An idea popped into my head while walking around the Las Vegas Strip earlier this week. For the sake of science, what would happen if a subject were given $200 of daily spending money and hotel expenses covered to stay on the strip for 30 straight days?
There has to be some measurable damage for the average person spending three days on the strip, but 30 with enough steady spending money to ensure that days would not be spent as a hermit in the confines of a nice air-conditioned suite would undoubtedly be interesting. (To any readers out there performing studies on Dopamine and whether or not bright lights and ringing slot machines can cause human production of a lethal supply, I am willing to sign the consent form and serve as the guinea pig on this one.)
It should be noted that this comes from a guy who missed out on post-dinner happy hour Monday night because drinking all afternoon in the desert sun had me asleep by 10 o'clock that night.
Don't eff with the sun.
Also, keep your hands away from the three-foot radius around Jason Thornbury's plate at the Steak Dinner.
These lessons, initially learned on my first company Vegas trip in 2006, still hold true.
Another thought that crossed my mind while thinking about what would be left of the season when the regular season slate resumes Friday was along the lines of: "Why are there only 66-71 games left for teams in the 'second half' of the season?"
Should the All-Star Game be played the week of the Fourth of July?
Feel free to submit yourself to science or weigh in about the above questions in the comments below.
This week, I'm taking stock of the National League clubs as the "second half" gets underway.
Atlanta - There are plenty of reasons that the Braves are currently atop the National League East. As organizations go, they are one of a few in the conversation with the Cardinals in terms of sound decision-making in the front office and excellent player development over the past two decades. Remember the offseason deal the Braves made with the Angels? Jordan Walden has been sharp and is currently positioned as a potential top-30 reliever in terms of WAR. On the Angels side, Tommy Hanson has struggled to stay healthy this season, landing on the 15-day DL in late June after dealing with a bout of triceps tightness in March. (Understandably, he was also sidelined for a month during the season following the death of his step brother.) In terms of moving pitchers, the Braves do it as well as anyone, and Hanson's arm issues have reduced his effectiveness over the last three seasons while his strikeout rate has fallen from to 26.3% in 2011, to 21.2% last season and now 15.4% in limited work with the Angels. Walden, on the other hand, has become a vital member of an Atlanta bullpen where he would almost certainly move into the ninth-inning role if an injury were to befall Craig Kimbrel. Handcuff accordingly.
St. Louis - We have to lower the expectations for Carlos Beltran post-break after what happened last year, right?
2012 1H: .296/.382/.542, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 41:60 BB:K, 8-for-12 SB (82 games, 297 at-bats)
2012 2H: .236/.302/.440, 12 HR, 32 RBI, 24:64 BB:K, 5-for-7 SB (69 games, 250 at-bats)
2013 1H: .309/.346/.533, 19 HR, 53 RBI, 18:60 BB:K, 2-for-3 SB (84 games, 330 at-bats)
2013 2H: ?
He's looked visibly hobbled trying to play defense in right field since the start of the regular season, and the walk rate is definitely trending in the wrong direction.
Arizona - A big part of the D-Backs' standing as leaders of the NL West is that the division is much more like the AL Central in strength than many people care to realize. Their positive run differential is very surprising when you consider the injury to Adam Eaton, the terrible three-plus months they have received from Miguel Montero and Martin Prado, as well as the time Aaron Hill lost to a broken hand. Paul Goldschmidt is a legitimate MVP candidate at .313/.395/.557, 21 homers, 60 RBI, but the Upton-Prado trade has been a disaster thus far, as has the addition of Cody Ross this winter and Year 2 of the Jason Kubel deal. It also looks like previous Didi Gregorius : Andrelton Simmons comps are more accurate in terms of their respective abilities at the plate than Gregorius' first month of big league at-bats led many to believe. Of the aforementioned struggling bats, Prado is the best bet to turn things around in the second half, and it may have already started following his 15-for-51 (.294) stretch with a 4:4 BB:K, two homers and eight RBI to begin July.
Pittsburgh - Jose Tabata can't be an everyday player on a legitimate playoff team, right? If the Pirates can only add one of a frontline starter, or right fielder with pop, which do you feel they need more? Also, it's strange that nothing official ever came from the rumblings that Tabata might be several years older than is currently documented age.
