Mostly MLB Notes: Talking Nelson Cruz, Adam Wainwright and a look around the league

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Nelson Cruz has always been an injury risk, but even with that aside, his .808 OPS over the previous three seasons ranked 59th in baseball despite playing in a home park that increased run scoring more than any in MLB other than Coors Field over that span. He currently leads the majors with 17 homers and is on pace to score 117 runs and record 149 RBI. Cruz has yet to steal a base and is soon to turn 34 years old, but it’s also worth noting his current home park has actually increased home runs for right-handed batters more so than the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington over the past three years. And while his RBI pace is going to regress, realize he’s hit worse with RISP (.922 OPS) than with the bases empty (.943 OPS). Cruz’s 9.5 BB% is tied for the best mark of his career (back in 2009), and his .307 BABIP is right in line with this career mark of .302. He remains an injury concern, but Cruz sure looks like a fantasy monster in which I’m jealous of owning on none of my teams. He’s currently the No. 4 ranked fantasy player.

All things considered, this first pitch by 50 Cent might just be the worst ever.

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To call this benches clearing incident a joke would be an understatement. This game later resulted in a save opportunity. Call me crazy, but the unwritten rules in baseball are a bit silly.

Here’s a college shortstop catching a pop up bouncing off a third baseman’s head.

Congratulations to Josh Beckett for throwing a no hitter, and his interview afterward was pretty great, but I have to take umbrage with Charlie Steiner calling it “the greatest pitching performance of his career.” Call me contrarian, but I’d argue this one (on three days’ rest) was better.

Adam Wainwright just continues to dominate. Not only does he have a 1.67 ERA and 0.85 WHIP, he also has recorded eight wins, and before you accuse that of pure luck, he’s also batting .296/.345/.370 this season (well, that and the fact he’s also allowed two runs or fewer in nine of his 11 starts, including zero in five of them). Of course, you don’t need me to tell you Wainwright is a good pitcher, but it’s worth admiring the art in which he succeeds. The right-hander’s average fastball velocity (90.2 mph) ranks 74th among starters, but he does all the little things so well (he’s allowed one steal this year while hitting just one batter, committing no balks and tossing only one wild pitch). Of course, it also helps that his .506 OPS against is second lowest in MLB as well (Johnny Cueto is first with .458), so I’m not exactly saying his stuff isn’t terrific as well. Wainwright’s 19.9 K-BB% is the best mark of his career, and while dumb people like me were drafting younger, flashier options like Jose Fernandez earlier, the less hard throwing Wainwright (who’s already undergone the prerequisite TJ surgery) was quite clearly safer, in retrospect.

Here’s a Magician doing work on “Britain’s Got Talent.”

Here’s a reporter congratulating a tennis player who just lost his match.

Here’s a cyclist having a rough finish after winning a race.

Quick Hits: Before the season, I recommended Phil Hughes, since this was an extreme fly ball pitcher with impressive peripherals leaving a home park that has increased home runs to LHB by an MLB-high 33 percent over the past three years to one that has decreased them by 25 percent. But admittedly, after he sat with a 6.43 ERA over his first four starts with the Twins, I wrote Hughes off and said I was wrong, thinking he might just be the next Ricky Nolasco. So I can’t exactly take credit for what’s happened since, when Hughes has recorded a dominant 30:0 K:BB ratio over his next six starts, posting a 1.56 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. As bad as his skill set was for Yankee Stadium, it’s perfect for Target Field…Last week, I talked extensively about Yasiel Puig and then he proceeded to make this catch shortly thereafter. And then this play literally saved the Dodgers’ win Monday. And here’s an argument claiming he’s essentially had one of the most impressive starts to a career everJ.J. Hardy has an eight-game hitting streak in which he’s recorded multiple hits in six of those contests, which has raised his OPS more than 80 points. After never batting .285 during any season in his career, Hardy is currently batting .304. And yet, after hitting more home runs than any shortstop over the past three seasons (14 more than the nest closest, who’s Troy Tulowitzki), he’s yet to go yard in 2014. The weird thing is that Hardy has hit fewer groundballs than ever before. It’s probably a safe bet to expect both his batting average and his home runs to regress moving forward (this is when Harry Doyle would turn to me and say “he’s not the best colorman in the league for nothing, folks”).

Headlines of the Week: Qantas Considers Removing Life Rafts To Save FuelMan Selling The Word “The” On eBay; Gets Offer From 43 BiddersSeoul Launching Longer, Wider Women-Only ParkingRon Harper Defends Himself Against An Onion ColumnIn Georgia, You Can Carry A Gun, But You Need A Prescription For A VibratorIndian Dentist In US Tries To Extract 20 Teeth At Once, Kills PatientRussian Crocodile Hospitalized After Woman Falls On ItNorway Artist Cooked And Ate His Own Hip On “A Whim.”Hundreds Of Sheep Commit Suicide By Cracking Their Heads Open After Becoming Drug Addicts.

