Joe Borowski- CLE- Drop Value- Indications are that Borowski will no longer be the anointed closer after manager Eric Wedge and his coaching staff emerge from a scheduled meeting today in which they will discuss personnel matters. The big question will be who will take over at the back end of games. The prime candidate, Masa Kobayashi, has already worked 40 IP this year and Wedge wants to reduce his workload as the team heads into the second half of the season. One possibility would be Brian Slocum, who has posted an ERA of 0.69 since being converted from starter to reliever at AAA Buffalo. Slocum, however, has only made 7 relief appearances and so needs more seasoning in the role before he is ready to be a major league closer. There may end up being a dreaded closer by committee which leaves a slew of pitchers sharing the save opportunities (already meager in Cleveland this season) and with relatively little fantasy value.
Francisco Rodriguez- LAA- Hot- K-Rod has entered territory previously occupied only by John Smoltz. Rodriguez picked up his 34th save last night, tying Smoltz’s record for most saves before the All Star Break. Owning the record outright is almost a given for Rodriguez, with over a week to go before the first half ends. There are some concerning numbers below the surface, however. First off, K-Rod may need to find a new nickname, as his strikeout ratio has fallen to below 1 per inning (.94). Also, his walk ratio continues to rise, from .38 in 2006 to .50 last season to .56 so far this year. Finally, he has been enjoying some extreme good fortune, with a BHIP% of .227, far below the numbers he normally sees. Rodriguez usually sees a rise in his ERA and WHIP during the second half, so his ability to continue at this pace is questionable. He should still rack up the saves, though.
Johnny Damon- NYA- Hot- Damon went 3-for-6 against the Rangers yesterday, making him 5-for-12 against the Rangers in the series. Damon’s batting average now stands at .320. He tends to be almost two players each year, one prior to the All Star Break and a different one after the Break. When Damon has a good first half, like he has this season, his second half is far less productive. When he disappoints in the first half, he makes up for it after the Break with a huge second half. This trend makes Damon a “sell high” candidate in 2008.
Ichiro Suzuki- SEA- Hot- Ichiro went 3-for-3 last night and has 13 hits in his last 26 ABs. His average is now over .300 (at .301) for the first time since April 9th. Ichiro is still recovering from a horrid April and enjoying some regression to the mean as his BHIPx of .289 is closer to his usual norm. Still, he will have to reverse a trend of the past 4 seasons of having a lower second half than first half batting average to finish above .300.
Scott Kazmir- TB- Cold- On paper, the Kazmir- Dice-K matchup last night should have been a pitcher’s duel. As it turned out it was a walk-o-rama, with the hurlers combining for 9 BBs in 10 IP. Kazmir contributed 4 of them in his 5 innings of work. He also allowed 4 runs and 7 hits while striking out 4. In his last 4 starts, Kazmir has not lasted more than 5-2/3 IP, topping the 5 IP mark only once, and has needed over 100 pitches to last even that long every time. He has given up 11 runs in 20-1/3 IP while yielding 19 hits and 12 walks in that span. This stretch comes on the heels of back-to-back starts in which he threw over 110 pitches each time. Coincidence? Perhaps not.