Cincinnati - Entering play Friday, 23 hitters have earned more with their performance than Joey Votto in a 15-team league with the five traditional hitting categories. Of that group six have fewer than the 15 home runs that Votto has hit this season. Considering the way his power fell off from mid-June on last season, Votto seems have erased most of the concern about that facet of his skill set, but thanks to the Reds' No. 2 hitters' combined .233/.271/.341 line in front of him, Votto has just 42 RBI. Right now, Dusty Baker is the limiting factor, and barring changes in personnel, the Reds would be wise to simply move Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce up to the 2-4 spots. It doesn't fix Votto's RBI shortage, but increases is value and the run production of the Cincinnati lineup as a whole.
Washington - We live in a baseball climate where a 24-year-old with a 2.99 ERA, 1.126 WHIP and 109:37 K:BB over 108 innings is "kind of a disappointment."
Los Angeles - We live in a baseball climate where a 22-year-old Cuban-born player needed just 262 plate apperance in the minor leagues before getting the call to The Show. Upon arrival, this player generated so much hype, that he was screened onto a T-shirt for a stadium giveaway 41 days after making his big league debut. Also, it's a complete failure on the part of the Dodgers' marketing department that they chose "Puig Factor" rather than "Factor Puig" and here's why.
Philadelphia - The last 30 days for Domonic Brown have yielded results that represent what I would have told you was a best-case scenario for him in 2013: 30-for-117 (.256/.313/.453), four homers, 19 RBI, 10:26 BB:K and two steals. Over/Under 12.5 homers for Brown for the rest of the season (including the one that he hit Friday night while this piece was being finished)?
Colorado - Necessity forced Tyler Chatwood to the big leagues with the Angels in 2011 after just 17 starts above High-A. For a 21-year-old drafted out of high school to move that quickly is extremely rare, and Chatwood wasn't dominating the competition over the course of his minor league development, which ultimately made him expendable before the 2012 campaign when he was traded to Colorado for Chris Iannetta. At Triple-A and with the Rockies, Chatwood's control has taken a big step forward this year, and his ability to induce a lot of groundballs (2.53 GB/FB) should enable him to have success despite having to pitch half of his games at Coors Field. For owners in leagues where streaming is possible, consider him a good option in the majority of his road outings, and a serviceable option against the Cubs on Sunday in Colorado for his first post-break start.
San Francisco - Since 1990, only 21 pitchers have thrown as many pitches (148) in a start as Tim Lincecum did in his no-hitter last week. Within that group, five did it on multiple occasions including Randy Johnson (nine), Livan Hernandez (three), Chuck Finley, Cal Eldred and Roger Clemens (two each). Going back to 1916, only Lincecum and Jackson threw that many pitches in a no-hitter. The performance itself should not have any significant impact on the way owners are valuing Lincecum at this stage, but a high-strikeout starter even with volatile ratios might have more to offer than some of your leaguemates realize.
Chicago - Anthony Rizzo is at least the 34,221st reminder to us that it's a game of adjustments. Since May 1, Rizzo is hitting .247/.333/.406 with five homers, 34 RBI and a 30:44 BB:K over his last 285 plate appearances.
New York - Ike Davis has gone from a rising star in 2010 and 2011, to a non-tender candidate in a few short years. More likely, the Mets would deal him away for something semi-useful as there would almost certainly be a few teams interested in acquiring a 26-year-old first baseman who has at least flashed the ability to get on base at a good clip (.351 in 2010, .383 in 2011) and hit for power (32 homers in 584 plate appearances in 2012).
San Diego - What is your best-case outcome for Yonder Alonso's development as a hitter? Is he just James Loney 2.0? Closing in on 1,000 career plate appearances as a big leaguer, Alonso has a .276/.343/.406 mark with 20 homers, 109 RBI and an 87:164 BB:K. By comparison, Loney has a career .285/.341/.424 line over 3,840 plate appearances even with an .832 OPS for the Rays this season.
Milwaukee - Entering play Friday, Juan Francisco has drawn walks at a career-high 7.9 percent clip this season. He's still striking out in more than 30 percent of his plate appearances, but Francisco's raw power and ability to adequately handle right-handed pitching (.271/.337/.481, 17:64 BB:K in 202 plate appearances) should keep him in the lineup at least four times each week for the Brewers. Hunter Morris has shown similar splits in the minors, and would not fit as a platoon mate for Francisco if he's given the nod for a taste of the big leagues in the second half.
Miami - Giancarlo Stanton has done nothing to change my opinion of what I think he is as a player. He's still on the short list of players capable of going on a 25-homer binge from mid-July through the end of September.