Jose Altuve has stolen a whopping 11 bases over the past nine games and leads the A.L. with a .343 batting average while also recording the second most doubles in the league (when talking about leaders in doubles in the AL, here’s something that shocked me: Eduardo Escobar is tied for the fourth most. What?!). Altuve has the second most steals in MLB, but his success rate (92.5%) is well above the stolen base leader (Dee Gordon at 81.6%). He also recently became the first player to steal multiple bases in four consecutive games since Ray Chapman in 1917, including this steal of home. His 6.3 K% is the lowest among all qualified batters in 2014, which doesn’t appear to be much of a fluke considering his 4.3 SwStr%. Altuve is currently the No. 13 ranked player in fantasy baseball, which is hard to do with two home runs and 26 RBI. He’s been successful on each of his past 24 stolen base attempts, and it’s increasingly difficult not to argue he’s the No. 1 fantasy second baseman moving forward.
Here’s Yoenis Cespedes throwing out yet another runner of the highlight variety. He’s the first outfielder to record 10 assists this year.
Josh Beckett’s 2.37 ERA is the seventh best in all of baseball, and over his past eight starts, he has a 1.90 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP (and that’s with him getting lit up during his outing Tuesday, when a hip injury may have contributed). No longer possessing a dominant fastball, Beckett has totally reinvented himself as a pitcher, as he’s thrown more breaking pitches than ever. In fact, he’s thrown his heater just 34.9% of the time this season (his career mark is 60.2%), which has resulted in a strong 10.1 SwStr%. Beckett has decreased his FB% for the sixth year in a row (among all starters, only Jesse Chavez has thrown a fastball less than Beckett this year, not counting knuckleballer R.A. Dickey) and it’s hard to argue with the results. There are actually some pretty legit starters among those who’ve utilized their fastball the least this season, including Madison Bumgarner, Masahiro Tanaka, James Shields, Adam Wainwright, Felix Hernandez and Johnny Cueto. Beckett has been a bit lucky with a .237 BABIP that is the fourth lowest among all starters to go along with an 85.0 LOB% that’s well above his career mark (72.3), but no pitcher sports an ERA in the low twos without some sort of good fortune when it comes to peripherals. He’ll regress some, but Beckett clearly is back to being a major fantasy asset. He’s actually been extremely unlucky when it comes to wins, as he has just five despite the sparkling 2.37 ERA over nearly 100 innings while playing for a Dodgers team that has scored the third most runs in the National League. Teammate Clayton Kershaw has almost twice as many victories (nine) while throwing nearly 20 fewer innings (although to be fair, Kershaw has been decent in his own right and was unlucky himself when it comes to wins last season).
Quick Hits: Entering this season, Everth Cabrera stole 81 bases over 779 career at bats. Now locked into a starting role, he’s swiped just 13 bags over 317 ABs in 2014 before a hamstring strain recently put him on the DL. Put differently, he recorded a pace of 60.0 SBs over 500 ABs over the previous two years compared to 20.5 this season. Cabrera is also batting just .218 and currently sports the second worst wRC+ (55) in all of baseball. He’s been a major bust…After Allen Craig batted .454/.500/.638 with runners in scoring position last season (compared to .262/.321/.393 with the bases empty), it was a safe bet to expect regression in 2014 but maybe not quite this extreme. Despite posting a .608 OPS with the bases empty this season compared to .706 with RISP, somehow five of his six home runs have occurred with no one on base. Speaking of long balls, Craig hasn’t hit one since May and could now start losing playing time with Oscar Taveras recalled (although it’s good news the Cardinals appear willing to try the rookie in centerfield)…Batting .277 with just six homers and four steals on the year, David Wright ranked as the No. 143 fantasy player (one spot behind Tyler Clippard) before he started missing time with a shoulder injury that may require a DL stint. Wright’s current .396 slugging percentage ranks outside the top 100 in baseball, behind the likes of sluggers such as Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon…Anthony Rendon is on pace to finish with a line of .280-108-23-93-14. That will work.
