers.

Even if one or more of the starting pitchers falter, the NL has the superior bullpen. With anchors such as Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman and Francisco Rodriguez ready and willing to come in any time and dominate the opposing hitters, the American League has been put on notice.

The sheer offensive depth on each team will result in some offensive production, but fans shouldn’t expect a batting clinic during the 2014 All-Star Game. There is just too much skill on the mound for the score to get out of hand.

Expect the National League to use its bullpen advantage to stifle any momentum the AL builds and steal the show with the victory. All signs point to the NL having home-field advantage for the World Series.

Predicted Winner: National League, 5-3.

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

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Report: Derek Jeter Is a Partial Owner of High-Tech Men’s Underwear Company

It lifts. It cradles. It cools. 

It’s Derek Jeter’s secret underwear brand, and it’s here to revolutionize the groin comfort game. Yes, this is real. 

Mara Siegler of the New York Post reports that Jeter is now a partial owner of Frigo RevolutionWear, a company specializing in pricy, artisanal men’s underwear.

Known colloquially as “Tempur-Pedic banana hammocks,” Frigo underwear features a “soft lock adjustment system” with a “patented pouch" nicknamed the "Frigo Zone." Take a moment and let that sentence digest.

According to Frigo CEO Mathias Ingvarsson, the underwear segregates the curds from the whey and allows for a more agreeable situation in the male southern hemisphere. 

“It separates your genitals from the rest of your body ... it lifts a little bit so [men] feel the comfort,” Ingvarsson says.

Siegler reports that sources say Jeter’s camp has been trying to keep his involvement in the company a quiet matter. 

“His team is concerned he’ll turn into the next Jim Palmer,” said one of Siegler’s anonymous sources.

Sielger also says Jeter refuses to do any ads for the company. His problem? It would be too “embarrassing.”

I don’t see the embarrassment in Jeter modeling NASA-caliber underwear. It’s 2014. Athletes are hawking adult diapers and calf-sculpting moon boots. Prince Fielder is naked on the cover of our magazines. 

If we can handle these things, we can deal with Jeter: underwear model edition. Pop, soft lock and drop it, Jeets. Let the men of the world know about the comfort and support they’ve been missing. It’s time to enter the Frigo Zone.

 

Highway to the Frigo Zone.

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Mariners Pitching Coach Refuses to Turn Down During Batting Practice

Turning down is the coward's way out. Rick Waits is not a coward.

The 62-year-old Seattle Mariners pitching coach proved this much by stripping down and rocking out to DJ Snake and Lil Jon's "Turn Down for What" during a recent batting practice.

It all started when 6'6" reliever Tom Wilhelmsen tried to catch his coach off guard on the bass drop. Wilhelmsen, a notorious dancer, got in Waits' face and let him know what was happening.

The coach could have crumbled. No one would've blamed him had he backed away slowly from this absurd, spaghetti-limbed giant. That's not how Waits lives his life, however. Retreat was not an option.

Throwing his glove, jacket and glasses to the sky, Waits came back at Wilhelmsen with some ferocity. Did he throw the dice too much? Maybe, but that’s his move. Let the man live.

On a marginally more serious note, it's good to see a man of Waits' advanced years still fighting the turn. Many of his peers have long since turned down, opting for Werther's Originals and a country-fried steak at the Cracker Barrel in lieu of gyrating in the hot summer sun.

Waits is a different breed. He can't turn down. It's not in his DNA.

 

Follow me on Twitter for more sports and pop culture news.

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MLB All-Star Lineup 2014: Ideal Order for Both AL and NL in Midsummer Classic

Whether you like it or not, the MLB All-Star Game counts for something. That means lineup construction is crucial.

The fans were responsible for voting in the starters for both the American and National League, but it's up to each manager's discretion to create a dynamic, balanced order for the top stars of the Midsummer Classic.

That can be hard when there are egos to balance and quality hitters to find room for. Managers John Farrell (AL) and Mike Matheny (NL) certainly have a tough task ahead of them.

If both managers pencil in their lineups correctly, this is what they should look like.

 

American League

Putting together an AL lineup was difficult. Somebody has to hit ninth, after all.

The top third in the order was relatively easy to figure out. Mike Trout is perhaps the most dynamic player in all of baseball, making him a lock to hit No. 1 in the order. While his power might be better suited for the middle of the order, there are more powerful bats in this lineup.

After all, remember how Trout fared in the 2013 All-Star Game at the top of the order? He took care of the first pitch he saw:

The No. 2 hitter has to be Robinson Cano. If he were hitting for more power this year, he might have a case to hit No. 5, but his .384 on-base percentage this year is on pace to break his career high. His ability to hit the ball the other way makes him a smart candidate to hit behind Trout.

