We Are All Marco (and other notes from 6/24/15)

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“Which one of you is Marco?”

“We are all Marco.”

Name that movie!

Of course that is none other than everyone’s favorite sex trafficking classic Taken, starring Liam Neeson who brings some serious badass-ery as ex-government agent Bryan Mills.  But on a day that Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada flirted with perfection, we all weren’t Marco, but rather we all wanted Marco who is just 13% owned in Yahoo fantasy leagues at the time of writing this post.

If you recall, Estrada also took a no-hitter into the 8th inning of his previous start against the Orioles before giving up a hit and a run in that 8th inning.  In his start on Wednesday at Tampa Bay, he was perfect through 22 batters after Josh Donaldson made one of the top plays that we will see this season, full on diving into the stands along the third base line to catch a foul ball.  The very next batter then hit a soft dribbler to Donaldson at third base and he charged in on it, barehand grabbed it, and then fired it over to first base, but the runner beat the throw by the slimmest of margins to break up the perfect game and the no-hitter.  Estrada went on to pitch 8.2 shutout innings, allowing 2 hits and no walks while striking out 10.  However, he was unfortunate to not come away with the victory as his offense could not muster any runs while he was still in the game.

With the amazing effort of near perfection, Estrada now has a 3.45 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 63 K/23 BB in 73 IP.  His ownership level in season long fantasy leagues is sure to skyrocket, but is it worth it to pick him up?  The quick answer is yes it is worth it as long as you’re not dropping anyone of value, because there is little harm in picking up players who are hot.  But you have to know what kind of player that he is so that your expectations are kept in check.

Estrada has been around the league for several years now and he’s always been a pitcher to post ERA’s that are higher than his SIERA because of the fact that he is one of the more extreme fly ball pitchers in the league and gives up a lot of home runs.  In fact, he led the league last year in HR allowed with 29 despite having only pitched 150.2 innings.  However, he has always had the knack for posting above average strikeout rates and walk rates with career marks now at 8.37 K/9 and 2.46 BB/9.  Estrada is at his best when he is locating his changeup well, because that is his bread and butter pitch.  It is also a pitch that he is throwing at a career high rate this season, upwards of 32.0% of the time, so he seems to be having a good feel for it.

It was expected that with Estrada joining the AL East after spending his whole career in the NL that he would become even more homer prone and would see a downtick in his strikeout rate.  Well so far, his strikeout rate is down from his career rate, but he is actually managing a career best HR allowed rate at the moment, which is the primary reason for his success this season.  If he can keep preventing the long ball then he is going to have a good chance to put up a career best season.  However, it is tough to say if he will be able to do so or not.  I would lean towards him not doing so because of the division that he pitches in, so he could see an inflation in his numbers soon.  But even so, he should be a positive contributor in WHIP without hurting the ERA too much, and also chipping in a decent amount of strikeouts.  If you need the pitching help then I think that it is okay to grab Estrada, but just know that he will have starts where he just gets pounded by the long ball.

Let’s see what else happened on Wednesday!

Chris Colabello – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 K.  The man, the myth, the legend — Chris Colabello keeps on hitting as he slugged his 6th HR of the year to go with a .343 AVG.  His BABIP is ever so slowly coming down, but at .445 it is still through the roof.  Keep on riding him if you have him, but I believe that his AVG should fall down to .275 or lower by season’s end.

Kevin Pillar – 1 for 5, 2 SB, 1 K.  Pillar swiped two bags on Wednesday to push his season total up to 12.  Pretty much, hitting in the bottom half of the Blue Jas order, he’s giving us the type of production that Christian Yelich was supposed to give us hitting 2nd or 3rd for the Marlins.  Let’s think about that one for a minute.

Steve Delabar – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K with the SV.  Delabar got the first save opportunity for the Blue Jays after manager John Gibbons said that Brett Cecil was removed from the closer’s role.  However, I would not read much into this at all because of the way this game played out. Jays starting pitcher Marco Estrada was dealing through 8 innings and in the top of the 9th inning with the Jays on the verge of scoring, it was Roberto Osuna who was warming up in the bullpen to presumably come on for the bottom of the 9th inning for the save had the Jays scored.  However, the Jays were unable to scratch across a run despite having men on 2nd and 3rd.  So it was Estrada who began the 9th inning before giving up a 1 out double before giving way to Osuna who was the only reliever that was already warmed.  So pretty much what I see here is that Osuna is probably the most trusted guy in the Jays pen at the moment, and he certainly is the most talented. Grab Delabar if you’re desperate for saves, but I think this is Osuna’s job to lose.

