by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There were numerous debuts/returns that need to be noted:
- Lourdes Gurriel made some noise in his MLB debut, going 2-5 with 3 RBI as he was playing 2B and hitting 9th
- Nolan Arenado returned from suspension to go 3-4 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R
- Drew Pomeranz struggled in his first start of the year, allowing 3 ER on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 7, over 3.2 IP
- Jeff Samardzija came off the DL to toss 5.0 shutout innings against the Angels, allowing 2 H and 4 BB while striking out 4
- Mac Williamson made his ’18 debut going 1-4 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R
- Matt Koch was surprisingly strong, allowing 1 ER on 2 H and 2 BB, striking out 4, over 6.0 IP against the Padres
It was a step in the right direction for Chris Archer, despite a no decision, as he allowed 2 ER on 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 5, over 6.2 IP against the Twins. Max Scherzer (6.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 9 K) outpitched Clayton Kershaw (7.0 IP, 4 ER, 9 H, 0 BB, 4 K) in the matchup of the night. What else happened that we need to know about? Let’s take a look:
1) Is it time to give up on Sonny Gray…
Taking on the Blue Jays he got beat up for the second straight start (11 ER over 6.1 IP total), allowing 5 ER on 5 H and 4 BB, striking out 0, over 3.1 IP. It goes beyond that:
- He’s gone 4.0 innings or fewer in three of his four starts
- He has at least 2 BB in all four of his starts (11 BB over 16.1 IP)
It’s easy to point towards poor luck as the part of the problem, and that’s fair (he entered the day with a 61.5% strand rate and .409 BABIP), though it’s a bit more than that. That said, barring an injury he’s obviously better than this and now may be the ideal time to try and buy low from a frustrated owner.
2) Has Dylan Bundy truly found himself…
Going 6.0 IP against the Indians he was great once again, allowing 1 ER on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 9, to improve to a 1.42 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 31.2 IP. Even more impressive may have been his 24 swinging strikes on the day, after entering with a 16.3% SwStr% and 36.7% O-Swing%, and he’s been showing impressive strikeouts and walks all year long (10.87 K/9, 2.45 BB/9 entering the day). There is a warning sign that can’t be ignored, as he entered with a 36.9% groundball rate (3 groundballs, 5 fly balls yesterday) and had allowed just 1 HR on the year. As the weather improves that will become an issue, leading to a step back, but if he can continue with the strikeouts and control it’s not going to be the end of his productivity. Long hyped don’t assume he can’t maintain productivity, though also know the risks.
3) Jake Junis with a strong rebound, but that doesn’t mean much…
He allowed 2 ER on 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 4, over 8.0 IP to defeat the Detroit Tigers. That comes after he was beaten up for 3 HR over 4.2 IP in his last outing, and he continues to be a fly ball pitcher who could get burned at any time (he entered the day with a 48.0% fly ball rate and got 9 groundballs vs. 11 fly balls in this one). He also has 9 swinging strikes or fewer in two of his past three starts, calling his strikeout rate into question as well. You couple the risk of home runs with a lack of strikeouts? That’s not a very appealing combination and it appears likely that he regresses significantly in his coming starts. Now is the ideal time to cash out if you can.
4) A big day for Mitch Haniger should be opening some eyes…
While Jean Segura also made some noise, as he finally started to run (3-5, 2 RBI, 1 R, 2 SB), it is Haniger’s day that we all need to take notice of. He finished going 3-4 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R, putting him at .290 with 5 HR and 17 RBI on the season. You do have to wonder if he’s taken a power first approach, having entered the day with a 45.5% fly ball rate, but he also has been hitting the ball extremely hard (40.9% Hard%) and hasn’t shown significant warning signs in his approach (10.0% SwStr%, 27.7% O-Swing%). There’s a lot to like in that regard, which means his average should remain elevated and he showed his power potential last season (16 HR over 369 AB). While the opportunity to buy may have already come and gone, there’s a lot to like if he can stay healthy.
