There are many crazy aspects to the A’s currently leading the A.L. West (while having the third-best run differential in the American League and fifth-best in MLB), including 40-year-old Bartolo Colon being the team’s lone representative at the All-Star game (he has a 2.69 ERA despite striking out more than five batters in a game twice in 2013 and just once since April 23). Josh Donaldson has been an extremely nice surprise, but the craziest aspect of Oakland once again competing in a seemingly strong division in which their payroll pales in comparison to the Rangers and Angels is the fact they have been able to do so with Brett Anderson having given them just 29.0 innings that produced a 6.21 ERA and even more so – Yoenis Cespedes posting a .224/.286/.427 line, even getting caught five times in eight stolen base attempts. Despite the putrid batting average and having homered in just one game since June 6, Cespedes has 15 long balls, 46 runs scored and 42 RBI over 295 at-bats, so while he’s been a major disappointment, those counting stats are actually not bad considering his .713 OPS (and in an oddity, Cespedes hasn’t hit one home run in a game since May 21 – he has three multi-HR games over that span). When it comes to Cuban prospects, it’s hard not to prefer Yasiel Puig right now, but if you believe UZR, Cespedes has essentially gone from a terrible defensive player during his first year in the states to a terrific one. And while his batting average may remain a problem, Cespedes’ power looks legit, as he currently sports a 0.67 GB/FB ratio that is the second best in MLB, and his 14.0 HR/FB% is actually lower than his rookie season. Cespedes should be much better over the second half of 2013.
Homer Bailey’s 3.70 ERA isn’t overly impressive, and his latest no-hitter (that was one walk away from a perfect game) came against a Giants offense that’s been struggling mightily, but credit is due here. Bailey sports a dominant 114:29 K:BB ratio over 116.2 innings this season with a 1.12 WHIP. His 3.93 K:BB ratio is elite, and he’s flashed the best velocity since joining Cincinnati – his average fastball velo (93.6 mph) has been the second highest of his career, while his slider (88.0) and curveball (79.4) have both been his fastest. Bailey has somehow increased his GB/FB ratio this season to 1.53 (his career mark is 1.23) while simultaneously posting by far the best K% (24.1) of his career, which isn’t exactly easy to do. He’s also sporting a 10.7 SwStr%, which is well above his career mark (8.9), as he looks like a starter who’s officially making the leap, even if his ERA looks pedestrian right now. Bailey isn’t the most consistent starter in baseball, as he has an 8.60 ERA over seven starts this year and a 1.37 ERA over his other 11 outings. Still, since the beginning of September (including the playoffs), he has a 3.08 ERA and 0.98 WHIP with a 172:39 K:BB ratio over 172.1 innings. Those are extremely impressive numbers over a span of 26 starts.
Here’s a Hilarious Skype Bombing During Testimony in the George Zimmerman Trial.
Over his first 264 at-bats last season, Jason Kipnis batted .284 with 11 homers, 41 RBI, 46 runs scored and 17 stolen bases. Over his next 402 at-bats, he batted .226 with four homers, 39 RBI, 46 runs scored and 19 stolen bases. Since then, Kipnis has batted .330 with 12 homers, 42 runs scored, 50 RBI and 15 stolen bases over 227 at-bats. It doesn’t get much streakier than that. Since the beginning of May, Kipnis has been the fourth most valuable fantasy player, regardless of position. On a side note: Brian Roberts received more All Star votes. Kipnis is hitting few popups (2.6 IFFB%), a bunch of line drives (24.7 LD%) and has a 1.18 GB/FB ratio, so his batted ball profile has been impressive. Because of Kipnis’ 22.7 K% (and propensity to run hot and cold for long stretches), Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano are safer options moving forward, but the former offers the most upside among fantasy second basemen thanks to his HR/SB potential.
