We now have about a month of second-half baseball under our belts, and we’ve seen a lot:
A near meltdown in the Capitol and visions of Mark Prior when Stephen Strasburg was scratched from his start this week with a sore shoulder. It turned out to be “just” inflammation, so the Nats probably dodged a bullet, but clearly they will exercise caution here. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if Strasburg were shut down on or about Sept. 1. …
Matt Garza throwing a no-hitter against a Tigers lineup composed of Will “Busta” Rhymes in the two-hole and a 5-9 with nary a single hitter with an OBP above .280. I wonder how throwing nearly 80 percent fastballs will play against the Yankees? Well, we’ll see come Saturday. ...
Dan Haren traded to the Angels for the “winner” Joe Saunders and three other expendable players. A pure salary dump, but really, there wasn’t a better package out there than this? Of course Haren is hit by a liner in the fifth inning of his first start and has to lead the game, but he’ll be fine. The Angels, though, are looking snake bit considering Joel Pineiro had to be scratched the following day with an oblique injury. Meanwhile, has anyone seen Scott Kazmir’s carcass? ...
Josh Beckett’s return. Beckett’s return from a back injury is so far so good, as he’s put up a 2.84 ERA in his two starts since the long layoff. Of course Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are the better pitchers at this point in their careers, but Beckett looks to be in line for a strong second half.
In a non-pitching note, I just grabbed Domonic Brown off the waiver wire in a 12-team mixed keeper league. You should do the same, as he is available in the Yahoo database.
Meanwhile, here are a few July studs and duds and what we can expect/guess from them over the season’s final two months:
Madison Bumgarner, SF – 4-1, 1.87 ERA, 26:9 K:BB in 33.2 innings
Bumgarner had us projecting him as a 1A to Tim Lincecum’s 1 a couple years ago as he tore through the minors. I’m not sure he’s that guy now, but if Bumgarner is your No. 5 (or even No. 3) starter, your pitching staff is just fine. He’s sitting at 89-92 with his fastball (90.4 mph average) most nights, which is up about four mph from what we saw this spring when we were all concerned. Bumgarner doesn’t allow a lot of line drives (15.7%), and his command is excellent (2.2 BB/9). Sure, we’d love to see a 9.0 K/9 (his is 6.9), but again, we don’t have Tim Lincecum expectations and the kid turns 21 on Aug. 1. 2-month forecast: continued strong performance
Gavin Floyd, CHW – 3-1, 0.80 ERA, 25:7 K:BB in 33.2 innings
After allowing six runs to the Rangers on June 2, Floyd was 2-6 with a 6.64 ERA. His K:BB at that time, however, was 51:21, so I said (I think) not to panic. Since that start, Floyd is 4-2 with a 1.04 ERA in 10 starts. Floyd’s underlying numbers support his recent productivity. Increased velocity, more ground balls (51.3% GB% vs. last year’s 44.3%), and a strong 2.6 BB/9. 2-month forecast: continued strong performance, though obviously not at quite this level
Vicente Padilla, LAD – 2-1, 0.98 ERA,22:6 K:BB in 27.2 innings
Padilla has filthy stuff at times, yes. However, asking him to maintain a high level of consistency over a two-month period is fool’s gold. Yes, he’s going to have some very good games. However, there’s still going to be a stinker or two mixed in here and there. A nice NL-only play, but over an extended period, be careful. 2-month forecast: caution advised
Vincent Mazzaro, OAK – 3-0, 2.25 ERA, 22:8 K:BB in 28 innings
With a 5.9 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9, Mazzaro’s 3.45 ERA is probably due for a correction, but as you can see, he’s been much better in July. He’s never been much of a strikeout pitcher, even in the minors, so this level of performance is likely unsustainable. Mazzaro has the upside of a solid No. 4 starter, so expect some growing pains over the season’s final two months. 2-month forecast: caution advised
Tommy Hunter, TEX – 4-0, 2.45 ERA, 15:7 K:BB in 33 innings
Hunter’s job appears secure with the return of Rich Harden from his latest DL stint, but once Derek Holland (shoulder) is ready, Hunter will be in danger of a move to the bullpen unless he keeps up this unexpected run. For that, I’m not optimistic at all. A low strikeout rate (4.6 K/9) and a below-average GB% at 38.8 percent plus a 4.81 xFIP lead us to the clear conclusion that Hunter’s final two months are going to be rather rocky. 2-month forecast: danger
Travis Wood, CIN – 0-1, 2.76 ERA, 27:9 K:BB in 32.2 innings
Wood may be a diminutive guy, a hair under 6-foot, but the results have been that of a guy half a foot taller. Wood though is a notch above a soft-tosser, running his fastball in the 89-92 range with average-to-slightly-above average secondary stuff. Wood features excellent command (2.5 BB/9), but so far at least, he’s allowing too many flyballs (0.60 G/F), and at some point, big league hitters are going to catch up to him. 2-month forecast: I think he holds off Homer Bailey and Matt Maloney among others, but be safe and consider him a low-end No. 4 starter
Jonathon Niese, NYM – 2-2, 2.48 ERA, 27:7 K:BB in 32.2 innings – I’m a huge fan despite the sub-90s fastball. Niese’s cutter has been a huge pitch for him this year.
