10 Important Stories from 09/15/18 Box Scores: Valuing Surging Sluggers (Puig), Starters We Can’t Trust (Tehera/Godley) & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Jon Lester starred for the Cubs, tossing 7.0 shutout innings allowing 2 H and 2 BB while striking out 9 en route to a victory over Cincinnati.  Juan Soto showed he was more than just some power, going 1-2 with 1 RBI, 2 R and 3 SB.  George Springer returned to the Astros’ lineup, going 4-5 with 3 R to help lead them to victory over the Diamondbacks.  What else happened on the field that we need to know about?  Let’s dive into the box scores and take a look:

 

1) Julio Teheran continues to struggle with his control…
Taking on the Nationals he needed 90 pitches to get through 4.0 innings as he allowed 2 ER on 3 H and 6 BB, striking out 7.  Over his past two starts he’s now issued 10 BB over 10.0 IP and has 79 BB over 163.1 IP overall.  Once the owner of borderline elite control, Teheran has regressed significantly over the past two years (3.44 BB/9 in ’17, 4.12 entering the day in ’18).  Couple that with his consistent home run issues (1.36 HR/9 courtesy of a 39.0% groundball rate entering the day) and it’s no wonder why he’s again posted a disappointing campaign (3.97 ERA) that could potentially get even worse (.217 BABIP despite a 37.8% Hard%).  Maybe he has some streaming value, but in general he’s going to be impossible to trust.

 

2) Yasiel Puig explodes to lead the Dodgers to a rout…
He was joined by Cody Bellinger (3-5, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R) to lead the charge, as Puig finished the day going 3-6 with 3 HR, 7 RBI and 3 R.  He’s now slugged 5 HR over the past two games (6-10, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 5 R) and has three 3 H games over his past four.  This explosion has led to the overall numbers to look respectable, as he’s hitting .272 with 21 HR and 58 RBI.  Of course to have capitalized you would’ve had to have been willing to stomach the roller coaster ride that’s featured some good and also a lot of bad as he’s among the streakier players in the game.  At this point in the year you have to wonder just how long he’s going to be able to maintain this type of production, or will he fall off into one of his poor stretches?  Use him while he’s scorching hot, but watch him closely just in case.

 

3) Just how good is Mike Clevinger…
Obviously he was staked to a huge lead in this one, as the Indians got 6 in the first and were up 15-0 after four.  That said he still did his job, tossing 6.0 shutout innings allowing 1 H and 3 BB, striking out 5, to improve to 12-8 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 188.1 IP.  The performance has been strong, and entering the day with a 9.43 K/9 (courtesy of a 12.1% SwStr%) and 2.91 BB/9 is going to help support his emergence as a top fantasy pitcher.  At the same time there’s room for regression in his luck (78.5% strand rate) and he also could eventually start to struggle with home runs (0.94 HR/9 despite a 40.1% groundball rate).  Those are two red flags, albeit minor ones, but helps to support an ERA more in the 3.50-3.75 range.  Keep that in mind heading into 2019 before arguably overvaluing him a bit.

 

4) Cody Reed grabs our attention with a strikeout binge…
Taking on the Cubs he tossed 5.0 shutout innings allowing 2 H and 2 BB, striking out 10.  The southpaw did own an 8.94 K/9 over 105.2 IP at Triple-A this season, while also showing solid control (2.64 BB/9) and likely enough groundballs (44.8%).  This gives some sense of hope that he could get to those numbers in the Majors, though he hadn’t shown it over 93.2 IP across the past three years (6.25 ERA, 8.07 K/9 and 4.71 BB/9).  It was a flashy performance against a tougher matchup, but given his history it’s still hard to get excited.  Maybe he puts things together, but with so few starts left and so much risk he’s far better left as a potential streaming option.

 

5) Sean Reid-Foley again shows his potential upside…
He struck out 10 batters for the second time in his past three starts, tossing 5.0 shutout innings against the Yankees.  While he only allowed 2 H he walked 4, and that’s been the consistent issue since he made his MLB debut (3+ BB in four of his five starts, yielding 16 BB over 26.0 innings).  No one is going to question his potential swing and miss stuff (he had 17 swinging strikes yesterday), but with his control issues coupled with his inability to generate many groundballs (35.0% groundball rate entering the day after a 42.7% mark at Triple-A prior to his recall) and pitching in the AL East, the outlook is relatively bleak.  Maybe he has a good start here or there, but it’s impossible to trust him down the stretch.

