by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Max Scherzer nearly went the distance, allowing 1 ER on 3 H and 2 BB, striking out 13, over 8.2 innings to defeat the feeble Padres. Chris Archer dominated the Twins, allowing 2 ER on 5 H and 1 BB, striking out 11, over 7.2 IP (he now has 23 K over his past 14.0 IP). Charlie Blackmon continued his push to be considered one of the elite in the game, going 4-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R (putting him at .337 with 12 HR and 45 RBI, out of the leadoff spot). What else happened on the field that we need to know about? Let’s take a look:
1) The buy low opportunity on Masahiro Tanaka has likely disappeared…
He looked the part of an ace last night, allowing 1 ER on 5 H and 0 BB, striking out 13, over 7.1 IP against the A’s. Unfortunately for him he matched up with Sean Manaea, who was just as impressive (7.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 8 K) and settled for a touch luck loss. Tanaka generated a whopping 26 swinging strikes, showing just how good his stuff truly was. This type of performance shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, despite a 7.31 K/9 entering the day (his 12.6% SwStr% shows that he has been pitching to a much better mark). The real question facing him is if he will be able to keep the ball in the ballpark, after allowing 10 HR over his previous 4 starts. That does scream of an aberration, and there’s reason to believe that he will continue pitching well. There are going to be some concerns, as he has had some HR issues in the past (1.46 HR/9 in ’15), but he should continue on as one of the better starters in the league.
2) Neil Walker is starting to bust out…
While he used his return to Pittsburgh to really put himself back on the map, going 3-5 with 2 HR, 4 RBI and 3 R, he’s been putting things together for a few days now. Over his modest four-game hitting streak he’s gone 8-17 with 2 HR, 4 RBI and 5 R. He now has his average up to .270 to go along with 6 HR and 28 RBI, so obviously it hasn’t been a completely lost year (though there’s definitely room for continued improvement). He entered the day showing a good command of the strike zone (16.4% strikeout rate, 9.0% walk rate), suffering from a little bit of poor luck (.294 BABIP, 20.1% line drive rate) and room to improve his home run rate (6.8% HR/FB, after a 16.2% mark a year ago). Stay the course and stick with him, as it would appear like this could ultimately be an extended hot streak.
3) Hopefully Devon Travis can stay healthy…
He’s showing what he can do, when on the field. After going 3-4 with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 2 R yesterday he’s the owner of a 10-game hitting streak (20-41 with 3 HR, 13 RBI, 7 R and 1 SB). Overall he’s hitting .372 with 3 HR and 15 RBI, 14 R and 2 SB in May, showing the blend of power and speed that he can bring to the table. Of course the actual production has never been a question, and there’s room for this stretch to continue (.277 BABIP despite a 23.1% line drive rate entering the day), the issue has been the consistent injuries costing him time. He’s a must own while he’s playing, and hopefully he can keep himself on the field moving forward.
4) Eduardo Rodriguez impresses, setting up a sell opportunity…
He stymied the Mariners, tossing 6.0 shutout innings allowing 5 H and 3 BB, striking out 4. Of course the Mariners are the worst offense in the league against left-handed starters (.290 SLG), so we do want to keep the performance in perspective. Rodriguez wasn’t generating swings and misses (8 swinging strikes) nor was he generating a lot of groundballs (7 groundballs vs. 6 fly balls). The former isn’t a significant concern, having entered the day with a 12.8% SwStr%, though it’s easy to envision a regression in his strikeout rate. The latter will ultimately catch up with him, as he’s a fly ball pitcher (46.7% fly ball rate) and will eventually get burnt by the long ball (0.91 HR/9). Throw in good, but not great, control and he has all the makings of a bust moving forward. Selling now, while he holds appeal, makes a lot of sense.
