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.
Streaks, Stat Standouts and Anomalies
It appears to be safe to go ahead and pick up Garrett Atkins in those five percent of Yahoo! leagues where he is currently still a free agent. Since reaching an OPS low-water mark of .629 on May 28, Akins has hit .311 (42 for 135) in 36 games, with 29 R, 10 HR, and 34 RBI.
Whatever adjectives you've used to describe Adam LaRoche so far this season, one that you shouldn't have been throwing around is inconsistent. He entered the 2007 season with horrific April numbers (.206 average, .392 slugging), and proceeded to hit .133 and slug .265 during the month. His numbers tended to rebound a bit in May (.270, .493 entering 2007), during which he hit .283 and slugged .424 this season. Typically, June was a below-average month for him (.263, .431 entering 2007), and he hit .238 in 101 at bats this season, although he did manage a .485 slugging percentage. July has been among his best months (.298, .564 entering 2007), and he's off to a great start (.407, 1.319 in 27 at bats). If form holds true, it should be smooth sailing from here on out (career .289/.354/.555 line after the All-Star break).
Talk about a collective resurgence – starting with their respective dazzling starts against the Pirates this season, Kameron Loe (June 14) and Jeff Weaver (June 19) have gone a combined 6-0 with a 1.32 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in their last nine starts, totaling 61.1 innings. It bears repeating – the two were a combined 1-12, with an 8.62 ERA and 1.85 WHIP in 94.0 innings, entering their starts against the Buccos.
Widely-available players among the league leaders in OPS over the past three weeks: Chris Duncan (1.274), Ryan Braun (1.268), Josh Hamilton (1.150), Marcus Thames (1.136), Ryan Spilborghs (1.122), Coco Crisp (1.116), James Loney (1.068), and Troy Tulowitzki (1.059).
Widely-available starting pitchers among the league leaders in opponent OPS over the past three weeks (minimum three starts): Wandy Rodriguez (0.548), Jeff Weaver (0.553), Dustin McGowan (0.569), Tim Lincecum (0.590), Jarrod Washburn (0.604), Kevin Millwood (0.619), Chad Gaudin (0.621), Andrew Miller (0.638), Jake Westbrook (0.641), and Paul Maholm (0.649).
Notable Pitching Game of the Week
Wandy Rodriguez (Hou – SP, RP) 7/6 vs NYM
9.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K (105 pitches, 68 strikes)
Wandy could do almost no wrong during his gem, limiting the explosive Mets offense to three singles, a walk, and a Carlos Beltran double in the complete-game shutout. On the season, Rodriguez has a respectable No. 174 overall ranking, including a ranking of No. 65 overall during the last month. Among the 102 pitchers who have made at least 15 starts, Rodriguez ranks 17th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.5:1).
Prospective fantasy owners (he's currently owned in 17 percent of Yahoo! leagues) should take note of one area of Rodriguez's splits, in particular. Call him the NL version of Ervin Santana, because his home numbers (nine starts, 5-2, 1.81 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, .202 BAA) are worlds apart from his away numbers (eight starts, 1-5, 6.60 ERA, 1.53, WHIP, .296 BAA). His differences in WHIP (0.61) and BAA (.094) are actually more pronounced than Santana's (0.58 and .065, respectively).
Unlike with Santana, this is a new development for Rodriguez – in his first two seasons, Rodriguez was as ineffective at home (145.0 IP, 5.52 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) as he was on the road (119.1 IP, 5.66 ERA, 1.52 WHIP). For now, it's safe to pick up the 28-year-old and use him as a spot starter, avoiding his road starts. His BABIP (.295) and strand rate (70 percent) suggest that his overall numbers are legit, and the high K:BB ratio is simply a sign of good pitching. It's worth taking a chance on seeing if he can solve his road woes and become a dependable back-of-the-rotation fantasy starter.
Notable Batting Game of the Week
Billy Butler (KC – OF) 7/3 vs Seattle
5 AB, 3 H, 4 R, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB
Butler did his damage early in the 17-3 shellacking of Ryan Feierabend and the Mariners, hitting a three-run home run in the first and a double with the bases loaded in the second. Remember when the "Hunter Pence or Billy Butler?" debate raged in early May, as both players made their season debuts within days of each other? While it's not too hard to see that Pence has turned out to have been the better option at the time, it should serve as a reminder that Butler has all the tools to be a superb major league hitter, as well.
Ironically, many of the fantasy owners who skipped Pence to use their waiver claim on Butler in May probably didn't even notice when Butler was recalled from Triple-A on June 19, as he hit just .243/.256/.297 in his first Major League stint, which lasted all of 10 games. In 15 games since being recalled, however, Butler has hit .319 (15 for 47) with 9 R, 3 HR, and 10 RBI. His line in his two combined Triple-A stints was a solid .291/.412/.542, with 13 HR, and 43:32 BB:K in 57 games.
Part of the reason for his original demotion was his being a liability in the outfield – he played first base for most of the month he spent down in the minors. With Ryan Shealy currently on the DL and sporting a .221/.286/.308 line and Mike Sweeney being sidelined for at least six weeks thanks to arthroscopic knee surgery, Butler is looking at regular playing time moving forward as the Royals' designated hitter and occasional first baseman.
Stat(s) of the Week
In stark contrast to the numerous All-Star squads you've seen in recent days and in homage to the leagues that view sustained futility as a good thing – where negative stats are actually a positive – let's name the All-Stinker Team for the first half of 2007. The absolute worst fantasy players thus far include (positions based solely on current player eligibility):
C – Dioner Navarro, TB: Despite a despicable .177 average, Navarro has amassed 209 at bats – you won't find a bigger detriment to team average among catchers.
1B – Robert Fick, Was: He's managed a .206 average and just 5 RBI with his 102 at bats.
2B – Neifi Perez, Det: He hacked his way to a .172 average in 64 at bats in the Majors' most productive offense, and that's even with some "help" along the way.
SS – Alberto Callaspo, Ari: Just 9 R, 5 RBI, and a .206 average in 126 at bats.
3B – Juan Castro, Cin: He's hit .180 in his 89 at bats, scoring and driving in five runs each.
OF – Steve Finley, Col: In 94 at bats, he's put together a .181 average, .490 OPS, and driven in a paltry two runs.
SP – Vicente Padilla, Tex: Has a 3-8 record with a 6.69 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, and .326 BAA in 15 games and 80.2 innings, plus he signed a $34M contract in the offseason.
RP – Edwin Jackson, TB: More than made up for a decent strikeout rate with a 7.23 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, and 1-9 record in 17 games and 74.2 innings.