 

6) A dominant start for Reynaldo Lopez…
Does this one simply just go to show that if someone is starting against the Orioles you roll him out?  We shouldn’t completely disregard Lopez’ performance, as he tossed 7.0 shutout innings while allowing 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 6.  It’s Lopez’ second consecutive scoreless outing (13.0 IP) and over his past five starts (32.2 IP) he’s allowed 2 ER or fewer (4 ER on 19 H and 9 BB, striking out 35).  Of course he wasn’t generating swings and misses (11) nor was he getting groundballs (6 groundballs vs. 9 fly balls).  Maybe he brings strikeout upside, but he entered the day with a 9.2% SwStr% so it’s hard to get excited.  He also carries significant risk in terms of home runs, considering a 33.2% groundball rate (33.9% over 260.1 IP in the Majors).  He’s hot right now and that makes him worth considering a stream, but with the Cubs next up on the schedule now isn’t the time to try and push things.

 

7) It’s looking like a complete lost season for Zack Godley…
It was a difficult matchup, but considering what he’s done all year that’s not an excuse.  Godley allowed 5 R (4 earned) on 7 H and 6 BB, striking out 1, over 3.2 IP to watch his ERA rise to 4.79.  He had just 1 swinging strike, though that hasn’t been a consistent issue this season (11.9% SwStr% entering the day).  His groundball rate is down, but not a terrible mark (48.8% entering the day, compared to 55.3%), and when coupled with a lack of control (3.85 BB/9 before yesterday’s debacle) and a 38.2% Hard% and it is hard to buy into any type of late season surge.  He’s allowed 4+ ER in five of his past six starts so the question isn’t about trusting him this season (you can’t) it is whether or not he becomes a post-hype sleeper for 2019.  It’s possible, but it’s going to take a lot digging to make that deduction.

 

8) Where has the swing and miss gone for Madison Bumgarner…
Taking on the Rockies he tossed 6.0 shutout innings (64 pitches, as he left after a potential injury on a swing) allowing 5 H and 1 BB, striking out 2.  He was getting groundballs (11 vs. 5 fly balls), but there were just 4 swinging strikes.  That continues to be the concern, as he entered the day with a 7.74 K/9 courtesy of a 9.6% SwStr% (his lowest mark since 2012).  No one is going to say that he isn’t a viable starting pitcher, despite this concern, but the home/road split entering the day is extremely telling:

  • Home – 1.49 ERA
  • Road – 5.02 ERA

The reason is home runs, having allowed 2 HR at home compared to 11 on the road.  The bottom line for the rest of the season?  Use him for home starts, but if he’s on the road consider sitting him down.

 

9) Shohei Ohtani continues to prove that he’s more than just a pitcher…
It’s important, since he’s not going to be pitching for a while most likely.  He was joined by Mike Trout (2-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R) and Justin Upton (2-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R) to produce big numbers in the middle of the order.  Ohtani finished going 2-4 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R, putting him at .293 with 20 HR and 55 RBI over 280 AB.  It would be obvious to point towards a .359 BABIP entering the day, as well as a 12.6% SwStr%, but he simply hits the ball extremely hard (41.8% Hard%) and uses the entire field (23.8% Oppo%).  That means he’s going to continue to produce, and while he may not be able to maintain this type of power pace (30.2% HR/FB) don’t underestimate the impact he can make with the bat over the final few weeks and into 2019.

 

10) Matt Chapman enjoys another big day at the dish…
He went 3-5 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R, putting him at .284 with 23 HR and 64 RBI.  While Matt Olson gets a lot of the attention (2-3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R), Chapman deserves just as much (if not more).  He’s added 40 doubles and 6 triples, and at 25-years old and with a 14.9% HR/FB the upside is there for him to take a significant step forward in 2019.  He hits the ball extremely hard (43.3% Hard%) and he’s shown an elite approach (8.6% SwStr%, 24.7% O-Swing%), further helping to fuel the potential fire.  Enjoy his production over the rest of the season, but don’t be surprised if he’s even better a year from now.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs

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