10 Important Stories From 09/29/17 Box Scores: Story’s Turn Around, Not Buying C. Anderson & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

One start means nothing in the scheme of things, but it was nice to see Masahiro Tanaka finish with a bang tossing 7.0 shutout innings allowing 3 H and 0 BB while striking out 15.  It was another ace performance from Stephen Strasburg, who tossed 7.2 shutout innings allowing 2 H and 2 BB, striking out 8, to finish the year at 15-4 with a 2.52 ERA.  Mike Trout posted a big day, going 2-3 with 2 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R.  What else happened on the field that we need to know about?  Let’s take a look…

 

1) Greg Bird continues to find his footing…
He went 2-2 with 2 RBI. Extending his hitting streak to 7 games.  Over the streak he’s gone 10-24 with 4 HR, 11 RBI and 6 R.  Even more impressive is his 4 K vs. 2 BB over the stretch, and while the end game numbers stink he’s finally showing what he can do when he’s healthy and finding his footing.  Strikeouts are going to be key (he entered the day with a career 28.0% strikeout rate) and he’ll likely be more of a platoon player, but he has the potential to hit .280+ with 30 HR when things are right.  He’s certainly not a player to ignore, and this late season surge is showing us why.

 

2) Is it time to ignore Gerrit Cole’s “upside”…
He was unimpressive in his final start, allowing 3 ER on 8 H and 1 BB, striking out 7, over 5.1 IP and finished with an average line of 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.  The big issue is obviously home runs (31 HR over 203.0 IP), but we obviously can’t ignore the skillset that he does bring to the table as he entered the day with an 8.61 K/9, 2.46 BB/9 and 45.8% groundball rate.  Prior to ’17 he had never posted a HR/FB greater than 9.4% (he was under 7% each of the past two seasons), but entered the day with a 16.1% mark (he did avoid allowing a home run yesterday).  If he can get that number back in check he’s going to be a Top 25 starter, so don’t ignore him as a post-hype sleeper heading into ’18.

 

3) Matt Harvey goes out with a whisper…
To call Harvey’s 2017 campaign anything more than a significant disappointment would be a mistake, as he finished up with a 6.70 ERA and 1.69 WHIP over 92.2 IP.  Taking on the Phillies yesterday he allowed 4 ER on 7 H and 3 BB, striking out 3, over 4.0 IP as he’s struggled mightily with both home runs (21) and walks (67) over his 92.2 IP.  We can dig into any numbers we want, but they are irrelevant.  The question comes down to the injuries and whether or not he can get back to the pitcher he once was, and that’s a complete mystery.  At this point he’s nothing more than a late round flier.

 

4) Alex Bregman continues to show his value…
He provided all of the offense for the Astros yesterday, going 3-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R, and after looking like a significant disappointment early on has completely turned his season around.  He’s currently on a seven-game hitting streak and after hitting .256 with 8 HR and 8 SB in the first half, he’s now hitting .322 with 11 HR, 44 RBI, 48 R and 9 SB in the second half.  The big differences is that he’s reduced his strikeout rate (17.0% to 13.6% entering the day) and had better luck (.291 BABIP to .333), with both numbers being highly realistic.  His second half numbers are for real and he easily could replicate them over an entire season.

 

5) Trevor Bauer makes a big lead stand up…
The Indians jumped on the White Sox early, racking up 10 R, so it was an easy day for Trevor Bauer who took it and shutdown Chicago allowing 1 R on 4 H and 0 BB, striking out 7, over 6.0 IP.  He’s pitched well overall in the second half, including allowing 2 ER or less in seven of his final nine starts.  Of course he still entered the day with a 1.31 WHIP in the second half, as he carried an elevated BABIP (.338) and benefited from an unsustainable 87.1% strand rate.  With a 22.5% line drive rate and 15.1% HR/FB (he allowed another home run yesterday) it’s easy to call the second half more of a mirage and, like his 17 wins, not a reason to buy in.

 

6) A strong finish for Ozzie Albies…
He filled the box score last night, going 3-5 with 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R and 1 SB.  Obviously a four-game hitting streak doesn’t mean much in the scheme of things, but it definitely shows his potential as he’s gone 9-18 with 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R and 4 SB (he has 5 SB over his past five games).  He’s now hitting .288 in the Majors, though we’d like to see a bit of an improvement in his plate discipline (10.6% SwStr%, 33.5% O-Swing% entering the day) but that should come with experience.  He’s maturing in his power and has the speed, meaning he could take a significant step forward come 2018.

 

7) Trevor Story bringing back memories of ’16…
It’s been a disappointing season overall for Story, though he’s finishing strong.  Moved to the cleanup spot yesterday he went 3-4 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R and now has 2 HR, 9 RBI and 5 R over his final three games.  He’s still hitting just .239 on the season, though he does have 24 HR and 7 SB.  We all know that the problem is his ability to make consistent contact, entering the day with a 34.5% strikeout rate and 14.2% SwStr%.  He’s going to provide some power and speed (he could easily be a 30/10 player), but unless he cuts down on the strikeouts the average is going to be a liability.

 

8) Is Whit Merrifield for real…
He went 2-4 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R yesterday, putting him at .289 with 19 HR, 78 RBI, 80 R and 33 SB on the season.  If you want to be picky you will point towards his .326 OBP as a reason to knock him, and that’s definitely a fair point for a player hitting atop the batting order.  He could stand to improve upon his 4.7% walk rate, but he does make consistent contact (7.8% SwStr%), hits the ball hard (22.0% line drive rate) and has the speed to further improve upon his BABIP (.310).  The question is going to be if he can maintain a 20 HR type pace, but there’s little question that he’s a .280+ hitter with the ability to go 15/25 once again.  Throw in the fact that there’s really no reason to believe that he can’t maintain this year’s explosion and he’s going to be hard to knock.

 

9) Chase Anderson finishes with a strong showing…
Taking on the Cardinals he allowed 1 ER on 3 H and 1 BB, striking out 5, over 7.0 IP to finish the season at 12-4 with a 2.74 ERA and 1.09 WHIP over 141.1 IP.  Of course, before we get too excited and consider him a Top 30 starter heading into 2018 we have to keep in mind that there was significant luck behind the production (80.6% strand rate, .265 BABIP) and also could easily regress in the number of home runs allowed (39.2% groundball rate, 0.89 HR/9 and a less than favorable home ballpark).  Anderson has overpay written all over him at this point, and it will be interesting to see where he lands on ranking lists heading into 2018.

 

10) Another struggle for Tyler Skaggs…
Taking on the Mariners he allowed 3 ER on 6 H and 1 BB, striking out 7, over 4.2 IP as a pair of home runs were the big blows.  That’s been the story for him, with 13 HR allowed over 85.0 IP, though we also can’t overlook his pedestrian 8.1% SwStr% and 29.6% O-Swing%.  Always battling injuries and with limited upside he’s looking like a 4.25ish ERA pitcher and at this point that’s simply not someone we’d be looking to target.

 

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs

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