10 Important Stories from 09/24/18 Box Scores: Intriguing & Frustrating Starters Dominate The Day (J. Gray, Bundy, Taillon & More)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

It was a big day for Anthony Rendon, who went 2-4 with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 1 R to help lead the Nationals to a W.  Corey Kluber turned in a dominant outing, tossing 7.0 shutout innings allowing 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 11, to defeat the White Sox.  Trevor Story made his return to Colorado’s lineup, going 2-5 with 1 R.  What else happened on the field that we need to know about?  Let’s dive into the box scores and take a look:

 

1) Sandy Alcantara stumbles against Washington…
It was his second straight start against the Nationals, so you have to at least question if there was a familiarity factor at play.  That said he allowed 6 ER on 7 H and 5 BB, striking out 3, over 4.0 IP and it’s not like he was good in his previous outing (9 ER on 13 H and 11 BB over 8.0 IP in the two starts).  His big issue in the Majors has been poor control, with 21 BB over 27.0 IP, something that had been a question prior to ’18 (he had a 3.88 BB/9 over 125.1 IP at Double-A last season).  He also has struggled to get strikeouts (6.85 K/9 in 115.2 IP at Triple-A and only got 4 swinging strikes last night) and hasn’t been fooling hitters (23.8% O-Swing% entering yesterday).  There is some upside once he figures it out, but for now he’s a complete hands off proposition.

 

2) Dallas Keuchel doesn’t ease any concerns…
Once considered an ace, that simply hasn’t been the story this season.  In what should’ve been a favorable matchup against the Blue Jays he struggled, despite getting the W, allowing 3 ER on 7 H and 3 BB, striking out 5, over 5.0 IP to give him a 3.75 ERA and 1.30 WHIP overall this season.  The biggest key is a drop in his groundball rate, entering the day with a 53.3% mark (before just 6 groundballs vs. 4 fly balls yesterday).  When he’s at his best Keuchel is among the elite (66.8% groundball rate in ’17) and he also has seen his SwStr% drop significantly (8.5% before just 4 swinging strikes).  That’s a poor combination and there was nothing unbelievable in his luck metrics (.294 BABIP, 72.2% strand rate).  Generally we’d be concerned that he’d get an abbreviated final start, but the Astros need him to try and get right quickly.  It doesn’t mean we’d trust him, but he should at least be an option.

 

3) It was another disaster for Dylan Bundy…
Sure the start was against the Red Sox, where he was simply outclassed by Nathan Eovaldi (5.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 10 K), but is that an excuse?  After back-to-back decent outings Bundy gave up 4 ER on 5 H and 3 BB, striking out 5, over 3.0 IP to see his ERA jump back up to 5.49.  He gave up a HR to Mookie Betts (2-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB), which has been the biggest issue all year long.  He’s now allowed an astounding 39 HR over 165.2 IP, and entering the day with a 33.7% groundball rate (2 groundballs vs. 2 fly balls yesterday), pitching in the AL East and calling a hitter friendly ballpark home can we really expect anything to change?  Figure out how to keep the ball in the ballpark and there could be value, but until then he’s completely unusable.

 

4) Has Jameson Taillon finally figured things out…
Taking on the Cubs he allowed 1 ER on 5 H and 3 BB, striking out 5, over 7.0 IP.  He made one mistake, which surprisingly was to his counterpart Cole Hamels (he pitched well, allowing 2 ER over 6.0 IP as well as hitting a home run), doing a good job generating groundballs (10 groundballs vs. 6 fly balls).  Taillon has allowed 2 ER or fewer in seven straight starts and hasn’t allowed more than 3 ER in an outing since May 22.  Clearly something has gone right, and while you can argue that there’s been some luck behind the numbers (he entered with a 79.1% strand rate) there’s little not to like in the numbers.  Taillon has limited the hard contact (30.4% Hard%) while showing all of the skills that we look for from any starting pitcher (8.44 K/9, 2.17 BB/9, 46.8% groundball rate).  It clearly appears that the breakout is for real and while we will dig deep into him in the offseason he could take the next step forward and truly emerge.

