Dee Gordon, the Overlooked Billy Hamilton

When Billy Hamilton stole over 100 bases in 2011, he caught the attention of numerous people. When Hamilton broke the all-time minor league single-season stolen base record in 2012 by swiping 155 bags, he earned the respect of baseball fans across the country. And now that Hamilton has reached the major league level, with sky high expectations, he has the entire baseball world watching his every at-bat. Dee_Gordon_MLB_debut

However, while Hamilton has the potential to be a star, he hasn’t been able to get things going so far this season, batting .231 with 9 stolen bases. Nonetheless, there are still a ton of people who feel Hamilton will eventually become one of the all-time best base stealers, even with the slow start.

But there’s a player very similar to Hamilton who isn’t getting the same recognition.

Dee Gordon is on the verge of a breakout season, with him batting in the mid 300’s, including 12 stolen bases, and the speed he possesses rivals that of Billy Hamilton. From turning a ground ball into a double, to legging out a triple on what would be a double for most other players, Gordon seems to do something exciting each and every night that makes you shake your head in disbelief.

Despite never stealing more than 73 bases in the minors, Gordon can certainly run with the best of them, even if he never broke any big time records like Hamilton, and thus doesn’t get the major headlines.

The one thing that Gordon has shown the capability of doing better than Hamilton on the major league level is getting on base consistently, whether it be via a hit or a walk. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much speed you have, if you can’t put the ball in play it does you no good. (As they say, you can’t steal first.) But that isn’t a problem for Gordon, as he has shown that he can hit for a high average in addition to displaying a little pop every now and then.

So, while you should definitely watch Billy Hamilton to see if he can go on a hot streak and begin to rack up incredible numbers, be sure to keep an eye on Dee Gordon as well. While he likely will cool down a bit as the season goes on, if his first few games are any indication, this could be a very special year for the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter.

Opening Day: Official Start of the Regular Season

We’ve had the Opening Series, held down in Australia on March 22nd and 23rd; we’ve had Opening Night, held down in San Diego last night; and now, after so much anticipation leading up to the year, we’re set for Opening Day — an unofficial holiday for millions of baseball fans around the country. This is the day we’ve all been waiting for, ever since the final out of the World Series was recorded in October of last year.mlb-opening-day-logo_2014_hero

Thirteen total games are on tab for today, with the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers and Padres being the only teams not in action. The games will take place all throughout the day, from 1:05 Eastern, with the Pirates taking on the Cubs, to the Mariners going up against the Angels, at 10:05, making the entire day exciting.

Not only is Opening Day fun because of the official start of the 162-game baseball regular season, but it also stands out as one of the few times you ever see every single teams pitching ace on the mound around the country. Every team starts from zero, with hopes of making the postseason (some with better odds than others) and putting your best pitcher on the mound is a great way to kick off the year on a high note; knowing that things may not look too good towards the end of the year.

With so many changes this past offseason, this could be one of the most intriguing Opening Days in years. While teams and players have had over a month of Spring Training games to show off their potential, those games are basically meaningless. You never know how individual players, and teams as a whole, will fare for the entire length of a season. That’s what makes a given season so entertaining — the unknown factor.

So, make it a point today — if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably planning to anyhow — to sit back and watch a least a little baseball at some point. With every game played from here on out taking teams closer and closer to the World Series in October, there’s nothing quite like Opening Day baseball.

Beat the Streak Returns for Its 14th Year

Ever since MLB.com debuted the fantasy baseball style game ‘Beat the Streak’ back in 2001, fans all around the country have been doing their very best to pick up some cash, while at the same time “beating” Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak of 56 games. With a 57-game hit streak of sorts needed to beat the streak and claim the money ($10,000 being the top prize back in 2001), fans have developed all kinds of strategies that they felt certain would help them win the game.

But no one has done it yet — in fourteen years. photo

Truly incredible when you think about it, that not one person has even come close to winning ‘Beat the Streak’, with a fan back in 2007 coming the closest of anyone, amassing a hit streak of 49 games. And therefore, since 2001, MLB.com has upped the prize money. For the past several years, the top prize for breaking the hit streak has been 5.6 million dollars (yes, MILLION). That’s a pretty good prize for a free online baseball game.

