Top 100 Baseball Blog

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Predicting the National League Rookie of the Year Winner

The 2011 National League Rookie of the Year race has been one of the most regional in recent memory. For some reason, the stars aligned and the majority of candidates for the award are in the NL East, with three frontrunners playing for the Atlanta Braves. The top contenders for National League ROY have each brought unique production to their respective teams, and look to be impact players for years to come. As the season winds down, a definitive pecking order has emerged in the ROY competition, and I have been able to determine who will end up winning the award, and who will come up short.

The Case for Freddie Freeman: Leading up to 2011, Freeman was a prized prospect in the Braves’ minor league system, but always regarded at a notch below that of golden boy Jason Heyward. Heyward finished second in the 2010 National League ROY voting and was expected to do great things this year, but has suffered through an injury and regression-filled 2011. Into the void stepped Freeman, who most felt would have a solid, but unspectacular season if given regular playing time. 

Freeman has been exactly what was expected. He has played solid defense, and is on pace to finish the season at .291 with 22 home runs and 78 RBI. Those are solid, yet unspectacular numbers, but exactly what the Braves need, with their offense being ravaged by injuries and underachievement. At 21 years old, Freeman is already one of the most consistent producers on the Braves, and a major reason why they are poised to be in the playoffs. He has played like a veteran all year long, a hallmark of a top rookie.

The Case for Dillon Gee: Starting pitching has been a black hole for the New York Mets in recent years, but they may have started to turn a corner with the young talent they have developed, starting with Mike Pelfrey and Jonathan Niese, and now Gee.

It feels like the right-handed Gee has gone under the radar for much of the year, which is due more to the Mets suffering another disappointing season, than the results he has produced. He is currently on pace for a 14-6 record and 4.37 ERA, numbers of a very solid three or four starter. He does not strike out a ton of guys, but has a decent 1.30 WHIP and keeps the ball in the park, giving up just 13 home runs so far this year. He has been a bright spot on the otherwise bland Mets.

The Case for Brandon Beachy: The close National League ROY race would be even tighter if Beachy had not suffered injuries earlier in the year. As it is, he is still in the conversation because of his excellent rookie season. He is on pace to finish the season with a 9-2 record, 3.31 ERA, and 156 strikeouts in 139.1 innings.
If he had pitched the entire year, the outcome of this award may have been very different, but Beachy won’t win the award because his numbers won’t be significant enough because of time missed. However, he has produced veteran results this year, and shown that the Braves have another exciting pitcher in their rotation.

The Case for Craig Kimbrel: Kimbrel has pitched so well this season at Atlanta’s closer that it is easy to forget that he is just a 23 year old rookie. The right-handed pitcher has dominated from the beginning, anchoring the Atlanta bullpen, which is the strength of their team.

Kimbrel is on pace to finish 2011 with 49 saves and a 1.79 ERA in 70 games. Most impressively, he projects to finish with 125 strikeouts in 77.2 innings. His strikeouts have come from a fastball that has averaged a little over 95 MPH this season, and a biting slider that hitters have a hard time laying off. Atlanta has enjoyed a successful season despite glaring holes on their roster, because if they can get into their bullpen with a lead, the game is typically over. Kimbrel is not only a strong contender for the National League ROY, but also for the title of best closer in baseball.

The Case for Danny Espinosa: On first thought, many people might wonder what Espinosa and his .231 batting average is doing on the short list. Closer inspection shows that he is a serious candidate for ROY. Although he had 103 at bats with the Nationals last year, he still qualifies as a rookie, and is in serious contention for ROY. 

The switch-hitting Espinosa leads all National League rookies with a 3.0 WAR according to FanGraphs. He has done a little bit of everything for Washington this year. No Gold Glover, he has been a serviceable second baseman, after switching from shortstop to accommodate fellow youngster teammate Ian Desmond. Espinosa is also on pace for 22 home runs, 70 RBI, and 16 stolen bases. As with many switch-hitters, he has shown more power from the left side and better batting average from the right. He has been a bright spot in an otherwise mediocre season for Washington, and on figures to get better going forward.

Honorable Mention: Darwin Barney, John Mayberry, Jr., Josh Collmenter, Vance Worley.

Final Decision: The National League has seen a number of exciting young players burst on to the scene in 2011. However, only one of them has been a true star this season, and that is why Craig Kimbrel is the clear cut choice for ROY. Pitching in the 9th inning for a playoff contender can be a steep challenge for a pitcher of any age, but Kimbrel has made it look easy, mowing down hitters with his electric stuff. He is not only having a great rookie season, but an all-time great year for a closer. 

While the other rookies in contention for ROY still clearly have room for improvement, it is hard to imagine Kimbrel being much better than he has already been. For him, sustaining his success will be key, because that will allow him to lead the Atlanta bullpen into the future. He has had an excellent start to his career and what he has accomplished so far gives everyone a great idea of what he is capable of down the road.

