We've already had the talk about Josh Beckett(notes) in here, so some of this is going to come as a review. For a guy that just inked a four-year, $68 million extension, he's sure not pitching like an ace.
Beckett's shelling from the Yankees on Friday (nine runs) shouldn't surprise anyone; crooked numbers come with the territory with the righty. The Blue Jays got him for eight runs back on April 26, and the Rangers pushed across seven runs the prior week (albeit over seven innings of work). Beckett's career ERA is 5.96 against the Yankees and 4.66 at Fenway Park; mixing those two hurdles into the same start is a recipe for trouble. The batters of the American League East claim another victim.
Beckett's stuff hasn't completely deserted him, of course; he whiffed eight Yanks on Friday and he's got 34 punchouts over 41 innings. The big issue with him has been the effectiveness of his fastball; in 2007 and 2008 it was his most effective weapon, but it was a neutral offering last year according to the fantastic Pitch Value Data on Fangraphs, and so far in 2010 Beckett's got a negative score on the heater.
Some will point to a high BABIP as a major cause of Beckett's struggles, and he's got an unsustainably low strand rate as well, but he's also making a lot of his bad luck: consider his gory line-drive rate (24.8 percent), the dip in his ground-ball rate (42.1 percent) and his highest walk rate in seven years. Beckett's obviously got a lot more ability than what he's shown, but I can't see how he's going to miraculously turn things around overnight, not in this meat grinder of a division. In truth, he's Boston's third or fourth best starter right now, not their front-line guy.
Beckett owners are free to do what they like, but I'd suggest resting him next Wednesday when the Blue Jays come to Fenway. And it might be a good idea to steer him away from the Yankees for the rest of the year; they've already teed off on Beckett twice this year and obviously the two parks at play can inflate anyone's ERA in a New York minute. If you've got ideas on how to handle the Beckett Situation, let's hear them in the comments.
• We should't throw a parade when Jered Weaver(notes) almost no-hits the punchless Mariners (7.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K), but I've watched most of his turns this year and I like what I see. He's consistently getting ahead of batters, as always, but he's also getting more swings out of the zone this year and more swinging strikes; said a different way, he's taking better advantage of being ahead in the count. And his real-life ERA is supported under the hood; he's got 47 strikeouts against just nine walks and he's got a normal HR:FB rate. This looks like a story that's here to stay.
• If you want the pregame show on Starlin Castro(notes), I direct you to Dr. Andy Behrens, click here. If you want to celebrate Castro's sizzling six-RBI debut, your video is here. When is he going to be available in your league? Sorry, I can't answer that, and please, no arrows in my direction.
• It was another dominant effort from David Price(notes) (7.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 K) as the juggernaut Rays got past Oakland and improved to 13-1 on the road. Tampa Bay only had five hits off Gio Gonzalez(notes) and two Oakland receivers, but the resourceful Rays got the most out of their knocks, and threw in a couple of stolen bases for good measure (Evan Longoria(notes) got his fifth, and Ben Zobrist(notes) – be patient, amigos – swiped his sixth).
• Trevor Hoffman's(notes) fifth save looks better in the box score than it did on the tape, but a scoreless ninth is fine with us. Gerardo Parra(notes) started the inning with a fly ball on the edge of the warning track, then Cole Gillespie(notes) walked. Pinch-hitter Justin Upton(notes) followed with a sharp grounder right to third baseman Casey McGehee(notes), and the Brewers zipped the ball around the horn for a game-ending double play.
Carlos Villanueva(notes) (sixth, seventh) and Todd Coffey(notes) (eighth) did the set-up work in front of Hoffman; the beleaguered LaTroy Hawkins(notes) got the night off. Yovani Gallardo(notes) had plenty of stuff over his five innings (10 K, 2 R) but it ran him up to 103 pitches pretty quickly.
• It's been a funky year for fantasy catchers; power is out there for the taking, so long as you don't mind taking on batting-average risk. Rod Barajas(notes) is leading the parade in the National League, up to nine homers after clubbing two agains the Giants on Friday (including the game-winning clout here). We know the power is somewhat legitimate, given that Barajas hit 19 homers in 429 at-bats last year, but is it worth the puny .239 career average he brings along? You decide.
If you want a Barajas-lite option, there's John Buck(notes) in Toronto. His .236 average is hard to look at and he's got 28 strikeouts against just two walks, but he's also left the yard seven times (including two at Chicago on Friday). Worth the move? Again, it depends how badly you need the pop, and how you feel about your batting average. Other backstops who fit this theme include Jason Varitek(notes) (five homers, and trust me, the .314 average isn't staying), Miguel Olivo(notes) (five homers, .243 career average) and Chris Snyder(notes) (five homers, .234 career average).
• Most of the righty relievers failed at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday night, but the lefties came out smelling like a rose. First to the flunkies: Bobby Jenks(notes) allowed four baserunners and a run over a messy ninth, Kevin Gregg(notes) followed with a similar inning (a homer to AJP, then two walks), and J.J. Putz(notes) handed the game away in the 12th, allowing a three-run homer to the surprisingly effective Alex Gonzalez. Gregg's pitched far too well for us to take him to task here, but the Chicago righties guys have been erratic most of the year. On the flip side of the mound, Matt Thornton(notes) was unhittable in his two innings (striking out five of six) and Scott Downs(notes) earned the victory with two perfect frames.
