10 Important Stories from 09/14/18 Box Scores: Buehler’s Star Rising, Valuing Mediocre “Star” Performances (Gausman/Archer) & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Noah Syndergaard delivered an ace-like performance in Boston, tossing 7.0 shutout innings allowing 3 H and 3 BB, striking out 6.  Josh Donaldson went 2-4 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R, in his third appearance for Cleveland (he has 9 AB), showing signs that he could be a difference maker over the final two weeks.  Ronald Acuna had a monster day, going 4-5 (falling a home run short of the cycle) with 2 RBI and 2 R.  What other big stories came out of yesterday’s action?  Let’s dive into the box scores and take a look:

 

1) Trey Mancini muscles up against the White Sox…
He went 2-4 with 2 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R, and while he is hitting just .241 overall he is up to 23 HR and 53 RBI on the season.  Coming off a month where he hit .291 with 7 HR and 20 RBI (August) there was optimism for a strong finish, but he slumped through the first half of September (.220 with 1 HR and 2 RBI entering yesterday) so now the question is if he can turn things back around.  Considering his overall lackluster approach (12.8% SwStr%, 34.2% O-Swing%), pedestrian Hard% (33.0%) and elevated groundball rate (53.9%) it’s hardly a guarantee.  The only significant difference between 2017 and 2018 is his BABIP plummeting (.352 to .281), but given the underlying statistics and lack of speed this year’s mark seems far more believable.  There’s always a chance, but he’s a hard sell for the rest of the year.

 

2) Has Masahiro Tanaka finally turned the corner…
Taking on Toronto he tossed 6.0 shutout innings allowing 4 H and 2 BB, striking out 8.  Sure he had a big lead to work with (the Yankees won 11-0 and spotted him to a 5 run lead in the first inning), but don’t let that cause you to overlook the performance.  He’s now posted back-to-back scoreless starts (spanning 14.0 IP) and has allowed 1 ER with 24 K over his past 21.0 IP.  He’s also allowed 2 ER or fewer in five of his past six starts, with the biggest key being that he has suddenly started keeping the ball in the ballpark.  While he’s allowed 23 HR over 148.0 IP overall, he’s now gone four straight starts without allowing a home run and 1 HR over his past six starts (40.0 IP).  He’s been generating swings and misses all year long (he entered with a 14.0% SwStr%, before an impressive 19 swinging strikes last night) and with a 47.6% groundball rate (4 groundballs vs. 6 fly balls yesterday) you would’ve expected a better home run rate (1.94 HR/9 in the first half).  Can he maintain the 0.77 HR/9 that he entered the day with in the second half?  That’s probably extreme, but if he can keep it in the 1.00-1.20 range he’s going to have success.

 

3) Has the real Jay Bruce finally arrived in 2018…
To say that he was among the biggest disappointments of 2018 would be an understatement, but Bruce has shown signs late in the year of finally figuring it out.  He was playing hurt, which clearly had an impact (though that’s not necessarily an excuse anyone wants to hear).  After going 2-5 with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 1 R last night he now has 2 HR and 8 RBI over his past three games.  Overall in September he’s gone 10-38 (.263) with 4 HR, 12 RBI and 8 R, putting himself on the type of pace we would’ve expected.  It’s hard to ignore his .212 average with 3 HR over 62 games in the first half of the season, but this late season surge shows that the player he’s always been is still there.  It will be easy to expect him to rebound in 2019, assuming the AB are there, putting him as a .240ish hitter with 40 HR potential.

 

4) Kevin Gausman outpitches Max Scherzer, kind of…
Gausman came out on the winning side of things, though that doesn’t mean he was impressive:

  • Gausman – 5.2 IP, 4 R (3 ER), 7 H, 2 BB, 1 K
  • Scherzer – 4.0 IP, 6 ER, 7 H, 3 BB, 6 K

Obviously the performance from Scherzer, who is trying to lock up the NL Cy Young, was ill-timed.  That said Gausman simply wasn’t generating many swings and misses (7) nor was he a groundball machine (8 groundballs vs. 7 fly balls).  He has shown (entering yesterday) a solid groundball rate (49.2%) and good control (2.32 BB/9), but is that enough?  While we’d expect the strikeouts to improve with the jump to the NL he entered with a 6.33 K/9, though a 10.7% SwStr% at least gives a little reason for optimism.  The bigger question is whether or not he can maintain a 0.63 HR/9, which is a tough sell (1.26 HR/9 over his career).  Having benefited from a .244 BABIP and 79.0% strand rate in Atlanta, things could turn quickly.

 

5) Has Walker Buehler emerged as a fantasy ace…
Jack Flaherty (6.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 8 K) tried to keep pace, but he couldn’t do so.  Buehler was fantastic, needing just 105 pitches to toss 8.0 shutout innings allowing 2 H and 2 BB, striking out 9.  He generated an impressive 18 swinging strikes and now owns a 2.88 ERA and 0.99 WHIP over 118.2 IP in the Majors.  Entering the day he owned a 9.92 K/9, 2.36 BB/9 and 50.0% groundball rate, showing off all of the skills we look for and calling a friendly ballpark home (helping to lend credence to his 0.98 HR/9).  You can argue that he can’t maintain this type of strikeout rate (10.2% SwStr% overall), but he had an 11.4% SwStr% in the second half entering the day.  His Hard% has ballooned a bit (37.5% in the second half), and that’s something to watch, but Buehler is quickly emerging as one of the better starters.

