• Where are the strikeouts for St. Louis Cardinals ace Matt Morris? Morris’ whiff rate per nine innings pitched has declined steadily in recent seasons, from 7.70 in 2001 to 4.12 this season. Another troubling sign is that Morris has coughed up 14 home runs in nine starts after setting a career high with 20 dingers surrendered last year. Maybe this means nothing, but I have already shipped him out in one league, suspecting something is wrong with him. Nagging shoulder problems and inconsistent mechanics have always dogged him.
• What is with managers not replacing their struggling closers? In San Francisco, manager Felipe Alou has stuck with Matt Herges, who is being hit at a .350 clip and has a 7.11 ERA. Granted, he has only blown two of 13 save chances, but setup man Felix Rodriguez is having the much better season. Long thought of as a closer-in-waiting, Rodriguez has become less of a thrower and more of a pitcher in recent seasons and has a 0.830 WHIP and a 2.79 ERA. F-Rod also is one of the longest-tenured Giants, but maybe Alou figures the team doesn’t have a chance to do anything, so what the heck?
• The same situation exists in Chicago, where Joe Borowski has somehow managed to go a perfect 7-for-7 in save chances despite allowing nearly two base runners an inning. Reports that Borowski has lost 5-6 miles per hour on his fastball are validated by the sudden statistical implosion. Setup man LaTroy Hawkins has a 1.37 ERA with nearly a K an inning. If Borowski begins blowing saves – and how can he not at some point with his stats – Hawkins will be given the ball in the ninth.
• People see Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson hitting .349 and immediately begin calling him a fluke. But not so fast. Wilson actually began showing improvement at the plate last year, hitting .282 in 234 post-break at bats. He won’t maintain his current pace, but Wilson should be able to parlay his second half last season into a full campaign. And that isn’t so bad.
• Staying with shortstops, is anyone really that shocked to see Royals SS Angel Berroa hitting .214? Given the plate discipline he showed last season – 29 walks to 100 strikeouts – his .287 average a year ago has proven to be an aberration. Until he learns to take more pitches and cut down on the strikeouts, it’s hard to see Berroa hitting much better than .250.
• Derek Jeter is hitting .190, a far cry from his lifetime mark of .313. Statheads will point out that Jeter’s xBA, his expected batting average, has annually been in the .250 range. Even if Jeter goes on a tear, it’s tough to see him hitting .280 when all is said and done, and that’s still a good 30-40 points lower than what most people expected.
• The best under-the-radar closer? Braden Looper, who has not allowed an earned run all season, along with six saves and less than a baserunner an inning.
• If you’ve lost Marcus Giles for six-to-eight weeks, consider Rob Mackowiak, the Pirates’ second baseman/outfielder. Mackowiak hit 16 homeruns a few years ago and has seven this season. He won’t hit for average, and he’ll strike out too much, but he can hit the ball out of the yard well enough for someone with second base eligibility.
• Keep an eye out for Orioles pitcher Daniel Cabrera. He’s only had five starts above A-ball – all this season – but has a live arm and shut out the White Sox for six innings last week. He’ll suffer his bumps, but he’s a name to watch in the years to come.
• Sad but true: Blue Jays pitcher Justin Miller has a tattoo that reads “I love Billy Koch” on his buttock, but at least Koch paid him $1,000 for it.
Ryan Fay, a four-year fantasy baseball veteran, has also written for the fantasy football site Fantasy Asylum since 2000.
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