by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Maybe the time on the DL for Rhys Hoskins will help to awaken his bat, and he returned with a bang going 2-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R in his first game back. Jake Bauers recorded his first MLB hit, finishing 2-4 with 1 R. It was a poor performance from Charlie Morton, who struggled with his control en route to a no decision (3.2 IP, 2 R, 1 H, 6 BB, 4 K) against the Rangers. The Paul Goldschmidt resurgence continued, as he went 3-4 with 2 HR, 4 RBI and 3 R. What else happened on the field that we need to know about? Let’s dive in and take a look:
1) Jake Arrieta struggles for his second straight start…
He allowed 5 R (4 earned) on 4 H and 3 BB, striking out 4, over 5.1 IP against the Brewers. While he did allow a home run that’s not an issue (10 groundballs vs. 2 fly balls yesterday, 56.3% groundball rate entering the day). The real issue is the sudden disappearance of the strikeouts, as he entered with a 6.16 K/9 courtesy of a minuscule 6.8% SwStr% (and only 9 swinging strikes yesterday). He has 5 K or fewer in eight of his past nine starts and regardless of the other numbers that’s going to limit his appeal. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s gone wrong, but it’s been consistently suppressed (his “best” month was a 6.35 K/9 in April) and it’s becoming harder to buy into a rebound. His name is going to bring greater appeal, and that may make him an ideal sell candidate.
2) Should we be starting to believe in Kevin Gausman…
While it wasn’t a spectacular start on paper, it was a solid one as he allowed 3 ER on 9 H and 0 BB, striking out 6, over 6.2 IP. What was impressive was the underlying numbers:
- Swinging Strikes – 14
- Groundballs – 10 (compared to 3 fly balls)
He did allow a home run which has been the big issue (he entered with a 1.67 HR/9), though a 0.90 HR/9 in May with a 52.7% groundball rate gives a sense of hope. There has been no question about the strikeouts and control, so if he’s keeping the ball in the ballpark he should have a solid run in him. While you may not want to start him at home (or against the Red Sox/Yankees), there’s reason to believe.
3) Jon Lester dominates the Pirates, so should we sell high…
He tossed 7.0 shutout innings allowing just 1 H and 2 BB, striking out 5, to improve to 7-2 with a 2.22 ERA and 1.09 WHIP to outpitch Nick Kingham, who was impressive in his own right (6.1 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 K). Of course the first question everyone is going to ask is if it’s possible that he’s this good? His strikeouts are down thus far (7.84 K/9 entering the day), as he hasn’t been getting opponents to chase outside the strike zone very often (28.8% O-Swing%). He’s also benefited from some luck, with an 84.2% strand rate and .254 BABIP (despite a 23.6% line drive rate). You put those things together and the only way Lester has to go is down. Checking around your league and seeing if you can cash in on his strong start makes a lot of sense.
4) Carlos Rodon fairly impressive in his 2018 debut…
Finally off the DL, Rodon had a tough draw taking on the resurgent David Price (6.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 6 K, W) and the Boston Red Sox. Rodon held his own though, allowing 4 R (2 earned) on 6 H and 2 BB, striking out 7, over 5.0 IP. He generated 15 swinging strikes but the big issue was keeping the ball in the ballpark, as he allowed a pair of home runs. That had been a problem for him in his 69.1 IP in ’17 (1.56 HR/9), and he also struggled a bit back in ’16 (1.25 HR/9). The owner of a career 45.1% groundball rate it could continue to plague him, and if he is also going to struggle with his control (4.02 BB/9 last season) the results won’t be there. There’s upside, as we’ve talked about before, and he’s worth stashing but don’t consider him a can’t miss option.
5) Danny Duffy gives a glimpse of his upside potential…
Yesterday we discussed if Duffy or the Blue Jays’ Aaron Sanchez was a better buy low target, concluding Duffy as the better choice (click here for the article). Yesterday’s performances back that sentiment up:
- Danny Duffy – 7.0 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 3 BB, 10 K
- Aaron Sanchez – 6.1 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 4 BB, 5 K
Duffy had 19 swinging strikes against the A’s, though we have to keep in mind that home runs could continue to be an issue (6 groundballs vs. 5 fly balls, with 16 HR allowed) and it’s not like he had pinpoint control (10 BB over his past 18.0 IP). He’s still the better buy low option, but it’s not like he’s a given.
