Bobby Colton

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Hot and Not at the Break

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hot or Not: All-Star Break

Bobby Colton

As the baseball season hits the All-Star break, it is time to take a look at which players are doing more than you could have asked, and which just seem incapable of producing in 2011. This season has been full of surprises. The Indians are relevant, the Twins are abysmal, veterans have been revitalized, youngsters have been demoted, and two managers resigned and were replaced by senior citizens. And amidst all of this excitement there have been standouts and burnouts in both the NL and the AL. Here is a look at the Hot and the Not in both leagues on both sides of the ball.

NL Batters

The Hot: Lance Berkman, Cardinals, 1B/OF

Berkman has come back from the dead to have just an incredible season, smacking 23 homeruns (1st in the NL) and 62 RBI (4th in the NL). Let's take a look at Berkman's numbers from last season. Berkman had career lows in average, runs, RBI, home runs, hits, doubles, steals, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage (excluding his 93 at bat season in 1999 when he first came up). Now let's look at this year's numbers. At the break, just past the midway point of the season, Berkman is on pace to hit somewhere around 36 homers, score 88 runs, knock in 108 runs, and have an average hovering around the .290-.300 mark. To take these numbers into consideration compared to his career numbers, Berkman hasn't hit more than 36 homers since 2006 and has topped that number just twice in his career. He's topped 108 RBI just three times, and again, not since 2006. His 88 runs would be the most since 2008. Getting Albert Pujols and David Freese back in the lineup to bolster the Cardinal's offense should only improve Berkman's numbers. As shocking as this might sound, there is no reason for Berkman to cool down. Sure his average has dropped some of late, but for the reasons named above, he has a good chance at continuing his success. Berkman's resurgent season has made him one of the best draft-day steals of the season.

The Hotter: Matt Kemp, Dodgers, OF

With all the negative media surrounding the Dodgers' financial problems, the remarkable season Matt Kemp is having is being severely overlooked. Kemp has thrown his hat into the ring for NL MVP along with Jose Reyes. Kemp is currently tied for 2nd in the NL in homers with 22, is 3rd in RBI with 66, and 3rd in the NL with 26 steals. There has never been a question regarding Kemp's talent. The issue has always been his desire. Last year Joe Torre benched Kemp for a stretch, marking rock bottom for the promising outfielder. This year, with Don Mattingly at the helm and Davey Lopes in the fold helping Kemp become an elite base stealer, Kemp has been everything he was supposed to be last year, and more. There is little doubt that right now Kemp's motor is revving and he is likely to remain hot for the rest of this season and remain an elite outfielder for the foreseeable future.

The Hottest: Jose Reyes, Mets, SS

Let me get this out of the way early: I am a firm believer that Jose Reyes will not be traded, and that he will re-sign with the Mets to be the key cog in future Met teams. The Reyes debate is one for a different article though, so here's why Reyes is the Hottest NL hitter this half. Reyes leads the NL in average, hits, and runs and is second in steals. Let's not forget that he's also 6th in the NL in slugging despite hitting only three homers. That is a whole lot of doubles and triples. Reyes is having a phenomenal season and that is sure to continue regardless of where he plays the second half of the season. And lets put this one thing to bed. Reyes is not playing better because it's his contract year. He's having this season because he's been healthy. Reyes will likely spend the next 3 weeks on the shelf, but when he returns probably in late July, he will be right back to his old self.

The Not: Jayson Werth, Nationals, OF

For all of you who said that Werth didn't deserve that 7-year, $126 million deal the Nationals gave him, well, you were right. Werth's average has dipped to just .218, on pace for the lowest figure he's ever had in a full season. That's not all though. After leaving the friendly confines of Citizen's Bank Park, Werth has smacked just 10 homers. The only silver lining for owners is that Werth has swiped 11 bases, putting him on pace to match his number from the past few years, despite getting on base a whole lot less. While I'm being perfectly honest, Werth has really had only three good, alright, very good, years in his career. He had Aaron Rowand written all over him heading into the year. Just another former Phillie outfielder who made his living playing in a tiny ballpark.

The Not-ter: Dan Uggla, Braves, 2B

Dan Uggla is another man wholly failing to live up to his brand new contract. I'm sure the Braves were looking for something a little more than a .183 average and 32 RBI when they gave him his 5-year $62 million deal. In fact, his .183 average is worst among those who qualify in the NL. There really isn't much to say about the one-time slugger. Hopefully Uggla can get his head back on his shoulders in time to salvage the end of this season.

