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Mostly MLB Notes: Talking Matt Kemp's revival and a look around the league

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Matt Kemp has been on fire lately. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Matt Kemp has five homers (and a steal) over his past seven games and has raised his OPS 65 points over the past two weeks, a span in which he’s been a top-10 fantasy player. It’s taken longer than expected, but it looks like he’s back to being fully healthy and again a major fantasy asset (albeit one unlikely to ever approach a 40/40 season like he did in 2011 again). Kemp’s 27.1 LD% is the fourth-highest in MLB, and he’s yet to hit a popup this season while having to face the highest average fastball velocity (92.4 mph) by opposing pitchers among all hitters. Still just 29 years old, Kemp looks poised to pay major dividends down the stretch to fantasy owners who gambled on him.

Albert Pujols, who was once one of the best base runners in the game, now moves like me, but this throw by Manny Machado was still about as good as it gets

Here’s Yasiel Puig scoring from second base on a fielder’s choice

Speaking of Pujols and Puig, here’s an entertaining exchange involving them both

Quick Hits: There’s little doubt David Wright’s power has been in decline, but his current .388 slugging percentage is easily the lowest of his career and ranks behind Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon and Kurt Suzuki. After being successful on 17 of his 20 stolen base attempts last season, Wright has been caught on four of nine in 2014 and is currently the No. 174 ranked fantasy player. It’s probably just a down year for the 31-year-old (he had a .904 OPS last season), but that’s not any consolation to his owners…After 11 starts while entering June, Dan Haren’s ERA sat at 3.28. It’s now 4.76, as he’s allowed 26 earned runs over his past five starts (all losses), a span in which he’s also served up six homers and walked nine batters over 23.1 innings. His average fastball velocity (87.6 mph) is easily the lowest of his career, as is his K-BB% (12.2) and SwStr% (6.8). If that’s not bad enough, Haren was also thrown out during a “hit” by a right fielder for the second time this season during his last start…Here’s Yan Gomes’ odd doubleMatt Garza had allowed just three runs over his previous three starts (21.0 innings) and had yielded two runs or fewer in five of his past six starts (despite pitching in a home park that’s increased homers by 23 percent over the past three seasons, which is the fifth most in baseball) before aggravating an oblique injury that may keep him out of action for a significant amount of time...Jimmy Rollins is playing a tough shortstop position that historically ages poorly, but he’s somehow on pace to finish with 83 runs scored, 22 homers, 71 RBI and 32 steals. The 35-year-old has been the fourth-most-valuable fantasy shortstop this season.

There’s been a lot of bad poker “beats,” and here’s the latest worst one

Here’s Bubba Watson driving a golf ball 424 yards (his next shot was a five-iron on a par five hole that’s 667 yards, although he still managed to score a bogey on it). 

This scene from last week's “Nathan For You” episode killed me

Here are two highly entertaining local news segments. The first involving a Michigan man who hosted the party of the century, and the second involving a kid who “apparently” knows how to give a great interview

Quick Hits Part Deux: John Lackey had a 3.6 K:BB ratio despite pitching in a home park that’s increased run scoring by 10 percent over the past three seasons, which is the third most in the majors. Lackey will no longer have to face a DH and now pitches in a home park that’s decreased runs by eight percent over the past three seasons, so it’s safe to say his trade to the Cardinals is a boost to his fantasy value…Javier Baez has been called up after posting a 1.046 OPS and hitting 12 homers over his past 40 games in Triple-A, and while that’s come in the hitter-friendly PCL, that’s mitigated by the fact he’s just 21 years old (the average age difference in this league is 5.6 years younger). Baez is a BA risk, but he’s a must-own at this point in all fantasy leagues…This A.J. Burnett ejection seemed a bit unnecessary...One of the biggest fantasy busts of 2014 entering July, Eric Hosmer batted .366/.425/.535 last month (although that came with a modest two homers and one steal), so just while his jilted fantasy owners were feeling better, the first baseman broke his right hand, which is expected to sideline him 4-6 weeks. Hosmer has been the No. 228 ranked fantasy player this season, so feel free to drop him…After leaving his last start early with continued problems with his elbow, Cliff Lee is highly unlikely to pitch again this season, even if Tommy John surgery isn’t the answer. It’s pretty incredible he still managed a 6:1 K:BB ratio while clearly pitching hurt this season; his still respectable 3.65 ERA will go down as his highest since 2007…The A’s have been shut out five times this season, with four of those coming during Sonny Gray starts.

