Diamond Update

June 30, 2011

June 30, 2011
Exclude From Games: 

Midseason Awards
American League

1. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston
2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
3. Jose Bautista, Toronto

Cy Young
1. Josh Beckett, Boston
2. Justin Verlander, Detroit
3. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels

Rookie of the Year
1. Michael Pineda, Seattle
2. Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay
3. J.P. Arencibia, Toronto

National League

1. Jose Reyes, New York
2. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles
3. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee

Cy Young
1. Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta
2. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
3. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia

Rookie of the Year
1. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta
2. Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs
3. Danny Espinosa, Washington

Trivia Corner
Who has the most batting titles in the 2000s?
(Answer below)

Athlon Spotlight
Will Hot and Cold Hitters Maintain their pace?

At this point in the season, it's a good time to assess players off to hot and cold starts during the first half. Some hot starts are destined to turn cold, and some frigid starters will heat up as we reach the dog days of summer. Some hot players will not be cooled off, and some struggling players are in for a long season.
Here's our take:

Hot Hitters Staying Hot
Adrian Gonzalez, Boston

Gonzalez's production has been every bit as much as the Red Sox hoped when they traded for the slugger over the winter. He ended the week hitting .361 and will likely finish the season no lower than .345.
Jose Bautista, Toronto
Proving that hitting 54 homers last season was not a fluke, Bautista picked up where he left off. Last year his only real swoon was in June, as was this season. He leads the majors with 65 walks, a sign that pitchers believe he's the real deal.
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
One of the best pure hitters in the National League, Braun has a consistent history and is in the top nine of all three Triple Crown categories. He ended the week with a 17-game hitting streak and is the linchpin of a Brewers' lineup that will be in contention all summer.
Matt Holliday, St. Louis
The Cardinals' offense has had a new leader this season for the first time since 2000. Holliday has spent some time on the disabled list but has not lost his swing.
Jose Reyes, New York Mets
Potentially the NL MVP, Reyes, who leads the NL in batting at .341, will be a threat at the plate as long as he has the carrot of a huge payday in front of him.
Gaby Sanchez, Florida
One of the breakout players this season, the first baseman was responsible for the Marlins' fast start. Sanchez has matured as a hitter and should maintain his .300 pace and finish with close to 30 home runs and 100 ribbies.

Hot Hitters Cooling Off
Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

After an underwhelming season last year for the Dodgers, Kemp is contending for the Triple Crown so far this year. Over his career, his OPS is 71 points higher in the first half. Continued financial troubles in L.A. will eventually drag the whole team down.
Seth Smith, Colorado
Sure, he's hitting .315 now and on his way to career highs in most every offensive category, but Smith has never played this much and hit well below .200 last Aug/Sept.
Lance Berkman, St. Louis
Berkman, a surprising force in St. Louis this season, has enjoyed his new surroundings after recommitting himself over the winter. But at age 35, he's beginning wear down.
Carlos Quentin, Chicago White Sox
Does anyone really believe he can be a force for a full season?
Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers
Much like his teammate Kemp, Ethier has been on a horrid pace, but will suffer from lack of support in the lineup and repercussions from the financial troubles of the organization.

Cold Hitters Warming Up
Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox

Contributing to Dunn's .173 batting average this season is a 1-for-52 (.019) against left-handed pitching. Two years ago he hit .268 vs. lefties before dropping to .199 last season. We see a successful adjustment coming.
Carlos Peña, Chicago Cubs
The streak-slugging first baseman is warming up. He'll start cranking some home runs late this season, especially if he ends up on a contender.
Jayson Werth, Washington
Werth must have felt the pressure of the significant contract he signed over the winter. The Nationals are playing better and Davey Johnson's influence in the dugout should be settling.
Carl Crawford, Boston
The marquee free agent of the offseason needed a few months to get acclimated to Boston. After hitting .155 in April, Crawford responded with a more familiar .304 in May.

