There’s nothing like a busy Sunday of action to enjoy in the summer, and that is what we had yesterday. We also saw something just a step less rare than a unicorn, and that was a weather delay in San Diego. Regardless of how you spent your day, the hope is that baseball was a part of it. And if not, or even if it was, we have you covered. Let’s jump into some of the performances that caught my eye:
1) Longoria Gets on the Board
Regardless of what he does at the plate, for the most part that is, due to lack of other options, Evan Longoria is going to man third base for the Giants. The Longoria we got used to seeing in Tampa Bay is not the same player that we are dealing with in 2019, but there is still some value. But with the way he has been hitting, a .220 batting average so far this season that includes three hits on Sunday, expectations have to be held to a minimum. Longoria showed that he still brings some power to the table as he went deep for the seventh time this season. After driving in three runs over the course of the afternoon, the third baseman is up to just 23 RBI on the season, but you have to pay attention to someone with his credentials who is batting third in a major league lineup nonetheless. What is truly troubling, is that even after those three hits, Longoria is still batting just .143 over his last season games. The good news, is that we can expect to see Longoria’s .244 BABIP show some positive regression. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, both Longoria’s hard hit rate and fly ball rate have increased from their respectable totals last year, so that gives him some value as a buy-low option.
2) Scherzer Does Ace Things
It really is surprising that, a little more than two months into the season, Max Scherzer only has three wins. The third victory came yesterday, as Scherzer absolutely dominated the Cincinnati Reds. In eight innings of work, Scherzer struck out 15 batters while allowing just one run on three hits and one walk. That start brought Scherzer’s ERA down to 3.06 on the season, and with a 2.13 FIP, things are only slated to get better for the right-hander. With 12.34 strikeouts and just 1.90 walks per nine innings, Scherzer is once again his dominating self, and he has done a pretty good job of minimizing the damage from his .353 BABIP.
3) Don’t Sleep on Cron
After having perhaps one of the quietiest 30 home run seasons in 2018, Tampa Bay sent C.J. Cron packing, and he ended up in Minnesota on one a year contract. The batting average will never be there, .253 last season, and 2018 was the first year he got regular playing time and found his groove, but Cron can still be a solid option. Batting fifth in a solid Minnesota lineup, Cron is fitting right in. The first baseman picked up two more hits on Sunday, and after driving in three runs, he now sits at .275 on the season with 38 RBI. Cron’s power is once again on display, as he picked up his 11th double of the season yesterday, and he also has 13 home runs so far in 2019.
4) Swanson’s Power is on Display
If you told me Dansby Swanson was going to hit 12 home runs in 2019, I would have agreed, but i’m not sure anyone expected him to reach that total by June 2nd. That is the case though, as the shortstop is looking pretty comfortable in the second spot of Atlanta’s batting order. Swanson, who also doubled for the eighth time this season while going 2 for 3 with a walk and driving in three runs. A .264 batting average, of which there is nothing to complain about, fits with what we have seen from Swanson in the past. But after driving in 59 runs (with 14 home runs) in all of 2018, Swanson and his 41 RBI in 2019, is well on pace to surpass those totals. When looking at the shortstop, it is also important to remember, that he is still just 25 years old. After having a barrel rate of just 4.1% last season, Swanson is up to 12.6% in 2019 while also improving his launch angle by two degrees and bringing his hard hit rate from 34% to 41.4% as it is clear that Swanson has substantially improved his approach and the quality of his contact.
5) Davies Cruises to Victory
I have not been shy in my thoughts that Zach Davies is a better “real life” pitcher than he is a fantasy one, but you really can’t argue with the results. The right-hander, without much trouble, picked up his sixth victory of the season on Sunday (he has still not lost a game). This time, Davies held the Pirates to two runs in eight innings of work. It wasn’t pure domination, and you will never get that with Davies, but he was able to pitch out of trouble as he allowed eight hits. The fact that Davies only walked one batter, 2.58 per nine innings for the season helps, but it is a bit troubling that as he only struck out three batters on Sunday and 5.81 per nine innings for the season, he is limited in his ability to get out of jams. At this point, you have to continue using Davies, but while his ERA is 2.20, his 3.92 FIP and 4.81 xFIP keep him hesitant from fully buying in. We have a pitcher who isn’t especially overpowering that only has a ground ball rate of 42.7%, but for now, you can’t argue with the results.
