Picks of the Pen: Break Out

This was originally going to be the lifelessly narrated go-ahead home run by Zach Greinke, until something even better happened.

Career utility infielder/nomad Wilson Valdez has been better known in Philadelphia as “Not Chase Utley,” but this week, he received the most raucous applause of his career after pitching a scoreless inning of relief in a Phils-Reds contest that went to the 19th.  Not only did it make him the first position player to record a win since 2000, but he had to get through both reigning NL MVP Joey Votto and current NL leader in home runs Jay Bruce to do so.

His reward was a standing ovation, a high-five from Roy Halladay, and the game finally ending the next inning on a Raul Ibanez sac fly after 6+ hours of baseball.

Links to follow

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Blaine

The main story surrounding MLB this week has been the comments of Mets owner Fred Wilpon.  In an interview with Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker that discussed his rags-to-riches story, Wilpon trashed the team he owns and several of its players.

Wilpon also sat down with Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci to discuss the operations of the team.  This is what began talk of the Mets “bleeding money”, possibly as much as $70 mil.  Regardless of the amount Wilpon hints that the team will be working with a $100 million payroll next year, down from its current mark of $142 in 2011.  Veruducci and Wilpon discuss the team’s upcoming ownership decisions, how he would like to see the team run and the painful past few years the franchise has experienced.

This week Michael Engel over at Kings of Kauffman took a look at Royals clean up hitter Billy Butler.  Engel examines what Royals fans can really expect from the slugger, specifically getting into his projected power and what type of hitter he will be.

Justin

LIFE Magazine tapped into its archive of hilariously old photographs this week, and behold!  The description of Willie Mays per his teammate Monte Irvin sounded like the Say Hey Kid was way more Kid than Say Hey.  Apparently he would caffeinate himself with a barrel of soda and spend the rest of the evening, well, doing shit like this.  Poor Monte Irvin.

Has anybody gotten a rawer deal than Joe Blanton in 2011?  Maybe Jorge De La Rosa.  Maybe Adam Wainwright.  Maybe the Twins.  The point is, Mr. Blanton has had to deal with being a human punchline ever since Philadelphia’s Cliffmas back in December.  And after several outings that went a long way in proving the disparity between himself and his four rotational compatriots, he’s now hurt.  Pretty bad.  Bob Cunningham at Section 215 discusses the problems that can arise from pitching when your elbow already feels shitty.

Tom

In a bit of a rarity, Dave Cameron over at FanGraphs cited errors AND fielding percentage in an article. The FanGraphs boys typically stick to UZR and DRS when talking about defense but they highlighted the alarming number of errors and low fielding percentage of Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays because he’s been prolifically bad at both third and first base this season.

The rate at which Encarnacion has racked up the errors is mind boggling and Cameron thinks there must, must be someone else who can man the corners for the Jays, perhaps stud prospect Brett Lawrie will be that player.

The guys over at Reviewing the Brew stumbled across an interesting picture of some of the Brewers in their dugout. Lou Olsen posted the picture and set up a caption contest for anyone who has something clever to say about the picture to enter into. It’s a little tough to keep any captions clean, and you’ll see why when you see the picture but they’re looking for 35 entries and only have eight thus far. Take a look and give it a shot!

Alex

Last season was the year of the pitcher, and according to Jim Bowden, 2011 is the year of the breakout player. I must say it’s pretty hard to disagree with him. There have been several standout players that have been pleasant surprises for their respective teams so far this year, and it’s always interesting to watch a guy come out of nowhere to have success. It’s certainly a tough list to make, but here are the top five breakout position players and the top five breakout pitchers.

Whether you’re a fan of Seattle or not, it’s nice to see the Mariners finally having success. They haven’t made the postseason since 2001, and they were arguably the worst team in baseball just one year ago. Aside from Ichiro and King Felix, M’s fans have had very little to cheer about in recent years.  Even this season, the team started out 8-15. Oh how things have changed.

Now, the Mariners find themselves at .500 and just a game and a half out of the AL West lead. Over at Sodo Mojo, Keith Myers explains just how far the Mariners have come and just how promising things are looking.

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