by Ray Kuhn
Another day brought us another exciting slate of action on Tuesday. We are getting to that point in the season where you can start to look at the standings and truly pinpoint your team’s strengths and weaknesses compared to the rest of league; and that can be either a good or a bad thing. As you start to take a hard look at your teams, let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out from around the league:
1) A Gem From Gonzales
We know that Seattle is need of starting pitching, and after trading Tyler O’Neill for him last season, that they like Marco Gonzales. After being inserted into the rotation to start the season, Gonzales had his best start of the season on Tuesday as he picked up his second victory of 2018. The southpaw threw six scoreless innings against the White Sox as he limited them to just five hits and one walk while striking out eight. Thanks to two consecutive starts in which he allowed four runs in each while pitching a combined 5.2 innings, Gonzales’ ERA still sits at 4.37 on the season. In his other three starts, the left-hander has allowed a combined three runs in 17 innings. A good sign for Gonzales, has been his ability to limit walks; just four all season while striking out 27 batters in 22.2 innings. With a 2.60 FIP, thanks to a .406 BABIP, Gonzales is worth keeping an eye on.
2) Schwarber Goes Deep Twice
With the Cubs playing in Cleveland on Tuesday, Kyle Schwarber got to play his ideal position, DH, and his bat certainly showed up to the party. The slugger hit his fifth and sixth home runs of the season, both solo shots, as he improved his RBI total on the year to 16. Power has never been an issue for Schwarber, but you have to like the fact that he is also hitting .306 on the season. So far this season, the strikeouts are down slightly as compared to his career average; 24% as opposed to 29.4% while he is also walking 3.1% more often. As the season progresses, lets see if these improvements stick and lead to continued success so Schwarber won’t be a liability in the batting average department.
3) It’s Just a Matter of Time for Sanchez
Some players just need a little bit of time to get going, and you have to resist the urge to panic and bench them. One of those players, Gary Sanchez, showed some signs of getting going on Tuesday as he went deep twice. The fourth and fifth home runs of the season for the catcher came against the Twins, a solo shot and a two run blast, and they have to make you feel better about Sanchez. The two hits pushed his average up to .208 on the season and brought his RBI total up to eight, told you he has been struggling. At this point, the only place for Sanchez’s BABIP of .200 to go is up, and he is maintaining the power (.273 ISO), so I wouldn’t be too concerned.
4) Mahle Flirts With History
A season after throwing a perfect game, Tyler Mahle brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Braves on Tuesday. While it was ultimately broken up and the final line doesn’t look as impressive for the right-hander, it’s still worth a look. The right-hander ultimately allowed three runs on three hits and two walks in six innings of work, but he also struck out 11 batters. After starting out the season strong, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for Mahle, as Tuesday’s outing brought his ERA down to 5.00; two starts of allowing five earned runs each will do that to you. Mahle has had a problem with the long ball, a 26.9% home run to fly ball rate, and he needs worth on keeping the ball on the ground (38.9% ground ball rate). With an xFIP of 3.48, it is possible we see an improvement from the right-hander, but as with all young pitchers, it likely won’t be a smooth ride.
5) Avila Goes Deep
When Alex Avila signed with Arizona this winter, it seemed like it would be a good spot. Now, it’s a catcher so no one was getting overly excited, but when you have to start two, the situation isn’t exactly ideal at all times. While no one was expecting Avila to contend for a batting title, he has been terrible, and even after his three hits on Tuesday, the catcher is still batting .179. One of those hits was the second home run of the season for Avila who later added another RBI to double his total for the year to four. With a .278 BABIP, there aren’t many excuses for Avila, and you really can’t roster him until he brings down the strikeouts; 42.2%. But if it happens, keep an eye on Avila as he is in a strong lineup and options are limited.
6) Granderson Walks it Off
The top of the batting order in Toronto is certainly agreeing with Curtis Granderson. Last night, the veteran outfielder found himself there again, and he took full advantage of it. Granderson produced another three hit outing, he missed the cycle by a triple, and he sent Toronto fans home happy with a 10th inning home run. It was the third home run of the season for Granderson, who also added his third double of 2018, while driving in three runs to bring his total for the season to 12. He is batting .321 on the season, but as he is benefiting from a .429 BABIP, we might want to pump the breaks slightly. With just plate appearances against southpaws, a .200 batting average, Toronto is putting Granderson is a position to succeed. You should ride the platoon option for as long as this hot streak continues.
7) Two Home Runs for Simmons
It started last season, but Andrelton Simmons is certainly showing some growth at the plate. We always knew how good he was in the field, but the bat is making some strides as part of a strong Angels lineup. Batting fifth on Tuesday, behind Albert Pujols, for the just the fourth time this season, Simmons took advantage of the situation. The shortstop went deep twice, which included a mammoth of a three shot to put Los Angeles up for good which gave him three home runs on the season. All in all, it was a five RBI day for Simmons, 13 on the season, as he improved his batting average to .317 on the season. Even if he is batting sixth, Simmons is developing into a fantasy asset at the plate, but keep an eye on the situation if he remains batting fifth.
8) Bruce Shows Some Life
We know that Jay Bruce has power and that he is a proven run producer. But so far in 2018, he hasn’t consistently shown that. Perhaps his two RBI night will serve as a springboard for that. The outfielder surprised everyone with an RBI triple on Tuesday, and he followed that up with a 10th inning blast to give New York the lead. It was just the second home run of the season for the outfielder who has 10 RBI and is only batting .222 on the season. Bruce’s .259 BABIP is a little off from his career mark of .283 and his ISO does need to pick up the pace, .194 compared to .223, but overall I wouldn’t be too concerned. Bruce could represent a buying opportunity, and perhaps Tuesday night will get him going.
9) Freeland Shuts Down San Diego
The state of Colorado’s pitching has seen some improvement, but it still gives fantasy owners some pause. That is especially the case for some of their lesser known starters, of which Kyle Freeland is one. On Tuesday though, Freeland rewarded those fantasy owners who had faith in him as he picked up the victory with seven shutout innings. It was Freeland’s first win of the season, as he limited the Padres to just three hits and two walks while striking out eight and lowering his ERA for the season to 4.33. Overall, there is nothing that truly stands out about Freeland, but it is worth noting that so far this season he is striking out 8.33 batters per nine innings as compared to a career mark of 6.49.
10) Cain Goes Deep in His Homecoming
Kansas City clearly isn’t competing this season, so having Lorenzo Cain wouldn’t make that much of a difference, but the outfielder showed the Royals what they are missing on Tuesday. Batting atop Milwaukee’s order, Cain went 2 for 3 with two walks and his third home run of the season. So far this season, Cain is batting .316 with eight RBI as he has wasted no time adjusting to his new home. One thing that stands out for Cain, is that he is walking 15.8% of the time so far this season, but for his career, his walk rate is just 7%. There is no reason not to expect this success to continue, as the early results show Cain as one of the best free agent signings this winter; yes, I know there weren’t many.
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