Jack Cust has eight home runs in 46 at bats and J.J. Hardy is on pace for more than 50 home runs. They are great stories and you should enjoy them while they last. A feel-good story can disappear quickly, just ask Chris Shelton. The intriguing thing about both of these guys is that they possess skills that can make you take a leap of faith that they are truly heading down a special path. But let Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton be recent cautionary tales that the sweet flavors of one month can turn sour the next. As May starts to wind down, here's a look at the sweet and sour from the past weekend:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- My 37th birthday is just a few days away and like any late 30-something, the specter of the big Four-O looms in front of me like Luke Skywalker standing at the edge of the plank on Jabba's sail barge, staring down into the pit of Carkoon at the jaws of the creature known as the Sarlacc – my daughter has become fascinated with Star Wars lately and it's rubbing off on me. But, while life after 40 is considered "over the hill," Randy Johnson is just the latest example that the dark side of 40 can still be vital times. On Sunday, Johnson was hitting the upper-90 mph range in striking out 10 Pirates in just 5.2 innings – he picked up his second win of the season by allowing just two earned runs. In his past three starts, he's gone 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA, .190 BAA and 14.3 K/9. In his past five starts, Johnson has walked just three batters compared to 40 strikeouts in 30.2 IP. Johnson says he's still dealing with residual pain from back surgery. "I think over the last couple of starts," Johnson said, "even though the results have been good my body physically has kind of been up and down." It's encouraging to know that Johnson has been able to pitch effectively even when he hasn't felt good physically. Because, I'm six years his junior, and a softball game and a couple morning hoop runs is the extent of my weekly exercise, and there aren't many days when I wake up feeling spry.
- After stealing an A.L. record 45 bases without being caught, Ichiro was thrown out twice in his past four games. But, for fantasy owners that watched the Seattle speedster swipe just one base in April, they no doubt appreciate the effort. Especially when it comes with 11 successful swipes this month, including eight in the past week. Considering that Ichiro is the league's all-time batting average leader in May (.372), we should have known that ample theft opportunities were about to arise. And after opening May in a 2-for-22 funk, he's since reeled off a 13-game hitting streak that has produced a .473 BA, 10 multi-hit games, 11 Runs and 10 SBs during that span. With April in the rear-view mirror (at .299, it's his only career monthly split below .314), expect to see Ichiro's best foot forward as he plays out the final year of his contract and heads to a big free agent payoff.
While Ichiro is arguably the game's hottest player of the moment, teammate Richie Sexson's bat is in a Han Solo-like deep carbon freeze. Things are so bad for they typically first-half maligned slugger that he was benched by manager Mike Hargrove on Saturday and Sunday in favor of Ben Broussard. Among players with at least 100 at bats, Sexson's .162 BA is the league's lowest, 15 points below first runner-up Alex Gordon (.177). But Sexson is hardly breaking new ground here. He was saddled with a .205 BA at the end of May last season, but went on to hit .294 with 28 HRs over the final four months. For most players, monthly splits are random in nature and not to be taken too seriously when trying to predict how a player will perform in the months to come. But Sexson has proven throughout his career that the second-half is where he makes his hay. For his career, he hits 43 points higher and has an OPS that is 138 points better post All-Star break. As Sexson has been increasingly booed at home, Hargrove is expected to let him try and find his swing on the road. The Mariners embark on a 10-game road trip this week, with Tampa Bay and Kansas City among the stops – not a bad place to try and find yourself. Fantasy owners exploring the trade market might want to see if a Sexson owner will drop him into a deal as a throw-in. Sexson is down, but I wouldn't stick a fork in him yet.