Headlines Of The Week: Sabina Altynbekova Is Too Beautiful To Play Volleyball, Critics SayDrunk Passenger Attacked Plane Crew With False LegJetstar Apologizes After Crew Member Advises Passengers To Flush Their DrugsBlogger Fired From Language School Over 'Homophonia.'Five-year-old Mayor Loses Re-election In Minnesota To 16-Year-Old...China: Married Man Visits Doctor With ‘Period Pains’ – And Learns He’s FemaleWoman Finds Ikea Bags Stuffed With 80 Skeletons...Experimental Drug Likely Saved Ebola Patients.

Quick Hits Part Tres: Over his last eight games, Josh Harrison is batting .444 with five homers, 12 runs scored, seven RBI and two stolen bases (making him the most valuable fantasy player over this span by a wide margin). He was a non-entity entering the year having never posted an OPS of even .700, but Harrison has impressed all season even before this stretch, and the worry of him losing playing time with the Pirates infield getting healthy has gone away with Pedro Alvarez apparently unable to continue playing third base (he has 24 errors (23 of which have come via throwing) and has been benched for the foreseeable future). Harrison has a .304-48-10-38-13 line over just 312 ABs this year, making him one of the most valuable middle infielders…Mike Minor, who had a 3.21 ERA and 1.09 WHIP last season, currently sports a 5.42 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. His 1.06 GB/FB ratio is a career high, while his average FB velocity (90.5 mph) and slider velocity (85.2) are both right in line with his career marks. Then again, Minor’s SwStr% is way down (7.0), so this can’t all be bad luck. Minor has been one of the biggest fantasy busts among starters who’ve stayed healthy this season (although maybe he’s never truly recovered from the injury that sidelined him at the beginning of the year)…Here’s a double play in which I’ve never seen…After a shutout in New York, here’s an updated tally regarding Madison Bumgarner’s home/road splits: he has a 5.60 ERA and 1.56 WHIP while pitching at the terrifying AT&T Park that’s decreased run scoring by an MLB high 14 percent since PETCO Park moved its fences in (over the past three seasons). Meanwhile, he’s posted a 1.58 ERA and 0.91 WHIP on the road while pitching 29.2 more innings. Go figure. 

Police Blotter: Police Respond To Report Of Gun, Northampton Man Tells Officers Only ‘Guns’ Present Are His BicepsMan Leaves Phone At Break-In, Calls To Ask For It Back, Authorities SayPolice: Naked Intruder Fell Asleep In Couple’s BedPolice: Man Put Needles In Meat At Grocery Store ‘For The Hell Of It’Man Sentenced For Driving Drunk With 100 Chickens In Car.