Miguel Cabrera is the favorite to hit third. He's the best hitter in the lineup and can knock the ball out of the yard. The top three of this order is actually identical to last year's top three.

Nos. 4 and 5 could easily flip-flop depending on Farrell's preference. It's really hard to go wrong with either Jose Bautista or Nelson Cruz in the cleanup spot, and whichever runs aren't knocked in by the No. 4 hitter will be taken care of by No. 5.

Following Cruz should be his Baltimore Orioles teammate, Adam Jones. Josh Donaldson could also hit sixth, but the fact that he's up seventh speaks to the depth of this lineup.

Coming in at No. 8 is Derek Jeter. Jeter should not hit second. This is his final All-Star Game, but that doesn't mean the AL should sacrifice a possible winning formula at the top of the order. Jeter isn't a better hitter than Cano. He really doesn't even deserve to be the starter at shortstop when looking at the stat lines. Alexei Ramirez easily has better numbers.

Regardless, Jeter is the starter. SportsCenter's Twitter account pointed out that this start for Jeter will be historic:

Rounding out the order is Salvador Perez. Perez is hitting .284/.329/.444 this season, and his ability to keep at-bats alive and put the ball in play make him a good fit to turn the lineup over to Trout.

 

National League

The NL has some speed at the top of the order, as Carlos Gomez and Andrew McCutchen are both candidates to run when they get on base. Of course, speed isn't the only part of their games. Traditionally middle-of-the-order bats, both Gomez and McCutchen are simply the best options to hit at the top of this lineup.

The No. 3 hitter needs to be Paul Goldschmidt. He is the best overall bat in this lineup. He's deserving of the starter's job at first base, and Arizona Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall agrees, via Steve Gilbert of MLB.com: "The numbers he continues to put up on a daily basis are impressive and worthy of such recognition."

Some serious power follows Goldschmidt, as Giancarlo Stanton will be the designated hitter and should hit fourth.

As the NL leader in home runs and RBI, Stanton is the ideal candidate to take care of bringing runners home for the NL. He has the most powerful swing of all NL hitters, though he could be a little tired after participating in the Home Run Derby the night before. It will be interesting to see how he looks in the game.

Troy Tulowitzki has been one of the top hitters in baseball this year, as evidenced by his line of .350/.441/.616. All three of those marks lead the league. If Stanton fails to get the job done, Tulo will have his back.

Following Yasiel Puig at No. 6, there's a clear drop off for the NL. Chase Utley probably shouldn't be an All-Star starter—Dee Gordon or Anthony Rendon would have been better choices.

Aramis Ramirez really doesn't deserve to start either. Todd Frazier has been fantastic, and he already has 17 home runs. Frazier would have added significant depth to this lineup. Instead, he'll come off the bench.

In between Utley and Ramirez should be Jonathan Lucroy. While Yadier Molina won the fan vote, the fact that that he'll miss at least two months with a thumb injury, reports Mike Axisa of CBS Sports, leaves an opening at the position. Lucroy is the best option available for Matheny.

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR

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Home Run Derby Format 2014: Explaining Updated Rules for MLB Spectacle

Who's ready for some dingers?

This year's Home Run Derby will have plenty of them, and if that wasn't exciting enough, the format for the annual summer event has been reworked in a fun new way.

Mark Newman of MLB.com breaks down the new format:

Major League Baseball on Monday announced a new format for the Derby, featuring 10 players who will get seven outs per round, with bracketed play after the first round.

Five players from each league will bat in the opening round, with seven outs instead of the previous 10. The player who hits the most homers in each league will automatically receive a bye to the third round (semifinals). The next two players from each league with the most homers will square off against one another in a head-to-head matchup in the second round.

The winners of these matchups will advance to the third round to compete against the league's top seed. The final round will feature the winners of the American and National League semifinals going head-to-head to determine the winner of the event, won last year at Citi Field by Yoenis Cespedes of the A's.

In every round, the participants will be given seven outs. In the event of a tiebreaker, the tied parties will be given three swings each to break the tie. If there isn't a winner after those three swings, they'll alternate swings in a sudden-death format until a winner is determined. 

It's important to note that in the bracket phase, American League batters will compete against one another and ditto for the National League participants. Thus, the final will come down to a matchup between an AL and NL representative.

There are some real advantages to the switch.

For starters, guys who go for broke in the first round will have some time to recuperate for the semifinals. That means we could still see a huge opening round that doesn't completely kill that player's energy going forward, which is always a bummer. 

But it also puts more pressure on the players who don't win the opening round, as they'll have to take far more swings to win the competition. So what we should see is a very competitive, very exciting first round.

Plus, moving to seven outs per round rather than 10 should speed things up a bit. Past Home Run Derbies have been bogged down a bit by the sheer amount of time they take to conclude. In this format, with less outs and clear, distinct rounds, the event should have a more brisk feel to it. 