- Notable Notes: The latest reports are that Roy Halladay (appendix) may return by the end of the month, which would be a couple weeks sooner than initially expected. … Howie Kendrick (hand) had his rehab stint at Triple-A Salt Lake extended at least a couple days as he works on his timing at the plate. He was initially expected to re-join the Angels on Tuesday, but he'll stay in Triple-A through at least Wednesday. For those of us waiting desperately for Kendrick's return, a couple days can seem like an eternity … Rickie Weeks expects to return to the Milwaukee lineup on Monday after missing four games with a sore wrist. He's had wrist problems for the better part of a year now, so don't expect this to be the last time he gets a day(s) off because of this issue. … Cleveland's Travis Hafner needs just two more starts at first base to qualify at first base. While this will create some flexibility breathing room in most leagues, it's especially a big deal in leagues that don't use players that don't qualify at a position. In those leagues, Hafner will show up on waivers after he makes that anticipated fifth start of the season.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Ryan Doumit, Pit, C/1/O
Whether playing first base, outfielder or catcher, Doumit has been playing nearly every day for the Pirates. And in the past month, he's the fifth-ranked Catcher in the Yahoo! game (.384, 3, 12, 11, 1). In the month of May, only Jorge Posada has more extra-base hits among backstops than Doumit's nine – seven doubles and two home runs. If you're holding on to Paul Lo Duca, and an owner in 80 percent of Yahoo! leagues out there are, you're holding on to the idea of Lo Duca, not the production your are getting from him. Doumit has been more productive than Lo Duca in fantasy leagues in nearly half as many at bats. I made this swap weeks ago. You should too.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
- Adam Miller, Cle, SP (ETA – June)
It's time to start paying attention to Cleveland's top minor league arm. Indians starter Jeremy Sowers and his 7-plus ERA appear ticketed for the minors, and given that Jake Westbrook isn't expected to be ready to return from an abdominal injury for a couple weeks, Miller 's name could enter the big league discussion in the coming weeks. Miller is 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 39 Ks in 44 IP at Triple-A Buffalo this season. After four-plus years in the minors, Miller seems destined to face major league hitting sometime before the All-Star break.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Randy Winn, SF, OF – Winn batted .448 this past week, finishing with 13 hits – second-most to Ichiro's 15. Winn has now hit in 19 straight games to raise his average to .327.
Carlos Pena, TB, 1B – Former Texas can't-miss prospect Pena is on pace for 42 HRs and 118 RBI. He also is coming off a week in which he led the league in Runs (8).
Victor Diaz, Tex, OF – Diaz has five home runs this season, all coming in his past seven games. During that span he's hit .429 with 9 RBI and 6 Runs.
Boof Bonser, Min, SP – On Friday, Bonser struck out 11 Milwaukee hitters and allowed just one earned run in seven innings to pick up his second straight victory. In his past five starts, he has posted a 2.10 ERA and has fanned 33 batters in 30 IP.
Andruw Jones, Atl, OF – In a contract year, Jones has struck out 17 times in his past eight games and has just one home run in the month of May.
Josh Hamilton, Cin, OF – Before gastroenteritis knocked him out of the lineup this past weekend, Hamilton was mired in an 11-game slump that produced a .167 BA and 1 RBI.
Barry Bonds, SF, OF – Just 10 HRs shy of the all-time HR record, Bonds has stalled. He's gone 10 straight games without a HR, hitting .172 with 0 RBI during that span.
John Maine, NYM, SP – Maine hit his first rough patch of '07 this past week, dropping two decisions while allowing a combined 15 hits and eight earned runs in 10 IP.
Yahoo! Sports Blog Funston League Update
Things are looking up, if only slightly in the Blog league, as I jumped up one spot since last week – from ninth to eighth. The biggest difference from last week to this week, however, is that I'm 15.5 points out of first place – I was over 20 points out of second place seven days ago. Overall, the standings have tightened up significantly as no team sitting from No. 2-7 in the standings is more than 8.5 points out of the top spot … Recent additions league-wide include Casey Janssen, Heath Bell, Braden Looper and Aaron Heilman, among others.
You can follow along with my Yahoo! Friends and Family experts league team here.