5) Kyle Schwarber shows off his power in Coors Field…
The Cubs put up 16 runs on 18 hits, with Javier Baez (4-6, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) and Albert Almora (4-6, 1 RBI, 4 R) doing the job to set the table for the middle of the lineup. Schwarber was among those who cashed in on the opportunities, going 3-4 with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 2 R. We all know he has power (4 HR on the season), but more important is his .283 AVG and .406 OBP to open the year. He entered the day with an impressive 16.9% walk rate and while his strikeouts remain elevated, his 28.8% strikeout rate is at least a slight improvement (29.9% for his career) and he has avoided strikeouts in back-to-back games (5-8 with 1 HR, 6 RBI and 2 R). Obviously we’d like to see continued growth in that regard, but all he needs to do is continue at his current pace and it won’t stop him from hitting .260+. With his power that’s more than enough.
6) Tyson Ross continues to turn back the clock…
Pitching in Arizona he settled for a no decision despite an impressive outing, allowing 1 ER on 1 H and 3 BB, striking out 10, over 7.2 IP. He generated 15 swinging strikes, which would be a huge step in the right direction (he entered with a 9.0% SwStr%). Obviously there’s going to be risk involved, but put everything together:
- Strikeouts – We already noted his growth (24 K over 25.2 IP)
- Control – 7 BB over 25.2 IP
- Groundballs – He generated fewer yesterday (5 vs. 8 fly balls), he entered the day with a 54.5% groundball rate
He’s not the same pitcher he was once upon a time and it will be interesting to see how he fares after throwing 127 pitches last night. That said, there appears to be enough here to make an investment to see if he can keep the positives going.
7) Is there any reason to invest in Andrew Heaney…
The Angels need pitching, but seeing him get beaten up by the Giants has got to be a concern. He gave up 3 HR en route to giving up 7 ER on 6 H and 2 BB, striking out 6, over 4.1 IP. He has shown strikeout stuff over his two starts (13 K over 9.1 IP), but he hasn’t been generating many groundballs (10 vs. 17 fly balls) and that came back to haunt him in this one. That’s not a new issue (1.56 career HR/9 entering the day), and unless he can figure out how to keep the ball in the ballpark that risk is going to continue to hang over him. It’s going to mean the potential for a poor start at any time, and that makes him nearly impossible to invest in at the moment (unless he shows a Dylan Bundy-esque strikeout/walk upside).
8) Is Alex Bregman finally turning the corner…
It’s been a slow start to the year, but after going 2-4 with 1 RBI and 1 R he may finally be showing signs of turning things around. He is on a modest three-game hitting streak (4-12, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB), but it’s important to note that the issues are strictly luck related. He owns an impressive 12.2% strikeout rate and 13.3% walk rate, as he continues to show an ability to make consistent contact (6.6% SwStr%). He also has been hitting the ball hard (23.9% line drive rate), yet he’s managed a poor .258 BABIP. There’s no question that’s going to improve, and he also should hit for a bit more power (1 HR). Things are turning and he’s primed to explode, so don’t make the mistake of losing hope now.
9) An impressive performance for Jhoulys Chacin…
Of course it came against the Marlins, so we need to keep that in perspective, but he still tossed 6.0 shutout innings allowing 4 H and 3 BB, striking out 5. Of course he had just 6 swinging strikes in this one and has not yet struck out more than 5 batters in any of his 5 starts. Throw in the pedestrian control, with 13 BB over 23.2 IP, and what exactly are we getting excited about? He’s going to continue getting an opportunity to take the ball every five days, but he needs to show us more than this before we’re willing to trust him.
10) Jose Martinez continues to show why he belongs in the lineup…
He went 3-5 with 1 RBI and 1 R yesterday, putting him at .358 with 3 HR and 16 RBI on the season. Those numbers are highly impressive, and while he’s benefiting from a .368 BABIP he also owns a career .360 mark so we can’t completely call it an aberration. The most impressive numbers, though, are his 8 K vs. 10 BB as he’s shown a tremendous approach (4.9% SwStr%, 23.1% O-Swing%). Being able to command the strike zone, as well as having the power, is going to keep him in the lineup every day. In turn Matt Carpenter is going to bounce between 2B/3B, leaving Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong nearly impossible options to trust.
Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs
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