Clint Eastwood has been a popular topic of discussion the past several days. Must be because of that new “baseball” movie he has coming out soon. That’s got to be it. Otherwise, he sure has kept a low profile lately. Speaking of Eastwood, doesn’t it seem far more realistic for him to be playing a crusty old football coach? Leather helmets, three yards and a cloud of dust, and all that? Even at 82, he could probably whoop Mark Sanchez with one arm tied behind his back. What’s that? Oh, right, sorry. Back to the topic at hand: for this week’s edition of Who’s Hot, Who’s Not, I feel inclined to do a “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” theme. Off we go:
The Good: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets – The Last Knuckleballer is back in a groove again. He crafted a complete-game shutout of the Miami Marlins in his most recent start. For the season, Dickey sits in the top three in the following categories: wins (17; first), innings (191 1/3; second), strikeouts (190; second), ERA (2.63; third), WHIP (1.01; first) and complete games (4; first). The strikeouts and WHIP stats illustrate just how dominant Dickey has been while throwing the game’s most unpredictable pitch. Here are two more: 1) in so-called “high leverage” situations, opposing batters are hitting just .184 against Dickey in 2012; 2) in those same situations, he is generating ground balls over 51% of the time. Batters simply have not been able to make good contact against Dickey when it counts the most. As an aside, if you haven’t R.A. Dickey’s book (Wherever I Wind Up), get on it. Compelling read, as well as a perfect example of a man who knows his limitations and learned to thrive anyway. He’s just one of many Cy Young candidates in the National League, but he is far and away the sentimental favorite. What a great story it would be for a 37-year-old knuckleballer to win the award over younger power pitchers like Johnny Cueto, Matt Cain, AJ Burnett or Gio Gonzalez. Dickey has been a gift for his fantasy owners as well. If you drafted him or scooped him up off the waiver wire, you’ve been feeling lucky all season long.
The Good: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers – The Rangers’ third baseman has been tearing the rawhide off the baseball, going 23 for his last 54, with an eye-popping OPS of 1.633. In the past two weeks, Beltre has bashed 8 homers, driven in 16, and scored 12 runs. That’s a good MONTH for a lot of players. Mixed in this scorched-earth streak (“hot” just doesn’t seem to do it justice), Beltre enjoyed his first career three-homer game and hit for the cycle for the second time in his career. He does have a tendency to cluster his hits together: four hits one night, none the next, three more hits the day after that. In the “neat, but does it really matter?” department, Beltre became the first player in MLB history to hit for the cycle in the same ballpark as a visiting player and a home player. For the season, Beltre has 28 HR, 85 RBI and 79 runs scored, making him one of the top five fantasy performers at the position. He’s been worth 5.0 WAR so far in 2012. He doesn’t steal bases any more, but when he’s racking up stats like this in the other four categories, that’s a small nit to pick.
The Bad: Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals – Zimmermann endured the worst outing of his career Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals. Worse, he’s in a slump at the worst possible time for the Nationals. After 21 consecutive starts of at least six innings, Zimmermann has been unable to go six innings in 5 of his past 6 starts. With the Strasburg Shutdown now in sight, Washington can’t afford to have one of their remaining starters getting knocked around every five days. In the past two weeks, Zimmermann’s K/BB ratio is at a season-worst 1.50 with a 1.96 WHIP. Worst of all for the Nats (and fantasy owners), Zimmermann was pushed back in the rotation a few weeks ago due to shoulder tightness. There haven’t been any other issues reported, but Zimmermann has a history of injuries in his short career. The Nats need need him to stay healthy and get back on track. They have John Lannan to plug into the rotation in Strasburg’s place, and a man with no name after that. If they have to go into October without two of their top three starters, it may be a short trip to the playoffs.
The Ugly: Ubaldo Jimenez, Cleveland Indians – I didn’t just pick Ubaldo for the Ugly category for the alliteration; his pitching has been an eyesore, particularly since the All-Star break. In 52 innings pitched since the break (which is awful in itself, since he has made 10 starts), the former Rockies ace has been surrendered 72 hits and 26 walks. Fantasy owners can point to the 10.5 K/9 ratio he compiled in August, but it is completely canceled out by the atrocious 1.80 WHIP and 7.67 ERA. Both of those numbers are roto pitching-staff killers. Jimenez’s home run to fly ball ratio is the worst of his career (13.1%; worst at Coors Field was 11.5% in 2007) and his fastball velocity is the lowest it has ever been (92.7 mph). You have to believe the Indians would like a do-over with this trade. Regardless of how bad Drew Pomeranz and Alex White might struggle, it would have to be more pleasant than watching Jimenez deteriorate into a right-handed Oliver Perez.
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