Mostly MLB Notes: Talking Jay Bruce and a look around the league

Cincinnati Reds' Jay Bruce hits a two-run home run off Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Will Smith in the eighth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, July 6, 2014, in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 4-2. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

Reds RF Bruce starts at 1B for injured Votto

Cincinnati Reds' Jay Bruce hits a two-run home run off Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Will Smith in the eighth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, July 6, 2014, in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 4-2. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

It’s easy to forget now, but Jay Bruce was once THE No. 1 prospect in baseball, and while he’s certainly not been a bust, it’s safe to say he hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations. Still, he averaged 32 homers, 102 RBI, 87 runs scored and 8 steals over the past three seasons, so he’s certainly been a valuable fantasy asset. But this is someone with a career .802 OPS despite playing in a home park that’s increased home runs for left-handed batters by 23 percent over the past three seasons (only Coors Field and Yankee Stadium have been higher). Entering his age-27 season this year, Bruce currently sports a .221/.302/.393 line, which represents career lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He has helped fantasy owners by already matching his career high with nine steals, but Bruce’s K% has risen in each of the past five seasons. He owns a career 0.91 GB/FB ratio yet has posted a 1.34 mark in 2014. As if his season wasn’t weird enough, six of Bruce’s 15 hits against lefties this season have gone for homers over just 75 at bats. He has four long balls over 215 ABs against righties. He has a .353 slugging percentage on the road, which would rank as No. 142 in baseball overall, behind the likes of sluggers such as Brian Roberts, Jordy Mercer and Gerardo Parra. Bruce has scored one run over his last 10 games, despite hitting cleanup. It’s probably safe to say he’s going to be much better from here on out, and assuming there’s no underlying injury here, I’d recommend buying low just blindly banking on track record, but there’s no doubt Bruce has been one of the bigger busts so far this season. He’s currently the No. 194 ranked fantasy player.

Here’s Anthony Rizzo making a fantastic play, although it ended up costing the Cubs a run. 

Here’s Adam Jones losing track of how many outs there were, resulting in a sac fly. 

“Arrows” fly as the Angels rally

There’s zero reason for Colby Lewis to be so upset over Colby Rasmus bunting during a 2-0 game in the fifth inning. 

Matt Cain has disappointed with a career high 4.18 ERA, but there was plenty of reason to expect a bounce back in the second half. That was until the recent revelation he's been pitching through a “cranky elbow” this season, which has required a trip to the disabled list. His average fastball velocity (91.6 mph) has been his highest since 2009, but his 18.7 K% is the lowest of his career. There’s now legitimate concern moving forward, as there’s no timetable for his return. Cain’s .265 BABIP is right in line with his career mark (.264), which is a bit remarkable considering his 1.26 GB/FB ratio is by far his highest ever (his career mark is 0.88). Once again, Cain’s run prevention has come down to his home runs allowed. After posting a crazy 6.8 HR/FB% from 2005-2012 that easily led all starters over this span (minimum 950 innings), with the next closest being Chad Billingsley at 7.5% in 373.1 fewer innings, Cain has posted an 11.7% mark starting from last season to now. That ranks as the No. 23 highest among all starters, which is quite the turnaround (and for what it’s worth, Masahiro Tanaka’s 14.4% was the MLB high among all qualified starters over this stretch, which is pretty crazy considering his 2.51 ERA).

