Tuesday, July 24, 2007

1974 Topps #284

Dave Duncan has a lot to be proud of these days. Son Chris has hit .294/.384/.569 for the Cardinals so far this year, and even if he is a little butchertastic in the outfield, he's certainly shut up some of the nepotism cries heard last fall when he was called up from Memphis to join the big league club with dad for good.

Shelly Duncan, however, had to wait a little while longer with the Yankees. He tore up AAA ball this year to the tune of a .957 OPS to force his way on the Yankee roster this month and has hit 3 home runs in just 17 at-bats. I was telling Will recently that I'm not worried about the Red Sox's recent .500ish record or the Yankee's recent surge but Shelly Duncan is exactly the kind of hitter Kevin Maas was in 1991 or Shane Spencer was for 27 games in 1998. It's easy to point out that those hitters starting falling off a cliff the following April because pitchers soon figured out how to get them out. But while the rest of the AL East is trying to figure out Shelly Duncan out, they'll pitch to him and when he's pitched to, he can hit a ton. It's not hard to imagine a Massesque rest-of-the-way from Shelly and bringing him up was vintage Brian Cashman, the kind of brilliantly useful filler moves he used to make all the time before George Steinbrenner started making more executive decisions. Bringing up Shelly plus giving Andy Phillips a full-time job instead of dicking around with some putrid combination of Miguel Cairo/Josh Phelps/Whatever's Left of Douggie Mientkiewxyz at first has been paying off for the Yanks, when you consider that an upgrade from a collectively shitty first baseman to a merely average one is still a pretty good upgrade in and of itself.

Me, I'm encouraged by what I'm now convinced is Dave Magadan's brilliance as a hitting coach. First, he fixed Covelli Crisp and according to this, he's fixed David Ortiz's swing as well. Has he cured Julio Lugo, too? The shortstop is finally hitting like the player the Red Sox signed, with a 14-game hitting streak as of blog time. The pitching rotation is 7 deep with Jon Lester's comeback completed, the bullpen has been stabilized with Manny Delcarmen's promotion and Prince Theo has a valuable trading chip in Wily Mo Pena to net something before next Tuesday's trading deadline.

Know who's actually a bit underrated? Daisuke Matsuzaka. There are over 75 starting pitchers in the American League but you can't name a dozen better than what Daisuke has been this year. Go on, try and name a dozen.

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