July 10, 2010
I spent most of the early Friday evening working on the Cliff Lee trade analysis and as it turned out I missed Stephen Strasburg's(notes) victory over San Francisco. And that's a crying shame, because there isn't much Strasburg left to see this season.
Jim Riggleman made it clear on Friday – Strasburg is getting 160 innings in total for 2010 and then it's operation shutdown. Strasburg's six-inning stint Friday gets the odometer to 98 – he's thrown 42.2 innings since joining the Nationals, and 55.1 in his minor league stops. Given that the Nationals have yet to push Strasburg past 96 pitches in any of his starts, we're probably looking at 10 more turns before we have to say goodbye.
If you map out Strasburg to work every fifth day (and for the Nationals to skip their fifth starter where possible), his final start will come on Sept. 1 at Florida. Even if some kinks get thrown into that mix, it's pretty much a lock Strasburg Mania will not be conflicting with the kickoff of the NFL Season. If you're playing in a head-to-head format, start planning now – as useful as Strasburg is at the moment, he won't be around to help you secure a title.
• It's easy to pick on Dusty Baker when things go wrong in Cincinnati, but you really can't blame him for Friday's stomach-puncher in Philadelphia. Mike Leake(notes) mowed the Phillies down over eight innings and had a reasonable pitch count, so it was a logical move to keep him out for the ninth; alas, he ran out of gas and needed relief help. Baker can't be blamed for how Francisco Cordero(notes) (wildness, blown save) and Arthur Rhodes(notes) (hit, homer) spit the bit.
Ryan Howard(notes) ended the game in the tenth with a walk-off homer off Rhodes, and for all the controversy surrounding Howard's appointment to the NL All-Star team, let's appreciate that the big man is having a fine year. Sure, his power is down thus far and he's walked less this season, but what's so terrible about a .299 average, 55 runs, 17 homers and 65 RBIs? At times I wonder if Howard's contract extension is earning him unfair scrutiny in some circles; just because the Phillies probably overpaid Howard with the deal does not mean we should stop appreciating what this guy contributes on a yearly basis.
• How do we spin the Francisco Liriano(notes) slump, gamers? The Tigers hammered him for the second meeting in a row on Friday, putting up six hits and seven runs in the opening two innings; Liriano headed to the showers after recording a piddly five outs. Liriano sympathizers will credit the Tigers for the outburst – Detroit's been just about unbeatable at home over the last six weeks – and shrug it off. The skeptics in the crowd worry about Liriano's injury history and the fact that he's never thrown more than 136.2 innings in a major league season (to be fair, he got to 199.1 innings, majors and minors combined, in 2008). I liked Liriano as a possible sell-high a week or two ago, but now the timing is all messed up. Even if you want to trade him, you probably have to wait until he throws another strong game and rights the ship a bit.
• Baltimore looked headed for a sure loss during Friday's game at Arlington, but a surprising comeback in the ninth – four runs against lights-out closer Neftali Feliz(notes) – extended the game and the O's finished the job in the tenth. Roto Arcade mascot Corey Patterson(notes) had the big blow, a grand slam in the ninth off Feliz; anytime you can stream a left-handed bat in this park, it's probably a good idea (looking at you, Jayson Nix(notes)). Jake Fox(notes) provided the final run, a solo homer in the top of the tenth. It would be groovy if the Orioles can find regular at-bats for Fox, who has faux-catcher eligibility in the Yahoo! game. Alfredo Simon(notes) ended the proceedings with a creamy-smooth 1-2-3 inning. Baltimore's two-game winning streak will probably be ended by Cliff Lee Saturday night.
• I've heard the argument that Franklin Gutierrez(notes) deserved a spot on the AL All-Star roster, but that sounds ridiculous to me. I know he's amazing in the field, but he's got a .260/.334/.395 line at the plate, and he's a .209 stick since June 1. Defense was a grossly underrated commodity in the majors for years, but I wonder if we've gone too far in an attempt to account for it.
• Coors Field is definitely showing its teeth over the last few weeks. We've seen 143 runs scored in the last 10 games at Colorado (78 for the hosts, 65 for the visitors), and Colorado has 11 hits or more on every game in the current homestand. Not everyone was invited to the 10-run party on Friday night – Dexter Fowler(notes), Brad Hawpe(notes) and Clint Barmes(notes) all took a collar – but there was plenty left over, as Ian Stewart(notes) clocked two homers (one a grand slam) and Carlos Gonzalez(notes) hammered his 16th over the wall. Have fun with the next two Colorado games because the Coors Field kids start an 11-game road trip after the break, though the last four games are at another run-friendly venue, Philadelphia.
