Dickey is Dynamite
When you think about big-name pitchers playing in New York, the names CC Sabathia (Yankees) and Johan Santana (Mets) immediately come to mind – and good for reason. Both Sabathia and Santana are in the upper echelon of pitching in baseball and have year’s worth of statistics to back it up. But there is a new kid in town.
R.A. Dickey – the Mets knuckleball right-hander – has come out of nowhere to post an 11-1 record (best in MLB), 2.00 ERA (best in MLB), 0.89 WHIP (best in MLB) and 103 strikeouts (3rd best in MLB). To illustrate how good Dickey has been, he has posted back-to-back one-hitters and has pitched three consecutive complete games in his last four starts. Moreover, his 11 win total so far this year already ties his career mark for wins in a single season.
What Dickey has accomplished so far this season is nothing short of amazing. The Mets’ pitcher has an amazing life story that was recently reveled in his new book, “Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball”, where he opens up about being sexual abused as a young boy, his disgust with the steroid era, and how he struggled to find his way in baseball until he transitioned to the knuckleball.
Despite all his trials and tribulations, Dickey has found a way to overcome a pretty horrific event in his life, the disappointment of years being dealt from one team to the next, all while continuing to chase his dream of pitching in the big leagues while avoiding the temptation to use steroids. I find it remarkable and refreshing that in this day in age, that a professional athlete would be so open and candid about his life.
It’s all the more reason why I’m rooting for him to start for the National League at the All-Star game next month and go on to win the National League Cy Young award.
Dunn Bounces Back
For Adam Dunn, 2011 was a season worth forgetting. After all, Dunn posted a career-worst in batting average (.159), homeruns (11) and runs batted in (42) over 122 games. This was after signing a 4-year 56 million contract in December 2010 with the Chicago White Sox. There is just no other way to say it – he was flat out terrible.
To his credit, Dunn has put last year behind him (to the relief of the White Sox management) – and is currently hitting .225 with 23 HRs (MLB best), 53 RBIs (third best in MLB) and 42 runs. He is still striking out at an alarming rate, which drives down his batting average, but you can handle the strikeouts when he consistently hits the ball out of the park and drives in runs.
It’s nice to see Dunn return back to normal form. He’s a big reason why the White Sox are only a half game out of first place in the American League Central Division. At this rate, you’ve got to think he’s a lock to win the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Has Rasmus Finally Arrived?
Originally drafted out of high school by the St. Louis Cardinals 28th overall in the 2005 MLB draft, as well being named in 2009 by Baseball America as the third best prospect in MLB, Colby Rasmus has been no stranger to hype. However, after being traded from the Cardinals to the Toronto Blue Jays on July 27, 2011 (because of a rumored strained relationship with then Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa), Rasmus appears to have finally emerged from what has been a yearlong slump.
It’s just a small sample size, but after an April and May where his batting average hovered around .230, Rasmus is hitting .316 in June with six HRs, 15 RBIs and 14 runs. More telling, his slugging percentage and on-base percentage are up, he is striking out less and he already has more hits (24) then he did in either April or May. A hot June has raised Rasmus’ batting average to .260 to go along with 12 HRs, 36 RBIs and 34 runs. It’s not a bad body of work for someone who is only 25.
I think what has helped Rasmus more than anything is his recent move up in the batting order to second. In the second slot, Rasmus can hit comfortably in front of guys like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion who are a consistent threat to hit homeruns and drive in runs. He is going to continue to see better pitches to hit because pitchers are leery of walking him to set the table for one of the sluggers.
It will be interesting to see if Rasmus can continue playing well, but I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t under the current conditions. If so, expect the Blue Jays to give him a multi-year deal come this off-season.
Athletics Hanging Around
I’ll be the first one to admit that I didn’t think the Athletics had enough firepower to be hovering around .500 (34-36) as we approach the mid-point of the season. But give credit where credit is due. General Manager Billy Beane continues to use a familiar formula of building a team made up of mostly home-grown talent, while manager Bob Melvin seems to be getting the most out of every player.
I’m really impressed with Melvin and the job he’s done. It seems that every decision he makes turns out right. For example, after veteran Grant Balfour failed to secure the closer role (a role he was given at the start of the season) followed by Brian Fuentes’ subsequent failure to take over as closer, Melvin could have easily turned back to Balfour. Instead he called on rookie Ryan Cook to saves Oakland’s June 13 game against the Colorado. Since then, Cook has been perfect, racking up three more saves and is 2-1 with a 0.59 ERA and 0.85 WHIP.
Offensively, Josh Reddick has had a fantastic first half of the season (despite slumping lately), and Yoenis Cespedes, when healthy, has demonstrated that he can really hit and drive in runs. Veteran Bartolo Colon has given every bit of his 39-year-old arm and rookie right-hander Jarrod Parker has been solid too.
I get the sense that the Athletics don’t care that they play in a division that has two powerhouse teams in the Angels and Rangers. The statistics support it too. They are currently 5-4 vs. the Angels and 4-2 vs. the Rangers (.600 baseball). The odds will be against them moving forward, but that’s nothing new. Regardless of where Oakland finishes, they will be fun to watch in the second half.
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