Studs and duds: August 30 – September 5

Frank Schwindel is a feel good story. Let’s enjoy his excellent play while he’s on top. Also, Robbie Ray is back.

Two thumbs up to you, too, Frank. (Wikipedia).

Offensive stud: Frank Schwindel (1B, Cubs). Schwindel is certainly the least likely Stud we’ve had so far. The 29-year-old rookie, who debuted two years ago with a 1-for-15 showing for Kansas City, has hit an incredible .462/.500/1.038 with 5 home runs, 12 RBI and 7 runs scored over the past week. And he’s not swinging randomly and getting lucky—in 26 at-bats, he has just 3 strikeouts.

With three 3-hit games in a row, he is riding a seven-game hitting streak and hasn’t gone more than one game without a knock since August 21. Since being selected off waivers by Chicago from Pittsburgh on July 18, he has hit .370/.409/.706 with 10 home runs, 8 doubles, 29 RBI and 22 runs scored. His season average has gone from .143 to .338 in a little more than a month.

Honorable mention: Lourdes Gourriel (OF, Blue Jays; .389/.450/.944, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 1 GS).

Offensive dud: Charlie Culberson (3B, Rangers). Culberson’s shoddy performance over the past seven days (1-for-6, 2 K, 3 E) keeps him in this inglorious position. Depressed offensive statistics are the norm for the utilityman, who last year had an OPS+ of 2 in 9 games with Atlanta and who, in 95 games with Colorado in 2014, slashed just .195/.253/.290 with 62 strikeouts in 210 at-bats. Though his defensive versatility is a plus, his defense as a whole is middling, as his career dWAR is -1.5. On the bright side, he ranks sixth in the American League in sacrifice hits this season, with 4.

Dishonorable mention: Ryan McKenna (OF, Orioles; 1-for-11, 8 K, 1 E).

Pitching stud: Robbie Ray (SP, Blue Jays). Another week, another incredible run by Robbie Ray. In 13 2/3 frames over his past two starts, both of which he won, Ray Ked 20 men and walked just 4; batters hit .111 against him and scored just 2 earned runs. That brings his ERA since June 1 to 2.05 in 114 innings.

While Toronto has pitched well this season—their 3.89 team ERA is fifth-best in the American League—Ray and his league-leading 2.60 ERA and 172 ERA+ stand head and shoulders above the rest of the staff. No other starter has an mark under 3.63 (Alek Manoah).

If I was a betting man, I would say the Cy Young race will be between Ray and Gerrit Cole, who is 14-6 with a 2.73 ERA and league-leading 215 strikeouts. For his part, Ray is also pacing the loop in innings pitched (166), batters faced (657) and H/9 IP ratio (6.7).

Honorable mention: Julio Urias (SP, Dodgers; 2-0 W-L, 11 2/3 IP, 15 K, 2.31 ERA).

Pitching dud: Dillon Tate (RP, Orioles). Tate won’t go away for another day; because of his poor play, he’s here to stay. Three losses in three appearances will do that to you, especially when your job is to, uh, maintain the lead. Andres Machado (2 2/3 IP, 5 ER, 2 L, 1 BSV) and Joe Smith (1/3 IP, 2 ER, 1 L, 1 BSV) were close on his tail, but his futility keeps him here yet again. I’d say, “send him packing, Baltimore!” but who, really, can replace him?

Dishonorable mention: Andres Machado (RP, Nationals; 2 2/3 IP, 5 ER, 2 L, 1 BSV).

Studs and duds: August 29 – September 4

Blackmon has been an All-Star four times. (Wikipedia).

Charlie Blackmon resembled the Charlie of old, while Jose Berrios looked like the pitcher baseball fans were expecting as he came up through the Twins system.

Offensive stud: Charlie Blackmon (OF, Rockies). Blackmon is proof a player doesn’t need a high batting average to be productive.

Since August 29, he’s gone 6-for-26 at the dish to give him a .231 mark and a middling .300 on-base percentage.  But those only tell part of the story. Of his 6 knocks, 3 were home runs, including a grand slam on September 2 against Atlanta. He’s scored 8 runs and driven 9 in, while drawing 3 walks and stealing a base—quite a feat for the outfielder, who has just 3 on the year.

Blackmon hammered out an excellent run from 2016 to 2019, slashing .315/.376/.558 with 127 home runs and 342 RBI and though his 2021 has been a down campaign, shades of the Charlie of old show through from time to time.

Honorable mention: Mark Canha (OF, Athletics; .348/.444/.913, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 8 R).

Offensive dud: Charlie Culberson (3B, Rangers). Before playing in a game on September 1, Culberson hadn’t appeared in one since August 19—and his recent performance might keep him out of them in the future.

He went 1-for-6 with 2 strikeouts and 3 errors to extend what has already been a mediocre campaign. But that’s really not saying much, since his whole career has been subpar—he has been around 9 years, played 506 games and owns -0.3 WAR. In terms of OPS+, the season has actually been his second best, with his 88 mark bettered only by the 111 he posted with Atlanta in 2018.

He is a career .248/.296/.388 hitter whose primary calling card is his defensive versatility: He’s played every position except catcher—he even owns a 2.08 ERA in 5 games on the mound.

Dishonorable mention: Ryan McKenna (OF, Orioles; 0-for-11, 8 K, 1 E).

In 2018, Berrios tied for the league lead with 2 complete games and 1 shutout. (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Jose Berrios (SP, Blue Jays). For a couple years, Jose Berrios was ranked one of the top prospects in the game, but he never lived up to that billing.

Perhaps now, finally, he has arrived. In his past two starts, Berrios pitched 13 2/3 innings and walked nary a soul—while striking 18 of them out. Posting a 1.98 ERA, he won both his appearances, including his 10th victory of the year. He now leads the American League in starts (27), innings pitched (159 2/3) and batters faced (655); his 3.55 ERA ranks 5th.

Though twice an All-Star, he owns an okay-but-not-great 4.07 career mark and 107 OPS+—not quite what was expected of Baseball America’s 28th-best prospect going into 2016.

Honorable mention:  Julio Urias (SP, Dodgers; 2-0, 11 2/3 IP, 15 K, 2.31 ERA).

Pitching dud: Dillon Tate (RP, Orioles). Tate retains his title for another day after going 0-3 with 5 hits and 4 earned runs allowed in 1 1/3 innings over the past week.

It hasn’t been an easy go of it thus far in the former #4 overall draft pick’s major league career, as he owns a 4.82 ERA in 79 games—but there is hope. In 2020 with Baltimore, he managed a 149 ERA+ and 3.24 ERA in 12 appearances and as recently as 2019, his minor league mark was 3.25 in 44 1/3 innings between three clubs.

Going into 2016, Baseball America rated him the 69th-best prospect in all the land and though his numbers on the farm have been okay (22-13 W-L, 0.8 HR/9) they’re a far cry of what was expected of him—he was drafted ahead of guys like Walker Buehler, Brandon Lowe,  Paul DeJong and David Fletcher.

Dishonorable mention: Joe Smith (RP, Mariners; 1/3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, BS, L).