Brett Cecil, TOR – 1-0, 2.39 ERA, 14:11 K:BB in 26.1 innings – Lefty with solid command and a first-round draft pick resume. Expect a 4.25ish ERA over the final two months.
Philip Hughes, NYY – 2-1, 5.79 ERA, 15:5 K:BB in 23.1 innings
Terror in the Bronx – Andy Pettitte gets hurt and Phil Hughes is scuffling. In addition to the poor July, Hughes also has a 6.26 ERA over his last seven starts, so his recent struggles have been going on for awhile now. Solid run support and Mariano Rivera leave Hughes with an outside shot at 20 wins (he has 12 now). Still, one area of concern is Hughes’ innings totals the past four years (from 2007-2010 as follows): 108.1, 63, 105.1 and 111.1. At this rate, Hughes should approach 170-185 innings, making him a prime Verducci Effect candidate in 2011, but for this year, there could be some fatigue issues to consider. 2-month forecast: cautiously optimistic given his stuff and pedigree, but the innings are a concern
Ian Kennedy, ARI – 2-2, 5.56 ERA, 18:7 K:BB in 22.2 innings
Kennedy and Justin Upton are probably the only two Dbacks who are not on the market this week, though considering Kennedy’s recent outings, perhaps that should be a list of one. I do like Kennedy, as he typically demonstrates good command and is known for his intelligence on the hill. Kennedy doesn’t overpower you, as his fastball averages just 89.4 mph, but factoring in his subpar GB rate of 35.9 percent, we can’t be too surprised at the recent results. Ultimately, I think he’s a 4.00-4.25 ERA guy in the NL West, but expect some bumps along the way. 2-month forecast: a strong August and rocky September wouldn’t surprise me in the least
Scott Feldman, TEX – 0-2, 5.40 ERA, 4:4 K:BB in 23.1 innings
The poster child, along with recent trade Joe Saunders, for why forecasting future fantasy (or otherwise) performance based upon prior-year win totals (Feldman had 17 victories in 2009) is fallacy. Feldman doesn’t miss many bats (4.9 K/9) and he allows a fair share of home runs while pitching in a hitter’s park. Rich Harden (shoulder) was reportedly impressive in his last rehab start, so Feldman’s job security is up in the air. 2-month forecast: drop him like a rock
Randy Wolf, MIL – 2-2, 5.45 ERA, 30:14 K:BB in 38 innings
Wolf probably misses LA quite a bit right about now, as year one of a three-year $27 million deal has had far more downs than ups. Wolf has a 5.07 ERA and 1.53 WHIP with a 5.8 K/9 that is down from 6.7 over last year and a BB/9 up from 2.4 to an alarming 4.3. There’s really no bad luck to point to considering his xFIP sits right in line with his ERA at 5.12. Wolf’s fastball has been the primary culprit – he’s not throwing it for strikes as much, and when he doesn’t batters are making more frequent contact relative to prior years. Perhaps Wolf’s struggles are due in part to the move out of Dodger Stadium and his comfort zone. 2-month forecast: it’s hard to be optimistic, so I won’t
Ricky Romero, TOR – 2-2, 6.08 ERA, 21:11 K:BB in 26.2 innings
Dig a bit deeper and you’ll see that Romero’s last three starts this month have been very good, but 13 runs in five innings over his first two starts this month will put a dent in any ERA. Romero’s peripherals support a strong finish – 8.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, and a 54.7 GB%. Sure, the AL East is a challenge, but Romero has the ability and my confidence that we’ll see in the range of a 3.50 ERA the rest of the year. 2-month forecast: very optimistic
Doug Fister, SEA – 0-3, 5.60 ERA, 17:8 K:BB in 27.1 innings
A pitcher with a 4.5 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and solid 50.4 GB% is going to have periodic success, but with a fastball that sits in the 87-90 range at best, struggles are inevitable. Fister had a 2.03 ERA on May 25, but it’s risen steadily since and is now right in line (3.56) with his xFIP (3.51). Fister had a bout of shoulder fatigue earlier this year, so that could be part of the problem, but the real issue is that he simply isn’t that good. 2-month forecast: AL-only material
Edwin Jackson, ARI (for now) – 1-3, 6.85 ERA, 16:13 K:BB in 22.1 innings – Trade him back to the Dodgers. Probably makes too much sense, however, but he needs out of Arizona. Still believe in the talent.
Scott Baker, MIN – 2-2, 5.11 ERA, 21:4 K:BB in 24.2 innings – I won’t say anything bad about a guy with a 7.8 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9, though a 36.2 GB% is a concern.