The rules of the game are fairly straight forward: Pick up to two players a day that you think are the most likely to get a hit. If the player(s) you selected get a hit, your streak climbs. If, however, your player — or either player, if you pick two in a day — doesn’t get a hit, your streak falls all the way back down to zero. That can be discouraging, especially if you were in a groove and had a good streak going; making this a fun, but somewhat stressful, and seemingly impossible, game to play.

Nonetheless, MLB.com is doing its very best to help someone win the game. Debuting last season was a Dunkin Donuts mulligan, which you could use only once throughout the entire season, but that saved any streak lower than 10, should your chosen player not get a hit. This season, they increased it to a 15-game hit streak, and that could possibly make the mulligan an even bigger help.

But you don’t necessarily have to come close to beating the streak to win some sort of prize. For the first time, the game is offering scratch off cards (electronic ones) that give you the chance of winning MLB game tickets, Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards, MLB.TV subscriptions, merchandise and much more. With all the possible prizes and neat stuff you can get, this year’s ‘Beat the Streak’ could turn out to be the best one yet.

While the odds may seem slim, they’re actually your best odds to win this amount of money. It’s not easy to win ‘Beat the Streak’ by any means, but with your odds of winning 5.6 million dollars being less than one in a million, by many accounts, you stand a better chance of winning this game than you do your local lottery. (Unlike the lottery, where you get one shot, you get multiple chances in a game for your player to get a hit. )

So give it a shot. It doesn’t cost anything, so you have nothing to lose. And who knows, maybe, with a little luck, you’ll be the first person ever to beat the streak and take home the money. That’s definitely worth playing for.

Why the Yankees Shouldn’t Sign Masahiro Tanaka

There are multiple teams around Major League Baseball that are currently looking to sign another pitcher to add to their rotation, and there is no pitcher on the market better than Masahiro Tanaka. Going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season in the Japanese League, Tanaka is being sought after by numerous teams, and has until January 24th to make a decision.

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Though multiple organizations around the country are reportedly interested in Tanaka, the New York Yankees are the team that could use him the most, in the minds of many, of the teams that can actually afford to make the deal. The Yankees have made a few good moves so far this offseason, and signing Tanaka to add to their somewhat weak rotation would make an immediate impact for the 2014 season.

Joining a rotation of C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda, among others, Tanaka would likely be the Yankees’ number two pitcher, behind Sabathia, and could potentially become their number one. Tanaka certainly has the talent, though there’s always the risk that he could fail in the Major Leagues, as has happened to multiple Japanese pitchers in the past. Most people, however, don’t see that occuring with Tanaka, as he has incredible stuff.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean signing Tanaka is the right thing to do.

While the Yankees are likely going to be able to use the money previously owed to Alex Rodriguez, who is going to miss all of the 2014 season, they need to look at the big picture, in my opinion. Yes, picking up Tanaka would make them a good team, but signing other players with the money would make them a really good team.

Tanaka is going to take a lot of money to sign — probably leading them to overspend to beat out the competition. To me, it would better serve the Yankees to use the A-Rod money to sign multiple, cheaper free agents to fill their needs, such as their closer role, as well as other starting pitching options.

The Yankees are rumored to be interested in Grant Balfour, who was picked up by the Orioles last month before having his deal canceled after failing their physical, reportedly due to knee and wrist issues. Assuming Balfour is actually healthy, the Yankees should be able to get him for a decent price, and, while he’s no Mariano Rivera, he would do a great job at closing out games for them, posting 38 saves with a 2.59 ERA last season.

As far as starting pitchers go, Ubaldo Jimenez would be a great alternate option for the Yankees, as I’ve felt for awhile. Though Jimenez has had his share of ups and downs over his career, he has the potential to be a good pitcher, showing that ability over the last half of the 2013 season in which he was tremendous. Should Jimenez have a bounce back year in 2014, he could easily be a steal by the Yankees.

All things considered, there are several options for the Yankees moving forward this offseason, many of which don’t include Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka.

Therefore, if I were the Yankees, I’d have to pass on Tanaka.

Jacoby Ellsbury Hits the Jackpot With Yankees

Things haven’t slowed down a bit since my blog post yesterday on the latest major trades and free agent signings. Numerous deals have taken place since, including Jarrod Saltalamacchia going to the Marlins, and Justin Morneau heading to the Rockies, as well as multiple other transactions. But I’m not focused on those. The only signing on my mind at the moment is the deal the New York Yankees gave to Jacoby Ellsbury. It’s a deal that Ellsbury would’ve been crazy to turn down, and that, in my opinion, the Yankees were crazy to offer.

jacoby-ellsbury-076929823Ellsbury received a seven-year, 153 million dollar deal on Tuesday to play with the Yankees through 2020 — the third largest contract for an outfielder in MLB history. For a player who is injury prone — missing a good part of this past season, and playing in just 74 games in 2012, and a mere 18 in 2010 — this isn’t a very smart deal in the long run.

