Archive for May, 2009

Saturday: 05.30.2009

Out Until Tuesday

I’m home for my brother’s graduation so there will be no blog or podcast updates until then. I swore I brought my voice recorder home to put up some podcasts, but it is nowhere to be found so unless I lost it, it is still at home. Until Tuesday…

Wednesday: 05.27.2009

Around the Diamond – 5.26.09

Transcript from Tuesday’s show:

Podcast can be found here: http://sporer.podbean.com/
or in iTunes under Baseball by Paul*

* – there are two Baseball by Paul listings because I used to have the podcast at MyPodcast.com, but they blew up so I had to move it and start anew.

Note – I said “best well run” re: the Red Sox organization… sounds weird to hear it now. Not sure it’s proper grammar.

FIRST BASE
First base is well known as a power position in the lineup. Many teams have one of their best hitters manning first base and it isn’t necessarily important that they man it well on the field so long as they swing a sweet stick in the middle of the lineup. The Major League average SLG at 1B is .490 so far this season (it was .463, .464 and .488 the past three seasons), yet 14 teams are below that mark. Worse yet is that 9 teams are below .450 including four below .410. San Francisco is getting a .290 SLG from their 1B—nice work there by Travis Ishikawa and Rich Aurilia. Even Emilio Bonifacio has a .304 SLG.

SECOND BASE
Jayson Nix
banged his 3rd and 4th home runs of the night, but even more notable is that his brother also hit his 4th of the year. Cincinnati’s Laynce upped his average to .287 with a 2-for-4 effort that included that 4th home run. I’m sure the DiMaggios-Joe, Dom and Vince-pulled off the feat a few times in their career. As I’m sure Cal and Billy Ripken did SEVERAL times! OK maybe not. Billy had 20 home runs in 3015 ABs spanning 12 seasons.

SHORTSTOP
Jason Bartlett
is headed to the disabled list along with his double play partner Akinori Iwamura, who will actually miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. The Rays are M*A*S*H unit right now with a quarter of their 25-man roster disabled. Bartlett is probably the most damaging loss at this point. He has been amazing at the dish including a 1.127 OPS in May, which is best among all shortstops and 9th in the majors.

THIRD BASE
Garrett Atkins
was rumored in potential trade talks this offseason, but now it will be next to impossible to get much in return thanks to his awful start to the 2009 season. His disgustingly bad May in which he has a .399 OPS have sunk his season totals to .190/.273/.293. How does such a potent run producer just fall off at age 29, especially playing half of his games in such a favorable home park? His 2B, HR, RBI, BB, AVG, OBP and SLG totals are all in a three-year decline. He’s relatively young so he might not be toast, but a slide like this in this era can only lead to one question: did he have “help” during the 2006-2007 heydays? Who knows, but something is seriously wrong with Garrett Atkins.

CATCHER
Joe Mauer
has the May Triple Crown right now with a .444 batting average, 11 HR and 31 RBIs. He has done so with fewer AB than any of the other HR leaders in the top 10 except ARod (7 in 58 AB). In fact, he’s actually got a Quadruple Crown when you factor in his 25 runs scored. He has been just brilliant. And he’s not the only one. According to Noah Coslov of MLB.com’s Twitter, the Twins have homered in 9 straight games. The last time they accomplished such a feat was a 12-game streak all the way back in July of 2002. During yesterday’s broadcast, Detroit Tigers announcer Dan Dickerson said “The Royals are Detroit’s closest competition in terms of games back, but any Tigers fan knows it’s the Twins you always worry about.”

OUTFIELD

I won’t complain too much because the Detroit Tigers are off to a great start, but remind me again why THEY are paying Gary Sheffield to hit .291 with a .430 OBP and .535 SLG for the Mets? He hit his 5th home run tonight and he appears to be in quite a groove. I realize he was bringing very little to the table in Detroit except for a logjam for ABs and I don’t really object to getting rid of him, just wondering if there wasn’t a better way available to where Detroit doesn’t eat the ENTIRE $14 million while he plays and plays well for another team.

