by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Luis Severino and Seth Lugo stole the show on Sunday night, with Lugo surprisingly getting the better end of the matchup (and likely locking himself into a rotation spot moving forward):
- Seth Lugo – 6.0 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 8 K
- Luis Severino – 5.0 IP, 2 R, 5 H, 2 BB, 7 K
Brandon Woodruff made his return to the Majors, allowing 1 R (0 earned) on 1 H and 2 BB, striking out 3, over 4.0 IP against the Phillies. Ivan Nova came off the DL to shut down the Cubs, allowing 1 ER on 4 H and 2 BB, striking out 8, over 5.2 IP to earn the W. Max Muncy went 1-2 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R, his third straight game with a home run. What else happened on the field that we need to know about? Let’s dive right in:
1) James Paxton shows off his ace-like potential…
Taking on the Rays he put up a dominant performance, allowing 3 ER on 5 H and 0 BB, striking out 10, over 7.0 IP. He made one big mistake (a solo home run to C.J. Cron), otherwise he was controlling the strike zone, generating swings and misses (15) and getting Rays’ hitters to bury the ball into the ground (7 groundballs vs. 4 fly balls). Paxton has now walked 1 batter or fewer in five of his past six starts, racking up 44 K vs. 6 BB over the span. Entering the day with an 11.04 K/9 and 2.73 BB/9, the big question will be if the long ball starts to burn him (he entered with a 36.4% fly ball rate, but a 0.87 HR/9) though opponents have to make contact for that to be an issue. That’s something to monitor, but overall there’s nothing not to like as he’s emerging as one of the elite in the game.
2) A disastrous start for Alex Cobb, who has become unusable…
The Blue Jays, without Josh Donaldson, are supposed to be an “easier” matchup. Try telling that to Alex Cobb, after he allowed 9 ER on 11 H and 1 BB, striking out 5, over 3.2 IP. All told Toronto swatted 4 HR, with 2 coming against Cobb, en route to 13 runs. Curtis Granderson led the charge (4-5, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 R), though he obviously wasn’t alone. As for Cobb, this represents a significant step backwards after he had seemed to find himself a bit. Now the owner of a 7.23 ERA and 1.77 WHIP, he simply hasn’t generated enough strikeouts to be productive in the AL East. Entering the day with a 6.2% SwStr%, he managed just 3 swinging strikes yesterday and that will continue to plague him. Throw in home run issues (11 HR over 56.0 IP) and where is the hope? At this point he’s completely unusable, though he had already been trending that way prior to landing in Baltimore in the offseason.
3) Reynaldo Lopez surprisingly shuts down the Red Sox, but should we believe…
Taking on Boston he delivered, allowing 2 R (1 earned) on 6 H and 3 BB, striking out 6, over 6.1 IP. Always a much hyped prospect, Lopez has shown signs of living up to his potential throughout the season, as he now owns a 3.26 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 77.1 IP. The problem has been a lack of strikeout stuff, entering the day with a 6.08 K/9 courtesy of a 9.2% SwStr%. That alone will limit his upside potential, but he also hasn’t generated many groundballs (35.1% entering the day). While it hasn’t plagued him thus far, pitching in a less than favorable home ballpark it’s something that is a significant red flag. Now may be the ideal time to try and sell high, because there’s a significant risk moving forward.
4) Should we be down on Carlos Martinez…
He’s made two starts since coming off the DL, and neither have been against imposing offenses, but the results have simply not been there:
- Miami (06/05) – 4.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 5 BB, 5 K
- at Cincinnati (yesterday) – 3.2 IP, 5 ER, 4 H, 7 BB, 5 K
That’s not a typo, as he’s walked 12 batters over 7.2 IP over his past two starts. You have to wonder if he isn’t quite fully recovered from his lat injury, or if it at least is in his head and hampering him on the mound. Obviously no one is about to push the panic button, though we’ll have to watch closely at this point. As long as he’s healthy he’s going to figure it out, that’s something that is a pretty safe assumption.
