AP Photo/Tony Dejak
Take a look at Kelly Shoppach, folks, you might not believe the numbers.
That other Cleveland Indians catcher -- you know, the one who wasn't the first one to go in fantasy drafts, avoided missing half the season with injury and didn't wait 200 at-bats to hit his first home run -- hit another dinger Monday. Shoppach has 21 home runs for the season, just one behind Soto and two off the position lead, held by Brian McCann of the Braves. And he's owned in a mere 63.1 percent of ESPN standard leagues! I've got Shoppach not as a catcher but as my utility player in our office head-to-head league, and I'm in the finals.
Since the All-Star break, when Shoppach really started to get going, he has no peer at the position, and he ranks favorably among all players. Shoppach has 13 home runs since the break, five more than second-place Chris Snyder, and 34 RBIs in 158 at-bats. Soto and McCann each have five post-break homers. What's amazing is that even after barely playing the first two months of the season, this backup is seventh on ESPN's Player Rater at catcher. Shoppach is slugging .544 for the season, which trumps every other catcher. Sure, Victor Martinez is back playing sporadically, and he's under contract for 2009, but there's no way Shoppach is a backup catcher next season. It just can't happen.
With a 1.016 OPS since the All-Star break, Shoppach ranks 12th in all of baseball among all hitters, not just backstops, and there's really no reason why he shouldn't be on more fantasy teams. Maybe it's the threat of losing playing time to Martinez that has scared fantasy owners off, but this hasn't been a problem. If you own 1B Ryan Garko, or DH Travis Hafner, don't expect much production, as these players are vying for playing time, and Martinez is likely to suit up at those positions, since he's not exactly Johnny Bench behind the plate. Shoppach is going to keep playing.
Shoppach wasn't the only catcher who did something interesting Monday, at least to me. Briefly ...
• Joe Mauer hit his ninth home run of the season, a solo shot in the ninth inning off Jensen Lewis. Mauer has the .321 batting average, and might score 100 runs this season, but his next home run will get him into double digits for only the second time in his career. Still, considering Mauer didn't homer until June, we'll take nine for the season.
• Texas has an abundance of catchers, so much so that Max Ramirez was the team's DH on Monday. Taylor Teagarden, the team's future at the position, smacked a sixth-inning grand slam, and finished with five RBIs. A September ago, Houston's J.R. Towles had a big month, then did very little this season. I don't think Teagarden will suffer the same fate. He has six home runs in 35 at-bats.
• Chris Iannetta of the Rockies hit his 16th home run, while also drawing two walks. Like Shoppach, Iannetta wasn't the team's starter in April, but he's going to be regarded as a top-10 catching option next spring.Past editions: 9/15: Z's no-no | 9/14: Lincecum for Cy Young | 9/13: Peavy's problems
The Red Sox hit six home runs in a game for the first time in five seasons, which is not a huge surprise. The fact four of them came off hotshot lefty Scott Kazmir is. Kazmir threw nine straight balls to open the game, then David Ortiz swatted a three-run homer. It was the first homer hit by a lefty off Kazmir all season. It's possible Kazmir gets an extra day off before his next outing, especially if the Rays clinch a playoff spot. ... For Ortiz, struggling this month with one home run and a .213 batting average before Monday, this was a very good sign. ... Dan Johnson, who was not in the starting lineup, slugged a two-run home run in the seventh inning. One would think Johnson would get more starts, after smashing 25 home runs in 113 minor-league games this season, and with Eric Hinske's batting average down to .245. ... The Astros just can't hit when they are the home team in Milwaukee. A day after getting no-hit by Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly took a no-no into the seventh inning. The Astros managed one Mark Loretta hit. Lilly and Zambrano each got a hit themselves over those two games. No major league team has ever been held to one total hit in two games. ... Kevin Slowey lost for the second time in three starts, but for the eighth straight time he permitted three runs or fewer. ... Dewayne Wise can't be stopped. A night after hitting a go-ahead grand slam, Wise accounted for the White Sox' runs with a two-run shot. He has four homers on the season. ... How much are Ken Griffey Jr., and Nick Swisher struggling? They batted seventh and eighth, respectively, and went hitless in six at-bats. Alexei Ramirez batted fifth. ... Alfredo Aceves, No. 91 in your scorebook for the Yankees, pitched well again for the second consecutive start. In 20 major league innings this season, he has a 1.80 ERA. .... Bobby Abreu stole his 19th base of the season. One more and he'll reach 20 for the 10th straight season. Abreu is hitting .337 since the All-Star break. ... Juan Pierre hit a home run for the first time in nearly two years, and 281 games. Yes, the Dodgers are on that kind of a roll. The only active major leaguer who had a longer drought of power was Miguel Cairo (303). Reggie Willits moves into second place with 234 straight games without a homer. ... Late in the game, the Dodgers unveiled Takashi Saito and Brad Penny in relief. Saito hadn't pitched in two months. Don't look for him to steal save chances from Jonathan Broxton. Penny allowed an Adam LaRoche home run. Don't look for him to make any starts. ... John Lannan looked terrific for the Nationals, allowing only one Mets hit in seven innings. Lannan has had an underrated rookie season, as his ERA is 3.97. ... Lastings Milledge stole his 23rd base of the season. He's a good bet for a 20/20 season, at least, in 2009. ... Daisuke Matsuzaka won again, with five competent innings, and now holds the MLB record for wins in a season (17) by a Japanese pitcher. ... Dontrelle Willis made his first start since June, with mixed results. He allowed only two hits in five innings, but his command was off, as he walked five Rangers. One has to wonder if Willis will ever be an effective starter again. ... Gary Sheffield had five home runs at the All-Star break. Now he has 17, after hitting a three-run shot Monday. His batting average still stinks, but at least he's been worth owning. ... Don't get too excited about Kyle Davies tossing eight innings of four-hit ball against the Mariners. His season WHIP entering Monday was 1.66. Now it's 1.54. Hard to believe one can lower their WHIP so much on one night. ... A few young Padres had a memorable night at Coors Field. Struggling second baseman Matt Antonelli hit his first home run, and pitching prospect Wade LeBlanc won his first game. Neither comes recommended these final two weeks. ... Troy Tulowitzki hit a grand slam. He has only four home runs since the All-Star break, but has a .315 batting average and a good walk rate. He remains a top-10 shortstop for 2009. ... Eugenio Velez isn't stealing bases, which is what we expected of him, but his two-hit game Monday was his fifth in six days, and he does have 10 RBIs in the past week. ... Who is this Scott Lewis guy for the Indians, and is he for real? He still hasn't allowed a run in 14 major league innings, winning his second start. Next up are the Tigers, an interesting test. ... Want proof Brandon Lyon is (mercifully) not closing anymore? Chad Qualls hurled a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the save, and Tony Pena got the win with a scoreless eighth.