You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @RedSoxFanNum1

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jack Spring

Jack Spring pitched in only 155 major league games in parts of eight seasons, but was able to accomplish some nice results during that time. The right-handed relief pitcher played for an astounding seven teams during those eight seasons- the Phillies, Red Sox, Senators, Angels, Cubs, Cardinals, and Indians, all between 1955 and 1965. Unfortunately he was never able to establish himself as a long term regular, despite his production.

The Phillies originally signed Spring in 1952. He first appeared with the big league club in 1955, but was never able to gain solid footing with them or any of the subsequent teams he played for. The closest he came was a three season stretch with the expansion Angels from 1961-1963, where he made a total of 120 relief appearances.

Spring posted a career major league record of 12-5 with a 4.26 ERA., and 8 saves. He was renowned for his lack of strikeouts, getting just 86 batters by punch-out in 186 career innings. He even once went 19 consecutive appearances without striking out a batter, still the longest streak in the major leagues since 1957. More information about Spring’s career statistics is available at

I was recently able to ask Spring a few questions about his playing career. He was nice enough to send back his responses, which are posted below.

Jack Spring Questionnaire:

If you could do anything differently about your playing career, what would that be?: Probably could have worked harder in the offseason.

What was the strangest play you ever saw as a player?: Playing with Satchel Paige in 1956 in Miami, Florida.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Bill Rigney.

What was your favorite restaurant when you were on the road as a player?: Mexican food in Phoenix. No special one. While in Triple-A, Pacific Coast League.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Josh Hodges

The Florida Marlins have been lucky with big right-handed pitchers recently, with the likes of Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco leading their starting rotation. Florida hopes that they will be able to continue this tradition with another young pitcher they have been developing in the minor leagues. His name is Josh Hodges, and if all goes well, he could wind up being the best of the bunch. 

The 6’7, 235 pound Hodges was taken in the 7th round of the 2009 draft by Florida. He was a high school star in Mississippi. In his senior season he finished with a 13-2 record and 1.41 ERA.  On the other side of the ball, he also hit .506 with a team leading 16 home runs. Despite his hitting prowess, his 95 mph fastball was too much to ignore, and the Marlins drafted him as a pitcher.

Because of his age and relative newness to pitching, Hodges has been handled with kid gloves thus far in his professional career. He has gone 13-5 so far in his three seasons, but seems to have really come into his own in 2011. Hodges is playing this season with the Jamestown Jammers, and has gone 7-1 with a 3.60 ERA in 13 starts. More information about his career statistics is available at

Hodges is a sure bet to be moved up to a higher level in 2012. If he continues to show a similar level of improvement that he has this year, he should start moving quickly through the Florida system. The Marlins are in full rebuilding mode, so the opportunity should be there for Hodges if he continues to pitch to his potential.

Josh Hodges Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: It’s kind of a hard question. It’s been in my family. Since I’ve been young, I’ve always really had a ball in my hand, just playing baseball. My Mom asked me when I was younger, ‘what do you want to do with your life,’ and I told her I was going to play pro ball. And I’m here now.

How did you first find out that the Marlins were interested in you?: My senior year in high school, actually had one guy, Mark Willoughby, he came to about 10 out of 30 something games my senior year, and he was talking to me very heavily.

You were a pretty good high school hitter too if I remember correctly?: A little bit, yeah.
How did you decide on pitching?: That was one of the questions I asked, saying, ‘why am I not hitting?’ He said, ‘you know you threw 95,’ so that was one thing, especially with me at 6’7 or 6’8, they were kind of looking for a big bodied guy. So that’s how I’m a pitcher now.

What type of pitches do you throw?: Four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider, circle change, and I’m working on a split changeup now.

What is your typical fastball velocity right now?: Right now I’m sitting anywhere between 93 and 95.

After you signed, did you do anything special for you and your family to celebrate?: Somewhat, yeah. I took me… and we have a water park in Alabama that we rarely go to… I took me, my Mom, my nephews, my brother, and half my family all went out there and just celebrated.

What has life been like so far in the minor leagues?: Yeah, it’s kind of a challenge every day, just really trying to get yourself better. Especially adapting from high school. It’s different for a college guy and a high school guy. Just learning how to pitch down in the zone, throw strikes, in and out, execute pitches. Everybody, every day, you’re working. 

Did you have a favorite team or player growing up?: Favorite player has to be a good close buddy of mine, Eli Whiteside, for the Giants, and my favorite team has to be the Braves. 

How do you know Eli Whiteside?: He’s actually from my hometown. His family and my family, we’re real close. He actually helped raise me a little bit. That’s one reason I got into baseball. That’s why I love it so much.

