Triple Play: Michael Cuddyer, Jeff Francoeur, Lance Berkman

This week’s Triple Play finds us at the half-way point of the season. As the All-Star break comes into view, we look at a record-setting Rockies outfielder, the end of an error in Kansas City, our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch, and more. Off we go:

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Who’s Hot?

Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies

At first glance, it looks like Cuddyer picked a perfect time to go on an extended hot streak. With shortstop and team leader Troy Tulowitzki injured and not expected back until mid-to-late July, Cuddyer has set a Rockies franchise record for longest hitting streak (27 games). During that time, he has put up a .344/.370/.563 batting line, with five home runs, 14 RBI, and 15 runs scored. If you look a little closer, though, you see that Cuddyer has been hitting well all season:

  • April – .313/383/.563, .946 OPS
  • May – .396/.441/.660, 1.101 OPS
  • June – .352/.381/.593, .975

For the season, Cuddyer has mashed 14 home runs, 48 RBI, scored 38 runs and even swiped six bases. After injuries contributed to a disappointing 2012, Rockies fans are seeing why the team was willing to sign Cuddyer to a three-year, $31.5 million dollar deal before the 2012 season. He hasn’t just been a Coors Field hitter, either; he has more extra-base hits and RBI in road games. With the Rockies’ historical propensity to struggle on the road, that has been a godsend for the team. Cuddyer’s history (lifetime .275/.344/.462 hitter) suggests that he will not continue this pace, but given how the Rockies have scuffled without Tulo (6-10 while on the DL), they have to be thrilled with what Cuddyer has given them this season. If you own him in your fantasy league, it might be time to consider selling high; his value will never be higher.

Who’s Not?

Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals

Royals fans rejoice! Your team has finally seen the light. You will no longer have to suffer through watching Jeff Francouer bumble his way through another terrible at-bat, as he was designated for assignment Saturday. Maybe it was the batting average (.209). Maybe it was the complete and utter lack of production since May 1 (2 HR, 6 RBI, 9 runs). Whatever the case, Frenchy’s time in Kansas City is over. Royals fans can look forward to watching David Lough and Jarrod Dyson share duties in right field for the remainder of the season (barring a trade, of course). For the season, Francoeur has tallied just 3 homers and 13 RBI in 182 at-bats over 58 games. As June went on, the Royals began to play Lough more and more while Francoeur found himself on the bench. Once the fleet-footed Dyson was activated from the DL, the choice became clear: the team would be far better served by giving extended playing time to the 27-year-old Lough and 28-year-old Dyson instead of the 29-year-old Francoeur. Seeing that Frenchy is only 29 made me do a double take. Doesn’t it seem like he has been around for about about 15 years? Maybe that’s just how it feels to watch him flail away helplessly at the plate night after night.

In any case, it has become clear that he does not belong in the major leagues. Naturally, the New York media immediately speculated that the Mets may be interested in bringing Francoeur back. Considering that the Mets’ outfield Saturday consisted of Eric Young Jr, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Marlon Byrd (and their signing of Rick Ankiel already this season), one can never be sure.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: 31 HR, 80 RBI, 60 runs, .329/.408/.724, 201 OPS+

Player B: 25 HR, 82 RBI, 64 runs, .373/.463/.676, 202 OPS+

Player A is Chris Davis. Like a certain commercial character, Davis just keeps going and going and…..well, you get the idea. After belting two more home runs in Saturday’s win over the Yankees, Davis became the first player in baseball history to belt at least 30 home runs and 25 doubles by the end of June (according to the Elias Sports Bureau). In addition to 50 doubles, he is on pace for 60 homers, 158 RBI, 118 runs scored and a .333 batting average. As it is, Davis has already met or exceeded many of the SEASON projections analysts forecasted for him. If things continue this way, the Davis/Tommy Hunter-for-Koji Uehara trade is going to go down as one of the greatest in Orioles history.

Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera (Player B) has been so ridiculously good for so long now that we take it for granted. Going into Sunday’s games, Cabrera led the American League in the following categories: hits (118), runs scored, RBI, walks (48), on-base percentage, OPS (1.139), and park-adjusted OPS+. He is on pace for a 49-166-129-.374 batting line this season, which would actually surpass his Triple Crown-winning season in 2012. Watching these two players slug it out for the rest of the season is going to be great fun.