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Kansas City Royals might be the top suitor for Jeff Francoeur if the Braves shop him. Question 1: why WOULDN’T the Braves shop him? Question 2: why would the Royals be their top suitor? I know the answer is because Dayton Moore, their GM, is a former Braves guy, but c’mon—Francouer just isn’t that good. And I actually like Frenchie, I’m just being honest. Question 3: Rosenthal mentions that the Red Sox are known to have an eye on Francoeur. The question once again is WHY? I thought the Red Sox liked to acquire good players. They are one of the better run teams so this one perplexes me unless Theo & Co. are seeing something beyond his awful numbers.

PITCHER
Jason Berken
made his major league debut for the Baltimore Orioles tonight and fared alright. He went five allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out three. He picked up the win as his offense supported him well with 3 HR off of Ricky Romero en route to a 7-2 thrashing. Berken is one eight starting pitchers to rate in the top 15 for the Orioles organization according to the Minor League Analyst put out by the guys over at BaseballHQ.com and the second one up to the majors this year. Brad Bergesen was the first and he has been beat up in seven starts so far with a 5.49 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. The three best are still in the minors and they are all off to very strong starts. Chris Tillman is the closest at AAA-Norfolk and he is 5-0 in eight starts with a 2.13 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 10.4 K/9. Jake Arrieta is at AA-Bowie and he has a 4-2 record in eight starts with a 2.97 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 11.8 K/9. And Brian Matusz (I think it’s pronounced: Muh-twos, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) is 3-2 in nine starts with a 2.68 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 10.8 K/9.

If these arms pan out for the O’s, the future will be very bright with three of their lineup centerpieces already established in veteran Brian Roberts and youngsters Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Prospect Nolan Reimold has impressed early on with three home runs, the latest of which came tonight. And their top prospect overall, Matt Wieters, is set to debut Friday. That said, they have no legitimate pitching on their major league roster outside of maybe Jeremy Guthrie, so while it would be unreasonable to expect ALL eight prospects to pan out entirely, they definitely need half of them to be prime contributors to their future especially because they are stuck with the unfortunate curse of playing a division that seems like it will never have a down period.

Tuesday: 05.26.2009

Around the Diamond – 5.25.09

A look around most of the diamond for this Memorial Day, 2009 –

FIRST BASE
Is it just me or is Ryan Howard quietly having a very nice season? With 2 HR on Monday, he is now on pace for 45 with 124 RBI and 113 runs scored—essentially a carbon copy of 2008 without the slow start that caused many to overreact and like sell him for pennies on the dollar. He is headed for a fourth straight 40-HR year and I see no reason to believe he won’t make it. In my latest piece at Owner’s Edge, I talked about trying to determine what stats a player has a left and using that to make decisions about whether or not to trade for him. In Howard’s case, he probably has about 30-33 HRs left as he will likely reach the low to mid 40s. He hasn’t hit 10 HR in either month yet, but he has 6 such months in the past two years meaning at least one is likely coming. He won’t come at any discount as he’s performing rather well, but if you need power you should definitely inquire about Howard.

SECOND BASE
Freddy Sanchez
had an extraordinary game tonight against the Chicago Cubs rapping out six hits in six at-bats and falling a triple shy of the season’s 5th cycle. He moved his batting average 23 points with the performance up to .320. He was a nice value in many leagues this year because he was judged off of his composite batting average from 2008 of .271. He no doubt earned that average, but a closer look at his splits showed how much he improved after a horrible first half in which he hit .233. He was likely still recovering from his 2007 shoulder surgery and he appeared to be back at full health during a second half in which he hit a more Freddy Sanchez-like .321 in 243 ABs. His fantasy value is often underrated because it is tied primarily to the batting average. Last year was no doubt a disappointment, but if you made it through his tough first half, then he was a major asset down the stretch.

