Welcome to this week’s edition of Who’s Hot, Who’s Not. I’ll be discussing a familiar face with a still-unfamiliar uniform, a revitalized ace and a former ace who needs an attitude adjustment.
Hottest of the Hot: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of the United States of North America.
Now THIS is more what the Angels had in mind when they lured the longtime Cardinal to southern California. Over the past week, Pujols belted 6 HR, drove in 13 and slugged 1.121. Pujols’ horrendous start to the season is no longer even in the rearview mirror. Pujols is now on pace for 35 HR, 111 RBI, 91 runs scored and 11 SB. With Pujols back to his usual near-superhuman self, it will be interesting to see if teams pitch around him more and if his teammates start seeing better pitches to hit. With Pujols, Mike Trout & company, plus the pitching of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Zack Greinke, the Angels are flat out scary. Unfortunately, they have not been able to capitalize on the Texas Rangers’ recent so-so play. Mark Trumbo is cooling off, and the lineup still isn’t as deep as the Rangers, but having Pujols back in form makes up for plenty.
Who else is hot?
A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates – After Burnett’s most recent victory, a near-complete game stifling of the sizzling Cincinnati Reds, manager Clint Hurdle said: “I’ve never had an ace before.” He has one now. Burnett, a 14-game winner in his return to the NL, has been nothing short of dominant his past three starts: 25 IP, 20 K, 14 hits/walks allowed. That works out to a WHIP of 0.56. A year after leading the AL in wild pitches, Burnett’s control has been impeccable. His BB/9 ratio is the lowest it has been since 2006, while his K/BB ratio is the best it has been since 2006. For the season, the 35-year-old Burnett boasts an ERA+ of 116 and has already been a 2.1 WAR (wins above replacement) player. For some reason, Burnett is being started in only 80% of NL-only leagues. He’s not in New York, anymore, folks. Burnett is a prime reason why the Pirates aren’t fading from the NL Central race any time soon.
Who’s Not: Roy Oswalt, Texas Rangers
It’s safe to say Ol’ Roy has had better weeks – or years. After being banished to the bullpen following six less-than-stellar starts, Oswalt pouted and whined to the media. “Well, I mean we’re 4-2 in the games I started. I guess I should’ve been 6-0,” Ol’ Roy said.
Sunday, though, was a new low for the former Astros ace. After pitching two scoreless innings in relief, Oswalt informed manager Ron Washington that he was done, declining to go back out for a third inning. Washington said Oswalt told him “he couldn’t go any further.” What a load of hooey. The man has been a starting pitcher his entire career and he doesn’t have it in him to pitch three innings to help his first-place team win? I’d pay good money to hear Nolan Ryan’s reaction to that one.
After no one would meet his preposterous asking price at the start of the season, Oswalt proclaimed he would wait till midseason and look for his best chance to get a ring. After their pitching staff was decimated by injuries, the Rangers stepped up. I wonder if they now wish they had gone elsewhere. Philadelphia, a team that loves to stockpile pitching, wanted no part of Ol’ Roy after 2011. I think we are starting to see why. Unless you’re in a deep AL-only league, it’s safe to dump Oswalt. If he pulls any more of this prima donna garbage, the Rangers may just do the same thing.