Tagged: Hiroki Kuroda

Break It Down: Starting Pitcher Free Agent Pool

The offseason is upon us! We’ve already seen a few trades, like Ervin Santana heading to the Royals and Mike Aviles being dealt more than hands at a poker table. The meat that cooks deliciously on the hot stove in the offseason is free agency. Here’s the first part of what we can see cooking this winter.

The Big Catch

Zack Greinke is the best pitcher available on the free agent market after being acquired by the Angels at the trade deadline. Greinke may never reach his 2009 Cy Young form again, but he is still in his prime at 29 years old. Matt Cain’s recent extension might be the benchmark for what Greinke is looking for on the open market. Who will pay that price though? I can see the Rangers being involved, especially with Greinke’s somewhat success in the AL West the second half of 2012. They need the big name pitcher to anchor the rotation with Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, and Alexi Ogando. He could stay put in Anaheim, where the Angels have gone from a plethora of starting pitching to a need for it with Ervin Santana in Kansas City and Dan Haren’s option declined after rumors of being dealt to the Cubs. I would not sleep on the other team in Los Angeles making a play on Greinke to pair at the top of the rotation with Clayton Kershaw; that new ownership is ready and willing to spend money.

The We Wish You Were Zack Greinke, But You’re Still Really Good Tier

Hiroki Kuroda was given a qualifying offer by the Yankees, so he might not be on this list for very long. I think a better one-year offer, or even a two-year deal might be enough to pull him away from the Bronx. Would a team go to two years on a starter that will be 38 years old on Opening Day? I think so after he quelled the fears that his numbers were skewed by the NL West and finished with a 3.32 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with the Yankees playing the AL East. In the end, I think he stays with the Yankees.

Anibal Sanchez appeared to be a bust after going 3-6 with a 4.55 ERA in his first ten starts in a Tigers uniform. But something finally clicked on September 25th with a 10-strikeout, shutout performance against the Royals. Sanchez used that momentum into the playoffs making himself a ton of money, having a 1.77 ERA in three starts. He doesn’t have #1 starter potential, but could make for a great 2/3 for a team. Early rumors have him sticking around in Motown, but I’m sure there will be other teams offering up a deal.

The only other pitcher with the potential to be a staff ace on the free agent market is Dan Haren. Haren had a rough 2012, with his worst ERA and WHIP since 2004. Haren also landed on the disabled list for the 1st time in his career. The Angels bought him out instead of picking up his $15.5 million option. Unlike Greinke, don’t expect him back with the Halos. Like Greinke, I could see the Dodgers interested in bringing Haren back to the NL West where he was an ace for the Diamondbacks. I see the Cubs, who tried to deal for Haren, making a play for him. And there are even rumors of another NL West team, the Padres, making a play for Haren’s services.

What Pitcher are we Getting Tier?

No starting pitcher made themselves more money in 2012 than Kyle Lohse. He went out to prove he was a top of the rotation pitcher, but I would rather take my chances on Haren returning to ace form, than Lohse staying there. Has he learned how to pitch and has full control of his pitches now? Or is he going to return to the terrible form he just had in 2009-10? Someone is going to pay to find out. The Cardinals made a qualifying offer to Lohse, but I think at his age, he is looking to cash in on a long-term deal at big money coming off a career year.

Full disclosure: Brandon McCarthy is one of my favorite players in the league. From his hilarious Twitter account to his great production on the mound and even his value in fantasy baseball leagues, I just plain like the guy. The questions do arise from his recovery after sadly being hit in the head with a line drive this season. It might be that injury though, that gets a team a discount on a solid pitcher that has #2 starter potential. I think the Athletics would like to bring him back at the right price, but if they see the value, I’m sure other teams will too.

What to do with Ryan Dempster? Are you getting the pitcher that led the National League in ERA for the 1st half of 2012? Are you getting the pitcher that had an ERA north of five for the Rangers in their 2nd half collapse? There’s not a doubt in my mind that Dempster has eyes on a return to the National League. Going back to the Cubs is a real possibility, especially if he has his killer Harry Caray impersonation still in his repertoire.

