Car-Car Finally Goes Vroom-Vroom With a Near No-No (and other notes from 7/1/15)

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My pre-season love for Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco was no secret as I tabbed him to be “This Year’s Corey Kluber,” but it just has not been happening for the 28-year old.  Despite elite strikeout (9.85 K/9) and walk (1.93 BB/9) rates that were the big factors toward his great SIERA (2.89) and xFIP (2.85) entering Wednesday’s action, Carrasco was the owner of a mediocre 4.16 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.  So he was hardly Kluber-izing the baseball nation and there is one key reason with a couple of causal secondary reasons that was preventing him from the big breakout.

The main reason that he’s been underwhelming and not meeting expectations this year lies in his BABIP (batting average on balls in play — measures the rate at which balls in the field of play go for hits), which sat at .336 coming into Wednesday. Then there are two reasons why his BABIP has been so high.  The first reason being that his 32.8% hard hit rate entering the day was the 12th highest in baseball and much higher than his mark of 24.6% last season, which would suggest that he has been struggling with hitting his location a lot and the batters just mash it hard somewhere.  The second reason why his BABIP has been so high is that the defense behind him rates very poorly as the 27th ranked team in both DEF and UZR. With a poor defense behind him, a pitcher is more likely to have a higher BABIP as balls get by defenders with lack of range, hits get by defenders because of the failure/misuse of a shift, or some combination of both.  And this can be seen in more detail in “Sometimes A Pitcher Is Only As Good As His Defense.”

On Wednesday though, Carrasco finally had his big breakout game of the season where he came within one strike of completing a no-hitter before Joey Butler roped a single over the second baseman’s head that drove in a run for the Rays. Carrasco ended up being removed from the game after the hit since his pitch count was pretty high, but he finished the game with a spectacular line of 8.2 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 13 K with the W.

I think that Carrasco learned in order to avoid all the hits and high BABIP, he had to take things into his own hands and that the best way to combat having a bad defense is to just record a strikeout for half the outs to limit the defense’s opportunity to mess things up.  And that’s what he did with exactly half of the 26 outs he got being of the strikeout variety.  The 1-hit performance brought Carrasco’s BABIP down from .336 to .323.  Carrasco figures to continue to improve his overall numbers over the second half of the season and be a fantasy asset, but it may not be to the extent that we hope for if he keeps on getting some bad defense behind him.  Carrasco is now 10-6 with a 3.88 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 110 K/21 BB in 97.1 IP.

Let’s take a look at the rest of Wednesday’s notables:

Trevor May – 6.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K with the L.  May bounced back from his horrific last start when he couldn’t even make it out of the 1st inning.  He got saddled with the loss on Wednesday, but overall he did pretty well.  He still makes for an under the radar pitcher who has been putting together some good underlying statistics.  He has a 4.37 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, and 71 K/18 BB in 80.1 IP, but he’s got some worse than average BABIP and LOB% numbers that can improve.  However, he’s scheduled for two more starts before the All-Star break against the Orioles and Tigers.  Not exactly great matchups there and he can probably be left alone for those.

Johnny Cueto – 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K with the W.  Cueto wasn’t super sharp in his last outing that was pushed back to give him some rest for his elbow, but he came through for the Reds on Wednesday with 8 strong innings against the Twins to maybe quell concerns about that elbow for now.  He’s pitched well enough to be an All-Star, but the NL pitching situation is pretty crowded, so we will see this weekend if he gets snubbed or selected for the host team.  He is 5-5 with a 2.84 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 100 K/20 BB in 104.2 IP.

Jose Reyes – 4 for 5, 4 R.  With another strong game, Reyes is really making his case to be selected as an All-Star.  His batting average was in the .260’s a few days ago, but he’s now up to .280, which makes his stat line look much more deserving of an All-Star selection.

Josh Donaldson – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 K.  Donaldson’s monster season continues and there’s little doubt that he will be in Cincinnati for the All-Star festivities.  He’s hitting .302 with 19 HR, 51 RBI, 60 R, and 3 SB.

Jose Bautista – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 K.  Bautista joined Donaldson in the HR party with his 16th of the season.

Edwin Encarnacion – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Encarnacion joined Donaldson and Bautista in the HR party with his 17th HR of the season and he’s been flashing some more power recently.  Encarnacion has been striking out at a much higher rate this season (19.0%), but over the last month his strikeout rate has resembled what it was last season.  So if his shoulder is working fine, he has the potential to put up a monster second half.  Also, he joined Donaldson and Bautista by logging his 50th RBI of the season. To put that in perspective, no other team has more than one player with 50 or more RBI as we are just about halfway through the season.  Yeah, the Blue Jays are a powerhouse.

