Off-day fun, 6/21 edition
NL West Standings
Nothing to say really about the Padres and Rockies, except that they will likely be trading pieces away soon. On San Diego, outfielder Carlos Quentin, third baseman Chase Headley, catcher Nick Hundley and closer Huston Street could all be dealt for a talented prospect or two. The Rockies have fewer attractive trade chips; Michael Cuddyer would be a nice pick-up for a team in need of a bat but he’s 33 and in the first year of a three-year, $31.5 million contract. Still, Rafael Betancourt, old though he is, could fortify another team’s bullpen. The same could be said for Marco Scutaro at shortstop.
Arizona treads water while they wait for Justin Upton to perform as he did last year. Rookie Wade Miley, whom I forgot when mentioning Rookie of the Year candidates last week, has been excellent since his transition to the rotation. Only 3.8 percent of his fly balls leave the park, compared to 15.4 percent last year (he pitched 40.0 innings, and I’m pretty sure that if he got just one more out last year he wouldn’t be considered a rookie this year). That number is sure to rise, but he could still be a league-average starter the rest of the way. Not bad for a fourth starter, and soon flame-throwing prospect Trevor Bauer can come up and assume the fifth spot, which has been shared by Patrick Corbin, Daniel Hudson and Josh Collmenter with equal ineptitude.
The Giants have picked up some ground on the Dodgers since last time, but Matt Kemp is due to come off the DL soon, so their best chance to take the lead is slipping away. The upcoming series (June 25-27) at AT&T Park will be the most important of the season thus far.
6/25 – Nate Eovaldi (0-3, 2.35 ERA) vs. Barry Zito (5-5, 4.35)
6/26 – Clayton Kershaw (5-3, 2.73) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (6-3, 2.41)
6/27 – Chris Capuano (8-2, 2.71) vs. Tim Lincecum (2-8, 6.19)
Uh-oh: Zitocakes and Lincecum, and Vogelsong draws Kershaw.
In his last three starts, Zito has pitched like the Zito of old. The early-season success just couldn’t last, not with some basic rate stats so similar to last year: hits per nine innings (8.70 in 2012, 8.55 in 2011); strikeouts per nine (5.02, 5.37); walks per nine (4.02, 4.02). At least we’ll always have that dreamy foggy afternoon in the Marin headlands.
With Zito back to normal, the Giants need Lincecum to go back to normal to win the division. I’ve spent enough time trying to dissect Timmy’s problems and so has everyone else; no more of that here. I just hope that he puts it together against Oakland tomorrow.
Gregor Blanco’s June decline
At the end of May, Gregor Blanco looked like one of the best leadoff men in the NL. By then he had 137 plate appearances (110 in May) with a triple-slash of .289/.401/.421, and his range in the cavernous right field at AT&T made him one of the best defenders in baseball at that position. His defense has predictably remained great (just watch his perfect-game-saving catch again, because why not?), but offense has slipped so far that now he bats .254/.346/.402, in line with his career figures of .257/.355/.340. His May BAbip of .412 is fluky but I still like him batting leadoff, not least because we have no better option. His 24.6 percent line-drive rate suggests his average should rebound. I’d be thrilled with an average of, say, .270 and an on-base percentage about 100 points higher.
Giancarlo Stanton’s Home Run of the Weekish
Stanton hasn’t hit many dingers recently. Today, he belted a line drive over the Green Monster. The world is his oyster.
On June 7, he went oppo for once. Stanton’s an extreme pull hitter; according to ESPN’s home run tracker only one other home run has gone right of center, and that was just barely. Even though hit tracker classifies this home run as “Just Enough/Lucky” (it was originally ruled a double, after all), it still would have gone out of 22 ballparks. He’s only 22, so I probably shouldn’t be talking about this, but I think Stanton can break the all-time home run record. If injuries don’t stop him, spacious Marlins Park might.
Fun in sponsored video clips
Albert Pujols is a performer at heart. He knows what the seated viewer wants: to be teased, held in suspense just long enough that a little trickle of urine escapes to the underwear. Thus this.
Another play, this one by Yunel Escobar, that evokes images of Rey Ordóñez in my mind. Rey is the sum of all other shortstops.
Good riddance, Tyler Pastornicky. You are the calf that must be sacrificed upon the altar so the harvest that is Andrelton Simmons can come this year.
This has been June 17th in defensive wizardry. (All these plays happened that day.)