by Ray Kuhn
Yes, I know the weather is big variable; especially in April. In the Midwest things can be especially gnarly, and that is certainly the case so far this season. To best honest, I’m not sure I have ever seen things this bad though. On Sunday, there were six games that were casualties of the weather in five cities (both ends of a double-header in Detroit against the Yankees were claimed) and it certainly is wreaking havoc on fantasy owners. Just keep in mind, that in seasonal, rotisserie, leagues everything will even out at the end of the season. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the performances from the games that did take place:
1) Benintendi Keeps on Rolling
In the first few weeks of the season, patience is preached. All it takes is one or two games for a player to turn things around, and batting average can be quite volatile. One example of this, is Andrew Benintendi. After failing to get a hit for the first four games of the season, Boston’s number two hitter was hitting a robust .161 after action on April 8th. From that point, it took him just five games to raise his average up to its current mark of .269. In fact, Benintendi’s three hit game on Sunday brought his batting average up 40 points by itself. Against Baltimore, he went 3 for 4 and finished a home run shy of the cycle. It included the fourth double of the year for the outfielder who also notched his ninth RBI. If you were worried about Benintendi, who also picked up his second stolen base of the season, don’t be.
2) The Good and Bad of Syndergaard’s Start
It doesn’t take very much effort to find the good from Noah Syndergaard’s start on Sunday. The fact that Mets won in the bottom of the ninth helps to explain why he got a no decision for his efforts, and it’s also hard to argue with the right-hander’s 11 strikeouts. At one point, Syndergaard struck out eight batters in a row as he was showing off high-90’s velocity while also getting his pitches to move, cut, break, and dance across the strike zone. The one run Milwaukee managed against the right-hander was unearned, so Syndergaard’s ERA went down to 2.95 on the season. It shouldn’t be surprising that the damage was limited, as the Brewers picked up just two hits and one walk against him. The problem, is that despite his success, Syndergaard only got through 5.1 innings of work. And, he needed 101 pitches (69 strikes) to do it. While you certainly can’t complain about the results, you would at least like to see your ace get through six innings. Even knowing that strikeouts do require lengthy at bats, this was a bit extreme. After all, he did need 29 pitches to get through the first inning alone.
3) Kingery Drives in Three
With the way Scott Kingery is hitting, Ronald Acuna should start to worry about the head start the second baseman has regarding the Rookie of the Year. Batting fifth, behind last year’s stud Rhys Hoskins, Kingery continued his success on Sunday. The rookie went 2 for 3 with a walk as he raised his average to .280 on the season. One of those hits was the seventh double of the season for Kingery who, in his brief major league career, is showing the ability to drive the ball. Driving in runs also doesn’t appear to be an issue as Kingery drove in three on Sunday to bring his RBI total up to 12. At this point, it doesn’t matter where he plays in the field, but Kingery has earned his place in the lineup everyday, right behind Hoskins.
4) Nothing Like a 5 for 5 Day in April
Going into yesterday’s game, Starling Marte was hitting .241. All it takes is one 5 for 5 game, and things look a lot better for the outfielder as Marte’s batting now sits at .305 for the season. You have to keep in mind, that as fast as Marte’s batting average went up, it could go down just as fast, but that is a problem for another day. Unfortunately, no one was able to get on base ahead of the number three hitter, so all Marte has to show for his effort is RBI; which came on his third home run of the season. Marte’s other four hits were all singles, and he did score on three of them. After a 2017 marred by suspension, I’m not ready to declare Marte all the way back, but it’s worth keeping an eye on whether or not yesterday’s game is a true building block. The fact that he bats third for Pittsburgh certainly helps.
5) Things Are Good for Martinez
Carlos Martinez’s first start of the season could have been a scary sign of things to come. While the right-hander is always going to struggle with control and have some erratic moments, I think through his first four starts of the season, he has shown he can be trusted. Whether or not he takes the next steps this season to truly become an ace remains to be seen, but in taking advantage of the Reds on Sunday, he moved in the right direction. Despite walking four batters, Martinez was able to keep Cincinnati off the scoreboard which was helped in part by the fact that he gave up just two hits. The right-hander also struck out 11 batters in 7.1 innings of work as he lowered his ERA to 1.75 on the season. After allowing five runs in his first start of the season, Martinez has allowed just one run combined in his next three starts with eight walks in total after six on Opening Day.