Justin Smoak – Smoak joined Donaldson, Bautista, and Encarnacion in the HR party with his 6th and 7th HR of the season.  He’s been kind of a bust over his career as he was once a top prospect, but he’s been a good role player for the Jays and is now hitting .261 with 7 HR and 24 RBI.  He’s not really worthy of a spot on most fantasy rosters, but he can be given a chance in DFS as a cheap contrarian option in a Blue Jays stack if you choose not to use Encarnacion in your first base slot.

Mark Buehrle – 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the W.  On top of the 5 HR that the Blue Jays got, they got a brilliant outing from their de facto “ace,” but the strikeout per inning performance was a rarity.  Buehrle is 9-4 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.  He’ll probably finish the season with a bit of a higher WHIP, but the ERA could remain in the same area.

Mookie Betts – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  After hitting .230 in April and .259 in May, Betts finished June with a .330 AVG and he stayed hot on the first day of July by hitting his 9th HR of the year.  As I’ve been saying, we should keep seeing his batting average rise (currently .273 AVG) and I still believe that he can finish the season as a .300 hitter, though it’ll take a lot of work over the second half.  He has just a .284 BABIP that can positively regress as he is beginning to hit less fly balls and more line drives.

Hanley Ramirez – 1 for 4, 1 R.  Ramirez returned to the lineup after missing a handful of games with a wrist contusion. He’ll provide a boost to the Red Sox offense that they need with Dustin Pedroia also nursing an injury on the DL.

Rick Porcello – 2 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 3 K with the L.  It still blows my mind that Porcello got a 4-year/$82.5 million contract from the Red Sox.  I thought that maybe they knew something that I didn’t when they made that signing, but it would surely appear not.  He is getting slammed by a high .328 BABIP and a very low 63.8% strand rate, but he has always posted higher than average BABIP’s and lower than average strand rates throughout his career.  So I am not going to label him as unlucky.  He now has a 6.08 ERA and 1.40 WHIP and has been one of the league’s absolute worst pitchers this season.

Jesse Hahn – 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K with the W.  Hahn was strong again on Wednesday against a Rockies team that has some road struggles.  The strikeouts were there for him in this one, which is a nice sign since he’s been mysteriously missing his strikeouts all season long.  But at least he has made up for the loss in strikeouts by also trimming his walks.  He should be a decent option the rest of the way and he now has a 3.35 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 64 K/25 BB in 96.2 IP.  His next matchup figures to be a tougher one at Yankee Stadium and he might not be such a great start there with all the left-handed power that the Yankees can provide.

Robinson Cano – 4 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R.  Cano had his first 4-hit game of the season on Wednesday while also launching a HR to bring his season line up to a .247 AVG with 5 HR, 27 RBI, 32 R, and 1 SB.  He still is not a recommended option as I mentioned a while back in “Robinson Cano? More like Robinson Can-blow!”

Nelson Cruz – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R.  After 10 HR in April and 8 HR in May, Cruz hit just 1 HR in June.  But perhaps he’s going to get back into the swing of things in July as he slugged a HR on the first day of the month just in time for the final All-Star ballots and selection day.

Taijuan Walker – 6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the W.  Let the good times roll for Taijuan who was great yet again for the 7th start in a row.  In that span, he has gone 6-1 with a 1.68 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 51 K/3 BB in 48.1 IP.  What is really impressive is the way that he has gone from walking everyone to walking no one.  Just 3 walks in his last 7 starts is breathtaking, and he has not issued a walk at all in his last 4 starts.  Before this amazing 7-start stretch, Walker walked 23 batters in 43 IP over 9 starts.  Outside of any pitcher not named Chris Sale or Max Scherzer, Walker has to be the hottest pitcher in baseball, which is something that could not have been foreseen after the way he began the year.

Gerardo Parra – 3 for 4, 2 R, 1 BB.  I’ve been saying that Parra is a quality player that can be plugged into a starting lineup and produce, and that’s what he’s been doing for the Brewers ever since Khris Davis went on the DL a few weeks ago. Give Parra a look in deep leagues and as a cheap DFS option.