The Not-test: Hanley Ramirez, Marlins, SS

Unlike the previous two Not-ees, I am dumbfounded by Ramirez's struggles. Hanley's lowest batting average in his career was .292 in his rookie campaign. This year, he is hitting just .237. He hasn't hit less than 20 homers since his rookie season. He has just 7 so far. Last year was the first year he scored under 100 runs, mostly because he moved to the heart of the order. He has scored just 44 times in the current campaign. I can go on and on about how Ramirez hasn't lived up to what he was supposed to be this season, but I think you get the point. Even if Ramirez gets red-hot in the second half, he will still likely be the biggest bust of the 2011 fantasy season. His recent hot streak has been a good start for Ramirez, but he still has a long way to go.

AL Batters

The Hot: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, 3B/OF

Jose Bautista is for real. I'll admit it, I thought Bautista would be a one-year wonder. I had no faith that he would come back this season and be an elite player once again. The man had just 59 homers heading into last season, his age 29 season and hit a whopping 54. His 29 this season is already the second most he's ever had in a season, behind last year's remarkable number. This season Bautista leads the AL in homers, is 2nd in the AL in both runs scored and in average (after hitting a career high .260 last year), and is tied for 6th in the AL in RBI. Bautista is turning into a perennial MVP candidate. Congratulations to those owners who had faith in Bautista to continue to hit this season.

The Hotter: Michael Young, Texas, UT

Heading into the season Young was going to be the regular DH, but with Mike Napoli and David Murphy also needing reps, there was a good chance he'd be a playing time casualty. When Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Julio Borbon all hit the DL, Young responded by making the baseball world forget about his trade requests and making them just remember his .328 average (3rd in AL), 59 RBI (7th in AL), and his 114 hits (2nd in AL). Young has been the All-Star he was from 2004-2009. If you drafted Young banking on him getting playing time, you made a great call.

The Hottest: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox, 1B/OF

When the Red Sox were scuffling early in the season, Adrian Gonzalez was the lone bright spot. Now that the Red Sox are playing the way they should, Gonzalez is the brightest spot. Gonzalez leads the AL in average (.351), RBI (76), and hits (124). His 17 homers is just 9th in the AL, but that power is going to rear its head in Fenway Park. He's also 6th in the AL in runs scored with 60. He is right now the MVP of the entire MLB.

The Not: Shin-Soo Choo, Indians, OF

The Indians have been one of baseball's biggest surprises this season, no thanks to Choo. Choo isn't having as bad a season as some others in the AL, but there sure were lofty expectations for him when the season began. After hitting over .300 each of the last three seasons, Choo's average has dipped all the way to .244. Having cleared 20 homers and 85 RBI each of the past two seasons, Choo's taken a huge step back with just 5 homers and 28 RBI to date. Throw in the fact that Choo will miss significant time after having thumb surgery, and you have an utterly disastrous season for the Korean slugger. The only thing he had going for him was his steals, much like Jayson Werth. If Choo burned you this year, just know that you weren't the only one expecting big things from him just to be left out in the cold.

The Not-ter: Chone Figgins, Mariners, 2B/3B

Figgins had a down year last year, hitting a career low .259. So, owners drafted Figgins again this season believing it was a remote possibility that he could be as bad as he was last year and paying for what they believed was certain speed stats (he did steal 42 bags last season). Well, this season Figgins has rewarded owners with a putrid .183 average with just 21 runs scored, 14 RBI, and ONLY 9 STEALS. He's also been caught 6 times. There's not much to say here. Figgins has fallen off the proverbial cliff and his usefulness as a fantasy player has probably come to a close. If you took a flier on Figgins, you probably should've seen the drop off in average, but the lack of steals is just shocking. To add insult to injury, Kyle Seager has been recalled to take the majority of starts at third. It's time to cut bait with Figgins.

