10 Important Stories From 07/23/16 Box Scores: Still Selling Story?, Still Buying Nola? & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Nelson Cruz was one of many players who enjoyed some monstrous days at the plate, going 2-5 with 2 HR, 7 RBI and 2 R.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis may have been the most surprising contributor, going 3-3 with 2 HR, 4 RBI and 2 R.  Jacob deGrom simply didn’t have it against the Marlins, allowing 5 ER on 10 H and 1 BB, striking out 5, over 3.2 IP.

What else happened that we need to know about?  Let’s take a look:

1) Is it time to believe in Michael Saunders emergence…
While the home runs were fairly irrelevant, Saunders still went 2-4 with 2 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R, putting him at .288 with 19 HR and 46 RBI on the season.  It’s hard to buy into the numbers, but he did enter the day with a 24.0% line drive rate and an elevated, but not outlandish, 20.2% HR/FB.  He also could show an improvement in his strikeout rate, which would offset any regression in his BABIP (.359):

  • SwStr% – 10.5%
  • O-Swing% – 24.1%

Is he this good?  Probably not, but there also isn’t anything that screams of a significant regression.  Injuries have helped to eliminate the threat of a SB, but keep in mind before the injury bug struck he posted a 15.0% HR/FB in ’12.  He does have the potential to continue producing at this type of pace, especially hitting in the middle of a loaded lineup.

2) Aaron Nola takes a significant step backwards…
After tossing 6.0 shutout innings in his first start since the All-Star Break there was obviously hope that Nola had turned the corner.  Unfortunately he took a significant step backwards in his second start, allowing 6 ER on 6 H and 2 BB, striking out 5, over 4.0 IP against the Pirates.  A lot of his issues have been due to poor luck, having entered the day with a .322 BABIP (21.1% line drive rate) and 61.5% strand rate.  He also has thrived in the three categories we typically look for, with a 9.79 K/9, 2.12 BB/9 and 55.1% groundball rate.  Despite the rough numbers there remains reason to believe that he’s going to rebound and string together some strong starts.  Now isn’t the time to give up on him.

3) Kevin Gausman throws a gem against Cleveland…
In his second straight strong outing, Gausman was dominant against the Indians tossing 7.0 shutout innings while allowing 4 H and 3 BB, striking out 7.  He generated 15 swinging strikes andn ow owns a 3.77 ERA and 1.27 WHIP on the season.  While he hasn’t gotten many W thus far (his record stands at 2-7), he owns an 8.52 K/9 (10.9% SwStr%) and 2.06 BB/9 over 100.1 IP.  That’s the type of ratio we loves to see, and as long as he can keep the ball in the ballpark (1.44 HR/9), the upside is there to really thrive.  There is going to be some inconsistency and likelihood of some poor outings (thanks to pitching in the AL East), but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a viable option in all formats.

4) It was a mediocre outing for Robbie Ray…
Taking on the Reds he allowed 6 R (3 ER) on 6 H and 1 BB over 5.0 IP, but his outing was obviously saved by racking up 10 K.  He now has 7+ K in seven straight starts, so despite a 4.53 ERA and 1.51 WHIP he is going to hold value in all formats (he actually ranks 11th in the league with 132 K).  Since June 1 he owns 72 K vs. 17 BB over 57.1 IP, just further highlighting his potential value.  He’s also started to limit the long ball (6 HR allowed over this stretch), which had been the biggest concern.  That said he continues to carry an elevated line drive rate (23.3% in July), which is going to continue to make it nearly impossible for him to post a strong ERA/WHIP.  It’s not impossible, and given the other positive signs he’s well worth owning in all formats.  Just know the risk going in.

5) Evan Gattis returns with a bang…
Back in the lineup he went 2-3 with 2 HR, 4 RBI and 2 R.  The home runs were his first since July 6, though he did have 4 straights games with a double from July 10 through July 19 so obviously the thunder is still there in his bat.  The bigger question is going to be his playing time, thanks to the impending arrival of both Alex Bregman and Yulieski Gurriel.  It’s possible that those two players fill LF/3B, but someone else will be displaced and could push Gattis for PT at DH.  It’s possible that he becomes the full-time catcher, but that is extremely unlikely.  It’s not to say that Gattis doesn’t hold value, it just means that you need to be careful moving forward.

