Steve Prefontaine's life was worthy of two biopics (Without Limits is the one you should own), and the Anthony Rizzo promotion has received similar attention from the Yahoo! Fantasy Staff. In alphabetical order, here's your link guide to all things Rizzo: the Andy Behrens takes are here and here, the Brad Evans spin is here, and the Brandon Funston lowdown is here. And if you want my take on Rizzo, it's a regular topic of conversation in the Sunday chat. Now, back to your regularly-scheduled program.
I'll admit I thought the Quintin Berry story was over the moment Austin Jackson returned from the disabled list a couple of weeks back. But the unheralded outfielder seems to have alligator blood, he keeps hanging around.
Berry's profile doesn't fit a corner outfield spot — he's a slap hitter with hardly any power — and he obviously wasn't going to keep the center field gig in front of Jackson. But Jim Leyland is desperate for any offense he can get, and he's giving Berry a chance to settle into the left-field job.
Berry had another productive game in Monday's 8-2 romp at Texas, reaching base twice, scoring two runs and stealing a bag. He's hitting .307 for his 30-game trial, and reaching base at a .397 clip. And he's a perfect 12-for-12 on steal attempts.
It's been a revolving door for the Tigers in the No. 2 slot this year. Brennan Boesch has been in and out of that spot, not contributing much. Andy Dirks had a nice run before landing on the DL. Berry's been the man there of late, producing admirably over nine games (.367, seven runs, four steals). Batting in front of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder is a nice gig, especially while the Tigers visit the offensive paradise of Rangers Ballpark. I can't guarantee you this story is going to last through the entire second half, but let's have fun in the here and now. Q-Bert awaits your call in 92 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• Monday night was a fruitful evening for a handful of suspect pitchers who have been panned regularly in this blog. Ricky Nolasco posted bagels against the Cardinals but I'm a long way from falling into that trap. Luke Hochevar has been terrific for about a month, but he could turn into quicksand at any minute (look at the career numbers again). Rick Porcello had the dodgeball working in Arlington, one for the fluke file. If you want a low-strikeout arm for your mixer, that's your business. Everyone knows the downside with Barry Zito, too.
But then there's the Mat Latos gem against Milwaukee (CG, 4 H, 1 R, 13 K). That's a game we have to put under the microscope. Take a look at the pictures first, and then we'll talk about the numbers.
I've never found Latos to be a guy who makes a lot of sense when it comes to linear analysis. His Petco Park stats were never that wonderful (3.11 ERA, 1.15) given his raw skills and numbers on the road. When this guy is locked in, the park doesn't matter. When he's out of sorts, no environment is likely to save him. His career numbers at Great American Ballpark (3.18 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) are similar to the Petco return, albeit the San Diego sample is based on 20 additional starts.
Latos's last big strikeout number came May 6 at Pittsburgh, an 11-whiff afternoon. It wasn't the springboard to any wonderful run: he only produced one quality start in his ensuing five turns. A lot of knee-jerk analysts will point to the Monday effort as the beginning of Latos turning things around, but I'd be careful of that pitfall.
I know the upcoming schedule looks appetizing (at San Francisco, at San Diego), but the mirage can disappear at any time. Are you buying for the long haul, or Latos Intolerant for good? Discuss in the comments. I think it's the perfect time to shop him around, pitching Monday's highlight tape and the two matchups to come.
• Maybe Ron Gardenhire is taking a page from the Mike Scioscia bullpen blueprint, and if so, I'm applauding. The Twins have used a combination of lefty Glen Perkins and righty Jared Burton in the closing chair over the last week, and Monday's usage patterns follow a logical, game-specific path. Both men pitched one scoreless inning, working around one base runner. Win, Twins.
Perkins worked Monday's eighth inning, a smart place for him with Alejandro De Aza leading off and Adam Dunn slated third. That's a terrific time to put the platoon advantage in your favor (De Aza has a very modest gap against lefties, but obviously Dunn hates them). Burton them came on for the ninth, securing his second handshake in two days. Perkins was the ninth-inning man back on Wednesday and Friday.
A time-share isn't what save chasers want in shallow leagues: if you're in a pool with eight or ten teams, you need someone getting the ninth all to themselves. But a matchup-driven bullpen allows handshake hounds in deeper leagues to consider two potential pickups. Perkins is free in 85 percent of Yahoo! leagues, while Burton is available in 92 percent of the Y! world.
• The Brewers aren't going anywhere in 2012, but let's hear it for outfielder Norichika Aoki. He's quietly rolling along with a respectable .280/.345/.445 line as one of the team's table setters, and he sneaked a four-steal game on Saturday night while you were out living your life. Aoki was the only Brewer who solved Latos on Monday, coming through with a homer and a walk, and he's hanging in just fine against lefties. Deep-league Yahooligans can add him freely, as he's owned in just four percent of our world.
• Anyone in a weekly-transaction league had a difficult call to make with Tommy Milone. The soft-rock lefty was a smart play Monday at Seattle (7 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K), but a trip to Arlington looms for later in the week. I consider Milone's road ERA (6.39) to be partially driven by an unlucky schedule; he's already worked in Boston, Denver, Arizona and Texas. Only the Rangers are a potential problem going forward — those other parks won't show up again. Skip Milone for Saturday, but come back to him next week, at home against Seattle.
Ryan Cook had his first misstep as Oakland closer over the weekend, but he was back in form Monday (two whiffs, one walk, one handshake). He's a Circle of Trust stopper. And perhaps the A's will still be able to move veteran Grant Balfour in a deadline deal; he's posted a 0.77 ERA in 11.2 innings this month (four walks, 11 K). No contending club would be looking at Balfour as a closer, anyway.
Speed Round: Francisco Liriano picked up Minnesota's victory, going seven strong innings against the White Sox. I refuse to make any sort of long-term investment here, but he's been sharp since rejoining the rotation six starts ago (2.41 ERA, 14 BB, 40 K). A .216 BABIP is obviously driving part of the story, but if Liriano keeps the strikeouts and walks in order, he'll be fine. He's at home against the Royals this weekend. … Maybe Ben Revere is the player we thought Michael Bourn would be three months ago (before Bourn discovered his power stroke and stepped up in class). Revere collected four hits and another bag Monday; he's up to .331 for the year, and has 49 steals over his last 156 games. … If Rizzo sticks with the Cubs (and most are betting he will), Tony Campana's playing time takes a major hit. The club plans to use Bryan LaHair in right field and David DeJesus in center most of the time. … Heath Bell handed away Nolasco's win, allowing four runs in the ninth against the Cardinals (capped by a Yadier Molina homer). But we'll cut Bell some slack: he was terrific in his 10 previous appearances (9.1 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 16 K). … Jose Vaverde (wrist) says he's good to go, passing two minor tests over the weekend (including an eight-inning throwing session Sunday). I'd hang onto Joaquin Benoit for a little longer, just in case. … There's a likely Roto Arcade chat coming Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET, to celebrate the latest Jair Jurrjens start. Mark your calendars, see if you can join us.