by Ray Kuhn
The Fourth of July is about more than just baseball, but we certainly had a full day of action on the field yesterday. The festivities kicked off at 11 am in the nation’s capital and continued through the night. Let’s take a look at some of those performances that stood out:
1) All He Does is Win
We are often put in the position to chase wins, and while it’s hard to predict them, Eduardo Rodriguez appears to be a good pitcher to target. Of course it doesn’t help that the Red Sox are one of the best teams in baseball, but on Wednesday, the southpaw picked up his 10th victory of the season; against just three losses. Rodriguez shut Washington out over six innings of work in which he limited them to just three hits and one walk while striking out six. With a 3.84 ERA, 3.69 FIP and 3.91 xFIP, what you see is what you get from Rodriguez who bounced back in a big way after allowing a combined nine earned runs in his last two starts.
2) Higashioka Shows Some Power
With Gary Sanchez slated to miss the next few weeks with a groin injury, Kyle Higashioka is trying to show off what he can do. While is hitting just .188 after Wednesday’s game, the sample size of 16 at bats doesn’t allow you to draw any conclusions there. What does generate some attention though, is the fact that he went deep for the third time yesterday. Prior to this, the 28 year old had nine career major league at bats under his belt, and 2016 when he hit a combined 21 home runs, is really the only year we saw Higashioka flash power. Given the state of catchers though, I would monitor the situation, but don’t expect much.
3) Riddle Drives in Two
At this point, we know that the Marlins aren’t a traditional team, so seeing JT Riddle batting fifth shouldn’t exactly be surprising. The shortstop is not known for his power, and it was his seventh game this season batting fifth, but the production can’t be ignored. After going 3 for 4 yesterday with a two run homer, Riddle is hitting .393 out of the fifth spot of the orders compared to his .258 overall mark for the season. With five home runs and 17 RBI in 128 plate appearances, don’t expect big things for Riddle, but with a .302 average in his last 15 games, at least put him on your radar.
4) An Easy Outing in Philadelphia
With the way Aaron Nola is pitching this season, things are pretty close to automatic when he takes the mound. Yesterday, Nola cruised through seven innings of one run ball to pick up his 11th victory of the season. He did scatter seven hits and two walks, but nine strikeouts and seven ground outs helped to limit the damage a Nola’s ERA improved to 2.41 on the season. So far this season, Nola is striking out a batter per inning while also generating a 50.5% ground ball rate and limiting the walks to 2.56 per nine innings. The only thing that is pushing Nola’s xFIP up, to 3.26, is the fact that he is benefiting from a .269 BABIP. That’s not enough to stop me from buying on the right-hander.
5) Piscotty Doubles His Fun, Three Times
The last season and a half have been rough for Stephen Piscotty, off the field mostly but that has made it’s way to his on field performance, however things have been going well for the outfielder as of late. After his three doubles yesterday, giving him 22 on the season, Piscotty is hitting .257 on the season, but over his last 30 games, that mark jumps to .310. Out of Piscotty’s 36 RBI so far this season, 19 have also come over that span as he tries to make his way back to the 2016 season. That was what can be considered the breakout season for Piscotty as he hit .273 with 22 home runs and 85 RBI for the Cardinals. I’m comfortable to expect Piscotty to continue this pace, and he shouldn’t be on your waiver wire much longer.
6) Richards Picks up The Victory in His Return
Thankfully it was just a hamstring injury for Garrett Richards, but he showed no ill effects from it after missing three weeks of action. Richards picked up the victory in Seattle on Wednesday with 5.1 innings of three run ball, two earned, as he answered, at least for now, any questions about his health. The big thing for the right-hander, who allowed four hits and two walks, is that he struck out eight batters. In fact, the two earned runs Richards allowed each came on a solo homer, so the right-hander really wasn’t in too much trouble. With a 3.42 ERA on the season, and 10.51 strikeouts per innings, you want to believe in Richards moving forward. The question, really, is can you expect him to stay healthy? Well that, and it would be nice if improved his control; 4.03 walks per nine innings.
7) Time to Pay Attention to Winker
At this point, there is no reason for Jesse Winker not to receive regular playing time in Cincinnati’s outfield. The 24-year old certainly has earned it. After a 2 for 3 effort yesterday, Winker is hitting .277 on the season, but in his last 15 games, that mark jumps to .421. In that stretch, Winker has picked up 16 of his 35 RBI (with two coming last night), and over his last 30 games, he is hitting .330. Entering the season, there was a lot to like about Winker’s hit tool, now it’s all about him finding and establishing consistency.
8) Grandal Drives in Three
It would have been nice if Yasmani Grandal could have continued on the pace that he started the season on. However, when it comes to catchers, that’s really just asking too much. Overall though, he is still one of the better catchers at the plate, and I would get wrapped up in those streaks. Last night, Grandal went 2 for 3 to raise his average to .247 (actually respectable for a catcher) while driving in three runs. With 44 RBI on the season, Grandal gives you solid production from the catcher position with a batting average that doesn’t turn into too much of a liability. While he is hitting .224 in his last 40 games, Grandal’s batting average over his last seven games jumps to .444. What is also interesting, is that over his last 15 games, Grandal has just nine strikeouts against eight walks.
9) Anderson Throws a Gem
Trying to figure out Coors Field can sometimes be tricky. In the interest of avoiding risk, I’m perfectly comfortable occasionally missing out on a gem. That was the case last night, as Tyler Anderson shut out San Francisco over eight innings for his sixth victory of the season. Anderson limited the Giants to just two hits and two walks while striking out nine and bringing his ERA down to a respectable 3.90. Even after last night, it is clear that Anderson is still a better pitcher on the road (3.48 ERA) than he is at home (4.37), but it was nice to see him have success. You would like to see Anderson keep the ball on the ground more, 36.6% compared to 43.7% last season, but so far the results haven’t been all that bad.
10) Mikolas Cruises Along
While it doesn’t look pretty at times, Miles Mikolas certainly gets the job done. Last night, the right-hander picked up his ninth victory of the season, and despite some traffic on the bases, limited Arizona to just two runs in six innings of work. The right-hander scattered seven hits and four walks, his WHIP on the season is still just 1.03, but he struck out only three batters. At this point in the season, fantasy owners have been accustomed to that from Milkolas as he has just 75 strikeouts in 109.1 innings of work, but it’s hard to argue with the 2.63 ERA. It works in Mikolas’ favor that he limits the walks, 1.40 per nine innings, and there has been some luck involved (.262 BABIP). Even if his ERA regresses to his 3.68 xFIP, we still have a fantasy worthy starting pitching, perhaps you just need to be a little more aware of the match-ups at that point.