Scooter Gennett – 3 for 5, 3 RBI, 2 R.  Gennett hasn’t been good this season for the Brewers, but he’s been warming up a little bit over the last week going 9 for 25 in the last 7 games.  However, he is surely never an option anytime the Brewers are facing a left-hander with a lifetime triple slash of .128/.150/.141 versus lefties.

Adam Lind – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R.  Lind came into Wednesday’s game against Aaron Harang with 2 HR in 3 AB lifetime versus the Phillies hurler.  So of course in his first AB of the game, he takes Harang yard.  Lind was a great play in DFS for that reason and like his teammate Gennett, he is much more of an option against righties than lefties, though he’s surely not as bad against lefties as Gennett.  Lind is hitting .307 versus righties and all 12 of his HR have come against them as well.  For season long leagues with daily changes, Lind is almost an auto-play when opposing a righty, and a strong underowned DFS play also.

Cesar Hernandez – 1 for 5, 1 RBI, 2 R, 2 K.  With Chase Utley on the DL, Hernandez has been playing second base for the Phillies and he has been performing very well going 19 for 48 (.396 AVG) with 8 RBI, 12 R, and 8 SB in the last 12 games.  He’s very hot right now and could have a chance to stick in a starting role even once Utley returns since the Phillies are going absolutely nowhere in the standings.  He’s been given some playing time over the last couple of years, but not anything long term.  But if he’s given the chance, Hernandez could be a 30 SB guy in the Majors, but with very little power. If you need speed at the middle infield then Hernandez would be a nice pickup, and he’s also a super cheap option in DFS right now.

Maikel Franco – 3 for 4, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB.  It’s been over a week since Franco has hit a HR, but he’s still finding other ways to produce.  He smacked 3 doubles on Wednesday and drove in a couple of runs and is now hitting .305 with 10 HR, 34 RBI, 26 R, and 1 SB in 44 games.  In my All-Star predictions, I overlooked Franco because of his mid-May call up, but he has been performing like an All-Star in his rookie season and he has to be in consideration for the Phillies All-Star representative.

Aaron Harang – 5 IP, 14 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 1 K with the L.  Over his 14-year career, Harang has had seasons with win-loss records of 6-17, 6-14, and 5-12.  With a beat down and a loss on Wednesday, Harang is now 4-11 on the season and it is possible that he could be a 20-game loser if he can remain in a Major League rotation for the duration of the season.  He started the year well, but with his proneness to blow ups and pitching for the Phillies, he should be avoided nearly universally in fantasy.

Jimmy Paredes – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Jimmy P does it again!  He just refuses to go away with his high .394 BABIP.  As always, I like him, he’s been one of my favorite fantasy players this season, but that batting average has to come below .300 at some point.  He can still be a useful player to have, especially with his multi-position eligibility in some leagues, but I would be shocked if he didn’t go through a regression period at some point.

Wei-Yin Chen – 8 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K with the W.  Chen working as a horse yet again as he completed 8 strong innings against the Rangers to improve to 4-4 with a 2.84 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.  His strikeout and walk rates are strong enough to allow him to be a fantasy asset.

Nick Martinez – 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K with the L.  The Nick Martinez regression period continues.  He should keep getting worse and worse as evidenced by his 3.43 ERA versus his 4.89 xFIP.

Brandon Moss – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Big day for Moss with his 13th HR and his RBI total going up to 42.  You know the drill with Moss — pretty good power with a low AVG and a lot of strikeouts.  Proceed.

Justin Bour – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R.  I highlighted Bour a while back when he was hot and flashing his power, but he has since cooled off a lot.  However, he now has homered in back to back games and could be getting hot again as the Marlins search for some production to try and replace Giancarlo Stanton.  He’s going to sit versus a lot of lefties still, and the pending return of Mike Morse from the DL will also eat into his playing time presumably.  Though with the Marlins being scheduled to face 5 righties in a row, this could be a good time to test him out with a heat check.

Brandon Crawford – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  Things have been pretty quiet for Crawford on the offensive front lately, but he stepped into one on Wednesday and is now hitting .270 with 11 HR, 47 RBI, 38 R, and 4 SB.  Smashing a HR here comes as good timing as it’ll give some reason for manager Bruce Bochy to put his shortstop onto the NL All-Star team. For fantasy purposes, his power was bound to cool off a bit at some point, but he still ranks in the top 10 in HR/fly ball distance to give some validity to his power surge.  Check out “Built Crawford Tough” for more information about him.

