by Ryan Butler
OK, here are the POWs. And by that I don’t mean pieces of work.
Alex Rodriguez (7/3/4/0/.419, 13 for 31): After a hot two-week start to the season, he went without a home run from April 24 through May 11 (16 games) with four RBI. This prompted a good deal of dissection of his leg kick by some of ESPN’s finest. Such breakdowns are hackneyed enough to begin with, but at least Joe Morgan wasn’t the guy presenting it; his act had worn thinner than Lycra. Still waiting for Rodriguez to go on a real tear, but three home runs in his last six games is a good sign.
Asdrubal Cabrera (9/3/7/3/.379, 11 for 29): Look out, Hanley Ramirez, because this young man seems well on his way to dethroning you as the incumbent No. 1 shortstop in the fantasy universe. OK, maybe I’m getting a bit carried away, but I love Cabrera’s game. If the Indians continue to win, don’t be surprised if his name comes up in the AL MVP conversation.
Alexei Ramirez (6/1/9/0/.417, 10 for 24): He’s been arguably the most consistent player on a very disappointing White Sox team. If not for Ramirez and, my man Paul Konerko, Chicago would be more of a disaster than they already are. The question is, how much longer can he pick up the slack for Dunn, Rios, and Beckham?
James Shields (16.0/1 W/22 K/1.69 ERA/0.81 WHIP): Since giving up five earned runs in six innings on April 8, Shields has had eight straight starts of at least seven innings pitched and has allowed more than two ER only once (three vs NYY on May 17). He’s walked more than two batters in a start only once, and his K/BB rate is nearly 5/1. He’s pitched three complete games. No one has been better.
Michael Pineda (14.0/2/16/0.00/0.43): This big youngster is the real deal. He’s had back-to-back starts of 7.0 IP and zero ER allowed. On the year he owns a 2.16 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP, and a .194 BAA. He’s the left jab in the formidable one-two punch at the top of the Seattle starting rotation.
Felix Hernandez (16.0/1/22/1.69/0.75): If Pineda is the left jab, then Hernandez is the stiff right uppercut. His week seven was a virtual carbon copy of James Shields’, which means he was outstanding. He hasn’t been quite as dominant this year as he was in his 2010 Cy Young season, but pretty close. Most starting pitchers would be willing to commit a double-homicide to own the numbers King Felix does. You know you’re good when an ERA of 3.01 is viewed as “a bit high.”
Fernando Salas (1-0/6 K/4 SV/1.80 ERA/0.80 WHIP): Finally, someone in St. Louis seems to have the closer job on lock down, and that someone is Salas. Tony LaRussa is well known for his predilection toward veteran players, so putting his trust in such a young and inexperienced reliever must have been tough for him. Salas has rewarded him by converting all eight save chances. He has a K/BB rate of 21/5, a 1.27 ERA, a 0.89 WHIP, and a BAA of .187.
John Axford (0-0/9/4/1.80/1.20): He hasn’t exactly been lights-out; his 4.22 ERA and 1.45 WHIP is a testament to that. He does have 12 saves on the year, though, and he’s been slightly more stingy about allowing free passes to hitters (eight BB in 21.1 IP). Last year he walked 27 in 58.0 IP and got away with it, due in large part to his .204 BAA. The league is hitting .271 against him this year, and his continued success depends on getting that figure closer to the .220 range.
J.J. Putz (0-0/5/3/0.00/0.25): He’s been very good all season, with 12 saves in as many chances. The Arizona bullpen is much improved over last year (not that it could be any worse) and Putz (and Kevin “Dumpster Dive” Towers) is a big reason why.