As I was heading out of town on Friday rumors of a Cliff Lee trade to the New York Yankees began to pick up speed. It looked as if the deal was all but done when the Rangers came in and pulled the rug out from underneath the Yanks offering up Justin Smoak plus prospects. Unfortunately, when the deal was completed I was well out of range to type or even use my phone for calling purposes.
Now that the dust has settled we can look back as well as look ahead and reflect on the final weekend before the all-star break.
The Cliff Lee Deal
Texas was among the worst places for Cliff Lee to have landed in a deal. Seattle was among the worst spots for Justin Smoak to have ended up in a trade. Both statements are true, but perhaps not as bad as they seem.
Lee landed in Texas and in his first start for his new club went nine innings allowing six earned runs on nine hits, three of which left the yard. I'll give Lee the free pass on this one, as the move from Seattle to Texas left him with little time to adjust to his new surroundings.
Moving to Texas, a hitter's park, has to be a negative, but Lee had actually pitched slightly better on the road this season while with Seattle. To counter the negative of pitching home games in Arlington, Lee now moves from having a punch-less lineup at his back to having one of the best offensive clubs in baseball for support. The Rangers also rank fifth in UZR/150, a few spots above the Maniners.
The bottom line: Cliff Lee is one of the best pitchers in baseball, regardless of park factor. While this move may have a very slight negative affect on his numbers, it's not enough to worry about.
As for the big piece moving from Texas to Seattle, Justin Smoak goes from a great hitter's park in Texas to a pitcher's park in Seattle. A big part of Smoak's projection is in being a switch hitting power bat, his new home park represses home runs, thus repressing his ultimate ceiling. Certainly, Smoak has the skills to still develop into a middle-of-the-order threat, but I would have loved to see what type of damage he could have done two or three years down the road in Arlington.
For this season there is still plenty of upside in Smoak's game. He still has a low .237 BABIP despite a line drive rate over 23 percent, so we could see a fine second half in this young slugger.
Aramis Ramirez has raised his AVG from .179 to .207 in his last ten games while hitting four of his ten home runs on the year. He has only stuck out five times in those ten games, which is a huge improvement from an out of character strikeout rate early this year.
Since returning to the Cubs' rotation, Tom Gorzelany has only allowed four earned runs in 16 innings while striking out 16 and walking 10. Now, in 74 innings and 12 games started, Gorzelany has a 9.24 K/9, but a worrisome 4.38 BB/9, which has aided a 1.41 WHIP. In standard 12-team leagues, Gorzelany is a great pitcher to use in the right matchup and he should be rostered in most deeper formats.
Buster Posey now has seven home runs in 137 at-bats with the Giants this season. He had six home runs in 172 at-bats in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League before his call-up. When he first hit the Major League sceneseason, I projected six home runs for the rest of the way. Well, so much for that.
Posey has some pop for sure, but it is interesting to note the all seven of his home runs have come on the road. To this point in his season, Posey has 82 at-bats on the road and only 55 at home. The Giants play more home games then road games from here to September.
Something I have been monitoring since May is Aaron Hill's line drive rate. When I first looked at the reason's for his slump, that number jumped off the page. The league average line drive rate is usually around 20 percent, though that may be closer to 18 percent this season (thought I read that somewhere, but can't find the link). In May, Hill's line drive rate was a subterranean nine percent. Figuring that such a low number had to improve, I kept an eye on it as an improvement could mark the right time to buy low. Well, as of the all-star break, Aaron Hill has a 9.2 percent line drive rate, which accounts for the number one reason his BABIP is at .180 (that and a fly ball rate over 50 percent).
If there is any ray of hope this season, it is that Hill's line drive rate was holding at about 14 percent in 34 at-bats this month. However, that number is still way below where he needs to be.
Madison Bumgarner continues to improve since his call-up. He now has 21 strikeouts to five walks in his first 28 innings pitched.
After taking an in-depth look at Wandy Rodriguez's current hot streak, I was very much looking forward to looking at his Sunday start against the Cardinals. A line of six innings, three earned runs, four hits and 6/2 K/BB doesn't look overly impressive, but the damage was done off of the bat of Matt Holliday when he hit a three-run shot in the fourth inning. The pitch actually jammed Holliday, but he got enough to serve it just over the left field fence and into the Crawford Boxes.
Wandy's outing was good enough to make me believe that there is something legit going on in his pitching right now that could spell a second half improvement. In his last four games he has a 25/6 K/BB ratio and a 33/14 ground ball to fly ball ratio.
Carlos Quentin is a man possessed right now. He has seven home runs in his last 10 games including four this weekend and he is now hitting .409 in July. Given his recent history of battling through injuries, it may be a good idea to try and sell high. How much will Quentin wear down as the season wears on?
Someone asked me via Twitter which player to add for the second half: Pedro Alvarez or Chris Davis? I took Davis due to more experience.
Pedro Alvarez hit his third home run of the season on Sunday, but his overall line is not good. He is hitting .190 in 42 at-bats against left-handed pitching and has 35 strikeouts to seven walks in 92 plate appearances with the Pirates this season.
Trevor Cahill bounced back nicely after a rough outing against the Yankees last time out. He has a 33/14 ground ball to fly ball ratio this month.