Rodney’s Reprise? (and other notes from 6/26/15)

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About six weeks ago is when I first began suggesting that Fernando Rodney be removed from the closer’s role to make way for the young and more talented Carson Smith, and then I gave it a full rundown in the “BLOW-PEN Report” on May 23.  Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon ended up giving Rodney a lot of leash because he likely didn’t want to have to remove Rodney as his closer, but McClendon finally saw enough.  On June 6, Smith recorded his first career save in perfect fashion.

Since Smith took over as the team’s closer, entering Friday’s game, he had converted 5 straight save opportunities by pitching 5.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 2 hits and no walks while striking out 8.  So he has been having little issue in finishing games stress free.

Since Rodney lost the closer’s role, entering Friday’s game, he has done much better, only being scored upon once in 5 outings for 1 run in 5.2 IP with 4 K/3 BB.  In that small sample, it hadn’t been the best of performances, but clearly it was much better than what he had been doing in the 9th inning trying to close out games previously.

Friday night presented an interesting situation for the Mariners though as Smith was brought on in the middle of the 8th inning where he let Mike Trout and Albert Pujols reach base before getting a double play to end the inning for a total of 10 pitches thrown.  And then Rodney was brought in for the 9th inning to try and close the game against the bottom part of the Angels order, and he successfully did so after allowing one hit.

Initially when I first called for the switch of closers in Seattle, I had said that Smith was the better pitcher but that McClendon would probably eventually give Rodney another opportunity to close if he proved that he was able to work out his issues in lower leverage situations.  But then when Smith began to have so much success and displayed that he could potentially handle 9th inning duties with ease, I thought that Rodney would never be getting his job back.  So the way things played out on Friday is a bit peculiar to me since Smith did nothing in the way of performance to give back the job.

However, in this game, the higher leverage situation was actually in the 8th inning with the Angels best hitters (and two of the best in the AL so far this season), Trout and Pujols due up.  So the thought process for McClendon could have been that they really needed to get by Trout and Pujols before even thinking about seeing a save opportunity for the game, which meant that they needed to go to their best option.  So then McClendon might have thought that once Smith got by the heart of the order, then Rodney could come in to a more ideal situation to face the weaker hitters and possibly instill some confidence in him should he finish the game cleanly.

So I am still going to have to believe that Smith is the closer until he blows some saves (fingers crossed that he doesn’t). Maybe Rodney will snipe some opportunities away like he did on Friday, but I see little reason why Smith shouldn’t remain the man for the job and I would be shocked and lose any faith I had in McClendon as a manager if he were to switch things back with no probable cause.  But we will have to wait and see just what happens next.

Let’s check out the rest of Friday baseball.

Prince Fielder – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  After hitting 9 HR in May, Fielder has seen a dip in his power in June with only 2 HR.  However, he’s still been getting a lot of hits and boasts a wonderful .346 AVG to go with 12 HR and 48 RBI.  He should be able to maintain great production.

Nick Martinez – 6 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, 2 K with the L.  So first Chi Chi Gonzalez got lit, then Wandy Rodriguez, and I said that Yovani Gallardo would be the next Rangers starting pitcher who is overachieving to get pounded.  But who I forgot about was Martinez.  He entered the day with a very not believable 2.77 ERA and he was due for some big time regression. Mr. Martinez, meet regression in the form of the Blue Jays offense.  Martinez now has a 3.39 ERA and 1.38 WHIP and those numbers should keep on rising.  He is not that good and the wheels are going to completely come off for the Rangers with Gonzalez, Rodriguez, Martinez, Gallardo soon, and Colby Lewis.

Edwin Encarnacion – 3 for 5, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R.  Encar hit a 1st inning grand slam and then added another big fly later on to push his season total up to 16.  He also homered a couple days ago to break an 11-game drought, so perhaps this is a sign that he is heating up and that his ailing shoulder is feeling better.

Russell Martin – 1 for 2, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB.  Martin now has 11 HR on the season, which ties his mark from last season in 111 games with the Pirates.  That’s what moving to the homer friendly Toronto will do for a guy.  Just as I predicted.

Noah Syndergaard – 8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K with the W.  Thor recovered from a poor outing against the lowly Braves offense in his last start to stifle the Reds offense.  There was nothing to worry about after that poor start, just the occasional rookie struggle.  Syndergaard is now 3-4 with a 3.59 ERA, 1.22 ERA, and 53 K/10 BB in 52.2 IP.

Brandon Phillips – 1 for 4, 2 SB, 1 K.  Very surprisingly, with 2 swipes on Friday, Phillips now has 11 SB on the season. The last two seasons he only had 7 SB combined.  He’s on pace to reach the 20 SB mark for the first time since 2009, which is the opposite of what you would expect from the soon to be 34-year old.