6) Is Matt Carpenter truly back…
He went 2-5 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 2 R, hitting one of the Cardinals’ three home runs (Jose Martinez and Marcell Ozuna also delivered big blows). Carpenter is now on a five-game hitting streak (8-21, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 5 R) and is hitting .285 with 6 HR, 12 RBI and 17 R since May 1. No one would complain with that type of production, though his .145 with 1 HR over April continues to drag the overall picture down (he’s hitting .232 with 8 HR on the season). While he continues to take a fly ball heavy approach, there is no doubt that the past five-to-six weeks is likely closer to the truth.
7) The Angels need Tyler Skaggs to step up, and he delivers…
With Shohei Ohtani out for the foreseeable future, and the potential that he’s out for the season, the Angels are going to need their starters to step up and deliver. All eyes will be on Tyler Skaggs, who delivered 7.0 impressive innings against the Twins, allowing 1 ER over 5 H and 1 BB, striking out 8. Over 13 starts he now owns a 3.08 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, and while you can argue that there’s been a bit of luck (he entered with an 83.1% strand rate), the skills have been solid:
- Strikeouts – 9.55 K/9 (10.9% SwStr%, 13 swinging strikes yesterday)
- Control – 3.00 BB/9
- Groundballs – 47.8%
He’s been throwing his changeup more (11.4%) and decreased the velocity (84.1 mph), which has likely helped it to play up even better in contrast to his fastball (91.6 mph). As long as he continues on this path, he’s going to be successful.
8) Can Max Stassi emerge as the Astros’ starting catcher…
Brian McCann is back from the DL, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to force his way into the starting lineup every day. The question is if he could continue to lose playing time, as Stassi went 1-3 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 2 R yesterday. He’s hitting .259 with 6 HR and 18 RBI on the season, and while the power is likely sustainable (20.8% HR/FB entering the day), it’s the average that could quickly plummet (all metrics entering the day):
- Strikeouts – 31.6%
- SwStr% – 13.9%
- BABIP – .349
Strikeouts are clearly an issue and it’s unlikely that he maintains an elevated BABIP. If he did earn regular playing time there’s a good chance that he’d be exposed, so don’t expect the Astros the flip the script now.
9) Domingo German steps up as the Yankees need him to…
With Masahiro Tanaka hitting the DL, German is going to get an extended look in the rotation. He stepped up and delivered yesterday, outpitching Steven Matz (6.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 4 BB, 6 K) in a no decision. Sure it was against the Mets and he got off to a rocky start (3 ER in the first), but at the end of the day he allowed 3 ER on 5 H and 0 BB, striking out 9, over 6.0 IP. He had 19 swinging strikes, and generating strikeouts as a starting pitcher (8.67 K/9 entering the day) hasn’t been an issue. The question is going to be his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark, as he allowed 2 HR yesterday and entered the day with a 38.6% groundball rate. Pitching in Yankee Stadium, and in the AL East in general, that’s not going to be a great combination. There’s upside and intrigue, but consider him more of a spot starter to plug in when the situation is right.
10) An eruption from at the dish from Trevor Story…
Hitting from the cleanup spot he went 3-4 with 2 HR, 4 RBI and 2 R, putting him at .255 with 14 HR and 47 RBI on the season. No one is going to question his ability to hit the ball out of any ballpark, the question is going to be whether or not he can make enough contact (75 K over 239 AB on the year). While the strikeouts are still scary, he has improved on the underlying metrics (entering the day):
- SwStr% – 14.1% in ’17 vs. 11.2% in ‘18
- O-Swing% – 30.9% in ’17 vs. 27.6% in ‘18
If he can continue down this path he’s going to keep the strikeouts below 30%. With his power and ability to add some SB (8 SB entering the day), that would put him among the better shortstops in the league. He may not be a .300 hitter, but .260/30/15? What’s not to love?
Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs
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