During his rookie season in 2012, Anthony “sizzle chest” Rizzo hit .208/.243/.356 against southpaws. Last year he hit .189/.282/.342. In 2014, he’s hit .300/.396/.533. All are small samples, but this sure looks like it might be a nice payoff for a rebuilding team that chose not to platoon, rather hoping some struggles would later turn beneficial. While keeping SSS in mind, it sure doesn’t seem like this season has been a huge fluke, as Rizzo’s K% vs. lefthanders is actually lower than versus righties, while his LD% is significantly higher as well (27.1 compared to 20.8). His 27.3 HR/FB% against southpaws has probably been lucky, but he’s hit few popups, and it’s hard to argue there hasn’t been major progress here. Moreover, despite hitting four more homers on the road, Rizzo’s OPS is .943 at Wrigley Field compared to .829 away from there, and the good news for fantasy owners is the Cubs have played 10 more games on the road than at home so far this season. Rizzo is just 24 years old, and his 142 wRC+ ranks No. 21 in all of baseball, tied with Miguel Cabrera. Chicago’s lineup sure looks like it will be stacked in the future as well. Rizzo will likely cost a top-three round fantasy pick in 2015.
After clubbing six homers and posting a .359/.427/.602 line in June, Jonathan Lucroy has struggled some to start July, but he leads all qualified catchers in batting average (.315), OBP (.385) and slugging percentage (.494) this season. He’s entering his prime at age 28 and is batting third in a Brewers lineup that’s scored the second most runs in the National League (behind only the Rockies, of course). But the bigger story here is just how bad the catcher position has been for fantasy owners this season. Lucroy has been good, but he’s on pace to finish with a .315-76-15-74-5 line, which isn’t exactly historical. And yet, he’s the only top-100 fantasy asset among catchers (ranking No. 68 overall), while the next best catcher is Devin Mesoraco at No. 105 (which is pretty impressive on his part since he’s missed 35 games). Evan Gattis ranks No. 3, and he’s played in just 63 of the Braves’ 95 games. Yadier Molina is currently the No. 296 fantasy player, yet he’s also been a top-10 catcher! And he’s now out 8-12 weeks with a thumb injury, further depleting the position. Oakland somehow has two catchers (Derrick Norris and John Jaso) more valuable at the All-Star break than Brian McCann, Joe Mauer and Wilin Rosario. Moreover, the A’s also have a third catcher (Stephen Vogt) who’s been more valuable than Matt Wieters, Wilson Ramos, A.J. Pierzynski and Carlos Ruiz. It’s safe to say this has been a crazy year when it comes to backstops.
Quick Hits: Francisco Liriano has allowed as many homers (nine) this season in 76.1 innings as he did in 161.0 innings last year. One could argue this has been simply a luck issue (his 14.8 HR/FB% is well above his 10.7% career mark), but after his slider graded as the second most valuable in all of baseball last season, it’s been a negative in 2014. Liriano has lost 1.9 mph on the pitch this year compared to last, and his SwStr% on the slider is a career low. It’s a worry since it’s always been his most important pitch. The trend of Liriano having never had two consecutive years of ever being healthy or effective has remained true so far in 2014…Over the last month, Cody Allen has been the second most valuable fantasy reliever, and that’s with him recording a modest eight saves. He sports a 0.61 ERA and 0.68 WHIP over that span, with 21 strikeouts in 14.2 innings. This is no fluke, as Allen also has a 15.2 SwStr% on the season…Since returning from the disabled list, Kolten Wong has hit five homers and stolen three bases over eight games. His season line remains an unimpressive .242/.299/.392, but he’s been successful on 12-of-13 SB attempts. Despite his .242 BA that prompted a trip to the minors, Wong has been the No. 13 most valuable fantasy second baseman on a per game basis this season, ahead of Chase Utley, Neil Walker, Jason Kipnis, Matt Carpenter and Dustin Pedroia.
Headlines of the Week: Valet Crashes Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder At Le Meridien Hotel In New Delhi, Doing $330,000 In Damage…Y2K Bug Resurfaces And Sends Draft Notices To 14,000 Men Born In The 1800s…Two Reporters Hospitalized After Eating Super Spicy Burger…Magic Mountain Riders Rescued After Ninja Roller Coaster Derails…Kim Kardashian Lookalike Shells Out $30,000 On Plastic Surgery To Emulate Reality Star…Dad-To-Be Films Wife In Labor While Speeding To Hospital At 95 MPH...Student Goes Blind After Keeping Her Contact Lenses In For Six Months And Microscopic Bug EATS Her Eyeballs…Reporter Stopped By TSA Agent Who Didn’t Know District Of Columbia Is In US.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Slated to hit leadoff for the Angels, Kole Calhoun was a popular sleeper entering 2014, but he entered June 6 with a .221/.289/.394 line with three homers over 104 ABs. Since then, he’s posted a .363-31-7-19-1 line over 113 ABs, when he’s been a top-10 fantasy asset. (In fact, since this arbitrary date, there have been FOUR Angels fantasy players ranked inside the top-11 (Mike Trout (No. 3), Calhoun (No. 9), Garrett Richards (No. 10) and Albert Pujols (No. 11)). And if you want to make this end date over the past month, all the of the aforementioned Angels remain in the top-12, while reliever Joe Smith joins them inside the top 25. I guess it’s no surprise LAA suddenly has the second most wins in all of baseball…Here’s this season’s best force out (h/t Jeff Sullivan)…Phil Hughes has thrown the greatest percentage of his pitches in the strike zone this season (55.5) than any starter, whereas Dallas Keuchel has thrown the least (39.7)…Alex Gordon leads all of baseball with a 23.7 UZR, while Dexter Fowler ranks last with a -14.5 mark despite missing 20 games…Eric Hosmer enters the break with a 13-game hitting streak and playing better of late, but he hasn’t had an OPS of .700 since May 28 and currently ranks as the No. 190 fantasy player. If that’s not bad enough, Fangraphs has him rated as the worst baserunner over the first half of the year. He’s been quite the disappointment.
