Will Middlebrooks (hamstring) and Mike Napoli (back) both missed Wednesday’s game. Both players are day-to-day for now. David Ortiz left Wednesday’s game with general body soreness. He’s been on a tear of late, essentially carrying what’s left of the Red Sox on his back. I’ll break it down for you later.
As expected, Gerrit Cole was activated and started Wednesday’s game. He racked up six Ks and regularly hit 95 mph with his fastball. If you were patient and held onto him, you’ll be rewarded handsomely.
Brandon Belt will not return to the Giants for at least two or three weeks as he tries to come back from a concussion. He’s been put on complete rest, so don’t count on Belt being much help to you for the rest of this season, though he may return just in time to help in the last week or two.
Yadier Molina has begun taking swings in the batting cages as he works his way back from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. He’s a bit ahead of schedule and could go on a rehab assignment soon with an eye towards returning by the end of the month.
Mike Cuddyer sat out his second consecutive game Wednesday with a sore hamstring but he is expected to be in the lineup on Thursday.
Garrett Richards was carried off the field on a stretcher at Fenway Park Wednesday night after his knee appeared to buckle while covering first base. He appeared to be in a lot of pain, so this could be quite serious. The Angels later called it a left patella injury but they didn’t elaborate further. Richards was in the midst of a terrific season for the Angels, compiling a record of 13-4 with a 2.53 ERA as the ace of the Angels staff. He has a road ERA of 1.95 and his .195 BAA is tied for best in the AL.
The Tampa Bay Rays activated OF Wil Myers from the disabled list on Wednesday. Myers is coming back from a wrist injury, so temper your power expectations. Wrist and hand injuries can often sap a hitter’s power for an extended period beyond returning to full health. Ask Mark Trumbo or Bryce Harper about it.
Nick Swisher is officially done for 2014 after having debridement procedures on both knees yesterday.
Adam Eaton will begin a rehab assignment today with an eye towards returning to the White Sox lineup sometime next week. He’s eligible to come off the DL on Sunday but that is unlikely according to manager Robin Ventura.
Trends and News
The season of David Ortiz is another strong example of regression at work. There is no doubt that Ortiz is having a somewhat down season with a .263 batting average that is .285 career mark. His .252 BABIP is largely to blame and some of that is explained by the extreme defensive shifts that Big Papi faces on a regular basis from the AL East teams that comprise such a huge chunk of the Red Sox schedule. The recent gains he’s made in batting average can almost certainly be attributed to his .326 August BABIP, the first time that metric has been above .276 all season. But he is currently on a very special run of hitting, so let’s take a symmetrical look at the past 52 games. In the 26 games he started before the break (27 game appearances), Ortiz slashed .267/.353/.505 with five HRs, 24 RBIs and eight runs scored. In 26 games started since the All Star break (28 game appearances), Ortiz has slashed .287/.348/.644 with 10 HRs, 29 RBIs and 13 runs scored. But more than half of that production has come in 14 August games in which he’s slashed .352/.424/.685 with five HRs, 16 RBIs and seven runs scored. The Red Sox may be playing out the string, but Big Papi is making up for his terrible first half.
The success of any baseball hitter, particularly rookies, depends on the ability to make adjustments as pitchers adjust their approach. Gregory Polanco is struggling to make those adjustments, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Since the All Star break, Polanco is slashing just .227/.266/.361 with three HRs, 16 RBIs, 18 Runs scored and six stolen bases. While the counting stats aren’t all that bad for a 30 game stretch, the batting average hurts, especially coming from a leadoff hitter. Left-handed pitching has been especially unkind to Polanco, who has a .156/.193/.234 triple slash against southpaws for the season. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Pirates are strongly considering a platoon for Polanco with Travis Snider, whom we discussed here yesterday. Snider has a .367/.406/.567 line against lefties this season, so the Pirates would be well served by platooning these two. Polanco will still be on the long end, so his value in NL-only leagues remains intact, but the loss of at bats will hurt his value in mixed leagues that don’t allow daily lineup moves.
