It's break time, which means time to take a deep breath. It also means it is time to think about who can help--or hurt--over the second half. So, this week, while we take that big inhalation, let's take a look at some players who could have a big second half impact. Or not.
I will keep it short and sweet for Troy Tulowitzki. The shortstop was .344-16-55 second half of 2009, .323-18-61 the second half of 2010, and .356-13-56 the second half last year, arguably making him one of the best second half picks in the game. And, while Tulo did play in 151 games in 2009, he was limited to 122 in 2010, and 143 last year, which really emphasizes that the guy can indeed produce over those Dog Days. And, just in case you are not convinced, over his career Tulo is .267-62-209, but after the break, he is .321-68-269 over 52 fewer games.
How long have we been waiting for Chris Carter guy to arrive? After he went .329-28-115 in 2009, or .258-31-94 at Triple-A Sacramento a year later? Even .278-21-79 last year? Well, in 2010, after being handed the first base gig, Carter was .186-3-7 over 24 games, and last year, same thing, only with .136-0-0 totals over 14 games. Well, somehow it all seems to have fallen away, as Carter is .500-3-6 over just four games since his call-up ten days ago, and I am willing to bet that he not only platoons with Brandon Moss, getting increasing at-bats at first, but also spends some time in the DH slot largely at the expense of Coco Crisp, who will sit while Seth Smith gets the bulk of left field starts against right handers.
I never doubted Mike Trout's skill set, but I have to admit that this guy looks not just like a monster, but he might have as much claim on the AL MVP at this point as anyone in the league. "Why?" you ask? Well, when Trout returned to the majors April 28, his Angels team was 7-14, since they are 39-24, giving them an overall 46-38 record, good for second place in the divison. He is .347-11-39 with 26 swipes over 62 games with a .962 OPS. Killer. And, well, I am guessing he will get better. Scary.
Let me start with how much I love Matt Cain. He was my NL pick for the Cy Young this year. And, no one is happier than I that he tossed his perfect game. However, since that June 13 game, Cain has been a somewhat disturbing 1-1, 4.31, with a 1.35 WHIP, allowing five long flies (note that he only allowed nine for all of 2011) over 25.1 innings. But, Cain tossed 125 pitches over his perfect performance, which is a lot (in contrast Dallas Braden threw 109 pitches, and Madison Bumgarner 107 over his recent one-hitter, where he also walked two batters). And, over the two games before the perfecto, he tossed 116, and then 117, easily the three highest pitch totals of the year for him. In fairness, I am not saying he will tank, but I am a little concerned that Cain may indeed be a bit tired. Just be cautious.
Pedro Alvarez is really the perfect example of players I like to both track, and invest in. At just 25, Alvarez is in essentially his third year. There are so many examples of players like him: players who were touted, and then advanced, and even enjoyed early success (.356-16-64 over 95 games), followed by miserable failure the next (.191-4-19 over 74 games last year). But, at 25, on a team that actually is improving, Alvarez has adjusted, regained his confidence, and is establishing himself as a real big league player with his .235-16-50 line over 75 2012 games. Alvarez is a free swinger, so average is probably never going to be the third sacker's best friend, but, as he ages, all Alvarez' numbers should improve. I always like to use guys like Paul Konerko as examples of this. And Alex Gordon makes a more recent comparison. The question is will Jose Tabata be able to step up? Or, is it too late for Gordon Beckham?
Put Chris Heisey in the same boat with Alvarez. Heisey improved from .254-8-21 over 97 2010 games, to .254-18-50 over 120 games last year. Though Heisey is only hitting .269-3-19 this year over 229 at-bats (68 games), over the last month he is rocking to the tune of .349-2-7 and that tells me like Alvarez, he has arrived. And, at this point he is likely hanging out in the free agent pool.
President Obama publicly thanked the Red Sox Nation for the Pale Hose acquisition of Kevin Youkilis. If you have written him off, well, I hope you have a chance to get Youk back. Freed from the insanity of Bobby Valentine, the third sacker has already nearly exceeded his Red Sox totals for the first part of the year. That is, .233-4-14 over 42 at-bats for Boston, and now .311-3-13 over just 12 Chicago games. A new locale, on a contending pair of Sox means a big second half. I mean, Youk is actually appreciated in his new environ. The Pres was right.
Brian McCann, at just 28 and moving into his peak years, has been among the top backstops in the majors for eight years now. McCann shot out of the blocks in July with .353-3-9 totals, raising his average nine points, his slugging by 33 points, and his OPS by 38 (to .719). Watch him pick it up and run with it second half.
Ryan Raburn might be one of the worst first half players in the majors this year with .171-1-10 over 175 at-bats. Well, just keep the context that over his career Raburn has played in exactly 277 games first half, and 277 after the break. And, his first half totals are .215-21-92 over 762 at-bats, while the second sacker/outfielder is .300-33-122 over 781 second half at-bats. Raburn's OBP is 79 points higher the second half, his slugging 130 points higher, meaning his first half career OPS is .641 while his second half total is .847, over 200 points higher.
There you have it. Enjoy the break. In fact, though the Hotpage will be back next Monday, Bed Goes Up will be on break this Saturday as I am off on vacation, playing guitar in the Sierra where there is no Wi Fi, so, as my mate Lord Z would say, I will be off the grid.