A Lesson in Klubotics (and other notes from 5/13/15)

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The reigning AL Cy Young, Corey “the Klubot” Kluber had been on the wrong end of some hit parades over the course of his first 7 starts of the 2015 season, which led him to an 0-5 record with a 5.04 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.  Given that his breakout 2014 performance kind of came out of nowhere (though there were signs that he had breakout potential), fantasy owners of Kluber were chomping at the bit to get rid of him.  Yes, it is unfortunate for anyone who owns/owned Kluber that they had to endure such an ugly stretch, but a closer examination of what was really going on showed that there really was never any real reason to worry.

Heading into Wednesday’s action, Kluber had a .364 BABIP and 62.3% strand rate, both of which were way worse than the league average and they were numbers to expect to regress towards the mean.  Though his ERA was bloated at 5.04, his xFIP was 3.16 and his SIERA was 3.21.  xFIP and SIERA are far more accurate measures of what a pitcher’s “true” performance is, and for Kluber’s marks to have been nearly two whole runs beneath his ERA, it was an obvious sign of things to come.  Then add in the fact that his normal catcher, Yan Gomes who is known to be a great game caller with excellent framing metrics, got injured within the first week of the season, and his impending return in a couple weeks was more reason to believe in Kluber.

With that being said, the Klubot emerged on Wednesday to hurl one of the most dazzling games of this millennium.  Outside of a bean ball on Matt Holliday early in the game and a 7th inning single given up to Jhonny “don’t spell it Johnny” Peralta, Kluber was perfect.  At the end of 8 innings, Kluber had tallied 18 strikeouts on 113 pitches.  I really think that Kluber should have came out for the 9th inning to be given the opportunity to get to 20 strikeouts, or even 21 to set a new record, especially with the ugly way that Indians closer Cody Allen has been pitching.  However, possibly playing a part in the decision of Kluber coming out of the game was the fact that manager Terry Francona was ejected earlier in the game and the acting manager for the Indians wanted to be cautious and not get in trouble with anyone for leaving Kluber out there too long.  Whatever the case, the Klubot mystified Cardinals hitters all game long and effectively reversed any doubts that any fantasy owners may have had.

Kluber improved to 1-5 with a 4.27 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 64 K/11 BB in 52.2 IP.  From here on out, those numbers should keep on improving.  The window to buy low on Kluber has officially closed, and this has been your lesson in Klubotics.

Let’s see what else took place on hump day…

Hanley Ramirez – 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 K.  Hanley broke out of his 1 for 16 mini slump with a couple of singles.  Maybe this will get him going.

Wade Miley – 6.2 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 1 K with the W.  Miley didn’t allow a run, but that just means it was an off day for the Oakland bats as they got 9 guys to reach base off him.  Miley has not been the pitcher that the Red Sox envisioned he would be when they acquired him.  His strikeout rate is well down from last year and it is much more in line with the other seasons he has pitched, so his 8.18 K/9 last year is looking like an outlier.  Pitching in the AL East, Miley seems like a 4.15 ERA, 1.35 WHIP type of guy, if that.

Sonny Gray – 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K with the L.  A tough luck loss for the A’s ace.  Gray is firing on all cylinders and is now 4-1 with a 1.61 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 53 K/15 BB in 56 IP.  Gray appears to be generating more strikeouts this year thanks to an increased usage of his slider as that is a pitch that is inducing a ton of swings and misses.  Roll him out each time it’s his turn to take the bump.

Ender Inciarte – 2 for 5, 1 R.  I will keep posting about any good game that Inciarte has until his Yahoo ownership reaches 50%.  It’s currently at 32%.  He is what Adam Eaton is supposed to be.  Maybe that’s why the Diamondbacks traded away Eaton a couple years ago…

Paul Goldschmidt – 3 for 4, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  On his way to another monster year if he can avoid any broken bones on bean balls this time around.

Addison Reed – 1 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K with the BS and L.  After such a dominant and quick rise through the Minors in 2010 and 2011, Reed has been serviceable but mostly inadequate as a Major League closer and with an outing like the one he had on Wednesday, it might be time for the Diamondbacks to turn the page.  More on Reed and the AZ bullpen situation to come.

