by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It was a big day for Manny Machado, albeit in a losing effort, as he went 3-5 with 2 HR, 4 RBI and 3 R. Jon Lester had a lengthy break between starts, thanks to multiple rainouts, but maybe he helped to get him on track as he stymied the Cardinals over 6.0 innings allowing 1 R (0 earned) on 2 H and 1 BB, striking out 7. Jake Arrieta dominated the Pirates, tossing 7.0 shutout innings allowing just 1 H and 2 BB, striking out 10. What else happened on the field we need to know about? Let’s dive into the box scores and take a look:
1) How long do we wait on Alex Cobb…
We can’t say that we’re surprised that he’s struggled, but you would’ve hoped that he could put together at least a decent outing in Detroit. It wasn’t to be as he allowed 7 R (5 earned) on 10 H and 1 BB, striking out 4, over 3.1 IP. The biggest blow came courtesy of Jeimer Candelario (4-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R), though he was hardly alone as Cobb has now allowed 12 ER over 7.0 IP. Home runs have been the biggest issue (3 HR allowed), which isn’t a surprise when you allow 7 groundballs vs. 18 fly balls. He’s also managed to generate 10 swinging strikes, just a continuation of a declining strikeout rate (6.42 K/9 in ’17) and groundball rate (47.3% in ’17). You have to think that he’s better than this, but it’s impossible to trust Cobb until he shows us a little something. Keep him stashed on your bench if you want, and in most formats it makes sense, but he shouldn’t be in starting lineups.
2) Javier Baez moves up to #2, and keeps on delivering…
He went 2-5 with 2 R, hitting in front of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, and if he sticks in that spot of the lineup he certainly would benefit from the protection. At the same time can we expect him to really stick, having entered the day with a 16.6% SwStr% and 43.3% O-Swing%? He also appears to be swinging for the fences, as his fly ball rate has inflated (44.4% in ’18, compared to a career mark of 37.5%) and an unsustainable 31.3% HR/FB. His strikeout rate is going to rise (22.0%) and the power is going to fall, and while an improvement in his BABIP (.212) will help that may not be enough. It’s easy to get excited about the move, but keep things in perspective.
3) Another dominant outing from Charlie Morton…
Taking on the Mariners he tossed 7.0 shutout innings allowing 3 H and 0 BB, striking out 8. He now owns a 0.72 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over four starts (25.0 IP), though the most impressive numbers may be 33 K vs. 6 BB. We all know he’s not this good, considering he entered the day with a 98.9% strand rate, but with his 16.4% SwStr% (13 swinging strikes yesterday) and 59.5% groundball rate (9 groundballs vs. 4 fly balls yesterday) there’s little reason to think that he won’t continue producing impressive results. Expect a few bumps, nearly by default, but at the same time don’t consider him a no-brainer sell high candidate because the upside is there.
4) We continue to see the limitations of Aaron Sanchez…
Taking on the Yankees, in New York, it’s hard to call it a poor outing as he allowed 3 ER over 6.0 IP, but at the same time we wouldn’t classify it as particularly good either. He allowed far too many base runners (7 H and 2 BB), while showing an inability to generate strikeouts (2). He managed to get just 5 swinging strikes in the outing after entering the day with a 5.95 K/9. He also continues to struggle with his control (13 BB over 25.2 IP), a combination that is never going to lead to tremendous success. While he’s an elite groundball artist, unless he improves in one of the other two areas he’s going to be mediocre, at best. That’s not to say that there isn’t upside but right now it’s hard to bank on him suddenly flourishing in 2018.
5) Jameson Taillon suffers the inevitable stumble…
Taking on the Phillies he allowed 5 ER on 4 H and 2 BB, striking out 3, over 1.2 IP. We all knew this type of start was going to come, sooner or later, considering he entered the day with a 95.6% strand rate and .160 BABIP. Granted this was extreme, but it shouldn’t cause any sort of concern for his long-term appeal as he has been generating groundballs (58.8% entering the day) and control (2.21 BB/9 entering the day). We would like to see a little bit more strikeout potential (7.7% SwStr% over his first three starts), and that may keep him from being a top tier pitcher, but there is value to be had (especially pitching in the National League).
