The numbers don't lie. It's an old adage that should be qualified with "but …" when dealing with baseball statistics. Home runs, ERA and stolen bases can certainly tell you some things about a player, but you've got to look a bit deeper than the standard 5x5 stats to get the entire picture. Splitsville is a weekly look at some of the numbers, but we'll take a deeper look to make sure we're getting the whole story, while also calling out some of the week's notable pitching and batting lines.
Stat Trends, Streaks and Anomalies
• Hopefully you saw Dustin Pedroia's three-week slump as an opportunity to buy low and, more importantly, someone obliged. He was hitting .304 as of May 21, but a 13-for-82 slide (.159) in 21 games put his average at .262 as of June 15. He's been on an absolute tear in his past 13 games, however, going 29 for his past 57 (.509) and raising his average to its current standing of .303.
• Speaking of buy-low opportunities, your opportunity to try for Brandon Phillips has likely already come and gone (although it may be worth a try, anyway). He's batted .375 over the past 12 games, although it only raised his numbers for the month to .262/.304/.374 in 107 at bats. He hit just .245 in June during his breakout .245 campaign, hitting .296 the rest of the season.
• Manny Parra is a bit of control away from being a top-level pitcher in fantasy. He's won his past seven decisions and has compiled a 2.83 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over his past 54.0 innings, with 47 hits, 26 walks and 42 strikeouts. His high FB% (48.1%) has helped limit the damage of surplus baserunners to this point. His 14 double plays induced are good for 10th in the league. Control was not an issue for Parra as a minor leaguer.
• Adam LaRoche got a one-day head start on turning his season around, going 3-for-3 with a home run on the final day of June. Typically he waits until July to get things started. His current .230/.305/.376 line has dropped his career pre-July numbers to .237/.308/.416 in 1,140 at bats, but in 964 career post-June at bats, his line is a stellar .304/.366/.546.
• Brett Myers was optioned to Triple-A on Tuesday by the Phillies, heading to the farm as the current leader in earned runs allowed (66), opponent home runs (24) and opponent extra-base hits (57). He's faced 458 major-league batters to this point of the season, and they've compiled a .284/.356/.551 line against him.
• Widely-available starters among the league leaders in opponent OPS over the past three weeks (minimum three starts): Matt Garza (.433, third), Kevin Slowey (.485, ninth), Mark Buehrle (.516, 10th), Eric Stults (.517, 11th), Gil Meche (.531, 12th), Ricky Nolasco (.580, 16th), Ubaldo Jimenez (.599, 18th), Jamie Moyer (.612, 20th), Doug Davis (.615, 22nd), Jesse Litsch (.620, 23rd) and Greg Smith (.621, 25th).
Notable Pitching Game(s) of the Week
Kevin Slowey (Min – SP) 6/29 vs Mil
9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 BB, 8 K (109 pitches, 79 strikes)
All aboard! The Slowey bandwagon's membership rates are climbing exponentially, and you've got to move now if you don't want left behind. The 24-year-old's ratios are now a solid 3.47 ERA and a sterling 1.03 WHIP in 72.2 innings. In his past eight starts, he's posted a 2.72 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 53.0 innings. A great deal of his success is due to phenomenal control, as his walk rate of 1.1/9 trails only Mariano Rivera and Jon Lieber among pitchers with at least 25.0 innings. His K:BB (6.0:1) is the best mark of any pitcher who has made a start this season (Cliff Lee is second at 5.6:1). This is (probably) the last time I'll point out Slowey's minor league numbers, but it's hard to overstate how good they were. In 367.1 innings, he compiled a 1.94 ERA and 0.85 WHIP, walking just 1.3/9 and striking out 8.9/9. This kid's talent is for real. Don't wait to get him on your roster.
Johnny Cueto (Cin – SP) 6/28 at Cle
6.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 3 BB, 2 K (98 pitches, 64 strikes)
I was one of the last people to jump off of the Cueto bandwagon, making the leap in the evening hours of June 11. Up to that point, his high strikeout rate (8.4 entering the start) and very good strikeout-to-walk rate (3.0:1) had left me with a glimmer of hope in my eye. His 18 home runs allowed was a singular, albeit substantial, blemish on his season. Then June 11 happened (5.0 IP, 6 ER, 8 BB, 2 K) and I gave up hope. And now his past three starts have happened: In 18.1 combined innings, he's compiled a 1.47 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, thanks to zero of 14 hits allowed leaving the yard. He's still the immense talent that generated significant buzz early in the season and put together excellent minor league numbers (including 0.6 HR/9). I can't say that I never gave up on Cueto, but I can say that it may be time to give him another look, post-hype.
Notable Batting Game(s) of the Week
Edgar Gonzalez (SD – 2B, 3B) 6/30 at Col
5 AB, 4 H, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB
Adrian's older brother, a career minor leaguer, is getting his first shot at major league pitching at age 30 and doing very well. While his pair of home runs in the 15-6 shellacking of Colorado were just the second and third of the season (123 ABs), his line is a very healthy .325/.376/.480 and he's hit 10 doubles. He's been a success at every level of the minors and he's never faltered in his matchups with Triple-A pitching (.321/.391/.471, 58 2B, 7 3B, 19 HR, 25 SB in 259 G). Gonzalez will get at least a few more weeks of at bats with Tadahito Iguchi's shoulder still in recovery mode, and he could hold his position in the depth chart if he keeps hitting.
Rick Ankiel (StL – OF) 6/25 at Det
3 AB, 2 H, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB
Some various truths about Ankiel: his story is good sports drama, he's got a cannon for an outfield arm, and he's a streaky hitter. In his electric first 19 games after being recalled from Triple-A in 2007, he batted .353 and hit six home runs. Over the next 19 games he batted just .176, but then rebounded to hit .361 over the final nine games of the season. His 2008 hasn't been any different. He started the season by batting .294 over 38 games (7 HRs), then slipped to .171 over 23 games (4 HRs), and now he's hit .295 over his past 10 games (4 HRs). The power has stayed pretty steady – his 15 home runs on the season are good for 15th among players with OF eligibility. What fantasy owners should resist doing is simply cutting him loose when he slumps. The expectations shouldn't be for more than around a .275 average, anyway. Instead, get him to the bench and plug him back in when he re-finds his stroke. With some astute lineup maintenance, Ankiel's fantasy impact can be maximized.