10 Important Stories from 08/20/19 Box Scores: Identifying Pitchers Who Can Make A Difference (Heaney), Sell Off Starters & More

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Stephen Strasburg tossed a gem against the Pirates but his bullpen cost him a W, as he threw 7.0 shutout innings allowing 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 6. Both Freddie Freeman (3-4 with 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R) and Anthony Rizzo (3-3, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R) enjoyed big days at the dish. Clayton Kershaw improved to 13-2 with a 2.71 ERA as he allowed 3 ER on 6 H and 3 BB, striking out 6, over 6.0 IP. What else happened on the field that we need to know about? Let’s take a look:

1)Has Andrew Heaney changed the narrative…
He certainly made his case with an impressive performance, exploiting a less than impressive Rangers’ lineup in the first game of the double header. Over 8.0 innings he allowed 1 R on 4 H and 0 BB, though the most impressive number was his 14 K (courtesy of 22 swinging strikes). He’s actually shown ample strikeouts (10.16 K/9 entering the day) and enough control (3.18 BB/9) all season, the question has been whether or not he can keep the ball in the ballpark. While he entered with a 33.8% groundball rate, he induced 6 groundballs vs. 4 fly balls yesterday (of course the one run came courtesy of a solo home run). That’s going to be something we need to watch closely, but with a 13.5% SwStr% and enough control there’s reason to believe that he can at least be a matchup play depending on the locale/lineup.

2) Is there reason to believe in Steven Matz…
He outpitched Shane Bieber (6.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 7 K), who was burned by 2 HR and some poor defense behind him. Matz, meanwhile, allowed 2 R (1 earned) on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 7, over 6.1 IP to earn the W. This is his third straight strong start, allowing 4 ER over 19.0 IP while going 2-0. While he’s pitching well, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t questions. Yesterday he generated just 4 swinging strikes and he entered the day with a 9.5% SwStr% bringing some questions about his strikeout upside. He also isn’t an impressive groundball pitcher (46.6% groundball rate entering the day) and he’s been hit relatively hard (39.2% Hard%). He’s a solid option, but he’s hardly an elite difference maker. He currently owns a 4.18 ERA, and that’s about the type of pitcher to value him as.

3) Sonny Gray continues to roll, but is it for real…
Taking on the Padres he allowed 1 ER on 4 H and 3 BB, striking out 10, over 6.0 IP. He’s really been streaking of late, allowing 1 ER over his last 24.0 IP (4 starts) and has 10 K in back-to-back outings. Overall he is 9-6 with a 2.92 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over 138.2 IP with 164 K vs. 53 BB. Couple those numbers with a 52.6% groundball rate entering the day (4 groundballs vs. 3 fly balls yesterday) and the move out of New York appears to be exactly what he needed to get himself back on tract. While it’s easy to envision at least a little bit of a downturn at some point (79.2% strand rate, .269 BABIP, 38.0% Hard%), and you should expect at least a small bump at some point, he should also remain viable over the remainder of the season. Keep on rolling him out there.

4) Is now the time to be buying Tom Murphy…
He went 1-5 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R yesterday, giving him home runs in four straight games (8-16, 6 HR, 10 RBI, 6 R). It’s obviously been a highly impressive four game stretch, and no one has ever doubted the power potential he brings (though 16 HR over 184 AB is a little bit extreme), but he’s also hitting .293 overall. While he’s been making better contact of late, he entered the day with a 34.4% strikeout rate on the season. That said he’s actually shown a significantly improved approach, with a 13.6% SwStr% (16.0% for his career) and 34.0% O-Swing%. With those marks it’s possible he continues to make more consistent contact, and that will allow him to further tap into his power. While there are questions, there’s more than enough here if you are in need at the position.

5) Harrison Bader returns to the Majors and shows improvement…
A highly hyped option entering the year, Bader struggled this season and ultimately was sent to Triple-A to get right. That appeared to work well, hitting .317 with 7 HR and 3 RBI over 75 PA, and he was back in CF yesterday and hitting 8th. He delivered a strong performance, going 1-1 with 1 RBI, 2 R and drawing 3 BB, and if he’s getting regular playing time he’s going to be among the better outfield additions in the league. There’s no question that he should be better than he was earlier in the season, considering his .259 BABIP (despite a 38.0% Hard%) and improved approach (9.8% SwStr%, 28.0% O-Swing%). He may have gotten a little too homer run happy, but don’t be surprised if he delivers and finds his name in the lineup the rest of the way.

