Boxscore Blast 8/12/09

A daily look around the majors…

A.J. Burnett was lucky to yield just three runs in his six innings of work after allowing 12 base runners. This was due in large part to Toronto’s 1-for-8 performance with runners in scoring position. Burnett struck out seven and escaped with a no-decision as the game ended up going 11.

Robinson Cano has been overshadowed in that deep and explosive Yankee offense, but he had two more hits in five at-bats on Wednesday afternoon and actually dropped his 7-day average from .467 to .452. Regardless, the point is that he is on fire right now and has been almost all season. He is on pace for a career-high 26 home runs and needs just three to break his previous high of 19.

Randy Ruiz, who I mentioned in yesterday’s Blast, hit another home run as he does his best to keep Travis Snider in the minors until September.

Ricky Romero was alright on Wednesday allowing three runs in six innings, but he has definitely hit the rookie wall with a 4.96 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in eight starts dating back to July 6th. This is why I always recommend selling high on rookie arms in non-keeper leagues. I couldn’t trade Rick Porcello quickly enough in the leagues where I had him. Yes, there are exceptions, but as a rule rookies will have a down period spanning 7 to 10 starts and perhaps more if they were doing it with smoke and mirrors. The league makes their adjustments and it is up to the rookie to adjust back.

Mark Ellis had an interesting line Wednesday going 1-for-1 with an RBI and a walk. He didn’t come out early or anything, but he did have a sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly which accounted for his other two at-bats. Definitely different, but not as weird as Bobby Abreu’s line on May 10th against Kansas City: 0-0-0-0. Abreu walked four times that day.

Aubrey Huff was one of biggest surprises in 2008 with his best season since 2004. Anyone betting on another 32 home run season was setting themselves up for failure, but Huff is pacing for a pretty solid season again despite the 50-point dip in batting average and drop in power. He could end the season with 20 home runs and 100 RBIs, which is definitely valuable especially since Huff still went late in most leagues as many realized last year wasn’t sustainable for the 32-year old.

Think Minnesota is regretting their trade with Tampa Bay much these days? Jason Bartlett has emerged as an all around shortstop with a career year at the dish while Matt Garza has been great in both of his seasons with the Rays. Delmon Young, however, sucks. I’m on record in multiple outlets saying he won’t suck forever, but to this point he definitely has. Brendan Harris, the other part going back to Minnesota, has been a complete non-factor as well. Back to Bartlett though, he went 4-for-5 on Wednesday raising his average to .343 and keeping himself right in thick of the AL batting title race. He’s hit .300 before (.309 in 2006) and had a solid .286 last year, but this year has been off the charts.

After a 2-for-3 outing today that including three RBIs and his 9th stolen base of the season, Los Angeles Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick is now hitting .273 which on its own isn’t particularly exciting, especially for Kendrick. But when you look and realize that he’s hitting .373 since the All-Star Break, it’s clear that Kendrick is as hot as his teammates. In fact of the first seven hitters in Wednesday’s lineup, Kendrick’s .273 average is lowest by 24 points behind Mike Napoli’s .297. Vladimir Guerrero is at .299 and the other four (Chone Figgins, Erick Aybar, Bobby Abreu and Kendry Morales) are between .303 and .310.

Is Carlos Pena’s .216 average palatable when stacked against his 31 home runs? I did an article this preseason about batting average anchors and showed that their negative impact is often overblown, but that was with guys hitting .240 – .250 in a full season. Pena is on pace for 563 at-bats so that disgusting .216 average is a killer. On a regular team hitting about .280, a full season Pena’s batting average will take that team down to .275. His power impact will be dependent on the league, but it likely isn’t enough to counterbalance the average hit. If he holds pace and goes 44 HR/110 RBI then the combination impact of the HR and RBI will likely mask the average, but unfortunately the average is so awful this year that it’s basically a zero-sum game with Pena.

I realize it was against Cleveland, but Tommy Hunter was dazzling yet again on Wednesday. He went 7 and 2/3rds shutout innings allowing six hits while striking out five and walking nobody. He is now toting a 2.26 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in nine starts. However, I am here to let you know that it’s being done with a lot of smoke and a few mirrors so I would tread VERY cautiously here. He has a 5.6 K/9 rate and 1.8 K:BB rate portending future trouble. He qualifies as a rookie after just 11 innings last year so my previous comment from earlier holds true: sell high on rookies!

Has there been a better starting pitcher than Josh Beckett since June 20th? He has started 10 times since then and posted a 7-1 record with a 1.88 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 7.8 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. That translates to a 6.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio! There has been so much talk about Roy Halladay’s dominance, Edwin Jackson’s emergence and Zack Greinke’s minute ERA that Beckett somehow gets lost in the shuffle despite the fact that he’s leading all of baseball in wins with 14. The latest outing came against the Tigers on Wednesday as he went seven strong allowing two runs on three hits and one walk while striking out six.

