Welcome back to another week where we look beyond the seasonal stats to find out which players are firing on all cylinders right now — and which are struggling to get the old engine cranked up. Yours truly is sitting in again this week, and since pretty much every trading deadline is past, I won’t be looking at players to sell high or buy low anymore. Instead, I’ll go beyond the usual three players for each section, as we look at who has been hot and cold in the month of August.
Andrew McCutchen – August stats: 29/90, 19 R, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 6 SB, .322 AVG
Few hitters have been as hot in August as McCutchen, and he has shown himself to be the five-tool prospect many experts touted him to be. With the Pirates long since out of contention for postseason play (and with no real rivals for the position), we can expect him to play pretty much every day through September, continuing to delight McCutchen owners everywhere!
Miguel Cabrera – August stats: 36/102, 19 R, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 2 SB, .353 AVG
Once again, it seems that Miggy simply isn’t getting the recognition that he deserves (except here at the Cafe, of course, where he has made the #1 spot in the 3B rankings this week). He is on course for another 30/100 season, hitting .337 or better and slugging at least .515 in every month except June. August has been his best month so far, and, with the Tigers looking to clinch the AL Central, I expect Miggy to continue this hot streak through September as well.
Brian Roberts – August stats: 33/110, 16 R, 6 HR, 17 RBI, 7 SB, .300 AVG
Brian Roberts has had one of those months he has every now and again — in addition to the usual runs, SBs and average, he contributes a decent amount of power. Six HRs in August matches his total for the preceding three months — nice when it happens, but this is one power surge that you shouldn’t expect to continue through September. There is a chance that it will, but don’t pin your hopes on it.
Derek Holland – August stats: 5 starts, 3-2, 31.1 IP, 22/10 K/BB, 3.45 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
If it wasn’t for the most recent start against the Yankees, Holland’s numbers for August would be a lot more impressive, and the ones he has posted are hardly terrible! His previous three starts saw him beat the Twins, Red Sox and Angels, giving up a grand total of three ERs in those games (all of them, bizarrely, solo shots). The September schedule for the Rangers is looking very favorable, giving Holland several more chances to put together some quality starts.
Cliff Lee – August stats: 5 starts, 4-1, 36.0 IP, 38/4 K/BB, 2.00 ERA, 0.94 WHIP
Last, but most definitely not least, is the hottest player in baseball over the past month — Cliff Lee. He has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that his 2008 season was far from an aberration, giving up only two ERs in four August starts prior to last night’s major hiccup against Atlanta. He has been mostly awesome, drawing justified comparisons with CC Sabathia’s transition to the NL last season. Expect more high-caliber hurling from Lee in September.
Lance Berkman – August stats: 17/58, 9 R, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB, .293 AVG
Granted, he missed some of August due to injury, but since coming back on August 12, Lance Berkman has hit for average and little else. Most worrying is the abject lack of power — he has hit only one HR since the start of July. His strikeouts are up, and he also has no stolen base attempts since the ASB. He went to the DL with a strained left calf; one wonders if it is still affecting him in some way.
Justin Morneau – August stats: 16/75, 10 R, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 0 SB, .213 AVG
Another slumping 1B, Morneau has an OPS of a mere .701 in August — way below what we have come to expect from him. I am not too concerned at this stage; I see this as more of a blip than anything, and there is no reason to think he can’t bounce back strongly in September — especially with the Tigers to chase down in the division.
Raul Ibanez – August stats: 17/87, 10 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, .195 AVG
Everyone’s darling in April and May, Ibanez’s recent performances have stunk up the joint to no end. This is the classic example of someone who’s seasonal stats (still very healthy) dramatically disguise the reality of his current contribution to your fantasy team. The question is, do you hold onto him? If you had him for that early production, you no doubt remember it and want to hold onto him in case it comes back in September. If you traded for him, it’s even worse — dumping him now would feel like you traded for nothing! But nothing is precisely what you’re getting right now. If you have a spare bench spot, I’d use it on Ibanez, but there’s no way he should be a starter for your team right now.
Cole Hamels – August stats: 5 starts, 0-3, 29.1 IP, 21/12 K/BB, 4.91 ERA, 1.60 WHIP
Hamels was unfortunate in his most recent start. Having thrown eight shut-out innings, the bullpen decided to blow his chance of a win. That said, there has to be a reason why he hasn’t picked up a win in five August starts, and a look at the statistics suggests that it is because he’s not pitching deep enough into games. Before the eight innings against the Pirates, he hadn’t made it into the seventh inning of any of the previous four games — not what you expect from your ace (if he still is the Phillies’ ace; Cliff Lee may suggest otherwise). The reality is that the August 1.60 WHIP — his worst since April — and the 12 walks issued (at least twice the number of any previous month this year) have had a great effect on his chances to pick up wins for the Phillies, or your fantasy team. Couple that with a bullpen that is notoriously dodgy right now, and you realize that Hamels has got to be pitching deeper into games if he’s going to collect more wins this season. We know he has the talent to do it — whether he will or not is another matter.
Joakim Soria – August stats: 7 games, 1-2, 9.2 IP, 3 Sv, 1 BS, 11/3 K/BB, 7.45 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
I still like Soria as a top-five closer, but there’s no denying he’s had a terrible August. It’s tough enough pitching on a team like the Royals (only four save opportunities this month), but when you give up eight ERs in the seven games you get to pitch in, there’s no blaming the offense for the lack of saves in your portfolio. Those eight ERs are more than he’s given up the whole of the rest of the season — which suggests to me that this is a hiccup, nothing more. The K/BB ratio is still solid; the real damage has been done by Soria’s sudden propensity to give up the long ball (four in August). His job is secure, so keep him in your lineup and don’t worry.
We’re entering the final month of the regular season — the time when we have to seriously consider dropping the big names who aren’t performing in order to grab those lesser-known guys who are producing when it matters. So check back next week for another look at who is hot and who is not, and in the meantime, be champions!
Chris Routledge is one of a growing number of Brits infiltrating the Cafe, and is the double reigning champion of the H2H World Series, much to the chagrin of token Cafe Padres fan, wrveres. Catch up with him in the Cafe under the username chris8.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!