It was yet another big day for both Freddie Freeman (2-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) and Ronald Acuna (1-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB). Rafael Devers delivered a big performance, going 3-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R. Madison Bumgarner returned from the IL, allowing 2 ER on 7 H and 2 BB, striking out 2, over 5.0 IP. What else happened on the field that we need to know about? Let’s take a look:
1) Tarik Skubal implodes against the Cardinals…
It was a miserable start for Skubal in Game 1 of the double header, as he allowed 6 ER on 3 H and 4 BB, striking out 3, as he managed to get just 6 outs. He allowed 1 HR (the Cardinals would go on to slug 5 HR in the game), and that’s been his biggest issue this season (he’s allowed 4 HR over 17.1 IP across his five starts). It’s not a surprise, after he generated a 40.6% groundball rate over 42.1 IP at Double-A last season, and he’s also struggled to go deep into games (2.1 IP or fewer in three of his five starts). We all know that he can generate strikeouts and his control is generally decent (though it wasn’t yesterday), though we can’t ignore the home run issues and he’s also been hit hard (46.5% Hard% entering the game). The upside is there, but he’s impossible to trust in 2020.
2) Are we buying Sean Manaea after another strong start…
Manaea needed just 61 pitches to get through 7.0 innings as he allowed 1 ER on 2 H and 0 BB, striking out 4. Of course he wasn’t missing many bats (6 swinging strikes) nor was he generating many groundballs (8 groundballs vs. 8 flyballs). He has allowed 2 ER or fewer in five straight starts, lowering his ERA from 9.00 to 4.46. He’s always had great control (he entered the day with a 2.33 BB/9 for his career) and he’s been generating more groundballs than ever before (51.8%). His problem has been poor luck (.349 BABIP and 55.3% strand rate), though he also has been hit somewhat hard (45.1% Hard%). While he’s never going to be a strikeout machine, there’s enough here to work with. Consider him a solid option the rest of the way in all formats.
3) Another stellar start from Dylan Bundy, but are we believing the breakout…
Taking on the Rangers Bundy was fantastic, allowing 2 ER on 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 12, over 7.1 IP to improve to 5-2 with a 2.48 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. He entered the day benefiting from a .252 BABIP and it seems highly likely the home runs eventually catch up with him (40.3% groundball rate, 0.71 HR/9 entering the day). He was generating a significant number of swinging strikes (21) and also more groundballs (9 groundballs vs. 1 flyball), which gives a sense of hope. If he can figure out how to continue keeping the ball in the ballpark the success could continue. We’ll have to wait and see about 2021, but for the remainder of 2020 we’d be buying.
4) Is Maikel Franco finally living up to his potential…
An offseason flier, Franco has paid dividends for the Royals. After going 3-5 with 1 HR, 5 RBI and 1 R, he’s hitting .271 with 7 HR and 28 RBI. Of course before we get overly excited about the performance, there are some key numbers we can’t ignore:
- Oppo% – 15.8%
- Popup Rate – 16.0%
- Hard% – 32.4%
While he hasn’t been overly lucky (.278 BABIP), there’s also a chance that he could regress in a hurry. Ride him while he’s hot, but don’t get too attached.
5) The breakout of Alex Bohm continues…
He went 2-3 with 1 RBI and 1 R, putting him at .303 with 2 HR, 16 RBI and 10 R. Obviously we’re waiting for the power for fully develop, and he also entered the day with a .354 BABIP despite a relatively pedestrian 32.8% Hard%. Couple that with an elevated SwStr% (12.5%), which isn’t in-line with what he showed in the minors, and there’s reason to be concerned moving forward. He has the potential to develop into a must use option, but in 2020 he’s a risky player to depend on.
6) Is it time to give up Sonny Gray…
Gray allowed 5 ER on 6 H and 3 BB, striking out 4, over 3.1 IP, giving him back-to-back awful performances. He’s gone a total of 4.0 IP allowing 11 ER, as his ERA has ballooned to 3.94 over 45.2 IP overall. Is this who he really is or is there hope that he can turn things back around? He entered the day showing the skills we look for from a pitcher:
- Strikeouts – 11.91 K/9
- Control – 3.83 BB/9
- Groundballs – 44.5%
He generated 5 groundballs vs. 1 flyball yesterday and he hasn’t been overly lucky this season (.296 BABIP, 71.1% strand rate). In other words everything points to an improvement, so don’t use these two starts as a reason to run.
7) Is there any reason to believe Adbert Alzolay can make an impact…
Taking on the Reds Alzolay allowed 3 ER on 3 H and 2 BB, striking out 2, over 3.2 IP. Over his past two starts he’s allowed 5 ER over 6.1 IP as his control has continued to be an issue (9 BB over 12.1 IP this season). If that wasn’t enough, while he hasn’t struggled with home runs this season just looking at his groundball rates from ’19 shows the risk:
- Triple-A (65.1 IP) – 4.27 BB/9
- Majors (12.1 IP) – 6.57 BB/9
Control issues and the risk of home runs? He’s easy to ignore.
8) Jorge Ona goes deep, but should we pay attention…
In his third start Ona went 1-3 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R, though that’s been his only start in his three games played (6 AB). He’s also struck out 3 times, compared to 1 walk, as his command of the strike zone has always been considered questionable. Just look at his SwStr%:
- 2017 (Single-A) – 12.6%
- 2018 (High-A) – 14.2%
- 2019 (Double-A) – 15.2%
He only had 103 AB at Double-A last season, and with the lack of experience and jump in levels things should only get worse. He hasn’t yet tapped into his power or speed, so he’s easily ignored.
9) Is Daulton Varsho finally getting his opportunity…
Varsho went 1-3 with 1 RBI and 1 R, while also drawing a walk. His lone hit was a triple, and he now has two extra base hits in his past three games (the other was a home run). He’s gotten 34 AB in September already, though he’s managed just 5 H. He also is starting to figure out the strike zone, with 5 K over his past 22 K, and his 15.3% SwStr% entering the day should continue to improve (8.1% at Double-A last season). He has some power and speed (47 extra base hits, 21 SB last season), and the more AB he gets the more he should be able to display it. Even for 2020, don’t write him off as he could make a difference over the final few weeks as long as the AB continue to be there.
10) The breakout of Jeimer Candelario continued…
Candelario didn’t have just one big game, he had two as he produced in both halves of the Tigers double header:
- Game 1 – 2-3 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R
- Game 2 – 3-3 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R
He’s suddenly hitting .333 with 7 HR and 28 RBI, with home runs in three of his past four games. While he’s benefited from a .410 BABIP, a number that will certainly regress, but he’s figure out his power (20.6% HR/FB, while he’s added 10 doubles and 3 triples) and his command of the strike zone is good enough (11.0% SwStr%, 29.6% O-Swing%). There’s every reason to believe.
Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, MLB.com