The Not So Lean Jean as a Save Machi-ne? (and other notes from 8/10/15)

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Over the weekend, Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right wrist and he will miss the rest of the season. Usually in these types of situations where a team makes a voluntary switch at closer or if their closer suffers an injury that is severe enough to land him on the DL, the team will hand closing duties over to their primary 8th inning guy.

For the Red Sox, it’s been Junichi Tazawa who has been working that 8th inning, and he’s done his best Uehara impression this season as a fly ball pitcher that induces a lot of weak infield flies and maintains a strikeout per inning with exceptional control. Overall this season, Tazawa has a 3.19 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 48 K/7 BB in 48 IP, and the Japanese import has been very functional for the Red Sox in a relief role since 2012.

However, Red Sox manager Jon Farrell is reportedly content with keeping Tazawa in a setup role and will not (at least for now) be the man to close out the majority of games for the team. Tazawa doesn’t have egregious lefty/righty splits in his career, but lefties are hitting .276/.295/.421 against him this season while righties are hitting .227/.267/.364. So perhaps Farrell is hesitant that he wouldn’t succeed when big bopping lefties are to scheduled face him in a save opportunity. Keeping him in a setup role, Farrell would have more control over utilizing him against the types of batters that he wants to. Last year when Uehara hit the DL, Tazawa was also passed up for save opportunities in favor of Edward Mujica.

The Red Sox plan to use Jean Machi as their primary closer for the time being. Machi recently joined the Red Sox after they claimed him off waivers from the Giants in late July. Machi debuted in the Majors in 2012 and has been a mainstay as a Major Leaguer since 2013 where he was a solid middle reliever for the Giants. However, for the Giants this season, Machi had a 5.14 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, and 22 K/14 BB in 35 IP.

Machi has past closing experience in the Minors, but he’s never had the look of a prototypical closer with his lack of strikeout potential. So it is surprising that the Red Sox are so willing to install one team’s sloppy seconds as their new closer when they seemingly have a more viable option that has been with them for years in Tazawa. Considering that there are more right-handed bats than left-handed in the league, and that righties have hurt Machi a lot more this year (.343/.400/.606 vs. righties, .105/.219/.143 vs. lefties) and throughout his career (.244/.303/.396 vs. righties, .196/.259/.308 vs. lefties), it makes the move to turn to Machi even more curious.

Given Machi’s current form and the profile that we have on him from past performance in both the Majors and Minors, Machi could end up struggling in the role as closer and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him not last in the 9th inning for the remainder of the season. He is the guy to own for now, but a close eye should be kept on Tazawa as he probably would have more likelihood of getting the job done.

Let’s take a look at what else happened on Monday now.

Travis d’Arnaud – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R. D’Arnaud has been a little slow to come around since returning from the DL at the beginning of August, but on Monday he managed to hit his first HR since returning. He was a breakout pick of mine before the season began, but injuries have derailed that notion. He’ll still be able to put together a solid run for the end of this season to give him some momentum going into next year.

Jon Niese – 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K with the W. Niese has put together 3 strong starts in a row and now has a 3.46 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. His strikeout rate is at a paltry 6.05 K/9, so he’s not exactly prime fantasy material, but at least he’s showing signs of being a useful real life starter for a Mets team that is vying for a post-season berth.

Carlos Gonzalez – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R. CarGo had that ridiculous streak where he had 8 HR in 7 games from July 22-29, but then he went homerless for the next 6 games from July 30-August 4. Now he’s back on fire with 5 HR in the last 5 games since August 5 and his season line is looking pretty nice at a .281 AVG, 26 HR, 64 RBI, 59 R, and 2 SB. His days of stealing bases are seemingly over, but it would’ve been hard to predict that he would be in a great position to challenge his career high of 34 HR.

