The Home Run Derby, historically, is a lot of fun to watch. To a degree anyway. The players involved always have shown some decent power, and those that participated seemed to enjoy the experience. That all has changed, at least in the American League.
While the National League has gone and loaded up with four power-hitting first basemen, the American League is struggling to find anyone willing to join the party. Jason Bay, Torii Hunter, and Justin Morneau have all declined the invite. More are certain to follow suit.
Hunter is certainly in the category of injury, but the others seem unwilling either because they did not like the impact to their swing the last time or from watching others ruin their own. Morneau has nothing to prove, as he won it last year. Bay said early on he would decline.
No one will or should say the event has run its course, but it might be time to re-vamp it again. Make the final round like the old television show, or something along those lines. Reduce the number of rounds so players do not look as tired. Add other events, similar to what is done in the NBA All-Star event.
It is evident that it could use to change, and it is time that the process was examined.
On to the notes.
- Quite the day yesterday, really. The Blue Jays released former closer B.J. Ryan, as they activated closer Scott Downs. Ryan was hardly being used by the Blue Jays, and it was evident all season that he was not the same pitcher that he once was. Ryan had an ERA over 6.50, and lacked the velocity to blow hitters away. He will find a home, but it will not be as a closer.
- The Red Sox have activated shortstop Jed Lowrie from the 60-day DL and optioned him to Single-A Lowell to continue rehab. Lowrie is not ready to go, but because he has options available, the Red Sox have the luxury of taking time to let him get where he needs to be. At this point, the Red Sox have not made a shortstop move, but the rumors around Boston are swirling that Julio Lugo will be released when Lowrie is ready.
- The last thing the Cubs needed was another injury. Geovany Soto strained an oblique muscle during batting practice and was sent for an MRI. This is an injury that can nag, and it needs to fully heal before a player can come back. Koyie Hill will be the primary catcher in the short-term, at least until the severity of the injury is understood.
- The question for Torii Hunter may simply be if a DL stint is in his future. Hunter has been bothered by an abductor muscle injury for the last month, and it forced him out of the lineup last night. With the injury nagging, and the Angels already somewhat short in the outfield with Vladimir Guerrero leaving the game on Tuesday, they may have to make the move.
- Tim Wakefield was not exactly at his best last night, but was effective enough to pick up his 11th win of the season. The Red Sox pitcher scattered 10 hits over six-plus innings of work to pick up the victory. Raise your hand if you thought that Jason Marquis and Wakefield would lead the league in wins. No one? Now raise them if you expected the league-leaders in wins to be available in half of all leagues. Exactly.
- Andruw Jones treated the baseball like he has been treating Twinkies and just mashed all last night. Jones put up three home runs for the Rangers last night and is on an absolute tear. Jones needs consistent playing time, and that will be the major problem going forward. The Rangers have too many players for not enough spots.
- Hanley Ramirez is still sidelined with a hip flexor injury. Ramirez has missed the last four games for the Marlins, and his status heading into the weekend is still uncertain. Owners should adjust lineups to pull him out until we get definite word that Ramirez will be back in the lineup.
- Chris Volstad was back on the horse last night for the Marlins as well. Coming off a rough outing against Pittsburgh, Volstad bounced back with a complete-game shutout effort against the Giants. Better still, it took only 105 pitches to do it. Volstad allowed only five hits and struck out six, forcing 14 ground balls.
- Jose Contreras may not have worked into the eighth inning, but he was strong enough to record another win and strike out nine batters in the process. Contreras tends to struggle in the second half of the season, but it is possible that the trip to the minors may have done him some good. He has found a groove, and is certainly capitalizing on it.
- Most of the Padres lineup has trouble against Tim Lincecum. Even Adrian Gonzalez is just a .200 hitter in 30 at-bats. If you need some help, though, look to Kevin Kouzmanoff, as he is 10-for-28 against the Giants starter. He is the safest option if you start anyone against the San Francisco ace. For his part, Lincecum has not given up a run in 23 innings.