Johnny Cueto – 6 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K with the L.  Cueto had his start pushed back from Tuesday to Friday to give him extra rest for his elbow.  Remember that he missed a start about a month ago with elbow tightness, so the fact that the Reds acknowledged that they pushed his start back because of the elbow is concerning.  He performed decently on Friday, but it was a matchup against a struggling Mets offense that he should have done much better against.  So since he kind of underperformed, the elbow may be a bigger issue than we know.

Francisco Liriano – 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K.  It was an excellent matchup for Liriano to square off against the Freeman-less Braves, but he failed to take advantage.  It wasn’t a horrible start, but it was far from the dominating one that I expected.  He bailed himself out of a lot of jams by inducing 3 double plays at least.  He’ll try to do better in his next start at Detroit, which is not as pretty of a matchup.

Brandon Moss – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB.  Moss is right on pace to match last year’s statistics.  Good to know what to expect from him — .240 AVG, 25 HR, 80 RBI.

Corey Kluber – 7 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 10 K.  Kluber deserves way better than what his numbers show, but he probably won’t be getting all that he deserves.  I mentioned in “Sometimes A Pitcher Is Only As Good As His Defense” why we might not be able to expect a complete turnaround.  But some smaller improvements in his numbers should be in his future.

Jimmy Paredes – 3 for 4, 2 R.  Just when we thought that the Paredes regression was kicking in, he goes and busts out 4 multi-hit games in a row to bring his batting average back up to .319.  Currently sitting on a .401 BABIP and a league high swinging strike % (if he were to qualify with enough plate appearances), he will be lucky if he hits .300 for the whole season. But I do like him and what he can bring to the plate and he’s not going away just yet.

Wei-Yin Chen – 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.  Chen oddly was optioned to the Minors last week so that he didn’t have to face the left-handed killing Blue Jays lineup.  But he was called back up for Friday’s start against an Indians team that doesn’t fare too well against lefties.  It was a quality start, but not great.  However, he’s having fine season with a 2.90 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.  I foresee some regression to the 3.50 ERA and 1.25 WHIP areas, but that’s still quality stuff and fantasy worthy as an underrated option.

Max Scherzer – 8 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the W.  Scherzer was no-hitting the Phillies for a while, but went on to give up a handful of hits and 2 runs to end his shutout streak.  He’s still amazing though of course.

Anthony Rendon – Rendon went back on the DL, this time with a quad injury.  I didn’t like Rendon for this year, but not for these injury reasons.  The guy can’t seem to catch a break this year and this is good news for Danny Espinosa who will continue to see everyday playing time.

Ben Revere – 1 for 1, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  Naturally, the least threatening power hitter in all of baseball hit a pinch-hit HR versus the currently most dominating pitcher in all of baseball, Max Scherzer.  Baseball is a funny game.

Adam Eaton – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 K.  Eaton tied his career high in HR on Thursday and then on Friday he set a new career high with 5 HR.  As mentioned after his HR on Thursday, Eaton is hitting a lot better in the month of June and the whole White Sox offense will benefit with Eaton hitting and getting on base more.

Jose Abreu – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  It’s been a fairly underwhelming performance so far from Abreu after his monster 2014 campaign.  But he is still on pace to hit .290 with 29 HR, 91 RBI, and 91 R.  Solid numbers, but just not what you probably had in mind when drafting him.

J.D. Martinez – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 K.  Just Dongs did it again for his 19th HR of the year, 6th HR in the last 5 games, and 10th HR in the last 10 games.

Scott Van Slyke – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 K.  Van Slyke absolutely destroys left-handed pitching.  I heard some stats the other day that showed that over the last two seasons, Van Slyke has been as good at hitting left-handed pitching as Mike Trout.  That’s pretty amazing for a guy who has been nothing more than a 4th outfielder for his whole career.

Brett Anderson – 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K with the W.  A double digit strikeout performance from Anderson was definitely not expected, but what’s even more unexpected is that Anderson has been healthy all season long after 15 starts. He has now pitched more innings this season than the last two seasons combined, and this is the most innings he’s pitched in a season since 2010.  The 1-year/$10 million contract that the Dodgers handed to him looked very peculiar at the time, but Anderson is earning every bit of that paycheck so far.  He is now 4-4 with a 3.13 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 62 K/24 BB in 89 IP, and as long as he remains healthy I see no reason why he can’t keep up this type of performance.

Giancarlo Stanton – 0 for 4, 3 K.  Stanton complained of a problem with his left hand and is set to undergo tests to see what the issue might be.  If the Marlins were to lose Stanton to the DL, then they will join their NL East foes, the Braves and Mets, as teams with some really big offensive troubles.  The Marlins have scored just 8 runs in a current 5-game losing streak.

Brian Dozier – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  That’s 15 HR for Dozier and he’s now in a tie for the Major League lead in runs scored at 57 in 72 games.