Nate Karns – 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K.  Karns was excellent for 6 shutout innings to lower his ERA 3.28 and WHIP to 1.22. It was a tremendous showing against a powerful Jays offense, but I still feel that Karns isn’t this good.  He’s still living a bit lucky with the BABIP and LOB%, and his walk rate at 3.60 BB/9 is too high for my liking when he’s not getting a strikeout per inning to go along with it.

Francisco Lindor – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 2 BB.  The Indians shortstop prospect Lindor hit his first Major League HR on Wednesday.  His hitting performance has been medicore up to this point through 10 games and as I have mentioned before, great things shouldn’t be expected from his bat, which makes him much less appealing for fantasy purposes. However, at a shallow shortstop position, he can provide decent enough numbers to be used.

Carlos Carrasco – 8 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K with the W.  Carrasco was cruising along through 6 innings until he served up a 2-run shot to J.D Martinez.  On paper this looks like a very solid outing, but the Tigers gave Miguel Cabrera a day of rest for this one, and that Tigers lineup is very less threatening with the absence of M-Cab.  So while it was encouraging to see Carrasco do well, let’s take this one with a grain of salt and see what he does in his next start, and also keep in mind the thoughts I had on him and the rest of the Indians pitching staff in “Sometimes A Pitcher Is Only As Good As His Defense.”

Chris Sale – 6.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 10 K with the L.  Well, I kind of called for this to happen to Sale in the DFS strategy post for Wednesday.  I have mentioned numerous times how the Twins lineup just does so much better than lefties and they gave Sale quite a beating earlier this season at home.  So while Sale was still able to rack up his 7th double digit strikeout game in a row, I’m sure he would have been fine with just 7 K’s if he got his team the win.  Consider this just a minor bump for Sale and he should fare better in an interleague matchup at St. Louis in his next start.

Byron Buxton – 0 for 4, 4 K.  With a lefty on the mound opposing the Twins, Buxton was back in the leadoff spot for the second time in three games.  So it does appear that manager Paul Molitor is intrigued with using the speedy rookie at the top of his lineup versus left-handed pitching.  However, Buxton ended up wearing the golden sombrero on Wednesday. But it was against Chris Sale who strikes out everyone, so Molitor may give Buxton a pass on this one and slide him right back at the top of the lineup the next time the Twins face a lefty.  Keep an eye on it.

Phil Hughes – 8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K with the W.  Hughes turned in his second 8 inning 1 run performance in a row. Albeit, this start was against a White Sox team that any pitcher can shut down.  But still a strong showing nonetheless.  I still do not have a whole lot of confidence in Hughes with his diminished velocity this season, but he can be used in the right spots.  But also something to watch is if he uses his changeup more.  After his last start against the Cubs, manager Paul Molitor said that he felt Hughes succeeded because he was mixing in his changeup more.  In his start on Wednesday, according to MLB Gameday, Hughes threw 5 changeups out of 95 pitches for 5.2% of his pitches.  It is a low rate, but it is actually much higher than the 0.2% that PITCHf/x data had him at prior to this start.  So Molitor may be on to something here.

Ivan Nova – 6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K with the W.  Strange how baseball works out sometimes.  The Phillies destroy Michael Pineda who has had a really good season.  They then rip apart former Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia.  But then Ivan Nova, making his first start of the season after doing poorly in his rehab assignment recovering from Tommy John surgery, shuts the Phillies down for nearly 7 frames.  Nova should be a decent innings eater for the Yankees now that he’s back from the DL, but we’ll have to wait and see how he performs in his next couple of starts before seeing if he can be useful for fantasy purposes.

Cole Hamels – 5 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K with the L.  With the trade rumors swirling, Hamels did nothing on Wednesday to make himself look more attractive to other teams, besides the fact that he looks so sexy wearing that beard of his this season.  What?

Lance McCullers – 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K.  For the third game in a row, McCullers struggled with his control and issued 3 or more walks.  Pretty strange considering that in his two starts before this three game run, he walked 0 batters in 16 innings.  However, McCullers has had control issues in the Minors, so I was actually quite surprised that he had that 16 inning stretch without a walk.  He was able to work around the walks on Wednesday against the Angels though to limit the damage to one run.  I feel that his walk rate should continue to climb, which will limit his potential as it serves a dual negative effect of hurting his WHIP (and then ERA) and also limiting how deep he goes into ballgames.  He has a 2.33 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 52 K/16 BB in 46.1 IP.

