10 Important Stories from 09/21/19 Box Scores: What To Make Of Struggling Starters, Difference Making Bats For Final Week & More

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The final two weeks of the season are never easy to maneuver as playoff teams look to prepare for a deep October run while non-playoff teams look towards potential pieces for 2020. Who made the biggest impact yesterday? Who gave the impression as to who could thrive, both over the final few days and into next season? Let’s take a look:

1)James Paxton continues to find his footing in New York…
The home run from Giancarlo Stanton (2-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) may get most of the attention, but the development of Paxton could have a far greater impact for 2020 and beyond. Granted it was against Toronto but Paxton allowed 1 R (0 earned) on 3 H and 0 BB, striking out 7, over 6.0 IP. It’s his fourth straight start allowing 1 ER or fewer, and sixth straight of 2 ER or less, lowering his ERA from 4.53 on August 17 to his current 3.73 mark. Of course it’s easy to chalk this up to a little bit of luck, because in the five starts prior to yesterday he had benefited from an 85.4% strand rate and .197 BABIP, while also luckily not giving up many home runs (39.4% groundball rate, 3.6% HR/FB). Throw in a 37.3% Hard% and it’s easy to envision an implosion. Don’t let this one convince you that he could be an ace, because pitching in the AL East he’s far more of a mid-tier option.

2) Is this the real Jose Quintana…
For the fourth straight start he struggled, allowing 5 ER on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 5, over 3.1 IP. He’s now allowed 4+ ER in four straight (and five out of six), and the 3.1 IP has been his longest start in his past three (14 ER over 8.2 IP). He’s never been a big strikeout pitcher, and with an 8.5% SwStr% entering the day that’s continued to hold him back. While the rest of the numbers aren’t awful, like a 44.2% groundball rate or a 2.43 BB/9, though also don’t stand out as bringing an elite option. While he should be better than this (68.6% strand rate entering the day), he also is hardly an ace. This poor stretch has likely opened some eyes as to him being more of a back-end option and nothing more.

3) Has Shed Long emerged as a must own option down the stretch…
While Kyle Lewis (2-5) has generated all of the attention, Long has also been producing. He went 3-4 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 3 R yesterday hitting atop the batting order, giving him seven multi-hit games in his past nine. Over 125 AB this season he’s hitting .288 with 5 HR (as well as 10 doubles) and 3 SB. Of course power isn’t typically his game (in 250 PA at Triple-A he had 9 HR), so figure him more as an 18-22 HR type option over a full season, and he also doesn’t own elite speed. Throw in the potential for strikeout problems (26.0% strikeout rate at Triple-A) and having benefited from a .341 BABIP and he could stumble at any time. Obviously use him down the stretch, but this strong stretch may cause him to be overvalued heading into ’20.

4) What to make of the Angels’ David Fletcher…
Could he prove to be a regular contributor for the Angels in ’20? It’s not impossible, but even after a big day yesterday (3-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) his overall line isn’t overly impressive. Over 567 AB he’s hitting .291 with 6 HR and 8 SB, and while he has added 30 doubles the fact that he isn’t going to reach double-digit home runs despite the rise in power across the game is a bit of a red flag considering he also doesn’t bring elite speed (20 SB is his career high). What he brings is an elite approach to the dish (3.1% SwStr%, 24.7% O-Swing%), but without power or speed is that ever going to be a high level option? If he matured into a 15/15 player with the approach then there’s reason for optimism but for now he’s more of a fill-in type.

5) Jose Berrios surprisingly struggles against the Royals…
He allowed 5 ER on 8 H and 1 BB, striking out 5, over 6.0 IP as the Twins’ ultimately lost 12-5. This marks the fourth time in the past nine starts where he’s allowed at least 5 ER, though his overall 3.70 ERA and 1.22 WHIP remain solid. He also continues to own elite control (2.29 BB/9 entering the day) and the home run rate is hardly a red flag (1.19 HR/9), though a 42.8% groundball rate (5 groundballs vs. 7 fly ball yesterday) does indicate some risk in that regard. Is that enough to cause significant concern though? It shouldn’t be, and while this has been frustrating he should continue to be viewed as one of the better options moving forward.

6) Is there any reason to continue believing in Zach Plesac…
Taking on the Phillies he allowed 4 ER on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 3, over 4.1 IP. He allowed 1 of the 4 HR the Phillies hit and has now allowed 4+ ER in three of his past four starts. Overall his 3.82 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 110.2 IP looks appealing, though he hasn’t generated many swings and misses (9.2% SwStr%, 26.6% O-Swing% entering the day) and his inability to generate groundballs (39.7% before 2 groundballs vs. 8 fly balls yesterday) has led to significant home run issues (1.52 HR/9). Throw in entering the day with a .246 BABIP and 80.3% strand rate and is there reason to believe? He’s been a good story, but he’s not a pitcher to trust.

7) Trent Grisham fills the box score, showing off his full potential…
He went 3-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R and 1 SB, owing off his full skill set. The stolen base was his first in the Majors, though he had 37 SB at High-A back in ’17 so the upside is there. He’s hitting .267 with 6 HR, 22 RBI and 21 R over 131 AB, and while he’s struggled with a 28.1% strikeout rate it has nothing to do with his approach. He entered yesterday with an 8.5% SwStr% and 22.8% O-Swing%, showing he isn’t overmatched by MLB pitching, as he’s also proven he can hit the ball hard (37.1% Hard%) and use the entire field (27.0% Oppo%). With regular playing time he’s well worth using down the stretch (though he could sit against left-handed pitchers).

8) Max Fried shows off some upside…
He tossed 5.1 shutout innings allowing 5 H and 0 BB, striking out 2, to get the W. Of course he still owns a 4.11 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 162.0 IP on the season, though the overall skills have been impressive. Let’s not forget that he entered the day with a 9.54 K/9, 2.63 BB/9 and 53.2% groundball rate, and while he wasn’t missing bats yesterday (6 swinging strikes) he was generating groundballs (8 groundballs vs. 5 fly balls). Obviously the overall numbers don’t make it look like he’s going to be a productive pitcher, but the underlying skills tell a different story. That could create an intriguing buy low candidate heading into ’20.

9) Marcus Semien continues to show off why he has emerged as elite…
He reached base all six times up, going 3-3 with 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R and also drawing 3 walks, leading the way against Brock Burke (7 ER over 0.2 IP) and the Rangers. Semien is now hitting .286 with 32 HR, 90 RBI, 119 R and 10 SB over 633 AB, with an impressive 100 K vs. 82 BB (.369 OBP). He’s shown an impressive approach all season (7.2% SwStr%, 23.5% O-Swing%), and his power (15.0% HR/FB) is right in line with what he did back in ’16 before suffering injuries (14.7%). With a 41.6% Hard% and .294 BABIP, everything points to this breakout being believable. He’s often overlooked, but he shouldn’t be.

10) Garrett Hampson hits atop the Rockies batting order…
He’s getting a real chance and was shifted atop the batting order yesterday, going 1-3 with 1 R, 1 SB and also drawing a walk. He’s now stolen 4 bases over his past 3 games and is showing off the skills that made him an intriguing option heading into the season. The Rockies have no reason not to continue running him out there every day over the final few days of the season, and as speed is hard to find he could potentially be a difference maker for those scraping for any stolen base they can find. His 27.7% strikeout rate isn’t indicative of his underlying metrics (8.4% SwStr%, 23.7% O-Swing%) and with his speed he should be able to maintain an elevated BABIP (.331). Continue to run him out there and reap the rewards.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs

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