Will Edwin Jackson land on his 8th different team, all while still being under 30 years old? He’s nothing spectacular overall, but does have his flashes of brilliance. I could see a playoff potential team like Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, maybe even Boston taking a chance on Jackson. We’ll see if he gets more than a one-year deal, but he will end up getting around and probably more than the $11 million he made in 2012.

No pitcher had a more Jekyll and Hyde season than Jeremy Guthrie. He was unable to adjust to pitching in Colorado (6.35 ERA/1.69 WHIP), but was a great pickup for the Royals (3.16 ERA/1.13 WHIP), who dumped Jonathan Sanchez. If teams believe in the sea level Guthrie, he could be a solid pickup for an American League team, where he seems comfortable between his time in Kansas City and Baltimore. Based on his dominance of the White Sox, giving up just one earned run over 29.2 innings in 2012, I could see the entire AL Central having interest.

The Wild Cards

Scott Baker’s $9.25 million option was declined by the Twins after he had Tommy John surgery. He could stay in Minnesota as one of the best pitchers in that rotation, but there are contenders that could take the chance on him regaining his form to be a middle of the rotation starter.


This years “coming to America” sweepstakes? Hyun-Jin Ryu of South Korea. Ryu has a career 2.80 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in his career in Korea with the Hanwha Eagles of the KBO. He’s not as sought after as Darvish a year ago, but he could be a solid middle of the rotation starter for a team willing to put up the posting fee for the 25-year old.

The Aren’t You Retired? Tier

I’m pretty sure that Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt have retired a combined 435 times, but there they are in the free agent pool.  I can’t see Pettitte going anywhere besides the Yankees and we’ll see if Oswalt decides to pick and choose his spot once the season starts.  Kevin Millwood was a servicable starter for the Mariners, but those numbers may be skewed by Safeco Field.  Derek Lowe was seemingly out of baseball after being released by the Indians, but was solid with the Yankees in a mop-up reliever role.  Ben Sheets showed some magic for a stretch with the Braves, oh wait he actually did retire.  Good for him.

Which starters do you think are the most important of this year’s free agent crop? Let us know in the comments or let me know on Twitter!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

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Predicting the Winners: 2012 Gold Gloves

Three (in some cases four) finalists at each position in each league for the Gold Glove awards were announced today. The award, which recognizes the best defensive player at each position in each league, is voted on by managers and up to six coaches on their staffs.

Managers and coaches can not vote for someone on their own team. We’ve seen over the years that some deserving players get recognized (Yadier Molina has won four straight at NL catcher), some get snubbed (Mark Ellis and his career .991 fielding percentage has never won), and some only win because of their name.

Yes, even managers and coaches get caught up in player celebrity for things like this. Anyway, the final results will be announced tomorrow night on ESPN2, but we’re here today to tell you who should win each Gold Glove.

A.L. Catcher:

Finalists – Alex Avila (Tigers), Russell Martin (Yankees), A.J. Pierzynski (White Sox), Matt Wieters (Orioles)

Winner: Avila

These were the only four A.L. catchers to start at least 100 games. Martin, Pierzynski and Avila all had a .994 fielding percentage, while Wieters sat at .991. While Wieters had the most errors of the group, he also had the best caught stealing percentage. For me, those nearly cancel out – I’m giving the award to Avila, who had the most consistent stats across the board.

N.L. Catcher:

Finalists – Yadier Molina (Cardinals), Miguel Montero (Diamondbacks), Carlos Ruiz (Phillies)

Winner: Molina

It’s not even close. Again, Molina has blown away the competition and perfected the art of catching. Ruiz and Montero both had good seasons behind the dish, but one could argue that there were more worthy candidates to lose to Molina. In 133 games started, Molina made 3 errors (.997 fielding percentage) and threw out nearly 50 percent of attempted base stealers (35 out of 73). Need I say more?