6) Giolito Isn’t Slowing Down
We could say that Lucas Giolito took advantage of his competition, the Cleveland Indians, yesterday, but the right-hander has looked pretty good regardless of the opponent all season. Giolito picked up his eighth victory of the season with 7.1 innings of shutout ball. Cleveland managed just five hits off the right-hander, but for me, the biggest takeaway, was the fact that Giolito didn’t walk a batter. Seeing him strike out nine batters really is just business as usual as he lowered his ERA to 2.54, but it is clear that the adjustments he made this off-season worked in his favor. With 2.67 walks per nine innings so far in 2019, Giolito is a lot better off the four walks he was allowing last season. We have also seen about a five percent increase in Giolito’s soft contact, at the expense of his “medium” contact, but the big change is that his infield fly ball rate has risen from 9.9% to 17.5%. As far as pitch mix goes, Giolito is also using his change-up a lot more often than a year ago; 23.4% compared to 15.9%. All of this is going into producing a career performance for the right-hander.
7) Vintage Wainwright Appears
The last three seasons have been a little rough for Adam Wainwright as he battled injuries and ineffectiveness. Now, I’m not saying he is back to being the same pitcher he once was, but Wainwright is proving so far this season that he can be a dependable and useful streaming option. That was on display yesterday against the Cubs as Wainwright picked up his fifth victory of the season. It wasn’t an ideal performance, as despite allowing just two hits, Wainwright had to pitch around seven walks while keeping Chicago off the scoreboard. The right-hander did strike out eight batters on the afternoon as he lowered his ERA to 4.34 for the season. There were some moments, both yesterday and so far this season, that Wainwright has looked like vintage Wainwright, but he is also walking 4.07 batters per nine innings. He is capable of a quality start, on average, each time out, but he has only allowed five or more runs just twice so far this season.
8) Marte’s Power Was on Display
I’m honestly not sure what is happening in Arizona, but Ketel Marte is certainly putting on a show. Finding playing time hasn’t been an issue for Marte, a natural infielder who is seeing equal time in the outfield, and he is producing far more at the plate than anyone could have expected. Well, at least in the power department that is, as Marte hit his 14th home run of the season on Sunday. Marte, who drove in three runs, is now up to 43 RBI on the season while batting .280 after going 2 for 5 at the plate. With just three stolen bases, Marte isn’t putting his speed to use this season, but how can you knock his power production? The two biggest changes at the plate we have seen Marte, is his barrel rate going from 5% to 11.1% as well as his hard hit rate sitting at 40.2% compared to 36.7% last season.
9) If Only He Can Stay Healthy
Whenever he is on the mound, Rich Hill produces. It really is that simple from the southpaw, but you can’t count on him to make it throw a season. Hill threw seven shutout innings yesterday against the Phillies as he limited them to just three hits and three walks while striking out nine. The left-hander’s ERA is now just 2.25 on the season with a 3.95 FIP and 3.25 xFIP. We have to watch the long ball with Hill this season, as he has allowed 1.58 per nine innings (21.2 home run to fly ball rate), but it’s also hard to argue with anything else that we are seeing from the southpaw. Also, it was a good sign to see Hill get through seven innings, as the Dodgers are often cautious with his workload.
10) Pujols is Still Here
We know that Albert Pujols is a shell of his former self, and that certainly is evident in his .233 batting average, but the Angels’ clean-up hitter isn’t a lost cause. As part of Los Angeles’ 13 run outburst, Pujols went 2 for 5 with a home run and five RBI. For the season, the future Hall of Famer is now up to 11 home runs and 33 RBI. If you are looking to plug a hole at your corner infield spot, especially in deeper leagues, you can do worse than Pujols, just be prepared to manage the batting average.