Around the Majors: July 10, 2013: Wheeler Shines, Cain Struggles Again, Hamilton Bashes & More

The All-Star Break is quickly approaching, and yesterday represented the final first half start for many pitchers. There were some disappointing performances (like Matt Cain and Shelby Miller). There were some who continued to impress (like Felix Doubront, Ivan Nova and Zack Wheeler). Let’s also not forget the hitters, with people like Josh Hamilton trying to prove that things are looking up. Let’s take a look at these performances and all the rest from yesterday’s games:

  • It was a solid outing for Jacob Turner, allowing 2 ER on 4 H and 3 BB, striking out 5, over 7.0 innings against the Braves. It’s the fourth time in his past five outings where he has allowed 2 ER or less and he’s allowed 3 ER or less in seven of his eight starts in the Majors. The strikeouts haven’t been there (he entered the day with a 5.74 K/9) and you can argue that he’s luck on his side (.275 BABIP, 77.5% strand rate, 19.6% line drive rate). In other words, while he has been impressive it is easy to imagine a regression on the horizon.
  • After going 0-4 on July 1 Shin-Soo Choo saw his average fall to .264. After going 3-4 with 2 R yesterday he has the number back up to .277 courtesy of an 8-game hitting streak (13-33 with 3 RBI, 5 R and 1 SB). Even during his struggles he continued to get on base (.418 OBP) and has flashed 20/20 potential (12 HR/9 SB) once again while scoring plenty of runs (59). In other words, continue to view him as one of the better outfield options in the league.
  • There was no Ryan Braun for the Brewers, one day after making his return to the lineup. There was no reports of an injury and it is likely just that they didn’t want to push him with a day game following a night game. The Brewers take on the Diamondbacks tomorrow, so look for him to be right back out there.
  • We really have to start to wonder what is going on with Matt Cain. He couldn’t get out of the first inning against the Mets yesterday, allowing 3 ER on 2 H and 3 BB, striking out 1, over just 0.2 IP. He now owns a 5.06 ERA, despite a 1.18 WHIP. There hasn’t been a drop in velocity (91.1 mph entering the day), and he has obviously been burned by some poor luck (64.5% strand rate). Time will tell, but unless an injury is revealed we have to think that he’ll turn it around sooner or later.
  • Taking on the team that drafted him, Zack Wheeler allowed 1 ER on 3 H and 3 BB, striking out 5, over 7.0 IP. He’s been inconsistent, as we had to expect, and that likely will continue moving forward. While he’s worth owning, consider him a matchup play at this point.
  • For the second consecutive outing Ivan Nova dazzled, allowing 1 ER on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 6, over 8.0 IP. Throw in 12 groundball outs, there is an awful lot to like from the performance. Over his last two starts he’s allowed 3 ER with 17 K over 17.0 IP. In four starts since returning from the minor leagues he’s allowed 8 ER on 21 H and 6 BB, striking out 28, over 29.1 IP. In other words, he’s been pitching incredibly well and, when coupled with his groundball stuff, makes him a great add in all formats.
  • Robinson Cano paced the Yankees, going 3-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R and 1 SB. Does anyone expect anything different at this point? While the impending return of Derek Jeter will help, the offense is going to go as far as Cano takes them.
  • Cliff Lee allowed 4 ER on 9 H and 0 BB, striking out 6, over 7.0 IP. The surprising thing was that he got beat by 4 solo home runs (Anthony Rendon, Wilson Ramos, Ryan Zimmerman & Jayson Werth).
  • Speaking of Wilson Ramos, he continues to rake since returning from the DL. He went 2-4 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R and is now 9-20 with 2 HR, 10 RBI and 3 R in six games. He should continue to take AB away from Kurt Suzuki and, as of right now, is the catcher to own in Washington.
  • A nearly 3 hour rain delay did nothing to disturb Francisco Liriano, who tossed 7.0 shutout innings allowing 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 6. He’s allowed 2 ER or less in each of his past five starts, with 6 ER over 34.2 IP. He’s been highly impressive, with the key being his rediscovered control. While he’s not this good (he entered with an 84.4% strand rate and 25.0% line drive rate), if he can continue hammering the strike zone he should be productive (though he should regress).
  • Making his first start since the middle of May, Wei-Yin Chen showed little rust against the Rangers. Over 7.0 IP he allowed 1 ER on 3 H and 3 BB, striking out 4, to earn the W. While he’s tough to consider a must use option (he entered the day with a 5.13 K/9, down from last season’s 7.19 mark), he has proven to be worth owning in all formats at least as a matchup play, but outings like this show he could be much more than that.
