When I watch my 2-year old daughter gravitate from one activity to the next without spending more than three minutes on any one thing, I have a good idea why. As I start to write this column, I am doing the following: thinking of ways to improve my fantasy baseball teams for the stretch run, taking part in a college football fantasy draft via e-mail, finishing up a football dynasty league draft, prepping for five other football drafts, flipping between an NFL preseason game and Dodgers-Cardinals, and trying to figure out what prompted my dad (who is basically retired) to join LinkedIn. Like I said last week, it's easy to lose focus on your baseball squads with so much in the works, but I practice what I preach. I promise to suppress my adult ADD long enough to focus on some of baseball's inept before I return to my quest to identify the Giants' sixth-string wideout.
All statistics through August 18.
Hank Blalock: Lately, Hank has been playing more like former point guard Mookie Blaylock (no relation), whose greatest societal contribution is arguably his role as namesake (numbersake?) for Pearl Jam's debut album. As for Hank, he's batting just .171 in his past 17 games with more strikeouts (15) than hits (12). He does have three homers during the slump, but those came in consecutive games where he also amassed five of his seven RBIs. Thanks to Slumps and Dumps legend Chris Davis, Blalock has seen more at-bats than expected this season. While he's responded with 23 homers, he's also posted a horrific .274 on-base percentage in the process. With the Rangers in the playoff hunt, Blalock will see plenty of meaningful at-bats in the coming weeks, but he won't hit much over .250 with another five homers.
Mike Cameron: After profiling Cameron a couple months ago, I continue to be astounded by his ownership percentage given his lack of activity on the basepaths. He has just two steals in his most recent 25 games, and during that time he's batting .207 with three homers. With 27 punch-outs, his strikeout rate sits at 29.4 percent, which is typical for Cameron. Need another sign that his speed has diminished? How about four double plays in his last 24 groundballs? There are other options out there if you need speed like Dexter Fowler in the outfield or Everth Cabrera at shortstop.
Brad Hawpe: With 24 strikeouts in 66 at-bats, Hawpe's All-Star appearance is a distant memory for the surging Rockies. Other distant memories for Rockies fans include the selection of David Nied as the franchise's first player, Dante Bichette actually contributing on a baseball field, and Denny Neagle soliciting arguably one of the ugliest hookers ever. Hawpe's home run on Sunday was his first since July 19, and his .300 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in recent weeks is a far cry from his .345 career mark. Expect that to trend back up and propel him to another five homers and 20-plus RBIs with a .290 average the rest of the way.
Paul Konerko: There was no question about whether to include Konerko this week; it was only a matter of what time frame to use for his slump. Could it be his last 27 games where he's hit .174 with nearly the same number of strikeouts and hits? Or what about four hits in his last 37 at-bats? Perhaps the fact that he went hitless over a seven-game stretch? The possibilities are endless. His power numbers have really dropped off with just four extra-base hits since July 27. A .164 BABIP in his last 27 games isn't helping the situation, but that should normalize over the rest of the season. Look for a .275-6-20 line from Konerko over the next month and a half.
Carlos Quentin: Quentin owners suffered through his early woes and sporadic play, then patiently waited out his trip to the DL with plantar fasciitis. That loosely translates to face plant, which is exactly what Quentin has done most of the season. Owners are now living through a 21-game stretch where CQ is batting .218 with a strikeout rate near 20 percent. A 50.8 percent fly ball rate would seem to be good news in homer-friendly U.S. Cellular, but his home run-to-fly ball rate is just 13.8 percent this year compared to 20.7 percent during his 36-homer campaign of 2008. Quentin is still hobbled by the foot injury, which may keep him out of the lineup at some point down the stretch. Make sure you have a competent fill-in like Will Venable or Kyle Blanks to rotate in on his days off.