You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dick Brodowski

             Dick Brodowski is one of many players who passed in and out of the major leagues, never able to gain enough footing to stay for any extended period of time. He had success in the minors, but couldn’t translate that on a consistent basis at the Big League level. 

The right-handed pitcher signed with the Boston Red Sox in 1951, as the team was still searching for the magical combination to overtake the powerhouse Yankees. Boston brought him up in 1952 when he was just 19 years old. He struggled in his first three games, before rebounding with consecutive complete game wins against the Tigers and Yankees.

Brodowski went 5-5 in 20 games in 1952, with a 4.40 ERA. He had 12 starts, and more than held his own at such a young age. Unfortunately, military service took him away from professional baseball for the next two full seasons, and when he returned in 1955, he was unable to build on the promise he had displayed as a rookie.

The Red Sox traded Brodowski to the Washington Senators following the 1955 season, where he lasted for two seasons, before being shipped to the Cleveland Indians, for the final two seasons of his major league career. He finally retired after pitching in one game in 1960 with Reading, a Single-A affiliate of Cleveland.

All told, in parts of six major league seasons, Brodowski posted a 9-11 record in 72 games, all but 15 in relief. He also had a 4.76 ERA, and managed to hit two home runs- off Ted Gray and Don Larsen. More information about his career statistics is available at

Although he didn’t produce the results or longevity that he had hoped for, Brodowski enjoyed his time in baseball, and recently shared some of those memories with me.

Dick Brodowski Interview:

How did you first get interested in baseball?: I loved it as a little kid and just never stopped playing. I loved it when I got older and got to play in Little League, and then into high school. From high school I went into the pros. 

I wasn’t really that good of a student, so I didn’t really have much of a decision about going to play baseball, and give it a try.

What was it like getting signed by the Red Sox?: There was a gentleman who lived in Jersey City named Bill McCarron (sp?), and he had signed a few other ball players like (Sam) Mele and Maury (Mickey) McDermott for the Red Sox. So he was a Red Sox scout, and he was a very nice gentleman, and we used to talk quite a bit. Matt of fact, I believe he was a groundskeeper at one of the baseball parks in Jersey City. I would get to see him occasionally. 

When I became available, in other words, out of high school, he approached me with the Red Sox. That was where I wanted to go anyways, so it was an easy choice for me.

Do you think you were prepared as a 19-year old to play in the Major Leagues?: Yeah, my stuff was good enough, it’s just that I wasn’t smart enough I guess. It was a big decision. I did so well in my first year in D-ball. I was signed as a third baseman-pitcher. 

I was 21 and 5 my first year, and that was coming from playing third base. I had pitched in high school… Then I almost made the Red Sox that year, and at the last minute they sent me down to the minors. They wanted to send me to an A-ball team; I think I was assigned to San Jose or something like that. There were some clubs on the east coast here, and what happened was I told them, ‘Jeez, I nearly made the Red Sox, and you’re sending me so far down the minor league system. I thought I would get a chance with Louisville.’ 

They granted my wish and sent me to Louisville, and Mike Jacobs was there. They threw me out there real fast to see if I was going to do it or I wasn’t going to do it. I ended up 7-1 and doing very well. The Red Sox could use some pitching, and I was brought up. 

I was turning 20 on July 26th when I came up in June. I got away with my first start, against the Detroit Tigers. I think I won 10 to 3. And then I went into Yankee Stadium and won 4 to 3. Then I went to Boston and won my first game there. I think the score was 16-6 or something like that. It was an easy win, so I did okay at the beginning. Then I think it caught up with me. 

My whole career is dry spells, you know, a tough 3-4 weeks. It always happened to me, even when I went to Winter Ball.

What type of pitches did you throw?: I had a fair fastball, and I had what they call a wrap curve. In other words, it stuck in your palm almost like a palm ball. It came out like a looping curve. I developed a faster curve, slider, and other stuff as I went on, but those were my beginning pitches.

What was Mike “Pinky” Higgins like as a manager?: Mike was a wonderful guy; very gentle; very soft spoken; never got excited; was always optimistic. H was very, very good. I didn’t come across many bad managers. 

There was only a few I didn’t like so good. One of them was Charlie Dressen. I didn’t think that he had a personality. 

Did you play for him in Washington?: Yeah, the Washington Senators.

You were with the Red Sox when they signed Pumpsie Green as their first African-American player. What do you remember about that?: I don’t think I was with the Red Sox when Pumpsie came there.

I think he was in the organization, signed around 1952: I’m not sure, but I did meet Pumpsie when I went to play Puerto Rican winter ball. Matter of fact, we were all gathered in the same house because we played for the same team. But they got rid of me. I was 0-6. Ponce was the bottom team in Puerto Rico, and I was 0-6 there. The next thing I knew, they were releasing me off the island. San Juan picked me up and I was 8-2 for them. 

