Triple Play: Carlos Gomez, Jeff Keppinger, Yadier Molina

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Triple Play. This week, we name our picks for the hottest and, um, not hottest players as we head into the All-Star break, plus a breakdown of one player’s Jekyll-and-Hyde season, and other random thoughts, including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch. Let’s dive in:

Molina r1

Who’s Hot?

Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers

While Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis have, justifiably, gotten the lion’s share of the headlines for their performances this season, Gomez has quietly turned into one of the top 10 all-around players in baseball this season. In fact, Baseball-Reference lists Gomez as its number one player in Wins Above Replacement (5.7), ahead of Cabrera, Davis, Clayton Kershaw and Manny Machado. Much of his value is placed on his Defensive WAR figure of 2.9 (second only to Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons), but Gomez has been an offensive force as well. With a hitting line of .295/.337/.533, 14 HR, 45 RBI, 21 SB, and 51 runs scored, Gomez has been one of two bright spots for an abysmal Brewers team (Jean Segura is the other). While Gomez’s breakout (in his age 27 season) has been largely unnoticed by places like ESPN and Fox Sports, fantasy owners certainly have taken notice. He is on pace for a 25-75-40-90 season, which would put him right on the fringe of the top tier of outfielders. Gomez also leads the league with nine triples. And that game-ending catch a few days ago to rob Joey Votto of a home run is one of the best catches you will see this year (or any other). The Brewers may be having a down season, but between Gomez and Segura, at least their fans have two reasons for optimism.

Runner-up: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

I’m running out of superlatives to describe Davis’ hitting prowess through the first 4½ months of 2013, so I’ll just list his statistics here: 37 HR, 93 RBI, 70 runs, .717 slugging pct, 193 OPS+. He is now tied with Reggie Jackson for most long balls hit at the All-Star break (only Barry Bonds hit more). He is on pace to club 62 home runs, knock in 153, and score 117 runs. Incidentally, Davis is also in his age-27 season. Obviously, the 62 home runs would surpass Roger Maris in the record book, which is sure to draw even more idiots like Rick Reilly out to cast suspicion on Davis without a shred of evidence. That’s the truly sobering effect of the Steroid Era: today’s players are being punished for the actions of others in the previous generation.

Who’s Not?

Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox

According to Fangraphs, Keppinger has been the worst everyday player in the majors this season, with a -1.2 Wins Above Replacement player rating. That’s just a year removed from putting together a career-best year with the Tampa Bay Rays (2.7 WAR). Keppinger has two home runs, 25 RBI, 21 runs scored, and a cringe-inducing batting line of .246/.274/.294 in 303 plate appearances. His park-adjusted OPS+ is just 53, meaning that he has barely been worth HALF of a replacement player. Ugh. And hey, White Sox fans (all eight of you), the Jeff Keppinger Experience runs through 2015, thanks to that three-year, $12 million dollar “bargain” contract your team offered after the fluke 2012 season. My condolences.

Runner-up: Joe Blanton, Los Angeles Angels

By any measure, the former Phillie has been terrible for the Angels this season. He “leads” the American League in hits (148) and home runs (23) allowed and sports a 5.53 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. Other stats (including WAR) indicate that pitchers like San Diego’s Jason Marquis, Houston’s Lucas Harrell and Kansas City’s Jeremy Guthrie have been worse this season, but all of those pitchers have been credited with at least five wins. That gives them at least a shred of value in fantasy baseball. Blanton is 2-12, giving him no value whatsoever in any context. He is the first Angels pitcher to have a dozen losses at the All-Star break since 1974. This is what happens when a team blows all its big dollars on hitting and has to settle for third-tier free agents to fill out a pitching staff. By the way, Joe, don’t be blaming your catcher (Chris Iannetta) or your pitching coach (Mike Butcher). If you want to know who to blame for being such a rotten pitcher, just take a gander in the mirror.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .259/.342/.512, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 27 runs, 2 SB, .854 OPS

Player B: .167/.263/.232, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 11 runs, 1 SB, .495 OPS

Player A is what Mark Reynolds did between Opening Day and Memorial Day. Player B is the version from Memorial Day till now. Egads. You knew Reynolds wouldn’t stay as hot as he was in April, when he batted .301 with 8 HR and 22 RBI, but this slump is beyond ghastly. Thus far in July, Reynolds has limp-noodled his way to a .091 average with one lone RBI. With Lonnie Chisenhall showing some flashes of potential at third base, Reynolds might find himself on the bench more and more frequently. The way he is hitting right now, that’s exactly where he belongs.

