Mostly MLB Notes: Huston Street’s crazy season; Hanley Ramirez on fire; Giant anomalies

Huston Street has served up a mind-boggling 10 home runs over 27.1 innings this season, with eight of them coming at Petco Park. With the fences moved in, Petco has been more of a neutral park when it comes to homers in an unreliably small sample so far in 2013, but that’s a crazy case of gopheritis no matter the venue, let alone one that suppressed home runs from LHB more than any other in baseball from 2010-2012. Street’s average fastball velocity has declined in each of the past four seasons, including bottoming out this year at 88.8 mph. His career SwStr% is 13.3. This year it’s a career-low 8.1% - that number itself isn’t bad, but it’s more than eye opening compared to his usual levels (last year it was 13.9%). So while his HR/FB% (25.0) has undoubtedly been unlucky, his stuff appears to be highly diminished. Street is striking out nearly half as many batters this season (4.94 K/9, 13.2 K%) than he has throughout his career (9.01, 25.1%). He’s given up nearly as many homers (six) to right-handed batters as he’s struck out (seven). Other than that he’s been terrific. In all seriousness, Street looks less likely to be traded with the Padres in playoff contention thanks to an NL West that appears to be the worst in baseball (and the fact he’s been terrible), and Luke Gregerson has been uncharacteristically shaky himself of late, having allowed seven runs over his past five innings, so Street still has some job security, at least for now. He somehow has blown just one save this season (although he’s also 0-4) and has actually successfully converted 49 of his past 51 save opportunities. Because of all the home runs, Street currently sports a 4.61 ERA to go along with a .222 BABIP.

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There’s no question defense plays a part in BABIP, but it’s interesting that the Giants have two starting pitchers in the bottom-10 (Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain) and two others in the top-15 (Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum. Also, if Ryan Vogelsong qualified he’d have the second highest hit rate in MLB). I’m not sure what to make of that - having pitchers on opposite ends of the spectrum with the same defense and park behind them - but if anything it should point to the argument against the stat being so random. Unless if you look specifically at Zito, who has an NL-high .347 BABIP, which is a whopping 75 points higher than his career mark. His 26.2 LD% is on the high side, but he also sports a 1.03 GB/FB ratio (pitchers with lower GB rates typically have lower hit rates) with a small 6.3 HR/FB% (in other words, he’s getting a lot of fly balls, which is the easiest out recorded other than pop ups, and few of them are leading to homers, which don’t count against BABIP). Zito’s road BABIP this season is .487 compared to .266 at home.

In other words, there's no easy answer here, but I’ll just go with Occam’s razor. Matt Cain (career .263 BABIP) and Bumgarner are both really good at pitching and tough to hit, while Zito not so much. As for Lincecum, winning back-to-back Cy Youngs during his first two seasons in the league, and then suddenly becoming so broken (he has the second-worst ERA (5.00) and third-worst WHIP (1.46) in all of baseball since the start of last season) at ages 28 and 29 with him seemingly staying healthy has to be one of the rarer cases. Over that same span in which he’s recorded the 5.00 ERA while playing in one of the best pitcher’s parks in all of baseball and in front of a Giants defense that’s posted the third-best UZR in the game, Lincecum’s 11.0 SwStr% ranks ninth-best in MLB. I would say that might be an indictment to the stat, but the vast majority of the pitchers on that leader board are studs. So on one hand, his ability to miss bats remains encouraging, but the fact he's been knocked around so badly while pitching in such a favorable setup more than offsets that. It’s all truly bizarre, but the Giants are filled with pitching anomalies (Cain entered this season with a career 6.8 HR/FB% over 1,536.2 innings, whereas Vogelsong’s ERA has had an inverse relationship with his K% and K/BB ratio over the past few years). It’s all enough to make Lincecum go mad. Seriously, how much money did he cost himself?

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Yasiel Puig is the first player with 40-plus hits during the month of his debut since 1939. He posted a .500 BABIP over that span, and that’s WITH HIM HITTING SEVEN HOME RUNS. Put differently, when he doesn't strike out, Puig has a .543 batting average…Sticking with the Dodgers for a second, a friend of mine got them at 40/1 to win the World Series last week. With Puig looking like such a beast, Hanley Ramirez looking rejuvenated (more on him below), the possibility of Matt Kemp returning to health, a catcher with a career .363 OBP, the upside of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, a strong top-three in the starting rotation (fine, Zack Greinke is overrated, but Clayton Kershaw might be the best pitcher in the game, and Hyun-Jin Ryu is the real deal), a closer who has an almost unfathomable 39.9 career K% and ownership willing to spend at the trade deadline, this is a dangerous team. And despite a -46 run differential, they are just 3.5 games back in the weak NL West, and any team can win the WS if they make the playoffs. As a Giants fan, I hope I look stupid for saying so, but 40/1 seemed far too high for a team with this much potential (the odds have since predictably dropped).

