When it comes to discussing potential improvement, or lack thereof, you almost have to begin with Pat "no bat" Burrell. Let me first say that if Burrell ends the season hitting .192 with 21 homers and 60 RBIs, I think my head would explode from shock that such a talented player could do so bad over a full season. The problem with trying to predict what Pat will do in the second half is that his historical pre All-Star/post All-Star splits don't show a significant difference. Also, he really hasn't been able to sustain even a mini hot streak this season, so there isn't much one could point to that would provide reasonable statistical evidence for a strong second half. So, with that said, I'm going with my gut when I say he'll improve. By how much is anyone's guess though. I'll go out on a limb and predict a final stat line of about .240-.250, 25-30 homers and 75-90 RBIs. As mentioned earlier, he is on pace for 21 homers, so with some improvement, 30 wouldn't be an impossible feat. How Burrell players immediately after play resumes on Thursday could end up determining whether he does emerge from his funk, or not. So watch closely, and cross your fingers.
It looks like many fantasy owners are worried about whether Jim Thome will bring his batting average above it's current spot at .266 or not. Jim has hit above .290 in five of his previous 12 seasons, including his last two straight (he hit .304 last year and .291 in '01), which seems to have brought fantasy gamers to expect a similar performance in his first go around with the Phils. Luckily, he should have a chance to get back in that .290 range by season's end. Thome's horrible .227 average in April has been a driving force in keeping his overall average down so far. The good news is, the former Indian is hitting .289 so far this month, which should be the start of a positive trend in that department for Jimmy. Over the last three years, he's hit .312 in the second half, as opposed to .277 in the first, so precedent is there for an average boost.
The guy that should improve the most in the second half almost has to be Marlon Byrd, simply because he'll see more at bats, and at a better position in the lineup. In the last month and a half, Marlon has hit a delightful .357 with two homers, 11 RBIs, and two stolen bases. Now that he's hitting first, Byrd will probably attempt a few more stolen bases, especially since he's three for three so far in that category. His power numbers are starting to come around as well, as he's hit a dinger in each of the last two months after smacking exactly zero in the first three months of the season. Those of you in NL only leagues have most likely snatched Marlon off the waiver wire already, but if you're in a deep ML universe league, you may want to think about adding the young outfielder as well.
On the mound, Vicente Padilla is going to be out to prove that he can pitch well in the second half of the season, after such a disappointing stretch run in '02. Since correcting his delivery so he doesn't tip off his pitches, Padilla has had just two bad starts, and added five wins to his total. Despite losing five straight decisions at one point, Vicente is still on pace for 14 wins, and thanks to his recent improvement, that number should be higher when all is said and done. As we all know by now, he didn't play winter ball in this past offseason, so his arm should be ready to take another half season of use without falling off like it did last year.
Looking for someone to come out of nowhere with a strong second half that could help your team's run for the title? This week's non-Phillie just might be that guy. With a line of .225/6/33 so far this season, Adrian Beltre hasn't exactly been a stud producer. But looking at his stats, this isn't anything new for him. In fact, his first half batting average over the last three years has been at a dismal .234, but in the second half, it jumps up to .281. His power numbers show improvement as well, going from one homer in every 40.8 at bats to one in every 27.6 down the stretch. So, if your club has a hole at the hot corner, give Beltre a look.
Alright everyone, that'll do it for this week. If you have any questions or comments for me, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, with "PBN" in the subject line. Until next time, I'm out like one of Pujols' home run balls in the derby.