Batter Stock Watch

Batter Stock Watch

By David Ferris
CSNChicago.com Contributor

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Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Yankees: Perhaps the juices of the pennant race sparked Ichiro this week - he went on a 9-for-12 binge with a homer, three doubles and four stolen bases, just when the Yankees needed him most. The wheels have never really deteriorated with Suzuki over the years, so he's an outstanding stolen-base gambit down the stretch. He's also having a ball in The Bronx: .902 OPS.

B.J. Upton, OF, Rays: The team might be in the toilet now, but Upton's best game has come to the surface over the past 30 days, perhaps part of a contract drive (18 runs, nine homers, 17 RBIs, seven steals). He still has the capability to go 35-35 or 40-40 one of these years; he's only 28. See if you can sneak him under market next spring.

Norichika Aoki, OF, Brewers: He's still ready to grab in about 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues, despite a ballistic month at the top of the Milwaukee order (.333, 20 runs, 16 RBIs, 10 steals). Aoki wasn't running that much in the first half of the year, but it sure looks like he has the NL down pat now. Kudos for the quick adjustment to the new circuit.

Donovan Solano, Utility, Marlins: He qualifies all over the yard in Yahoo! leagues (second, third, short, outfield), and while Solano offers no pop, he can help you with average and stolen bases. Miami faces up against Chris Young this weekend - maybe the easiest pitcher to run on in the majors - so perhaps Solano will be one of the rabbits that takes advantage. We know Ozzie Guillen will let his team run just about any time they want.

Wilin Rosario, C, Rockies: He still needs a lot of work on his defense, but with Rosario's pop at the dish, we're not going to complain. While the majority of his numbers have come at Coors Field, Rosario hasn't been a stiff on the road (.254.284.462, nine homers). He's only 23, the best is certainly yet to come.

Sell

Mark Trumbo, Utility, Angels: The monster first half was a blast (.306, 22 homers), but does Trumbo deserve a lineup spot as the Angels fight for their lives? He's slashing a paltry .211.261.339 over the second half, with 79 strikeouts over 57 games. Mike Scioscia can't watch this horror show forever, and neither can fantasy owners. You have cut-bait permission in shallow and medium leagues.

Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies: The power hasn't left with Howard (he has 10 homers and 29 RBIs over the last month), but don't lose sight of the rest of the package (.192.269.356 slash, 28.6 strikeout rate, worst WAR in the National League). If you need to keep Howard for the moment because you need the late-season pop, that's one thing. But we want no part of this diminished asset at March's draft table.

Scott Podsednik, OF, Red Sox: Okay, it was fun while it lasted. Podsednik isn't stroking hits or getting on base down the stretch (note the anemic .236.250.236 slash), and when he does reach, the running game is stuck in the mud (just two steals). Go find your speciality steals play somewhere else. Podsednik's time as a major leaguer appears to be over.

Carlos Lee, 1BOF, Marlins: He still has elite contact skills, but all that means is a lot of weak grounders to second. The Marlins are living with Lee's .214.273.327 slash over the last month because they couldn't give him away at the trading deadline. The bat is out of frozen ropes.

Bears Grades: Offense ignites to end 1st half, puts up season-high points vs. Niners

Bears Grades: Offense ignites to end 1st half, puts up season-high points vs. Niners

With less than 2 minutes to play in the first half the Bears had gained a total of 45 yards, and had zero pass completions (2 attempts) and zero points . By the end of the half they had 115 yards, Matt Barkley had completed 4 of his last 6 passes and the Bears adjourned for halftime with a 7-6 lead.

For the second straight week Barkley engineered a comeback, this time for a win, and running a two-minute offense that, curiously perhaps for an inexperienced quarterback, seems to suit Barkley even more than the offense run a normal speed. More than one player said that 70-yard drive to finish the first half was a tipping point, on all sides of the football.

The turning point “was that two-minute right before the half,” said right tackle Bobby Massie. “Everybody just executed, did what we needed to do and drove right down the field. Then we come out after the half and drove right down again. It was good.”

More than just good for the offense. “I think that really spurred both sides of the ball to be motivated to finish the game strong,” said Barkley, who got the Bears into the end zone twice in last Sunday’s Tennessee game, and nearly a third, within the final 10 minutes, running 35 plays over the span of those minutes.”

This time the result was the highest point total (26) this season and scores on four out of five possessions beginning with that hurry-up score to end the half.

Quarterback: A-

Once again Barkley was beset by dropped passes, although nowhere near the avalanche of them that defeated him against the Tennessee Titans. Barkley shook off the conditions and poor start to complete 4 of 6 passes on the final drive of the half, for 64 yards – the entire passing production for the half.

Barkley followed a shaky first half with a solid second, completing 7 of 10 passes for 128 yards and zero interceptions, a significant key with the 49ers unable to do much of anything against the Bears defense. Barkley effectively convinced coaches that he could operate in the adverse conditions with passing and not simply handing off to Jordan Howard.

