Alex Avila has been a disappointment this season. A quick glance reveals that as his OPS is down .172 points at .723. The good news is that he has started to hit after finally finding a schedule of therapy and rest that will allow his knee to work well enough for him to have that long lost success. Avila has hits in six of his last eight games and he has nine hits in his last 28 at-bats (.321) to boost his average .013 points to .247. He has no shot at returning to the levels that saw him produce 19 homers and 82 RBI last season, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t be a solid option the rest of the way provided his body doesn’t betray him. He’s still got a shot to be a top-12 catcher the rest of the way (for my rest of the way rankings simply click on the link).
Aaron Harang is sitting at the season’s halfway point with a pace that would equate to 12 victories, a 3.51 ERA and 156 Ks. About what many expected when he signed with the Dodgers this offseason. Honestly, about the only number that isn’t up to par is his WHIP of 1.42. Still, look at how he has fared in WHIP the past four years: 1.38, 1.41, 1.59 and 1.37, so I guess we should have all known the number wouldn’t be great. It would help if he brought down his BB/9 rate. Currently at 3.96, the only time he finished a year above 3.06 was his rookie season in 2002.
Ian Kennedy has been a disappointment to many, chiefly because he is 6-7 after going 21-4 last year. You didn’t really think that was going to happen again, did you? Chances are pretty darn good that he will never match that effort â ever. Just the way it is. His ERA (4.26) and WHIP (1.33) are a bit elevated though, and that has some people nervous. Still, I see a hurler who has an excellent K/BB ratio (4.13), and that’s likely to lead to a ton of success over the long haul. He’s also matched last years line drive rate and GB/FB marks. In fact, his HR/F is also just a point above last year. What I’m basically saying here is that he is pitching pretty close to the way he did last season, the results just haven’t been there this season. Buy low if you can.
Mike Leake is 3-6 with a 4.01 ERA. Whoopie do right? Well, he’s actually been pitching pretty darn well. The last 10 times he has taken the hill he’s gone at least seven innings seven times. He’s also allowed more than two earned runs just twice in that span as he’s loped off 2.20 runs from that previously mentioned ERA. One of the biggest keys has been throwing strikes. In his last three starts he’s walked one batter, and over his last 10 he’s issued just 11 walks. He’s a solid depth option in a rotation who is pitching very well right now.
Cliff Lee finally did it. He finally entered the win column in his 14th start of the season. Maybe we can now put all that bad junk in the rear-view mirror. Lee is still dominating, he has 98 Ks in 97.1 innings, and he’s walking less than two batters per nine leading to yet another special K/BB ratio of 4.90 (that’s the fourth best mark in baseball). Lee needs one main thing to happen. He needs that BABIP to come down. Currently rest at .330, that would be a career worst mark. As an aside, his current line drive rate is 19.1 percent, nearly a point below his career mark. Those two numbers just don’t jibe with the results we’ve seen from Lee. He’s still a borderline ace, don’t let anyone tell you different.
Mike Napoli is on pace for 24 homers, 60 RBI and 70 runs scored. How many times has he reached all three of those numbers in a season? Survey says — once (it was last year when he had 30 homers, 75 RBI and 72 runs scored). So why the utter disgust in his effort this season? Well, first off people drafted him first at the catcher’s position, so expectations were really high. Second, they expected Napoli to better last years numbers. After all, he did that massive damage in just 369 at-bats. Third, their expectations were simply out of whack. A .261 career hitter, last year was the first time that Napoli hit better than .275 in a season. Heck, he hit .238 in 2010 so his current mark of .233 was always a possibility. He’s still be productive, even though he’s going to fail to match draft day expectations. At the same time he is string out like crazy with 83 in 232 at-bats meaning nearly one of every three at-bats is ending up with him walking back to the dugout with his head down. He’s gotta make more contact. Just has to.
Jonny Venters was put on the DL with a left elbow impingement (the Braves are hopeful that he will be able to return to action after his 15 days are up). Those that rostered Venters this year have taken a beating an are likely happy he was sent to the shelf. A 4.45 ERA and 1.79 WHIP over 32.1 innings will certainly do that to you. At the same time, there are still plenty of reasons to think he could be a solid contributor. (1) His 11.97 K/9 mark is a batter an a half above his career rate. (2) His 2.53 K/BB ratio would be a career best. (3) His 3.79 GB/FB would be a career low but it is still an ELITE number. (4) After two years with a line drive rate of 14.5 percent, that number is all the way up at 23 percent. It would seem likely that at least some pullback would be on the way here. (5) A BABIP mark of .287 and .242 is what Venters posted the last two years. This season that mark is .422. Do you really think that is going to keep up? Look to add Venters on the cheap if he truly is healthy.
Josh Willingham has been a wonder for the Twins. In his first year with the club he’s on pace for 35 homers and 115 RBI which would be astounding production for a guy coming off a season with career bests of 29 homers and 98 RBI. Still, let’s slow our roll a bit here. First, the Twins home park just isn’t conducive to the long ball. Second, Willingham has never appeared in 145 games in a big league season, and the last four years he has averaged 121 games a season. He’s not getting to 35-115 without playing everyday. Third, a career .262 hitter, Willingham has seen his average dip to .269. Moreover, remove April and the guy has hit .242 over 58 games. If someone things he is the guy that is on pace for 35 bombs and 115 RBIs my suggestion would be to trade him at full price right now before things slow even more.
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.