Bloomberg Sports Anchors Rob Shaw and Julie Alexandria discuss the top five stories in baseball after the All-Star break.
Will R.A. Dickey win 20 games?
Baseball fans are trying to figure out if R.A. Dickey is Tom Candiotti or Phil Niekro. At 12-1, Dickey is enjoying a banner season and arguably would be the NL Cy Young award winner if the season ended today. The problem for Dickey is that the season does not end today and he still has about 15 starts to go. Can he possibly continue his dominance and nab another eight wins for an even 20?
Hall of Fame knuckleballer Phil Niekro attained three different seasons with 20 or more wins. On the other hand, Dickey might only win another 3-5 games this season and finish with a solid, but more expected total that is more in line with a solid hurler, such as knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, who won 14, 15 and 16 games in his career.
What becomes of Tim Lincecum?
The good news is that Tim Lincecum is on pace to strikeout 200 batters. The bad news is that he is also approaching 100 walks, which could lead to some time in the bullpen. We’ve had some surprises this year that fill the bust category. As of now both Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols join a recent trend of major free agents struggling with new franchises.
Lincecum is pitching for the very franchise he came up with and has dominated for the last five seasons. However, he is getting hit often and hard, and with a 3-10 record and 6.42 ERA you have to wonder if he will stick in the starting rotation all season long. Lincecum hasn’t made it out of the fourth inning in back-to-back outings.
Where will Zack Greinke end up?
The Brewers have had their struggles and perhaps for that reason, Zack Greinke’s performance has gone under the radar. He is 9-3 with 111 K’s and a 3.32 ERA. With the Brewers five games out of first place, the team will be in sell mode especially if Greinke does not indicate that he wants to stick there.
So what teams could be interested? How about the Baltimore Orioles, or the St. Louis Cardinals? Greinke’s presence could make a world of difference in how this ost-season shapes up.
Are the Phillies buyers or sellers?
The Phillies are in dead last place in the National League East. They opened the season without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and now that they are coming back, the pitchers have been out: Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.
The big question for the Phillies is figuring out whether or not Cole Hamels will stay as a free agent. There have been rumblings that he could be destined to the Dodgers, which would leave the Phillies in a bind if they do not get anything in return for his services aside from draft picks. Hamels, by the way, is 10-4 with a 3.20 ERA with 118 K’s and a 1.10 WHIP. He has been the ace for the Phillies this season.
Are the Pirates playoff bound?
The Pirates are in first place late in the season for a second straight year. The question is whether they can stick this time and if they learned from last year’s collapse. It looks like they could actually stick this time for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they have an ace with James McDonald boasting a 2.37 ERA with much better control this season. Next, their gamble with AJ Burnett seems to be paying off as he’s been a solid number two. Though the starting rotation lacks depth, the bullpen is strong enough to let leads stick.
Finally, on offense there are several solid players, then an MVP candidate in Andrew McCutchen and a potential star in Pedro Alvarez. The Pirates lack some depth, but so far they have been good enough, and with extra wild card spots available, this team could advance.
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Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw discuss whether the fans’ selections for the National League All-Star team were right and who should be starting the All-Star Game in Kansas City on July 10.
Buster Posey was not the right choice for the All-Star team. Phillies backstop Carlos Ruiz is having a sensational season, hitting .357 with 13 home runs, 46 RBI and a surprising three stolen bases. He has definitely been the best catcher in baseball this season.
The fans got this one right by selecting Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is probably the MVP of the first half of the season. He’s batting .350 with 14 home runs and 47 RBI.
Brandon Phillips of the Reds should be starting rather than Dan Uggla. Phillips has a .279 average, 10 home runs and 47 RBI. He is also a good defensive player, which Uggla is not.
The fans made the wrong choice by selecting Pablo Sandoval, who has missed plenty of time this season due to injury. David Wright of the Mets should have been the pick, as he has been an MVP candidate so far this year with a .350 average, 10 home runs, 55 RBI and eight stolen bases.
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro should be starting in place of Rafael Furcal. Castro is batting .291 with six home runs, 40 RBI and 16 stolen bases. Despite those numbers, he can be frustrating because he makes a lot of boneheaded plays but he is young and will hopefully grow out of that.
Not one of the three outfielders chosen by the fans was the right pick. Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies should be starting instead of Melky Cabrera. Gonzalez is batting .340 with 17 home runs, 58 RBI and 10 stolen bases, though he is helped out by playing at Coors Field.
Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun should have been selected over Matt Kemp. Braun is once again putting up MVP numbers with a .309 average, 23 home runs, 59 RBI and 13 stolen bases.
Finally, Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen should have been chosen rather than Carlos Beltran. McCutchen is batting .360 with 16 home runs, 54 RBI and 14 stolen bases. Beltran would have been a good selection if the National League had a designated hitter. He has a .304 average, 20 home runs, 63 RBI and eight stolen bases this season.
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By R.J. Anderson //
Neil Walker stuck around the Pirates’ system for years as their next big catching prospect. For a while, he followed in the footsteps of J.R. House – the last great Pirates’ catching prospect who busted in the minors. But a position switch and depth failure led to Walker getting a chance at the majors this season. He responded by hitting .296 with a dozen homers.
Garrett Jones hit 21 home runs in 358 plate appearances last season. He’s hit 20 in 602 this season. His batting average has dropped nearly 50 points. It seems unlikely Jones will enter next season with any kind of assured playing time. Akinori Iwamura fits the bill too, although he is well removed from the Pirates’ organization and resides with the Athletics now.
2011 Keeper Alert
Andrew McCutchen continues to solidify himself as one of the best center fielders in the National League. Posting a .286/.365/.471 slash line as a 22-year-old is hard to top, so he may have disappointed by hitting only .279/.356/.447 this season. But he did manage to cut down on his strikeouts and continues to run the bases and play the field well. Youngster Pedro Alvarez is also worthy of a keep in all but the shallowest leagues.
2011 Regression Warning
Walker is the name here because the rest of the Pirates’ hitters are either legitimately good or awful with little in between and little due to bad or good luck. An elevated .342 batting average on balls in play and more than three times as many strikeouts as walks don’t exactly scream “.296 hitter!”