SHORTSTOP
Don’t look now, but here comes the Cuban Missile, Alexei Ramirez. He extended his hit streak to four games with a blistering 4-for-7 performance, all of which were singles, along with 3 RBI and 3 runs scored. His .243 average is new high point for the season; in fact the .226 he had coming into today was a high point, as well. The 4-for-7 probably drew his owner’s attention, but you could still get him at a nice discount and now is the prime time to buy. Well, yesterday or three days ago was the prime time to buy, but today still works well.

PITCHER
Wandy Rodriguez
owners got away with one today. He got pretty beat up allowing 12 base runners in just 4 innings, but all six runs he allowed were unearned. Tom Seaver has said that in a given season with 30 starts, a pitcher will have their best start for 10 starts, mediocre stuff for 10 and then they just won’t have it for the other 10. It’s how they get through the starts without their best stuff that will determine their season. Wa-Rod escaped one of his bad starts with a no decision and it didn’t even impact his impact is ERA negatively. In fact, he IMPROVED his ERA w/4 clean innings.

On the other hand, Rodriguez’s counterpart, Aaron Harang, was recently profiled in a fantasy article at CBS about how his brilliant complete game 3-hitter against Pittsburgh has held down his WHIP and perhaps deceived those that own him and those looking into possibly owning him. The author, Al Melchoir, went through a series of starters and pinpointed how one good or bad start was drastically impacting their numbers and likely leading to a skewed view of that player. All starts combined Harang had a 1.23 WHIP, but when you lift the complete game 3-hitter, he shoots up to 1.39. Melchoir suggested that those nine starts are likely more predictive of what’s to come and wouldn’t you know it he put on 11 in five innings of work. He managed the win thanks to Houston’s defensive deficiencies, but there is reason for caution with a 9.7 H/9 rate. The ERA is still strong and he has netted 5 wins, so he will probably still draw a fair return, but I do think it might be a nice time to entertain moving him.

Tuesday: 05.26.2009

This is How Mistakes Happen

I was over at MLB.com on Sunday casting some of my 25 votes for this summer’s All-Star Game and I was struck something I saw there. Now I saw this same thing last year so it’s not really new nor am I really mad about it per se, but I just don’t understand the reason for it:

asg tm ballot

The team ballot. Who exactly thought this was a good idea? This is how undeserving Red Sox and Yankees get voted in. Those two teams have throngs upon throngs of fans and they lazily use this team ballot link 25x apiece despite the fact that several of the players included don’t have any business in the game. I didn’t mean to single out Florida in particular as every team has one of these annoyances, but back to my original question: who thought this was a good idea? First off all, why would I want to see my entire team represent their league in the ASG? I see my team 9 innings a night, 6-7 days a week. I’d like to see SOME of my team’s players in the games, but not the starting nine. That’d be absurd.

Secondly, why would I want to waste my votes at positions I know won’t go to my team’s representative? Using the example above, I’d be embarrassed to cast a ballot for Emilio Bonifacio. And I’d say no offense to Bonifacio except I’d be lying. I don’t care if he’s offended by that statement. He sucks. He might well be a great guy in his life, but he’s not a very good baseball player and 2,000 throwaway votes by jokers that click the Team Ballot button is precisely 2,000 too many for him. Think about a team like the Padres. They have ONE vote-worthy player so each Team Ballot vote includes 8 WORTHLESS picks.

I don’t mean to be Elitist All-Star Vote guy that says who can and can’t be voted for, but surely there should be some objectivity involved and that is especially true when it comes to these Team Ballots that include supershmucks like Bonifacio and Chris Getz. If you want to vote Ryan Howard over Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez, I get that. He’s a superstar having a solid season. I wouldn’t personally cast that vote as I think both are markedly better, but in the end I can get over that pretty easily. However, I am anti-Team Ballots.

Monday: 05.25.2009

Team Bomb Pop

Per @DailyFungo on Twitter: “The Royals’ uniforms today — with the red caps — make them look like a team of Bomb Pops.”