Mike Trout – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  Trout hit his 21st HR.  That is all.

Matt Shoemaker – 5.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K with the L.  Another “meh” outing from Shoemaker, but “meh” is sure better than “BLEHHHHH.”  As I’ve documented all season, his velocity just isn’t there this season, and his location of his pitches has been spotty as well.  With Andrew Heaney up in the Majors now with the Angels, Shoemaker is going to have to do a lot better than this to hold a rotation spot once Jered Weaver returns from the DL.  He’s now 4-7 with a 4.91 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 71 K/19 BB in 84.1 IP.

Bartolo Colon – 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K.  An impressive and unexpected outing for Colon to hold down the Cubs offense.  Colon can be used against some of the league’s weaker offenses, but against anyone else it could be a coin flip.

Jon Lester – 7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K.  This start from Lester can probably be counted as his best start of the season, and all it took for it to happen was a game against a lifeless Mets offense who just lost one of their better right-handed hitters, Michael Cuddyer, to an injury.  So yes, this was a really good spot for Lester to try and get something going for himself.  He may not find himself as lucky in his next start versus the Cardinals.  Lester is 4-6 with a 3.74 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 93 K/28 BB in 96.1 IP.

Neil Walker – 4 for 6, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB, 1 K.  For the most part, Walker has had a quiet bat this season, but it woke up on Wednesday in a big way.  The 2 HR that he smacked were his 5th and 6th of the season and he logged his 3rd SB of the season as well.  The switch-hitting Walker has been a bit of a liability for the Pirates when facing a lefty and nearly all of his power comes against right-handed pitching.  So take note for DFS and leagues with daily changes.

Starling Marte – 4 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  This was Marte’s “put me on the All-Star team” game.  He may not get put on the team initially, but he should at the very least find his way on as an injury replacement.  It’s still pretty amazing that he is hitting HR at this rate despite having a high ground ball rate, so I still have to expect his power to regress as the year goes on.  But there’s no doubting his talent and that he does have a lot of pop in that bat.  He’s hitting .285 with 13 HR, 47 RBI, 43 R, and 15 SB.

A.J. Burnett – 7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K with the W.  Burnett is doing everything that he can to make the All-Star team in what should be his final season before retiring.  It would be a nice tribute to him if he were to be selected, but there is quite the competition among NL pitchers.

Alfredo Simon – 5.2 IP, 15 H, 6 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the L.  Another Alfredo Simon blow up?  Yessssss.  He’s now at a 3.94 ERA and 1.36 WHIP after I’ve been saying that I expected more of a 4.00 ERA and 1.30 WHIP from him.  Pretty close. I wouldn’t touch him in fantasy ever.

Kendrys Morales – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Morales has cooled from a hot start, but he’s still a key piece in the middle of the Royals lineup.  His 10th HR of the season on Wednesday also gave him his 50th RBI, which puts him on pace for 100 and shows how important he has been for that team.  For fantasy, he should still be a decent option in the second half, but there are lots of decent options at a deep first base position.

George Springer – 1 for 2, 1 R, 1 SB.  Springer was forced from the game with a right wrist contusion after being hit by a pitch.  It is possible that this injury could result in a DL stint and would be a shame if it affected his chances of being selected for the All-Star team.

Jose Altuve – 3 for 4, 1 RBI, 2 R, 2 SB.  Just more evidence that Altuve’s hamstring is fine after missing 7 games a couple weeks ago.  The 2 SB on Wednesday give him 23 for the season.

Brett Anderson – 7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K with the W.  Anderson was strong once again and is making the new Dodgers front office look mighty wise.  The strong outing brought Anderson’s ERA down to a nifty 3.00 with a 1.29 WHIP.  With a 68.4% ground ball rate, Anderson leads the league, even higher than ground ball king Dallas Keuchel.  This was all part of the Dodgers master plan with their revamped team — improve the infield defense, sign ground ball pitchers, and boom — World Series bound.  That Andrew Friedman can do no wrong I tell ya.

Jose Quintana – 6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K with the W.  After a couple of disastrous starts in April, Quintana has settled down over the last couple of months, but he hasn’t been as good as last year.  Some of that is fault of his own, but a lot of it has to do with his defense as I mentioned in “When the Hard Hit Rates Don’t Match the BABIP.”  Even in his good game on Wednesday, his BABIP managed to go up a couple points to .337.  Things may not get too much better for Quintana this season.  He now has a 3.81 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.

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