A.L. First Base:

Finalists – Adrian Gonzalez (Red Sox/Dodgers), Eric Hosmer (Royals), Mark Teixeira (Yankees)

Winner: Teixeira

I’m not sure what Hosmer is doing as a finalist, since he had the second lowest fielding percentage for qualifying first basemen in the American League. Gonzalez and Teixeira both have a reputation for being smooth fielders, and proved so again this season. I give the edge to the Yankee first baseman because he made one less error in many more chances. And now we’ve avoided the awkwardness of giving a Dodger an American League Gold Glove.

N.L. First Base:

Finalists – Freddie Freeman (Braves), Adam LaRoche (Nationals), Joey Votto (Reds)

Winner: LaRoche

The Nationals most consistent player isn’t just a home run hitter. The guy can play a mean first base, and proved it this year. You’d never guess who the best defensive statistics among first base qualifiers belonged to in 2012 (Spoiler: It’s Carlos Lee…WHAT?), but LaRoche was right there with him. He edges Votto because LaRoche played in more games and had a slightly better fielding percentage.

A.L. Second Base:

Finalists – Dustin Ackley (Mariners), Robinson Cano (Yankees), Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox)

Winner: Cano

I’m not sure why Ackley got the nod over the likes of Gordon Beckham or Jason Kipnis, but none of them would compete with Cano and Pedroia here anyway. They tied for the best fielding percentage in the league at .992, and though Pedroia turned more double plays, Cano has the better range. Both are good for one highlight play a night, but I think the vote will go to the Yankees star.

N.L. Second Base:

Finalists – Darwin Barney (Cubs), Aaron Hill (Diamondbacks), Brandon Phillips (Reds)

Winner: Barney

All three of these guys certainly deserve to be here, but even if Mark Ellis had played a full, healthy season for the Dodgers he would have been snubbed. Sigh. Though Hill and Phillips and their .992 fielding percentages are very impressive, you can’t discount Barney’s ridiculous errorless streak in Chicago. Any other year, Phillips defends his title.

A.L. Third Base:

Finalists – Adrian Beltre (Rangers), Brandon Inge (Tigers/A’s), Mike Moustakas (Royals)

Winner: Beltre

Brandon Inge didn’t even qualify at third base, technically. While that doesn’t mean he can’t be voted for, it’s a strange selection. How about the third best fielding percentage in the league for Miguel Cabrera? Give him the spot as a finalist. Alas, it wouldn’t matter. Moustakas has a lot of Gold Gloves in his future, but he might have to wait for Beltre and his league-leading 8 errors to retire.

N.L. Third Base:

Finalists – Chase Headley (Padres), Aramis Ramirez (Brewers), David Wright (Mets)

Winner: Headley

This is the closest race so far, as all three of these guys are grouped tightly way ahead of the rest of the pack at their position. Ramirez had a .977 fielding percentage, Headley had a .976, and Wright had a .974 this year…so how do you choose? Even though Ramirez had the best percentage, Headley had 125 more chances and only made 3 more errors, plus his range factor was the best in the league.

A.L. Shortstop:

Finalists – Elvis Andrus (Rangers), J.J. Hardy (Orioles), Brendan Ryan (Mariners)

Winner: Hardy

Look, all three of these guys are good shortstops, but it’s inexplicable that Jhonny Peralta was left off this. He only made 7 errors all season! Andrus had a worse fielding percentage than Derek Jeter, so he’s out right off the bat. Ryan is one of the most exciting shortstops in baseball and can grow a great mustache. Sorry Seattle fans, that’s not enough – Hardy and his league-leading 6 errors take the cake here.

N.L. Shortstop:

Finalists – Zack Cozart (Reds), Ian Desmond (Nationals), Jose Reyes (Marlins), Jimmy Rollins (Phillies)

Winner: Rollins

It’s really a three-horse race between Cozart, Reyes and Rollins (the Mets’ Ruben Tejada should have had Desmond’s spot), and I’m giving it to the wily vet in Philadelphia for having the most impressive all-around defensive numbers at the position. Cozart is definitely a future winner though. As for anyone calling for Brandon Crawford? Yes, he had a great postseason defensively, but also had the second-most errors and third-worst fielding percentage in the league.