Hilarious!! I couldn’t agree more, see below:

team bomb pop

Monday: 05.25.2009

It’s Still Early

I realize we’ve reached Memorial Day and that is often a signpost for people to start reacting to numbers, whether by individuals or what your team as a whole has put up. While I am not against using today as a day to start aggressively looking at your team and trying to pinpoint weaknesses, I would caution that it is still early. If you follow me on Twitter, you have probably seen me lament (whine?) about my terrible pitching staff in my 10-team 4×4 AL Only league. We use just six pitching spots with 4 SP and 2 RP. Comprised initially of Scott Baker, Dallas Braden (qualified RP) Felix Hernandez, David Purcey, Andrew Sonnanstine and Joakim Soria, I watched as my ERA started poorly (4.93 after week 1) and just rose meteorically into the stratosphere (5.49 by week 3 and above 5.00 until week 6). I eventually shuffled Purcey out for Kyle Davies, but he was back to being Kyle Davies by the time I got him. Once Soria hit the DL, I scooped Scott Feldman and Josh Outman, but nothing worked.

Every time I got a nice outing, Sonnanstine was there to completely erase it and then some. Feldman gave me two strong starts, but Sonnanstine wasn’t having any of it. Then Outman comes along and starts throwing brilliantly, but Baker was there in a flash to cut out that nonsense. I was starting to get frustrated as my ERA hovered at, around or above 5.00 deep into May. Finally, I made a real move. I traded some of my offensive depth for another arm. I don’t think there’s a single media outlet that I participate in where I haven’t suggested buying low on Baker and his teammated Kevin Slowey. So I practiced what I was preaching and grabbed Slowey for Shin-Soo Choo. But alas, Baker and Hernandez both crapped the bed in their first starts of the week and I figured here we go again. However, that proved NOT to be a precursor of things to come for the Kramerica Industries. The first starts of Baker and Hernandez would stand as the only non-quality starts out of nine for my team. Feldman and Sonnanstine threw very strong games, each notching a win. Newcomer Slowey enjoyed an excellent debut on my team with his third straight gem going 7+ and grabbing a W.

But the All-Star was Outman (great name for a starting pitcher, btw… much better than Balfour). Coming off of a struggle against Toronto, I picked him up in a free agent buy on May 10th for just a $1 (real $, not FAAB). I targeted him mainly because of his nice K-rate (despite not counting Ks in this league), quality home park and upcoming schedule. He had the lowly Royals, the Rays (who can’t seem to beat lefties according to my good friend Jason Collette… more on that in a second) and the D’Backs. I was set to give him a 3-start audition with the last coming on the day of our next buy. He certainly couldn’t be any worse than what I was getting. Just as I drew it up he beat KC handily, STEAMROLLED the Rays and played with fire (5 BB/0 K) & escaped against the D’Backs. The latter two came in week 7 giving him 13+ IP of 0.66 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. Back to the Rays vs. southpaws for a minute. Though I went with Collette on that one as he’s a diehard Rays fan, I was blown away when I saw that the Rays actually have the most runs scored against lefties by a wide margin. That said, Outman got the best of them, lefty Brett Anderson wasn’t terribly sharp by still got his first major-league win and Dallas Braden was strong through seven but the Rays beat up righties Andrew Bailey and Brad Ziegler to salvage a win in the 3-game set.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Hernandez and Baker redeemed themselves on Sunday going a combined 16+ innings allowing just four runs and 15 base runners good for a 2.21 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 2 wins. All told, my six starters went 60+ innings of 3.12 ERA and 1.17 WHIP while going 6-2. I lowered my ERA from 4.98 to 4.60 and my WHIP from 1.42 to 1.37 which brings me back to my original point: it is still early enough that a strong week can drastically move the needle on your numbers. This was a very good week for my starters, but it wasn’t some otherworldly performance that can’t be duplicated a couple more times in the next month or so. Yes at-bat and inning totals are piling up as we get ready to flip the calendar to June, but don’t give up on a category and just say, “Oh it’s too late, I’m buried in that… might as well forget about it.” If you’re going to do that, you might as well forget about your season.

Another tip, and this works especially well for offensive categories, is to sort through your league history and see what the winning total was a year ago. See how the top team in your standings is currently pacing. Chances are they are set to blow last year’s winning mark out of the water meaning they are likely to regress. Check your pace as well. We’re about 30% through the season which means there is still a TON of time left and outside of a team just LITTERED with catastrophic injuries, no one should be throwing in the towel yet.