So who is going to win this thing?

Ozzie Guillen—who will be announcing the event on ESPN Deportes—says he'll be watching two guys in particular, per Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com:

When you see [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Yoenis] Cespedes, they can hit it to the moon if they have to. Those guys are so big and so strong, I don't think any ballpark can hold them. They're going to put on a show for the fans. That ballpark, no matter how the ball carries, I think they're going to put on an unbelievable show.

Those two are probably the favorites, but don't sleep on Jose Bautista or Troy Tulowitzki, either. If nothing else, all eyes will be on Yasiel Puig to see if any antics accompany his big swing. And of course, a surprise contender could always emerge from the field. 

Keep in mind that Cespedes is the defending champ, making him the favorite, while Bautista reached the 2012 final. Those experiences might help them in the end. 

But hey, you never know who will have the hot bat. It will be interesting to find out who does and who can navigate this year's exciting new format. 

 

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Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Is the Glasgow cycle hire scheme really more popular than London’s already?

Scottish upstarts. 

Battle of the bikes. Image credits L-R: Nextcycle; ZanMan at Wikimedia commons

It’s been a rough year for the relationship between England and Scotland. One’s thinking about dumping the other after hundreds of years of marriage, and propaganda (sometimes Lego-strewn) is rife on both sides.

So we’re sorry to say that yet another dispute has emerged between the two nations. According to a news report on the Herald website yesterday, Glasgow’s new cycle-hire scheme, the Mass Automated Cycle Hire Scheme, or “Mach”, is already more successful than London’s. It only launched on 24 June.

A spokesperson from operator Nextcycle told the paper that the bikes were rented an average of 1.24 times per day during the scheme’s first 12 days. (That’s 2,505 total rentals, divided by 168 bikes, divided by 12 days.) This, the paper said, makes it more popular than London’s scheme, where bikes are rented at a “daily rate” of 1.16.  

Unfortunately for Glasgow, this number appears to be, um, wrong.

It looks like they got 1.16 by taking the authorities’ figures for the bikes’ daily usage over the first 12 days of London’s bike hire scheme, and dividing them by the number of bikes available – originally meant to be 6,000. The problem is that, for three months after launch, the actual number of bikes available was around 5,000 (and, some claim, even lower): there weren’t enough docking stations installed to house 6,000 bikes.

Using the lower figure of 5,000 bikes, the uptake over the first twelve days in London works out to 1.39 uses per bike. That’s a whole 10.8 per cent higher than the Glasgow bikes’ 1.24 uses per day.

There’s also the issue of scale to consider. In Glasgow, Mach launched with 168 bikes; London’s scheme launched with 5,000. Granted, Glasgow’s population is only around 600,000, while inner London’s is around 3 million; but to achieve the same ratio Glasgow would have needed to introduce 1,000 bikes.

What’s more, at the same rate of usage, fewer bikes per capita should, logically, mean more hires per bike. It hasn’t. London’s bikes were simply used more in their first two weeks than Glasgow’s were.

In one area at least, Glasgow is winning: the average journey time so far is 58 minutes, according to Nextcycle, whereas London’s is just 17. One enterprising pair even rode their hire bikes to Loch Lomond, around 20 miles outside the city.

The scheme will add 170 more bikes within the next couple of months. Given time, then, Glasgow could still pull ahead in the bike-hire peloton. 

This is a preview of our new sister publication, CityMetric. We'll be launching its website soon - in the meantime, you can follow it on Twitter and Facebook.

2014 MLB All-Star Game: Most Intriguing Players to Watch in Midsummer Classic

The 2014 MLB All-Star Game is jam-packed with a bevy of talent, as the cream of the crop from both the National League and American League will face off to determine which conference will gain home-field advantage for this year's World Series.

While that's an intriguing storyline in its own right, the main attraction of the Midsummer Classic is the once-a-year chance of watching the brightest stars from around the league showcase their talents on the same team.

Of all those immensely talented players, there are a few to watch during this year's All-Star Game—for varied reasons.

Here's a look at which players to keep a keen eye on while the game progresses.

 

Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees

Over his storied 20-year career with the Yankees, Jeter has become an absolute baseball icon. This season, his famed No. 2 jersey continued to be a fan favorite, leading all jersey sales, according to MLB.com

The 2014 All-Star Game will be the 40-year-old shortstop's farewell tour and marks his 14th appearance in a Midsummer Classic.

Jeter has looked solid for New York this season, batting .270 with 87 hits, nine doubles, one triple and two home runs for 24 RBI. Always a defensive stalwart, Jeter holds a fielding percentage of .976 and has turned 35 double plays.

Dave Brown of Yahoo Sports summed up the shortstop's 14th All-Star Game appearance perfectly:

We'll see exactly how many innings Jeter will go on July 15 before he's called off the field and rides off into the sunset.

