10 Important Stories From 05/12/2018 Box Scores: Giving Up On Archer/Samardzija, Is Morton For Real, Buying Trevor Story & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Stephen Strasburg starred against the Diamondbacks, allowing 1 R on 5 H and 1 BB, striking out 9, over 6.2 IP to earn the W.  It was another monster day for Francisco Lindor, going 4-4 with 2 HR, 2 RBI and 4 R (he’s now hitting .311 with 12 HR, 24 RBI and 33 R).  Freddie Freeman delivered a big day, going 3-4 with 2 HR, 3 RBI and 3 R to help lead the Atlanta Braves to a victory.  What else happened on the field that we need to know about?  Let’s take a look:

 

1) As expected, Domingo German falls well short of his last appearance…
German caused quite a stir after his first start, having struck out 9 over 6.0 no-hit things.  No one should’ve expected him to come reasonably close to those numbers moving forward, and he certainly fell well shy of them against Oakland.  Lasting 5.0 innings he allowed 6 R on 6 H and 3 BB, striking out 1, though he escaped with a no decision.  The big blow was a home run off the bat of Khris Davis (1-5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R), but he was struggling to get swings and misses (7, after he generated 16 in his previous outing) and clearly struggled with his control (44 of 75 pitches for strikes).  Maybe he’s not quite this bad, but there’s a far better chance that he’s replaced in the rotation than there is of him thriving (we cautioned about trusting him prior to his first start, which you can read by clicking here).  While moving on may be hasty, he should be viewed more as a streaming starter while he has a job.

 

2) David Price pitches well, sort of…
He did get the W against the Blue Jays, though it was hardly an impressive outing as he allowed 2 ER on 5 H and 3 BB, striking out 6, over 5.1 IP.  He allowed 1 HR in this one, something that could cost him moving forward (42.7% groundball rate entering the day, 4 groundballs vs. 5 fly balls yesterday).  He also continues to struggle with his control (3.89 BB/9 entering the game), and with the talk of him suffering from carap tunnel syndrome it makes sense.  With the strikeouts also down overall (7.78 K/9), you do have to wonder if he’d be better served to be shutdown to get healthy.  Time will tell, but the bottom line is the results here could camouflage the underlying issues that remain.  Consider him a risky proposition moving forward.

 

3) Just how good is Mike Clevinger…
Taking on the Royals he allowed 2 ER on 8 H and 0 BB, striking out 5, over 7.2 IP to improve to 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 1.07 WHIP over 53.1 IP.  While he entered the day with a pedestrian 7.69 K/9, an 11.5% SwStr% shows the upside (and he delivered 16 swinging strikes yesterday).  He also was showing improved control (2.76 BB/9) and groundballs (48.0%, with 9 groundballs vs. 8 fly balls yesterday).  There hasn’t been any major changes in his pitch usage, so is this a matter of experience/maturation for the 27-year old or is it likely that a regression is coming?  Time will tell, and while we wouldn’t call him a must sell we also wouldn’t be adverse to the idea.

 

4) Just when we want to buy into Chris Archer…
Taking on the Orioles in the first game of the double header (which they split), Archer allowed 6 ER on 7 H and 3 BB, striking out 4, allowing a trio of home runs in the process.  That continues to be a concern (he entered the day with a 41.2% groundball rate and a 1.18 HR/9), though the bigger concerns is the continually inflated Hard% (41.2%) which had helped to contribute to some poor “luck” (.354 BABIP, 65.4% strand rate).  Of course if you are getting hit hard how much of it is really luck?  He’s still showing strikeouts and control, so we want to believe in a rebound but it’s getting harder and harder to buy into.  If the price is low enough we’d still be cautiously optimistic, but don’t go all in.

 

5) Has John Hicks earned regular playing time…
He enjoyed a solid day during yesterday’s double-header (which the Tigers split with the Mariners), combining to go 5-8 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R.  He’s now hitting .290 with 4 HR and 11 RBI over 69 AB in the Majors, and while the numbers are impressive there are going to be two key questions:

  1. Where does he play – Once Miguel Cabrera returns he’s going to be the first baseman and Victor Martinez is the DH. Hicks has seen a little time in left field, though hardly enough to buy into (5 games in the minors), so his AB will come from catching if the Tigers decide to utilize him there.
  2. Strikeouts – He entered the day with a 21.0% SwStr%, with an 18.7% career mark. That’s going to help to limit any appeal.

Throw in a decidedly home run approach (53.7% fly ball rate) and this is a nice run for Hicks, but it’ll all come crashing down before long.