Two of the three hits against Beckett were solo home runs by Carlos Guillen and Marcus Thames. That is literally the only good thing for the Tigers in Wednesday’s game. For the record, Guillen had the third hit, too. The Tigers lineup is Miguel Cabrera-less and they look like the Red Sox did this past weekend against the Yankees.

Mike Lowell & Jason Bay stayed hot and each hit their third home runs of the series. Lowell shouldn’t even be playing except the helmet throwing pansy, Kevin Youkilis, was ejected last night after getting his ass handed to him by Rick Porcello and then suspended for five games starting on Wednesday.

Francisco Liriano allowed a first inning home run to Willie Bloomquist and had two options: immediately walk off the field to the clubhouse and cry himself to sleep or man up and lock the Royals down for the rest of the game. He chose the latter and ended up going seven innings allowing just the Bloomquist home run and two other hits while striking out eight and walk just one. But it was an inferior opponent and his first dominant start in over a month so I wouldn’t get too excited by the outing.

Every Twins starter except Nick Punto had a hit against the Royals. Joe Crede had three and everyone else had just the one.

I formally apologize to any Felix Hernandez owners out there. He’s my ace in my AL Only league and that staff is imploding so it is not surprising that I would finally get a great outing only to have it turn into a no-decision. King Felix threw seven shutout innings allowing six hits, striking out 10 and walking four. His ERA is down to 2.72 on the season. The M’s won a 1-0 thriller in 14 on a Ken Griffey Jr. base hit down the right field line that scored Adrian Beltre.

Speaking of Beltre, he went 3-for-6 on Wednesday raising his average to .390 since returning from injury. He hasn’t really done anything besides that with 0 HR or RBIs, but it’s definitely nice that he’s contributing something upon his return.

After three straight abysmal starts following his perfect game, Mark Buehrle desperately needed his brilliant outing from Wednesday. He went eight shutout innings putting seven men on and striking out three.

I guess you could make a case that Oliver Perez didn’t totally suck in his outing on Wednesday against the Diamondbacks in which he went five-plus innings allowing just one run on six hits and SIX WALKS (!) while striking out seven en route to a no decision. Notice I said didn’t TOTALLY suck. The one run allowed and seven Ks kept it from total suckage.

Gary Sheffield started his first game since August 4th (he pinch hit on Monday and Tuesday) and went 2-for-3 with a run scored.

Here’s a familiar headline: Jon Garland had another solid outing wasted into a no decision. Since June 19th, Garland has allowed more than three earned runs twice in 11 starts and has a 2-4 record to show for it. In that time period, he has lowered his ERA from 5.45 to 4.28.

The Dodgers needed a ninth inning run off of Tim Lincecum to force their league-high 16th extra inning game (tied with Toronto). They ended up losing on a Juan Uribe walk off shot, but they put together a valiant effort considering they were using Jeff Weaver against baseball’s best pitcher.

After a 2-for-5 game, Freddy Sanchez is up to a .324 average since being traded to the Giants. He is a great #2 hitter and if Eugenio Velez is going to keep hitting well in front of him then Pablo Sandoval and Bengie Molina will bat a lot with runners on. This team doesn’t need a ton of offense to be formidable with that dominant staff.

By the way, the aforementioned Lincecum actually lowered his strikeout rate despite fanning seven in eight and two-thirds innings. That’s what happens when you are toting around a 10.9 K/9 rate. The two runs he allowed did manage to drop his ERA a tick from 2.20 to 2.19. He has to be perfect to heavily impact his stats these days, that’s when you know you’re the best.

Welcome back to Atlanta, Adam LaRoche! In his second tour of duty with the Braves, LaRoche is pounding the ball out of the gate. After two home runs on Wednesday, he is up to .371 in 35 at-bats with three homers and seven RBIs. He also had his 7th walk since rejoining the team pushing his on-base percentage up to .488.

Is Martin Prado developing into a keeper in deeper NL Only leagues? Probably not, but he is definitely an unsung hero of the 2009 season that will be on a lot of winning teams as a $1 player. He hit his 8th home run and 24th double on Wednesday pushing his average up to .313 on the season. He hit .320 in 228 at-bats last year so the average looks legitimate, but he doesn’t offer enough anywhere else to merit keeping even as a triple-eligible infielder with a salary almost guaranteed to be below $5 unless he was a waiver pick up that has a set price of $10 like a lot of leagues do.

Adam Dunn knocked two singles in four trips raising his average to .281 on the season. Who would have thought that Washington would be the place that Dunn would get on a career-high pace in batting average and RBIs?? He is also set to keep his 40+ HRs streak intact needing just 10 more. I’ve always been a huge Dunn fan so I love seeing him contribute positively in batting average while delivering his usually awesome power production.