A.L. Left Field:

Finalists – Alex Gordon (Royals), Desmond Jennings (Rays), David Murphy (Rangers)

Winner: Gordon

Let me explain myself – major props to Jennings (0 errors this year) and Murphy (1 error), but Gordon and his 2 errors are going to win his second consecutive Gold Glove. Yes, you have to be able to catch the ball and all three players do that supremely well. But you need to have an arm too, and Gordon blew away the competition with 17 outfield assists in 2012.

N.L. Left Field:

Finalists – Ryan Braun (Brewers), Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies), Martin Prado (Braves)

Winner: Prado

This is definitely the most messed up voting by the managers and coaches so far, as these three were the bottom three performers among qualifiers at their position. Surprisingly enough, the two strongest candidates were Jason Kubel and Alfonso Soriano. Prado gets the edge for making half as many errors as Braun and having the most outfield assists of the three.

A.L. Center Field:

Finalists – Austin Jackson (Tigers), Adam Jones (Orioles), Mike Trout (Angels)

Winner: Trout

It should be Jackson, but will be Trout. Jackson had better numbers across the board defensively, though not by much. Trout only had 2 outfield assists, but made just 2 errors (Jackson had 1) and robbed at least four home runs. Surprisingly, Jones was one of the worst statistical center fielders, even though he’s extremely athletic out there. Again, it should be Jackson’s Gold Glove, but no way Trout won’t add this to his trophy case.

N.L. Center Field:

Finalists – Michael Bourn (Braves), Andrew McCutchen (Pirates), Drew Stubbs (Reds)

Winner: McCutchen

Angel Pagan, Carlos Gomez and Cameron Maybin all have stronger cases for this award than Stubbs, but for some reason managers and coaches LOVE the Reds’ defense (MLB-best 6 finalists). Neither Bourn nor McCutchen had many outfield assists, but both were stellar defensively. Even though the award should probably go to Jon Jay of St. Louis, it’ll be McCutchen edging out Bourn because of one less error.

A.L. Right Field:

Finalists – Shin-Soo Choo (Indians), Jeff Francoeur (Royals), Josh Reddick (A’s)

Winner: Francoeur

Reddick was a revelation in all facets of the game, making some of the most eye-popping plays of the year for the A’s in 2012, but 5 errors will outweigh his high range factor and 14 assists. It’s especially difficult to compete with Francoeur, who had less errors and a league-leading 19 assists. Choo had a great fielding percentage, but didn’t throw enough guys out to compete. That means the Royals’ corner outfielders threw out 36 guys on the base paths combined this year. Wow.

N.L. Right Field:

Finalists – Jay Bruce (Reds), Andre Ethier (Dodgers), Jason Heyward (Braves)

Winner: Heyward

Etheir won his Gold Glove in 2011 because he didn’t make an error all season and had a lot of outfield assists. His numbers declined a bit in 2012, but he was still worthy of a final spot. Bruce on the other hand? That spot should have definitely gone to Justin Upton or Carlos Beltran. Even tho Ethier had less errors and a slightly better fielding percentage than Heyward, you have to give J-Hey the Gold Glove for his 11 outfield assists this year, which was tops in the league.

A.L. Pitcher:

Finalists – Jeremy Hellickson (Rays), Jake Peavy (White Sox), C.J. Wilson (Angels)

Winner: Peavy

Ah, the most random and pointless Gold Glove award. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important for pitchers to field their positions cleanly, but if we are talking about numbers, there is about a 37-way tie in each league. Technically, the most impressive line goes to Hiroki Kuroda of the Yankees, but his name doesn’t appear. Among the three finalists, Peavy had the least errors and most double  plays turned.

N.L. Pitcher:

Finalists – Bronson Arroyo (Reds), Mark Buehrle (Marlins), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)

Winner: Buehrle

All three of these guys are widely known for fielding their positions well, and while I’d love to give my boy Kershaw some love, I’ll let him keep his 2011 Cy Young Award and 2012 Roberto Clemente Award to themselves. All 3 guys made 0 errors this year, but Buehrle dominated in range factor and turned the most double plays. And making this play in 2010 earned him free Gold Gloves for the rest of his life. Geez, still the coolest play ever!