5) Another poor showing from Ian Kennedy…
Those who were anxiously awaiting his return from the DL have certainly been disappointed. Taking on the Indians yesterday he allowed 4 ER on 3 H and 2 BB, striking out 4, over 5.0 IP. In his two starts since returning he’s now allowed 9 ER over 7.0 IP with home runs being a significant issue (3 HR allowed). Of course the long ball was plaguing him prior to the injury, as he’s now allowed 8 HR over 42.2 IP on the season. With a 1.69 HR/9, that’s been the story for the past few years (HR/9 of 1.66 and 1.52 in ’15 and ’16) and isn’t going to go away. He’s also struggling to fool hitters, with an 8.8 SwStr% and 22.3% O-Swing%, which makes it an ugly combination. While he could improve in that regard, it’s hard to consider him anything but a streaming option.
6) Justin Bour’s breakout continues…
He went 2-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R, giving him HR in 9 of his past 14 games. We’ve discussed Bour here recently, and we know that he may not be able to maintain this type of pace (33.3% HR/FB, 33.1% fly ball rate tells us that), but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t going to be a productive option moving forward. Of course if the power wasn’t enough he could also see his strikeout rate rise (12.9% SwStr%), and there’s a good chance his production against southpaws falls off a cliff (.412 BABIP, 57.1% HR/FB). The latter was the big question entering the season, as he was expected to platoon, so while producing against left-handed pitchers has been a great sign it’s highly unlikely he maintains it. That could make now the perfect time to sell high if you can, because the hype is certainly growing.
7) Junior Guerra hits the ground running off the DL…
After being forced from his Opening Day start after 3.0 IP, Guerra finally returned from the DL yesterday and made his return against the Diamondbacks. He fared well in the start, allowing 1 ER on 3 H and 3 BB, striking out 5, over 5.2 IP but had to settle for a no decision. He clearly had Arizona off the balance, generating 15 swinging strikes. His one big mistake was a home run to Jake Lamb (2-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R), though that’s nothing to be ashamed of. There was some solid metrics behind his breakout in ’16 and there is reason to believe that he can continue to be a productive option moving forward. Now that he’s back, he’s worth grabbing in most formats.
8) A strong rebound from Joe Musgrove…
After getting blown up by the Indians in his last start (7 ER over 3.0 IP), he tossed 7.0 shutout innings against the Orioles while allowing 4 H and 0 BB, striking out 5. The key for him was keeping the ball in the ballpark, as he’s struggled in that regard since reaching the Majors (1.40 HR/9 courtesy of a 14.1% HR/FB). Unfortunately it’s something that will likely continue to plague him, and it obviously is going to suppress his outlook. While it doesn’t eliminate it, thanks to his solid control and strong strikeout potential, but you are going to have to pick your spots as there likely will be some blowups along the way.
9) A dominant Antonio Senzatela…
Maybe dominant isn’t the right word for a pitcher who struck out just 3 (courtesy of 7 swinging strikes) over 8.0 IP, but it was certainly impressive as he tossed 8.0 shutout innings allowing 5 H and 0 BB against the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s now 7-1 with a 3.19 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, though there’s certainly some mirrors and magic wands at work. Considering his 21.7% line drive rate it’s easy to imagine a regression in his .249 BABIP and 79.8% strand rate. He also hasn’t garnered much in the way of strikeouts (5.37 K/9) and given his 6.1% SwStr% it’s hard to imagine a huge improvement. Little strikeout potential + regressed luck? Sell now while the going is good.
10) Alex Wood stars again…
Taking on the Cubs Wood was impressive over 5.0 shutout innings, allowing 2 H and 2 BB while striking out 8. He was getting swings and misses (13) and groundballs (5, as compared to 1 fly ball), and while we would’ve liked to see him go deeper into the game it’s hard to be disappointed. Obviously we can envision a slowdown in his production, but right now he’s showing elite peripherals that we can’t ignore:
- Groundball Rate – 68.7%
- SwStr% – 12.1%
- O-Swing% – 35.4%
Those numbers are reminiscent of Dalls Keuchel’s from ’15 (61.7%, 10.3% SwStr%, 33.3% O-Swing%) and tells you just how good he can be.
Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, MLB.com
Make sure to check out all of our updated rankings:
|First Base||April 26|
|Second Base||May 1|
|Third Base||May 4|