• Evan Meek(notes) got tagged with the loss against St. Louis but he deserved a better fate; the ninth inning should have ended without any scoring but Joe Mather(notes) faked out Aki Iwamura(notes) with a nifty second-base slide (the Bucs had Mather dead to rights on a pitchout) and Yadier Molina(notes) followed with a run-scoring hit. Meek still collected three strikeouts in his two-inning stint, showcasing a tight slider, and I fully expect he'll be Pittsburgh's closer someday, even if that has to wait until 2011.
• Mat Latos(notes) had a mixed bag of results over his first five starts, but working at Houston agreed with him (eight scoreless innings, two hits, nine strikeouts, and of course, no walks). The notoriously streaky Scott Hairston(notes) backed up Latos with a couple of home runs, and given my fondness for the Hairston family, I'm kicking the tires on the journeyman outfielder. He's quietly got six homers and three steals over a modest 60 at-bats worth of playing time.
• Travis Snider(notes) was down to .125 at the end of the Boston series on April 28 but he's turned things around, going 14-for-30 over his last eight starts, with a couple of homers (hat tip to Roto Arcade reader and Jays watcher Ari, who has been promoting Snider this week). Snider is still locked into the ninth spot in the Toronto order, but perhaps a promotion will come later in the summer; lefties routinely ate his lunch over his first two seasons, but he's shown improvement against them (albeit it's a tiny sample) in 2010.
Snider reminds me a lot of Jay Bruce(notes), in both good ways and bad – two slugging lefties and first-round picks who made it to the majors very quickly (perhaps too quickly) with some obvious warts still in play. Simply making it to the show as young as they did is a very good predictor for future stardom; keep an eye peeled here.
• Grady Sizemore(notes) finally knocked one out of the yard but Mother Nature wouldn't allow it; the Tigers and Indians were washed out in the fourth, knocking out all the stats. Miguel Cabrera(notes) and Travis Hafner(notes) also lost homers from the postponement.
• Chris Volstad(notes) isn't a big strikeout source but he's been effective in five of his six starts (throw out the seven spot at Colorado) and he's beaten the plucky Nationals twice in a row. Remember, there's a first-round pedigree here and he was quite valuable for the second half of 2008. I probably wouldn't use Volstad next week for a Wrigley Field matinee, but he looks trustworthy against most of the NL right now.
• I've been a Jamie Moyer(notes) fan for a long time and his two-hit shutout Friday was one for the record books, but let's also be honest about one other thing – this Atlanta Braves offense is a mess at the moment. The Braves are currently 14th in the NL in runs, 15th in average and 15th in slugging, and let's not forget that Scott Olsen(notes) almost no-hit them on Thursday night. There are some big names in the Atlanta lineup, but that doesn't mean we should be afraid to use our fantasy pitchers against them.
And then there's the Brian McCann(notes) vision issue; McCann sat out Friday's game due to problems with his right eye, and he'll go back to wearing glasses on the field. Eye problems have been a recurring theme for McCann during his brief career; he's already had two Lasik procedures done and difficulties with his left eye last year led to him wearing glasses.
Speed Round: A hat tip to Kevin Kaduk for steering us to the fantastic Wiffleball '79 video (heads up, there's some salty language in there). It's five minutes very well spent. … Kerry Wood(notes) was activated off the disabled list Friday and it's likely he'll be back in the closer's chair soon. … Nick Johnson(notes) has a sore wrist and will get an MRI Saturday; a DL trip looks likely. Everyone wants to take the easy cheap shot at the guy, but I'll cut him a break. … Robinson Cano(notes) took a Beckett pitch off the knee and left Friday's game in the sixth inning (among his many problems Beckett also hit two batters, but at least it doesn't hurt your WHIP). Although no tests were immediately scheduled for Cano and he was initially called day-to-day, Joe Girardi said he would be surprised if Cano played Saturday (a day game after a night game plays into that as well). Stay tuned. … Edgar Renteria(notes) (groin) hit the DL; Juan Uribe(notes) will continue to pick up action at short. … Ryan Franklin(notes) and Francisco Rodriguez both turned blown saves into victories, but in the case of Franklin, he walked into a bases-loaded situation in the eighth, no wiggle room. A wild pitch tied the score for the Pirates, though it was a play that Molina would generally make. … C.J. Wilson(notes) pitched a tidy complete game against the Royals, beating Zack Greinke(notes). … Ike Davis(notes) hit two homers at Citi Field and is up to .314/.410/.569 over 51 at-bats. He's also looking pretty slick in the field. … Manuel Corpas(notes) might sneak into the closing chair in Colorado while the team waits for Huston Street(notes) to return. Franklin Morales(notes) has been all over the place as of late.
Images courtesy Associated Press (Beckett, Barajas) and US Presswire (Snider)