But it’s not just the health of Ellsbury that makes this a bad deal in my mind. Ellsbury isn’t a player worth over 20 million dollars a year, given his career stats.

In Ellsbury’s career best season, in 2011, he batted .321 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI’s to go along with 39 stolen bases. That’s a player worth this type of money. But considering the fact that Ellsbury hasn’t had another season even close to 2011 — his highest other seasons being 9 homers in 2008 and 2013, and 60 RBI’s in 2009 — I don’t feel he’s worth anywhere near that. The one thing you get with Ellsbury is speed, having stolen 52 bases last season, but that’s about it on a consistent basis.

In addition to the amount of money, at thirty years old, Ellsbury is too old for a contract of this length, especially given his injury history. If Ellsbury was an everyday player, playing 160+ games every season, it would go a long way in convincing me that this deal will be worth it. But for a player with a career best 158 games in a season, and an average of 113 games a season for his career (not including his rookie year), this deal is bound to disappoint both the Yankees and their fan base, who need something to get excited about.

The Red Sox really don’t lose anything by Ellsbury signing elsewhere. They have a good young prospect, Jackie Bradley Jr., who, while he doesn’t have the same speed as Ellsbury, is nearly equal in every other aspect of his game. Bradley should be able to stay healthier than Ellsbury has been able to, and will be a great asset to the Red Sox for years to come.

While the Yankees are the Yankees and seem to be sticking with their historical trend of spending money for the players they want, I feel this is money wasted. Sure, you get a slightly above average player when healthy, and an impact player, at least for now, at the leadoff spot, but this likely ends any possible run for Carlos Beltran, who is reportedly close to a deal with the Royals.

The Yankees could’ve used the money to sign a player of Beltran’s caliber (if not Beltran himself) to an outfield spot. But instead, they overpaid for Ellsbury. Nonetheless, the Yankees are supposedly still looking to lock up Robinson Cano at second base, so they have some more money to burn, apparently, even after spending a combined 238 million on Ellsbury and Brian McCann. So, who knows what they’ll do from here?

Despite my pessimism, I truly hope that Jacoby Ellsbury proves me wrong and makes this deal well worth it for the Yankees. If he can have a fully healthy next few seasons, and subsequently post good numbers as their likely leadoff hitter, the Yankees could have a decent 2014 and beyond, especially with newly acquired Brian McCann behind the plate.

But, from the way I’m viewing things, I just don’t see that happening.

2013 MLB Leaders (March 31st-September 30th)

The 2013 MLB regular season is in the books. It took an extra 163rd game to decide between the Rangers and Rays, with the Rays coming out on top. It sure was an exciting year.

Now begin the playoffs to determine who will be crowned World Series Champions. But before I begin to blog about all of that in the weeks to come — be sure to check out my predictions HERE — I wanted to do one more ‘Latest Leaders’ post to finalize the winners of each category, from both hitting and pitching. I’ve been doing a post like this on the first day of each month this season, with the exception of August, but now that the season is over, this is, obviously, the final one until next year.

The following lists are categorized into hitting and pitching, but NOT AL or NL:

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – HITTING

Most Games Played-Four tied for most. (162)

Most At-Bats-Manny Machado (667)

Most Hits-Matt Carpenter and Adrian Beltre. (199)

Highest Average-Miguel Cabrera (.348)

Highest OBP-Miguel Cabrera (.442)

Highest SLG-Miguel Cabrera (.636)

Most Runs-Matt Carpenter (126)

Most Doubles-Matt Carpenter (55)

Most Triples-Denard Span (11)

Most Home Runs-Chris Davis (53)

Most RBI’s-Chris Davis (138)

Most Base On Balls-Joey Votto (135)

Most Strikeouts-Chris Carter (212)

Most Stolen Bases-Jacoby Ellsbury (52)

Most Caught Stealing-Starling Marte (15)

Most Intentional Base On Balls-David Ortiz (27)

Most Hit By Pitch-Shin-Soo Choo (26)

Most Sacrifice Flies-Matt Wieters (12)

