A little riddle for you: What can possibly get this Dodger fan to be less excited about a once in a blue moon Dodger home series against the Yankees? The World Cup, of course, and I’m sure you figured that out already. Congratulations and commiserations go to Dan for New Zealand going unbeaten in the group stages and getting eliminated from the group stage anyway. Yours truly is a tad subdued about England losing to Germany, but I’m more miffed about Fabio Capello’s stubbornness to an ineffective game plan more than I am in Frank Lampard’s goal not standing, which would have of course, tied the game, 2-2 before halftime. There is some irony about that goal, however. A couple of weeks ago, I may have mentioned about England’s 1966 World Cup victory over West Germany and the somewhat controversial circumstances of England’s win. Well, in extra time of that final with the score 2-2, Geoff Hurst struck the bar, an outcome similar to Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal. To this day, football, erm, soccer fans still debate whether or not Hurst’s goal should have stood, as it hit the goal line, but the bigger question was whether or not the ball crossed completely. In the end, the goal did stand and Hurst went on to bag another goal, for the first and only hattrick in a World Cup final, to which England won, 4-2. With Lampard’s disallowed goal, it was clear as crystal that the ball was two feet within the goal line and should have been a goal. Perhaps we’ll see the instant replay debate spark up in “the other football”, but to me, the linesman should have seen it and called it a goal, simple as. Regardless, at the rate the England backline were getting stretched by the Germans, I still stand that England would not have prevailed anyway.
Lastly, commiserations and a job well done to the U.S. soccer team, who had a good showing at the World Cup and I hope that most Americans won’t soon forget that team with the memories they left behind in South Africa. Now that the U.S. are done and dusted in the World Cup, I’m sure most of you are focused on baseball once again. I’m sure you’re paying more attention to Matt Kemp’s dropoff in speed and defense possibly being attributed to his relationship with Rihanna and dugout bust-ups galore (Carlos Zambrano vs. Derrek Lee, B.J. Upton vs. Evan Longoria). Onto the business…
*Stats of Sunday, June 27
Corey Hart – Last Month: 30/104 H/AB, 19 R, 8 HR, 33 RBI, 1 SB, .288 BA
I have no idea if Corey Hart’s somewhat unprecedented success is attributed to his being able to wear sunglasses at night, but whatever the cause, Hart is mashing. For the season, Hart owns the National League leading in home runs with 18 round trippers and is on pace for career highs in home runs and RBI. On paper, it seems that Corey Hart is hitting the ball with more authority, as a 49.2% flyball percentage and an 18.9% HR/FB rate might indicate. Other than that, Hart’s batted ball and contact rates suggest no substantial change from seasons past and it seems that he’s making better contact this season. If anything, Hart’s .277 BABIP is a bit on the low side and of late, Hart has pulled his average up, having hit for a .293 batting average in June. Based on track record, now might be a good time to shop Corey Hart for a very good return.
Brennan Boesch – Last Month: 32/92 H/AB, 17 R, 8 HR, 21 RBI, 1 SB, .348 BA
A fine rookie surprise, Brennan Boesch has not failed to impress and more recently, Boesch slugged eight of his dozen home runs in June. The 25 year-old Boesch has the frame of a power hitter, but based off his minor league track record, Boesch’s power had been inconsistent. Following an improved 2009 of Double-A ball, Boesch’s power gains have computed in the big leagues thus far, en route to a current .283 ISO. The big thing to nitpick with Boesch is his tendency to swing at nearly anything and everything. For instance, Boesch’s swing rate is 13 percentage points higher than league average (58.2% Swing to 45.2%) and his outside swing percentage is also more than a fair deal higher than league average (42.6% O-Swing to 28.4%). It is Boesch’s decent contact rate of 80.2% that has been his saving grace, in leading to a .374 BABIP and a .338 BA for the season. It seems that Boesch’s aggressive approach works for him, but expect a few bumps in the road for the rookie Tiger outfielder.
Jered Weaver – Last Month: 40.0 IP, 3 W, 50 K, 2.48 ERA, 0.95 WHIP
Just to show you how behind on my baseball in general because of the World Cup, I was surprised to see what the younger, more talented Weaver’s line looked on paper. The efficiency of a 2.12 BB/9 isn’t Jered Weaver’s most eye-popping stat, but rather the 10.45 K/9 (118 K in 101.2 IP) is, considering that the Angels’ ace’s best K/9 mark was a 7.74 K/9 in 2008. The key seems to lie in Weaver getting more whiffs and misses outside the strike zone (32% O-Swing), as well as his swinging strike percentage noticeably up to double digits, as opposed to his most recent body of work. Meanwhile, Weaver’s contact rate is down to 74%, seven points below league average, despite a .311 BABIP. While Weaver’s flyball tendencies remain (47% FB, 8.7% HR/FB), his groundball rate has crept up six percentage points from 2009 (36.6% GB in 2010 to 30.9% in 2009). There isn’t much deviation between Weaver’s FIP/xFIP of 2.93/3.21, respectively, with his current 3.01 ERA. On paper, Weaver looks to have made legitimate strides in raising his game, and if you’re looking to deal “Dream Weaver”, be a bit more selective than usual in your trade offers.
