Life During WARtime—If you’re looking for an entry into the wide world of WAR (wins above a replacement-level player), David Schoenfeld of SweetSpot has a pretty good starting point, with a couple of links to a couple of more pretty good starting points. In case you’re wondering before you go in, Mike Trout—the white-hot Los Angeles Angels rookie—leads the American League pack through this writing with a 5.2 WAR, followed by Robinson Cano (New York Yankees) at 4.8 and Josh Reddick’s (Oakland Athletics) 3.9. In the National League, the top three through this writing are David Wright (New York Mets), 5.3; Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates), 5.1; and, Joey Votto (Cincinnati Reds), 4.5.
Piracy—Speaking of McCutchen, for the second year in a row the Pirates look pretty at or just past the midway point . . . but Jon Paul Morosi (FoxSports) isn’t the only one who thinks there’s a sterling opportunity for the Pirates to stand taller than they ended up standing in 2011. Summary: The Reds are going to be hurting without Votto (out 3-4 weeks following torn meniscus surgery); the Milwaukee Brewers are giving Zack Greinke a week off after he started three straight games (following an early heave-ho) and rolled a 9.00 for July, which Morosi thinks will damage Greinke’s trade value enough to keep the Brewers from getting back into the NL Central race seriously. Meaning GM Neil Huntington should be thinking of moving boldly—perhaps luring a deal for talented but disgruntled Arizona outfielder Justin Upton, who’d give McCutchen a little more lineup protection and the Pirate offence a little more firepower; and/or, luring a deal for a veteran starting pitcher (Wandy Rodriguez might be one candidate, Morosi suggests) or another veteran bat (Shane Victorino and Carlos Quentin are two names Morosi has in mind). The idea, says Morosi: moving for impact players would tell the Pirates and their long-parched fans that the team intends to play for the roses right away. The kicker: Will the Pirates be willing to part with a few prospects, given that they’ve tended to overrate most of them the last several years? Even if the Pirates don’t make it again, at least this time they’ll be seen as serious players for it.
Trumbotron—Mike Trout may be getting the ink, and Albert Pujols may be right behind him with his resurgence (after a horrid beginning in his new fatigues), but Mark Trumbo hasn’t exactly been staying out of the way, either. The Angels’ jack-of-all-trades leads the American League in slugging percentage (.634) and ties with Josh Hamilton (Texas) for OPS (on-base plus slugging) with his .995, and no matter where manager Mike Scioscia plays him—first base, third base, around the outfield—the kid produces. Without undermining what Trout and Pujols mean, be advised that since 26 April Trumbo has started every Angels game but two . . . and the Angels are 42-29 since, the second-best spread in the Show in that time frame. Pretty damn impressive for a guy who was first seen as a hot pitching prospect until Angel scouts decided they liked him better as a hitter.
Odd Man Out?—Trout’s and Trumbo’s emergence may or may not leave Peter Bourjos the Angels’ odd man out, even if he isn’t exactly worrying about it. Bourjos was bumped to one side as a starter when half the Angels’ Terrible Ts (Trout) showed what he was made of, and the swift defender has been dogged by trade rumours ever since he was an Angel prospect offered up in talks when the team made a play for Roy Halladay in 2009. “This is the most relaxed I’ve ever been at the trade deadline because I’ve been through it so many times,” he told the Los Angeles Times this week. “Whatever happens, happens. If I’m traded, I’ll go to a team that wants me, that needs me. But hopefully, I can play my whole career here.” He may not get that hope, though, if he ends up going in any package the Angels might put together, successfully, for the like of Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels.
Rivals—If the Angels have Hamels on their radar, they’d better keep a wary eye on their number one nemesis in the AL West: the Texas Rangers are said to have longing eyes for Hamels and two other arms, Greinke and one-time Ranger Cliff Lee, he who chose Philadelphia over Texas after he was landed near the 2010 non-waiver deadline and helped pitch the Rangers to the World Series. CBS Sports reports the Rangers hungry for a bona-fide number one starter and, if they can’t bag either Hamels (assuming the struggling, injury-plagued Phillies think they can’t re-sign him before his free agency, which might be one indicator that they’ve surrendered the season) or Greinke, they’d take another flyer on Lee (whose availability would be another sign the Phillies are looking past this year). One kicker that might make a difference: Lee is owed $25 million for each of 2013, 2014, and 2015, with a 2016 buyout worth $12.5 million.
Upchuck—That’s what former Seattle star Jay Buhner says he’d do if the Mariners sign still-valuable but still-fading Ichiro Suzuki to a three-year deal ($35-40 million is the figure tossed around most often) after his current contract (five years, $90 million) expires at season’s end. Buhner told Seattle ESPN radio the Mariners need to turn around more than they need to spend that kind of money on one player, even a player as popular as Ichiro remains—despite his batting average falling to .260 (through this writing), his unlikelihood of reaching 200+ hits for a second straight season, and his likelihood of missing 30 stolen bases for just the second time in his Show career.
Do or Die Time?—The Mets haven’t looked as good since the All-Star break as they looked going into the break: they’re on a six-game losing streak (including a loss going into the break) after dropping two straight to the Washington Nationals this week. They hope R.A. Dickey, who had a shaky outing after the break, gets back on his so-far track and salvages the final game Thursday before the Mets come home for rounds with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Nats again, followed by a western road trip with stops in Arizona, San Francisco, and San Diego. In other words, including Thursday, they have fifteen straight games against teams in third place or better in their divisions, and playing out of their division with a sub-.500 road record to date means they’ll have to help themselves best. The problem for the Mets since the break: their none-too-steady bullpen has done the lion’s share of killing them whenever the Mets manage to make noise midway or late in games. It went from bad to worse when Pedro Beato (who may yet be their setup man of the future, but was in after the rest of the pen couldn’t stave off the Nats in regulation) wild-pitched the winning run home with the bases loaded in the tenth Tuesday, and the Mets couldn’t follow through after a pair of ninth-inning bombs by David Wright and Lucas Duda to pull back to within a run, with Tyler Clippard—who yielded the bombs—striking out Jordany Valdespin to nail it for the Nats.