Sunday: 05.24.2009

Around the Diamond – 5.23.09

Welcome to the Baseball by Paul podcast notes for Saturday May 23rd, 2009. I won’t be doing audio for Saturday, but I will share the notes. So let’s go Around the Diamond:

FIRST BASE
On May 16th, Cincinnati 1B Joey Votto left the Reds’ game early with dizziness after just two at-bats. He was ruled out that Sunday, but he was nothing more than day-to-day, which made things tricky for fantasy owners setting their weekly lineup the following Monday. He went in for a battery tests before it was finally determined on May 21st that he had an inner ear infection. It was a bust of a week for those unable to do daily transactions and especially crushing for those in head-to-head leagues… that is until Saturday. Votto tried to make up for the lost time by smashing two HRs in consecutive innings off of Cleveland Indians starter David Huff. That said, I would still monitor his status on Sunday and if you have a legitimate replacement, it might be worth putting him in for Votto—especially in H2H leagues.

Jason Giambi hit his 400th HR on Saturday night and it came against former teammate, Danny Haren. He hasn’t quite jumpstarted the Oakland offense as expected, but he can get hot and string five or six homers together in a the span of a week to 10 days. Many, including yours truly, believed that Giambi, Orlando Cabrera and Matt Holliday would join forces with Jack Cust and Kurt Suzuki to boost the Oakland offense. But they have sputtered, to say the least.

SECOND BASE
Orlando Hudson
was one of my favorite pickups in the offseason and I sought to acquire him in every league possible. He hasn’t disappointed in the least! If he can stay healthy, he is en route to a career year of 12 HR, 14 SB and a .339 average. I thought he’d be an underrated source of runs scored based on the team that the Dodgers were putting together and that has played out so far as he’s on pace for 120, but the loss of Manny Ramirez until July definitely puts that pace in doubt. In Manny’s absence, Hudson has taken over the 3-hole in the lineup. He has .346 there, but scored just five runs. He has certainly done his part to fill the void as he carries a 13-game hitting streak into play on Sunday and he has hit safely in 22 of 23.

SHORTSTOP
If I told you I had a shortstop available for you that is hitting .329/.356/.503 with 5 HR, 25 RBI and 26 runs scored, would you be interested? Of course you would be, those are some pretty strong numbers. What if I told you that shortstop was Miguel Tejada, would you be as interested? Unfortunately, there are too many fantasy owners whose interest would dip once they learned the name. There is an inherent bias that creeps into our game and often does more harm than good.

Jason Collette of Owner’s Edge at fanball.com & rototimes.com does an excellent weekly piece entitled “Who Am I?” where he presents a player’s stat line and gets you to buy into something for better or worse without the preconceived notions of that player clouding your judgment. At the end of the day, this is a numbers game pure and simple. Trades that would be perfectly viable in a fantasy league would be laughably bad in the “real-life” and vice versa. However, as a community we get too tied to name value instead of focusing on the numbers value of a guy.

THIRD BASE
Speaking of eliminating biases, Andy LaRoche has done nothing but leave a sour taste in mouths of fantasy owners since arrival to the big leagues, but discounting him after 223 major league at-bats is nothing short of stupid. He added 63 more ABs to his total in April but still wasn’t doing much to impress. Fast forward through May 23rd and he’s up to .288 with a .360 on-base. He still has too few ABs to make any wholesale judgments but it is very nice to see him hitting like he had in the minors (.295 in 1800 ABs). Fun factoid – he attended the same school as John Lackey: Grayson County College in Denison, TX. No idea why I remembered Lackey went there.

CATCHER
Chris Iannetta
was really getting into a nice groove, so why wouldn’t he go on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring. After hitting just .174 in a tough April, Iannetta was at .276 in May while continuing to display his usual sharp discipline. He was still at .333 OBP in April despite the average and he remained rather disciplined in May with 8 BB in 58 AB resulting in a .364 OBP. Now, Yorvit Torrealba becomes the full time catcher in Colorado. Your waiver wire almost assuredly holds a better option.