Player A: .324/.428/.351, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 SB, 9 runs

Player B: .466/.578/.889, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 5 SB, 11 runs

Player A is the Yankees’ Robinson Cano, generally considered the best second baseman in the American League (particularly in fantasy baseball). Player B is Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis. Over the past two weeks, nobody in baseball – not Chris Davis, not Miguel Cabrera, not Pedro Alvarez, not Michael Cuddyer – has been hotter than the Tribe’s 26-year-old middle sacker. Cano is on pace for a 30 HR-100 RBI-10 SB-90 run season, which is elite territory in fantasy baseball for second baseman. Kipnis is on pace for 25-105-39-90, which would better Cano in every category except home runs. Considering the dearth of speed in fantasy baseball these days, the extra steals give Kipnis a bump in value over Cano. At 26, Kipnis figures to only get better. As a fan of Kipnis going into the 2012 season, I’m calling it now: by the end of 2013, he will end the season as the top-rated fantasy second baseman in the American League. That’s not a knock on Cano, who remains the top power-hitting second baseman in either league. But a player who can offer 25-homer/40-steal potential is worth top dollar – and Kipnis is that guy.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Adam Wainwright pitched 37 innings this season before walking his first batter. Since then, he has continued to be the stingiest starting pitcher in baseball when it comes to issuing free passes. As such, we are tracking his total for the 2013 season. Saturday night, Wainwright rebounded from a couple of tough starts to handcuff the Oakland A’s in a 7-1 victory. The Cardinals’ ace fanned eight batters, allowed five hits and walked a pair while improving his record to 11-5. For the season, Wainwright has punched out 114 batters while walking just 12; that 9.5 ratio is still tops in the National League, although it has dropped from the double-digit ratio it had been throughout the season. In the American League, only Bartolo Colon has a similar walk total (13), but Colon has struck out barely half the hitters as Wainwright. The American League leader in K/BB ratio is Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma, at 5.94. That measure tells you just how in control Wainwright has been this season.
  • Scheduled pitchers for St. Louis against the Angels this week are Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, and Wainwright. Wainwright vs. Pujols will be some must-see TV on Thursday. Get your popcorn ready.
  • Pittsburgh is the first team in 2013 to win 50 games, marking the first time that has happened since 1960. You might recall that the season ended pretty happily for the Pirates and their fans that year.
  • Speaking of the Pirates, here’s an idea: trade for Cliff Lee. The Phillies aren’t going anywhere this season and need to rebuild. Pittsburgh has a deep farm system and a real chance to play October baseball for the first time in 21 years. Lee would represent a huge financial commitment for the Pirates ($25 million per season through 2015) and would probably require the Pirates to surrender two or three of their best prospects. Yes, that is an exorbitant price. But it’s been 21 years. An entire generation of Pittsburgh fans has no idea what it is like for the local baseball team to be good. Acquiring Lee to anchor the rotation would send a message that there will be no collapse like 2011-12.
  • Incidentally, for those of you wondering why Dustin Pedroia wasn’t included in the Kipnis/Cano note above about the best second basemen in the AL, it’s very simple: you all get back to me when he has more home runs than Brian Dozier and we’ll talk. The laser show has gotten pretty lame.
  • There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground in a Derek Holland start. It’s either the penthouse or the outhouse. You either get the complete-game, two-hit shutout version like the Yankees saw last Thursday night, or you’re stuck with the version that allowed a combined 20 baserunners in 10 1/3 innings and eight runs earlier this month versus the Blue Jays and Indians. I’m sure Ron Washington wishes he knew which one he would get every fifth day.
  • All the Alex Rodriguez drama has overshadowed the Yankees’ tailspin. Since June 1, when New York was one game back in the AL East, they are 11-16 and have lost five in a row. They find themselves two games away from the division basement. Is that where they will be when Derek Jeter returns to the field?
  • The Giants are in trouble as well. After being swept by Colorado, the defending world champions have sunk to fourth in the NL West, only one game ahead of last-place Los Angeles. Guess who is headed to the bay for a weekend series?
  • Sunday’s win over the Rockies notwithstanding, the Giants’ offense has been putrid since losing outfielder Angel Pagan to injury. Buster Posey can’t carry the team by himself.
  • In related news, Francoeur’s agent already has called Giants’ GM Brian Sabean (NOTE: I have no more evidence of this than any other baseball writer).
  • Despite not playing since May 26, Bryce Harper ranks 2nd on the Nationals in home runs, 4th in RBI, and 5th in runs scored. No wonder Washington is 14th in the NL in hitting. Safe to say he’ll be welcomed back this week with open arms.
  • Lance Berkman Is A National Treasure, Volume 58: the Big Puma evidently slipped and fell down the stairs of the Rangers’ charter plane after returning home from New York last week, making for a sore knee and some missed games. A reporter asked Berkman if it was just a freak accident. “No,” Berkman replied, “Premeditated.”  How great is that?

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

Author: Chris Caylor

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