Cold Hitters Staying Cold
Chone Figgins, Seattle

Probably overrated when he signed with Seattle, Figgins has never been at home with the Mariners. Having found his most success as a leadoff hitter, the Mariners have asked him to hit No. 2 (primarily) behind Ichiro Suzuki.
Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox
Commanding a nice salary in Chicago, the White Sox expect (and need) more from the enigmatic Rios. But don't expect anything to change.
Aubrey Huff, San Francisco
One of the darlings of the champion Giants last season, it may be too much to expect Huff to repeat this season.
Hanley Ramirez, Florida
Ramirez has been a popular preseason pick for NL MVP for five seasons now. He's spent the first half this season hitting around .215. And over the last two seasons, he hasn't improved in the second half. This looks like a lost season for the talented Marlins shortstop.

AL Player of the Week
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay

Making up for lost time, Longoria crushed the ball for average, power and run production - hitting .370 with four HRs, 14 RBIs, eight runs and a 1.319 OPS. Teammate B.J. Upton was also on fire, hitting .320 with three HRs, 10 knocked in and two stolen bases last week.

AL Pitcher of the Week
Mariano Rivera, N.Y. Yankees

The 41-year-old Yankee icon notched three saves, allowing zero runs and one hit, while striking out six batters in three innings. Rivera now has 20 saves this year; he and Trevor Hoffman are the only closers in history with 15 seasons of 20 or more saves.

NL Player of the Week
Yuniesky Betancourt, Milwaukee

A throw-in as part of the Zack Greinke trade, Betancourt busted out of a season-long slump last week, hitting .417 with two HRs, four RBIs, two stolen bases and a 1.084 OPS, as the Brew Crew went a combined 4-2 in series against the Rays and Twins.

NL Pitcher of the Week
Clayton Kershaw, L.A. Dodgers

There are reasons to complain in L.A., but the Dodgers' young lefty ace is not one of them. Kershaw pitched back-to-back complete game gems against the Tigers and Angels - posting a 2-0 record, 1.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP and 22 strikeouts over 18.0 innings.

Farm Report
Mike Trout, L.A. Angels

The only prospect in baseball who challenges Bryce Harper for the top spot is living up to the lofty standards he set for himself last year (.341, 10 HRs, 56 SBs). Trout is currently hitting .325 with nine HRs, 26 RBIs, 26 steals and 60 runs in 68 games for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers. Much like he is on the basepaths and in center field, the New Jersey native is on the fast track to the big leagues.
Jose Iglesias, Boston
Dustin Pedroia's double-play partner of the future may need more minor league seasoning before he is ready for prime time at Fenway. The slick-fielding Cuban shortstop is as advanced as any defender in the minors but his bat is far behind his glove. Iglesias is hitting just .228 with zero long balls, 16 RBIs, a puny .507 OPS and four steals (compared to three times caught stealing). Still, Iglesias' glove is big-league ready and will be his ticket to MLB.

Turn Back the Clock
June 30, 1970

Atlanta spoils Cincinnati's dedication of Riverfront Stadium. Hank Aaron hits the stadium's first homer as the Braves win 8-2.
June 28, 1986
Two 300-game winners face each other as Phil Niekro starts for the Indians and Don Sutton for the Angels. Neither factor in a decision.
June 29, 1990
A day of two no-hitters: Oakland's Dave Stweart blanks the Blue Jays, and Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers shuts down the Cardinals.

Numbers Game
  0.27   ERA for Cliff Lee in four June starts. He has given up only one earned run in 33 innings pitched while winning all four games
       6   Complete games this season for the Tampa Bay Rays' James Shields.
     35   More home runs the Houston Astros' pitchers have allowed at home than Houston batters have hit. Houston hurlers have given up 54 home runs at Minute Maid Park while the Astros have hit just 19.
     21   Losses for the Marlins in their first 24 games in June.
     14   Wins in June for the Pittsburgh Pirates, assuring their first winning month since June 2009.
       3   Of the 161 major league hitters with enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title, three are hitting below .200: Seattle's Chone Figgins (.188), Atlanta's Dan Uggla (.178) and Adam Dunn (.173)
of the White Sox.

Trivia Corner Answer
Joe Mauer of Minnesota has won three: .347 in 2006, .328 in 2008 and .365 in 2009.

<p> Can Hot Hitter stay hot in the second half? Can Cold Hitters come alive? Players of the Week and more in this edition of Diamond Update.</p>
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