You also played in Cuba as well?: Yeah, that’s where I was 13 and 6 I believe. It was really a weird set-up, where there were four teams. The four teams played a doubleheader in the same ballpark. So all you did was play one of three other teams. Those four teams played almost every day and it was one ballpark.
It was a little different because we all stayed out at a hotel, well me and my family anyways. The manager Bobby Bragan, stayed at the same hotel. 

How was Ted Williams as a teammate? Is it true he didn’t really care for pitchers?: I couldn’t tell that. What it was that he was so far above me, I just had the respect to leave him alone unless we were brought accidentally into a talking situation. A few times, we were on a trip and I was with George Susce, who was another pitcher on the team. He didn’t mind speaking with Ted. He got Ted to talking and, and he was talking about flying his jets in Korea, and his crashing, and how they used to have missions going out to meet the Russian jets. It was really interesting. And then he would talk a lot about his fishing, and I’m not a fisherman, and I’ve never cared for fishing, so that didn’t interest me that much. 

You know what is funny I can tell you about Ted? They used to argue with him about hitting. Here they are arguing with a .360 hitter; these guys who are hitting .270, you know… and they would argue about what’s your leading hand, which is your power and stuff like that. They would argue with him and it was very funny because I don’t know why they bothered arguing with the best hitter in baseball. I guess they enjoyed getting him riled up.

How do you think Ted would have translated to the modern game?: He probably would have hit .290 or .300, figuring he would be about 80 or 90 years old. I’m just kidding. That’s a real old joke. I think he’d be fine with that great eyesight. 

But you know what’s very humbling? I was on the team with him for a whole year, and watched him hit like .340 or .350. It shows you how much failure there is in baseball. If you’re hitting .300, you’re only getting one for three, so you’re failing two out of three times, yet, you’re a great hitter.

Do you have a favorite moment from your playing career?: Oh, it would have to be Yankee Stadium, winning 4-3, giving up four hits, striking out eight. That was June 30th, 1952. That was my second start in the Big Leagues.

Who was the biggest character you ever played with or against?: Probably looking down the bullpen and seeing Satchel Paige in this big arm chair, and everything. 

There was one instance where I remember we were at the Philadelphia Athletics, and I was still new on the team; considered new anyways. Sammy White, I think, had gotten into an argument with the other catcher. Actually, either him (White), or Piersall. Both benches cleared and when I looked up I was the only guy sitting. I was like a guy in the stands, I was so enthralled with what was going on. All the players take off and go out to the field, and I’m the only guy sitting on the bench. 

Is there anything about your career that you would do differently if given the chance?: Well, you know, what ended my career is one of the things that I would like to do over again. I was doing pretty well when I got on to the Cleveland bullpen. I think this was ’59. I had good stuff when I came up in ’58 for two or three weeks, and they practically gave me the job in ’59. So, in ’59 I was doing pretty good, and got a bad shoulder. 

But I had learned a new curveball, a looping curveball, and I threw this crap at the Major Leaguers, and they had a lot of trouble with it. They couldn’t wait; they were so used to hitting 88 to 91, 92, 93 miles an hour, that when I threw the crap up there, it was like Wakefield throwing his knuckleball. I was getting away with it. So what happened was, the day before the All Star Game, I got a spasm in my back. In those days you didn’t go running to tell everybody. You sort of took your chances.

So, the game comes down to near the end of the game in Detroit, and they called me to warm up. So I tried to warm up and they could tell that as bad as I threw the ball sometimes that I was having big trouble, and they hurried up and warmed up Jim Perry. Perry went in there and threw a home run ball and lost the game. When we got back to Cleveland the next day, we were working out, and I was told that I was sold to, oh where the hell did I go… oh, Toronto, the Triple-A team.

It turned out after a couple of days of rest, I was throwing as good as I had ever threw. At the time, I didn’t complain, and I didn’t complain about having a bad back and everything, and I got my ass sold out of baseball. I was still like 27 years old… 28. That was a regretful thing that I didn’t handle properly, and if I had it to do over again, I would have mentioned it. I don’t deny that it was my fault. 

What have you done since you stopped playing baseball?: Let me see. I was an insurance agent for Metropolitan Life, and I think I survived seven years there. I came up with a job as a liquor salesman for about another seven years. Then a friend of mine came into the Boston area that I knew in Bayonne, New Jersey, where I grew up. He was working for Stone & Webster Engineering, and he said, ‘Dick, I can get you a position at Stone & Webster security if you would like to come into Boston and work for security there.’ I said, ‘I’d love to,’ and it turned out to be a wonderful thing. I retired from Stone & Webster 15 or 17 years later.

You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @RedSoxFanNum1