Greetings, sports fans. Hopefully this finds you on a beach somewhere or near a lake or even on your couch with the AC blasting. If not, I apologize that you are stuck in the industrial jungle, still punching the clock with the promise of Independence Day dancing on the periphery of your mind.
But, do not despair for, at least for the new few minutes, you can be transported from your office chair/checkout counter/work space to the diamond as I regale you with the exploits of a brave eight baseball players, who all hail from the greatest conference on either side of the Mississippi.
Jason Grilli (Seton Hall)
The voting for the All Star game closed on Thursday and the final teams will be announced on Sunday. Since pitchers cannot be voted on, Grilli won't have his name called during the selection show, but he has a shot at being put on by manager Bruce Bochy. Obviously, there is no barometer of how likely it is that he will make the cut, but with not a single Brave in the top five of voting at any position and Freddie Freeman on the DL, Grilli could be the guy, although ace Shelby Miller and his minuscule 2.20 ERA probably has the edge.
However, with a spiffy ERA of his own (2.93), which continues to fall, and an impressive 22 saves, the fourth most in the NL, Grilli has been one of the most effective relievers around. He had a few stumbles this past week, as he took a loss on June 26 after allowing a walkoff double to Pittsburgh's Jordy Mercer in the bottom of the 10th inning. He recovered nicely and collected two saves in his next three outings, while pushing his strikeout total to 39, which has come in just 30 2/3 innings.
Joe Panik (St. John's)
The average temperature in the greater San Francisco area during the last week was approximately 62 degrees. It was a nice cool week. You could throw on a tank during the day and curl up under a blanket at night. It is this writer's opinion that Panik pushed the temperature readings up at least five degrees after the blistering week he had at the plate. In 30 at bats, he hit safely 13 times. That is good enough for a .433 batting average. He also smacked two more doubles, giving him 21 for the season. He is tied for the eighth most in baseball in two-baggers, putting him in company with Andrew McCutchen, Matt Carpenter and Brett Gardner.
Panik's stroke is beautiful to behold and he uses it to get the barrel on the ball frequently. Among MLB second basemen, he ranks fourth in hard hit percentage (30.7), per FanGraphs. His overall contributions have been numerous as well, as he has a WAR of 2.86. Only three other second basemen in all of MLB has been better: Jason Kipnis (4.95), Dee Gordon (3.07) and Brian Dozier (2.97).
However, Panik did take a beating in the NL All-Star voting this week as he slipped to fourth among NL second basemen. According to the most recent update from Monday, he trails Miami's Dee Gordon, St. Louis' Kolten Wong and Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips in the voting. Unless there was a huge wave of #VotePanik support before Thursday's deadline, Panik likely has a few vacation days coming rather than a trip to Cincinnati. Unless he chooses to vacation in the Queen City. That is up to him.
Matt Szczur (Villanova)
Szczur has not played in the last two days but it is clear that he is making himself comfortable as a utility player off the bench. From June 22 to June 30 he played every day, including four starts. During that time he hit .300 (6-for-20) and drove in two runs to go with a home run. On Tuesday, he went 2-for-4 with an RBI double. The run he drove in proved to be the winning one in a 1-0 final against the Mets. With that performance he finally dragged himself back above the Mendoza line, as he is now hitting .214 for the season. All signs point upward for everyone's favorite ex-Wildcat.
Pat Neshek (Butler)
Neshek was uneven this past week, posting a 3.38 ERA in three appearances. He allowed two runs, only one of which was earned, in taking his first loss of the season on June 27, as the Yankees pulled out a 9-6 victory. He cleaned things up over the course of 1 2/3 innings in his next two times on the hill, twirling a shutout inning in a 4-0 win over Kansas City followed by 2/3 scoreless innings in a 6-5 win, also against the Royals. That second effort pushed his total for holds to 20 and was his first since June 21 against Seattle.
Amir Garrett (St. John's)
Garrett had another short start this week, as he only went five innings against the Palm Beach Cardinals, but they were a good five innings. He did not allow a run and struck out eight batters as he picked up his third win of the season. He still let a few too many baserunners on, with the Cardinals getting three hits and as many walks. Garrett has been inconsistent in keeping ducks off the pond, as his WHIP stands at 1.33, but his swing and miss stuff is still enticing. He has fanned 80 batters in 72 innings. He is 3-5 with a 3.00 ERA overall.
Darin Ruf (Creighton)
Ruf went 1-for-5 with an RBI in his only start of the last eight days, when he played first base against Washington in the second half of a double header last Sunday. His RBI single in the bottom of the fourth scored Maikel Franco and was part of an 8-6 victory for the Fightins. He saw time as a fielding replacement or pinch hitter a number of times as well, but was hitless in his seven other plate appearances. He is batting .228 with an uninspiring .637 OPS overall.
Danny Burawa (St. John's)
The last edition of BEITBL was highlighted by Burwawa's call-up to the majors. Unfortunately, the good times were short lived as Burawa is back in Scranton pitching for the Railriders. (And hopefully grabbing a drink or two at Poor Richards with Dwight). In his lone appearance with the Yankees, he allowed four runs on three hits in just 2/3 of an inning. He has pitched three times since, all at the Triple A level. His confidence may have been shaken a bit, as he allowed three runs over 4 1/3 innings of relief. His ERA has risen from 1.75 to 2.23 over the last two weeks.
Pat Venditte (Creighton)
It looks like Venditte is still on the path to returning, as he played a lengthy game of catch earlier this week.
#Athletics Pat Venditte (DL rt shoulder) threw 80 pitches playing catch, half RH, half LH. Half 60 ft, half 75 ft. Throws again Weds.— John Hickey (@JHickey3) June 29, 2015
Unfortunately, there still doesn't seem to be an exact timetable for his return but it could still be in the near-ish future.
Venditte is playing catch out to 90 feet. A's are looking to get him off a mound during the All-Star break.— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) July 3, 2015
Well that's it for this week. Now go eat a hot dog or eight.