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Closing Time: Chris Iannetta makes his move

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I had plenty of Chris Iannetta shares in 2008, 2009 and 2010, but I more or less washed my hands of him entering 2011. And he seems ready to make me pay for that folly.

Iannetta factored in both Colorado runs during Monday's 2-1 victory over the Mets, scoring a run in the fifth and then cranking a solo homer in the seventh. He's had three multiple-hit games in his last four, hiking up his average to .247. His other surface stats — the ones we use for roto purposes — are decent, not great: five homers, 14 runs, 13 RBIs. He's stolen a base.

Add it all up and it's a solid if unspectacular start; useful stats for a catcher. And with Coors Field still a good place to hit, albeit no longer Disneyland, I'm surprised Iannetta is only owned in 15 percent of Yahoo! leagues as we go to press. No one wants to take a stab on an age-28 season?

Iannetta's got some interesting trends emerging in his plate discipline stats. His walk and strikeout rates are both through the roof (20 free passes, 27 punchouts), in part because he's offering at a lot less pitches; he's cutting at 35 percent of the pitches he sees in 2011, down from a steady 45-percent rate before this year. His contact rate on strike-zone pitches remains unchanged, but he's been burned some when he fishes out of the zone. His overall swinging-strike percentage has gone down.

Perhaps those curious swinging stats are tied to the fact that Iannetta has been buried in the Colorado lineup all year. He's batted eighth just about the entire season, though he was moved up to seventh in the order Monday (in front of scuffling Ian Stewart; it's time for the Rockies to bench Stewart and give Justin, the batboy, a start). The No. 8 spot is a death sentence in most NL lineups, batting in front of the pitcher; perhaps that partially explains Iannetta's walk spike. Maybe Jim Tracy will accept at some point that he doesn't really have seven hitters in his lineup better than Iannetta.

You also wonder if the Rockies messed with Iannetta's head a little bit over the last two years, jerking him in and out of the lineup and even demoting him to the minors early in 2010. He's got extra job security this time around, and for all the wonders of stats and formulas, we have to remember the game isn't played by algorithms. Human beings drive the results.

It's far too late for me to grab Iannetta in any of my groups, but again, this is a player with a 15-percent tag. Many of you can get in on this. Make the point-and-click. I'd rather have Iannetta than J.P. Arencibia (35 percent owned), Carlos Ruiz (30 percent), or Nick Hundley (23 percent), and he's in the neighborhood of Kurt Suzuki, John Buck, and Jorge Posada. Have a look around.

• There isn't a lot of utility to discussing Trevor Cahill extensively in this column — he's 92 percent owned and throwing gem after gem, to the point that it's only news if something bad happens to him. And who wants to root for one of Chris Liss's pitchers, anyway? But it was a light Monday slate and I know we have a vocal Cahill lobby, so we'll throw you a bone.

Cahill was superb at Arlington on Monday (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K), racking up his fifth win in a row. He's still got the dreamy ground-ball rate and the superb control, and now he's striking out people as well (7.5 K/9). He's got a chance to be in the Cy Young discussion all year; this looks like Brandon Webb 2.0, a heavy ball with constant movement. I thought I ranked Cahill fairly optimistically before the season, but apparently I didn't go far enough. To those out in front of Cahill's strikeout spike, I salute you.

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• The Al Alburquerque story keeps playing for the Men of Motown — Jim Leyland's middle reliever posted two scoreless innings at Toronto, walking one and striking out four. It's easier to spell "Alburquerque" then it is to hit his nasty slider — he's racked up a ridiculous 22 strikeouts over 12.1 innings, and he's also got a heavy ground-ball rate. Control has always been the bugaboo with him — he walked almost five men per nine innings in Double-A last year — but he's trimmed that down to a more-acceptable 4.37 this season.

There's a good reason why we don't like chasing last year's middle-relief heroes for roto purposes; new ones constantly come out of nowhere. Alburquerque appears to be one of this year's models, and he's currently available in 99 percent of Yahoo! groups.

Speed Round: If you're looking for our latest Travis Wood propaganda, I direct you to Mr. Brandon Funston, right here. Listen to B-Fun, he hits all the right conclusions, and they're lessons worth absorbing even if you don't have a stake in Wood. … Austin Jackson is sorry to leave Toronto; he collected eight hits and six RBIs in the four-game set, pushing his average up to .221. … It was status Kuo in the LA bullpen at Pittsburgh — Hong-Chih Kuo didn't have it again. The Pirates hit two eighth-inning doubles off Kuo to break open a close game; with that, Don Mattingly went to Mike MacDougal. Pseudo-closer Vicente Padilla gained some leash simply by not pitching; he was probably unavailable anyway after pitching Sunday. … No one understands the Edwin Jackson matrix. The Angels certainly couldn't solve him Monday (7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K). If the White Sox stick to their six-man rotation plans, Jackson is done for the week; if something else comes about, he'll work Sunday at Oakland. … Zack Greinke was sharper in his second turn, working six strong frames in a win over San Diego (5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 9 K). Mat Latos had his normal, frustrating line on the other side (5.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 4 K). … The Astros batted J.R. Towles second, a crazy move which basically suggests that 40 good at-bats in 2011 should erase an extended sample of suckiness (.203/.290/.351). Towles went 0-for-4 and stranded six runners. … Javier Vazquez threw batting practice to the Phillies (9 H, 6 R, 5 ER) and didn't strike anyone out. Good luck finding a way to defend him. … The Red Sox worked extra innings before dispatching the Twins on another Carl Crawford walkoff hit. Just call him Mr. May. … Luke Scott intends to play through his torn labrum injury; he'll have it fixed after the season. Apparently it's more of a bother to him when he throws, not when he bats. … Vernon Wells played half of Monday's game before departing with a strained groin. … The big-name Marlins might not be producing, but Gaby Sanchez sure is. He collected three more hits Monday, including a homer, and is up to .341/.423/.550. … Kendrys Morales will get a second opinion on his troublesome ankle Tuesday.


Images courtesy Associated Press

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