Andrew Heaney – 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.  With Matt Shoemaker being pushed to Friday, top prospect Heaney made his first ever start with the Angels.  His performance on Wednesday is what a typical good game from Heaney is going to look like — few walks and a decent amount of strikeouts — however he may eventually have the upside for more strikeouts. With Jered Weaver on the DL and Shoemaker having massive struggles, Heaney could get an extended look in an Angels rotation that is in dire need of solid performances.  For fantasy purposes, I think that we can view Heaney as a Jose Quintana type once he settles in.  He’s worth a flier, but remember that he is just a rookie and should run into some struggles.

Gerrit Cole – 4.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K with the L.  Not to toot my own horn or anything, but in the DFS strategy post for Wednesday, I wrote that this was not a good spot for Cole and that I would be fading him.  The Reds just seem to have Cole’s number for whatever reason as the only 3 starts this season that he hasn’t lasted 6 innings and has given up more than 2 earned runs have come against the Reds.  He will pitch at Detroit in his next start where he could potentially see more problems.

Marlon Byrd – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R.  Byrd continued his mashing ways by launching his 12th HR of the season.  It’s a very interesting story how Byrd turned into such a home run hitting machine.  I’ve mentioned it before, but in case you missed it, here it is.

Shelby Miller – 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.  The “Shelby Miller implosion” that many people have been calling for just isn’t happening.  I, however, have not felt that Miller was due for any implosion.  Regression, sure, but not a full on implosion.  In fact, if you recall, I touted Miller to continue to impress us this season in “Shelby Miller and Jake Odorizzi, CUT It Out!”  June has been his worst month, but even then it’s not a bad month as he has a 2.97 ERA and 1.32 WHIP.  He will continue to regress, don’t get me wrong.  But he can maintain some of this goodness that we’ve seen.

Jordan Zimmermann – 8 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K.  It wasn’t a dominant outing from Zimmermann as he scattered a bunch of singles and got most of his outs off batted balls, but it was nice to see him put up 8 shutout frames even though Drew Storen blew the win for him. The caveat here though is that it was against a Freeman-less Braves lineup, which I said should be an advantage for him in the DFS strategy post.  He is now 5-5 with a 3.42 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and an unimpressive 6.16 K/9.  Fortunately for Zimmermann, he gets the Braves again in his next scheduled start.

Kolten Wong – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R.  Wong has cooled off a bit after a hot start, but he’s still maintaining a very nice looking stat line at .282/.337/.454 with 9 HR, 32 RBI, 40 R, and 6 SB.  He’s one of the rising stars at the second base position and has a great blend of abilities.

Jason Heyward – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R.  I’ve been mentioning Heyward a lot lately and this is now his third straight game with a HR.  He is one of the hotter hitters in the league right now and certainly has the capability to continue to do good things.

Jaime Garcia – 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K with the W.  This will be repetitive, but Garcia is a very nice and underrated fantasy option — **when he is healthy.  He made one mistake on Wednesday, but he pitched very well to improve to 3-3 with a 1.69 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 32 K/7 BB in 48 IP.  He’s not striking out a ton of guys, but he has upside for a strikeout rate above 7.00 K/9.  But as I alluded to earlier, Garcia is not the model of health and he exited his start early due to an injury.  Uh oh.  Several weeks ago, I set the over/under on when Garcia would hit the DL next at the All-Star break and I took the under.  He’s not being placed on the DL just yet, but stay tuned.

Giancarlo Stanton – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Stanton hit his 27th Mike drop shot of the season.  The guy is such a beast, especially against left-handed pitching.  He entered the game with a .528 ISO and .472 wOBA against lefties this season.  Those numbers are just insane.  For reference, a .200 ISO and a .350 wOBA is reasonably solid.

Dustin Pedroia – 1 for 3, 2 RBI.  Pedroia was lifted from the game with a hamstring injury and he could be looking at a disabled list stint here.  If so, that will put a damper on what has been an excellent bounce back season for the gritty veteran second baseman.  Pedroia is hitting .306 with 9 HR, 33 RBI, 34 R, and 1 SB.

Hanley Ramirez – 2 for 2.  Also leaving the game early with an injury was Hanley with a hand contusion.  His injury is probably day-to-day status, but you never know.

David Ortiz – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Ortiz continues to show some signs of life with his 5th HR of the month and 11th of the season.