 

Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox

While the veterans are departing from the league, new talented players are beginning to emerge. There may be none more exciting this year than Abreu.

The 27-year-old rookie has been sensational this season, currently tied for the league lead in home runs with 28. Putting his total into perspective is a very telling tweet from MLB Stat of the Day:

He is now just six short of Ryan Braun's rookie record of 34.

Home runs isn't Abreu's only impressive hitting category. He's been a well-rounded powerhouse at the plate this season:

It will be interesting to see how he fares against the league's best pitching during the Midsummer Classic.

 

Yasiel Puig, RF, Los Angeles Dodgers

The strong arm, the hitting power, the bat flip—Puig is simply one of the most polarizing players in the league.

Impressive at the plate, Puig is batting .307 this season with 101 hits, 24 doubles, five triples, 12 home runs and 50 RBI. A fantastic defender, he's fielding .993 with six assists, two double plays and only one error.

In fact, some of Puig's best moments weren't recorded in his season statistics. Here's a great look at his laser arm—and a humorous gesture after his assist was overturned:

We also get to see his talents at the plate in this year's Home Run Derby:

Will we get a bat flip or another finger wag during the Midsummer Classic? You just never know with Puig.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Fantasy Baseball 2014: Week 15’s Buy-Low, Sell-High Trade Advice

What good is talent to a fantasy owner who lacks timing?

Fantasy baseballjust like the real thingis a game of skill, luck and timing. That last trait, in particular, comes in handy with regard to getting value in the trading game.

Knowing which player(s) to trade away and which to deal for—and knowing just the right time to do so—can make all the difference.

After all, it doesn't get much better than making a move to unload a hot flavor-of-the-week type who's about to cool off in exchange for a slumping stud who's ready to take off. And now that we're more than halfway through the season, repeat names are fair game going forward.

Speaking of timing, let's get to some players to sell high and buy low.

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Position-by-Position MLB Player Rankings Heading into the All-Star Break

Position-by-position MLB power rankings will once again be a staple this year, and as we head for the All-Star break, it's time for another update.

My preseason rankings came out March 7, with subsequent updates coming on April 17June 3 and July 4.

What follows is a look at the best players at each position based on their performance this season. Past reputation and future projections mean nothing here; it's all about what these guys have done in 2014.

I have taken into account players' all-around offensive abilities, their defensive contributions and what they have meant to the success of their respective teams.

Included in my statistics is each player's Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement or WAR. While WAR is a useful stat in gauging a player's value, it is not the be-all, end-all stat that some view it as. As such, do not expect this to simply be a list of the top 10 in WAR at each position.

With that said, here is a look at the best players each position has to offer heading into the All-Star break. With so much change from the first rankings to midseason, it will be interesting to see how different these are by season's end.

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference and cover games through Thursday, July 10.

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Playing Trade or Keep with the Braves’ Top Prospects in Trade Season

The Atlanta Braves minor league system is currently a weak one, with very few top-flight prospects. Much of that system depletion is because of top prospects graduating to the major leagues in recent years. Guys like Alex Wood, David Hale, Tommy La Stella, Andrelton Simmons and Julio Teheran have all recently gone from prospects to major league regulars.

Many of the top 10 left are young, and their talent is raw, which makes their trade value hard to gauge. This lack of definable top-flight talent will make it hard for Atlanta to go out and get any big-name players on the trade market.

However, the Braves do have a number of prospects who could bring back bench players or late-innings relievers at this year’s trade deadline.

Since we’ve been tracking a few extra prospects in our weekly Top-10 Prospect Watch series, we’ll add those guys into this list. Since players drafted this year cannot be traded, we’ll leave No. 5 prospect Braxton Davidson—the Braves’ 2014 first-round pick—out of the trade conversation.

 

Stats are courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.com and accurate as of July 9.

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MLB Team of the Week: Chris Sale, Chase Utley and Albert Pujols Star

A lot has gone down across Major League Baseball since last Friday.

Masahiro Tanaka will be unavailable for at least six weeks and may require Tommy John surgery after partially tearing his UCL, per MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel both found a new home with the Oakland A’s in a blockbuster trade on the Fourth of July.

That wasn’t it, however. The MLB All-Star roster was announced, and after the nation debated the merits of those invited and the players left off for various reasons, Chicago White Sox left-hander Chris Sale and Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo were selected in the fan vote.

And to everyone’s amusement, A.J. Pierzynski was designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox.

Let’s take a step back from the chaos and look at the best performances in MLB last week and identify the stars at each position.

As always, this will be to the point. One player will represent each fielding position and the designated hitter, while one hurler will get the call for the lot of them. The only caveat is that each player must have appeared in at least four games at the position for which he is being considered.

With that said, it’s time to get started.

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