5) Jake Cave makes the most of his opportunity for the Twins…
He was starting in CF and batting eighth, finishing a triple short of the cycle as he went 3-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R. Spending time at Triple-A this season he was hitting .280 with 5 HR over 186 AB, a year after hitting .305 with 20 HR over 406 AB split between Double and Triple-A. The question is going to be his ability to make consistent contact, having put up SwStr% in the minors of 14.5% and 10.7% over the past two years. This year’s mark does represent a significant improvement, and he also owned a 10.2% walk rate. That gives a sense of hope, and with Byron Buxton on the DL he has the potential to run with the role (at least in a platoon). While he’s hardly a must own, he’s worth considering for those in the deepest of formats.
6) Has Jason Heyward turned himself back into a must own option…
He went 2-4 with 1 R yesterday and now has extra base hits in four straight games (3 doubles and 1 HR). After going 0-5 on June 1 his average sat at .252, but he’s back up to .273, albeit with little other overall production (3 HR, 25 RBI, 23 R and 0 SB). Can he finally find some type of power? It’s hard to bank on, considering his 5.1% HR/FB entering the day isn’t far off from three of his previous four seasons (6.5%, 12.0%, 4.8% and 9.2%) and the fact that he doesn’t hit the ball relatively hard (16.7% line drive rate in ’18, 18.8% for his career). A good approach is one thing (6.9% SwStr%), but considering the lack of power, poor line drive rate and a significant amount of popups (16.9%) where he is today could easily be his ceiling. It’s been a nice little run, but continue viewing him as a hands off option.
7) Dallas Keuchel struggles yet again casting significant doubt…
Taking on the Rangers he allowed 6 R (5 earned) on 13 H and 0 BB, striking out 3, over 4.1 IP. He’s now allowed 4+ ER in three straight starts (and four of his past five), pushing him to a 4.45 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. He’s generally never been a significant strikeout pitcher (7.03 K/9 entering the day) and his control is generally solid (2.45 BB/9, compared to a 2.59 career mark). The problem hasn’t even been with his luck (.270 BABIP, 74.2% strand rate), but with his groundball rate. Just look at the groundball rate compared to the ERA over the past four years (entering play yesterday):
- 2015 – 61.7% // 2.48
- 2016 – 56.7% // 4.55
- 2017 – 66.8% // 2.90
- 2018 – 55.2% // 4.13
Yesterday he had 5 groundballs vs. 5 fly balls, so the moral of the story is when he has an above average groundball rate, and not an elite one, he’s going to struggle. Unless he can reverse the course the numbers are going to continue to struggle.
8) Zach Godley surprisingly tames Coors Field…
He entered the day with a 5.12 ERA, after getting pummeled for 7 ER against the Giants, so who would’ve expected the results that we got? Pitching in Colorado, he allowed 2 ER on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 8, over 5.2 IP to grab the W. He had the Rockies off balance all day, with 19 swinging strikes, though he did manage just 2 groundballs vs. 6 fly balls. That’s a little bit of a red flag, though he entered the day with a 51.8% groundball rate in ’18 (53.2% for his career) so it’s not a real concern. The bigger issue has been an inflated walk rate (4.57 BB/9), though he avoided that yesterday, and a bit of bad luck (.316 BABIP, 69.2% strand rate). Obviously no one is dubbing him “back” off this one start, but he was always going to be an intriguing buy low candidate.
9) Another strong start from the Dodgers’ Ross Stripling…
He allowed 2 ER on 4 H and 0 BB, striking out 6, over 6.2 IP to defeat Sean Newcomb (5.1 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 6 K) and the Braves. Both runs came via solo home runs (Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman), though that’s not the only number to note. Yesterday he managed just 5 swinging strikes, despite the strikeout total, though he’s shown more upside (11.1% SwStr%) then that. It’s worth monitoring, but even bigger was his 89.4% strand rate entering the day. That looms large, as it indicates a significant downturn could be in his future. Is he a must sell? Maybe not, especially since you may not got a big return, but it’s certainly worth exploring to find out.
10) Does Zach Eflin deserve our attention…
Taking on the Brewers he earned the W, allowing 2 ER on 3 H and 1 BB, striking out 9, over 6.0 IP. While it was a strong start, what about these underlying peripherals entering the day is supposed to excite us:
- SwStr% – 9.5%
- O-Swing% – 24.1%
- Groundball Rate – 32.0%
While he did have 6 groundballs vs. 3 fly balls yesterday, he also managed just 11 swinging strikes and also hit a pair of batters. It was a nice start and the numbers look good (3.63 ERA), but he’s simply not a pitcher to trust.
Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, MILB.com
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