OUTFIELD
I mentioned my good friend Jason Collette earlier and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention him again as I bring up the player that almost single-handedly took from super-sleeper status to mid-round talent by championing him so fervently this offseason. The player in question is Nelson Cruz and he hit his 10th and 11th home runs of the season and he’s not hitting a healthy .285 to go with the massive power. Perhaps more impressive are the six stolen bases. After 44 HRs between the minors and majors last year and 20+ the two years previous, his power was not in question. But you didn’t hear much about his speed despite the fact that he had 27 SBs last year. At 28, he is a late bloomer, but he definitely looks legit and he will only get better as the weather warms up in Arlington.

On May 23rd in baseball history – Shawn Green rips four home runs in 16-3 rout of Milwaukee. He went an absurd 6-for-6 with the four home runs, a double and a single. He scored six times and drove in seven. He had 19 total bases! He ended up with 42 HR that season and 114 RBIs to go with them. I thought it was odd that he only had 114 RBIs with that many HRs, but according to Baseball-Reference.com, it’s not uncommon at all. There have been exactly 50 instances of 42+ HR and 114< RBIs.

PITCHER
Since I’m not going to do the audio for Saturday, I’m going to cut the pitching section short since I didn’t find there to be too much remarkable news. I’ll just leave you with this:

Why is Brian Moehler allowed to pitch…. ever? Just go look at his numbers; I won’t waste any more time on this clown.

Also congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals staff allowing just two runs in the past five games. I don’t care if it came against a struggling Chicago Cubs offense and a pitiful Kansas City Royals one, that is a damn impressive feat regardless.

Sunday: 05.24.2009

Best Promotional Giveaway Ever?

I want to be in Kansas City on June 16th, specifically at Kauffman Stadium where the Royals will host the Arizona Diamondbacks. On its own merits, that may not be anything special. It could be Zack Greinke vs. Danny Haren, which would be amazing or it could be Luke Hochevar vs. Yusmeiro Petit. Frankly, I wouldn’t care if it were the latter so long as I get there early enough to scoop this brilliant t-shirt:

Courtesy of Aroudn the Horn in KC (http://royals.mlblogs.com/)

Courtesy of Aroudn the Horn in KC (http://royals.mlblogs.com/)

I’d love to see a line of these come out for all of the game’s premier aces. Either way, I must get my hands on one of these KC ones. A very well thought out t-shirt and I’m surprised we haven’t seen it before now.

Sunday: 05.24.2009

Jonathan Papelbon is REALLY Annoying

In an effort to be as nauseating as most of Red Sox Nation, Jonathan Papelbon engaged in some seriously misplaced overreacting in the bottom of the 9th during Saturday night’s game. He had just blown the game for the Sox by giving up a 2-run shot to superstar Omir Santos. Since he didn’t actually do his job & close the game which would’ve afforded him the platform for his over-the-top antics, he needed an outlet. He decided that he would still make himself the center of attention with some feigned intensity and anger. You don’t just get a nickname like Papeldouche, you earn it…

Friday: 05.22.2009

Around the Diamond – 5.22.09

Let’s go Around the Diamond:

FIRST BASE
Adrian Gonzalez hit his 16th home run, which is excellent for him, but why in the world is he getting ANYTHING to hit right now? He’s the only major league hitter in their lineup right now. OK, maybe Scott Hairston with his .978 OPS and 5 HR & 5 SB in 107 ABs. But seriously, I cannot understand how Gonzalez has avoided the Barry Bonds treatment given how well he is doing, especially on the road. Anyway it’s great news for his fantasy baseball owners as he continues smash the ball. Meanwhile his Padres have won 7 straight and skyrocketed up to 2nd in the NL West.