The Not-test: Adam Dunn, White Sox, 1B/DH

To be fair, he did tell everyone he didn't want to be solely a DH this season. So, instead of being a Designated Hitter, he's being a Designated Out-er, or, DO if you will. All jokes aside, it is fascinating that Dunn all of a sudden can't hit the ball. He's even being benched against lefties because he physically can't come up with one measly hit, let alone hit for any power. Dunn hasn't hit less than 38 homeruns since 2004, and hasn't hit less than 26 since 2002, yet he stands at just 8. He's topped 100 RBI in 6 of the last 7 seasons (the other season he had 92), yet he has just 32. And even though he's never hit higher than .267, .163 is just an unbelievable number. Much like Jayson Werth and Dan Uggla, Dunn just can't live up to that giant contract he signed this offseason.

NL Pitchers

The Hot: Cole Hamels, Phillies, P

Ryan Vogelsong deserves praise here because if he wasn't trounced by the Cubs June 28th, he would have made this list. The man hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2006 and then comes out of nowhere to be an All-Star. On to Hamels, the forgotten man behind Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Hamels is second in the NL in ERA (2.40) behind just Jair Jurrjens, 4th in BAA in the NL (.213), and leads the entire NL in WHIP (.95). The bottom line is that Hamels has been throwing better than his two super-star teammates and has proven to owners that he is just as elite as the rest of that Phillie staff.

The Hotter: Tommy Hanson, Braves, P

Speaking of super-star teammates, take a look at Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens this season. As a Met fan, this is yet another reason why I struggle to be hopeful. Hanson missed 15 days in June, but that hasn't had a negative effect his performance. His 2.52 ERA is 4th in the NL, his 1.04 WHIP is 3rd, and his .192 average against is tops in the NL. Hanson has real deal talent and should be considered one of the best pitchers in baseball for years to come. Once he gets back into a groove following his DL stint, he will catapult his name into the Cy Young race. How he is not an All-Star is mind numbing.

The Hottest: Jair Jurrjens, Braves, P

Jurrjens is having just a remarkable season. He's shown he's had talent in the past. In 2008 and 2009 Jurrjens showed that he has the potential to be a top of the rotation pitcher, but I don't think anyone saw him throwing to an NL leading 1.87 ERA. Despite not making his season debut until April 16th, Jurrjens leads the NL lead with 12 wins. Jurrjens is the first half Cy Young award winner and if you took a shot on him recovering his pre 2010 form, kudos to you.

The Not: Bronson Arroyo, Reds, P

Coming off back-to-back fantastic seasons with the Reds, Arroyo has been downright bad this season. His ERA rests at 5.58 after being in the 3.85 range the past two seasons while his WHIP has jumped from 1.145 last year to 1.40 thus far this season. Last year Arroyo allowed 29 homeruns all year. He's already allowed 25 this season. Arroyo also leads the NL on earned runs allowed, 67. At age 34, Arroyo might be hitting his wall. I for one, will not be investing in him again next season. If you were expecting the old Arroyo, tough break.

The Not-ter: Ryan Dempster, Cubs, P

Since moving back to the rotation in 2008, Dempster has been remarkable. In fact, the highest his ERA has been since going back to the rotation was 3.85. He sits at 4.99 now. With hitters batting .276 against him, its no wonder that he has such a high ERA. He is also 14th in the NL in hits allowed with 113. Dempster, like Arroyo, could just be hitting his wall. His usefulness in mixed leagues has likely come to a close.

The Not-test: Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies, P

Last season I wrote that Jimenez would slow down in the second half. Now owners hope he can heat up a little. Jimenez has been better since his terrible start, but the fact remains that he didn't get his first win until June 1st. Jimenez is sporting a 4.39 ERA, which would be the highest mark of his career. All of last year Jimenez allowed just 10 homeruns, but the long ball has bitten him 8 times already just half-way through the season. Hopefully Jimenez's hot June will continue through the second half and owners will have the ace they were banking on when they drafted him.

AL Pitchers

The Hot: James Shields, Rays, P

This was the hardest group to do. Josh Beckett really deserves mention here, as the only reason why Shields was chosen for The Hot over Beckett was that Shields has thrown 28.2 innings more than Beckett and has started just two more game. Michael Pineda, Phillip Humber, Gio Gonzalez, and Dan Haren all deserve praise as well. Now, on to Shields. Shields was miserable last season, posting a 5.18 ERA with a 1.461 WHIP. This season has been a complete turnaround for the Rays' hurler. Shields has a sterling 2.47 ERA (5th in the AL), a miniscule 1.00 WHIP (also 5th) and 132 strikeouts (3rd in AL). Even more impressive, Shields has 6 complete games, 3 of which were shutouts. Shields has been one of the top pitchers in the league this year and has a better chance of continuing this success than reverting back to last year's form.