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Hanley Ramirez has been extremely frustrating from a durability standpoint this year, but he’s also been a star when on the field. He currently sports a .387/.427/.707 line with six homers and four steals over 75 at-bats. If you prorate his counting stats over 600 ABs, you’d get this: 48-120-144-32. He's easily been the most valuable fantasy player over the past two weeks. Yes, it’s been a small sample, but Ramirez has struck out once in the past 10 days, and he’s hitting in the middle of what suddenly looks like a Dodgers lineup that could start producing runs in a big way now healthy (and now with Yasiel Puig). Shortstop also remains thin in fantasy terms. However, Ramirez’s discouraging groundball trend has continued (during his first four seasons in the league, he had a 1.08 GB/FB ratio, since then, it’s been 1.50, including a career-high 1.61 this year), suggesting he may not necessarily be back to his days of being a top-five fantasy performer. Still, he’s just 29 years old, his Ks are down, and it’s great to see Ramirez swipe three bags over the past five games. Now let’s see if he can stay healthy.

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Ricky Nolasco has pitched better this season compared to recent campaigns, but of the available SP trade targets, I’d prefer to deal for Matt Garza, who may even be cheaper. After struggling during his first five starts since returning from an injury, Garza has been dominant, posting a 0.82 ERA and 0.91 WHIP with a 23:5 K:BB ratio over 22.0 innings (raising his price tag in the process). And remember, Wrigley Field has been the best hitter’s park in baseball this season. Forget the fancy advanced metrics, Garza hasn’t posted an ERA of 4.0 or above one time since his rookie season in 2006 (while pitching in the AL East for three of those seasons), whereas Nolasco has been above 4.45 five times over that span. Garza is also the younger of the two, although that matters less as a rental of course. This seems like a no-brainer to me.

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Quick Hits: Trevor Bauer has allowed opposing batters to hit just .238 off him this season, but that’s come with a hideous 11:16 K:BB ratio. His numbers in the minors have taken a step back too. What a disaster. I expected so much more…Unlike Bauer, Erasmo Ramirez is a young hurler worth owning in all but the shallowest of fantasy leagues. He currently combines a 24.1 K% with a 5.1 BB% in Triple-A. With his past injury history (and the Mariners’ having a need in the rotation), there’s no reason to waste any more of his bullets in the minors…Midway through the season, Allen Craig is on pace to finish with 18 homers and 126 RBI. The discrepancy was even wider until he hit three bombs over the past five games. I guess that’s what happens when you hit .456/.483/.633 with RISP…Wade Davis’ 69 pitches thrown during Saturday’s outing were the most in MLB history by someone who recorded three outs or fewer…Those desperately searching for saves may want to stash Blake Parker right now. Kevin Gregg has surprised everyone and pitched exceedingly well, but that just makes it all the more likely he’ll be traded. Parker has closed in Triple-A, held his own in Chicago and looks like the favorite to work the ninth when Gregg gets dealt…How does a 41-year-old Raul Ibanez have 19 home runs already? That’s as many as he had all of last season in 156 fewer at-bats when the left-hander called Yankee Stadium home instead of Safeco Park. Only Chris Davis had more homers in June than Ibanez’s 10. The power he’s showing at his age is actually reaching historic levels…Speaking of Chris Davis, I’m beginning to think he’s good at baseball. Over his past 206 games, he has 63 homers and 161 RBI. In June, he improbably hit 12 home runs and batted .290 with a 41:6 K:BB ratio. He’s the first player in baseball history to have 30-plus homers and 25 doubles entering July, and his ISO is 88 points higher than the next best in MLB. Check out his impressive opposite field power. If a draft were held today, how high would you take Davis?

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Quick Hits Part Deux: After hitting one homer over his previous 272 at-bats, Eric Hosmer has hit six long balls over his last 63 ABs. He’s also on pace to steal 14 bags, which isn’t insignificant for a first baseman. I really hope it’s a sign he’s fixed something mechanically, because Hosmer currently sports a 2.69 GB/FB ratio, which is the fifth highest in all of baseball. That’s far too many groundballs for a first baseman (check out the company he keeps) let alone one who plays in a home park that has suppressed power for LHB in a big way historically…Justin Masterson has one fewer shutout over the first three months this season than Andy Pettitte has during his career…Matt Holliday has grounded into 20 double plays so far this season. The MLB record for a season is 36...Patrick Corbin is now tied with the most team wins (15) over a pitcher’s first 16 starts in a given season over the past 40 years (three of the other four won the Cy Young)…Ryan Braun’s current stint on the disabled list is the first of his career…Before Cliff Lee’s last start, 41% of plate appearances against him had proceeded to 0-and-2 counts. That’s one of the crazier stats in recent memory…The Mets bullpen has allowed just one fewer run during Matt Harvey’s starts this year than Harvey himself. By the way, Harvey leads all starting pitchers in average velocity with his fastball (95.6 mph), slider (89.6) and curveball (83.3). He’s shaping up to be a top-20 fantasy pick next year.

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