 

5) Has Dylan Covey figured something out…
He tossed 6.0 shutout innings against the Indians, allowing 6 H and 1 BB while striking out 7.  He’s now tossed 12.0 shutout innings over his past two starts, generating strikeouts (12) and groundballs (21 groundballs vs. 4 fly balls) along the way.  Both starts came against Cleveland, making it even more impressive.  Strikeouts have never proven to be his strong suit, entering the day with a 6.6% SwStr% over 179.2 IP in the Majors, and he also has never shown pinpoint control (4.16 BB/9).  He needs to continue to evolve in those two areas if he truly wants to be a productive MLB starter, but the groundball rate appears to be for real and that’s going to give him a chance.  He’s worth watching.

 

6) Will Jose Martinez find a new home for 2019…
He continues to prove that he can hit, including going 2-5 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R yesterday, putting him at 8-27 over his past seven games.  Overall he’s hitting .305 with 17 HR and 83 RBI, the question is where does he fit long-term?  The Cardinals are deep in the outfield, and there’s more help on the way.  If Matt Carpenter is ultimately going to be the 1B, that would leave Martinez on the outside looking in for playing time.  There were thoughts that he could be a trade chip last year but that didn’t happen, and again look for there to be speculation heading into 2019.  Possible going to the AL, where he can DH, could be the perfect situation.  If that happens he’ll be a must own hitter, but if he stays in St. Louis the playing time is going to continue to be a concern.

 

7) Jon Gray again taunts us with his potential…
Taking on the Phillies at Coors Field Gray turned in a gem, allowing 1 ER on 4 H and 3 BB, striking out 7, over 7.0 IP.  His lone mistake came to Rhys Hoskins (1-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R) as Gray attempts to finish the season strong after back-to-back duds.  Of course the home run looms large, as he’s now allowed at least 1 HR in 11 straight starts.  That comes despite a 47.3% groundball rate entering the day, and an even better 51.8% mark in September (before getting 9 groundballs vs. 4 fly balls yesterday).  That gives hope that he can figure it out, despite pitching in Coors Field, and even a HR rate in the 1.15 range would likely be enough.  He continues to show strikeouts (9.64 K/9) and control (2.70 BB/9) and the Hard% isn’t outrageous (35.9%).  There’s a good chance that he rebounds strong heading into 2019.

 

8) Robbie Ray shows the positives and the concerns…
Taking on the Dodgers he allowed 2 ER on 4 H and 3 BB, striking out 7, over 5.0 IP as David Freese (3-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R) did all of the damage.  We all know that Ray can generate plenty of swings and misses (17 yesterday), but he’s continued to struggle with his control (3+ BB in four straight starts, 4.94 BB/9 entering the day).  Lots of strikeouts and walks generally lead to inflated pitch counts, and Ray hasn’t gone past 6.1 IP since July 25 (10 straight starts) and has gone 5.1 innings or fewer in seven of them.  Overall he’s pitched well, but if you aren’t going deep you aren’t going to win (he has just 6 W on the season).  It’ll be something to watch moving forward and will ultimately help to cap his value.

 

9) A strong showing in James Paxton’s return…
Making his first start since September 7 Paxton pitched well against the A’s, allowing 2 ER on 3 H and 0 BB, striking out 5, over 4.0 IP.  Obviously the starts have been spread out, but he has now allowed 6 HR over his past four starts.  It’s something to monitor, as he has allowed 23 HR over 154.1 IP overall, as he entered the day with a 38.9% groundball rate (far below his 46.6% career mark).  Between that and his consistent health concerns it’s going to be hard to trust Paxton as a top of the rotation fantasy option.  At the same time the potential is there to put it together at any moment, as he has the stuff/upside to produce like a Top 10 option.  It’ll be a balance on draft day, but if the cost comes in low enough he’s going to turn into a complete bargain.

 

10) Bryan Mitchell delivers the type of start we all envisioned…
It hasn’t been the season we had expected and chances are no one was willing to trust Mitchell late in the season.  However those who rolled the dice got rewarded, as he defeated the Giants by firing 8.2 shutout innings allowing 7 H and 3 BB, striking out 7, against the Giants.  He was doing a great job of getting groundballs (13 groundballs vs. 6 fly balls) and while he had one poor start he’s looked much better since returning in September (2.19 ERA over 24.2 IP).  Obviously we’d feel better if he was generating more strikeouts (15 K vs. 8 BB), but this strong finish will at least make him a potentially intriguing late round flier depending on how the offseason plays out.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs

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