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Quick Hits Part Deux: At home this season, Tim Lincecum has a 2.81 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. On the road, he’s posted a 6.68 ERA and 1.67 WHIP. Meanwhile, teammate Madison Bumgarner has a 4.94 ERA and 1.50 WHIP at home compared to a 1.32 ERA and 0.91 WHIP on the road. Go figure…After allowing 15 earned runs over his past 15.0 innings, Sergio Romo has been removed from the Giants’ closer role. He has a 5.17 ERA this season despite a .226 BABIP. Still, it’s safe to say Romo has mostly experienced bad luck (for instance, this two-run “homer”), as he sports a 20.5 K%, a career high 17.1 IFFB% and a healthy 14.2 SwStr%. Romo has hung a couple of bad sliders, resulting in the most homers he’s ever allowed in a season over just 31.1 innings, but the safe bet is he records more saves than any other pitcher in San Francisco’s pen over the rest of the year. Since entering the league in 2008, Romo is tied for the third lowest WHIP among all relievers (among active pitchers). I certainly wouldn’t drop him…Rick Porcello just tossed his second straight shutout, with the latest coming against an Oakland offense that has scored the most runs in major league baseball while somehow not striking out a single batter, which is especially hard to do since Detroit’s defense ranks among the bottom in the league. Porcello hasn’t allowed a run in 25.1 innings…After batting .362/.395/.552 against right handers last season, Scooter Gennett has hit .338/.378/.531 against them this year. He can be plenty valuable in leagues that allow daily transactions. Gennett is now batting leadoff (against RHP), and the Brewers have scored the second most runs in the National League (behind only Colorado).
Police Blotter: Dad Arrested After Son Skips Church To Play…Man, 49, Is Buried Alive And Killed While Trying To Build Sand Tunnel Six Foot Deep On Beach…Idaho Deputies Confront, Handcuff Man Over Nickelback – But Not Because He’s A Fan…Police Break Into Car To Save Toy Dog From Heat…Cops: Vendor Shoots Woman At Pennsylvania Gun Show…Adams County Woman Admits To Poisoning Children With Visine…Bioethicist Says Vasectomy Has No Place In Plea Deal.
Quick Hits Part Tres: Despite leaving a home park in Texas that increased run scoring more than any other in the American League over the past three seasons, Ian Kinsler has gone from the 79th most valuable fantasy player last year to currently ranking 21st. He’s on pace to finish with a .308-116-20-86-18 campaign...The Padres batted .171 in June. That’s not ideal…What’s going on with Mike Minor, who’s seen his ERA jump from 3.07 to 4.73 over his past five starts? He has a 30:9 K:BB ratio over that span, which has covered 26.1 innings, so it’s not like his peripherals have taken a big hit during the slump. The best guess here is to chalk up the recent stretch as bad luck and start Minor with confidence moving forward, but it’s pretty crazy entering July his ERA is a full run more than teammates Gavin Floyd and Aaron Harang. After posting a 1.09 WHIP last season, Minor’s is 1.54 this year. Still, he looks like a nice buy low candidate (he has a .342 BABIP and a 15.9 HR/FB%), but Minor has been a big disappointment thus far…There was plenty concern regarding Cole Hamels while dealing with an arm injury before the season started, but he just posted a 1.23 ERA and 1.07 WHIP with a 47:14 K:BB ratio over 44.0 innings in June. His velocity has actually been better than his career mark, so Hamels needs to be viewed as a top fantasy starter once again…Ryan Howard is somehow on pace to finish with 27 homers and 99 RBI despite a .403 slugging percentage that ranks 93rd in baseball (albeit still ahead of Chris Davis). I would say the flukey reason behind this is him having five more homers than doubles this season, but that’s actually the norm for him, as Howard has nearly 100 more home runs (325) than doubles (229) during his career.
Quick Hits Part Four: Ervin Santana’s 12.5 SwStr% is the second highest among all starters in baseball this season, a stat in which the leaderboard consists of mostly elite hurlers. He’s somehow had to pitch away from home in five of his past six starts, and I wouldn’t let Santana be available on any waiver wires right now. There’s a lot more upside than his current 4.05 ERA and 1.30 WHIP suggests…R.A. Dickey posted a 3.10 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over his last 12 starts last season, but he’s served up 10 homers over his past five outings, so any hope he’d revert to his 2012 Cy Young version has officially been dashed. Here are his K-BB% marks from 2010-2014: 8.7, 9.1, 19.0, 11.2, 9.8. The glaring outlier is the Cy Young campaign, which increasingly looks like a fluke. This stat is especially crazy since one would think a knuckleballer wouldn’t have to worry as much about tiring…Stephen Strasburg’s .348 BABIP is the second highest in all of baseball and 47 points more than his career mark, so it’s safe to say he’s experienced some bad luck, especially considering the Nationals have fielded about a league average defense this season. His average fastball velocity has decreased every year he’s been in the league, although Strasburg still sits at a healthy 94.4 mph this year. He leads the National league in strikeouts, so it’s probably a safe bet his ERA and WHIP improve significantly moving forward. This is probably meaningless (it never was the case his first few years in the league), but Strasburg has exhibited major home/road splits since the beginning of 2013. Over that span, he has a 1.98 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with a 192:30 K:BB ratio over 164.0 innings at home. Compare that to a 4.73 ERA and 1.30 WHIP with a 136:50 K:BB ratio over 131.1 innings on the road.