Just how much is Luke Gregerson's(notes) back bothering him? He was knocked around Friday for the fourth consecutive appearance; add them all up and we're looking at seven runs (and two homers) over 2.2 innings. Then again, it's no big surprise when middle-relief heroes quickly slide back to mixed-league zeroes. Look at what's happened to the overworked Tyler Clippard(notes) in Washington recently. And also note that Evan Meek(notes) and Cincinnati's Rhodes took losses on Friday.
• Is it time to lose Ricky Romero's(notes) number? The emerging lefty has hit the skids in his last two turns – the Red Sox got him for nine runs Friday (five earned), the Yankees got him for eight last weekend – and it's been over a month since he struck out more than five men in a start. As impressive as he was over his first 11 starts, keep in mind he didn't face Boston or New York in that run. Now it's a matter of making adjustments – teams seem to have adjusted to him – and handling the spike in innings that he's facing this season. I still think he can maintain an ERA in the high threes for the balance of the year, but it's always dangerous to own a lot of AL East pitchers, especially if they're not on one of the playoff-contending clubs (and therefore getting to skip one of the tougher assignments). I'll rerank all the starting pitchers next week during the break; right now, off the cuff, Romero feels like a pitcher in the $15-16 range.
Injury Blog: Jake Peavy(notes) will have surgery on his right shoulder next Wednesday and hopes to be back throwing by spring training. Crummy timing for the injury, as he had turned his season around. … Andres Torres(notes) opened the Strasburg game with a homer, but he eventually had to leave with a groin strain and will probably miss the remainder of the weekend. … Back spasms kept Chipper Jones(notes) out of Friday's lineup but no worries – that plucky All-Star Omar Infante(notes) was ready to step in, posting a 5-2-4-1 line (with a homer) out of Chipper's No. 3 slot. … So much for the Felix Pie(notes) story – he left Friday's game with a left quad strain. There are a lot of potential spillovers from Pie getting nicked up; it could lead to more at-bats for Jake Fox, it could keep Josh Bell(notes) from being optioned back to Triple-A, and it could keep Corey Patterson in our mixed-league lineups for most of the second half. Stay tuned. … Matt Wieters(notes) also left Friday's game early (hamstring injury). You hate to see them get hurt in Texas, podner. Have other options ready for Saturday, just in case. … A sore back kept Scott Rolen(notes) off the field at Philly. … Justin Morneau(notes) (post concussion) didn't play Friday and remains day-to-day. … Will Venable(notes) (back) is just about ready to take batting practice again and there's a chance he's only a week away. The San Diego outfield is tidier with him out of the mix, but Venable's combination of power and speed can't be completely ignored. … Alberto Callaspo's(notes) wrist is still an issue when he bats from the right side of the plate, so he was held out of Friday's game against Mark Buehrle(notes). He figures to play Saturday against righty Gavin Floyd(notes). … Colby Rasmus(notes) left Friday's game with a tight hamstring and although he hasn't been ruled out for Saturday, Tony LaRussa says he's not going to push him.
Speed Round: The Cubs would love to trade Ted Lilly(notes) but he has to play along; he's been hammered for 16 runs (14 earned) over his last two turns, pushing his ERA up to 4.08. … Jorge De La Rosa(notes) was a mixed bag in his return to Colorado, working 4.1 innings and giving up seven runs (five earned). He did strike out six and walk one, and at times you could see the dominant stuff, but he had trouble putting pitches exactly where he wanted them. … Ryan Braun got everyone off his back for one night, going 2-for-5 against Pittsburgh, including the game-winning hit in the bottom of the tenth. Nonetheless, it's odd to see him having such an extended run of pedestrian results. Not only is he not hitting of late but teams aren't even afraid of him; Braun has just three walks dating back to June 10, and the Pirates intentionally passed Prince Fielder(notes) to get to Braun on Friday. … Matt LaPorta(notes) was back at it for the Indians on Friday (3-for-5 against the Rays), while the plucky Nix hit another homer. The offense was in support of Fausto Carmona(notes), who won for the fourth time in six starts.