Quick Hits Part Four: After hitting 23 homers over 125 games despite playing half his games in PETCO Park as a rookie last season, Jedd Gyorko was given a big contract extension, and he rewarded the Padres with a .162/.213/.270 line and one of the three lowest WAR marks in MLB before going on the disabled list in early June. He’s clubbed two homers and recorded seven RBI over seven games since returning, while also walking as many times as striking out. The Padres are also suddenly scoring far more runs, so no one should be surprised if Gyorko is a top-eight fantasy second baseman over the rest of the year…James Paxton had a 13:2 K:BB ratio while allowing just three runs over 12.0 innings to open the year against an Angels team that currently ranks No. 2 in runs scored in MLB. That was a long time ago and obviously a small sample, but Paxton is back (he only lasted 4.1 innings during his return start, but he limited the Orioles to two runs in Baltimore while striking out five, so it wasn’t a total disaster). Everyone should expect Paxton’s 2.76 ERA or 0.92 WHIP to regress, but his 21.0 K-BB% and 12.0 SwStr% suggest he should be owned in all formats…Bryce Harper’s has disappointed with injuries in the past, but the bigger problem this season has been his performance when on the field. Of course, Harper is still just 22 years old with a bunch of talent and shouldn’t be counted out moving forward, but if you prorated his output this season over 150 games you’d get this: .254-62-9-41-3. Harper hasn’t homered since July 18 and hasn’t stolen a base since April 20…Michael Brantley and Brett Gardner have hit a combined 31 homers over 825 at bats this season. They entered the year with a combined 49 home runs over 3,891 at bats during their careers.

It’s safe to say I haven’t been this pumped for a fight in a long time

I found this article to be bizarre. Its stance that 1994’s “The Scout” has the dumbest baseball movie ending of all time is absolutely correct, but the reason for it is a bit different than most would expect, to say the least. In case you haven’t seen this movie (actually, it’s more of a “film”), here’s the breakdown. Making his major league debut in Game 1 of the World Series, Steve Nebraska not only pitches a perfect game, he does so while striking out all 27 batters while throwing the minimum 81 pitches (his final one clocking in at 112 mph, knocking down both the catcher and umpire). Oh, and he also accounted for the only runs of the game with his bat, hitting two home runs despite the DH being available. Pretty insane right? Well what the writer here (I won’t quibble with him saying Nebraska “leads the Yankees to the World Series” and calling it Game 7 (again, he was making his MLB debut in Game 1)) finds most outrageous is that Ozzie Smith is the final hitter of the game, and he “hit a grand total of 28 home runs” (including just three the season this movie was released he continues, also noting Smith’s career .262 BA). Considering this was a perfect game, a shaky hitter like that probably would be batting, you know, ninth right? Of all the insane aspects of this movie’s ending (Nebraska flew in on a helicopter, and the catcher inexplicably calls for a curveball on the final pitch, as if his fastball wasn’t exactly good enough over the previous 80 consecutive strikes), this writer chooses to criticize this? I’m now more confused than ever.

Longreads of the Week: The Down And Dirty History Of TMZ  and Run And Gun: How Javaris Crittenton Went From Basketball Phenom To Standing Trial On A Murder Charge.

Quick Hits Part five: Albert Pujols has hit into 19 double plays this season, while Curtis Granderson is the only hitter who qualifies who’s yet to hit into a single one this season…Anibal Sanchez has a 3.37 ERA despite the worst LOB% (63.5) in MLB. In fact, among the bottom-25 starting pitchers in LOB%, Sanchez’s ERA is the lowest. Of course, his MLB-low 3.3 HR/FB% has plenty to do with it…Brandon McCarthy has a 2.89 xFIP that ranks in the top-10 among all starters. That’s fine if you don’t love this stat (I don’t), but realize that among the top-20 in this category, Hyun-Jin Ryu’s 3.39 ERA is the highest. Except of course for McCarthy, who currently sports a 4.37 ERA…Garrett Richards has thrown 21 wild pitches. No other pitcher in baseball has thrown more than 13. Johnny Cueto has thrown zero…Yovani Gallardo has faced 561 batters this season and has induced four infield fly balls…According to Fangraphs, Ian Kennedy’s fastball has been the second most valuable pitch this season, behind only Felix Hernandez’s changeup…Over 90.2 innings this year, Koji Uehara and Huston Street have a combined 100.0 LOB%...Bryan Morris has committed the most blown saves (seven) among all relievers. He’s also 7-0…David Hale is the only pitcher in baseball with a negative K-BB% (-2.3)…Yasiel Puig owns an MLB-high .379 BABIP (.381 for his career) yet oddly sports the third lowest LD% (14.9) in all of baseball.

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