IS BREWERS BULLPEN SETTLED?
John Axford lost his 9th inning job with the Brewers for suckitude (yes, that fake word does apply in this situation). While the demotion was warranted, it is by no means certain that Axford won't return to the 9th inning at some point. Here are the facts.
(1) Teams have long memories. Axford had 70 saves over the past two years, including 46 in 48 chances last season.
(2) Though struggling with walks (4.93 per nine), he is also sporting a career best 12.21 K/9 mark, and his 1.55 GB/FB ratio would also be a career best.
(3) You have to think he's been a bit unfortunate this year. A career 19 percent line drive arm, Axford has been beaten around to the tune of a 26 percent mark this year. That has also led to a .033 point uptick in his BABIP from his career rate to .337. Those numbers should slowly regress, provided he throws strikes of course.
(4) After allowing five home runs over 139.1 innings the past three years, Axford has been taken deep six times in 38.1 innings this year. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and I'm fairly certain that he's not going to end the year with a HR/F rate that is literally three times his career average.
(5) A guy with a 76 percent left on base percentage doesn't usually fall down to 66 percent. It certainly happens, but it's also likely that the number will rise the rest of the way.
(6) K-Rod is really no great shakes right now. Though he's racked up saves in his last two outings he's also allowed three hits while walking three batters in those two innings. Plus, on the year he has a 3.71 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. The ERA is more than a run above his career rate of 2.59, and the WHIP would be far and away the worst mark of his career (he's posted a 1.18 mark over 692.1 innings). K-Rod also isn't striking as many out as normal, his current 8.66 K/9 mark is a batter below his career worst mark of 9.66 (in 2009), and his 4.33 BB/9 rate is a batter above the 3.30 mark he's had the last two seasons. There are also rumors that Rodriguez could be on the trade block as the Brewers are considering becoming sellers.
(7) GM Doug Melvin commented on the change up: "The reason you turn it over is because of the impatience of people - the media, the fans, everybody else. He's still got the best arm on the club... The idea is to get him straightened out pretty quick. We'll just let it play itself out. We still have confidence in his arm strength.” That certainly sounds like a GM who has a plan that includes Axford working the 9th inning.
NATIONALS STILL CONFUSED WITH STRASBURG?
Earlier this week I let the Nationals have it over their handling of Stephen Strasburg. Don't know if you read it or not, but I'd suggest looking it over. The reason I bring it up in this piece isn't just to get page views on the other article but because there is another level of intrigue with the “innings pitched conspiracy” with Strasburg. Here are the words of GM Mike Rizzo.
"There is no magic number," Rizzo said. "It will be the eye test. (Manager) Davey (Johnson) won't decide and ownership won't decide. It will be the general manager, and that's me.”
Rule with an iron fist anyone?
So what do we now know? Nothing other than the decision appears to be in one man's hands. This “eye test” stuff is crap. You don't think that every manager and pitching coach isn't watching a guy closely for signs of fatigue? They do that with everyone. Notice what Rizzo didn't say. He didn't say X is the inning total. He said he would make the decision based on watching Strasburg. Does that mean Strasburg will be allowed to throw 190 innings if he's blazing it up at the end of August? Before you believe that wholeheartedly, here's one other note from Rizzo that bears repeating. “This is a kid who has never pitched more than 123 innings in a year.”
ROYALS OUTFIELD SUDDENLY CROWDED
Lorenzo Cain, everyone’s favorite breakout candidate in March before he was beset with injuries, has looked great since rejoining the Royals hitting .391 with two homers, six RBIs and six runs scored in seven games (if he keeps hitting like this the only way we're going to see Wil Myers at any point in August is if the Royals are able to send Jeff Francoeur packing in a trade). At the same time, Cain isn't able to go 100 percent day after day, yet, as his legs are still a bit behind. "I feel like I’m running OK," Cain said. "I’m definitely not where I want to be.” Look for Jarrod Dyson to get some work in Cain's stead, at least as a late inning defensive substitution.
BLUE JAYS ADD SNIDER
When Jose Bautista went down the assumption was that Travis Snider would get the call. Instead the Jays called up Anthony Gose. Consider that situation rectified. The Jays will go with Gose in one corner spot and Snider in the other after Snider was called up Friday. The big playing time loser is Rajai Davis who will slide back into a support role (he can still provide steals though as a late game replacement for those of you in AL-only leagues). Long a “prospect” of note, Snider has struggled to find any consistency at the big league level after he had a strong 24 game run to end the 2008 season. Still just 24 years old (I know it's hard to believe), Snider was plastering the hurlers at Triple-A hitting .335 with 13 homers, 56 RBI, 49 runs scored and a 1.021 OPS in 56 games. He has nothing left to prove in the minors, he hit .327 with 42 RBIs and 47 runs scored in 61 games at Triple-A last year, but he has a whole lot to prove in the bigs. At this point of the year if you need outfield help, Snider is well worth the risk, especially given that he appears likely to receive consistent at-bats.
BY THE NUMBERS
.360: The batting average of Ruben Tejada over his last 64 at-bats. Tejada has also scored 12 runs the past three weeks, one more than Jose Reyes and one less than Derek Jeter.
.443: The batting average of Adrian Gonzalez over his last 61 at-bats. AGone has driven in 12 runs but only five of his 22 hits have gone for extra bases (three doubles, two homers). By the way, even if you haven't noticed, AGone has his average up to .298 though he's still on pace for just 14 home runs.
0.58: The ERA of Jered Weaver in seven starts at home this season. In addition to the ERA, Weaver is 6-0 for the Angels and he's, get this, failed to allow an earned run in six of his seven outings.
1: The number of hits that Edinson Volquez allowed Thursday night against the Astros. That outing was the first complete game, and shutout, of his career in start number 110. Volquez has seen his ERA fall to 3.34 thanks to an impressive run of pitching that includes a 1.67 mark over his last four starts. Too bad he leads the NL with 70 walks because few can hit this guy (109 Ks in 121.1 innings with a .214 BAA).
2.84: The ERA of Max Scherzer over his last three starts. Scherzer has continued to punch people out, he's got 20 Ks in 19 innings, and he's been able to go 2-0 with a 1.26 WHIP. Those ratios are much closer matches for how he has pitched this year versus the 4.61 ERA and 1.40 WHIP he owns for the season.
5.62: The ERA of Wandy Rodriguez over his last 10 starts. Is he distracted by trade rumors? Does he just suck? Is it a natural regression after posting a 2.14 ERA over his first 10 starts? Though his 3.75 ERA on the year would be a five year high, it's a number that is still better than league average and it's also below his career mark of 4.04. His WHIP by the way would be a three-year best (1.25).
7: The number of blown saves (five) and losses (two) that Santiago Casilla has in his last eight outings. The Giants are being wishy-washy about whether or not they are going to make a 9th inning move, but when a reliever sees his ERA go from 1.59 to 3.34 in nine outings, it's time to make a move. You hear me Giants?
45: The percent of at-bats the past three weeks that Jarrod Saltalamacchia has ended up walking back to the dugout with his bat in his hands after a strikeout. Salty has whiffed 22 times in 49 at-bats bringing his season total up to 80 in 245. Since the start of last season Salty has a K-rate of over 30 percent. No surprise that he's barely hit .230 since the start of 2011.
40: The percentage of his 20 starts that Bruce Chen has posted a “quality start” - that's eight quality starts. Only one other hurler in baseball – Ricky Romero with nine – has as many starts without posting double-digit quality starts. Tim Lincecum “leads” those with 19 starts with only five quality starts. Embarrassing.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.