First half report: the pitchers, manager and coaches
Time agian for the eagerly awaited, much anticipated, widely debated, half masticated, slightly inebriated, somewhat ruminated Office quarterly report. I’ll start us off with the hurlers and the braintrust.
First, the good news.
Kimbrel. A+. He’s simply the best closer in the game. His all star game performance confirmed that, which made me smile. Since early May, Kimbrel has been like the 5-foot-10 12-year-old who overpowers all the other, smaller kids. Big league hitters have barely touched him since his first 11 appearances. He allowed nine hits in those first 11 games, as he found the range with his slider and perfected his fastball command. Since then, woe be to NL batsmen. In 22 inniings since, he has allowed four hits and a single earned run. That comes to an ERA of .41. Kimbrel has not walked a batter in his last 19 innings. So, yeah, A-plus.
Huddy, A. This wiry 37-year-old personifies guts and guile. His 7 shutout innings at Philly in his last start comprised a masterpiece of the G&G genre. Tim’s few bad outings have mostly come at home. On the road, he’s 4-1, with a 1.94 ERA. Overall he’s fashioned a 2.41 ERA in June and July and for the season he’s averaging 6-2/3 IP a start. One key to his success: he’s keeping the ball in the yard. Huddy’s allowing just .4 homers per 9 innings, the fourth best mark in the league.
Beachy, A. He was the team’s clear No. 1 and among the best in the game before he blew out the arm. If it’s possible, his loss has proven to be even more devestating than it appeared it would be. Bill James was right.
Hanson, B-. Tommy’s been solid. Surmount the six-inning barrier more consistently and he’d be flirting with genuine acehood. It’d be a huge help if he could do that in the second half.
Delgado, C. All in all, he’s done as expected for a rookie in a contender’s rotation. He has flashed brilliance — at Miami and at home against Balttimore, to name a couple examples. Other times he’s been sunk by one bad inning. Hallmarks of a kid pitcher. Long-term, I think he’s going to be a good big league starter, here or somewhere else. I hope it’s here.
Minor, D. He’s been like Delgado, only worse. However, he has shown promising sings lately. Unlike Huddy, he has not kept the ball in the yard, ranking among the worst in baseball at serving up gopher balls. Looks like he’ll stay in the rotation when Sheets joins it. Let’s hope that proves the right call.
JJ, C-. His recent decent work earns him this grade. He clearly would’ve gotten an F based on his first go-round. His 2012 chapter 2 has hardly been dominant, except his first return start, but he has been effective.
Venters, D. Painful to watch the game’s best setup man the past two years devolve into such a mess. He can’t control his slider, nor his fastball.
O’Flaherty, B. He’s returning to form after a rough start to the season. Thank goodness. His WHIP, ERA and batting average allowed have all dropped in each month this season. He’s given up just 2 earned runs in his past 14 appearances. Keep that up, please.
Medlen, B-. Medlen also appears to be righting himself recently. We should keep in mind that this is his first season back from Tommy John.
Christhian Martinez, B-. He’s been OK, which is good enough in his role.
Durbin, B+. Where would the team be without April’s whipping boy? For a long stretch, he was the team’s second best reliever. As was apparent to no one except Wren, I guess, Durbin was a shrewd, cheap pickup.
In the dugout
Fredi, D. Despite his woeful performance, I hold out hope that he’ll suddenly learn from his mistakes. Silly me. I’d love to know what the players think of him. At least publicly there has been no grousing or second-guessing from the troops, so that’s good. And to the extent he helped make the decision to bring up Simmons, that’s good on him.
McDowell, C. I’m leery of judging pitching and hitting coaches too much. But there is scant evidence to suggest that McDowell has fixed any mechanical flaws or seriously helped any young pitchers. Maybe he helped Durbin.
Walker/Fletcher, B+. J-Hey appears back. That was job one. The offense has been better than last season, though the consistently superb at-bats of April have come and gone since.
Wren, B-. It’s tough to judge the GM because it’s difficult to know how much he controls the purse strings. It’s easy to fault him for not constructing a stronger bench. Francisco has proven to be a decent addition, offering passable power production in limited ABs. Durbin, again, has been a godsend. And promoting Simmons was obviously the right move. It’s not Wren’s fault Venters lost it or that Beachy got hurt. The year’s story on Wren will be told over the next three or four weeks.
CB will be along directly with grades for hitting and defense.