Geovany Soto: After looking at a pair of White Sox, let's move to the North Side where Soto's season-long struggles continue. He's been plagued by injuries, poor play, and positive drug tests in his attempt to follow up his 2008 Rookie of the Year performance. Since returning from his most recent DL stint, Soto is mired in a 4-for-29 stretch with 10 punch-outs and just two RBIs. He's also been hitting a lot of groundballs since coming back, which is not a great idea for someone who could lose a footrace to Puff the Magic Dragon, with whom Soto often frolics after burning one down.
Mark Teahen: Earlier this season, Teahen rewarded fantasy owners with solid hitting and multi-position eligibility. Lately he has been showering them with strikeouts and has been the baseball equivalent of stepping on a rake. In 18 games, Teahen has just 12 hits to go along with 16 strikeouts, no homers, and three RBIs. When he has put the ball in play, he's hit a whopping 25 groundballs. Teahen's performance has been inconsistent over the past few seasons, and unless you really need the lineup flexibility, look at Marlon Byrd or any of the players mentioned above.
Aaron Cook: An 8-3 start had owners running to snatch Cook off the waiver wire, but even then he was posting just 4.54 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9). I always worry about mediocre pitchers who don't strike people out, because when they have a rough stretch, they contribute absolutely nothing to your fantasy team. So while Cook has gone 2-2 with a 5.77 ERA in his last seven starts, he's hurt your ERA and WHIP in exchange for what? You guessed it, 23 strikeouts. Even that number is skewed by an uncharacteristic eight-punch-out game against the lowly Padres. Sunday's beating at the hands of the Marlins could be the last straw for owners, who should run, not walk, to get Derek Holland.
Edwin Jackson: A 2-1 record and 4.00 ERA mask Jackson's struggles over his last six starts. His early 7-4 mark was accompanied by an impressive 2.52 ERA and stellar 1.06 WHIP. Since then, his K/9 have dropped, his Walks Per Nine Innings have increased from 2.59 to 4.00, and his WHIP has climbed to 1.61. Jackson has also surrendered nine homers over his last six starts after giving up just 10 in his first 18 outings. He is on pace to log the most innings of his career, and he could be hitting the wall. E-Jack won't completely implode down the stretch, but he also won't recapture his early season magic. Look for two or three more wins with 35 strikeouts and an ERA over 4.50.
Brad Lidge: The Phillies were praised for their work at the trade deadline, and while their rotation is looking strong, the back end of the bullpen has been ugly. In his last 21 appearances, Lidge has two losses and two blown saves to go with a 7.13 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 14 walks in 17.2 innings. Charlie Manuel has given Lidge a vote of confidence even after he looked like Tom Emanski's evil twin in the field on Saturday. He's allowed runs in nine of 21 appearances and at least one baserunner in 14 of them. Ryan Madson pitched well when Lidge was out earlier this season, and the Phils shouldn't hesitate to make the move again if "Lights Out" keeps this up.
Mike Pelfrey: Pelfrey has gone 2-5 after a 6-3 start, and while some of the blame goes to an anemic offense that has failed to score him many runs, a 5.67 ERA shows he's had a hand in his own demise. Like the aforementioned Cook, Pelfrey is not a big strikeout pitcher although his 6.65 K/9 in his last eight starts is a big improvement. The Mets aren't getting any healthier and have nothing to play for, so the run support won't get any better. To quote Vanilla Ice, "it's time to drop that zero and get with a hero." Maybe hero is too strong a word, but Dustin Nippert would at least be an upgrade.
Rafael Soriano: This guy continues to torment me. I drafted him last year only to watch Manny Acosta surpass him at one point. Then this year, I take Mike Gonzalez and watch Soriano steal the gig. In his last 10 games though, he's making a push to give it back with an 0-3 record, 8.64 ERA, and two blown saves in six chances. After being tagged for just one longball in his first 43 appearances, he's allowed three homers in his last eight. Bobby Cox (the Mike Shanahan of baseball) has already changed closers once this year, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see him do it again.