Patrick Corbin – Corbin is eyeing an early June return as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.  Corbin underwent the procedure right before the 2014 season started, so I would imagine that he will need to shake off the rust and won’t be too effective right away.  2016 seems more likely for him to make quality contributions, but he’s still worth a look this year.

Jayson Werth – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB.  Despite his early struggles, manager Matt Williams has stuck with Werth in the 3-hole and perhaps he is starting to finally round into form after missing Spring Training.  He seems like a good buy low candidate as he is going to continue to hit in a prime spot in a good lineup and only get better the farther removed he gets from the injury that set him back.

Michael Taylor – 1 for 1, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R.  Taylor came into the game after Bryce Harper was ejected and in his first and only at-bat, he promptly did what Harper probably would have done anyway by launching a grand slam off Addison Reed.  Taylor is a great athlete with good raw power and speed, but right now he’s got no place to play if Denard Span, Werth, and Harper are all healthy.  However, when Span’s contract is up at the end of the season, Taylor could find himself patrolling center field for the Nationals in 2016, so that is something to keep an eye on.  Taylor has 20 HR/30 SB potential, but that’s going to come with an ugly looking AVG due to an abysmal strikeout rate.

Ian Desmond – 0 for 5.  It’s like every time I check the box score, Desmond has a bunch of zeroes in there.  Desmond is now hitting .225 on the season and is showing no signs of busting out of the slump.  Not to mention that he’s playing horrific defense.  Yet somehow I am sure he will still end up being the beneficiary of some desperate team’s silliness and he will land a $120 million contract in the off-season when he is a free agent.

Michael Brantley – 0 for 5, 1 K.  There’s nothing to worry about here, Brantley still is a top performer.  But I just wanted to point out that he left 11 men on base in his at-bats.  For a 9 inning game where the team only scored 2 runs, to leave that many men on base is pretty remarkable.  The record is 12 and it has been done 4 times, but only two of those games were 9 inning games.

Matt Holliday – Holliday left the game after being hit by a pitch on the elbow, which brings me to recite a line from the classic movie Cop and a Half starring Burt Reynolds:  “What comes after L?”  “BOW!”

Todd Frazier – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB, 1 BB.  Frazier has a .238 AVG, 12 HR, 23 RBI, 24 R, and 5 SB through 33 games, and he is also showing improved walk and strikeout rates.  This is a much greater output than I expected Frazier to be on pace for this year and he’s just looking pretty beastly at the plate.  He does appear to be swinging for the fences though with a 49.0% fly ball rate, so the AVG may not get too much better despite a .202 BABIP.  The power and sneaky speed though look good!

Raisel Iglesias – 8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K with the W.  Iglesias, a Reds Cuban pitching prospect, made a spot start on Wednesday and gave the Reds more than they could have asked for in his first Major League victory.  With not much data on Iglesias since he came over from Cuba, it’s hard to say what might be expected from him.  However, he will be sent back to AAA for the time being.

Mike Minor – Minor will undergo season-ending exploratory shoulder surgery.  For as much praise that the Braves seem to get for developing good young pitching, a lot of them sure seem to flame out with some bad injury after the Braves get a good season or two out of them.  Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and now Minor.  Alex Wood is doomed…

Josh Harrison – 1 for 3, 1 K.  And just like that after Harrison homered and stole his first base in the previous night, he is inserted right back into the leadoff role that he began the season in.  However, I would not look too much into that as the left-handed Gregory Polanco, the new regular Pirates leadoff hitter, was given the night off against the tough lefty Cole Hamels.  Harrison will have to string together some good games before being reconsidered to bat near the top of the lineup.

Andrew McCutchen – 1 for 3, 2 RBI, 1 SB.  Another solid night for Cutch and the SB is a great sign.

Chase Utley – 0 for 4, 2 K.  That’s Utley’s 20th 0-fer in 31 games, but that actually ended a 4-game hit streak that he was on.  Utley’s AVG now sits at .123.  What a great time to be a Phillies fan!

