Every week, “Nine Innings” covers nine topics ranging from Fantasy, injuries, big performances, streaks, slumps, rumors and whatever else that pops into my head.
1. Hanson dominates, Uggla heating up
Dan Uggla had been struggling and then some so far this season. In his first year with the Atlanta Braves, his numbers are certain to decline but there’s still nearly 100 games to get back on track. Uggla went yard for his eighth HR on Sunday against the Houston Astros. His homer was nearly enough to secure the win. Tommy Hanson won his eighth game of the season and struck out 14 batters in only seven innings of work. This win gives Atlanta six straight to pull within two games of the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East. The National League looks to have a very interesting wild card race developing as seven teams have a record over .500.
2. Derek Jeter seven hits away from 3,000
Although the media is giving this a fair amount of attention, I still think it should receive more attention. The 3,000 Hit Club is a serious achievement. Put it this way, it takes 15 seasons with 200 hits in each to get to 3,000. I know you can do math, my dear readers, but c’mon! 15 years with 200 hits apiece is nuts. This is Derek Jeter‘s 16th full season and it really speaks to his talent, longevity and consistency. Be sure to check out The Dugout Doctors’ photo gallery of all the members of the 3,000 Hit Club!
3. Red Sox crush the Blue Jays, complete sweep
Winners of nine straight, Boston hasn’t lost a game since June 1 and on Sunday, they completed their three-game weekend sweep of Toronto. The Jays were outscored 35 to 6 in the three games. Jon Lester struck out eight and only allowed two hits over his eight inning masterpiece on Sunday. David Ortiz went 0-for-4 on Saturday but that game was sandwiched between two games where he went 7-for-9 combined with 2 HRs, 7 RBIs and 4 Rs.
4. Prince Fielder jacks one to seal win over Cards
Prince Fielder has a great season going with 19 HRs (2nd in the NL), 58 RBI (1st) and he’s also hitting .305. He kept that going on Sunday with a huge bomb, a true “no-doubter” that he pounded into the right field seats against the St. Louis Cardinals. With the win, the Milwaukee Brewers pulled ahead of the Cards by a half-game. The NL Central is locked up with three teams with 34 or more wins (Brewers, Cards, Reds). Cincinnati is 4.5 games back.
5. “No One Cares About Baseball” three-part series
I’d like to thank any and everybody who took the time to read my critique of Major League Baseball and the perception that the game “sucks” or is becoming less popular. It was an overwhelming success and even though it’s not like I’m going to win the Pulitzer or be acknowledged by anyone other than myself, it sparked a great debate about the game. I met some new people who appreciated my point of view and it was an interesting topic to research and write about. If you missed it, check out Part One by clicking here.
6. Fantasy baseball is killing me
After having as many as a dozen Fantasy teams in every sport as recently as 2009, I decided to taper back my Fantasy commitments by limiting myself to only two or three teams per sport this year. One could assume that since I’m focused on fewer teams, it should be easier to succeed with them. You’d be wrong. I’m not in even in the Top 3 in any league and I’m scraping by to remain relevant. My gravitation towards younger players didn’t pay off, but hey, can’t win ’em all, just ask LeBron! Zing! But in all seriousness, I feel a comeback is imminent. I’ll keep you posted.
7. College baseball, where art thou?
Besides that hilarious video of the game announcer going nuts when Cal won their game against Rice with a walk-off hit, I haven’t been paying enough attention to college baseball’s postseason. We did a recap here at The Dugout Doctors of the MLB Draft’s first-round picks with a brief analysis of each player (I mention this since it does technically count as following college ball), but with so much going on in MLB, the NBA Finals, the NHL Finals and the nice weather keeping me outdoors on weekends, there’s only so much time in the day. I’d like to hear who you guys think has a shot to win it all besides an obvious favorite like UVA. Hit me up on Twitter and let’s talk college baseball, I need to be educated.
8. Matt Kemp is easily the best player in the game
First, let’s focus on the numbers. Matt Kemp is fifth in the majors in batting average (.331), tied for second in HRs (20) and third in RBIs (56). He also has 14 steals. He’s on pace for 196 hits, 109 runs, 48 homers, 135 RBIs and 34 steals. In a year where pitching is wreaking havoc on bats across the league, Kemp stands alone at the top. Kemp does need to improve his defense, I wouldn’t even consider him a Top 20 defensive centerfielder. But that said, he’s at least playing a demanding position. There is definitely an argument for Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez being the best in the league and many people would probably agree, but it should be considered that Kemp plays for a less-talented team in a tougher hitter’s park. He’s not the best player ever, or had the best career, but he’s having the best year right now.
9. FanGraphs: Denard Span is the most underrated player in baseball
Any baseball fan worth a damn knows FanGraphs and they recently published an article attempting to quantify who truly is baseball’s most underrated player. By using stats which are admittedly a little bit beyond me, they present a pretty good argument for guys like Denard Span and Howie Kendrick. As they mention, their system seems to overvalue the underrated-ness of lesser positions like catcher, middle infielders and center fielders. But nonetheless, it’s an interesting read. Click here to check it out.