by Ryan Butler
Raul Ibanez (6 R/3 HR/13 RBI/0 SB/.310 BA) nine-for-24: Thanks to his amazing week 14, Ibanez can look upon his first half numbers with a smile. Since becoming a regular in 2001, he has not hit below .272, so his .241 BA this season is probably age (39) catching up with him. But it’s hard to knock a guy who’s been so consistent so late into his 30’s. He’s only owned in 35% of Y! public leagues, but he still plays every day (85 games) and has been more productive than Vladimir Guerrero (65% owned), who has shown a disheartening lack of power this season (seven HR, 31 RBI) after a fantastic ’10.
Jose Bautista (7/4/9/0/.370) 10-for-27: Just another week for the man who has all of a sudden usurped Albert Pujols as the best right handed hitter in baseball. Remember “Bases Loaded” on old-school Nintendo? The most devastating hitter in that game was Paste. He played for Jersey, I’ll never forget it. Jose Bautista is a real-life Paste. .468 OBP, .702 SLG, 1.170 OPS is all you need to know.
Dustin Pedroia (11/4/6/0/.345) 10-for-39: Coming into the season I wondered aloud to anyone who would listen whether or not “Pedey” would ever be the player he once was. All signs point to “yes.” In fact, he’s doing almost the exact same things he was last season at the time of his injury. Check it out; the only thing he’s doing differently is walking more. Much more. In 2010 he had 37 BB in 351 PA (10.5%). This season he has 63 BB in 409 PA (15.4%).
CC Sabathia (16.0 IP/2 W/20 K/0.00 ERA/0.75 WHIP): Sabathia, who was not an All-Star, then an All-Star, then not an All-Star within a span of about 12 hours in the Sunday preceding the midsummer classic, is having arguably the best season of his career. He’s 13-4 with an ERA (2.72) far better than his career mark of 3.52. Actually, forget the argument; without equivocation, he is pitching better than at any time in his career, save for his 17-start performance with Milwaukee in ’08 when he went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and seven complete games with the Brewers.
Dan Haren (17.2/2/17/1.02/0.51): With the exception of last season’s 21-start debacle with Arizona (4.60 ERA) before he was dealt to the Angels, Haren has been one of the better right handed starters in baseball since his first full season in 2005. Twice Haren has led the majors in K/BB rate (5.15, ’08; 5.87, ’09) and he’s doing it again so far this season (5.75).
Cole Hamels (16.0/2/11/1.69/0.88): In 169 career starts, Hamels has posted a very good 3.38 ERA. This year he is cruising along at a 2.32 clip; his previous career-best is the 3.06 he posted last season. His WHIP (0.93), H/9 (6.8), HR/9 ( (0.5), BB/9 (1.6) and K/BB (5.04) are by far the best marks of his career. Digging deeper, it seems it’s been a change in his pitch selection which helps explain his success. From 2006-’10, he threw his fastball 56.7% of the time. This year he’s throwing fewer fastballs (46.0%) and more cutters (22.7%) than ever. In reality, he only just added the cut-fastball to his repertoire in 2010, but he’s also throwing his changeup about 9% less than he did from ’06-’09. Hamels is evolving as a pitcher.
Fernando Salas (1-0/7 K/2 SV/0.00 ERA/0.33 WHIP): Looks like he now has big, shiny handles on the StL closer’s gig. He had a nice rookie year, but his walks (4.4 BB/9), WHIP (1.40) certainly did not give many the impression that he would be slamming doors anytime soon. He’s cut his walks (2.3 BB/9) in half and his WHIP (0.86) is as good as one can ask for. Throw in 9.0 K/9 and and .172 BAA and you have the makings of a very good closer.
David Hernandez (0-0/5/4/0.00/0.30): With the unfortunately-surnamed J.J. Putz on the shelf with elbow tendinitis, the D-Bags, er, D-Backs have temporarily entrusted Hernandez with ninth inning detail. He’s been pretty good. From July 2-8 he converted five straight saves (4.1 IP) without allowing a hit.
Jose Valverde (0-0/4/4/0.00/1.50): Some felt he would backslide this year, but that has not been the case at all. With 24 saves in 24 chances, Joe Green Valley is having his best season yet. And for a guy with two 40-save campaigns to his credit and 217 for his career, that’s saying something.