There wasn't a dominant theme to be gleaned from Thursday's sandlot action, so this is one of those catch-all comments that goes straight to the bulletry. As the great Scott Cole used to say, they can't all be Picassos – sometimes you need a color-by-numbers job.
• It's nice to see a pitcher with a strong walk/strikeout ratio, but it's not everything. Consider the case of Scott Baker(notes), Minnesota right-hander. He's rolled up 42 strikeouts against just three walks over his seven turns, and yet he's been knocked around in five of those starts. Is it possible to be around the plate too much? Or are Baker's elbow problems greater than he's letting on?
Baker's latest frustrating outing came Thursday at Toronto, where the Blue Jays got him for five runs and two homers over six innings. The gopher ball is a running problem for Baker – he's given up 10 round-trippers over this seven-game stretch. Is it time to accept that this guy is a borderline starter in mixed leagues? He had a pedestrian 4.37 ERA last year and it's up to 4.87 in 2010.
If you look under the hood with Baker's statistics, you can talk yourself into a second-half comeback. His HR/FB rate is at 12.1 percent, not crazy but certainly over the league average. His BABIP looks unlucky at .335, though Baker is making some of that bad luck by allowing line drives 23.3 percent of the time. He's taken reasonable advantage of his home park (3.28 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) but he's routinely getting pounded on the road (6.66 ERA, 1.56 WHIP). If I owned Baker in any kind of daily league, I'd stream him in and out of the lineup based on the opponent and location, assuming the elbow situation doesn't take a turn for the worse.
And while I'm discussing baseball in the Twin Cities, was 2009's power show just a fluke for Joe Mauer(notes)? We're halfway through the season and he's carrying a .297/.371/.431 line, along with four measly homers (none at home) and an .802 OPS. For most catchers that's a reasonable year, but it pales in comparison to what Mauer gave us in his MVP season. I suppose some of those 24 doubles could hop the fence in the second half, but I'm not expecting him to be a first-round pick again next year.
(To be 100 percent clear, I love Minneapolis and its people. Spent a very enjoyable winter there in the mid-90s, the same year Bobby Jackson and the Gophers decided they could walk on water. If you find yourself in the area, do yourself a favor and grab a meal here.)
• I missed out on Andres Torres(notes) – he's been gone in all of my leagues for a considerable amount of time – but apparently he's not the most trusted name in most public leagues. How can this guy be owned in less than 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues as we go into Friday's play? What more do you need to see from Torres? The San Francisco ignitor is doing a little bit of everything these days, collecting 13 hits, 13 runs, three homers, six walks and six steals over his past 11 games. I can't come to your house and do the point-and-click for you; find a spot for Torres, please.
Torres had plenty of help as the Giants stomped Milwaukee on Thursday, kicking Manny Parra(notes) back to the waiver wire in many leagues. Freddy Sanchez(notes) is doing a tidy job in the No. 2 slot (5-2-3-2 line here), Aubrey Huff(notes) hit another homer (this is basically 2008 revisited) and Buster Posey(notes) (.336, six homers) continues to hit like an established veteran, not a baby-faced kid.
• The Orioles picked up an upset victory in Texas, with frisky Felix Pie(notes) leading the way (homer, HBP). My quirky belief in Corey Patterson(notes) is well known, but I get the idea Pie is eventually going to get a shot at the leadoff spot. Jeremy Guthrie(notes) struggled with his start (4.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R), but the Baltimore bullpen did an impressive lockdown job, shutting out the Rangers on just two hits. Alfredo Simon(notes) had a pain-free and smooth final inning, working around an error and throwing just 10 pitches. Matt Wieters(notes) received a day off Thursday, because carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders is rather difficult.
• There's nothing much new to say about Roy Oswalt(notes) (one-hitter over Pittsburgh) or John Danks(notes) (two-hitter over the Angels). They're good, you use them, they post numbers, you feel all happy inside. I'm guessing Oswalt has a better than 50 percent chance of being dealt before the July 31 deadline; there were plenty of scouts in the crowd Thursday.