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Quick Hits: Sonny Gray was a popular target entering the year, but he’s been especially impressive of late, posting a 0.95 ERA and 0.92 WHIP over his last four starts, striking out 26 batters over 28.1 innings. Gray has been the No. 1 ranked fantasy pitcher over the past two weeks as he continues to creep toward ace status…Here are Gerardo Parra’s UZRs over the past five seasons: 13.7, 10.3, 7.6, 31.1 and -2.5. Before we go crazy and say just how poor defensive metrics are, here are his wRC+ marks over the past four years: 106, 94, 97 and 75. In other words, he’s performed badly this year both on offense and defense, and while the latter is best valued in larger samples, there’s no reason to think defense can’t “slump” in any given year like offense or pitching…The Yankees committed five errors Monday, with three of them by starting pitcher Shane Greene…Over his last six starts, Jose Quintana has a 1.79 ERA and 0.86 WHIP with 40 strikeouts over 40.2 innings. His ERA and WHIP have improved all three years he’s been in the league, leaving him with a 3.52 and 1.25 mark over 460.2 innings, which is especially impressive considering U.S. Cellular Field has increased home runs by 38 percent for right-handed batters over the past three seasons, which is by far the most in MLB. Since the beginning of last year, Quintana’s 7.1 WAR is tied for No. 10 among all pitchers in baseball. He’s been the No. 28 ranked fantasy player over the past month…Fernando Rodney gave up a double to Albert Pujols on Sunday, which was remarkably his first extra-base hit allowed to a right-handed batter this season (h/t Rany Jazayerli)...With Jonathan Papelbon a trade candidate, Ken Giles needs to be stashed right now for those in need of saves in deeper leagues. When Buster Posey went deep against Papelbon on Tuesday to tie the game in the ninth, it was the first homer he’s allowed this season.

Every single aspect of this clip is entertaining. The performance is great, but the reactions by the crowd and especially the announcers really put it over the top.

Joaquin Phoenix’s forehead might be the most mesmerizing clip in recent memory. 

“Did y’all get that on tape?” 

Quick Hits Part Deux: In 2012, Torii Hunter batted .313 with a .365 OBP, and he hit .304 with a .334 OBP last season. This year he’s batting .274 with a .297 OBP, but he already has 14 homers (and four steals). Put differently, Hunter’s ability to get on base has dropped dramatically this season compared to the last two, but he’s gone from averaging one home run per 34.6 at bats over that span to averaging one per 22.6 ABs this season. He’s on pace to finish with a .274-74-24-96-7 line at age 39 and has been the No. 18 ranked fantasy player over the past month. Not that it matters to his owners, but while the veteran has remained valuable at the plate, his defense has been an entirely different story. Hunter, who once won nine consecutive Gold Glove awards, currently has a -12.5 UZR, which is the third worst in baseball…The Angels’ loss Monday was their first to open a home series since May 19 (it came during a nine-inning game that featured a combined 26 strikeouts)…One season removed from hitting 29 home runs, Billy Butler hit just 15 last season while playing in all 162 games and has just three homers over 356 at bats in 2014. He’s likely due to hit more long balls moving forward (his 4.1 HR/FB% is well below his career mark of 10.9%, although his 2.10 GB/FB ratio is a career high), but despite playing in at least 158 games in each of the past five years while possessing a career .360 OBP, he’s never scored 80 runs in a season and has totaled five stolen bases in his career. Butler currently ranks as the No. 405 fantasy player, and in real baseball terms it’s even uglier, as he’s one of the worst baserunners in the game who provides negative defensive value. Butler’s -1.0 WAR is tied for the third worst among all players in baseball this season. In case you were wondering, there are only 17 players in MLB with a negative WAR in 2014….Chase Headley switches to a new league with a new set of pitchers, but it’s hard not to say him being traded to the Yankees isn’t a good thing for his fantasy value. He has a career .286/.360/.444 line on the road and moves from a home park that’s historically suppressed homers more than any other (it’s changed a bit since moving the fences in last year) to one that’s increased big flies for LHBs more than any other over the past three seasons (Headley is a switch hitter).