Police Blotter: Polk Deputies Use Taser To Arrest Unruly Guest At Legoland…Washington Man First To Buy Legal Weed In Spokane Is Fired After Spotted On News…Target Security Officer Fired After Reporting Shoplifting…’Dead’ Girl Wakes Up At Own Funeral…NSA: Releasing Snowden Emails Would Violate His Privacy…Thomaston Man Charged With Threatening After Stabbing Watermelon...Poltergeist Under Couple’s Bed Turns Out To Be Meth Head.
Quick Hits Part Tres: Bartolo Colon has been the opposite of most starting pitchers this season, struggling early in games, as he’s allowed a whopping six of his 14 homers and a .363/.385/.619 line during his first 15 pitches of games. He’s been a lot better than that later on, when facing batters for the third and fourth times, as he’s held hitters to a .190/.206/.286 line from pitches 46-60 and a .269/.269/.308 line during pitches 61-75, and he’s allowed just one homer all season after pitch No. 75 (and none after pitch No. 90). Maybe this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as hitters are less likely to get an advantage the more they see Colon, since there’s not a lot of guessing of what’s coming next. He leads MLB in fastball usage, throwing the pitch 82.1% of the time. Colon has a sub-4.00 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP despite having the second lowest SwStr% (5.4) in MLB…Undrafted in almost every league entering the season, Alfredo Simon is tied for the Major League lead in wins with 12 at the All-Star break. This hasn’t been a run support issue, as he ranks No. 53 in the category. However, Simon has been lucky to post a 2.70 ERA with a 10.0 K-BB%, but he also deserves plenty of credit for what he’s accomplished during the first half of the year, when he’s already made the most starts during any season of his career. Of course, it’s best to be cautious moving forward, although it’s doubtful you could sell him high…Manny Machado has raised his OPS from .617 to .742 over his last 12 games, as he’s knocked out five homers over that span. As most expected, his doubles/HR ratio has regressed, but in a pretty extreme manner (it was 51/14 last year compared to 10/9 this season), but this is a 22-year-old who should only continue to get better the further he’s removed from knee surgery.
Song of the Week: Alt-J – “Left Hand Free.”
I bet on Canelo Alvarez, so I certainly wasn’t complaining about the split decision over Erislandy Lara on Saturday night, but I actually was bracing myself for a loss on the cards before the judges scoring was revealed. But he landed far more power punches, was the clear aggressor, and it’s also obviously better for boxing if he wins, so it wasn’t a shocking decision…Speaking of boxing, it’s pretty hilarious Floyd Mayweather has apparently never heard of Ronda Rousey.
Longreads of the Week: Just Undo It: The LeBron James Profile That Nike Killed and a smaller one in honor of the Seinfeld 25-year anniversary: And They’re Spectacular! 10 Actors On Their Memorable ‘Seinfeld’ Roles.
Quick Hits Part Four: Mark Teixeira has been a decent fantasy player this year, since he cost nothing more than a late round pick and has 17 homers with 48 RBI at the ASB. But with so much of his batting average drain being blamed on defensive shifts, it’s interesting to note he’s hit .254 left-handed compared to just .208 right-handed. Of course, 15 of his 48 hits as a LHB have gone over the fence, which no alignment can stop…Jesse Hahn has really impressed, posting a 2.21 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with 47 strikeouts over 40.2 innings. The rookie also has a 1.92 GB/FB ratio to go with a 28.7 K%, which suggests he’s legit. Calling PETCO Park home obviously helps as well. He should be owned in all fantasy leagues right now…Alfonso Soriano was the No. 18 ranked fantasy hitter last season and No. 26 overall, so while most expected the 38-year-old to regress in 2014, it’s a surprise he’s been released by the Yankees before the All-Star break. He’s now fantasy irrelevant despite averaging 30.7 homers and 99.0 RBI over the previous three seasons…Shelby Miller’s season ERA of 4.29 isn’t a disaster, but he’s allowed 20 earned runs over his past five starts, which includes a 13:16 K:BB ratio over 24.2 innings. He’s issued just three fewer walks this season compared to last despite throwing 64.1 fewer innings, and his 1.47 WHIP is downright ugly. Miller has an anemic 6.8 SwStr%, and it looks like he’s never fully recovered from the injury that prompted the Cardinals to shut him down late last season.