Eno Sarris

Baseball Daily Dose

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All-Stars Down for the Fourth

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy America Day!

As a gift to baseball media on this great day, the sport announced the All-Star rosters. Deciding who will be there deservedly and undeservedly this year will take up at least full week of back and forth arguing. Whoo-hoo. We'll pass here and give you the link if you want to know more, but we already all knew that Jose Bautista (who homered for his third straight game Sunday, marking an end to his brief power lull) was excellent. Bautista collected 7.4 million votes, the most in history!

It was an interesting twist, though, to see that the fans managed to elect Alex Avila to this year's team. Along with backup Russell Martin, that's two useful catchers that were most likely not drafted as top-ten backstops in your fantasy league. After an election sure to go wrong, Ryan Vogelsong, took the hill as an All-Star Sunday. He gave up two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings, but his four walks against five strikeouts remind us of the control problems he's had in his past. Aramis Ramirez probably should have been an All-Star reserve, especially since he's on fire. His seventh home run in nine games was good enough to get his team the win on Sunday. Andrew McCutchen was the most obvious snub in the game. He collected three hits Sunday, to either thumb his nose or help his last-man election campaign.

The voters also successfully noticed that Ichiro Suzuki seems to be entering his decline phase. For the first time in his 11-year career, Ichiro didn't make the All-Star roster. Sure, more hits will drop in eventually, but his power has waned significantly and he doesn't steal enough bags to make up for the power output. He's no longer a fantasy All-Star. Johnny Damon is obviously also not a fantasy All-Star, but after three hits Sunday he's batting .284 and is useful in most leagues. Given his season in Detroit, that's pretty amazing.

* NL All-Star starter Jose Reyes headlined the big medically-related losses of the weekend. Fantasy's best shortstop so far this year went back to the bag awkwardly and tweaked his right hamstring. Thankfully for his fantasy owners and Mets fans, it wasn't his problematic left hamstring, and it was 'only' a Grade 1 strain. The team thinks he'll only be out a few games. Once he gets back on the field, he'll still be a top option even when the average drops a little. On the other side of the coin, AL All-Star Derek Jeter will rejoin his team Monday in Cleveland but has been far from the fantasy game's top shortstop. Since Ivan Nova was optioned to Triple-A, it seems a lock that Phil Hughes will rejoin his captain on Wednesday. Roy Oswalt's back surgeon said that he has a bulging, not ruptured disk and that late July is still a possibility. No need to take his comments from immediately after the injury so seriously. He'll be back and effective this season.

Carlos Gonzalez also gave his owners a fright when he ran into the outfield wall and had to be carted off the field. So far, though, the team has only announced a right wrist contusion, though, and CarGo should go again soon. Casey Blake hit the 15-day DL with a neck strain, which means that Dee Gordon gets to stick around a while longer. Rafael Furcal did just return, though, so the state of the Dodgers' infield is about as stable as their financial situation. Jayson Werth was plunked on the hand, but refused an X-Ray and shouldn't be out long. Ryan Dempster will miss his next stop with back pain, which is too bad because he was turning things around a little. Denard Span could not take batting practice this weekend because he's still having concussion symptoms. Good luck to him, and maybe we should all be Ben Revere owners in the meantime. Fausto Carmona has quad issues Zach McAllister (who has shown good control in Triple-A) might be his temporary replacement.

* All-Star Gio Gonzalez struck out seven, walked three, and held Arizona to one run in seven innings Sunday. It's really mostly about that walk rate - he has good strikeout stuff. All-Star Cliff Lee didn't look like an All-Star Sunday (six earned on three home runs in 7 1/3 against Toronto), but he still struck out nine and walked none. He's excellent. Ian Kennedy, who doesn't have the same strikeout stuff but has great control, was snubbed. He then gave up seven runs to the A's. He's hittable and allows fly balls a bit too much, but he usually faces bad offenses and has that control going for him. Mat Latos struck out five, walked three, and allowed three against the Mariners in Seattle. He's become more hittable with the lost velocity, but like Kennedy and Gonzalez, he should be universally owned and started in almost all of his matchups. Chad Billingsley pitched really well (six strikeouts, two walks, three this, three earned) in a completely game loss. Ervin Santana did strike out eight and walk one and only gave up one run, and his numbers do look better, but Billingsley has the easier home park and league and could easily be better going forward. Brandon Beachy - three runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and no walks against the Orioles - is looking like a future perennial All-Star these days and there don't seem to be many reasons to doubt it.

Other pitching performances were a little more complicated. Zack Greinke struck out nine and walked two, which should usually work out for him. Not this time - the Twins managed four earned in six innings. There's little reason to think that he's not a good buy-low. Jeremy Hellickson held the Cardinals to three runs, but only struck out two. As his control improves and his luck on batted balls goes the other way, he might manage an uneven but valuable second half. Nick Blackburn struck out two and walked one, and it's just that sort of approach that leaves him susceptible to bad games (he gave up six runs in four innings against the Brewers). That he gave up four runs in six innings seems to suggest that Mike Leake had a bad start against the Indians Sunday, but that's not true. Leake struck out eight and is suddenly more interesting because of it. Zach Britton has plenty of promise but no strikeouts. He allowed three runs to the Braves, and his four strikeouts and three walks is just not strong enough of a ratio, even if he's a ground-ball wizard. Kevin Correia is surviving on guts and guile and a good walk rate these days, even if his six-strikeout, one-walk, two-run start Sunday against the Nationals looked good.

