Today I'll touch on a potential return to action of an injured outfielder. I'll also break down two other outfielders – one who is thought of as a success, the other a failure. Then I'll turn to a shortstop who has finally picked up his game in the second half of the season.
Brett Gardner could be activated from the DL, potentially today, for the Yankees. Of course, we've heard that Gardner was good to go to return from that elbow injury of his like six times this year, so I'll believe it when I see it. Don't get too excited even if he is activated though (the only people that should really care are those of you that have been holding on to him in AL-only leagues that start five outfielders). Why would I say that? It seems likely that he will not be able to swing a bat the rest of this season so he will be limited to playing in the field late in games and as a pinch runner. It may be hard to recall given all the stress he's caused this year but Gardner did swipe 47 and 49 bags the last two seasons.
Desmond Jennings has been a disappointment this season given that most had him in their top-25 at the outfield position, with some even pushing him into the top-15. Jennings hit the All-Star break with a .231 average and a .651 OPS, terrible numbers for a player of his talent level. He's also been dealing with a couple of injuries, that's something that goes back to his days in the minors – injuries. Moving past that, Jennings has performed better in the second half as he's hit .269 with a .763 OPS, though those numbers still aren't exactly All-Star quality now are they? However, he does have seven homers and 12 steals in the second half, just 55 games worth of action mind you, which roughly translates to a 20/30 pace. No one would be disappointed with an effort like that, would they? Despite his up and down play this season he still has 12 homers, 27 steals and 73 runs scored. Do you know how many ballplayers have reached all three of those marks this season? Four – Jennings, Jason Kipnis, Jimmy Rollins and Mike Trout.
David Murphy continues to get it done for the Rangers. For years one of the better fourth outfielders in baseball, Murphy is hitting a career best .314 with career bests in OBP (.391) and SLG (.491). While he had a solid first half (.288/.382/.483) he's really turned things up a notch in 58 games in the second half as he's hit .340 with a .401 OBP and .500 SLG. He might be able to reach 450 at-bats for the first time, he currently has 405, but he's done his normal thing with 13 homers, nine steals, 55 RBIs and 58 runs scored. The Rangers got themselves quite a player there.
Remember when everyone who owned Jose Reyes was panicked because of his down performance? Are his owners still feeling the same way after his mad second half dash? Over his last 62 games Reyes has hit .315 with eight homers leading to a .878 OPS. On the year he is hitting .285 (career: .291) with a .347 OBP (career: .342) and a .436 SLG (career: .440). Yep, same old Jose there. He also has 11 homers in 146 games. Per 146 games in his career he's averaged 11.2 homers. Reyes has 55 RBIs in 146 games. Per 146 games in his career he's averaged 58 RBIs. Reyes has scored 81 times in 146 games. Per 146 games in his career he's averaged 100 runs. OK, so he's a bit off the pace there. The same can also be said for his steal pace as he has 35, well below his 49 steal average. However, let me point out a fact that Reyes just isn't the speed demon he once was. After stealing at least 56 bases each year from 2005-08, Reyes has failed to reach 40 steals in any subsequent season. He stole 11 bags in an injury shortened 2009 season (36 games played), before swiping 30 and 39 bases the past two years. All in all Reyes has been pretty much what should have been expected as there was little chance of him stealing 50+ bases this year and no chance he would replicate his .337 batting average from last season.
BY THE NUMBERS
.200: The batting average of Jhonny Peralta over 49 games. It's been even worse in September as he has hit .176 over those 15 games. He also has a .289 OBP in the second half which is 10 points below the .299 batting average he posted last year.
.224: The batting average of Michael McKenry over his last 32 games. The previous 25 games he hit .316. Though he has 12 homers in 76 games on the season, his power has also been on the wane of late with three homers in 35 games for the Pirates.
.233: The batting average of Adrian Gonzalez since he joined the Dodgers. He's also posted a terrible .287 OBP with a .372 SLG which is actually just two points above than his career .370 OBP. Somehow A-Gone has still managed to drive in 16 runs in his 21 games with the Dodgers pushing his RBI total to 102 on the year. Only a 99 RBI effort in 2009 precludes Gonzalez from having a 6-year run with at least 100 RBI.
1: The number of 40 homer seasons that Ryan Braun has after hitting his 40th this season. He is also one steal away from a second 25/25 season as well.
1: The number of players in big league history who have hit 20 homers in their first season and then improved their homer total in each of the next four seasons. Jay Bruce hit 21 then 22 then 25 then 32 and he's up to 33 this season. Moreover, only five players, regardless of age, have ever pulled off the trick: David Ortiz (2002-06), Derrek Lee (2001-05), Jim Thome (1998-2002), Willie Stargell (1967-71) and Hack Wilson (1926-30).
4.62: The ERA of Yu Darvish over his last 11 starts, well above his 3.59 mark over his first 16 starts. Darvish has dropped his WHIP from 1.36 to 1.22, and his batting average against also dipped from .227 to .206 in the second half. Darvish has also seen his K/9 rate improve in the second half, from 10.26 to 10.70. Alas, his win loss record has gone from 10-5 to 5-4 over his last 11 outings. Sometimes things don't always make a heck of a lot of sense.
14: The number of consecutive starts made by Cliff Lee in which he has tossed at least six innings without walking more than a single batter. That run ties him with Greg Maddux (1997) and Christy Mathewson (1908) for the longest such streak in the modern era (since 1900). Lee currently leads baseball with a 1.33 BB/9 mark on the year, and given his 8.72 K/9 mark the result is a K/BB ratio of 6.57. That mark would rank as the 16th best mark since 1900 for a hurler who tossed at least 162 innings in a season.
24: The major league leading total of quality starts by R.A. Dickey and Yovani Gallardo. The Brewers have gone 20-11 in Gallardo's start this season and Yovani has personally won a career best 7-straight decisions over his last nine starts during which time he has posted a 2.98 ERA.
104: The NL leading RBI total of... the only way you are going to know this answer is if you've been looking. It's not Ryan Braun. He's second with 103 RBI. It's not Matt Holliday. He's fourth with 96. In fact, two of the top three men in the NL are players that no one, not a single soul, predicted would get to triple-digits this year. Alfonso Soriano has 103 RBI for the Cubs and that includes an impressive final kick to the finish line that has included 53 RBI in 58 games. The NL leader is Chase Headley with 104 RBI, and he's been even hotter than Soriano with 62 RBI in 60 games played.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Thursday at 7 PM EDT and Friday's at 9 PM EDT. Ray's analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.