Diamond Update

June 7, 2011

June 7, 2011
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Athlon Spotlight
No Rule Change Needed After Injury

On May 25 in San Francisco the Giants lived through their worst nightmare. Star catcher — and anchor of their lineup — Buster Posey broke his leg and tore ligaments in his ankle while blocking the plate trying to prevent the Marlins’ Scott Cousins from scoring the winning run in the 12th inning.

Since then there have been cries for rule changes to protect both catchers and runners from injuries in these situations, specifically from Posey’s agent, Jeff Berry. San Francisco GM Brian Sabean has joined the fray as well, but Sabean’s angst has been directed toward Cousins, and what Sabean declares to have been an unnecessary, perhaps even dirty, play.

But I have a few questions: Would there be such an outcry if this were Eli Whiteside — Posey’s backup — lost for the season rather than Posey? And how can you possibly draw a line as to what is legal positioning from the catcher when the ball and runner are arriving at the same time?
Last season Carlos Santana, a rising star for the Cleveland Indians, was injured in a collision and lost for the season. The Indians were buried in the AL Central at the time and it had no effect on the division races at all. Where was Berry’s concern then? Two days after Posey’s injury, Houston’s catcher Humberto Quintero injured his ankle in a collision and was placed on the DL. For some reason, there doesn’t seem to be as much concern for Quintero.

And how exactly can we expect a runner like Cousins to make that split-second decision as to slide to avoid the catcher, or is his only path to the plate through the catcher?

Do we really need any more rules?

There exists a rule (7.06) that bans players from blocking a baseline without the ball, or without making a play on the ball.
If catchers believe they should not block the plate due to injury risk, then don’t block it. Stand to the side and tag the runner as he slides by. If the throw carries the catcher into the path of the runner, I believe the runner has to have the right to get to home plate, not be forced to alter his route or make a last-minute decision to slide.

To me this isn’t much different from outfielders crashing into fences. Is one out in a game in May worth losing an impact player for months? Absolutely not. Is a game-winning catch worth the risk of injury? The answer starts to get a little more fuzzy. Just like blocking the plate.
Had Posey held onto the ball prventing the run and the Giants gone on to win, would that have been worth the injury? I say no.
But does this call for a rule change? No way.

Trivia Corner
Who is the only player in the history of the draft to be selected first overall twice? (Answer below)

AL Player of the Week
David Ortiz, Boston

For the second week in a row a player from the Red Sox is our Player of the Week. Ortiz hit .435 and led the AL with a 1.437 OPS. He hit three home runs and drove home seven. Big Papi had 12 hits over the six games, raising his average 25 points.

AL Pitcher of the Week
Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay

The young star of the Rays’ rotation was dominant in his two starts last week. He won both starts and pitched 14.1 innings, struck out 10 and gave up six hits and three walks. Both his ERA and WHIP were 0.63.

NL Player of the Week
Albert Pujols, St. Louis

Last week Pujols seemed to have found his groove, much to the dismay of the rest of the NL. He led the majors with nine runs, and was second in the NL with a 1.358 OPS. He hit .370 and drove home nine. Two of his four home runs were extra-inning walkoffs over the weekend.

NL Pitcher of the Week
Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee

Gallardo repeats as our choice for NL Pitcher of the Week. He won both of his starts with a 0.64 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. In his 14.0 innings, he allowed 13 baserunners (10 hits, three walks) and had 10 strikeouts.

Penny Wise
Placido Polanco // (Age 35) // 3B
Philadelphia // Contract: 3 years (2010-12), $18,000,000
When the Phillies signed Polanco prior to the 2010 season, they expected one of the most professional players in the game. They have not been disappointed. A two-time AL Gold Glove winner at second base, Polanco agreed to move to third with Philadelphia, where he played Gold Glove caliber defense. He is the sixth-higest paid position player on the team, but leads in average, on-base percentage and hits. He is second in runs, RBIs and total bases.

Dollar Foolish
Barry Zito // (Age 33) // SP
San Francisco // Contract: 7 years (2007-12), $126,000,000
While this has become one of the most maligned contracts in baseball, let’s not blame Zito. The Giants paid ace money to an innings eater, basically. In the three seasons prior to signing the deal with San Francisco in 2007, Ztio was 41-34 with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.330 WHIP in a pitchers’ park. He averaged 221 innings per season. Those are not ace numbers. While he has not been as good in San Francisco (40-58, 4.48, 1.410), his performance hasn’t been as far off his prior seasons as his contract might suggest.

Farm Report
Bryce Harper, Washington

The most prized prospect in recent memory has not disappointed the Washington Nationals. Making his professional debut at Single-A Hagerstown in the South Atlantic League, the 18-year-old phenom has 13 home runs and 41 RBIs in his first 54 games. He’s batting .338 with a 1.042 OPS. He has 12 steals in 17 attempts. While Nationals fans are clamoring to see their future star this season, the Nats are determined not to rush him. Expect to see him in Washington next season.

Matt Moore, Tampa Bay
Considered among the top 10 prospects in the minors this spring, Moore appears to be on track to take his place in the line of talented starting pitchers developed by the Rays. The 22-year-old is pitching at the Double-A level for the first time this season. In 11 starts he is 3-3 but has a 2.76 ERA. He has dominated hitters thus far in 58.2 innings, punching out 82. He has allowed just 43 hits and walked only 16.

Numbers Game
     4  Home runs for Albert Pujols in his first five games of June. He hit only two homers in May.
     6  Consecutive series wins by the Seattle Mariners. It is the first time the Mariners have won as many as six series in a row since 2001.
   19  Stolen bases in 19 attempts this season for Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus.
   17  Road wins for the Pittsburgh Pirates this year. That matches their total for all of last season.
   40  At-bats against left-handed pitching this season by Adam Dunn of the White Sox before getting his first hit. On Friday night, he legged out an infield hit to first base off Detroit’s Charlie Furbush. Dunn ended the weekend 1-for-42 vs. southpaws on the season.
   17  Saves for Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel, the highest total ever for an NL rookie before the All-Star break.

Danny Goodwin was drafted out of Peoria Central High School in Illinois by the Chicago White Sox in 1971, but he enrolled at Southern University instead of signing. In 1975, the California Angels made him the No. 1 overall pick once again. He hit .236 in 252 major league games over seven seasons.

<p> Why blocking the plate rules should not be changed, players of the week, and more.</p>
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