Around the Majors: July 20, 2013: Justin Verlander Bringing Significant Concerns, Zack Wheeler Can’t Get W & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Seattle Mariners recorded just 1 hit on the night, yet defeated the Astros 4-2…  That’s the type of night it was around the Majors yesterday.  You had Justin Verlander struggling yet again, giving fantasy owners significant concerns at this point.  We saw Jake Peavy return from the DL and instantly become one of the hottest names on the trade market.  Throw in the continued success of Jonathan Lucroy, the Major League debut of Henry Urrutia, Freddie Freeman’s return to the lineup and so much more.  Let’s take a look at everything from yesterday’s games:

  • The struggles of Mark Buehrle continued, allowing 4 R (3 earned) on 10 H and 3 BB, striking out 5, over 7.0 IP against the Tampa Bay Rays.  He’s now allowed 19 H over his last 13.0 IP and owns a 4.83 ERA and 1.40 WHIP on the season.  He entered the day with a 69.4% strand rate, so you can argue that there’s been a bit of bad luck, but it’s hardly enough at this point.  He’s a matchup play, at best.
  • It’s unfortunate that Zack Wheeler was unable to go the necessary 5.0 innings to garner a W.  It took him 106 pitches to get through 4.2 innings against the Phillies, allowing 2 ER on 7 H and 2 BB, striking out 5.  He clearly was struggling with his control, throwing just 58 pitches for strikes.  As we’ve always said, young pitchers figure to be extremely inconsistent, so this shouldn’t come as a major surprise.  He’s shown how good he can be and is worth stashing in hopes that he finds his footing.
  • John Lackey allowed 4 ER on 10 H and 0 BB, striking out 7, over 6.1 IP against the Yankees.  While he was fantastic in the first half, would it really be a big surprise to see his numbers plummet?  If he can maintain his strikeout rate he should remain productive, but he hasn’t shown this type of ability since 2005.  It’s hard to depend on, but don’t be dissuaded off this one outing.
  • Jake Peavy returned from the DL and pitched well, allowing 4 R (2 earned) on 7 H and 0 BB, striking out 3, over 6.0 IP against the Braves.  Assuming he’s healthy the biggest question is whether you will be a member of the White Sox on July 31.
  • Speaking of returns, Freddie Freeman returned to the starting lineup to go 1-3 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R.  Obviously, get him active in all formats.
  • The impressive start to Josh Phegley’s career continued, going 3-4 with 1 RBI and 2 R.  He’s now hitting .278 with 3 HR, 9 RBI and 7 R in 35 AB.  He appears to have assumed the starting role over Tyler Flowers, at least for now, and is well worth owning in all two-catcher and AL-only formats.  He could also emerge as a viable option in one-catcher formats, depending on who you have there, so if you are desperate keep a close eye on him.
  • Yasiel Puig went 0-5 with 3 K and is now 0-9 with 5 K in the two games following the All-Star Break.  As we said yesterday, it really shouldn’t be a major surprise to see him hit a little bit of a bump in the road.
  • It was a nice start for Gio Gonzalez, tossing 6.0 shutout innings allowing 4 H and 2 BB, striking out 11, against the Dodgers.  While there is some risk for regression (79.3% strand rate), he’s proven that last season’s strikeout and walk rates were for real (9.02 and 3.54 in ’13) and he’s lowered his line drive rate (18.3% vs. 21.9% in ’12).  He’s established himself as one of the premier pitchers in the league.
  • Justin Verlander simply didn’t have it, allowing 6 R (5 earned) on 8 H and 4 BB, striking out 3, over 5.2 IP.  The biggest concern is that he has now struck out 3 batters in three consecutive starts (9 K over 19.2 IP) and hasn’t had more than 5 K in a game since June 12 (7 straight starts).  His average fastball is down nearly 2 mph (92.7 vs. 94.3) and his walk rate is up (3.35 BB/9).  For the second consecutive seasons his line drive rate is also up (22.8% in ’13 vs. 22.2%).  You put it all together and you have to wonder if the number of innings Verlander has thrown has finally caught up with him?
  • It was a nice game for Mike Moustakas, going 3-4 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 2 R.  Of course, he’s still hitting just .221 and has 18 RBI, so it’s going to take a lot more than this to get us excited.
  • Yovani Gallardo tossed 6.1 shutout innings allowing 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 5.  Of course, it also came against the Marlins so how excited can we really get?
  • Jonathan Lucroy went 4-4 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R, extending his hitting streak to 9 games.  Over the streak he’s gone 15-33 with 6 HR, 11 RBI, 6 R and 1 SB.  Remember when he was hitting .229 on May 30?  He’s now up to .286 with 14 HR and 54 RBI, making him one of the better catching options in the league.
  • It was a good start for Corey Kluber, tossing 5.0 shutout innings allowing 3 H and 2 BB, striking out 7, over 5.0 IP against the Indians.  Unfortunately he was forced from the game with hip tightness and the bullpen couldn’t hold onto a 2-0 lead.  He holds value in all formats, but owners will have to monitor the news to see if he’s able to make his next start.
  • Erik Bedard went 6.1 innings without allowing a hit and striking out 10.  It has to have been an impressive outing, right?  Well, he allowed 3 R (1 earned) due to walking 5 batters.  Sure, the no hits are impressive, but he owns a 1.48 WHIP and wins are hard to expect.  In other words, there’s little value.
  • It was another poor outing for Lance Lynn, allowing 4 ER on 6 H and 3 BB, striking out 1, over 5.0 IP.  He’s now allowed 10 ER over 9.1 IP in his past two starts and has allowed 4+ ER in six of his past eight outings.  Remember, he completely imploded in the second half last season so these struggles have got to be highly concerning.  The owner of a 22.4% line drive rate, coupled with everything else, makes things troublesome.  Could the Cardinals bump him to the bullpen, like they did a year ago?  It’s something we’ll have to watch closely, though for now keep him stashed on your bench and hope he can turn things around.
  • Carlos Villanueva allowed 7 ER on 9 H and 4 BB over 4.0 IP.  While he hasn’t been awful in the rotation, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him ultimately shifted back to the bullpen (depending on the other moves the team makes).
  • Dexter Fowler went 2-3 with 3 RBI, 1 R and 1 SB yesterday and is now 5-11 with 1 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R and 1 SB over his past three games.  He started slowly after being activated from the DL, but things are clearly heating back up for him.
  • Making his Major League debut, Henry Urrutia was hitting eighth and went 1-4 with 1 RBI.  We’ve talked about him a lot lately and, while he does have potential, don’t expect huge production from him instantaneously.   He likely will share time in the DH role at this point unless someone gets extremely hot.
  • Dan Straily returned to the Majors and took the L to the Angels, despite allowing 2 ER on 8 H and 0 BB, striking out 4, over 7.0 IP.  He’s clearly turned things around and is a must own in all formats.

Bullpen Notes:

  • Bobby Parnell allowed 2 R (neither earned) on 2 H in his inning of work, but luckily he entered with a 3 R lead.  It was a poor outing, but he’s locked into the Mets’ closers role barring a deadline deal.
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