Player A: 6-1 W-L, 3.16 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 62 strikeouts

Player B: 6-4 W-L, 4.29 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 66 strikeouts

Player A is Matt Garza, likely the most coveted starter in this year’s trade market. He has fully convinced teams that he is healthy and the numbers back that up. At least five teams have been rumored to have interest in the right-hander; that number figures to go up as the Cubs notified him over the weekend that he is being shopped. Player B is the White Sox’ Jake Peavy, currently on a rehab assignment. This rehab assignment is critical for player and team. Neither Chicago team is going anywhere this year, so it would make sense for the White Sox to deal Peavy for prospects. You have to figure, though, that he needs to get back to the majors and turn in a quality start or two before the July 31 non-waiver deadline before any team will part with any talent for the 32-year-old. It would be a risk, but Peavy could prove to be a decent consolation prize for teams that don’t end up acquiring Garza.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Adam Wainwright pitched 37 innings this season before walking his first batter, so we are keeping track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace issues throughout the season. At the All-Star break, Wainwright has walked just 15 hitters while fanning 130, good for a major-league best 8.67-to-1 K/BB ratio. He definitely wasn’t at his best Sunday night versus the Cubs (8 hits, 4 ER allowed, 111 pitches in six innings), but he still only walked one batter.
  • Speaking of the Sunday night game, what a deflating loss for the Cubs. They rallied against Wainwright in the 6th inning to take the lead, only to give it right back in the 7th. Then they tied the game in the bottom of the 8th against closer Edward Mujica and coughed up four runs in the 9th to lose the game. Ouch.
  • Yadier Molina, despite the sore knee and what appeared to be a split fingernail, went 4-6 on Sunday with a home run, two doubles, four RBI and three runs scored. He leads the NL with a .337 average. He also has 34 multi-hit games this season and has thrown out 45% of would-be base stealers.
  • If there is a more complete player in baseball right now, I don’t know who it is.
  • Why yes, Jordany Valdespin, throwing a hissy fit and calling your manager a filthy word right after getting sent down to Triple-A is a BRILLIANT career move. Well done. I suspect it may take him a little longer to get recalled from the minors than it did for Ike Davis.
  • News: CBS Sports is reporting that the Padres may make Chase Headley available in trade. Views: they should have done that last year.
  • The Phillies will be an interesting team to watch the next several weeks. Oh, not because they are serious contenders or anything, but because every ball hit to the outfield will be an adventure without speedy Ben Revere patrolling center field. Domonic Brown and Delmon Young are, um, not strong defenders, so Revere had a huge responsibility covering for them. John Mayberry is not a long-term solution.
  • Going into the All-Star break, here are the major-league leaders in some categories and who SHOULD be the leader in those categories:
    • Grounded into double plays: Matt Holliday, St. Louis (22). Who should lead this category:  Yuniesky Betancourt, Milwaukee. Just on general principle.
    • Hit by pitch: Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati, 20. Who should lead: Miguel Montero, Arizona. Is there anyone in baseball he hasn’t whined about yet? Just shut up already.
    • Errors committed: Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh (16). Who should lead: Starlin Castro, Chicago. Every time I watch him play, he does at least one boneheaded thing. I don’t envy Dale Sveum.
    • Wild pitches: (tie) Edwin Jackson, Chicago and Trevor Cahill, Arizona (11). Who should lead: Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay. The pitches would be straighter if he would wear his hat properly.
  • Did you see that Indians fan who caught FOUR foul balls during Sunday afternoon’s game? Just ridiculous. That’s four more than I’ve caught in my life. Not that I’m envious or anything.
  • So, the Twins won a game started by CC Sabathia for the first time in six years yesterday. That’s a completely useless bit of trivia, yet it’s one of those statistics that makes me absolutely love baseball.
  • Glad to see the Giants use the momentum from Tim Lincecum‘s no-hitter Saturday and whip the Padres again Sunday. Oh, wait…
  • I’m more of a National League guy, so I am rooting for the NL All-Stars to win and gain home-field advantage in the World Series. But I would be lying if I said it wouldn’t be kinda neat for Mariano Rivera to close out the game in his final appearance.
  • Well, that whole Freddie Freeman fan-vote thing was much ado about nothing, wasn’t it? Can we put Yasiel Puig in the game now?

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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