Ender Inciarte is getting regular playing time for the Diamondbacks these days and making the most of his opportunity, especially during August. Since August 1, the 23-year-old is batting .321/.361/.449 with two HRs, seven RBIs, 12 runs scored and three stolen bases. He’s been the Diamonbacks’ leadoff hitter since mid-June and appears to have that spot locked up for the rest of the season. Granted, the Arizona offense is not nearly as potent with Paul Goldschmidt out of the lineup and Mark Trumbo whiffing more than anything else, but Inciarte is showing improved patience at the plate recently and he’s never had a big problem with strikeouts, so he’s getting on base more often. That should make for some nice counting stats in runs at least, and he’s also been running more of late, so there could be some steals in the offing down the stretch. He’s worth a flier in all formats.
I’ve never been a big fan of Jon Jay for Fantasy play, mainly because he lacks power and doesn’t steal bases all that often. But the Cardinals are giving him regular playing time these days and Fantasy owners need counting stats, which Jay is providing. Since the All Star break, Jay has a .397/.500/.534 triple slash with two HRs, 14 RBIs, 14 runs scored and three stolen bases in 25 games (23 starts). He’s hit safely in all but two of 16 August games and is in the midst of a 12-game hitting streak. Pick him up and ride him until the hitting stops.
Keep a close eye on the Mets closer situation. Jeurys Familia recorded a five out save yesterday with Jenrry Mejia unavailable. Mejia is nursing a couple of nagging injuries, one of which is a sports hernia. Over his last eight appearances, Mejia has posted an 8.22 ERA and he just doesn’t look right out there. It’s amazing that the Mets are pushing Mejia physically to play games that don’t matter, risking further injury and potentially damaging him elsewhere on his body as well as psychologically. Oh well. Stash Familia, who will likely take over when Mejia finally throws in the towel.
The long season may be catching up to Devin Mesoraco, who has cooled off lately after a smoking hot first half. Since the All Star break, Mesoraco is batting .237/.314/.430, which is a far cry from the .304/.375/.609 he posted prior. He is rapidly approaching career highs in plate appearances and games played in a season, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him slow a bit during these final weeks. If the trade deadline hasn’t passed in your league, you might consider a swap with someone who owns an older, more seasoned veteran catcher with some upside over the final month or so. I’m thinking Jonathan Lucroy, Salvador Perez or even Buster Posey might be a better bet down the stretch.
One catcher you definitely don’t want, though, is John Jaso, who is also seeing the effects of a long season. Actually, Jaso wasn’t catching all that much until Stephen Vogt injured his foot, leaving him unable to don the tools of ignorance. Now that he is catching in most of the games he’s playing, Jaso is slowing way down. During August, he is batting just .152/.220/.239 and if you go all the way back to June 1, Jaso is batting just .239/.299/.391 since then.
Wow! The Royals’ front office can finally be credited with a smart move. The acquisition of Josh Willingham has paid off nicely so far. In his first nine games with the Royals, Willingham is batting .345 with a home run, five RBIs and six runs scored. Willingham is a lock to continue playing daily given the Royals’ desperate need for offense, especially power hitting. So, if Willingham is still sitting on waivers in your league, regardless of format, now is the time to add him to your roster.
Newly Crowned Young Ace vs. Former Ace
Well, it’s not really appropriate to call David Price a former ace but he will be pitching against his former teammates today in a matchup against the Rays’ new ace Alex Cobb. Cobb has been nothing short of brilliant recently; over his last nine starts, he is 6-0 with a 2.24 ERA and a 57:13 K:BB ratio over 56.1 IP. Since the trade to Detroit, Price is 1-0 with a 3.62 ERA and a 23:6 K:BB ratio over 21 IP. The two face off at Tropicana Field today in a matchup that could be repeated in the post season if the Rays can get untracked and catch up and gain some ground in the wild card chase. Either way, this is easily today’s most interesting pitching matchup.