6) Nomar Mazara starting to turn things back around…
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the rookie hit a bit of a wall, but he’s started turning things back around in recent days.  He went 3-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R (his second straight multi-hit game), giving him a five game hitting streak (8-17, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R).  He’s now hitting .287 with 12 HR over 331 AB, and there is little reason to think that he can’t maintain his current marks:

  • 16.1% Strikeout Rate (7.5% SwStr%)
  • 24.8% Line Drive Rate
  • .312 BABIP
  • 15.0% HR/FB

In other words continue to stick with him, even if he does slow down once again.

7) The power stroke is back for Trevor Story…
He went 4-4 with 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R and 1 SB, helping to lead the Rockies to victory.  He’s now hitting .272 with 26 HR, 67 RBI, 63 R and 7 SB over 345 AB.  While those are impressive numbers there is still reason to be skeptical about his ability to maintain them.  While his average and line drive rate (23.9%) is nice, there’s a good chance that he see his average fall thanks to an elevated strikeout rate (31.7%) and an unsustainable .345 BABIP (despite the line drive rate, a 45.9% fly ball rate could help to limit him).  There’s also risk in his power (25.5% HR/FB), so play accordingly moving forward.

8) Where have Drew Smyly’s strikeouts gone…
He allowed 1 ER on 6 H and 1 BB over 6.0 IP against the A’s, so it’s hard to get upset with the performance.  However he had just 1 K courtesy of 3 swinging strikes, giving him a total of 4 K over his past three starts (15.0 IP).  While he’s never been a fireballer, his average fastball is averaging just 89.5 mph in July and he’s been completely unable to fool anyone (7.5% SwStr%, 23.6% O-Swing% for the month).  For a pitcher we want to believe is a rebound in making (64.4% strand rate), it’s hard to get excited based on the current numbers.  For now keep him stashed away and see what happens, but he’s very difficult to trust.

9) Ivan Nova posts another strong outing…
He had to settle for a no decision, but Nova allowed just 1 R on 6 H and 2 BB, striking out 7, over 7.0 IP against the Giants.  Over his past two starts he’s allowed 2 ER on 10 H and 5 BB over 13.0 IP, both coming at home, so there is reason to hope that he’s turned the corner and will be a productive option moving forward.  Overall he owns a 6.97 K/9 (9.3% SwStr% shows a little bit more upside), 2.13 BB/9 and 54.9% groundball rate, the biggest problem has been a 1.65 HR/9 (something that has continue to plague him, with home runs allowed in each game during this stretch).  That said, depending on the matchup and locale, Nova could be a strong play over the final two months of the season.

10) Maybe it’s time we finally believe in Zach Davies…
Taking on the Cubs he allowed 1 ER on 3 H and 2 BB, striking out 4, over 6.1 IP to improve to 7-4 with a 3.64 ERA.  There’s nothing that stands out in the numbers as to a reason to assume he’s going to regress (20.5% line drive rate, .280 BABIP, 72.9% strand rate).  The biggest “issue” is a relative lack of strikeout upside, with a 7.27 K/9 courtesy of a 7.9% SwStr%.  Even the elevated strikeout mark is due to one big month (9.40 K/9 in June) and he owns a 5.40 K/9 in July.  Just keep that in mind before we declare him a must use option, as the upside is certainly limited.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs


  1. Justaquickcomment says:

    Solid write up, but you’re selling Story a bit short. He has a 44.3% Hard hit rate and he plays at Coors which inflates xBABIP the most of any stadium.

    The exceptional hard hit rate is also a contributor to his high HR/Fb%. Hard hit fly balls are the most productive form of contact.

  2. Greg says:

    So, I agree with you on not giving up on Nola. And thinking same on Pax. But here is what’s available and I’ll welcome insights on guys you think have more upside than aforementioned two. … other pitchers, in Y! 14t h2h on waivers: DeLeon, Taillon, Glasnow, Snell, Elfin, Davies,Mannea, Graveman, an

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Davies is intriguing, and I’d maybe consider him over Paxton. That said, there’s nothing wrong with just sitting tight with the guys you have and waiting for them to turn the corner (which they should).

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