Sultan of swing (USAT)
I can understand why Mitch Moreland's name doesn't move the needle in a lot of roto circles. He's been a solid but somewhat forgettable bat over the last few years, a part-time power source with a so-so average and a platoon deficiency. In the typical mixer, you need to shoot for a higher upside.
That established, maybe Moreland's career arc is finally ready to pay the bill. Moreland is owned in just 21 percent of Yahoo! leagues as Closing Time goes to press - I'd like to see that number fixed over the next 24-48 hours.
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Moreland's power stroke has been on full display this month, as he's clouted six homers in his last nine games. He already has three taters in the Oakland series, including a pair Tuesday. He's carrying a .296/.347/.578 slash for the year, with nine homers over 39 games (that's a 37 pace). Those numbers at least force you to open the argument.
The Rangers have a different view of Moreland in 2013: they're letting him play against all kinds of pitching. While the obvious small-sample caveat applies, Moreland hasn't looked overmatched against left-handers, posting a .281/.333/.456 slash versus them. Ron Washington is viewing Moreland as a full-time player, and that's a game-changer in the mixed-league environment. Moreland has also nudged his strikeout and walk rates in the right direction, a key point to note (remember, he's no longer shielded from the platoon disadvantage).
Moreland has two other obvious factors in his favor: he's in the midst of his Age-27 season, and he plays his home games at the Arlington jet stream (career OPS: .835). This is what a growth season looks like, and the time to buy is now. Start auditing your waiver wire, gamers.
• Clayton Kershaw was the story at Chavez Ravine on Tuesday night. The ace lefty worked 8.2 brilliant, scoreless innings against Washington (5 H, 1 BB, 11 K), trimming his ERA to 1.40. There's no finer way to spend an evening than watching Kershaw, accompanied by Vin Scully. Have a look at the dazzling video.
But when the lefty needed relief help in the ninth, on the heels of 132 pitches, Don Mattingly didn't mess around. His team entered the game on a 2-9 skid, of course, and is renting the basement of the NL West. Kenley Jansen came on for the final out, a four-pitch strikeout, and lefty Paco Rodriguez was also warm in the bullpen. Brandon League never got out of his seat.
Has the closer baton been passed for good? Let's check in with Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
In an interesting subplot, one day after manager Don Mattingly said that struggling Brandon League was still his closer, Mattingly brought in the overpowering Kenley Jansen to save the game. Jansen has struck out 13 in his last six innings.
"In that game, I had to go with the guy who's throwing the ball best; as much as anything he's been throwing the ball better than anybody," said Mattingly, who was lustily booed by the sellout crowd for bringing in anybody to relieve Kershaw.
Mattingly wouldn't say that Jansen is his closer, even though he never warmed up League.
There's no competition with respect to the numbers - Jansen has been electric (2.25 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 5 BB, 28 K) while League has been a mess (6.28/1.40, 4 BB, 7 K). League has somehow skated through eight of nine save chances. He's also been scored upon in seven of nine appearances.
Jansen has been owned in the most competitive of leagues for most, if not all, of the season. He's tagged at 66 percent right now. Eventually, all the fifth dentists will recommend Trident, too.
I don't blame anyone who holds League for a little while longer, mind you. The fact that he's outclassed in this bullpen doesn't necessarily mean he can't get another ninth-inning look. And Jansen has dealt with injury concerns in the past. But given the desperate state of things in LA, it sure looks like Jansen is going to get the ball in the critical moments going forward. The Dodgers can't keep digging a hole for themselves.
Shoot that poison arrow (ABC)• It took a while but Fernando Rodney finally got it right, a shutdown inning against the Red Sox for the handshake. Jonny Gomes, Will Middlebrooks and Stephen Drew all went down swinging (surely Drew stayed up all night wondering why he didn't take the third strike instead). Rappin' Rodney now has 21 punchouts to go with his 11 walks over 14.2 innings. If the K rate stays in this area, maybe he can dodge the walk problem.
James Loney stayed relevant, slapping two hits and scoring a run. He's up to .381 on the year with almost as many walks (10) as strikeouts (12), and while the BABIP is in outer space, so is that 34.7 percent line-drive rate. Perhaps Loney is back to the solid player we saw in the 2007-2011 pocket, when he'd bat for a plus average and hit a homer every other week. A calf problem and an early-season slump crashed his 2012 season before it ever got started.
• The Royals took BP in Anaheim on Monday and the Angels returned the favor a night later, clubbing four homers off an ineffective Jeremy Guthrie. Mike Trout (homer, steal) has been sizzling for a while, but it was encouraging to see slumping Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton reach the seats. Howie Kendrick also homered.
Jason Vargas has been passable in his four OC turns (3.14/1.19) despite a so-so K/BB rate. His ERA is over five on the road. He's worth considering Sunday at home against the White Sox.
• Heath Bell needed a territory-marking handshake after the weekend meltdown and he came up with it, striking out two of three Phillies in a painless ninth. David Hernandez struck out the side in the eighth, dodging a single, and Patrick Corbin posted seven bagels despite spotty command. I'm on board with Corbin's mixed-league relevance, but no way I'm trusting him in Colorado next week.
Eric Chavez collected two singles and a walk and is a handy deep-league rental when the Snakes face right-handed opponents. Arizona doesn't see a lefty for the balance of the week, and will probably draw two righties in the Coors Field series.