Clay Buchholz – 7 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 B, 7 K with the W.  Buchholz is being treated with some poor luck with a high .339 BABIP and low 69.2% LOB%, but he’s still working around it to have a quality season.  With the win on Wednesday he improved to 5-6 with a 3.68 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 91 K/23 BB in 93 IP.  If he can get some better luck on his side then he can even have better numbers.

Jimmy Nelson – 8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K with the W.  I have said for a while now how Nelson has been one of the most inconsistent pitchers in the league this season and I have had trouble predicting how he would do from start to start.  I finally got one right though as Nelson quieted the Mets bats.  I said the DFS strategy post that Nelson was in a good spot to succeed with the Mets offense really scuffling and now having scored just 10 runs in the last 7 games.  That is pretty pathetic.

Justin Turner – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R.  Turner is so underrated.  I am falling in love with him and that red-headed mane of his.  He is batting .325 with 10 HR, 35 RBI, 27 R, and 1 SB in 63 games, and he continues to most of the starts at third base for the Dodgers.

Brett Lawrie – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R, 2 K.  Lawrie hit a grand slam on Wednesday and also now has his AVG back up to .290.  That .381 BABIP of Lawrie’s is very unbelievable given what his line drive and hard hit rates are at.  He should see his AVG fall back down to the .250 area or so.  And then there’s his ugly 73 K/11 BB.  He comes through with some big hits for the A’s, but he surely is no Josh Donaldson.

Josh Phegley – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K.  Phegley sure is making the most in limited playing time as the A’s backup catcher and he homered for the second time in as many games on Wednesday.  On the season he is batting .309 with 5 HR and 15 RBI in 31 games, and what is the most interesting about him so far probably is his low strikeout rate of 13.3%.  In his short time with the White Sox in the previous two seasons, he never showed that type of ability to put the ball in play, but at some stops in the Minors he was pretty adept at avoiding the strikeout.  So this could be the true Phegley that we are seeing, which would make him an intriguing option at catcher in fantasy leagues if he ever gets a starting gig because he also has 20 HR type of power.

Wandy Rodriguez – 4 IP, 11 H, 8 ER, 3 BB, 4 K with the L.  Coming into Wednesday, Wandy peculiarly had a 3.20 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.  He was a quality pitcher in his prime, but these were some unexpected numbers for a 36-year old who missed most of the last two seasons due to injuries.  However, Wandy got hit hard by the A’s on Wednesday to inflate his numbers to areas where we would more expect them to be.  He now has a 4.06 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.  With Chi Chi Gonzalez proving to be human on Tuesday and now Wandy finally getting knocked around, the wheels could be starting to come off for the Rangers rotation.  Next in line: Yovani Gallardo.

Danny Duffy – 4.2 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K.  Duffy returned from the DL but ran into some trouble in the 5th inning and he was probably on a pitch count otherwise he might have been left in to qualify for the victory.  Duffy had a breakout season last year, but he isn’t nearly as good as his 2.53 ERA showed, unless he begins to strikeout more batters.

Nick Hundley – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB.  Hundley continues to show excellent numbers at his home park of Coors Field.  He’s batting .330 with 5 HR and 22 RBI in 28 home games this season.

John Axford – 0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K with the BS and L.  It only took 13 opportunities, but Axford finally blew a save this season after pretty much just stumbling into the role early on in the season.  He’s bound to see some more blown saves in his future because he’s not this good.

Paul Goldschmidt – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB.  Goldie belted his 20th HR of the year.  So good.

Buster Posey – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R.  Posey busted a grand slam and now has a .287 AVG, 11 HR, 45 RBI, 34 R, and 1 SB in 69 games.  Posey impressively has more walks than strikeouts and it would be the first time in his career that he would accomplish that if he can maintain it the rest of the way.  Posey’s BABIP is sitting pretty low at .280 because he is hitting less line drives and more infield fly balls so far this season.  The 8 infield fly balls he has hit already ties a career high.  He should be able to improve as the season goes on though and get that AVG around .300 or higher.

Ryan Vogelsong – 6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K with the W.  I said in the DFS strategy post that Vogelsong pitches well at home and that the matchup against a Padres lineup that doesn’t have strong left-handed bats was an ideal matchup for him.  So while it is kind of surprising that he pitched 6 shutout innings, it really shouldn’t have been all that surprising after reading the DFS strategy post.

Nori Aoki – Aoki hit the DL with a fractured bone in his leg.  Such a tough break for the Giants and Aoki who has been having a wonderful season as the team’s leadoff hitter.  He is hitting .317 with a .383 OBP, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 33 R, and 12 SB.

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