Some great and one truly atrocious pitching performance highlight this week’s Week That Was.
Jaime Garcia: Garcia struck out 9 Mets Sunday in a tough luck loss. Fear not fantasy owners, Garcia is in stride and providing sneaky value. Indeed the mere two wins are hiding the 3.16 ERA and 5 straight quality starts. Do not tell your leaguemates! Can it continue? I hope you can tell from the tenor of this passage that my answer is – heck yeah! Even before the strong effort Sunday, Garcia was sporting a 57%+ ground ball rate, a hard hit rate under 26% (30 is league average) and is giving up fewer dingers despite pitching in what is fast becoming known as a hitters’ haven in Atlanta. Buy!
Kevin Gausman: Kevin Gausman was downright awful Sunday. Avert your eyes if you are squeamish. Gausman’s final line: 3.1IP; 8H; 7ER, 6BB; 0K. Zero K to go with all that roto-carnage. To make matters worse, Gausman was actually very fortunate to escape with only 7 ER. Ok, confession time: I owe you all an apology here. I was big on Gausman this year. This was the year he was going to put it all together. This was the second year in a row the Orioles ceased the dramatically stupid pen to rotation to minors to pen . . . . merry-go-round. All the ducks were supposed to be in a row – but they weren’t. Those ducks are on the pond for Gausman but that is about it. Bottom line -- I am officially out. Yes, the velo is still there but my goodness, other than one outing he has looked awful. I hope it is not the case but I would not be surprised to find out there is some lingering injury. Players rarely fall off the shelf this quickly at a young age. If you have a deep bench, sure, stash him. Otherwise . . . NEXT!
Chris Carter: Chris Carter was hardly the hitting star of the Yankees 14-6 thrashing of the O’s but he did go 2-3 with 2 BB. That means the Yankee slugger is now 8 for his last 21 and in that span has laced two dingers and boasts a bloated OBP of .434. The T in SMART stands for Team. The theory being that a better offensive team yields more production for hitters on that team, i.e, more runners on base for RBI opportunities, more chances to score runs and more fastballs to hit with those runners on base. Carter has been living proof of the T in SMART this week and could well continue that trend as the Yankees go out west to play the Angels and Athletics – teams that rarely draw comparisons to the Maddux-Smoltz-Glavine Braves. Oh, and what about Greg Bird you ask? Well as an unabashed Yankee fan, I hope he hits BUT Bird has been hurt for the last year and a half, struck out 30% of the time in his only successful two month MLB stint, and is hitting .176 through Sunday in his AAA rehab assignment. Carter suddenly looks like sneaky value. Speculate but do so without doing much damage to your budget.
Jeff Hoffman: Jeff Hoffman went into the “Friendly Confines” and showed something. The Rockies’ hurler went 6 innings, giving up 4 hits, 1 run and 1 BB while mowing down 8. That makes 24 K’s against just 1 BB in his last three starts. Yes, a 24:1 K/BB ratio. Wow. On the year, Hoffman boasts a 2.33 ERA and 0.74 WHIP. Can he sustain this level of achievement? Probably not. Can he be darn good. I say yessir. First, I saw him pitch in Arizona from directly behind home plate and let me tell you, that breaking ball looks filthy running away from righties. Second, he is getting ahead of hitters (almost 67% first pitch strike) and thus will limit free passes. Third, his swinging strike percentage is a filthy 13%. I am buying. I am paying even more in leagues where I can sit him on occasion at Coors.
Zack Godley: Zack Godley returned early from his bizarre demotion and picked up right where he left off. Godley tossed 6 innings of 2 run ball, giving up just two hits and two runs while striking out 4 for the win. That makes 6 quality starts in a row for Godley who’s stat line shines brightly with a 2.44 ERA and WHIP under 1.00. I believe. Buy now if you still can! Teaching moment alert! Teaching moment alert! Let me digress to point out that Godley is a classic case of how to find value when you do your pre-season study. At first glance, Godley’s 2016 was darn right ugly on the surface: 6.39 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. However, if you dug deeper, you saw a pitcher who was incredibly unlucky with a strand rate under 60%, a homer per flyball rate of almost 20%, and a BABIP 35+ points over his career average. If you dug even deeper, you saw a pitcher with a strong 11% swinging strike rate and an even stronger 53%+ ground ball rate. Finally, if you checked out his xFIP and SIERA, you would have seen they were more than two full runs below that unlucky ERA. Bottom line – a big chasm between bad surface stats and strong skills presents a buying opportunity. If you missed it, do not feel bad – none of the 12 owners in the granddaddy of expert leagues, LABR even bid $1 on Godley in a very deep NL only. Fortunately, we practice what we preach and team CTW did pick up Godley on reserve in LABR. Boy, has he been a god-send (see what I did there?) with our $31 on Thor dripping down the drain with each “I don’t want no stinkin MRI” moment.
Nick Castellanos: Last week we wrote: “Castellanos went yard Saturday and scored two runs in the Tiger win. The HR was only his 5th and fantasy owners can hardly be psyched about his .214 average through Saturday. Buying opportunity! Buying Opportunity! Castellanos may not reach the heights many (including me) predicted for him this year. However, he will be much better than he has been so far in 2017. The batting average will surely rise. Nick is hitting the ball very hard (47%), rarely hitting it softly (under 10%), and yet his average is in the toilet. I am sure the fact that his BABIP is 50 points below his career average has something to do with it. Want another reason for optimism? Ok, his walk rate is up a few ticks which shows increased maturity at the plate. As the weather continues to warm, so will the Tigers 3B. Buy.” Since June 5 (not counting Sunday night) is 7-21 with 2 dingers. I will take that every week from my 3B! [Note, as I was proofreading this for submission, Castellanos just went yard in the Sunday night game so make that 3 dingers since last week’s submission].
And now, the moment you likely have not been waiting for -- Schultz says: “I am a mile high in Colorado on vacation and not about to write.”
Response: Actually, Schultz did not say that but I think he will appreciate the loose take-off on William Miller’s mythical draft article for Rolling Stone about the mythical band Stillwater in Almost Famous. Enjoy your vacation Schultzie. We will be reading you again next week!