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Quick Hits Part Tres: With Huston Street getting traded, Joaquin Benoit is now the Padres’ closer. He’s also a candidate to be dealt in the next 10 days (Dale Thayer is not a bad stash right now in deeper leagues, whereas Joe Smith can safely be dropped), but if he stays in San Diego, Benoit has the upside to be a top-10 fantasy closer over the rest of the year, even if the team has so far posted historically bad offensive numbers…The first 21 hits of the Giants/Phillies game Monday were all singles…Nathan Eovaldi’s 95.7 mph average fastball velocity leads all National League starters and ranks third in MLB, but Eovaldi has fanned five batters or fewer in 12 of his past 13 starts, recording a 4.9 K/9 rate over that span (he had an 8.9 K/9 rate over the first 45.1 innings this season). He has a 4.08 ERA despite a likely unsustainable 6.9 HR/FB%, and it’s becoming increasingly hard to be patient waiting for his “stuff” to result in more missed bats…Clay Buchholz walked eight batters during his last start before getting placed on the disabled list with what many thought was a phantom injury. Since returning a month later, he’s issued just one free pass over 35.2 innings in his five starts. I’m not sure what to make of the erratic Buchholz moving forward, but at least it appears the time off has helped increase his velocity…It’s hard to argue with a 1.31 ERA and 0.90 WHIP over five starts, especially after Odrisamer Despaigne lost a no hitter with two outs in the eighth inning during his last outing, but that’s come with a 17:11 K:BB ratio over 34.1 innings. So while his ability to mix speeds and arm slots have been impressive, and PETCO Park is a huge advantage, Despaigne is one of the clearer “sell-high” candidates out there, if that’s even possible…The Dodgers lead MLB with 91 stolen bases this season, whereas the Orioles have the fewest with just 28. In fact, five teams have been caught stealing more times than Baltimore has been successful. Meanwhile, the A’s have by far the fewest sacrifice hits with seven (the Reds have the most with 47), which may or may not have something to do with Oakland scoring the second most runs in baseball this year.

Song of the Week: Spoon: “Inside Out.” 

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Quick Hits Part Four: Yovani Gallardo’s ERA sat at 2.92 entering May 15 but currently sits at 3.79. Gallardo struck out 200 batters or more over four seasons from 2009-2012, when his 24.5 K% ranked as the sixth highest among all starters. Since then, his 18.4 K% ranks No. 55, including a career low 18.1% this season. Gallardo has been better this season than last, but he has a 6.9 SwStr% and just five wins despite pitching for a Brewers team that has scored the second most runs in the National League, so his window to “sell high” has almost certainly passed…After hitting zero homers over 25 games after joining the Pirates last season, Justin Morneau has found his second stint in the National League much more beneficial in 2014, hitting 13 bombs over 89 games with the Rockies before a neck strain sent him to the DL. His current .846 OPS is his highest since 2010, so the injury is a blow to fantasy owners, even if first base is seemingly the deepest position…There’s obviously no guarantee how long this improbable run will last, but Kevin Kiermaier sure looks like a fixture in the Rays’ lineup. He’s come out of nowhere to sport a .315/.360/.570 line with eight homers and three steals over 165 at bats, making him the No. 30 ranked fantasy player over the past month…Entering his outing Tuesday night, Jacob deGrom had posted a 27:4 K:BB ratio over his previous three starts, a span of 19.0 innings. He’s faced the Marlins (who’ve struck out more than any team in MLB this season) and the Braves (who’ve rank No. 4 in strikeouts) in all three of those games, so some context needs to be added. Still, deGrom has an 11.0 SwStr% this year and is firmly on the mixed league radar, at minimum…Danny Salazar walked three batters and struck out three during a scoreless second inning in his return Tuesday, and it took 92 pitches (allowing nine baserunners) to get through five innings. There’s also no guarantee he’s not sent back down to Triple-A immediately, as he was recalled at least partly because of Justin Masterson being on the DL, but Salazar had fanned 39 batters over his previous 31 innings in the minors and more importantly, was regularly working at 96 mph. Maybe the DL stint did some good, as his velocity was significantly lower earlier in the year with Cleveland. He burned me badly in multiple leagues this year, but I wouldn’t let Salazar be on any waiver wires right now, as upside remains.

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