While wondering why Alex Rodriguez would be in trouble for playing a little poker, here are a few topics front and center on my mind:
Dodgers fans have had few things outside of Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw to get excited about this year, but one of them was the future potential of Rubby De La Rosa. De La Rosa was the organization's 2010 minor league pitcher of the year, and he averaged a whopping 96 mph with his fastball in 60.2 innings this year for the Dodgers while posting an 8.9 K/9. Apparently that was too much for his elbow, as De La Rosa had to undergo Tommy John surgery this week, knocking him out for the rest of this year and most of 2012.
So who's up next? Jon Garland is done for the year with a shoulder injury. The Dodgers could turn (back) to John Ely, but what would be the point of that really? According to reports, it could be Nathan Eovaldi. The 21 year-old has a bit of an awkward delivery, but the results have been pretty good in Double-A: 2.62 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and an 8.7 K/9. He has had some struggles with control issues (11:17 K:BB in 22.2 July innings), but the stuff is very good and hitters are batting just .203 against him. Go ahead and grab him in keeper and NL-only formats. At least he already has his Tommy John surgery (junior year of high school) out of the way.
Texas Closer Situation
If Neftali Feliz can return to 2010 form, this should be the best 1-2-3 bullpen punch in the game and a unit that can greatly contribute to taking the Rangers deep into the playoffs. The case for all three relievers: Neftali Feliz
The case for: He's the incumbent, first of all. Second, his stuff is electric and he entered 2011 with a career 9.9 K/9 in 90 games.
The case against: He's a shell of his 2010 self with a 6.3 K/9 and a 4.7 BB/9. You could even say he's getting lucky considering his .234 BABIP, though that's the identical mark he put up last year. His line-drive rate is also up four percentage points, so batters are getting better wood on the ball. Mike Adams
The case for: A 9.2 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and 1.29 ERA. Also you could add the label "best setup man in baseball when healthy," though Daniel Bard might have a say in the matter.
The case against: He's never closed, but then again, neither has Koji Uehera, and before this year, Feliz. Koji Uehara
The case for: Since 2010 in 92 innings of relief, Uehara has a 119:13 K:BB. That's good folks.
The case against: See above under Mike Adams. Uehara also averages just 88.8 mph with his fastball, but then again, velocity isn't everything.
Verdict: Feliz isn't losing his job in the near future, but then again, Feliz has a 6.06 ERA since June 8. It might not take more than another bad outing or two before Ron Washington considers Adams, who should have a slight leg up on Uehara given he's apparently the eighth-inning option.
Velocity isn't the end all and be all of pitcher performance, but generally, the harder one throws, the more difficult for the batter to make contact. That assumes, of course, that the pitcher has other offerings he can mix with success now and then, but throwing hard is important. Here are the top 10 velocity gainers and losers from May to the last 30 days:
It's hard to "worry" too much about pitchers like Saunders and especially Francis, who didn't throw particularly hard in the first place, but pay attention to the likes of Bumgarner (shelled in last start) and Pineda (nice outing last time out, but a 10.91 ERA in his previous three starts). Fatigue could set in for those young arms sometime this month.
With his command, Josh Tomlin was already effective enough, so mix a nearly two-mph increase on his fastball and I like him more and more each time I look at his numbers. The results have been inconsistent (look at his last two outings), but Brandon Morrow's velocity indicates he's healthy and in line for a strong finish. Morrow put up a solid line last time out against Texas: 7-6-2-2-2-11. Speaking of string finishes, Mat Latos has looked pretty good lately, allowing three runs or less in seven consecutive starts. No huge strikeout games this year for Latos (tops is eight), but after a slow start to 2011, Latos appears primed for an excellent final two months.
Cy Young Races
None of the three has a distinct advantage in innings. Of the three, Verlander strikes out the most (8.9 K/9; Sabathia - 8.3, Weaver - 7.6) and walks the least (1.8 BB/9; Sabathia - 2.3, Weaver - 2.0), but again, small margins. All three have at least 14 wins (have to mention it, sorry). Verlander leads the pack in WHIP at 0.87 (Weaver - 0.94, Sabathia - 1.12) while Weaver leads in ERA at 1.88. It's close, but my ballot would be: 1. Verlander 2: Weaver 3: Sabathia.
Amazingly, Ryan Vogelsong and Jeff Karstens pace the NL in ERA, but neither have the innings or my confidence that they will be in the race at the end. To me it's really a three-man race:
Roy Halladay - Leads NL in innings (just eight more than Kershaw) and is third behind Kershaw and Tim Lincecum in strikeouts. Very similar numbers to Cliff Lee, but Lee's 3.14 ERA probably keeps him out of the top three.
Clayton Kershaw - Leads baseball in strikeouts with 177 and sports a 2.62 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. Twice as many walks as Halladay (42 to 20), but fewer hits.
Cole Hamels - Fifth in the NL with 145 strikeouts and leads this trio with a 0.97 WHIP.
Halladay has a slight edge over Kershaw, but could the fact that Philadelphia has arguably three of the top four NL starters cause a "split vote" and a Kershaw victory? Stay tuned.
Post All-Star Break Studs and Duds
Who's risen and fallen since the break? How about these pitchers?
Jeff Niemann - Had a 5.58 ERA on June 26, but since: 34 innings, 1.06 ERA, 34:9 K:BB, including this gem against the Red Sox (after beating the Yankees in New York): 8-2-0-0-2-10. Matt Moore can replace someone else.
Zack Greinke - We knew back on July 3 that his 5.66 ERA was a product of some bad luck on balls in play. Here's what he'd done since: 31.2 innings, 1.71 ERA, 39:8 K:BB. He could be the NL's best down the stretch.