Mariano Rivera, Yankees
He pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 479th career save, passing Lee Smith for second all-time. Rivera is 36-for-37 on save chances this year with a 1.52 ERA and 0.69 WHIP. Plus, his 10.06 K/9 ratio is his best since 1996.
Brad Hennessey, Giants
Last year's closer picked up the loss despite allowing just three runs, but two homers, over eight innings against the D-backs. Hennessey has a 2.57 ERA in two outings since becoming a starter to lower his ERA to a season-best 8.04.
Cody Ransom got the start at second base for the Yankees, as Robinson Cano was benched for not hustling after a ball Sunday. Cano came in later as a pinch runner. ... Hideki Matsui sat for the third consecutive game. With the Yankees close to being mathematically eliminated, his season should end soon and he can have knee surgery. ... Brandon McCarthy left Monday's start with a sprained tendon in his right middle finger. In his first four starts, only one was a bad one, so keep him in mind next season. It appears his 2008 is over. ... The Mets didn't lose Monday because of the bullpen, but John Maine could be helping the relievers soon. Fantasy owners would prefer he start, of course. ... According to the Boston Globe, the Red Sox are intrigued by Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who could be available this offseason since the team is so deep at the position. Jason Varitek is 36, and hitting .224, you know. ... Mike Lowell says he's playing with a torn labrum in his right hip, but he homered Monday anyway. ... The Brewers fired manager Ned Yost on Monday, but this shouldn't affect fantasy owners. Interim manager Dale Sveum, once a fantasy hero in 1987 when he bashed 23 home runs (66 for his career), has to face the Cubs this week. Don't look for major rotation or batting order changes. ... Michael Cuddyer and his sore foot weren't supposed to start Monday, but there they were batting fifth as the DH. ... Paul Konerko expects to play Tuesday after missing a week with a knee injury. ... The sputtering Kenny Rogers hasn't been worth the gamble for a while, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced he will not pitch again this season.
"Oh, technically, Tampa Bay still leads Boston by a couple of percentage points. But by the time six different Red Sox had finished their home run trots, the American League East was in a virtual tie -- the Rays at 88-60 (.595), the Sox at 89-61 (.593). And all of a sudden, this feel-good series Tampa Bay had waited a lifetime to play didn't feel so good anymore."
-- Jayson Stark Full story
"In fairness to [Brandon] Lyon, it's hard to blame him for the Diamondbacks' recent swoon. Oddly enough, while his ERA since that five-run outing [against the Dodgers on July 20] is 8.59, he hasn't blown a single save over that span. That's mostly because he hasn't been given many save opportunities to blow; only seven, and only two of those since the middle of August. So this isn't a fix nearly as much as a very slight adjustment. Officially demoting Lyon might make sense, but at this point in the race it's just rearranging deck chairs."
-- Rob Neyer Full story
• Most major league teams don't bother putting players on the DL in mid-September, but the Orioles did it anyway with Jeremy Guthrie. His season is over with right shoulder impingement. He should get plenty of time to heal for 2009, and his overall numbers (3.57 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) are better than most people think.
• The Yankees called up pitcher Humberto Sanchez and catcher Francisco Cervelli. Sanchez was one of the team's top arms before Tommy John surgery destroyed his 2007 season. He'll pitch in the Arizona Fall League and is a longshot candidate for the major league rotation next spring.
• The Double-A Texas League title was decided Monday, with Arkansas taking out Frisco 7-3, thanks in part to a homer from left fielder Brian Stavisky. He's 28, and past prospect status, but the Angels are sitting outfielders the final two weeks, so who knows who gets the call? Stavisky had a .930 OPS this season, with 16 home runs and 51 RBIs in 86 games. Switch-hitting catcher Hank Conger would seem worthy of a callup.
• The Triple-A Bricktown Showdown continues Tuesday, with Ian Kennedy of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre scheduled to pitch. Kennedy was obviously a huge disappointment for the Yankees, but he's thrived for the S-WB Yanks. His minor league ERA this season is 2.22. Phil Hughes starts for the Yankees on Wednesday, and Kennedy could earn a start next week.