Miguel Batista was solid again last night, earning his fifth win in his last 11 starts and running his record to 12-8, which, believe it or not, is the most wins he's recorded in a season during his 13-year career. Batista has been the victim of poor run support, which explains why he's only 5-4 in his last 11 games despite allowing more than three runs only once. Since June 13 Batista has shaved almost a full run off his ERA, reducing it to a more respectable 4.14 after last night's performance, in which he surrendered only two runs on six hits and four walks while striking out six in 5 2/3 innings. In fact, since June began, Batista has gone 7-4 with a 3.05 ERA and a WHIP of 1.39, which is a far cry from a start that saw him go 5-4 with a 5.72 ERA and a WHIP of 1.69 in his first 10 starts. My main concern with Batista is that he nibbles too much and gets himself into trouble, hence the BB/9 IP mark of 3.88 in 2007, which is only slightly higher than his career mark of 3.85. But he's also stranding a ton of runners (.75 strand rate), which portends continued success.
Alex Gordon is nowhere near the numbers we predicted for him before the season started, but he's hanging in there and doing his best and bless the Royals for keeping him in the lineup and allowing him to gain valuable experience at the big league level. Gordon went 3-for-3 last night with a triple, a homer, two RBIs, two runs and a stolen base to raise his numbers to .243/.316/.395 on the season. But he's been much better than that over the last two and a half months, batting .288 with six homers and 31 RBIs in his last 219 at-bats, dating back to June 1. Ironically his EYE has declined while his AVG has improved, going from .40 in the first two months of the season to .24 in the last two and a half. It's not that he's striking out more-in fact he's fanning less (.24 K rate through May vs. .19 since June 1)-it's that he's walking less (.10 BB rate through May vs. .05 since June 1). Two more months of continued improvement should boost his numbers to respectability.
John Lackey became baseball's second 15-game winner, following Josh Beckett by a few hours, when he scattered 10 hits over eight innings and allowed only two runs while fanning three. Lackey was efficient, tossing only 104 pitches in his eight frames of work, and 16 of the 24 outs he recorded came via the ground ball. Lackey reduced his ERA to 3.07 in the outing and he boasts an ERA of 3.21 in his last eight starts, after posting a 4.36 mark during a pedestrian June. He's benefiting from a bit of luck-he has two more wins than he should based on his quality starts, his BHIP% is lower than his four-year average, and his ERA is lower than his XERA-but his stats aren't so far out of whack that a drastic drop-off can be expected.
J.D. Drew's roller coaster season is back on the upswing again after he went 3-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs and a run scored to raise his August numbers to .400/.483/.600. This, after a July that produced a .213 AVG, .318 OBA, and a SLG of only .307. With only six home runs, Drew will fall far short of the 26 we had projected for him in the preseason and part of that can be attributed to his 1.45 GB/FB ratio, which is the highest of his career. He's just not getting the ball in the air enough. His EYE (.75) is almost identical to his career mark (.77), so his strike zone judgment appears to be typical for him, but his BHIP% of .233 is lower than he's averaged since 2003, which is definitely hurting his AVG. Fortunately September happens to be his best month (at least since 2004) so another solid three weeks followed by a typical September could salvage Drew's season.
Jason Giambi hit for Andy Phillips in the ninth inning yesterday and homered to cap off the scoring in the Yankees' 11-2 blow out of the Indians. It was Giambi's eighth homer of the year. He's now 2-for-6 with a homer and two runs scored since coming off the DL. Phillips isn't the hitter Giambi is, but he's hitting .290 on the season and has played first base flawlessly. Meanwhile Melky Cabrera has ripped center field from Johnny Damon, forcing Damon and Hideki Matsui to share time in left field and at DH, leaving little room for Giambi in the lineup. He'll get some at-bats, but don't look for Joe Torre to upset an apple cart that has the Yankees only five games back of Boston.