Joe Saunders - Project his schedule the rest of the way, as Saunders has allowed three or fewer runs in each of this last nine starts, many against the creampuffs of the NL and interleague matchups in Oakland and Kansas City.
Juan Nicasio - Nicasio had one subpar outing in LA this month, but overall has a 2.36 ERA and 23:5 K:BB in 26.2 innings since the break. He's one of several impressive young arms the Rockies have stockpiled recently.
Trevor Cahill - Three consecutive quality starts to open July and then clunkers in two of his last three outings. Can't trust him in mixed league formats. The biggest difference with Cahill is not only a 60-point BABIP increase over 2010, but also a jump in his walk rate (3.9 BB/9 - a full 1.0 higher than 2010).
Derek Lowe - The Braves are stuck with this contract, particularly in light of Lowe's declining performance - a 7.97 ERA since the All-Star break.
Homer Bailey - With a 4.62 ERA and 13:11 K:BB in 25.1 innings, Bailey continues to frustrate. Of course nine of the 13 runs he's allowed in those innings came in one outing, but the consistency is still not there. "Will it ever be there?" is the question.
Bruce Chen - 7.47 ERA since the All-Star break, but as long as you don't use him on the road against good teams, he might not kill you. OK, not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Tommy Hanson - 6.56 ERA, but do you really expect a poor finish given he has a 28:9 K:BB in those 23.1 innings?
Any pitching prospects that could help down the stretch?
Matt Moore, TB - If you don't know about Matt Moore, you haven't been following the prospect scene at all, as he's probably the best pitching prospect in the game, with only Julio Teheran and Shelby Miller joining Moore in that discussion. After dominating in Double-A, Moore has continued that trend for Triple-A Durham with a 0.50 ERA and 29:5 K:BB in 18 innings. He's ready when the team needs another arm.
Drew Pomeranz, COL - It doesn't seem likely we'll see Pomeranz in Colorado this year, as Alex White is more major league ready. Still, Pomeranz has the stuff to make a September debut, but he's only made three Double-A starts.
Tyler Skaggs and Jarrod Parker, ARI - You could put 2011 No. 3 overall pick Trevor Bauer here as well, but Bauer is highly unlikely to see 2011 big league action. Skaggs and/or Parker could, however, with Parker the more likely candidate given he's spent all year at Double-A and is peaking with a 1.93 ERA in July. Skaggs has just four starts at that level, and he just turned 20 last month, but he's considered quite polished for his age. Still, he's probably more of a 2012-13 guy.
Manny Banuelos, NYY - Banuelos, who struck out eight over five innings in his Triple-A debut Tuesday, is reportedly getting consideration for a big league promotion. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, it's likely to be a bullpen role.
Brad Peacock, WAS - Peacock had a 2.1 BB/9 in Double-A, making the nine walks in 11 innings over his last two Triple-A starts surprising. Peacock's name has been mentioned as a possible rotation candidate, so look for that to happen by year's end. It's not exactly the toughest rotation to crack.
Eric Surkamp, SF - Now that Zack Wheeler is in New York, Surkamp is the organization's top pitching prospect. He just turned 24, however, so we're going to have to see him in the big leagues soon to see how much of a future he has. For Triple-A Fresno, though, the results have been solid - 2.05 ERA, 140:36 K:BB in 114 innings. Quite impressive for the Pacific Coast League.
Liam Hendriks, MIN - With Kyle Gibson dealing with an elbow injury, Hendriks is the most likely candidate to get the call from Triple-A. The Australian has a 2.87 ERA and 91:19 K:BB in 109.1 innings.
Sorry Martin Perez, but you have an 8.10 ERA in your last three starts, so I don't see anything for you in Texas until 2012.
Craig Kimbrel recorded save 32 on Wednesday and hasn't allowed a run since July 11. ... Daniel Bard saw his ERA jump from 1.76 to 2.28 after allowing three runs in a third of an inning Monday. Prior to that, Bard had tossed 26.1 consecutive scoreless innings. ... So now that Koji Uehara is in Texas, who is next up as Kevin Gregg's potential successor? Jim Johnson I guess, considering his 2.47 ERA and 7.2 consecutive scoreless innings. ... Carlos Marmol has an 10:2 K:BB in his last 6.2 innings, not that we should be convinced he's suddenly a control guy. ... There is no clear successor to Chris Perez in Cleveland, but considering Perez has allowed five runs in his last six appearances and has mediocre peripherals - 6.0 K/9, 4.5 BB/9. It would probably be some combination of Tony Sipp and Vinnie Pestano. ... Mark Melancon has a 3.10 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, and though he struggles now and then, he's still pretty secure. Wilton Lopez is next in line in case (when?) that changes. ... Javy Guerra's job status appears secure given his 1.78 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, but his 6.8 K/9 is average at best for a closer. ... Joe Nathan has converted five consecutive save opportunities and hasn't allowed a run since June 25. He's quite secure right now. ... It's five earned runs in his first two August innings for Jason Isringhausen, but Bobby Parnell has allowed three of his own in his last 1.2 innings, so Isringhausen is safe for now. ... Seeing "Lidge (S,1)" in a box score Wednesday was unexpected, but it only happened because Ryan Madson was unavailable (wife having baby). Brad Lidge his averaging in the upper 80s with his fastball, so he's nowhere near his former self, but Lidge and Charlie Manuel have a history, so ... It's still Jon Rauch in Toronto, but Rauch has allowed runs in two of his last three appearances. Frank Francisco has a 4.68 ERA, but he's also on a run in which he's allowed just two hits over five scoreless innings.
Regan, a four-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.