Justin Smoak hit two RBI doubles Monday, matching his RBI total that wasn’t the direct result of a home run since April 22, a span of 41 games. The switch-hitter has one RBI against left-handed pitchers all season long. Still, Smoak is showing improvement at the plate, albeit incrementally. He’s batting .291/.397/.486 with seven home runs and a 36:25 K:BB ratio over 148 at-bats against righties this year. There are encouraging signs for the former top prospect, but especially as a first baseman who offers nothing in the SB category, his utter lack of counting stats (he has scored 23 runs this season despite a .369 OBP and combines that with just 17 RBI despite hitting primarily fifth and sixth in the lineup. Batting .163/.339/.224 with RISP will do that) really hurts his fantasy potential. Still, Smoak is 26 years old, and his 126 wRC+ is higher than Prince Fielder, Manny Machado, Jay Bruce and Justin Upton. Maybe Smoak’s career is salvageable after all.
I put a couple of bucks down on Chris Weidman, so I was pretty pumped about his upset over Anderson Silva, but HOW it happened was something I’ve never seen before. A rematch is inevitable.
Travis Wood once looked quite promising, as he recorded a 3.51 ERA and 1.08 WHIP as a rookie in 2010, accompanied by an 86:26 K:BB ratio over 102.2 innings. He then proceeded to post a 4.50 ERA over the next two seasons, including allowing a whopping 25 home runs over 156.0 innings last year. In 2013, Wood has been one of baseball’s biggest pitching surprises, as he holds a 2.69 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. His 85:35 K:BB ratio over 117.0 innings isn’t exactly dominant, so he’s a candidate for some regression, and as an extreme fly ball pitcher (0.74 GB/FB ratio), he’s especially tied to the whims of the HR/FB ratio that can fluctuate so greatly. Still, Wood’s 8.1 SwStr% is a career high, and his low ERA is especially impressive considering Wrigley Field has played as the best hitter’s park in baseball so far in 2013.
Police Blotter: “I Thought You Could Only be Arrested For Burglary at Night"...An 18-year-old named “Bamboo Flute” stabs his dad because he “wondered what it was like to kill”...Homeowner Hogties Attempted Burglar in Yard, Leaves Him There Because He Was Late to Work...Florida Woman Arrested For Battery After Kissing Officer on the Nose...8-Car Crash, 6 DUIs, 0 Fatalities...Judge Finds Cop Not Guilty of Assault After Refusing to Watch Video of Assault...Caught on Video: Fake Hit Man and Widow Wannabe Discuss Husband’s Murder. That last one is especially crazy.
Quick Hits: Just two years removed from a season in which he hit 32 homers and stole 39 bases, Jacoby Ellsbury is on pace to finish 2013 with 3.6 homers and (an MLB-leading) 64.8 steals. Since May started, he’s been successful on 25-of-26 SB attempts, and while the homers are way down, he has 20 doubles and seven triples. Still, with a 2.00 GB/FB ratio, Ellsbury doesn’t profile as someone who will approach 30 bombs again, although his current HR/FB% of 2.5 is a bit on the extreme side and should improve moving forward. Ellsbury’s 36 stolen bases are more than the Braves, Mariners, Twins, Diamondbacks, Tigers, Reds and Cardinals have as a team…Over his first 147 at-bats this season, Kelly Johnson posted a .299/.360/.571 line with 10 homers and 33 RBI. Since then, he’s batting an almost unfathomable .125 with just two homers and seven RBI over 96 at-bats. Speaking of inconsistent, teammate Matt Moore went 8-0 with a 2.18 ERA over his first 11 starts this season. He then went 0-3 with a 13.86 ERA over his next three outings. He’s since gone 4-0 with a 1.40 ERA over his last four starts...Greg Holland’s 44.4 K% would go down as the third highest of all time…Phil Hughes for Brandon Belt: Who says no? Seriously, how perfect of a trade would that be for both teams?...Last year Alfonso Soriano didn’t hit his first home run until May 15 before finishing with 32. This season he entered May 4 with a .646 OPS and just one homer but has since heated up in a big way, especially of late. Soriano has eight big flies, 14 runs scored and 17 RBI over his last 11 games, even chipping in two steals as well. He and Matt Garza are picking a very good time to play well if you’re a Cubs fan…Here’s Carlos Gomez’s amazing game-winning catch robbing a still-can’t-believe-it-happened Joey Votto. It was Gomez’s fourth HR robbing catch of the season. No one else has more than two.