Let us know in the comments if you think these picks are correct. Did we goof on any? Don’t forget to follow @3u3d on Twitter and LIKE Three Up, Three Down on Facebook!

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

2012 Dark Horse Award Candidates: MVP, Cy, ROY, MOY

We’re rounding third and heading for the home stretch of the 2012 baseball season as August fades into September and the elite players in MLB step up their game for a late playoff push.

It’s been a season for the ages, what with three perfect games (so far), five no-hitters, Mike Trout, a four-homer game, two cycles in one week, Mike Trout, crazy trades, Chipper’s farewell, and of course, Mike Trout.

But the ultimate pinnacle of 2012 will occur around Halloween hangover time, when an official World Series champion will be crowned. Shortly thereafter, we find out who a bunch of writers think were the best hitters, pitchers, rookies and managers in baseball this season.

And we all know who the big candidates are: Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Justin Verlander, Buck Showalter, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Davey Johnson, Stephen Strasburg, Mike Trout and Mike Trout.

Did I mention Mike Trout might win every award ever created for 2012?

Here’s how I expect it to go when the final tally comes across:

American League: Trout (MVP/Rookie of the Year), Felix Hernandez (Cy Young), Showalter (Manager of the Year)

National League: McCutchen (MVP), Wade Miley (Rookie of the Year), R.A. Dickey (Cy Young), Johnson (Manager of the Year)

Womp, womp. That’s fun. But how about the dark horse candidates in each league for each of these awards? The guys like “Brendan Conlon” (Joel Edgerton) from the movie Warrior (Side bar: if you haven’t seen it, go. Leave this blog immediately and Red Box that sh*taki right now.), who are up against all odds and turn in an incredible performance to take home the hardware? Someone you would never expect to have a chance?

Here is my list of three dark horse candidates for each major award in each league for the 2012 MLB season:

A.L. MVP

Leading candidates: Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano, Paul Konerko

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles: Arguably the best story in all of baseball this season has been the resurgence of the Orioles. The catalyst in the offense is All-Star center fielder Jones. His slash line in 2012: .290/24/65/12 SB

Josh Willingham, OF, Twins: Normally I shy away from great players on losing teams (sorry, Edwin Encarnacion), but I can’t ignore what Willingham has brought to the Twins. This season: .258/31/91/.900 OPS

A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: An unlikely first place team led by an unlikely season from their catcher. Sure, Paul Konerko is pitching in, but look at the damage A.J. has inflicted on opposing pitchers: .293/23/70/.877 OPS

A.L. Cy Young:

Leading candidates: Verlander, Hernandez, Jered Weaver, Chris Sale, David Price

Jake Peavy, White Sox: He is only 9-9, but records really are out of a pitcher’s control. His peripherals are really good. And did I mention the White Sox are potentially playoff bound? Peavy’s numbers: 9-9/3.09/155/1.08

Matt Harrison, Rangers: Shame on you for not recognizing Harrison’s dominance. On one of the best teams in baseball, he’s been their most consistent starter, low strikeout numbers be damned: 15-7/3.04/101/1.22

Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees: A big free agent signing for the Yankees has been fantastic this season in maintaining some sense of sanity in the messed up world that is the Bombers’ rotation: 12-9/2.98/131/1.10

A.L. Rookie of the Year:

Leading candidates: Trout, Yu Darvish, Brett Lawrie, Will Middlebrooks, Yoenis Cespedes, Jesus Montero

Quintin Berry, OF, Tigers: Berry came up as an injury replacement and forced his way into the everyday lineup. Average, speed, a little pop and great defense? What more could you ask for? His line: .272/2/24/17 SB (in 17 tries)

Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners: Mark my words – the Mariners are really heading in the right direction. One of the offensive cornerstones they will build around is this guy. Could be a big power hitter soon: .252/15/73/.725 OPS

Tommy Milone, SP, Athletics: Untouchable at home, but has had his share of growing pains. That being said, Milone looks like he has the potential to develop into a very special starter: 10-9/3.87/112/1.19

A.L. Manager of the Year:

Leading candidates: Showalter, Robin Ventura, Ron Washington, Joe Girardi, Jim Leyland

Bob Melvin, Athletics: Maybe he should have been considered a “leading candidate.” But he manages an Oakland ball club that has to have a movie made about them to get national attention. His team is 69-57. I honestly expected 100 losses.