• Nothing complicated about San Diego's rout of Washington: Mat Latos(notes) threw seven bagels (5 H, 2 BB, 8K while the Padres offense came up with four homers (Chase Headley(notes), Kid Hairston, Chris Denorfia(notes) and Latos, oddly enough). The Friars head to Colorado for the weekend and the ball has really been jumping at Coors of late, so you might want to look for a San Diego bat floating on the waiver wire, maybe Headley or one of the Hairstons or Chris Iannetta(notes), if you can figure out when he's going to play. They'll miss Ubaldo Jimenez(notes), too.
• The home-and-road splits tell the story for Anibal Sanchez(notes) this year – he's got a tidy 2.50 ERA at Florida but the number swells to 4.75 on the road. His latest out-of-state shellacking came Thursday at Arizona, as the Diamondbacks got their rattle on to the tune of 15 hits and 10 runs. The Marlins begin a homestead right after the All-Star break, so we can take Sanchez off the restricted list.
Mark Reynolds(notes) was the only Arizona starter who didn't get a hit; he's down to .216 on the year. His power stats are still in a good place, but he hasn't maintained last year's interest in running (5-for-7 on the bases, as opposed to 24-for-33). Streaky Kelly Johnson(notes) is on a 10-for-24 binge since Kirk Gibson took over (almost certainly a coincidence), with eight RBIs.
Injury Blog: Planet Manny will start a minor-league rehab assignment Saturday and if all goes well, he'll be back with the Dodgers on the 15th. I still have little faith in a smooth second half here; if you feel otherwise, make your case in the comments. … Robinson Cano(notes) (back) returned to work, going 2-for-4 with a walk at Safeco. … Matt LaPorta(notes) (head) received another day off as the Indians continue to be cautious with their young power hitter. … Brad Hawpe(notes) (ribs) picked up his first start in over a week, going 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. … Josh Beckett(notes) gets a rehab start at Triple-A on Sunday and will throw about 80 pitches. The team wants him to make at least two starts in the minors. … Although the Twins consider Justin Morneau's(notes) concussion to be minor, it's not clear yet if he'll play this weekend. … Nick Johnson(notes) has hit a setback in his rehab. I'm not going to make a cheap joke here, but I'm sure everyone else is. Go ahead, take your best shot.
Speed Round: Joey Votto(notes) celebrated his All-Star berth with a homer, while AL All Star Nick Swisher(notes) went 4-for-4 at Seattle. … Dexter Fowler(notes) doesn't have his base-stealing stride just yet (he's 2-for-4 since his recall), but everything else continues to go according to plan. He reached base three times Thursday and scored another run. Enjoy three more home games on the weekend. … The Phillies bullpen looks back to normal – Ryan Madsen blew a lead in the eighth inning against Cincinnati and Brad Lidge(notes) blew a save in the ninth. The Phils took the game in the 12th anyway, in part because Jose Contreras(notes) and Nelson Figueroa(notes) combined for three scoreless innings. … Clayton Kershaw's(notes) curve (12 whiffs) and Vin Scully's descriptions, it doesn't get much better than that. I suppose Chicago fans might disagree. Rafael Furcal(notes) continues to kill it, hitting the game-deciding homer and adding a stolen base. … Lance Berkman(notes) is doing all he can to enhance his trade value - five homers in four games.
There's a lot of Jose Bautista(notes) angst out there and I don't really understand it. I don't care what his average is – when you reach base 36 percent of the time and you slug .544, you're a valuable player. Bautista whacked his 23rd homer of the year in the win over Minnesota, while Adam Lind(notes) added his second homer of the week. … Aramis Ramirez(notes) has finally woken up, going 6-for-13 with three homers and a double over the last three games. … David Aardsma(notes) picked up his second loss of July, allowing two ninth-inning runs to the Yanks (A-Rod played the hero again, much to the chagrin of his former home fans). Andy Pettitte(notes) went eight strong innings for the win, while Jason Vargas(notes) (seven innings, one run) had to settle for a no-decision. … Michael Brantley(notes) and Andy Marte(notes) homered at Tampa but otherwise not much else went right for the Indians at Tampa. If you want to read about this in the Cleveland papers, I'm guessing you should flip to page D-13. … Here's your morning Cliff Lee(notes) rumor: apparently the Yankees are closing in.