“I thought [the way] he handled the two-minute drive before the half, we had to open it up some and throw the ball,” said coach John Fox. “I thought he executed outstanding.”

Barkley finished with 11-of-18 passing for 192 yards, no touchdowns but no interceptions and a passer rating of 97.5.

Running back: A+

In a game that demanded effective rushing, Jordan Howard delivered a statement game, his fifth in the last eight with 100 rushing yards and 115 total yards of offense.

Howard rushed for 3 touchdowns, giving him five on the year, and carried 32 times, an average of 3.7 that belies the overall, which involved the chemistry of the run game, now averaging 4.4 yards on the season . “He’s fun, man,” said guard Eric Kush. “We block our butts off to try to give him something. Even if it’s not the prettiest block, we try to finish our blocks and give him a chance.”

Howard displayed power inside as well as burst on the Bears’ outside-zone runs that exploited the San Francisco edges. He carried 10 times in the first half, then 22 in the second.

“I’m definitely ready to be that workhorse,” said Howard, who now has 883 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns despite not starting until game four. “Even though they might know the run is coming, they still have to stop it.”

Receivers: B+

Josh Bellamy, replaced in the starting lineup by Deonte Thompson after his drop-laced game against Tennessee, had perhaps one the streakiest game of the Bears year. Bellamy again suffered with drops that included lost TD catches, but Bellamy rebounded to match his career-best 4 catches against Tennessee but with 93 yards and a long of 31 and others of 24, 22 and 16 yards. Bellamy also was handed the ball on an end-around for 12 yards.

All of this despite two egregious drops, one of a potential TD ball with Bellamy two steps behind his defender. “He came up to me and said, ‘Keep feeding me,’” Barkley said. “I’m not going to stop giving those guys the ball… .I’m going to keep coming back to them for the rest of the year.”

Cam Meredith remained in the starting lineup and caught 3 of the 4 passes thrown to him, with Thompson and tight end Daniel Brown catching 2 each.

Offensive line: A

With the adverse weather conditions expected, coaches made a specific challenge to the offensive line to take over this game against a struggling San Francisco front. Guard Josh Sitton was active but still limited with an ankle injury, so coaches stayed with Eric Kush at left guard and were rewarded with some consistent blocking in the run game. Kush executed combination blocks and worked to the second level. Kush and Charles Leno repeatedly dominated the San Francisco left side as the Bears pounded with the run and never let up in the snowy conditions.

“With the conditions, you had to run the ball,” Leno said. “The O-line just tried to come together, not worry about the record and win one week at a time.”

The result was another 100-yard rushing day for Jordan Howard, with 3 touchdowns, and 142 rushing yards, high for the season. “Today the offensive line got great push like they always do,” Howard said.

Barkley was sacked once, in the fourth quarter, on a breakdown in one-on-one blocking by tight end Daniel Brown.

Cody Whitehair going down in the fourth quarter with a leg injury was a blow, but Whitehair was able to return later in the period. The Bears had Sitton dressed and part of field-goal unit, and Sitton came in at right guard and Ted Larsen moved over to center.

Coaching: A

The obvious overall effort and preparation of a 2-9 team for a game of virtually no import to the season was noteworthy, as the Bears again played with intensity and efficiency throughout, including recovering from first-half gaffes on special teams that put the Bears down 6-0.

The defense schemed for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick by staying almost exclusively in a 3-4 front, utilizing three down-linemen and two outside linebackers to pressure Kaepernick and with the speed to thwart his runs. The result was the worst game of Kaepernick’s career, with 20 rushing yards and 4 passing, vs. 25 yards lost to sacks.

The offense held to a run-based mindset and plan, even when the 49ers turned two special-teams mistakes into field goals for the first two scores. The 49ers also relied primarily on man-to-man coverage, committing an extra defender to run defense, but the Bears were willing and able to challenge downfield knowing that the San Francisco pass rush was hampered by the field conditions.

“Props to Dowell[Loggains, offensive coordinator] and the whold coaching staff for getting us ready and making adjustments like that during the game,” Barkley said.

Special teams was again mistake-prone with mental breakdowns compounded by physical mistakes.

Morning Update: Bears beat 49ers; Blackhawks' offense struggles in loss to Jets

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USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bears beat 49ers; Blackhawks' offense struggles in loss to Jets

Here are some of the top stories from Sunday in Chicago sports:

Five Things to Watch: Bulls back in action against Trail Blazers

Tune in tonight for Chicago Bulls Charities Night

Blackhawks score late but can't get past Jets

Bears offense finds groove in win over 49ers

Winter meetings preview: Why teams will find trying to copy a ‘Cubs Way’ rebuild is easier said than done

White Sox revamp would mean fewer 'stopgaps' and 'half-measures'

Significance of Bears win over 49ers lies beyond records and score

Five Things from Blackhawks-Jets: Offense still anemic

Bears' Matt Barkley 'showing the world' he can be a starting QB in the NFL

Lars Johansson excited for Blackhawks call-up