- It would not be entirely surprising to see David Murphy in the lineup against the Mariners and Felix Hernandez. Murphy has hit .318 against Hernandez with a home run. Not much else good in the Rangers lineup beyond Michael Young. Any Ranger with at least 15 at-bats is hovering around .200, including Hank Blalock, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, and Josh Hamilton.
- Jamie Moyer has been hit hard most of the season, and is always a problem at home. Still, Moyer seems to have done better of late. While the criticism comes in his home-run numbers, he has not allowed a home run in four of six starts, and all of them were to Toronto in two separate games. The Reds do not have much to throw at him, as no one that has seen him has hit well. In deep leagues or NL-only leagues, this is a decent play.
- Not a bad team for Roy Halladay's first outing since trade rumors started swirling. While owners should keep regulars like Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton active, do not hesitate to hold off on Carlos Pena. He has just one home run in 46 at-bats, and is hitting just .239 against the Blue Jays starter.
- Start all your Dodgers in this one, for the most part. Orlando Hudson is only 2-for-19 against Livan Hernandez, and Russell Martin is just 2-for-18. Everyone else needs to be in the lineup though. Best plays? Look to Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier. Furcal has four home runs against the Mets starter.
- In any decent outing, Randy Wolf has had over his last 10, he has received no run support. He is just 3-3 in 18 starts, but has pitched much better than that record. He has allowed eight hits over his last 12 innings, and only one walk. On the road, batters are hitting only .224 against him.
- Brad Penny has allowed three runs or less in each of his last five starts. Penny has improved to 4-1 at Fenway this season, and is getting a weak-hitting Royals lineup in this matchup. Penny's velocity has been good, and another six-inning outing with two earned should be easily in the cards for him.
- Joel Pineiro is another pitcher with better stats than his record. Pineiro has had some rough luck, and his road stats are skewed based on a couple early outings. Look to him in a pinch today, as his 3.39 ERA is a nice number to run out there. He will not help in strikeouts, but his WHIP and contact numbers can boost owners in other categories.
- Watch the Twins today. Glen Perkins was scratched yesterday because of illness, and Ron Gardenhire left the door open for him to start today if he felt better. Otherwise, Francisco Liriano should be set to get the ball. The bet here is that Perkins does not make the start and is simply pushed to Friday this time through the rotation.
- Spot Starts: Pineiro, Penny, and Wolf
- Joe Saunders has been nothing if not up and down. In his last 10 starts, he has allowed more than four earned runs five times, three runs once, one run twice, and no runs once. His major issue has been in the home-run department, having already surrendered 18 this year. Largely, though, the problems have been on the road. At home, he remains a good option, as batters hit only .239 against him and he has a 3.43 ERA.
- Be careful with Cliff Lee against the Tigers. As a team, Detroit has hit .295 against Lee, and the Cleveland starter is staring at a WHIP of 1.41. While deep leagues may want to reserve Marcus Thames, no other Tigers starter should be an issue.
- John Danks has been pitching well, but the Twins have raked against him. With Michael Cuddyer and Joe Mauer both putting up 9-for-18 numbers, and Justin Morneau at .333 with three home runs in 27 at-bats, it could be a rough night on the road for the Chicago starter.
- The Rockies have seen a fair amount of Derek Lowe, but only Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe have had much success against him. They are the only two Colorado regulars that have hit over .300 against Lowe. Lowe's road numbers are slightly rough, but they are skewed by a couple rough outings against the American League East.
- Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano have both hit Chris Carpenter hard, but the rest of the Cubs have not seen much of him. Carpenter has been consistent with the exception of one start this season. His problem has more been run support than anything else. With the way he is throwing the ball, do not reach for anyone against him. Stick with your regulars.
- Spot Starts: Brett Cecil, Jeff Niemann, and Ubaldo Jimenez