Joey Votto has the fourth-best batting average with the most plate appearances in the National League, and while Zack Cozart (and his .275 OBP) has hit second far too often, Shin-Soo Choo and his .416 OBP (second only to Votto in the NL) has hit leadoff all season. So despite Dusty Baker and playing in the NL, Votto has been up to the plate with the 13th most runners on base this season, making it pretty crazy he’s on pace to finish with just 75 RBI (although despite that, he’s been the 17th most valuable fantasy player according to Baseball Monster). Part of the problem has been Votto’s ultra patience, as despite leading the Senior Circuit in plate appearances, he ranks 47th in MLB in at-bats, thanks to a major-league high 17.0 BB%. Votto’s 27.8 FB% is a career low, but it’s less of a concern since once again he’s hit zero infield flies this season, and at this point, no one should be expecting more than 30 homers from Votto.
Still, this is someone who’s been a big help in batting average (when the league wide BA of .253 is the lowest it’s been since these type of stats have been recorded dating back to 2000) and is on pace to finish with 26 homers and 110 runs scored. As for the lack of RBI, it’s simply been more bad luck than Cincinnati having a clueless manager, as Votto has batted .148 and slugged .296 with RISP and two outs this season. Put differently, he’s hit .288 with runners on base and .345 with the bases empty, and this is especially extreme considering batters historically hit better with runners on base. Even factoring in this year’s stats, Votto has hit .344/.475/.601 with RISP during his career, so consider 2013’s lack of RBI a total fluke. Votto will once again deserve to be a first round fantasy pick in 2014, even while playing the deepest position.
Tim Lincecum was horrible during his first start after throwing 148 pitches in his no-hitter, but if you remove that outing, he has recorded a 1.17 ERA and 0.74 WHIP with 28 strikeouts over 23.0 innings over his other three starts. Since May ended, Lincecum has allowed three runs or fewer in nine of 11 outings, although he’s remained a fantasy disappointment overall, as he holds a 4.43 ERA and 1.33 WHIP on the season. He also sports a poor 5-11 record, including going 2-6 on the road despite a 4.06 ERA. Lincecum no doubt cost himself millions and millions of dollars not taking a long-term contract before last season, and it’s a near certainty he’s already peaked, but there are still aspects pointing to him possibly bouncing back moving forward. While his average fastball velocity continues to decline (it’s been a career low 90.2 mph this season), he won his second Cy Young averaging a modest 92.4 mph. Two mph isn’t insignificant, but it’s not THAT extreme, and while many pointed to his lack of effectiveness with his changeup being the smaller difference in speeds with his fastball last season, the former pitch has once again gone back to being among the most effective in baseball in 2013.
I want to make it clear how discouraging it is Lincecum has posted another poor ERA while having the benefit of both a strong defense and one of the very best pitcher’s parks in all of baseball, but this is someone with the 10th best SwStr% (11.2) in MLB, ahead of Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg, Adam Wainwright and Justin Verlander, to name a few. Here’s a list of starters with at least a SwStr% of 11.0 and a GB/FB of 1.50: Felix Hernandez, Francisco Liriano, Homer Bailey and Lincecum. The former three have a combined ERA of 2.67, with Hernandez the most deserving AL pitcher to win the Cy Young, while Liriano would be in the discussion in the NL had he not started the year on the disabled list. xFIP (or any of the like) is hardly perfect, but Lincecum’s 3.27 mark ranks inside the top-20 among all starting pitchers. His struggles with command (and control) as well as with the minor areas of the game (base runners are a perfect 17-for-17 on SB attempts against him this season) say Lincecum’s problems haven’t all stemmed from bad luck, but his underlying stats also suggest he shouldn’t be totally written off moving forward. His career 9.74 K/9 is the fourth highest in major league baseball history, and he’ll almost certainly come at a major discount in 2014 fantasy drafts. It will be really interesting to see the kind of deal a yet-to-be 30-year-old Lincecum lands as a free agent this offseason.
Larry David’s appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” was prettay, prettay good.
At this point, it’s pretty hard not to consider Kenley Jansen a top-three fantasy closer, if not No. 1, as he currently sports a 2.04 ERA and 0.84 WHIP with 82 strikeouts over 57.1 innings. Over his last eight appearances, he’s retired all 24 batters he’s faced, including striking out 10 of the past 12. After recording a K% of 44.0 and 39.3 the last two seasons, Jansen is currently at 36.7 (which is second only to Koji Uehara), and he’s countered that small decline by going from having shaky control (he had a BB% of 11.9 and 8.7 the past two seasons) to elite for someone with that kind of K ability (his current BB% of 4.2 is the best among the top-25 pitchers in K% this season). What’s remarkable about Jansen’s incredible ability to miss bats is that he’s averaged a modest 92.4 mph with his fastball, a pitch he’s thrown a whopping 94.4% of the time (the other 5.6% have been sliders, which has actually graded out as a negative value). With RISP, batters have hit .044/.104/.044 against Jansen. He’s also in a terrific situation closing for a Dodgers team that currently looks among the best in baseball, having won a remarkable 15 straight road games. There hasn’t been a reliever whose fantasy stock has risen more throughout the season.