Cliff Lee – Last Month: 42.0 IP, 3 W, 34 K, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
Aside from Josh Johnson and Mariners teammate Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee has proven to be the most efficient pitcher over the past month. In fact, Lee has an ultra-svelte four walks in 86.2 innings of work this season (0.42 BB/9). In the month of June, Lee has been at his stingiest in allowing free passes, as he has conceded just one walk in his last 37 innings. Over five of his last six outings, Cliff Lee has not failed to go at least eight innings in each of those games. Granted, Lee made minced meat of three National League opponents recently (Padres, Reds, Cubs), the Mariners’ other ace has been nothing short of impressive. With Lee being a trade deadline candidate, his fantasy value might be in flux, but nonetheless, one can still expect Lee to perform at a high level wherever he is dealt.
Jason Heyward – Last Month: 21/109 H/AB, 13 R, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 2 SB, .193 BA
It appears that this once-in-a-generation talent, Jason Heyward is mired in the first major slump of his Cooperstown-bound career. For the month of June, Heyward is held without a home run and stuck in a .181 funk, possibly attributed to a ligament strain in his left thumb. For the season, Heyward has exhibited decent plate discipline for a 20 year-old rookie, as evidenced by a 13.9% walk rate as well as a 25.7% O-Swing percentage. If you were able to shoot for the moon in earlier trades involving Heyward, then kudos to you. However, it could be tough sledding for Heyward if his thumb proves to be somewhat of a problem in the way he grips the bat.
Mark Reynolds – Last Month: 12/79 H/AB, 10 R, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 1 SB, .152 BA
A classic case of the hit-or-miss power hitter, it’s no secret that Mark Reynolds has the dubious honor of leading the Majors with 107 strikeouts and a whopping 43% strikeout rate. Over the past couple of weeks in particular, Reynolds has had three golden sombreros (4 K games) and is batting a paltry .164 average in June. That said, there could be a buying opportunity to be had for Reynolds, who has managed to hit no worse than a .323 BABIP in his career. For the record, the D-Backs’ third baseman is sitting on a .271 BABIP and to keep things in perspective, he had a .338 BABIP in his career year last season. Of course, there are likely to be some deviations in BABIP for hit-or-miss, strikeout-heavy sluggers such as Reynolds. Nonetheless, Reynolds is still on pace for 35 home runs and a chance to better that. Buy if you can, especially if you need some power.
Matt Garza – Last Month: 27.0 IP, 3 W, 21 K, 7.00 ERA, 1.74 WHIP
Remember how I said to not be fooled by Matt Garza’s tremendous April start? Here is hoping you baited one of your league managers into believing Garza’s ability to pitch like a #1 ace. In mid-May, Garza carried a more than decent 2.37 ERA, but since then, it’s been nearly all downhill. Garza had been chased in outings against the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers, and Marlins. Had it not been for his most recent win against the Padres, Garza would have been stuck on a 4.16 ERA. Since early April, Garza’s .211 BABIP has ballooned much closer to league average, at .291 and is currently getting pelted by a 22% line drive rate.
A.J. Burnett – Last Month: 31.0 IP, 1 W, 27 K, 8.71 ERA, 1.84 WHIP
It has truly been a tough June for A.J. Burnett, as in all but one June outing, the Yankees hurler has given up no less than six runs in those games. Burnett’s strikeout rate has been abysmal for his standard (6.87 K/9), which provokes questions of whether or not his velocity is there or if the location of his pitches is somehow more predictable. It seems that his best pitch, the curveball, has not been as effective as in recent seasons. For the year, Burnett’s positive run value on his curveball is -1.4, which is miles away from the 13-16 run value range over the last three seasons.
That’ll about do it for me this week and for the month of July, also. Odds are good that as you’re reading this, I’m flying to join the Vuvuzela Symphony in South Africa and I can honestly play The Great Escape theme tune on my Vuvuzela; I’m that good. I’m on vacation for about a month and I’m sure Danny Boy is more than capable of holding the fort for all of next month. See you in August and until then, be champions.
True to his Cafe name as The Artful Dodger, Ray Flores is a Dodger fan who will likely drive airplane passengers batty with his constant singing of the "P.O.S.H." song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. While being artful doesn't best describe him, Ray is a web developer, consultant, and fears the day Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy will parody (and butcher) another kid's musical tune.
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