by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There were a few hitters who filled up the box score on Saturday:
- Adam Eaton led the charge for Washington, going 5-5 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 4 R
- Christian Yelich went 5-5 with 2 RBI and 3 R out of the #2 spot
- Ryan Flaherty tried to claim the Braves’ 3B job, going 4-5 with 4 R
Carlos Carrasco earned a W, though an unimpressive one (5.2 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 0 BB, 4 K), against the Mariners. Charlie Blackmon provided all of the offense for Colorado, going 2-4 with 2 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R, leading the team over Zack Greinke (5.2 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 9 K) and the Arizona Diamondbacks. What else happened on the field that we need to know about? Let’s dive in:
1) Luis Castillo struggles, sort of…
The line wasn’t very impressive, as he allowed 6 ER over 5.0 IP, but the issue was solely a few big swings (he allowed 2 HR). He actually allowed just 6 H and 1 BB, while striking out 6, and the underlying numbers were promising including 19 swinging strikes and 6 groundballs vs. 3 fly balls. While there is the risk that he was a bi overhyped heading into the season, the end results aren’t indicative of what he brought to the table yesterday (especially against a strong lineup). Don’t push the panic button off this one poor outing.
2) Lance McCullers shows what his upside truly is…
Taking on the Rangers, on the road, he allowed 2 ER on 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 10, over 5.1 IP. Obviously we’d like to see him go a little bit deeper into the game, but generating that many strikeouts will generally inflate the pitch count (he threw 91 pitches in the start). He got 17 swinging strikes and generated 5 groundballs vs. 1 fly ball, highlighting the overall package he can bring to the table (keep in mind he posted a 10.01 K/9, 3.03 BB/9 and 61.3% groundball rate over 118.1 IP last season). The biggest question remains whether or not he’ll be able to stay healthy, because if he does he has the upside of one of the elite.
3) Zack Cozart continues to set the table for the Angels…
Cozart went 2-4 with 2 RBI and 2 R yesterday, putting him at 5-14 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 3 R over the first three games of the season. He’s coming off a season where he hit .297 with 24 HR over 438 AB, and with Mike Trout and company hitting behind him there’s a good chance he continues to see pitches to hit and pile on the runs scored. Couple that with the developing power, which is realistic (15.6% HR/FB in ’17), and what’s not to like?
4) Will Tyler Austin thrive as the Yankees’ starting first baseman…
He looked the part yesterday, going 2-3 with 2 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R, though you have to wonder if the return of Miguel Andujar (who takes the roster spot of the injured Billy McKinney) could eat into his AB a little bit? It’s possible, though Austin could also be forced into a corner outfield spot at times. The bigger concern is going to be the fear of inflated strikeout rates, including a 27.4% mark at Triple-A in ’17 (190 PA) and a 38.8% mark in the Majors entering the day (139 PA). Considering his 17.9% SwStr% and the fact that he saw a grand total of 7 pitches yesterday, it’s easy to envision pitchers exploiting his aggressiveness. It was a nice day, but don’t get overly excited quite yet and easy it’s to envision him struggling and ultimately losing playing time.
5) James Paxton struggles with his control…
Taking on the Indians he struggled, allowing 6 ER on 6 H and 4 BB, striking out 4, over 4.2 IP. Home runs were the biggest issue (Yonder Alonso and Jonny Gomes took him deep), but the bigger concern would be the relatively pedestrian underlying metrics:
- 9 swinging strikes
- 2 groundballs vs. 8 fly balls
Neither of those are really believable, as he’s shown strikeouts, control and enough of a groundball rate in the past. It’s one poor start, and don’t take it as anything more quite yet.
6) Kyle Gibson flirts with history, if not for his control…
Pitching in Baltimore Gibson was removed after throwing 6.0 hitless innings with 6 K, as he needed 102 pitches to get there thanks to control issues. He unfortunately walked 5 batters, costing him an opportunity at going deeper into the game, and potentially a no hitter, so what do we make of the start? He had a solid 17 swinging strikes and was coming off a ’17 second half where he posted an 8.22 K/9, 2.58 BB/9 and 50.9% groundball rate. With a career 3.17 BB/9 and 1 BB over 12.2 IP this spring, the control is not something that should be a consistent issue. Ignoring that it was a strong outing, obviously, and he has the potential to be a solid starter all year long. If you have the room on your bench, he’s worth buying.
7) An inauspicious start to Yu Darvish’s Cubs’ career…
Taking on the Marlins he allowed 5 ER on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 4, over 4.1 IP. The big blow came courtesy of Derek Dietrich (2-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R), but he was throwing far too many pitches (102) and struggled to throw them for strikes despite the limited walks (59 strikes, or just 58% of his pitches). The most concerning number may be having thrown just 7 of 21 first pitches for strikes, and it’s hard to pitch well when you are consistently behind (and not throwing strikes in general). While we wouldn’t push the panic button yet, after last year’s post season and considering the matchup it’s a performance that will open some eyes. If he struggles his next time out, an opportunity to buy low may be created.
8) Lucas Giolito struggles overall against KC…
Sure he “only” allowed 3 ER on 4 H over 6.0 IP, settling for a no decision, but he finished with 1 K vs. 4 BB. While his control was always going to be a question, only 4 swinging strikes? That shouldn’t be the norm, considering his 9.37 K/9 at Triple-A last season and a 10.1% SwStr% during his 7 starts in the Majors. The hope was that he had started to figure out his control, with a 2.38 BB/9 in the Majors in ’17 and 4 BB over 17.2 IP this spring, so we don’t want to jump to the conclusion that he will continue to struggle in that regard. In fact, maybe you can kick the tires and try to buy low from an owner who may overreact to the performance. We wouldn’t give up a lot, just in case, but there’s a lot of potential still there.
9) Kenta Maeda thrives against the Giants…
Los Angeles pitching had been rolling, despite opening the year 0-2, and Maeda kept things going with what may have been the best start of the bunch. Going 5.0 shutout innings he allowed 5 H and 1 BB, striking out 10, to earn the W. Even more surprising may have been his 19 swinging strikes, though while it’s easy to forget he owns a 9.26 K/9 over his first two years in the Majors courtesy of a 12.0% SwStr%. The bigger question is him getting continuous starts, as he missed time due to injury and then spent some time in the bullpen last year (29 appearances, 25 starts). If he’s taking the mound every 5 days he’s going to be a productive option.
10) Is this the beginning of a rebound campaign for Xander Bogaerts…
After going 3-4 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R yesterday, he’s started the year hitting .667 with 1 HR and 2 RBI. Of his 8 hits, 5 of them have gone for doubles and he also has not yet struck out. His power was the big question, after hitting 10 HR a year ago, so six extra base hits in three games is a positive sign. Of course it’s just three games so we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. He appear to be taking an extreme fly ball approach (66.7%), but it’s too small of a sample size in order to draw a conclusion. It’s a strong three games, but we’ll wait for more data before getting too excited.
Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, MLB.com
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|Starting Pitchers||1-20: 03/24/18|