 

6) The bullpen lets down Matt Harvey…
Taking on Cole Hamels (6.2 IP, 2 ER, 8 H, 2 BB, 7 K) and the Cubs Harvey shined, tossing 6.0 shutout innings allowing 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 6.  He did a good job of inducing groundballs (8 groundballs vs. 4 fly balls) while also getting swings and misses (14).  It’s the former that’s the tough sell, even since the trade that sent him to Cincinnati, as he entered the day with a 41.1% groundball rate (both overall and during his time with the Reds).  That has made him very prone to home runs, and he also hasn’t been the same strikeout pitcher that he showed early in his career (9.6% SwStr% in Cincinnati).  There has been optimism that maybe he’s figured something out, but given the limited strikeout rate and risk of home run troubles that’s a hard sell.

 

7) The Chris Archer frustrations continue…
Has the time truly come to reevaluate Archer and his potential upside?  It was another lackluster showing, this time against Milwaukee, as he allowed a pair of first inning home runs and finished allowing 4 ER on 6 H and 2 BB, striking out 8, over 5.0 IP.  Sure the 16 swinging strikes is impressive, but he now owns a 5.49 ERA and 1.47 WHIP over 39.1 IP in his eight starts for Pittsburgh (4.66 ERA and 1.41 WHIP overall).  Surprisingly his home run rate has regressed since the trade (he had a 1.31 HR/9 entering the day), though he isn’t getting hit as hard (40.2% to 36.5% Hard%) and his luck has clearly been poor (.323 BABIP, 65.9% strand rate entering the day with Pittsburgh).  In other words there should be better days ahead.  While he’s been among the most frustrating to own this season, that simply could create an ideal buying opportunity for 2019.

 

8) Jose Berrios pitches well, but settles for a no decision…
He was in line for a W against the Royals, before Trevor Hildenberger had an epic meltdown in the ninth inning (5 ER over 0.1 IP) to cost him.  Berrios allowed 2 ER on 5 H and 3 BB, striking out 9, over 6.0 IP giving him back-to-back solid starts.  Of course, before we get too excited the Royals are hardly an imposing offense and both of these outings (3 ER over 12.0 IP) came against them.  He has the potential to struggle with home runs (41.1% groundball rate entering the day) and while you can argue that he’s had a little bit of bad luck in the second half (.315 BABIP) it’s the regression in his control that’s a big concern (2.05 BB/9 to 4.27 before yesterday).  A lack of groundballs and a lack of control is a dangerous combination, and while we wouldn’t be concerned long-term it clearly is an issue today.

 

9) Can Matt Shoemaker be a difference maker…
Shoemaker pitched fairly well against the Mariners, allowing 3 ER on 5 H and 0 BB, striking out 8, over 4.2 IP.  Obviously the strikeout-to-walk rate is eye opening and he’s up to 15 K vs. 2 BB over 14.2 IP in his three starts since returning from the DL.  That type of ratio is going to lead to success, though we’d generally like to see it paired with a little bit more in terms of groundballs (and he was there yesterday, with 8 groundballs vs. 4 fly balls).  He is still being stretched out and hasn’t proven that he can do deep into games this season (he hasn’t gone more than 5.0 innings or thrown more than 77 pitches since returning) and that’s going to hurt his opportunity for W (and his overall appeal).  Watching him is more about seeing if he can contribute in 2019 as opposed to over a handful of starts in 2018.

 

10) Jurickson Profar continues his breakout campaign…
He went 3-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R, as he continues to play across the diamond and finally live up to the hype that was placed upon him years ago.  It’s been a long road back, but Profar is now hitting .256 with 17 HR, 73 RBI, 76 R and 10 SB over 472 AB on the season.  He entered the day showing a solid approach (7.9% SwStr%, 32.4% O-Swing%), hitting the ball reasonably hard (35.8% Hard%) and also using the entire field (27.6% Oppo%).  We would expect those marks to yield better than a .266 BABIP and with some power and speed there’s obviously a lot of like.  It will be interesting to see if the Rangers continue to shift him around the diamond or settle him into one position, but he already is set to open 2019 with eligibility at SS and 3B.  If you play in a league that requires 20 games played he’s one appearance short at 1B as well, and that type of flexibility will only add to his potential value.

 

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs

2 comments

  1. Barry says:

    Hello Professor,

    After drafting and holding onto Godley all year, I’m considering bailing on him heading into my semi final H2H matchup next week after his debacle against the Astros. That’s now 5, 5, 4, 1, 5, 6 ER’s in his last 6 starts. With his next start against Colorado in AZ, I’m considering picking up one of the following two start pitchers who are in better form and have more appealing matchups.

    Of the following would you prefer Odorizzi, Andrew Suarez or Stratton for his single start against the Padres or roll with Godley in his biggest start of the season for me?

    Your thoughts are always appreciated.

    Thanks

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