Strange thing about Andrew McCutchen is that, though he is on yet another torrid streak and on pace for career-highs in every fantasy category — to say nothing of the NL MVP trophy — his underlying stats say that a regression is probable. First, his BABIP is at a ridiculous 41%, or about 10% higher than the MLB average, and 12% higher than he had last year. His ground ball rate is way up (38.4 to 44), his fly balls down 41.7 to 32.6 and he is swinging at 10% more pitches this season, decreasing his walk rate. It all adds up to a hitter for which absolutely everything is going right ... and for a longer time than can be expected. Are his owners on borrowed time? Should they sell high? Of course not … unless Mike Trout or R.A. Dickey is coming back. But even with a gradual return to normalcy, McCutchen’s stats will be merely great.
-- Jordany Valdespin has become intriguing, though frustrating, fantasy study. In just 81 ABs this season, the young Mets 2B has six HRs and four steals while hitting .284. Stretch that out over a full half-season and Valdespin would already have 20 HRs and 12 bags, which would give him near-stud status in any format. The problem here is that Valdespin has, in fact, stretched that out over the first half — well, most of it (he was called up in mid-April). However, he has started only three games this month, largely because the Mets are trying to stay in contention and Daniel Murphy is set at 2B. Valdespin has been tried at SS — his natural position — in place of Ruben Tejada, but made three errors in four games there. He also is being tried in the outfield but, beyond that, his best hope is that the Mets trade Murphy for help for their MLB-worst bullpen.
-- Nick Swisher is showing more discipline at the plate. He already has six games with two walks in July after compiling a grand total of five in the first three months, raising his OBP to .342, the highest it’s been since early May.
-- Don’t look now but Tim Lincecum may have turned the corner on his disastrous season. The Giants star has allowed just 2 ERs and 13 base-runners in his past 15 innings, his first back-to-back quality starts since late April.
-- Remember Brandon Inge’s shocking five-game streak in early May shortly after he was picked up by the A’s? The one in which he homered in four of them with 16 RBIs? While Inge has held on to the starting 3B job (mainly because there is no one else), he has since gone just 32-for-161 (.199) with three HRs and 22 RBIs, more in line with what we’ve come to expect from him.
-- With 3B Todd Frazier moving across the diamond to replace injured Joey Votto, 37-year-old Scott Rolen gets one more chance to show he is not washed up. The ex-Jay has hits in five of his past six games (including a HR on Friday), a good start but we can’t see it lasting for Votto’s full stay on the DL.
-- Closing Time: John Axford has finally been given a break from his closing job in Milwaukee. Francisco Rodriguez takes over for now but don’t dump Axford just yet … Managers prefer righties to lefties in their closers, so expect Jared Burton to get more save opps than Glen Perkins in Minny with Matt Capps back out ... Changes may be at hand in San Fran with Santiago Casilla having blown five of his past eight save opps.
With fantasy rating out of 5
OF, Blue Jays
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Speedster gets his first chance, replacing Jose Bautista short-term, but could be the long-term answer in LF should this audition work out. His 1-for-8 to start, without an SB attempt, may reduce slightly what is expected to be a high demand.
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Mixed league alert here. A month ago, he was 4-6 with a 5.38 ERA. In four starts since, he is 4-0 with just 3 ERs and 27 base-runners allowed in 29+ innings. And rumour has it the Pirates are looking to get him back.
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His bat is unquestioned, even with his .351 AVG and 15 HRs coming in the hitter-friendly PCL this year. A strong left-handed swinger with a good eye, he’s not the smoothest on defence, which could limit his ABs.
SP, Blue Jays
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Starting help arrives for AL-only owners, but don’t overbid. Crafty lefty is a flyball pitcher with a rather high 15% HR/FB rate. Rogers Centre won’t help matters.
Looks like he is in on the Miami closer mix after Monday’s save. His 4.81 ERA not attractive, but that’s come down from 9.58 since his June 21 recall with two 2 ERs and 10 Ks in 14 IPs.
One reason why the Pirates are doing so well: They have no one on the 15-day DL … A second rehab setback has forced Brett Gardner (elbow) out for the year ... Two games after returning from the DL, Matt Capps (shoulder) is back on it and we’re expecting a longer stay … Hanley Ramirez is out a few days with an infected hand … … Marwin Gonzalez, filling in for Jed Lowrie, aggravated an old heel injury and could be DL-bound … Jayson Werth (wrist) may be back by next weekend ... Cameron Maybin has been limited to pinch-running duties with a sore wrist … David Ortiz (Achilles) is taking swings in the cage while wearing a walking cast … Todd Helton (hip) figures to be back Wednesday … Drew Smyly (chest) is not healing quite as quickly as was hoped … Trevor Plouffe has a bruised thumb.
HOT AND NOT
Hitters, the past two weeks
Yoenis Cespedes OAK
.529, 3 HRs, 2 SBs
Ian Desmond WAS
.450, 2 HRs, 5 SBs
Andruw Jones NYY
.241, 5 HRs, 10 RBIs
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Jarrod Saltalamacchia BOS
1-for-25, 2 runs
Brandon Belt SF
2-for-21, 1 RBI
Carlos Beltran STL
5-for-30, 0 HRs
Not to belabour the point we led off last week’s column with, but …
Jesus Montero SEA
Home: 141 ABs, 3 HRs, .206
Away: 162 ABs, 6 HRs, .302
I’ve been sitting with Peter Bourjos on my taxi squad most of the season (thank you, Mike Trout), hoping the Angels change their mind and deal him. He’s better than his meagre stats show and needs only playing time to prove it. Now the Halos say he is available for a quality relief pitcher. Only two more weeks to wait.
-- Statistics do not include Saturday’s games --