Most Total Bases-Chris Davis (370)

Most Extra Base Hits-Chris Davis (96)

Most Grounded Into Double Plays-Matt Holliday (31)

Most Ground Outs-Norichika Aoki (272)

Most Number Of Pitches Faced-Joey Votto (3,033)

Most Plate Appearances-Joey Votto (726)

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – PITCHING

Most Wins-Max Scherzer (21)

Most Losses-Edwin Jackson (18)

Best ERA-Clayton Kershaw (1.83)

Most Games Started-Four tied for most. (34)

Most Games Pitched-Joel Peralta (80)

Most Saves-Jim Johnson and Craig Kimbrel. (50)

Most Innings Pitched-Adam Wainwright (241.2)

Most Hits Allowed-Jeremy Guthrie (236)

Most Runs Allowed-C.C. Sabathia (122)

Most Earned Runs Allowed-C.C. Sabathia (112)

Most Home Runs Allowed-A.J. Griffin (36)

Most Strikeouts-Yu Darvish (277)

Most Walks-Lucas Harrell (88)

Most Complete Games-Adam Wainwright (5)

Most Shutouts-Bartolo Colon and Justin Masterson. (3)

Best Opponent Avg.-Jose Fernandez (.182)

Most Games Finished-Jim Johnson (63)

Most Double Plays Achieved-Adam Wainwright (32)

Most Wild Pitches-Trevor Cahill and Matt Moore. (17)

Most Balks-Four tied for most. (3)

Most Stolen Bases Allowed-John Lackey (36)

Most Pickoffs-Julio Teheran (8)

Most Batters Faced-Adam Wainwright (956)

Most Pitches Thrown-Justin Verlander (3,692)

Final Games of the 2013 MLB Regular Season

Every new season brings new hope among all thirty teams around Major League Baseball. No matter how badly you did the year before, there’s always a chance that any given season could be your year. However, the yearly aspiration of postseason baseball ended for nineteen teams on Sunday afternoon — leaving just the Red Sox, Tigers, Athletics, Indians, Rays, Rangers, Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Pirates and Reds with shots at winning it all.

But it’s not going to be an easy road for any of them.

The Rays and Rangers face arguably the most difficult path, as they ended the season tied for the second American League Wild Card spot, and therefore will have to play in a one-game tiebreaker game Monday night in Arlington — game 163 of the season. It’s do or die for both teams, as a win could mean playoff glory, with a loss meaning the end of the season.

It’s sure to be an incredibly great game.

While eleven teams are still battling it out for a shot at becoming World Series Champions, the remainder of the teams are done for the year. But some players on those teams are finished forever, as they announced their retirement earlier in the season.

7Mariano Rivera and Todd Helton are two of the biggest names of the retirees, and both have good cases for the Hall of Fame, once their first year of eligibility rolls around in 2019.

Rivera — the greatest closer in MLB history — is the definition of greatness, both on and off the field. Rivera will go down as one of the best players and people the game has ever seen, and will undoubtedly be missed by everyone around the baseball world.

Another player of equal caliber is Todd Helton, who made a name for himself as arguably the best player in Rockies history, as well as a player who is well respected all around the game.

It will be interesting to see how both the Yankees and Rockies — teams that had subpar years — will do next year without their long-time star players.

In the end, no matter what next year brings, it’s extremely sad to see them go.

But Sunday wasn’t completely full of sadness.

Henderson Alvarez, of the Miami Marlins, threw the fifth no hitter in franchise history, however, it wasn’t done in the most conventional way; part of what makes it so intriguing. Alvarez recorded the twenty-seventh out of the game in the ninth, without having allowed any hits, but it wasn’t officially a no-no just yet. The Marlins gave Alvarez absolutely no run support, and it took a bases loaded, wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth to secure both the Marlins win and, more importantly, Alvarez’s no hitter.

Truly a remarkable way to end the year.

If the 2013 postseason winds up providing anywhere close to the level of excitement the last day of the 2013 regular season brought, it’s sure to be an amazing month of October.

My final latest leaders blog post, which I was planning to post tomorrow, will have to be moved to Tuesday, as game 163 of the year is being played tomorrow night between the Rangers and Rays, with the stats counting towards the regular season stats. After that, my postseason predictions will be posted on Thursday as scheduled. Be sure to check back to see who I have making it to the World Series. (My World Series predictions will come after the two teams have been decided a few weeks down the road.)