6) Matt Wisler opens some eyes against the Mets…
The Braves needed a starter with Anibal Sanchez injured and not only did Wisler step into the role, he thrived in it. Going 7.0 innings he made one mistake (a solo home run to Todd Frazier, who finished 1-3 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R), allowing 1 ER on 2 H and 0 BB, striking out 8. It was an impressive outing, but there are a few key numbers that we also can’t overlook:
- Swinging Strikes – 11
- Groundballs – 2 (as compared to 11 fly balls)
Considering he’s never shown a big strikeout rate (8.0 K/9 over his minor league career, 6.3 in the Majors) or groundballs (36.8% in 298.0 Major League innings entering the day) it’s hard to get excited. It was a nice showing, but without strikeouts and the risk of home run issues it’s going to be nearly impossible for him to maintain.
7) Have we finally reached “the end” of Matt Harvey…
He took it on the chin once again, allowing 6 ER on 8 H and 1 BB, striking out 4, over 6.0 IP. He managed just 5 swinging strikes, after entering the day with a pedestrian 8.7% SwStr% and averaging just 92.4 mph on his fastballs. He’s also getting hit hard (22.9% line drive rate) and struggling with home runs (4 HR over 21.0 IP) and has allowed 4+ ER in each of his past three starts. There’s a good chance he loses his spot in the rotation once Jason Vargas is ready to return and it’s clear he needs to reinvent himself if he’s going to continue to make it in the Majors. Can that happen in 2018? It’s going to be a process, and in most cases not one you want to wait for. If you were holding out hope of some value, you likely can move on.
8) Lewis Brinson finally shows signs of life…
It was a monster game for Brinson that’s easy to overlook, as the Marlins fell to the Brewers 12-3 (Jesus Aguilar had a big day on the other side, going 3-5 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R). Brinson provided all of the offense for the Marlins, going 2-3 with 2 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R, and you have to hope that having been given a few days off to get his head right served it’s purpose. Brinson entered the day hitting .131 with 0 HR and 1 RBI, as he struggled to make contact (30.3% strikeout rate) and was driving the ball into the ground far too often (65.0%). Obviously one big game isn’t going to help to eliminate the poor strikeout rate (he entered the day with an 18.3% SwStr%) and did strikeout again yesterday, but it appears like the Marlins are going to stick with him and he always showed intriguing upside. While you may not want to plug him into your lineup quite yet, he remains well worth owning.
9) Nick Tropeano the latest to fall victim to the Boston Red Sox…
He was outpitched by Eduardo Rodriguez (6.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 5 K) as he was touched up for 5 ER on 7 H and 2 BB, striking out 3, over 5.1 IP. He made two big mistakes against the top of the Red Sox lineup, both of whom are producing of late:
- Mookie Betts – 2-5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R
- Andrew Benintendi – 2-5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R
As for Tropeano, it was a massive step backwards after he tossed 6.2 shutout innings against the Royals in his ’18 debut. He’s never been much of a groundball pitcher (36.0% in the Majors entering the day), so the home runs shouldn’t be surprising. At the same time he owns a 9.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 over 223.0 innings at Triple-A so the upside is apparent. There are going to be bumps, but he’s well worth owning in all formats.
10) J.P. Crawford continues to find his footing…
He went 2-4 with 1 RBI and 1 R yesterday, giving him hits in 6 of his past 8 games (he’s raised his average from .043 to .208 in the process). Of course he’s not a significant home run hitter at this point, so his batted ball profile entering the day does bring some concern:
- Line Drive Rate – 19.4%
- Groundball Rate – 38.7%
- Fly Ball Rate – 41.9%
He also has been swinging and missing too much (11.9% SwStr%, and he struck out once yesterday). While he could be seen as having some upside, chances are he doesn’t fully discover it until 2019. He has value, but he’s not among the elite.
Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
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