Cole Hamels – 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K with the W.  While Hamels is part of an incredibly bad losing organization, he has every incentive to pitch well so that a winning team will want to trade for him.  He has been struggling with the walks for most of the season, but he should be able to correct that soon and Wednesday’s performance was a nice sign of it.  He has a 3.53 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 9.71 K/9.  He’s still got ace type stuff.

Jimmy Paredes – 2 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 BB.  There’s no slowing down Jimmy P!  The .422 BABIP is obviously very high, but he is drilling the ball anytime he hits it and is on a 12-game hit streak.  There are skeptics out there who don’t believe in Paredes, but I will not be one of them.  I watch him bat and he looks very comfortable and locked in.  Yes, the AVG will come down, but he is a toolsy player that can contribute in different ways and clearly his manager has confidence in him as he continues to bat 2nd and 3rd on most nights (will hit lower in the order versus some lefties).  I will ride him as long as he lets me.  Wait, what?

Miguel Gonzalez – 7.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K with the W.  This guy amazes me.  He always seems to come out of nowhere to have a really good game against some good offenses.  He is 4-2 with a 2.93 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 34 K/17 BB in 43 IP.  He strikes me as a 4.00 ERA/1.30 WHIP type of pitcher, but funny thing is that he’s never posted an ERA of 4.00 in a season and has only had a WHIP of 1.30 once.  I wouldn’t want to own him in fantasy, but you could do worse.

Devon Travis – 1 for 4, 1 K.  Okay, we knew the regression was coming but this seems a little harsh.  Travis is now 6 for his last 43 (.140 AVG) as his season AVG has fallen from .356 to .275 in that time.  Around a .275 AVG though is where I would expect him to be, so I can imagine him settling in right around there.

Aaron Sanchez – 5.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 1 K with the L.  Sanchez is the kind of pitcher that I hate in fantasy.  He gets hyped up as a top prospect but then doesn’t have that great of strikeout upside (at least initially) and his control is all over the place.  The inconsistencies from a pitcher of this type are extremely annoying and Sanchez now has more walks than strikeouts on the season (25 K/29 BB).  He is the anti-Phil Hughes.  He should not be anywhere near a fantasy roster that is not a dynasty league.

Steven Souza – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 3 K.  Souza has the nice combination of power and speed as he now has 6 HR/5 SB, but he is currently on pace to shatter the single season strikeout record for a hitter.  I knew his strikeouts would be high, but not this high.  The strikeout rate should improve at least a bit, but if he’s batting near the top of the order for the Rays, then he’s going to have a real shot of setting the strikeout record.

Nate Karns – 5 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K with the W.  A mediocre performance that got the job done on Wednesday versus the Yankees.  Karns will be inconsistent and the high walk rate is trouble.  He is bound to get knocked around soon as the .190 BABIP for a groundball pitcher is going to skyrocket.  Don’t believe in the 3.77 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, but he does have strikeout potential.

Brad Boxberger – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K with the SV.  I said yesterday that he isn’t letting go of this closing gig when Jake McGee returns.  I have to believe that he has a strangle hold on it unless Kevin Cash gets a phone call from Joe Maddon.  I am going to say that he will go on to be a top 5 closer this year, but I figure McGee will vulture some saves here or there when some tough lefties are due up in the 9th (despite the fact that Boxberger has had reverse splits in his career).

Torii Hunter – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K.  Hunter is on the verge of turning 40 years old but he is still producing quality numbers.  I always enjoyed his “Hangin’ with Mr. Hunter” video segments while he was with the Angels.  He’s hitting .281 with 6 HR, 21 RBI, 20 R, and 1 SB.

Shin-Soo Choo – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R.  I said yesterday that Adrian Beltre (who had homered in 2 games in a row) slipped Choo whatever it was that he was drinking, and Choo homered in 2 straight games himself.  I still wouldn’t want to own Choo, but it’s a nice little hot streak that has brought his AVG up to .224 to go with 5 HR.

Prince Fielder – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R.  I’ll say it again, Prince is quietly having himself a nice bounce back season, and with the players around him starting to do things, that should only help Prince in his quest to ascend back to royalty.

