by Ray Kuhn
Fifteen games. All at night, and none impacted by weather. What a great evening of baseball it was. Nights like that have been rare so far this season, but let’s jump right into it and take a look at some of the performances that stood out from a busy night around the league:
1) McCarthy Wins Again
I could have made life easier and just copy and pasted one of the many Ozzie Albies notes I’ve accumulated over the first two months of the season. I mean, after all, the second baseman did hit his 14th home run of the season on Tuesday. Instead, it’s interesting to take a look at Brandon McCarthy. Acquired mostly because the Braves wanted to dump Matt Kemp’s salary, the right-hander has been a dependable starter so far this season. The main thing, is that McCarthy is healthy. Concerns about his health, and his general mediocre performance, make him more of a back-end of the rotation/streaming option, but there is still some value to be had.
Last night, he picked up his fifth victory of the season against the Phillies with 5.2 innings of one run ball in which he allowed four hits and two walks while striking out five. With a 4.67 ERA on the season, his numbers don’t exactly jump off the page at you, but with a 4.55 FIP, what you see is what you get. Now if he could just improve that WHIP of 1.64, most generated by 59 hits in 46.2 innings, then we would be in business.
2) Three More RBI for Alonso
Last season was a coming out party of sorts for Yonder Alonso as he hit .266 with 28 home runs and 67 RBI, and so far this season that success has been continued. I mean it does help that he is batting square in the middle of a strong lineup with the Indians, last night he was in the clean-up spot, but Alonso continues to deliver. He went 3 for 4 with a walk yesterday to drive in three runs which gave him 26 RBI on the season and puts him on pace to eclipse last year’s total. The .227 batting average is a bit of a concern, but with a .234 BABIP, it is to be expected.
3) No, This Isn’t Directly Repeated
Stop me if you have heard this before; Mookie Betts hit a home run. The outfielder went deep again on Tuesday, a three run shot, and he is now up to 16 on the season to go along with 35 RBI. Who says lead-off hitters don’t have power? Betts also added a single last night as he brought his average up to .368 on the season. Aside from those surface stats, there really is a lot to like with Betts. His .346 BABIP doesn’t warn of any trouble coming, and you aren’t going to find a better combination than Betts’ 10.2% walk rate and 10.7% strikeout rate. And then you have his ISO which through the roof and .404 compared to a career mark of .211. Despite all of the home runs, Betts has only raised his fly ball percentage about four percent this year; from 42.8% to 46.7%. The good thing though, is that he has also increased his line drives by about the same percentage, while decreasing his ground ball rate to 31.6% from 40.4%. While it it makes sense in this day and age, Betts’ 22.5% home run to fly ball rate stands out like a sore thumb based on his career norms, but he has also increased his hard hit rate by 11% to 46.7%. As if you didn’t know Betts was a stud, there is no reason not to feel good about your likely AL MVP moving forward.
4) Smith Attacks the Mets
You have to like a young pitcher who attacks the opposition, and Caleb Smith certainly did that on Tuesday. I mean, the Mets are a perfect lineup to take advantage of, and Smith did just that. He picked up his third victory of the season with 6.2 innings of one run ball. The southpaw limited New York to just three hits and two walks while striking out eight and bringing his ERA down to a respectable 3.83. Walks have been an issue for Smith this season, 4.56 per nine innings, but striking out 11.86 batters per nine innings helps to counteract that. The good thing, is that he has shown he is not afraid to challenge opposing hitters; at least last night he was not. While wins may be hard to consistently get while pitching for Miami, Smith and his 3.05 FIP are worth a look.
5) A Win and a Quality Start for Harvey
The way the game started for Matt Harvey, it didn’t look like either of those things would be happening last night. In fact, Harvey was going to be lucky if he made it through one inning, let alone six. The right-hander was able to rebound from loading the bases with nobody out, he kept Pittsburgh off the scoreboard, and then he kept on going. Harvey ultimately through six innings of one run ball in which he allowed three hits and two walks while striking out five. The majority of that stress did come in the first inning, while the lone run Pittsburgh managed off the right-hander came via a Colin Moran solo homer. Dare I say, Harvey actually pitched well as he struck out five and lowered his ERA to 5.49. The velocity, mid-90’s, was there for most of the night, and the right-hander showed some things that really weren’t evident during his time with the Mets this season. And his 4.96 FIP also says he isn’t done improving.
6) Lynn Has Success
For Lance Lynn’s sake, let’s just blame his struggles on the fact that he signed with the Twins very late into Spring Training. But on Tuesday, he took advantage of a very weak hitting Detroit lineup and showed why Minnesota was interested in him. Lynn picked up his second victory of the season with 6.2 shutout innings of work, as he limited Detroit to just five hits and one walk while striking out four. The bad thing though, is that while he did lower his ERA, it still sits at 6.34 on the season. Lynn is striking out a batter an inning, 45 in 44 innings, but the problem is that he also has 30 walks so far this season. On the bright side, the only true place for Lynn’s .371 BABIP to go is down. Once that happens, and he continues to improve that control, we should see Lynn’s ERA more closely match his 4.95 FIP and 4.36 xFIP.
7) Kemp Takes Advantage
Between Jake Marisnick struggling, and being sent to Triple-A, and Derek Fisher dealing with gastrointestinal issues (and also struggling), and the Astros wanting to give Kyle Tucker more time, there is some playing time available in Houston’s outfield. And right now, that is Tony Kemp’s to take advantage of. And on Tuesday he did with a five RBI night as the Astros took it to San Francisco’s pitching staff. So far this season, Kemp has just 14 at bats and six RBI, but he is hitting .429, and is worth a look in deeper leagues if you are dealing some injury woes in the outfield. Prior to his promotion, Kemp was hitting .335 in Triple-A, and he is a career .312 hitter in the minors, so we know he can hit for average. And there are few better lineups to be a part of than Houston’s.
8) A Three Hit Effort For Gordon
By no means am I saying that anyone should sprint to their waiver wire for Alex Gordon. But maybe walk a brisk walk might make sense. Yes, I watched him struggle all of last season, but he is getting regular playing time for the Royals this season and he bats towards the middle of their lineup (sixth on Tuesday behind Whit Merrifield who actually has some true fantasy value). If you are battling injuries, that counts for something. And he is hitting mildly well so far this season. On Tuesday, he went deep for the fourth time this season, a solo shot, as part of a three hit effort to raise his batting average to .262 on the season to go along with his 10 RBI. Yes, I know, that’s not going to move the needle, but it could keep the chains moving on a temporary basis.
9) Diaz Saves Another One
I know I generally don’t use this space to delve into bullpens, and closers for that matter, but man was I wrong. Entering the season, I was down on Edwin Diaz and didn’t expect him to keep the closer’s job very long. Instead, he has been nothing short of dominant. Last night he threw a perfect ninth, striking out two, to pick up his 16th save of the season while lowering his ERA to 1.85. So far this season, Diaz is striking out an absurd 15.53 batters per nine innings, so nothing else really matters for the right-hander.
10) Kemp Cruises Along
When the Dodgers picked up Matt Kemp this winter, it was more about clearing out salary space for next season, and not finding their 2018 cleanup hitter. While they were successful with that payroll endeavor, Kemp has also settled in for the Dodgers in the middle of their lineup. He added two more hits last night, he is batting .335 on the season, while driving in his 21st run of the season and also scoring a run. Historically, Kemp has had a high BABIP, .340 for his career, but this season he is at .406, so that is something that you should keep an eye on moving forward. On the bright side though, Kemp has increased his hard contact rate from 34.7% last season to 46.4% this season, so there is some value here. Just don’t go overboard.
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