* The transition from deep-leaguer to mixed-leaguer can be lightning fast, as might be the case with many pitchers. One day they are Blake Beavan, making their major-league debut, striking four, walking two and holding teams to one run in seven innings - but hey, it was the Padres and at home, so he's probably only a deep leaguer. The next day, they might be Jordan Lyles, holding Boston to one unearned run in five innings and scratching on the periphery of most mixed leagues. But then there's the position player version: Mark Ellis, who went from languishing in Oakland last week to being a fantasy star in Colorado today. His new home park definitely augments his only playable skill, but it does so to the point that he's probably a mixed leaguer now.

That transition can also be slow, as is the case with Scott Sizemore. By playing every day, and putting forth the occasional three-for-four-with-a-home-run (as he did Sunday), he's showing that he can be a fine middle infielder even in mixed leagues. At least for power. Mike Moustakas is still preferable, because he strikes out less and could provide a better batting average with his power. Moose Tacos had three hits (two doubles) in a rout Sunday. Chris Heisey is in the middle of the process right now. Jonny Gomes is a little hotter right now, but he's been a lefty-only platoon bat in his past. Heisey, who hit a solo home run Sunday, can easily keep up his current performance. He might need to add a dash of luck to take over and be interesting in any standard-depth leagues.

* Perennial All-Star closer Mariano Rivera has shown some signs of age this year, with a strikeout rate below his career norms and now his fourth blown save of the season showing on the back of his baseball card. Walking Jason Bay and then allowing back-to-back singles to Lucas Duda and Ronny Paulino isn't great, but it also doesn't provide too many reasons to get more worried about Mo than you already were. Leo Nunez looked like he might blow the save Sunday, but didn't. It doesn't always look pretty, but he's got the rates of a successful closer. Matt Capps was removed from a save outing after Joe Nathan had a fine inning in the same game. His manager reiterated that Capps was still the closer after the game, but also said the team was trying to win games. There might be change coming to the Twins bullpen… and the Houston pen? Mark Melancon has been terrible for about month now and he blew a game with three walks against the patient Red Sox. Wilton Lopez would get the next shot. Who knows what is going on in Toronto. Octavio Dotel got the save Sunday and might actually factor in because Jon Rauch hasn't been racking up the saves and Frank Francisco was well-rested and available Sunday. Frankie Frank is still the best long-term option if he can keep it together. The Luke Gregerson of old would be a great contender for the post-Heath Bell closing job, but Gregerson has not found that form just yet. He gave up three runs while getting two outs in Triple-A in a rehab appearance. Aroldis Chapman pitched in the eighth, struck out two and earned a hold, and many more should be on the way.

National League Quick Hits: Jason Bay continued a good stretch (.324 over his last 19 games) by getting on base three times and providing the game-winning RBI against the Yankees … Wilson Ramos doubled and homered Sunday and can be a little better going forward, as the pendulum swings … Chipper Jones will continue to get cortisone shots on his right knee (as he did Sunday) in order to put off eventual surgery for the off-season … We all knew Kyle Lohse wasn't this good, and he gave up four earned in 5 1/3 against the Rays … R.A. Dickey left Sunday's game with tightness in his glute, but knuckleballers are hard to own even when they are rad … Cody Ross collected two hits and useful in five-outfielder lineups in mixed leagues … Casey McGehee got two mental health days off over the weekend; It's too bad he is getting unlucky and has lost all of his power at the same time, but it's no lock that he won't have value again in mixed leagues … James Loney collected three hits and can be an empty batting average at a power position for you … Aaron Harang (foot) should begin a rehab assignment this week … Mike Fontenot (groin) might not return before the All-Star break, but at least an MRI on Pat Burrell's right food was negative and Freddy Sanchez (shoulder) is getting more optimistic about a return this year … Jason Marquis did Jason Marquis things (six earned while getting four outs) … Blast from the past Chien-Ming Wang hit 91 MPH on the radar gun in a rehab start in Single-A and feels good … Will Venable had two hits Sunday and even with his contact problems, he can be useful in deeper leagues against righties, especially away from home … Chase d'Arnaud will get most of the playing time at shortstop for the Pirates while Ronny Cedeno (concussion) is out, and he has some speed.

American League Quick Hits: Eric Hosmer reminded everyone how special he could be Sunday, with four hits (one a home run) in a rout in Colorado … Melky Cabrera had two home runs Sunday but look to his career numbers for a reminder of his true talent … Nick Markakis collected five hits and a stolen base and continued to rescue his season … Torii Hunter (wrist) should be ready to return to action Monday … Josh Willingham (Achilles) did not come off the DL Sunday but there's no updated timetable yet … Rick Porcello allowed three runs in seven innings against the Giants, with six strikeouts, which is nice … Jed Lowrie (shoulder) took ground balls and has been throwing, but no word on a rehab schedule yet … Rajai Davis ended up a home run short of the cycle and stole three bases but has to fend off the newly called up Travis Snider … Jim Leyland said that he might give Austin Jackson more freedom on the basepaths … Our condolences to the released Juan RiveraDanny Valencia had two hits and some of his poor batted-ball luck might be turning … Jason Kipnis might still play second for the Indians this year, but he was scratched from his game Sunday with a sore right knee, not because a callup is imminent … Tyson Ross (oblique) will return after the All-Star break, but his future role is uncertain … Mitch Talbot is not useful, unless you are a REds fan that enjoyed watching him allow six runs on ten hits in four innings … Russell Branyan hit his first home run as an Angel … Brandon McCarthy (shoulder) was activated and Josh Outman was demoted … Mike Carp was returned to the minor leagues after an unsuccessful 35-at-bat stint … Brandon Webb (shoulder) might have had his last setback and admits he might pitch again this season.

Eno Sarris is an editor and writer at FanGraphs.com. You can find his work gathered in one place at and enosarris.com. Follow his misadventures in writing on Twitter as well.
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