Roto Roundup: Nelson Cruz, Jason Hammel, Tim Lincecum and Others

May 25, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz (17) celebrates after hitting a grand slam home run against the Toronto Blue Jays in the seventh inning at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-US PRESSWIRE

Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz had a slow start to the 2012 season, as he hit just .247-.309-.382 with 2 HRs and 11 RBI in April. May has been much better, especially after his night at the plate on Friday. Cruz went 4-5 with a grand slam a double and 8 RBI. Yes, EIGHT RBI. He is now hitting .275-.328-.421 with 5 HRs and 31 RBI on the season. The RBI total places him 6th in the AL in that category.

Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow followed up his best start of the season by getting just two outs last night, giving up 6 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks. He threw a complete game 3 hit shutout in his last outing. His effort last night raised his ERA to 3.47 and his WHIP to 1.07, both are very solid compared to his 2011. He has given up 6 runs in 3 of his 10 starts, but he has pitched very well in his other 7 starts where he has given up one run or less in 6 of those 7 starts.

I wrote about Pirates starter A.J. Burnett on Friday morning discussing how he is pitching better than his overall stats indicate. Last night, he shut out the Cubs for 5.1 innings giving up 6 hits, walking two and striking out 6. He is now 3-2 on the season with a 4.19 ERA, 3.28 FIP and 2.94 xFIP, a 1.35 WHIP, and a 39-12 strikeout to walk ratio in 43.0 innings of work. He has now given up 2 runs or less in 6 of his 7 starts this season. He, like Morrow, is prone to the to blowup game from time to time, but he has been a much more consistent pitcher in the National League this season.

I am surprised this guy didn't get hurt with this amazing catch.

More Roto Roundup after the jump:

The Orioles are certainly the top choice for surprise team of 2012 so far as they are leading the American League East by a game over the Rays. One of the reasons for the Orioles hot start is Adam Jones, who is close to signing a 6 year, $85 million contract, and starter Jason Hammel. Hammel is defying all conventional fantasy wisdom that says pitchers usually struggle when moving from the NL to the AL, and for drafting starters who pitch for an AL East team. Hammel shut out the Royals for 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk and striking out 7. He is now 6-1 with a 2.78 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and a 53-17 strikeout to walk ratio in 55 innings. He has given up 2 runs or less in 7 of his 9 starts thus far in 2012.

I was down on Giants starter Tim Lincecum this offseason. I traded him in the UBA NL-only keeper league, and included him in my 10 to avoid as well. The time might be approaching where you will have to decide to drop him or not. If I owned him right now, I would think long and hard about dropping him, or at least putting feelers out there for anyone interested in trading for him. The offers may not come though. Lincecum put up a bunch of crooked numbers again last night, giving up 6 runs on 6 hits, 2 home runs, 4 walks and 5 strikeouts vs the Marlins. Over his 10 starts this season, he has given up 4 runs or more in 7 of those 10 starts, and is 2-5 with a 6.41 ERA , 3.47 FIP , 3.69 xFIP, a 1.61 WHIP and a 58-29 strikeout to walk ratio in 53.1 innings. The strikeout rate is nice, but the walk rate and ERA is not. His BABIP is up to .353 this season from .281 in 2011, and his strand rate is an absurd 59.3%, so owners should be able to count on some regression in his strand rate going forward.

For those who think Lincecum may be hurt, here is this tweet from Andrew Baggarly at Comcast Sports Network:

Andrew Baggarly ‏@CSNBaggs

SF trainer Dave Groeschner held a 10-minute postgame meeting with Lincecum. But Groeschner told me Lincecum is healthy and in good shape...

Rockies catcher Ramon Hernandez was placed on the DL with a hand injury on Friday, which makes rookie catcher Wilin Rosario the starting catcher for now. Last night, he went 2-3 with a walk and a run scored in the Rockies 6-3 win over the Reds last night. Rosario could very well be the starter for the rest of the year as Hernandez is no spring chicken. Rosario isn't hitting for a high BA, but does have 6 HRs and 15 RBI in 75 at bats and owns a .547 slugging percentage.

Another starter who put up some crooked numbers last night was Red Sox starter Jon Lester, as he gave up 7 runs on 6 hits, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts and 3 home runs. Lester is now 3-4 on the season with a 4.72 ERA, 4.31 FIP and 4.05 xFIP, a 1.36 WHIP and a 41-22 strikeout to walk ratio in 61.0 innings pitched. One source of Lester's struggles this season is his strikeout rate, which has fallen this season. Here is a look at his K/9 since 2009:

2009: 9.96

2010: 9.74

2011: 8.55

2012: 6.05

Over that same time frame, his swinging strike rate has fallen from 11.1% in 2009 to 7.7% this season. According to his Pitchfx he isn't throwing his cut fastball as much as in 2011, and has replaced it in his repertoire with more sinkers and change ups, for what it's worth.

Angels first baseman Albert Pujols hit another HR last night, giving him 5 HRs in his last 10 games, but as Baseball Nation's Rob Neyer writes in this article, he still isn't walking this season. Here is an excerpt from Neyer's piece:

He was consistent about it, too. From 2006 through 2010 -- and removing the intentional walks from the figuring -- Pujols drew walks in 15, 15, 17, 18, and 16 percent of his plate appearances; average of the five seasons: 16 percent.

In 2011, though? Ten percent.

Just a fluke, though, right? After all, he finished the season so strong!

But maybe it wasn't such a fluke. This season the figure is six percent. I don't think Pujols's walk rate will be stuck on six percent all season ... but I also don't think he's getting it back to 16 percent again. For whatever reason, he seems to have become a different, lesser hitter since 2010. Maybe it's just the natural aging process, but this particular part of his game has undergone an extreme decline, and it's necessarily impacted his overall production.

To add to Neyer's point, Pujols still isn't hitting either. Over the last 10 games where he has homered in 5 of them, he has raised his BA from .213 to just .227. The question for fantasy owners is how much longer will he hit like this? According to ESPN, he is on pace for just 21 HRs and 86 RBI this season, by far his worst season of his career.

Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings will be out for another week according to Marc Topkin at the Tampa Bay Times:

Jennings had been progressing well in recovery from a left knee sprain, and it sounded earlier this week like he would be ready shortly after his Sunday eligibility date. But Maddon said Jennings would first increase his amount of baseball activities, then go on a short minor-league rehab and possibly rejoin the team by the end of next week.

So, for those of you in weekly leagues, make sure you keep him on the DL for next week.

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