The Hotter: Jered Weaver, Angels, P

Weaver has emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball pitchers over the past few seasons. He might not match his 233 strikeouts from last year, but he is making up for it by hurling to the tune of a 1.86 ERA, best in the AL by .26 points. Weaver is also third in the AL in WHIP (.91) and fourth in BAA (1.94). Weaver is hardly a secret anymore around fantasy baseball circles, but this output is remarkable. Weaver is making another strong case for his first Cy Young Award.

The Hottest: Justin Verlander, Tigers, P

Justin Verlander has been the best pitcher in the Major Leagues this season. He is downright unhittable right now. He is mowing down hitters left and right, fanning 138 batters, tops in the AL, and is sporting a 2.26 ERA, good for 3rd in the AL. If you thought those numbers were impressive, look at these. Verlander has a .88 WHIP, best in the AL, while hitters are batting just .187 against him, a mark bested by just Josh Beckett. My money is on Verlander to win the Cy Young. If you drafted him, you found yourself baseball's best pitcher.

The Not: John Danks, White Sox, P

Danks was well on his way to taking himself off of this Not list before his oblique injury on June 25th. Before June 6th, the date of his first win, Danks was 0-8 with a 5.25 ERA. A strong June leaves his line at 3-8 with a 4.21 ERA. Now, Danks is hurt and goes right back to being a Not. This season Danks has been all too hittable, as batters have a .277 average against the Sox's hurler. Danks owners can take solace in the fact that Danks was pitching well in June, but after being shelved, he could face a regression again.

The Not-ter: Fausto Carmona, Indians, P

The Indians' Opening Day starter has been dealt each of the last three years (C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook). If Carmona is going to make himself tradable, he'll need to pitch much, much better than he has so far. Believe it or not, Carmona was an All-Star last year. Now, he sports the highest ERA (5.78) of any AL pitcher who qualifies. Carmona has had his terrible seasons in the past, namely 2008 and 2009 before last year's All-Star campaign. Carmona simply cannot be trusted in leagues while he has the AL's worst ERA. Now that he's on the DL, he is even less likely to rebound from his bad start.

The Not-test: John Lackey, Red Sox, P

When Boston fans were on Lackey's case last year after rough season, he had a 4.40 ERA. His ERA this year? 7.47. There really isn't much to say about Lackey. His 1.63 WHIP is a career high, as are his hits per 9 innings and walks per 9 innings. Meanwhile, his strikeouts per 9 is a career low. Lackey will likely be unusable in most leagues this season. With Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester on the DL, the Sox really need better.

Despite the great pinch hit by Bobby above, the baron of the bottom of the page always has his two cents. Schultz says: "Even though we here at The Week That Was are supposed to talk about the week that just happened, (hence the name of the column) we tend to go against the title and talk more about what might happen in the week that's about to occur. Come to think of it, it's pretty easy to be correct 100% of the time when you make predictions about things that have already happened. (Note to self: invent time machine; go back in time; ignore stock market and win rotisserie baseball league; groan like Homer Simpson over dumb use of time machine). So, where was I? Oh yes, the upcoming week will have the most boring two days in sports, the day before and after the All Star break. Josh Hamilton heroics notwithstanding, the Home Run Derby hasn't quite caught the nation's fancy like the Slam Dunk contest or that Punt, Pass & Kick competition when Andy Reid freakishly towered over the competition. Far from being a harbinger of success, for some reason, standing out in the Home Run Derby more often than not seems to cause a downward spiral. Remember Bobby Abreu's 41 home runs? He may not have hit as many in the years since. David Wright? All the bloom seemed to fall of that rose after his breakout derby. Even Fred Wilpon recently took notice. It's also a convenient excuse to explain what happened to Corey Hart. There's no science or mathematics behind this but if one of your guys is participating in this year's Derby, you might want to hope he pops up 10 straight times.

Next week, instead of the week that was, Schultz Says will look back on the half year that just was with the return of the immensely popular Mid-Season All-Schultz Awards."

Email :Bobby Colton

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