Hunter Pence didn’t appreciate me talking about his lack of RBIs yesterday so he went out and hits two home runs and drove in six. A pair of 3-run homers is always a nice way to jumpstart your numbers back on track. That said, he will need a hot 7-10 stretch to get on a pace that reaches last year’s total of 83.

It has got to be infuriating to own Ricky Nolasco this year. He had an awful start to the season posting a 9.07 ERA in his first nine starts through May. That earned him a quick two week sojourn to AAA. Upon his return on June 7th, Nolasco was the pitcher we saw dominate for the second half of last year posting a 1.91 ERA in five June starts. He stayed relatively strong in July aside from one hiccup, but still managed to shave .75 off of his ERA. He now down from 9.07 to 5.24 entering August. He started the month swimmingly with a pair of seven outings allowing one and two runs respectively before just getting obliterated on Wednesday by the Astros. He allowed 10 runs in 3.3 innings on eight hits and two walks once again tanking his ERA from 4.86 to 5.44. I don’t understand he can be alternately so great and so awful.

I still don’t think Carlos Lee gets enough run as an elite level player. He is about as bankable of a player as there is having delivered 100+ RBIs in five of six seasons, the sixth of which was a 99 RBI performance. After three RBIs on Wednesday, he is on pace to reach 104 in 2009.

The return of Pedro Martinez was nothing special as he went five innings allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out five. He pitched with a lead from the outset and the Phillies were up 12-1 by the 4th inning. Because of his name, he’s probably been picked up by somebody in your league, but even if not I would take a wait-&-see approach and let him pitch another start or two under his belt.

Jimmy Rollins
stayed absurdly with a 2-for-4, 3 RBI effort on Wednesday. I covered Rollins’ emergence since the All-Star Break yesterday, but another huge day allowed him to squeeze into the column again today. Can he threepeat?

Raul Ibanez doesn’t get talked about as much anymore as he has cooled a bit since his unconscious first two months posting an average in the .250s in June, July and nearly midway through August. He hit his first home run since July 26th, his 27th of the season. He was on such a torrid pace early in the season that even with the drought, he is still set to reach 43 by season’s end.

It hasn’t been very pleasant season for Jeff Samardzija thus far and his debut in a starting role didn’t help matters much. He came into the game with a 6.29 ERA and left with a 7.81 after getting torched for seven runs in 3+ innings of work. The 24 year old swingman is taking his lumps the second time through the league after a solid 28 innings of work out of the bullpen in 2008.

Shane Victorino got the two hard parts of a cycle, a triple and a home run, but the biggest headline of his night was when some worthless piece of crap idiot dumped beer on him during a play. I could punch out a 2,000-word tirade on how pathetically stupid this person is, but this isn’t the space for that. It’s just absurd, though. Buying a ticket isn’t a license to be a scumbag idiot.

Adrian Gonzalez
stayed hot with another 2-for-5 outing, but he actually lowered his August batting average to .406. He only has 1 HR this month, but he has raised his average 13 points to .264.

Will Venable had a pair of RBIs on Wednesday giving him 12 for the month. He has been insane this month adding 4 home runs, a .351 average and 1.132 OPS with the RBIs. If he’s available in your league, you might want to ride out the hot streak for as long as it will go.

Perhaps I can just get a cut-&-paste paragraph about Matt Holliday ready on standby. This guy is insane. He had another three hits last night as he does his best to replicate Manny Ramirez’s explosion upon being traded last year. He is a hit away from .500 with the Cardinals going 34-for-70 (.486) with a jaw-dropping 1.319 OPS to match.

Is it me or does it feel like Chris Carpenter has quietly put together a dominant season? He notched his 12th win of the season on Wednesday going seven strong allowing two runs on eight hits while striking out 10 and walking nobody. His ERA is down to 2.27 trailing only Tim Lincecum in all of baseball. Yet it seems only Lincecum, Matt Cain and Dan Haren have been widely discussed in the NL Cy Young picture. Lincecum is the clear front runner, but Carpenter is #2 for me.

Albert Pujols hit his 38th home run. I don’t want to see him walked every at-bat, but the fact that he continues to get pitches blows my mind.

The most interesting thing on the Reds end of last night’s game was Chris Dickerson’s 3 hits… whoop-de-do!!

You can’t stop Ubaldo Jimenez, you can only hope to contain him. OK, that’s not entirely true. He’s having a very good season, but nothing off the charts. He threw eight shutout innings allowing three hits while striking out six and walking four en route to his 10th win of the season.

Carlos Gonzalez has been white-hot this month and hit his 4th home run of the season on Wednesday. He has a .448/.485/.793 line for the month with two home runs and five RBIs. He is still just 23 and was unfairly written after falling on his face during his first month after being called up in June which totaled a whopping 62 at-bats.

Troy Tulowitzki had two more hits giving him a .366 average for August. He’s been insanely hot for the last three months posting better than an 1.000 OPS in each month. This is as good an example as any to show that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Tulowitzki was hitting .226 after May; he’s up to .278 now.

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