Quick Hits Part Deux: Since the start of last season, Corey Kluber’s 4.38 K:BB ratio is the 10th best in all of baseball, but more impressively, his 18.5 K-BB% is 12th best. There’s little doubt Kluber has become a terrific pitcher, as he currently sports a 3.10 ERA despite the Indians having arguably the worst defense in MLBChris Johnson currently has a .346 BABIP (which is actually below his career mark of .360), has hit mostly fourth or fifth in the lineup and is on pace to finish with 593 at-bats. He’s also somehow on pace to finish with just 36 runs scored and 36 RBI…Ernesto Frieri has allowed one run over his past 12 appearances (12.2 innings), including a 14:1 K:BB ratio and a 0.39 WHIP over that span. Frieri has regained the Angels’ closer’s role as a result…Joey Votto has reached 30 home runs once in his career and is currently dealing with an injury that may affect him for the rest of this season. He’s become increasingly injury prone, and since the start of 2012, his slugging percentage (.483) has somehow been lower than Brandon Belt’s (.486). Votto plays in a home park that has increased home runs for LHB by 23 percent over the past three seasons, whereas Belt plays in one that has decreased homers by 33 percent over that span. Votto has 12 RBI this season and has been a major fantasy disappointment…Yu Darvish has an eephus pitch in his arsenal. And Torii Hunter isn’t a fan…After averaging 54.0 stolen bases over his previous four seasons, Michael Bourn has swiped 27 bags over his first 162 games since joining Cleveland…Meanwhile, Alcides Escobar has been successful during 43 of his past 44 SB attempts.

Here’s a concrete truck mixer somehow avoiding a major accident “like a boss.”

There are talks to create a “Wet Hot American Summer” TV series. I have my doubts about how this will translate, but it’s easily a top-10 comedy movie of all time in my eyes. Probably top five.

Police Blotter: Man Wearing Mask And Toy Bobby’s Helmet Arrested On Suspicion Of Impersonating Police OfficerMan Killed Wife For Making Vegetarian DinnerKidnapped Newborn Found ‘Thanks To Facebook’Giants Outfielder Hunter Pence Offering Bobblehead For Stolen ScooterMan Holding Breath While Driving Through Oregon Tunnel Faints, Causes 3-Car Crash.

Quick Hits Part Tres: George Springer has five homers over his last four games, producing a .500 batting average with nine runs scored and 11 RBI over that stretch. Springer has struck out 49 times over 138 at-bats since entering the majors, which is a season’s pace of 227 that would be the most in MLB history. But he had 37 homers and 45 steals last season as a 23-year-old, so while he may be a BA drain, the power is legit, and more steals are sure to come…After dominating when entering the scene last season, Tony Cingrani has been a huge disappointment this year. It’s not clear how much his shoulder injury is to blame, but the fastball heavy Cingrani has seen a dip in velocity and SwStr%. Alarmingly, Cingrani’s K-BB% has dropped from 18.3 to 10.5, as he’s taken a major step back during his sophomore campaign, and his spot in Cincinnati’s rotation looks in jeopardy when Mat Latos returns…Buster Posey has three doubles this season. Chase Utley has 21 and Posey’s teammate Mike Morse had three during Sunday’s game alone…As I noted here, the Giants and A’s have been quite good when scoring first this season...Matt Kemp is clearly not the player he once was but is still batting .264/.327/.453 with five homers and five steals over just 148 at-bats. His defense in center has been a major problem, however, resulting in Kemp not starting any of the Dodgers’ last five games. It may take a trade or an injury for him to return to being a regular in Los Angeles’ crowded outfield...There’s almost certainly nothing to this, but Jonathan Villar’s day/night splits have been pretty insane this season (.333/.381/.821 vs. .162/.218/.225) – h/t Matthew Pouliot.

Song of the Week: The Black Keys – “Gotta Get Away.”

Longread of the Week: “Others Fade, But Judge Judy Is Forever: At 71, She Still Presides.”

Longread of the Week Part Two: “The Shawshank Residuals.”

Quick Hits Part Four: Tommy Hunter imploded and has since gone on the DL, and so far, Zach Britton has looked like Baltimore’s best option to close. His 18:9 K:BB ratio over 27.2 innings isn’t exactly great, and his 0.65 ERA is sure to regress, but Britton’s 80.0 GB% easily leads all of baseball, and he’s in line to start racking up saves. This was one of those blind squirrel finding a nut moments for meJake Peavy currently sports an ugly 4.65 ERA with a career worst 1.50 WHIP. Here are Peavy’s SwStr% marks since 2004, respectively: 12.8, 12.3, 12.0, 11.0, 10.4, 10.2, 8.3, 9.2, 9.3, 8.2 and 7.8, with the latter being by far a career low and well off his career mark (10.7). This trend suggests a big turnaround isn’t necessarily in store. Meanwhile, Clay Buchholz is an even bigger mess, helping explain how last year’s World Series champs somehow have the fourth worst record in baseball roughly a third of the way through the season…Let’s hope Yordano Ventura’s injury isn’t serious, which is what it sounds like, but what a brutal year for pitchers (there’s already been as many Tommy John surgeries as all of last season combined), and again, throwing TOO hard (Ventura currently has the highest average fastball velocity (96.7 mph) in all off baseball) is something we need to take into account moving forward…Speaking of injuries, tough break for Nolan Arenado owners, as he was the No. 5 most valuable fantasy third baseman to date…Now back healthy and coming off a stint in which he hit well in the minors leading to suddenly being a cleanup hitter, Oswaldo Arcia needs to be owned in most fantasy leagues. The same could be said for Josh Willingham, who’s just one year removed from a 85-35-110 season, as Chris Colabello’s crash back to earth came harder than even his biggest skeptics could have imagined…Giancarlo Stanton has the ability to hit a baseball far. He has as many 440-foot home runs this season as any other team combined (six).

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