Headlines of the Week: Cancer Patient Mistaken for ‘Surgical Mask Bandit,’ Bank Sorry...Man Charged Again With Having Sex With Horse...Man Pissed Over Lack of Spoiler Alert Prior to Reading Ben Affleck’s Character in ‘Argo’ Was a Ghost...Agency Hopes to Cash in on Adults’ Taste for Breast Milk...Venice’s Gondoliers May Face Breathalyzers...NY Nun With Gambling Problem Gets Jail For Theft...Court OKs Barring High IQs For Cops.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Yasiel Puig is of course the man, but since his debut, Miguel Cabrera has more home runs (12 vs. 8), more RBI (27 vs. 19) and a higher OPS. The latter currently leads the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, homers, RBI, runs scored and walks and is on pace to finish with 168 RBI. With RISP, he’s batting .447/.557/.922 with 15 home runs over 103 at-bats. Cabrera is making last season’s Triple Crown performance seem disappointing. Here he is straight up murdering a baseball…After the Giants were no hit by Homer Bailey, I thought they had finally hit rock bottom. But they’ve gone 1-5 since, including somehow batting out of order in the FIRST INNING of Saturday’s game. Over SF’s last 15 games, the defending World Series champs have been outscored by 36 runs. Unbelievably, Madison Bumgarner has the team’s past four wins coming from a starting pitcher (the last time a SP other than MadBum won a game was June 13). Over his past 13 games, Pablo Sandoval is batting .100 (5-for-50). His double Tuesday was just his second extra-base hit since May 21. I went to Monday’s 16-inning marathon, and I would have been enraged had I stayed until the end (and I would’ve if not for people I was with needing to wake up very early the next morning). It appears a repeat isn’t in store…Delmon Young claims he’d be hitting 1.000 if he never struck out and there were no fielders out there. It’s really hard to argue with that...Alexei Ramirez entered 2013 having averaged 15.6 home runs and 13.4 stolen bases over his five seasons in the league. More than halfway through this year, he has one home run and 19 steals. I have no idea what to make of it, but the trend actually started last season, just not quite as extreme…Manny Machado has some range...Here’s a would-be walk off hit if only the runner on first understood baseball.
Longread of the Week: Why The City of Miami is Doomed to Drown. (H/T Chris Liss). What a bleak outlook.
Quick Hits Part Tres: One year removed from posting a disappointing .230/.300/.399 line, Brian McCann is hitting .294/.371/.518 and has 10 homers over 170 at-bats despite missing the first month of the year after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. He still remains one of the poorest sources for runs (he’s scored just 10 when not knocking himself in this season despite a .371 OBP), but McCann is batting a scorching .488 (20-for-41) over his past 10 games, and his .889 OPS would be the second highest among catchers if he qualified…Jeff Locke somehow has a 2.15 ERA and 1.13 WHIP despite a 73:47 K:BB ratio over 109.0 innings. It’s fun when pitchers outperform their peripherals, and I don’t treat FIP/xFIP as gospel, but this is beyond extreme. The Pirates are fielding a strong defense, and there’s something in the water with Pittsburgh pitching in 2013, but let me reiterate: he has a 1.55 K:BB ratio with a 6.03 K/9 rate. He also made the All-Star team over Stephen Strasburg...Eric Hosmer entered June 16 with a .269/.329/.350 line and two home runs. Since then, he’s batting .351 with seven homers over 74 at-bats. Hosmer also has two steals and just five strikeouts over that span and has been a top-12 fantasy hitter over the past two weeks, according to Baseball Monster. I really want to believe this has something to do with the team hiring George Brett as hitting coach, as I’ve been a big fan ever since he told his story about pooping his pants (look it up). “Who (are) the pitchers in this game?” Brett also seems like a pretty good guy...Elvis Andrus hasn’t homered in his last 457 at-bats. He’s somehow sporting a career-low .594 OPS as a 24-year-old despite playing in one of the best hitter’s parks in all of baseball. Over the past three seasons, his BB% has decreased while his K% has increased, which is an odd trajectory for someone who made his major league debut at age 20. With a career 2.77 GB/FB ratio with a 3.1 HR/FB%, few players in baseball are less likely to homer.