6) Has the hype behind Aaron Sanchez completely disappeared…
Remember when he seemed like a must grab option after his first start with Houston? A lot of those positives have been wiped away quickly, after he struggled against the Tigers yesterday allowing 3 ER on 4 H and 2 BB, striking out 1, over 2.1 IP. He’s now allowed 9 ER over 7.2 IP in his past two starts, continuously failing to generate strikeouts (4 K). While he made some noise in two starts after the trade, they weren’t against stellar offenses (Seattle and Baltimore) and a few innings can’t eliminate all of the bad he had shown while with the Blue Jays. While it’s not impossible that he turns things back around, he also isn’t a guarantee to thrive and could even be shifted to the bullpen in advance of the playoffs. He’s not someone to trust down the stretch.

7) Michael Pineda gets the W, though it was fairly unimpressive…
He had a lead to work with and he made it work, allowing 4 ER on 6 H and 0 BB, striking out 4, over 7.0 IP against Rodrigo Lopez (who struggled allowing 7 R, 3 ER, over 6.0 IP) and the White Sox. Even after not throwing a pitch in the Majors last season Pineda has displayed strong control (1.77 BB/9 entering the day) and he’s also shown enough strikeouts (8.04 K/9 courtesy of a 12.4% SwStr%). Home runs were an issue yesterday (2 HR) and that’s something that could continue to plague him having entered the day with a 36.6% groundball rate. He has been a little bit better in that regard since the All-Star Break (40.4% before generating 8 groundballs vs. 8 fly balls yesterday) and any improvement there will get him moving further in the right direction. With a strong team behind him, he could prove valuable down the stretch.

8) Does the Diamondbacks’ Alex Young still hold any appeal…
Taking on the Rockies he got the W allowing 3 ER on 7 H and 1 BB, striking out 4, over 6.0 IP. While it wasn’t a horrible outing, he’s now struck out just 8 batters over his past three starts spanning 14.1 IP. Just to make matters worse he’s allowed 12 ER on 20 H, including 3 HR over this stretch. The southpaw entered the day showing mediocre skills, with a 6.91 K/9, 3.14 BB/9 and 46.8% groundball rate, though at least in the strikeout rate there was more upside (11.7% SwStr%, though just 9 swinging strikes yesterday). He’s not strong enough in the other skills to thrive if he’s not striking out batters, so for now he’s nothing more than a streaming option if the matchup screams of an opportunity to exploit.

9) Is it time to believe in Homer Bailey…
The A’s have a way of finding pitching from unexpected places and it is looking like Bailey could be the latest. He allowed 1 ER on 7 H and 0 BB, striking out 8, over 5.2 IP against the Yankees. Over his past two starts he’s allowed 1 ER on 9 H and 1 BB, striking out 15, over 12.2 IP and he’s allowed 3 ER or fewer in four of his past five starts. Pitching in Oakland could help him keep the ball in the ballpark, as he generated just 3 groundballs vs. 6 fly balls yesterday and entered the day with a 44.8% groundball rate. Depending on the matchup he’s at least a viable option at home, though how often you use him on the road may not be the best strategy (he entered with a 7.95 K/9, 3.46 BB/9 and extremely bloated 44.6% Hard%). Consider him more of a streaming option.

10) Chris Taylor returned with a bang…
The Dodgers racked up 16 R on 15 H so there were a lot of offensive MVP in this one. It’s Taylor’s performance that stands out, partly because his presence further clouds the potential promotion of star prospect Gavin Lux. Taylor started in LF but was moved to SS, going 3-4 with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 3 R yesterday. He had been performing prior to getting hurt (.261 with 9 HR and 7 SB) and with his positional flexibility it’s easy to envision him finding his name in the lineup quite often. Maybe he’s not a must own option, but in deeper formats he has the potential to add significant value and is worth owning.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs

3 COMMENTS

  1. Prof,
    Currently have Will Smith in C slot, but like having Murphy in mind as an available replacement. In that regard, would you rank Murphy above Mejia?
    Also, any thoughts on Sheffield who is expected to make a start Friday?
    T

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