SECOND BASE
It has been an awful quarter-season for the Cleveland Indians despite Cliff Lee following up his Cy Young season very nicely with a 2.90 ERA so far, Victor Martinez rising from the depths of last season with 7 HR already and Shin-Soo Choo proving his second half from 2008 was legitimate. Asdrubal Cabrera, like Choo, is showing that his .306 batting average & 8 HR performance in the second half of last year was a precursor for things to come. He has taken his .319 average, .380 on-base percentage and seven stolen bases to the leadoff spot in place of the struggling Grady Sizemore. The HR power hasn’t been there yet, but he is on pace for 46 2Bs. Most impressive about his 7 SBs so far is the 100% SB rate after going just 4-for-8 last year.

SHORTSTOP

It’s been a career quarter-season for Tampa Bay’s Jason Bartlett as he has already set a career high in home runs with 6 and could top his career high of 23 SB by the All-Star Break given how often the Rays run. Did I mention he is also hitting .375, good for 2nd-best in all of baseball? I told you it was the makings of a career year.

THIRD BASE

Mike Fontenot is losing at-bats to the likes of Bobby Scales thanks to a .140 May average in 50 at-bats. He was sharp in limited play last year which pumped up the expectations for him with full time at-bats coming into 2009, but so far he has been a limited power source while offering nothing else. His struggles appear to be a microcosm of the Cubs’ season so far. They are the 10th-best offense in the National League in terms of OPS and only five regulars have enough at-bats to qualify for the Batting Average title. Fontenot is better than a sub-Mendoza .193 batting average, but it will be hard for him to correct the issues from the bench. I wouldn’t cut bait just yet as nearly half of his hits (10 of 23) have gone for extra bases and he has nearly a 100-point split between his average and on-base percentage.

CATCHER
It seems if you have a last name that starts with an “M” and you’re a catcher-you’ve got a shot at being pretty good. It’s not just the 28 Molinas, either. Joe Mauer has been brilliant since his return hitting .429 with 9 HR and 28 RBI in just 77 at-bats. Almost as impressive is the fact that he has more walks than strikeouts. In fact, that is a common trait of some of the elite catchers so far this season. Both Mauer and Yadier Molina have 11 Ks to 15 BBs, Brian McCann has 10 Ks to 12 BBs, but Victor Martinez is back in a big way this year leading the majors in hitting at .384 but also just 17 Ks to his 25 BBs. Even Russell Martin’s ratio is very impressive despite having struck out more than he has walked. He is second to Martinez with 24 BBs and has just 30 Ks. Anything below 1.0 on a K:BB ratio is excellent while being at or near 1.0 is also very good. Once a player nears the 2.0 mark is when trouble ensues.

OUTFIELD

Baltimore’s Adam Jones is making a legitimate push for inclusion in the American League starting outfield for the All-Star game. Unfortunately, there is very little chance that gets voted in. There is always much debate and consternation over the fan voting process. Should it just be the half-season performance or a longer track record of quality performance? Is it fine to vote for whom you want to see regardless of performance (within reason) or are the fans obligated to put in the most “deserving” players? I think despite all of the annual groaning and moaning, the Midsummer Classic always has enough star power and ends being just fine—except when there is a tie. Back to Jones, he is hitting .372 with 9 HRs and 30 RBIs. Though perceived as a speedster, he has just 3 SBs and his career high in any year is 16 in 2006. His improvements give Baltimore an incredible 1-2-3 to with Brian Roberts, Jones and Nick Markakis.

And there is more firepower in the making for the O’s in the form of Nolan Reimold, who hit his 2nd home run tonight. He was hitting .394/.485/.743 with 9 HR, 27 RBI and 6 SB in 109 ABs at AAA-Norfolk. He is now in the midst of a 6-game hitting streak, but he might not stick around with the return of Luke Scott. That said, he most definitely SHOULD stick around for at least a good 150 ABs to see how he can do in the bigs. I think we’re done with the Felix Pie experiment despite just 83 at-bats. He is just 24 years old and has only 343 major league ABs, but he’s shown absolutely nothing thus far. If not Pie, Reimold is surely more deserving of a roster spot than Ty Wigginton or Lou Montanez. Either way, I think he deserves a good 100+ AB sample to show whether or not he’s ready, but I’m afraid he won’t be afforded as much.