I’m so confused by this ridiculous Jeopardy! “controversy.” Yes, I agree the kid should have been credited with the right answer despite his misspelling, but it was all moot since he would’ve lost by $54,000 even if he was credited with it being right. What am I missing?
Danny Farquhar entered July with an ERA of 7.61. Since then, he’s pitched 11.2 scoreless innings, with a 0.51 WHIP and a whopping 18 strikeouts. The big turnaround reportedly came after veteran catcher Henry Blanco challenged the rookie pitcher to start working inside more, and albeit a small sample, Farquhar has looked so dominant of late (and Tom Wilhelmsen has not), he’s currently the team’s best option to close games. Farquhar’s stuff looks legit, as he’s averaged 94.5 mph with his fastball and 90.8 mph on his cutter that he throws more than 50% of the time. Moreover, his 36.1 K% is seventh-best among all relievers, while his 14.2 SwStr% is 10th best. Ignore the ugly season ERA of 5.09 (thanks largely to a .359 BABIP and 53.4 LOB%), as Farquhar has the potential to become a dominant reliever moving forward.
Headlines of the Week: Man With 132 lb. Scrotum Gets TLC Show...Wife Saves Suicidal Husband From Fall By Clinging To His Boxer Shorts...Rare Condition Makes James Bond Theme Music “Orgasmic” For Man Who Suffered Stroke...Staten Island Man Posts Ad to Sell Woman’s 2-Month-Old Baby Girl For $100 on Craigslist...Man Shot Trying to Stop Friend From Driving Drunk...Russian Man Accused of Stealing an Entire Road...Woman Fined $219 For Not Paying Bus Fare With Exact Change.
Quick Hits: I called Hanley Ramirez a top-10 fantasy asset recently, despite his durability issues, so the extent of his recent injury is huge. Ramirez’s current .644 slugging percentage would be the best ever by a shortstop in a season in MLB history (Alex Rodriguez is second at .631. Minimum 150 ABs). In the meantime, Dee Gordon should be added in deeper fantasy leagues…Since July 23, the Indians, Tigers and Royals are a combined 33-5. That’s pretty good...Chris Johnson recently set a franchise record with eight consecutive multi-hit games. A throw-in during the Justin Upton offseason trade, Johnson improbably leads the National League in batting average (by a pretty wide margin too), with a big thanks to a .425 BABIP that is 41 points higher than any other hitter in baseball. The right-handed batter has somehow recorded just two outs to left field this season, which seems absolutely insane...Since joining the Giants, Javier Lopez has allowed just one home run over 135.0 innings and one earned run over his last 36 appearances. He has a 6.7 HR/FB% for his career, which isn’t crazy considering he’s a LOOGY who’s faced more left-handed batters than righties, but with a 9.23 K/9 this year that’s far better than he’s ever produced (next best was 7.00 last season), it’s unclear why the Giants didn’t sell him (or Hunter Pence for that matter) at the trade deadline. Then again, maybe I should just be happy Brian Sabean didn’t deal Kyle Crick for Marlon Byrd.
Longread of the Week: "The Lazarus File."
In case you missed it, here’s my NFL column (including random links) from last week.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Since returning from a hamstring injury that cost him six weeks on the fourth of July, Wilson Ramos is batting .320 with five homers and 18 RBI over 75 at-bats. The homer pace looks fluky with his 2.70 GB/FB ratio and 30.4 HR/FB%, but Ramos is a 25-year-old catcher with a career .778 OPS over 674 major league at-bats, so there’s clearly some potential here. Teammate Kurt Suzuki currently sports an anemic .218/.276/.311 line, so Ramos should get the majority of the work from here on out (he even hit cleanup Monday). He’s likely still available on a lot of waiver wires….Dan Uggla, he of the MLB-low .192 batting average (no one else is hitting below .210), has the fifth-highest BB% (13.2) in baseball…Here’s Melky Cabrera encapsulating his season in a single play...Chris Davis has 40 homers and has hit into just two double plays this season (only Everth Cabrera and Michael Bourn have hit into fewer). To put this in perspective, among the 50 batters who’ve hit into the fewest double plays this year, only four others currently have at least 20 home runs…This was yet another awesome catch by Yasiel Puig, although it obviously didn’t count...David Ortiz leads major league baseball with 16 intentional walks. Speaking of which, Brandon Crawford has more IBBs this year than Mike Trout, David Wright, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, Buster Posey and NL home run leader Pedro Alvarez. Obviously, batting eighth in the National League has contributed to this, but Crawford has actually only done so in 61.9% of his at-bats, and there’s no other NL version among the leader board. While that’s pretty absurd, to be fair to Crawford, he’s a bit of an underrated player as a shortstop who plays good defense with a .300/.364/.460 line against right-handers while calling baseball’s toughest hitter’s park for LHB home. Still, Crawford shouldn’t be getting walked intentionally so much.