Trevor May – 0.1 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 0 K with the L.  Well this was a massacre for May who I recommended as a cheap sleeper option for Friday’s DFS slate.  You knew things were just going to go completely awry when May’s center fielder leaped up for a ball at the fence and knocked it over the fence with his glove for a leadoff HR.  From there, May just couldn’t recover and he got hit hard.  He had been pitching excellently in June, so he’ll try to start July off on the right foot against the Reds.

Byron Buxton – The top prospect landed on the DL with a thumb injury that is expected to sideline for about a month.  The Twins just can’t catch a break with their center fielders’ health.  Buxton wasn’t a great bet for redraft leagues to begin with because of his likely strikeout prone ways, but the guy has blazing speed and will make a big impact in the near future for the Twins.

Gerardo Parra – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  Parra is a quality Major Leaguer who always seems to produce when given the chance.  He now has a .288 AVG with 5 HR, 20 RBI, 29 R, and 5 SB.  Those aren’t great numbers, but perfectly acceptable for someone who entered the year as the team’s 4th outfielder.  He will continue to see regular playing time with Khris Davis on the DL and is worthy of fantasy consideration in deep leagues.

Vincent Velasquez – 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K.  Velasquez showed a big improvement in his command and pitch efficiency in this start against the Yankees, but his bullpen let him down by letting a couple of inherited runners to score. The strikeouts were missing for Velasquez in this one, but I don’t mind that since he was able to work out those issues that were plaguing him.

Chris Young – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R.  Young has been a quality role player for the Yankees this season as he hit the game-winning HR on Friday and now is hitting .271 with 9 HR, 23 RBI, 21 R, and 2 SB.  He’s been seeing a lot of playing time with the absence of Jacoby Ellsbury, but once Ellsbury returns, Young figures to go back to a 4th outfielder type of role and into some sort of platoon with Garrett Jones.

Jake Arrieta – 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K.  Now with a 2.94 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 103 K/23 BB in 98 IP, Arrieta is an ace.

Stephen Vogt – 0 for 3, 1 K.  Vogt left the game after being hit by a pitch on the wrist. It appears that he has avoided serious injury, but this could linger for a little.  Josh Phegley, who is proving to be very capable, would step in as the A’s catcher should Vogt ever need a DL stint for anything.

Alex Gordon – 3 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB.  Gordon is having a fine season with a .280 AVG, 9 HR, 32 RBI, and 27 R, but the fact that he is just 1 for 5 in SB attempts is a letdown.  Despite not being all that fast, Gordon has had double digits in SB’s the last 4 season.  So to see him be so inefficient in attempts this year probably suggests that his days are over as that sneaky speed guy.

Robinson Cano – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Cano must be eating his Wheaties because that’s now 2 HR in the last 4 games.  He could hit 2 more HR in the next 4 games and I still wouldn’t trust him for the rest of the year though.

Taijuan Walker – 7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K with the W.  Walker’s ERA has gone down in 7 consecutive starts which is both an indication of how poorly he did to begin the season and a testament to how well he is doing to turn his season around. Since May 29 when he seemed to have figured things out, Walker is 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 44 K/3 BB in 42.1 IP.  That is pretty outstanding.

Mike Trout – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Trout had gone 12 games without a homer before hitting his 19th of the season on Friday.  He also has a .303 AVG and 42 RBI.

Robbie Ray – 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K with the L.  The lefty Robbie Ray is proving me to be a decent option for the Diamondbacks rotation, but he should start seeing some regression in regards to his strand rate that is around 85%, which will inflate his ERA.  However, he is showing some extreme fly ball tendencies, so he might be able to maintain the lower than average BABIP that he currently has.  If he can keep the walk rate below average (currently 2.23 BB/9) then he is going to be a quality fantasy option as well, but with some poor control issues in the Minors I would not count on him to keep this up.

Cory Spangenberg – 3 for 3, 2 R, 2 SB.  Spangenberg has been relatively quiet since mid-May, but a 3-hit game with 2 SB draws some attention.  He’s got the ability to steal 20 bases and as a former 1st round pick he may have some untapped potential in that bat of his.

Tyson Ross – 6 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 7 K with the W.  Another typical Tyson Ross start, but it was good enough for the win. He also allowed another 2 SB in this game.

Carlos Gonzalez – 5 for 5, 1 RBI, 3 R.  Cargo has really started to come around in June with a .325 AVG and 6 HR.  He’ll contribute until his next injury.

Nolan Arenado – 2 for 4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  Are you kidding me?  2 more HR for Arenado?  I might as well start calling him Nolan Arenadong with the way that he is donging it day in and day out.  That’s now 6 HR in the last 5 games to give him 22 for the season, and what’s super encouraging is that his 2 HR on Friday came at super pitcher friendly AT&T Park.  Double super encouraging is that he has been hitting better away from Coors Field all season long.  This is what the growth of a rising star looks like.

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