Delino DeShields – 3 for 3, 2 R.  If it feels like I’ve been writing about DeShields a lot lately it’s because I have.  On Wednesday, though he didn’t steal any bases, he fell a HR short of the cycle and he has been quite a spark plug for the Rangers who took him from the Astros as a Rule 5 pick.  This hot streak should definitely earn him some extra playing time and perhaps even a promotion to 1st or 2nd in the Rangers lineup on some occasions.  I’ve said it before, his speed plays.  It’ll be interesting to see though what happens when Leonys Martin is over the minor injury he has right now.  Will DeShields play at second base?  Will he platoon with Martin in CF?  But pick him up and play him now in roto leagues, ask those questions later.

Yordano Ventura – 7 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K with the L.  Ventura is one of those guys like Tyson Ross who I had ranked much lower than anyone else going into the season.  Yeah, the flame throwing is nice, but he’s going to throw his arm out and/or become very ineffective with his command.  Obviously he’s not a 5.00 ERA pitcher and he does have upside, but his fastball velocity is down from 97.0 MPH last year to 95.8 MPH this year.  That’s not a good sign for a pitcher who experienced some arm issues last year and whose strikeout rate doesn’t really match up with a pitcher who can bring the heat like he does.

Matt Harvey – 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K.  Harvey was probably my number one starting pitching target heading into the season and I was able to nab him in 2 of my 3 startup or non-keeper leagues.  The reasoning behind it was that he was going to be more than a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery once the season rolled around and he would even have Spring Training to fine tune himself and shake off the rust.  The typical recovery time for a Tommy John patient is around one year, but if pitchers come into game action after that one year then they are generally not as productive and it wouldn’t be till the following season where they get back to their good ways.  Not having pitched at all in 2014 and having that extra recovery time, Harvey has proven to be fully healthy and on top of his game.  He is 4-1 with a 2.32 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 47 K/7 BB in 46.2 IP.

Jean Segura – Segura was a late scratch with what was called “pinkie soreness.”  Now I am no Razor Ramon, I don’t ooze with machismo, but this just sounds like the most pansy reason to be scratched from a game.

Jimmy Nelson – 6.2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K with the L.  You just never know which Jimmy Nelson is going to show up every 5th day.  You’ll either get the one with knee buckling stuff with on-point command, or you’ll get the one who can’t find the plate and can’t whiff anyone.  Solid overall peripherals, just an inconsistent young pitcher, and perhaps that can be expected of him for the rest of the year as he continues to try and get comfortable with his new curveball that is quite the weapon when he can command it.

Avisail Garcia – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  If he is “Little Miggy” like he was called when he was with the Tigers, then where’s the power been in his career?  With the HR on Wednesday he now has 17 HR in 171 career games.

Jose Quintana – 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K with the W.  Quintana is an underrated pitcher who has quietly posted good numbers the last two seasons, but has probably been overlooked due to poor W-L records.  He seems to be a reliable if not unspectacular pitching option.  Look for his 4.39 ERA and 1.29 WHIP to keep going down, and the 8.56 K/9 is pretty spiffy.

Joc Pederson – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  Home run number 10 for Joc.  He’s been in a bit of a slump at the plate, as his averge is down to .255, but I said that he would be a .250 type hitter.  You take that with all the walks, HR, and SB though.

Alex Guerrero – 2 for 3, 1 R.  Don Mattingly said that his team has no set third baseman anymore, which seems to bode well for Guerrero going forward.  Guerrero has enough ability with the bat to step in there and become at least close to an everyday option for the Dodgers, which would be wonderful for his fantasy value.  He is now up to a .370 AVG.

Carlos Frias – 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.  He’s not a glamorous prospect but continues to hold his own for the Dodgers with a 3-0 record 2.89 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 16 K/4 BB in 18.2 IP.  He’s throwing strikes, getting a lot of ground balls (62.5%), and he’s got decent strikeout potential.  Worth a flier, but I wouldn’t fall too in love.