Joe Maddon, Rays: A contender every year it seems, Maddon might not get a ton of recognition this year because people are used to him being a great manager. But the Rays are leading the Wild Card despite losing Evan Longoria to injury for most of the season.

Eric Wedge, Mariners: Again, props where props are due, people! Wedge has turned this exceptionally young, raw M’s team into a force to be reckoned with. With such a baby-faced team, they are only 5 games under .500, 8.5 back in the Wild Card.

N.L. MVP:

Leading candidates: McCutchen, Buster Posey, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Braun, David Wright, Carlos Ruiz

Angel Pagan, OF, Giants: The Braves finally figured out how to tame the wild beast that was Angel Pagan yesterday, but before that he was hitting over .500 in his previous week’s worth of games. With Melky Cabrera suspended, Pagan could steal a potential MVP award from his teammate Posey if the Giants make the playoffs: .292/7/48/21 SB

Jason Heyward, OF, Braves: Speaking of the Braves, how about the ridiculous season Heyward is having? I guess the sophomore slump is real, because J-Hey is back going Yicketty and Mammo all day in a solid third season: .278/23/68/18 (please don’t remind me he’s 7 months younger than me…it hurts)

Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals: Teammates Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday are stealing the thunder in St. Louis these days, but I bet if you polled the clubhouse, Yadi would be the team MVP. If the Cards make another miracle run to the playoffs, this award could be his: .326/17/61/11 SB/.892 OPS (and we know about the defense)

N.L. Cy Young:

Leading candidates: Dickey, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, A.J. Burnett, Johnny Cueto, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel

Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals: I’m a little bit offended that Zim’s fantastic season is going under the radar. Sure he’s overshadowed by two of his own teammates, but check this line: 9-7/2.48/119/1.11

Ryan Vogelsong, Giants: Speaking of being overshadowed by two of his teammates, Vogelsong is quietly having a career year. His peripheral stats are off the charts in 2012: 11-7/2.90/122/1.19

Kyle Lohse, Cardinals: Speaking of being over…wait. You mean to tell me KYLE LOHSE has been the best pitcher for the Cardinals this year? Undoubtedly, this has been the most anonymous Cy campaign of 2012: 13-2/2.61/104/1.08

N.L. Rookie of the Year:

Leading candidates: Miley, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rizzo, Zack Cozart, Yonder Alonso, Todd Frazier, Wilin Rosario

Mike Fiers, SP, Brewers: KP can attest to how incredibly good Fiers has been this year. When he shut down the Dodgers earlier this season I thought it was a fluke. His numbers in 2012 would beg to differ: 7-6/2.98/96/1.13

Norichika Aoki, OF, Brewers: Okay, maybe now I’m just sucking up to KP. Just kidding – there was no way to avoid putting Aoki on here with the type of spark he’s been for Milwaukee: .279/6/30/19 SB

Steve Lombardozzi, OF, Nationals: I went back and forth here between Lombardozzi, who has been just as good, if not better than his teammate Harper, and Colorado infielder Jordan Pacheco. Lombo gets the nod: .281/2/23/hitting leadoff for a 1st-place team

N.L. Manager of the Year:

Leading candidates: Johnson, Clint Hurdle, Don Mattingly, Dusty Baker, Fredi Gonzalez, Bruce Bochy 

Bud Black, Padres: “What! The Padres suck this year!” Au contraire, monsieur (for you who are Frenchly challenged, I believe that translates to YOU ARE WRONG, DUMMY)! How about 28-20 since the All-Star Break with a roster of nobodies?

