10 Stories From 09/23/2014 Box Scores: Is Sonny Gray An Ace, Veterans Heating Up (Butler/Markakis) & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Felix Hernandez imploded at the wrong time, both for the Mariners and fantasy owners, as he allowed 8 ER on 7 H and 3 BB, striking out 5, over 4.2 IP.  Who else failed fantasy owners?  Who surprised with a strong performance?  Let’s take a look at all of yesterday’s action:

 

1) Mike Fiers gets burned by the long ball…
He was lifted after just 5.0 IP (and 86 pitches), allowing 2 ER on 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 3.  Both runs came courtesy of solo home runs, and going up against Johnny Cueto (8.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 7 K) that was enough to hang him with an L.  It hasn’t been a major issue for him, with 6 HR over 65.2 IP, though he did enter the day with a 44.8% fly ball rate so it’s something that could become a problem.  He also has pitched over his head a bit, with a .224 BABIP and 83.7% strand rate entering the day.  That’s not to say that he isn’t going to be a good pitcher in 2015 (9.79 K/9, though just a 9.1% SwStr%, and 2.23 BB/9), he’s simply not this good.  Think of him more as a mid/backend option as opposed to the ace he’s been in 2014.

 

2) A gem for Henderson Alvarez…
Taking on the Phillies he went 7.2 shutout innings allowing 5 H and 1 BB, striking out 2, giving him a 2.70 ERA and 1.22 WHIP on the season.  Of course he hasn’t struck out more than 4 batters in five consecutive starts, entering the day with a 5.54 K/9 on the season.  He does have great control (1.67 BB/9 in ’14, 2.07 for his career) and also generates groundballs (55.1% in ’14, 55.3% for his career), but the complete lack of strikeouts is always going to suppress his value.  He’s “safe” heading into 2015, but hardly a pitcher to target.

 

3) Is Billy Butler showing signs of life…
Maybe it’s too little too late, but he went 2-4 with 1 RBI and 3 R yesterday, giving him a three-game hitting streak (5-12).  Obviously the year has been a disappointment, hitting .267 with 9 HR, as it’s become crystal clear that his power outburst from a few years ago was nothing more than an aberration.  He should hit for a better average, though a player with little speed with a groundball rate hovering 50% doesn’t offer much potential in the department.  We’ll cover him in much more detail in the offseason, but his fantasy appeal moving forward appears to be relatively small.

 

4) Nick Markakis erupts after a long cold period…
Often one of the most underrated players, Markakis went off against Brandon McCarthy and the Yankees last night going 4-5 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R.  They were his first HR and RBI since August 25, a span of 87 AB.  Even with his disappointing finish, he’s hitting .275 with 13 HR, 47 RBI and 77 R on the season.  The last time he hit over 15 HR was in 2009, so at the end of the day there shouldn’t be any disappointment there.  A career .290 hitter, it’s the average that is a bigger concern as his line drive rate entering the day was just 19.3% (22.6% or better each of the previous three seasons).  Still, as a dependable player he is going to continue to be viewed as a backend option.

 

5) Is Nick Martinez pitching his way into fantasy viability…
The slew of injuries that the Rangers have faced has given opportunities for young players.  While Martinez hasn’t been great overall, he’s finishing with a flourish.  Taking on the Astros last night he tossed 6.2 shutout innings allowing 5 H and 0 BB, striking out 5, giving him a 2.22 ERA in 24.1 September innings and give consecutive starts allowing 2 ER or fewer.  Of course, he offers little strikeout potential (5.01 K/9 courtesy of a 6.3% SwStr%) despite an 8.1 K/9 in the minors and is a fly ball pitcher (46.5%) pitching in a ballpark that favors the hitter.  That’s not a good mix for long-term success.

 

6) What should we make of Kyle Gibson…
He was brilliant yesterday against the Diamondbacks, allowing 1 ER on 7 H and 0 BB, striking out 8, over 7.0 IP to earn the W.  Of course, before we get too excited about this type of performance keep in mind that he had allowed 4+ ER in six of his previous eight starts and owns a 4.50 ERA and 1.33 WHIP on the season.  The control has been good this season (2.83 BB/9) and he has generated groundballs (54.5%), but there’s been some poor luck (66.2% strand rate) and no strikeouts (5.28 K/9).  The luck has been particularly poor in the second half (.313 BABIP, 62.1% strand rate) and his 8.6% SwStr% does indicate an improved mark in the strikeout department.  In other words, now with 233.0 career innings in the Majors he’s an intriguing pitcher to watch in his final start on Sunday (assuming he makes it) and heading into 2015.

 

7) Justin Turner leads the Dodgers home run barrage…
Hitting atop the order he went 2-4 with 2 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R, as the Dodgers hit 3 HR against Madison Bumgarner (4 ER over 7.1 IP).  Turner has been a great find for Los Angeles, as he’s now hitting .333 with 7 HR and 41 RBI over 282 AB.  Could he find starting AB at third base?  Possibly, but at this point it’s hard to imagine.  It’s been a good season, but don’t view him as anything more than a utility player with little fantasy appeal.

 

8) Has Sonny Gray emerged as a fantasy ace…
He took the loss against the Angels, but it’s hard to blame him as he allowed just 2 R (1 earned) on 3 H and 3 BB, striking out 12, over 7.0 IP.  Obviously it’s hard to call him an “ace” with ERAs of 4.38 and 4.22 over the final two months of the season, as well as a mediocre 7.63 K/9 on the season.  With a 7.3 K/9 in the minors, as well as an 8.7% SwStr%, it’s hard to get too excited (despite a 55.3% groundball rate).  He’s a good pitcher, don’t get us wrong, but it’s hard to imagine him taking the next step into “ace” status.

 

9) Clay Buchholz was rolling…  Then he wasn’t…
After barely breaking a sweat over the first 7.0 IP, Buchholz imploded in the eighth inning and finished allowing 5 ER on 8 H and 1 BB, striking out 6.  He owns a 5.31 ERA and 1.40 WHIP on the season, though there has been some obvious poor luck with a 62.9% strand rate and .317 BABIP despite a 19.1% line drive rate.  On the bright side he has shown an increased strikeout rate once again, with a 7.01 K/9 (7.00 in the first half, 7.02 in the second), as well as a sub-3.00 BB/9.  It’s easy to get discouraged and write him off, but that’s simply going to make him a buy low candidate for 2015.

 

10) Dalton Pompey hits his first career home run…
He went 1-3 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R, putting him at 3-8 over his past two games.  Of course he’s hitting just .182 since his recall (24 PA).  He is not a power threat, so don’t get too excited over this blast.  His calling card is more is speed, with 38 SB in ’13 and 43 across three levels in ’14.  However he’s yet to attempt a SB in the Majors and may not considering he’s hitting towards the bottom of the lineup.  He’s a player to keep an eye on, but not one to trust.

 

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, CBS Sports

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