  • Nolan Reimold went 2-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R, his first home run since May 4. He’s hitting .278 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 3 R in 18 AB since returning from the DL, though he also has 6 K vs. 0 BB over that span. There potential AB as the DH to be had (barring a trade) and he’s shown plenty of power in the past (like 13 HR in 267 AB in 2011). If you are in need of some sneaky power, he’s worth stashing in deeper formats, though keep in mind that he could ultimately be relegated to a bench role.
  • The top five in the Tigers lineup went 13-23 with 1 HR, 6 RBI and 6 R against the White Sox last night. When the top of your lineup produces like that, it’s no surprise that Dylan Axelrod (5.2 IP, 7 ER, 11 H, 2 BB, 2 K) took a beating (he’s now allowed 12 ER over his past 7.1 IP). Prince Fielder led the charge for Detroit, going 3-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R.
  • Dayan Viciedo has suddenly caught fire, going 2-3 with 1 RBI last night. He’s now 6-11 with 2 HR, 5 RBI and 2 R over his past three games. While he’s struggled overall thus far (and was more consistent in 2012), he still produced .256 with 11 HR and 39 RBI in the second half of ’12. Don’t give up on him yet.
  • Desmond Jennings went 2-7 with 1 SB yesterday, as he continues to play well since being returned to the leadoff role full-time. He’s hitting .372 (with a .460 OBP) with 1 HR, 6 RBI, 12 R and 5 SB in July, having scored at least 1 R in eight of ten games. We drafted him for his R/SB potential, so it’s nice to see him finally putting up the numbers we had hoped for. With a solid lineup behind him, he should continue producing at a high level as well.
  • Jeff Samardzija took a beating at the hands of the Angels, allowing 9 ER on 9 H and 2 BB, striking out 5, over 4.2 IP. He got touched for 4 HR and has now allowed 14 ER over 10.2 IP in his past two starts. Home runs hadn’t been a major issue (he’s now allowed 14 over 124.0 IP), so don’t read too much into the outing. It’s been a rough stretch, but don’t be surprised to see him rebound after the break.
  • It was a big game for Josh Hamilton, going 2-5 with 2 HR, 5 RBI and 2 R. He now has 4 HR and 10 RBI in July, while hitting .290. At this point we can only hope that these types of performances continue.
  • On June 6 Shelby Miller owned a 1.91 ERA, but it’s now up to 2.92 after allowing 3 ER on 5 H and 5 BB, striking out 5, over 5.0 innings against the Astros. The walks are an obvious aberration (he entered with a 2.17 BB/9) and the luck metrics are believable (.289 BABIP, 79.1% strand rate). It’s been a rough patch, but he should be able to right the ship.
  • Tyler Skaggs allowed 3 ER on 8 H and 3 BB, striking out 3, over 4.1 IP and has proven to be very inconsistent. How long until we really start hearing the calls for Archie Bradley to get a shot?
  • It was another impressive outing for Felix Doubront, allowing 1 ER on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 6, over 7.0 innings against the Seattle Mariners. He’s allowed 2 ER or fewer in each of his past five starts (7 ER over 33.0 IP), lowering his ERA from 4.91 to 3.91. Control has always been a major question, but he has walked a reasonable 11 over this stretch. He’s on a roll and offers strikeout upside… We’ll talk about him more later today, but he’s a good pitcher to target off the waiver wire.
  • It was another disaster for Aaron Harang, allowing 7 ER on 8 H and 3 BB over 5.0 IP. How long until Taijuan Walker joins the rotation?
  • Andrew Cashner allowed 3 R (2 earned) on 8 H and 2 BB, striking out 5, over 5.0 IP. We all know his potential, but he has not had more than 6 K in any start this season. Considering that’s supposed to be his strength, that’s a major concern. The Padres are also going to look to limit him, either by giving him extra rest or skipping starts. He’s got to be considered a low-end option.

Bullpen Notes:

  • Sonny Gray made his Major League debut, allowing 1 H and 0 BB, striking out 3, over 2.0 innings out of the bullpen. While he would obviously have significantly more value as a starting pitcher, he is still worth monitoring.
  • When Casey Janssen (0.2 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 1 BB) ran into problems the Blue Jays called on Steve Delabar to clean up the mess. He recorded the final out to pick up his first save of the season. At this point there is no reason to think Janssen’s job is in any type of jeopardy, with just 1 blown save on the year. For as good as Delabar has been, it’s going to take more of a misstep for the roles to change.
  • Heath Bell blew his fifth save of the season, allowing 1 ER on 2 H and 1 BB, striking out 1, over his inning of work. The return of J.J. Putz to the closer’s role should be imminent.
  • Brandon Workman made his Major League debut, allowing 3 ER on 4 H and 0 BB, striking out 4, over 2.0 innings out of the bullpen. Like with Gray, he holds little value unless he gets an opportunity to step into the rotation.

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