Mike Matheny, Cardinals: Another guy not getting much credit for keeping his team in an extremely tough race is Matheny. He’s in his first year managing, has dealt with a plethora of injuries and the loss of Pujols. Still, the Cards are in line to win a Wild Card berth.

Terry Collins, Mets: I know the Mets are out of it, but is it still not an admirable job that Collins has done in the Big Apple? Besides David Wright and R.A. Dickey, the man has nothing to work with, yet the Mets were still a contender into mid-July.

*All statistics current as of start of play on Sunday, August 26th, 2012*

Don’t forget to follow @3u3d on Twitter and LIKE Three Up, Three Down on Facebook!

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

The Top 10 Free Agent Acquisitions

The 2011-2012 offseason in baseball saw some ridiculously good free agent contracts get handed out. For every Heath Bell, there seemed to be three or four C.J. Wilson’s last winter. Even with the great year Wilson is having, he barely cracked my top 10 free agent acquisitions.

So who did? Hard to imagine I could even put together a list without including brilliant signings such as Yu Darvish, Joe Nathan or Mark Buehrle.

Yet…I did. To narrow the field a bit, I made certain groups of players ineligible for the list. Players who re-signed either during the 2011 season or right after to extensions with the same team (i.e. David Ortiz, Yadier Molina, Rafael Furcal, Jimmy Rollins, C.C. Sabathia) are not eligible.

Similarly, players who were free agents for a grand total of 14 minutes before getting their options picked up (i.e. Aaron Hill, Brandon Phillips, Robinson Cano, Ryan Dempster, Edwin Encarnacion), don’t factor in.

Keeping in mind that these are only free agent acquisitions, not trade acquisitions, is your favorite team’s big signing on the list? Read on to find out:

10. Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers

While A-Ram hasn’t exactly filled the gigantic shoes left by Prince Fielder in Milwaukee, he’s been a steady presence in the middle of their lineup. So far, he’s hitting .281 with 11 homers and 59 RBI in an underwhelming lineup. The standings clearly reflect how much the Brew Crew misses Fielder though, no matter how well Ramirez plays.

9. C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels

C.J. falls in at number nine, for being the second best pitcher in the best starting rotation in baseball (now that Greinke has been acquired). Though he was a lesser signing in comparison to his new teammate Albert Pujols, he has been a better deal and his 9-7 record with a 2.88 ERA makes that point hard to argue.

8. Chris Capuano, Los Angeles Dodgers

What a pleasant surprise for the equally surprising Dodgers. They signed Capuano on a small, two-year contract to fill a spot in the back of the rotation and to say the results have been exceptional are an understatement. Cappy has been the second best starter on the team behind Clayton Kershaw, putting up a line of 10-6/3.13/1.21 with 113 K’s and just 38 BBs.

7. Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees

The man that Capuano essentially replaced in Los Angeles is now wearing pinstripes and making Brian Cashman look like an absolute genius (again). I knew it was a mistake when my Dodgers let Kuroda walk. He has been the most consistent overall pitcher in numbers and health for the Yanks this season, posting a 10-7 record with a 3.34 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.

6. Jonathan Broxton, Kansas City Royals

Another former Dodger, Broxton struggled mightily in his last season and a half in Los Angeles, before getting picked up by K.C. Broxton and his mammoth frame always came with a fragile mind, but he seems to have regained his velocity and command with the Royals. Even though they are losing a lot, Broxton has 23 saves and a 2.27 ERA.

5. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers

The lesser celebrated major offensive signing of the winter was Fielder, overshadowed by his former NL Central counterpart Albert Pujols. But it’s Fielder who is putting up better all-around numbers and helping to carry a now first-place Detroit Tigers ball club. Fielder is hitting .308 with 15 homers and 70 RBI through 99 games.

4. Jason Kubel, Arizona Diamondbacks

What a pick up for the D’backs. Kubel has been the most surprising overall free agent on this list, considering he wasn’t necessarily brought in to be a huge run producer in the middle of the lineup. He was supposed to be a guy who could provide some pop, maybe splitting time in the outfield. Now at .298/22/72 (NL-leading), there’s no doubt he is a starter.

3. Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins

This off season, I was telling anyone who would listen that Josh Willingham would be the biggest steal of the winter. Nobody wanted him, even though he single-handedly carried a terrible A’s offense in 2011. Now he’s a treasure for the Twins to cherish, as he’s only hit .271 with 25 homers and 72 RBI, including some super clutch hits.

2. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics

Plenty of skeptics laughed when Billy Beane came out of nowhere to sign Cespedes last winter to a four-year, $36 million deal. A 17-3 month of July later, led by Cespedes’ bat, and not only are the A’s geniuses for signing him, but they are a legit playoff contender. Largely in thanks to Cespedes’ .301/13/50 line.

1. Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals

Albert Pujols’ replacement has been everything the Cardinals hoped for…and a lot more. In fact, he’s been a lot more than Pujols has been for his new team in Los Angeles. Beltran is absolutely ripping it up for St. Louis, hitting .287 with 22 homers and 71 RBI. For the record, Pujols’ line: .277/18/61. Whoops! 

Just missed the cut: Darvish, TEX/Buehrle, MIA/Nathan, TEX/Albert Pujols, LAA/Jose Reyes, MIA/Jerry Hairston, Jr., LAD/Scott Hairston, NYM/Cody Ross, BOS/Wei-Yin Chen, BAL/Bartolo Colon, OAK/Aaron Harang, LAD/Ben Sheets, ATL/Roy Oswalt, TEX/Jonathan Papelbon, PHI/Michael Cuddyer, COL

Let us know what you think – did we get it right? Comment below! Don’t forget to follow @3u3d on Twitter and LIKE Three Up, Three Down on Facebook!

– Jeremy (@Jamblinman)

Chowin’ Down: A Helmet Full of Nachos

If you’re like me, when someone says “ballpark food” you think of three things: hot dogs, nachos and beer. Those three are a staple of every baseball stadium in America, regardless of the hometown twists they might put on each item.

Well, the A’s don’t really attract a ton of fans, but the ones that do go can snag a pretty scrumptious snack. And that’s exactly what I did this past Sunday. Before watching the A’s offense make Hiroki Kuroda look like Hideo Nomo, I scarfed down on this pile of meaty goodness:

Those are normal nachos, but stuffed into a collectible plastic A’s helmet. They were in there so tight, I thought the plastic would bust. On top is some amazing Kalua pork and a little guacamole for color. You also have the option of putting jalapenos and/or pico de gallo on top, creating an even more colorful, delicious treat.

I went with the standard stuff, and I’ll tell you…I definitely got my $9’s worth. There were so many things right with the nachos, I don’t even know where to start.

The chips themselves were normal ballpark chips, but like I said, this helmet was packed FULL of them. The normal helping of nachos for just $3 less is about one-third as many (not to mention how badly they skimp on the cheese…there’s never any left for me to finger-pick out of there!).

And I guess whoever is running the pork nachos stand knows you’re paying almost double digits, because they just heaped on the cheese. Not to the point of soaking the chips into a soggy mess, but enough so that every single delectable chip was smothered with creamy deliciousness.

The guac added a little flavor just for kicks, but what really did it was the Kalua pork. Last time I got meat like that on a game day meal, there was a ton of fat, too much salt and absolutely no presentation (ironically enough, that was from an upscale restaurant also inside o.Co Coliseum).

This Kalua pork was tender, delicious and plentiful. You can see from the picture that most of the middle of that helmet is stuffed with pork. Honestly, the only other time I’ve been this full after a ballpark meal was when I got “all you can eat seats” – once at Safeco Field, once at Dodger Stadium.

But never, ever have I been so full and satisfied from one single plate of anything at a baseball game. I loved it. It was amazing. Go buy a $2 ticket for an A’s game (trust me, you’ll find a seat) and make sure to stop by the Kalua pork nachos stand down the left field line, almost to the bleachers.

Besides, even if you end up hating them for some reason…you have a brand new batting helmet for your infant!

Thanks for reading! For more Chowin’ Down, look through the Three Up, Three Down archives.

– Jeremy (@Jamblinman)