Dee Gordon – 4 for 5, 2 R.  There must be some feeling from the Dodgers that they wish they held on to Gordon, but they are doing pretty well with Howie Kendrick at 2B providing nice offense and excellent defense.  No stolen bases in this one for Gordon, but who’s complaining when the guy is spraying hits all over the field.  Dee is hitting .426 with 12 SB on the season.

Jarred Cosart – 5.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K.  Cosart left the start with a tight right hamstring in the 6th inning with his team down 4-2 after he gave up 3 runs in the bottom of the 5th.  He probably bet on the Dodgers -0.5 in the first 5 innings and decided that his job was done for the night.

Henderson Alvarez – Alvarez is nearing a return and with Cosart’s injury it seems like good timing for the Marlins.  I’ve never been a huge Alvarez fan due to the lack of K’s, but he can contribute nicely in ERA and WHIP with a little good fortune.

A.J. Ramos – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K with the SV.  “Oh, so that’s how it’s done huh?” said Steve Cishek crying in the corner of the bullpen on a cool evening in Los Angeles.  And just like that, Ramos time begins.  I said he needed to be picked up a few days ago.  Heck, I picked him up a few weeks ago in some leagues.

Buster Posey – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R.  Posey has been looking to get it going so maybe this game will give him a good kick in the pants as he can go on some ridiculous hot streaks.  The HR was his 5th on the year and he is hitting .291 to go with it.

Jake Marisnick – 0 for 4, 1 K.  I said last week that Marisnick’s value was limited due to his spot in the Astros lineup and that he probably wouldn’t be moving up in the order.  Lo and behold, the very next day he was moved to the leadoff spot as the Astros tried to spark a struggling offense.  He is now 0 for 11 since moving into the leadoff spot though, so he could be going back down in the order soon if he doesn’t start hitting again.

George Springer – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  In his return from the 7-day concussion DL, Springer hit the game-winning home run.  He’s still under the Mendoza line but things could be worse, at least he’s above the Utley line.

Luis Valbuena – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB.  Valbuena is only hitting .200 but he does have 8 HR on the season with most of his damage coming versus right-handed pitching as he is hitting .090 versus lefties.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Astros should platoon Valbuena and Lowrie at third base when Lowrie is healthy again, and call up phenom Carlos Correa to play everyday at shortstop.

Luke Gregerson – 1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB 1 K with the SV.  Gregerson is now 8 of 9 in save opportunities for the Astros as he strengthens his hold on the job.

Hector Santiago – 6 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K.  A nice game for Santiago but he is pitching a bit over his head right now.  The 2.41 ERA is nice, but a low BABIP and an insanely high strand rate he has to thank.

Brad Miller – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  Miller has moved up to the #2 spot in the Mariners lineup versus righties and the strong game there on Wednesday should give him some more leash in that spot.  A popular sleeper pick last year after crushing the ball in Spring Training, Miller went on to be a huge disappointment.  I still don’t see him being a huge contributor this year, but at least he’s getting some chances in a good spot in the lineup.

Taijuan Walker – 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the L.  The quality start brings Walker’s ERA down to 7.22.  He’s walking a lot of guys (4.01 BB/9) but be patient with him as he works his way through his first full season in the Majors.

Cory Spangenberg – 2 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB, 1 K.  Spangenberg is a former 1st round pick from 2011 who is finally getting a chance to play after the Padres realized that Jedd Gyorko just isn’t very good at this whole baseball thing.  Spangenberg does not offer a lot of power, but he can be a 30 SB guy given the playing time.  That’s appealing for a player with 2B/3B eligibility.

James Shields – 6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K.  Shields has begun his Padres career with a 5-0 record, but he’s done so with a 3.91 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.  Those aren’t terrible, but they aren’t what we have come to expect from Shields.  The problem is that he has given up 12 HR in 8 starts now, with 5 of them coming at home in the supposedly friendly confines of Petco Park.  The good news is that he is striking guys out at an amazing rate of 11.92 K/9.  An improvement in strikeout rate could have been anticipated with the move from the AL to NL, but not by that much.  Despite the HR allowed rate, which should keep coming down, Shields has done very well for himself in his first go round of the senior circuit.

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