 

6) Has the time come to give up on Jeff Samardzija…
It was another dud for Samardzija, allowing 5 ER on 6 H and 2 BB, striking out 5, as he allowed 2 HR for the second straight games and 5+ ER for the third time in four starts.  The owner of a 6.94 ERA and 1.71 WHIP it’s easy to have become disenchanted, especially with the walks ballooning (15 BB over 23.1 IP) and the groundballs completing disappearing (30.4% entering the day).  You have to start to wonder if he came back too early or if he’s simply still trying to round into form, as his velocity was down entering the day (average of 93.51 mph on his fourseam fastball, compared to 94.64 in ’17).  He’s also tried going sinker heavy (46.78% usage entering the day, compared to 28.24%), which obviously isn’t working.  Something needs to give here, but for now it’s fair to be skeptical.

 

7) Charlie Morton steals the show…
Taking on the Rangers he was fantastic over 7.0 innings, allowing 1 R on 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 14, to improve to 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA, 0.97 WHIP 62 K over 48.2 IP.  There’s obviously a lot to love in the numbers he’s been posting thus far, with an 11.47 K/9, 3.14 BB/9 and 57.8% groundball rate over his first 8 starts.  Can he maintain those marks remains to be seen, with the key improvement being in his strikeouts (7.07 career K/9), but he’s throwing harder (96.1 mph) and getting swings and misses (13.8% SwStr%).  It’s obvious that there will be some type of step backwards (.231 BABIP, 91.4% strand rate), but as long as he continues striking out at least a batter per inning the value is going to be there.

 

8) Has Trevor Story turned a corner…
He had a big day yesterday, going 3-3 with 2 HR, 4 RBI and 2 R, giving him back-to-back 4 RBI days and 3 HR and 11 RBI over his past four.  Overall he’s still hitting just .239, though he now has a solid 10 HR and 32 RBI.  Strikeouts are the biggest issue he’s faced, with 50 K and a 30.3% strikeout rate, though there are signs that things could improve.  He’s shown an improved SwStr% overall (11.3% in ’18 vs. a career mark of 13.1%) and a solid O-Swing% (25.1%), while he’s hit the ball hard (45.7% Hard%) and should improve upon his .286 BABIP.  His strikeout rate in May is down to 27.9%, and that’s helped him to hit .278.  The upside is there to post across the board numbers, so if someone is only looking at him as a source of power you still may be able to get a deal.

 

9) Has Tyson Ross truly rediscovered his stuff…
Once upon a time Ross was viewed as one of the higher upside pitchers in the game, before injuries struck, but back in San Diego and fully healthy he appears to have rediscovered himself.  Taking on the Cardinals he allowed 1 ER on 3 H and 2 BB, striking out 7, over 6.0 IP, giving him a 3.40 ERA and 1.15 WHIP on the year.  There isn’t luck behind the numbers (.270 BABIP, 72.0% strand rate)…  Or has there?  He has been hit extremely hard (28.0% line drive rate), meaning a luck regression could still easily come. You also have to wonder if he can maintain his strikeout rate (10.01 K/9) and if home runs will be an issue (44.0% groundball rate).  While pitching in San Diego helps to limit the exposure on the latter, a 10.3% SwStr% does put the former into question.  Ride him while he’s going well, but a regression is likely coming for Ross before long.

 

10) The Braves’ defense helps to sabotage Michael Soroka…
He needed 90 pitches to get through 4.2 innings, but a lot of that had to do with the defense behind him.  Soroka finished allowing 5 R (only 1 ER) on 8 H and 1 BB, striking out 7, as he generated an impressive 14 swinging strikes.  Through three starts in the Majors he’s shown strikeouts (9.20 K/9) and control (2.45 BB/9), which matches what he had been doing at Triple-A prior to his recall (9.53 and 1.99, respectively).  Couple that with even more upside in his groundball rate (42.9%) and the potential to work deep into the season (he’s likely looking at an innings limit in the 180-190 range), there’s an awful lot to like.  He has the potential to stick in the rotation and make a big impact for the emerging Atlanta squad.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings?  Make sure to check it out by clicking here.  

8 comments

  1. bbboston says:

    RP: Great stuff as always

    On Clevinger, a few things:
    – he’s pitched 165 innings over the last two years in the MLB to a 3 ERA and K/9 of 9ish.
    – last year his success was driven by nasty stuff that batters struggled to square up and a high k/9. When watching him, it was clear he was very careful to avoid leaving things in the middle of the plate and was walking too many batters; he got away with that because he was also striking out a lot of batters.
    -this year he appears to be refining his game towards a more efficient contact management approach and it’s clear (as openly stated to the press) that Francona wants strikes and innings from Clevinger.

    It is my own opinion that we are seeing the maturation of a top AL SP. He may never be an “ace”, but he’s already a top 15 AL SP.

  2. Mike Honcho says:

    Would you take a flyer on Archer for Caleb Smith or Soroka?

  3. Mike says:

    Is it time to drop Michael Fulmer? I have some pitching depth but it is a 14 team H2H league. I was looking to pick up Max Kepler, Jack Flaherty or Andrew Heaney.

  4. George says:

    Hi Professor,

    Would you trade D. German for Gohara?

    Thanks.

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