Congratulations to Michael Cuddyer for notching baseball’s 112th cycle of the season. OK, so it was only the 4th, but that’s a lot for a season let alone a season not yet through May. It was also the 2nd by a Minnesota Twin. Cuddyer has raised his batting average an astounding 40 points since May 18th thanks to a 12-for-23 tear that his included 4 HR and 12 RBIs. Delmon Young might want to put his house on the market because there just aren’t going to be ABs for him in Minnesota. Carlos Gomez couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag, but he has strong defense while Cuddyer, Denard Span and Jason Kubel are hitting remarkably well this season. Young is still just 23 and I do think he will emerge into a very strong player, but I just don’t know if it happens in Minnesota. Cuddyer is the oldest of the bunch and still just 30 years old and signed through 2010 with an option for ’11. Young, meanwhile, is only signed through the end of this year.

PITCHER
Moving to the mound, but staying in Minnesota, Kevin Slowey continued his resurgence with a third straight strong start. He went 7+ strong giving up 2 while striking out 4 and of course walking nobody. I say of course because he’s walked just four all year. He is now 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA and 14-to-2 K:BB ratio in his last three starts. His season ERA now sits at 4.23 which is a far cry from the 5.51 it was at when he started this mini run. I’ve been advocating him all season despite the high ERA because of his brilliant control. I just didn’t see any way someone with his skills would continue with such a poor ERA. With a 6-1 record and an ERA no longer residing in the stratosphere, the window to buy low is likely shut entirely. I’d still pay dollar-to-dollar to get him.

Kenshin Kawakami was awful in April thanks in large part to an 8 ER outing that closed the month and boosted his ERA to 7.06. As such, he was being mentioned as a candidate for removal from the rotation to be replaced by phenom Tommy Hanson or surprise minor leaguer, Kris Medlen. Alas he was not replaced and he’s responded with a pretty strong May included the best start of his season on Friday night against the league’s best scoring offense. He shut out the Blue Jays for 8 innings matching Roy Halladay pitch for pitch in a 1-0 battle. Kawakami outlasted the uber-ace yielding just 3 hits while striking out 7 and walking nobody. His ERA is back down to a 4.73 and he has managed an impressive 8.2 K/9.

Kyle Farnsworthless is apparently not too keen on the nickname I’ve given him. In fact, I’ve had to table the moniker for a whole month as Farnsworth hasn’t yielded a run since April 21st. He has gone 12 straight appearances spanning 12 and 2/3rds innings striking out 12 and walking just 2. Now is the part where I mention they have lost 8 of those 12 games and 5 of them were by 4 or more runs. Three of the four wins were by 6+ runs. In the 4th win, they were down 5-1 in the top of the 9th when he pitched and they came back to win it 6-5 in the bottom of the 9th. I’ll get to use my nickname again… just as soon as the Royals foolishly insert him into a high leverage situation. Don’t buy this stretch.

Finally, George Sherrill has taken over as the undisputed closer in Baltimore. Forget for a second that Chris Ray has absolutely sucked, the reason is because Sherrill has been very good. A couple of 2-run outings inflated his ERA in April, but he has allowed just one run in eight May appearances bringing his ERA to 3.06. He has 4 SVs and 9 Ks in that same stretch. He has only allowed 9 base runners, but 5 have been via the walk. Sherrill only walked 2 in April so he can exhibit some control from time to time, but regardless you can’t deny how well he has pitched in May. Whether Erik Bedard continues to pitch with a sub-3.00 ERA or not, it is clear that the Baltimore Orioles got more than a fair return for him when they traded with Seattle. I’ve covered two of the pieces coming back just in this show and another, Chris Tillman, is 5-0 with a 2.13 ERA and 44 Ks in eight starts spanning 38 innings in AAA-Norfolk. If the O’s were in just about any other division, they would be contenders by 2010, but in that AL East it is tough to know whether they will have enough firepower to overcome that amazingly deep division.