Mostly MLB Notes: Michael Bourn’s changing identity

Roto Arcade

Michael Bourn entered the season with 13 career home runs over 2,391 at-bats. This year, he has nine homers over 467 ABs. It's just the second time he's hit more than three long balls in any season in his career. The newfound power has come at the expense of his stolen bases, as he's on pace for "just" 42 after averaging 55 steals over the past three seasons. But his 48 RBI is already easily a career high, and he's also on pace to score 110 runs. Bourn's flyball rate (23.9%) is exactly in line with his career norm, so it's been a spike in his HR/FB% that's been the direct result in his power surge. Even if the home runs stop (his HR on Wednesday was actually just his second since June 26), he has been and will continue to be a pretty fantastic fantasy asset. With terrific defense in center field (his 13.2 UZR ranks third best in baseball, behind Brendan Ryan and Ichiro Suzuki), Bourn is also highly valuable to the Braves. He's earning himself a ton of money with his upcoming free agency.

Traffic held up on Russian highway thanks to man spinning in shopping cart. Need I say more?

Man is surprisingly chill about almost being assassinated.

Dog doing "Beer me."

Here are Jon Lester's K rates over the past four years: 9.96, 9.74, 8.55, 7.47. Notice a trend? His average fastball velocity has declined in each season over that span as well, and we are now left with a pitcher who currently sports a 5.36 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. He also has a 5-10 record for those who care about those sort of things (and most fantasy players do). Despite throwing just 141.0 innings, Lester is also just two homers allowed away from tying a career-high, so it's been a total disaster in 2012, and my Yahoo Friends & Family team is suffering the consequences as a result. He's relying on his cutter less than ever before, sticking to his four-seam fastball that simply isn't what it once was (although in fairness, his average velocity of 92.6 mph is still plenty respectable, especially for a lefty). It's obviously extremely unfavorable to have to pitch in the AL East as well as call Fenway home, which has played as a top-five hitters' park this season, but still, those excuses only go so far from a pitcher who was contending for a Cy Young as recently as two years ago. He's likely been a bit unlucky (his 63.1 LOB% is the worst in baseball), and I'm not dropping him in that F&F league (which is probably dumb of me with a small innings cap), but Lester's sinking K rate makes it tough to be optimistic about a major rebound.

Deer enters house, dad is annoying about it.

Strongest girl in the world prank.

Hugging people prank.

Buster Posey has homered in five of the past seven games and currently sports a .329/.399/.541 line. He's also on pace to finish with 107 RBI. This is someone who's a catcher, is coming off major surgery and plays in AT&T Park, which has ranked as the single worst hitter's park in all of baseball so far this year, just like it did all of last season. Among National League hitters with at least a 10.0% BB rate, only one other has a lower K rate than Posey's 15.9% (surprisingly another catcher — Brian McCann). Posey has basically become Bonds in his prime against lefties this year, with a silly .410/.453/.771 line. But that actually looks tame in comparison to what he's done since the All-Star break, as he's hit .449/.510/.798. Yeah that's right, a .798 slugging percentage. He isn't atop WAR leaderboards because of the whole difficulty of trying to quantify catcher defense problem, and while Andrew McCutchen is currently the (rightful) favorite to win the award, Posey is entering the MVP conversation.

Lucky grandpa almost hit in crosswalk.

I'm not sure what's better — this recipe for ice cubes, or the comments below it. (h/t Drew Magary)

I'm not sure which sounds better, the soup or the salad.

Thanks partially to missing about three weeks with an injury, Austin Jackson's final HR/SB numbers may not jump off the page at year's end (although he'll approach 20/20), but don't let that mask the fact he's quietly developing into a star. Improved walk and K rates have led to a .402 OBP, as he's on pace to score 102 runs despite missing 22 games. The 25-year-old hasn't run as much as in the past, but Jackson is hitting more homers, doubles and triples than ever before, so the power spike appears real. For someone who still strikes out frequently, the .318 batting average isn't likely to last, as his current .404 BABIP is sure to drop. However, his career hit rate is .377, so some total crash is also unlikely to be in store. Jackson is a fantastic defensive center fielder, so it's no surprise his current 4.6 WAR dwarfs teammate Prince Fielder's 3.0 this year (and is basically on par with Miguel Cabrera's 4.7). Jackson should only continue to get better, so his upside is high.

This commercial for Ragu is bizarre.

This clip of Allison from "Intervention" is a little bit odd.

Quick hits: There are currently four closers with an ERA under 1.35. We are in mid-August. That's not normal … The Giants lead the National League in runs scored per game on the road … During his first 15 games with the Yankees, Ichiro Suzuki had exactly one hit with no walks and no strikeouts in 13 of them. That's pretty odd … Ryan Vogelsong has the seventh-worst xFIP in the National League among all starting pitchers. His ERA is an NL-best 2.27! That's quite a discrepancy … Eric Young Jr. is looking at regular playing time thanks to all the injuries in Colorado. He has 60 career steals in just 556 at-bats. He's worth an add in all but the shallowest of leagues … Speaking of stolen bases, Billy Hamilton is now up to 131 over 109 games.

This footage inside a cockpit of a plane crash is extremely harrowing. You've been warned.

I'm not sure if "The Newsroom" is the best show on TV right now or the worst. I probably wouldn't argue with either.

My recommendation for the long read of the week  is a bit old but worth your time if you haven't checked it out.

Quick hits, part deux: Max Scherzer's .353 BABIP is the highest among all starters in MLB. I'd love to say it's been bad luck, but the second worst belongs to teammate Rick Porcello (.347) … It's amazing (and extremely fortunate) Jarrod Parker has a .291 BABIP while allowing an MLB-high 28.1 LD% … I'm a fan of Phil Hughes, who has a strong 3.6 K:BB ratio, but he also has the lowest GB% and the highest FB% in all of baseball, which isn't ideal as a right-hander who calls Yankee Stadium home … According to Fangraphs, Jered Weaver's fastball has easily been the single most effective pitch among all starters in 2012, which is remarkable since it's averaged just 88.0 mph, which is tied for 88th among SPs … Somehow, a ridiculous 89.0% of Bartolo Colon's pitches this year have been fastballs. Next highest is Justin Masterson at 78.6%.

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