We had a light slate of action on Thursday, and there was that one pesky afternoon game that forced us to set our lineups early in the day. As we head into a busy weekend of baseball and roster planning, let’s take a look back at some of the performances that stood out from the day in baseball. For the most part, it was the pitching that carried the day. Yes, I know that is not something we have that often so far in the 2019 season.
1) Greinke Shuts it Down
Until proven otherwise, and it hasn’t been done yet, we shouldn’t turn away from Zack Greinke. In each of the past few seasons there have been concerns about his diminishing velocity and potential struggles, and then you look up and the right-hander has turned in another solid season. Yesterday, Greinke picked up his fourth victory of the year, yes I know we are still in April, with shutout innings against the Pirates. Pittsburgh managed just two hits and a walk while Greinke brought his ERA down to 3.72. However, before we get too crazy, we might have a sell-candidate on our hands. Greinke sports a 4.41 FIP, although his xFIP is 3.27, and he has allowed just about two home runs per nine innings while benefiting from a .239 BABIP. However, the right-hander has also struck out 9.66 batters per nine innings while walking just 1.73. Keep on rolling him out there, but with the velocity trending in the wrong direction, be careful.
2) Dyson Sets the Table
We know that speed has become increasingly rare, and that is what keeps Jerrod Dyson on our radar. But with Arizona’s outfield lacking, Dyson has received regular playing time so far this season, and he is producing too. Batting lead-off on Thursday, Dyson went 3 for 5 with a two runs scored and an RBI. That brought his batting average up to .333 in 57 at bats while scoring 13 runs. While Dyson has stolen just three bases so far this year, you have to be impressed by his runs scored total; which is generally an overlooked category.
3) Nothing for Stripling
Now, there is nothing wrong allowing just one earned run in your start while scattering five hits and a walk to go along six strikeouts. Stripling didn’t allow a run, and his ERA now sits at 2.65. So what is the problem then? With the Dodgers not wanting Stripling to face Javy Baez for a third time, they lifted the right-hander after just 76 pitches, 51 for strikes. That is always going to be an issue with Los Angeles pitchers as we have to pay attention to their usage patterns and workloads very carefully.
4) Porcello Gets on the Board
When you record a quality start, six innings pitched and three earned runs, and your ERA goes down to 7.43, you know that things have not gone too well to this point in the season. For Rick Porcello, that is certainly an understatement. The right-hander picked up his first victory of the season, but he still has a long way to. After four starts, prior to last night, things were not looking good for Porcello (8.47 ERA and 2.41 WHIP), but Thursday was a step in the right direction. In those four starts, it’s not like Porcello forgot how to pitch, he just started off slow. In fact, it really was the first two starts of the season that were rough for the right-hander, 11 earned runs in 7.1 innings, that he is still recovering from. Things should only continue to get better for Porcello, and just remember, his previous stats are just that; in the past. I would still tread carefully with the right-hander though, and use him as more of a streaming option.
5) The Competition is Here
While Michael Chavis did get the start at second base on Thursday, and he hit his second career home run at that, Rafael Devers has to know that there is some competition coming for him. At the same time, we have to remember how young Devers is, age 22, while also keeping in mind the tools he has. The power has yet to develop, but there is still time as he is project-able. Obviously, it is all about the present though, and Devers did pick up two hits and two RBI yesterday. One of those hits was the sixth double of the season for Devers, a nice sign, as he brought his batting average up to .276 to along with his seven RBI. So far the production is ordinary and it’s very possible you have better options, but don’t let him stray too far.
6) Another Strong Start for Smith
The game ultimately went to extra innings so Caleb Smith didn’t factor into the decision, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the southpaw. In fact, Smith should be on our radar at all times this season despite the fact that wins will be a rarity for him. Allowing just a Sean Rodriguez solo home run over six innings, Smith scattered two other hits and a walk, the left-hander saw his ERA drop to 2.17 as he struck out eight Phillies on the night. On the season, Smith is striking out 11.48 batters per nine innings while walking just 2.17. While he has benefited from a .226 BABIP, Smith has shown the ability to limit hard contact so far this season, and even at his 3.05 xFIP, he is still a valuable commodity.
7) Bauer Power
While he may act in a strange manner at times, when he is on the mound, Trevor Bauer is all business. And that business makes him one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. Bauer was drafted towards the top of drafts, but there were a lot of aces who were more highly ranked and regarded than the right-hander. Yet there was Bauer shutting down the Astros on Thursday limiting the powerful offense to just a solo home run from George Springer. Overall, Bauer limited Houston to four hits and three walks in eight innings of work to pick up his third victory of the season. He struck out just three batters though as Bauer pitched to contact last night although is striking out just about 10 batters per nine innings so far this season. However, before we go ahead and elevate Bauer to the next class of pitcher, he is walking 4.20 batters per nine innings and has a BABIP of just .222.
8) Is Suarez Finding His Groove
In another reminder why it’s still to early to panic, Eugenio Suarez’s season numbers look a little more reasonable after a solid effort Thursday night. The third baseman went 2 for 3 with a walk, including his fifth double of the season, to drive in three runs. Suarez is now up to 12 RBI on the season, so he is getting himself right in line with where he should be on the month if we are expecting him to establish another 90-100 RBI season. And with a .244 batting average, all Suarez needs is another one or two multi-hit games, and he will be set to cruise along in the .260s which is where is career average resides. Anything above that, like the .283 he hit last season, should be considered a bonus.
9) La Stella Goes Deep Again
No offense to Tommy La Stella, who is a nice and useful major league utility player, but I never thought he is someone I would be covering from a fantasy perspective this season. Instead, he went deep for the seventh time this season on Thursday night, and for now, we get to be all clever and state that he has more home runs in 2019 than Mike Trout. While that clearly is true, it’s also obvious that the .232 hitter is riding a hot streak. Yesterday, he went 1 for 3 with a walk, scored three runs, and drove in two (14 overall), and while it’s hard to find complaints about his effort, I’m not sure how much longer it will continue. And it’s certainly not something I would invest in either. We should also note that David Fletcher has been producing as well this season, .301 with 10 RBI after a two hit and five RBI performance last night, and Luis Rengifo was also promoted from Triple-A.
10) Maybe Don’t Sleep on Beckham
At this point, there is no hiding from Tim Beckham’s explosive start to the 2019 season. The shortstop then cooled off, and his fantasy owners weren’t expecting much from him to start, no one was really all that surprised. While his hot start has sustained him from a statistical perspective, considering Beckham was batting clean-up on Thursday, it’s clear that the Mariners still believe in him. Beckham made good on that last night as he went 2 for 4 with his sixth home run of the season and three RBI (19 overall). While Seattle scored 14 runs last night, we also shouldn’t forget Marco Gonzales who improved to 5-0 on the season with seven shutout innings as he struck out nine batters and saw his ERA drop to 2.80.