Dan Haren - Haren couldn't pick up a 2nd straight quality start last night against Atlanta, but he did manage to pick up the win with a 5 2/3 IP, 3 ER effort. Haren's scuffles have been discussed ad nauseum throughout baseball this year, and what it really comes down to is some bad luck on balls in play combined with a terrible HR rate. The K:BB ratio is stellar as always and he has a better swinging strike% the past two years than he's ever had. There are a couple possible explanations....one of which is positive and one of which isn't. The first possibility is that he's just had an extremely difficult schedule. Recently he's faced the Dodgers twice, Colorado twice, Atlanta twice, Toronto, the Cubs, the Astros, and St. Louis. Not many bottom feeders there, and the two that are there don't have the easiest parks to pitch in. If it's the schedule that won't get better soon, as Haren's next four are St. Louis, Detroit, the Yankees, and St. Louis again. Still, that's something that is less of a problem than the second possibility, which is fatigue. Haren's velocity has dropped for three years in a row now, to the point where he's down 1.5 mph on his average fastball velocity. That could explain the increased HR rates the past two years as well, and that's much more of a long-term issue than scheduling. Haren is only 29, but he's made at least 33 starts for five straight years so I'm leaning toward the second explanation right now, but not with any degree of certainty at all.
Miguel Olivo - Olivo singled, walked, and tripled last night to bring his line for the year up to 317/393/563. His four triples match his four steals for the year, although surprisingly neither is a career high just yet. Olivo is combining some real growth in contact rate (his swinging strike% has dropped almost 5% this year) with some good fortune on balls hit into play to provide some serious value behind the dish this season, keeping stathead favorite Chris Iannetta firmly under wraps. Olivo had almost 2500 big-league AB's coming into this year, and right now he's posting a walk rate almost double anything that he's ever done before, combined with an AVG that's over 50 points higher than his previous best. At age 31 we're almost certainly looking at a career year, but I doubt there's a new talent level in play here, so regression is right around the corner.....except for the pesky little fact that this is Colorado and Olivo is hitting 464/494/855 at home this year. Sometimes guys just find the right locale for their style of hitting, and it's eminently possible that Denver is just that for Olivo. Something to keep in mind when attempting to assess his current value.
Eric Hinske - Hinske walked twice, singled, and doubled last night against the D-Backs in a 7-4 loss. Despite only being owned in just over 3% of ESPN leagues, Hinske is batting 337/410/598 and playing every day against RHP. Pick him up! The only significant difference with Hinske this year versus the rest of his career is a huge LD rate that has him picking up singles and doubles at a much higher rate than normal. Everything else is right on his career averages pretty much, and even if he loses 30-40 points of AVG he's still going to have value as a 1B/OF.
Jason Hammel - Hammel shut the Astros out over 7 1/3 last night, but really...shouldn't he? Let's take a look at the fielding-independent ERA's for Hammel over the past five years (including 2010): 2006 (TB) - 5.26, 2007 (TB) - 5.05, 2008 (TB) - 5.25, 2009 (COL) - 3.71, 2010 (COL) - 3.72. That, my friends, is the difference between the AL East and the NL West in a nutshell. Hammel's ERA so far this season is very misleading, as even after the 3 BB and 3 K yesterday he still has managed a K:BB ratio of 3.0. He's certainly no rotational lynchpin, but pitching for the Rockies Hammel is capable of being a solid back-end starter.
Neil Walker - Walker continued his hot hitting with a double yesterday against the Cubs, and he's now reached base in 8 of 9 and is hitting 326/380/543 for the year. Depending on your league's eligibility requirements (he has 9 GP at 2B and 4 at 3B) he may have an awful lot of positional flexibility, which makes him an even more attractive add right now.