6) Sometimes Giving up a Run is a Good Thing
So far this season, one of the most successful middle relievers has been Adam Ottavino. It is almost refreshing that you are adding the right-hander based on skills and not speculating on saves. Despite the fact that Ottavino did pitch the eighth inning on Sunday, his value isn’t tied to perhaps the most frustrating fantasy category. So far this season, Wade Davis has had success (he picked up his seventh save on Sunday) and an injury is likely Ottavino’s only chance at the role. But, it is hard to argue with the right-hander’s success, and he certainly is doing enough to keep himself on fantasy radars. The run he allowed on Sunday, was the first run he allowed all season, and after Ian Desmond’s home run in the next inning, it secured his third victory of the season. That is where the good comes in, as an Ottavino owner, I would certainly trade an earned run for a win. It shouldn’t be surprising that he struck out two more batters in his outing because through 9.2 innings so far this season, Ottavino is up to 20 strikeouts while allowing just a 0.31 WHIP.
7) Kershaw’s First Victory of the Season
Just because that is the case, it doesn’t mean the southpaw has been struggling. On Sunday, Kershaw allowed just one run on two hits while failing to walk a batter and lowering his ERA to 1.73. That, in tandem with his 0.88 WHIP, illustrates how successful Kershaw has been this season despite the Dodgers’ struggles, at times to generate some offense. On Sunday, they did manage to score seven runs, but when Kershaw is this dominant, he doesn’t need much. He struck out 12 batters, but what was interesting, is that 10 of those strikeouts came on the slider. So far this season, per Fangraphs, Kershaw’s slider usage is up from 34.9% to 40% while his fastball usage has dropped from 47.1% to 42.9%. His average velocity does appear to have dropped by about one mile per hour, but it is still early in the season, so I wouldn’t be concerned about that.
8) The Rookie Continues to Deal
For your sake, let’s hope that you got in early on Joey Lucchesi because his price is going to continue to rise. On Sunday, he picked up his second victory of the season with six innings of one run ball against the Giants. Lucchesi limited San Francisco to just five hits as he struck out nine batters and saw his ERA drop to 1.66 through four starts. After a 1.79 ERA in Triple-A last season, 2.95 FIP, this was the logical next step for the southpaw, but things are going more smoothly than anyone could have been expected. Thanks to the multitude of prospects in San Diego’s system, Lucchesi has managed to fly under the radar, but don’t tell that to his opponents. With a 1.90 FIP and 2.63 xFIP, there is no reason to expect that this is a fluke; although don’t expect him to continue having success at this rate either.
9) Manaea Locks Down a Victory
Entering the season, one popular starting pitcher for whom a breakout was expected, was Sean Manaea. Through four starts so far this season, it does appear that the southpaw is putting things together. He picked up his second victory of the season against Seattle on Sunday as he allowed just one run in seven innings of work. The Mariners managed just two hits and two walks against Manaea as he struck out four. After Sunday, his ERA sits at 1.63, but I’m not rushing out to fully buy in on Manaea. After striking out 7.71 batters per nine innings in 2016 and 7.94 batters per nine innings last year, that mark is down to 6.51 so far this season. Again, the sample size is small, but it is something to keep an eye on. Additionally, the left-hander has benefited from a .169 BABIP as well as a 100% strand rate. That helps to explain Manaea’s 4.03 FIP through four starts. This isn’t a complete sell as I think some of what we are seeing from the southpaw is real, but I need to see more before I’m completely on board.
10) The Ageless Wonder Strikes Again
At this point, we might need to take a deeper dive into Houston’s offensive struggles, but Bartolo Colon looked like Greg Maddux last night. Even at age 44, the right-hander effortless went through Houston’s lineup for seven perfect innings of work. While he didn’t show much in the way of velocity, the control and movement was certainly there for Colon as he racked up the first pitch strikes. Colon ultimately allowed a hit and a walk before he exited with a run charged to his record, but you can’t deny the success he had. The right-hander struck out seven as he lowered his ERA to 1.45, and regardless of what your eyes tell you, he has to be considered a streaming option for deep leagues.
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