We're at the point of the season when people tend to forget to look at recent levels of performance and instead they look just at the numbers a player has posted this season and think they've got a handle on what's going on (just such a player is Josh Hamilton who I discussed in the July 24th Circling the Bases piece). Sometimes players start out unbelievably hot (aka Hamilton), and then slow down to the point that people think they are lousy. Or, as often happens, people simply don't notice the true slowdown because they are so giddy about the hot start that they almost go into “sleep mode” with the player. Would you ever really bench Josh Hamilton given who he is and how impressive his overall numbers are this season? Looking at the question that way, the answer is certainly no. But if you realize that his performance the past 45 days has been awful, maybe you would consider benching him.
At the same time, maybe someone out there is overvaluing the fact that Carlos Gomez is hitting .323 with a 1.045 OPS since the All-Star break. Gomez is certainly hot right now, and given his excellent defense he's likely in line for a significant increase in playing time, which is heartening, but remember the facts with Gomez: (1) His career slash line is pathetic (.244/.292/.368). (2) The guy has never hit double digit homers (he has eight right now). (3) Over the last three years he has failed to record 30 RBIs (he has 25 right now). (4) Finally, there must be a reason that he's averaged just 279 at-bats the past three years. I'd posit that it's a very simple explanation – he really can't hit. Be careful not to overestimate a brief run of excellence from a player who has shown, for years, that he's worse than a league average hitter.
Be careful with “trends.” You have to take into account who the player is, his track record, what his health situation looks like etc. before you buy into a hot/cold streak.
TO BE DEALT?
Chris Perez came into the 2012 season with a lot of questions, and in fact, many thought he wouldn't be able to hold off Vinnie Pestano for closing duties with the Indians. When he allowed three runs on Opening Day to pick up the blown saves, people were panicking in the streets like Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds (poor Joey Potter needs to find a new man now. That's a Dawson's Creek reference to the character who Katie Holmes played. Don't know why I explained that since I know all of you knew what I was talking about. It's OK to admit you're a closet Dawson's Creek fan... it's actually liberating to admit it. Give it a shot). However, all that Perez has done since that initial blow up is dominate batters by racking up 29 saves in 30 chances. His reward? He finds his name being bandied about, as the Indians seem very willing to deal him if the right package comes along. Two questions. What would a team be getting in Perez? You would have to think that whomever adds him would leave him in the 9th inning role. Second, who would take over in Cleveland?
(1) As mentioned, Perez has converted 29 of 31 overall save chances a year after he was 36 for 40. He's pretty darn good at slamming the door, even if he doesn't always have his “A” game when he takes the hill. Although, more times than not this season he has had his good stuff. A K/IP arm for his entire life, that number shrunk to 5.88 per nine last season and that scared the hell out of many others including myself. Consider that concern squelched. Perez has dominated batters this season and his K/9 rate has soared to a dominating level at 10.33. Wow is right. When you take that massive K increase and combine it with strikes, the results can be deadly to batters. A four walk per nine inning arm, Perez is not only mowing down batters he's also not issuing any free passes with a BB/9 mark of 1.88. That's some serious pitching folks (as evidenced by his 5.50 K/BB ratio). Perez has also greatly improved his awful GB/FB ratio that has led to a few blown games because of the homer. Coming into the year with a GB/FB ratio of just barely 0.70, that mark is up to 1.02 this season. It's still a tad worse than the league average, but at least it's moving in the right direction (if he is dealt to a park that favors the long ball for hitters, this will be something to keep a close eye on). You might even be able to say that he has been a bit unfortunate as well given that his BABIP of .284 would be a career worst and .035 points above his career rate. Bottom line with Perez is that he fully deserves the success that he has had this season.
(2) The Indians have some solid pen arms with guys like Joe Smith and Tony Sipp occasionally doing nice things, but if Perez is dealt you would have to think that it would be the aforementioned Pestano who would be asked to shut other clubs down in the 9th inning. Through 110 career innings Pestano owns a 2.05 ERA. That mark is 1.47 this season in 45 games. For his career he owns a 1.05 WHIP. This season that mark is 0.98. For his career he owns a 0.93 GB/FB. This season that mark is 0.98. For his career he has an 18.3 percent line drive rate. This year it's 17.3 percent. For his career his BABIP is .267. This year it's .250. For his career his left on base percentage is 86.3. This year it's 89.8 percent. For his career he owns a 3.22 K/BB ratio (thanks to a filthy K/9 mark of 11.86). This year that mark is 3.31. Everything he is doing is in line with his career levels, and pretty much everything is just a wee bit better this season. He's dominating, so unless he doesn't have the stones to get the last three outs there really shouldn't be any issue with him taking over if Perez is dealt.
BY THE NUMBERS
.308: The batting average of Ben Revere during his current 9-game hitting streak. Oddly, that batting average is actually a point below his season long mark of .309. So goes it sometimes.
.330: The batting average of John Jaso over his last 35 games. During the streak he has knocked in 16 runners while also walking 19 times leading to a .446 OBP. Since May 29th his .330 average is 10th in the AL while his OBP is 4th. By the way, his .952 OPS is also 13th in the Junior Circuit in that time.
.536: The batting average with RISP for Adrian Gonzalez over the past 30 games (he's 15-for-28). Since the start of the season AGone has hit .406 with RISP, the best mark in baseball. Gonzalez also hit .429 last week to win AL Player of the Week honors and over the last four weeks he has hit .369 with 15 RBIs over 84 at-bats.
0.89: The ERA of Mike Fiers over his last six starts (40.2 innings). Not surprisingly, he's posted a “quality start” in each outing. The Brewers 2011 Minor League Pitcher of the Year is just 3-4 on the year as the Brewers are a mere 3-6 when he starts. Way to go Brew Crew – hit much?
1: The number of homers that Alfonso Soriano needs to hit 20 this year. While that isn't a big number by any means, only one player has hit 20 each of the past 11 years (including the 2012 season). That player is David Ortiz. If Soriano hits one more dong he'll be player #2 to go 11-straight seasons with at least 20. Albert Pujols needs two homers to join the club. Soriano is also tied with Andrew McCutchen and Jason Kubel for the most homers in the NL since May 15th with 19.
2.03: The ERA of Chris Sale over his last 11 starts as he has shown no signs of wearing down from a heavy workload after spending the last couple of seasons in the bullpen. That ERA is accompanied by an 8-1 record and 75 Ks in 79.2 innings. For the year he is second in the AL with a 2.37 ERA.
11: The number of Ks that Matt Harvey had in his MLB debut Thursday. Those 11 punchouts are the most in Mets history for a major league debut. It was also just the 8th time since 1900 that a pitcher had 11 Ks in his first ML start. He also had two hits in the outing to become the first player to ever have 10 Ks and two hits in his major league debut. J.R. Richard and Karl Spooner hold the record with 15 Ks in their major league debut.
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.