Jonathan Gray – 6 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. Gray is the Rockies top pitching prospect, but he actually hasn’t been all too impressive in the upper levels of the Minors from a statistical standpoint. Last year in AA, he had a 3.91 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.18 K/9, and 2.97 BB/9. This year at AAA, he had a 4.33 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 8.66 K/9, and 3.23 BB/9. He made his Major league debut last week at Coors Field and wasn’t especially sharp as could have been predicted, but on Monday night he was exceptional as he only allowed 1 hit and 1 run in 6 innings at New York. Gray should have good opportunities to perform well on the road, but obviously his home games at Coors Field are going to be trouble spots. However, there has been a study by Dan Rozenson that shows that sliders are the most effective pitch at Coors Field, and Gray has a good slider. So there is going to be some promise for the 23-year old to succeed better than many of the past Rockies pitchers. We’ll have to see how he does against a relatively weak Padres offense at Coors Field in his next start.

Matt Boyd – 5.1 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the L. Facing the Royals in back-to-back starts, Boyd was unable to keep them quiet the second time around. As a rookie pitcher, he’s got exceptional control, but he seems likely to run into trouble games like this one because he doesn’t generate a lot of whiffs. His next scheduled start isn’t until August 22 as the Tigers have an off day coming up where they will intend to skip his turn.

Johnny Cueto – 9 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K with the W. Johnny be good on Monday with a complete game shutout of the Tigers. Cueto wasn’t bad in his first two starts since joining the Royals, but he wasn’t his normal self either. There figured to be a small adjustment period coming over from the NL to the AL, but it looks like he’s ready to lead this Royals pitching staff now.

Avisail Garcia – 2 for 4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R. Obviously it is nice to see a player go double dong, but as mentioned last week, Garcia really needs to cut down on his swing rate and swinging strike rate to develop into a more effective force on offense. A strong finish to the 2015 season though would be a welcoming sign heading into next year when he will just be 25 years old. His breakout season didn’t happen this year, but he’s certainly a player to monitor for the future.

Chris Sale – 7.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K with the W. Sale had back-to-back starts where he allowed 7 earned runs, so it was nice to see him buck that ugly looking trend. His ERA is a bit higher than we would like to see at 3.47, but he’s still one of the most dynamic and reliable pitchers in the game.

Matt Shoemaker – 5.2 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 4 K with the L. Shoemaker had been on a 3-start run where he had 19 shutout innings with 27 strikeouts, but that came to a very abrupt halt on Monday as the White Sox handed him a beat down. I’ve mentioned how the reason for Shoemaker’s recent success was likely predicated on his big uptick in velocity (2-3 MPH greater than earlier this season), so it’s no surprise to see that his velocity took a bit of a dive in this start where he allowed 7 runs on 9 hits. I’ve been recommending Shoemaker because of the increase in velocity, but we’ll have to see if he can ramp it back up in his next start at Kansas City, which may not be a great spot to start him anyway.

Maikel Franco – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. Franco began his rookie season with the Phillies with a power surge, but he’s cooled off a bit in that regard. He clobbered his 13th HR of the season on Monday though and his future is looking extremely bright. I think that he is looking like he can develop into a hitter that can resemble Adrian Beltre over the course of his career.

A.J. Pollock – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB, 1 K. If you read The Backwards K then you know how much of a Pollock lover that I am. I had to recently trade him in a league for Nelson Cruz as I was in the search of more power, but it was not easy giving him up by any means. He went off on Monday and now has a stat sheet filling line of a .308 AVG, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 74 R, and 26 SB.

Welington Castillo – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, 1 K. I’ve been recommending Castillo as a catcher pick up in all leagues, and he just continues to drill the ball with a HR and triple on Monday. Since joining the D-Backs on June 4, the only catcher that has been more valuable in fantasy has been Buster Posey.

Yasmany Tomas – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB. With a HR on Monday, Tomas is now batting .299 with 7 HR, 41 RBI, 33 R, and 5 SB in 89 games. His batting average should continue to drop as his BABIP still sits very high at .383, but any increase in his power production would help to offset that.

Franklin Gutierrez – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 2 K. Gutierrez missed all of last season and a large portion of the beginning of this season, but he has returned from the DL and has been a very productive hitter for the Mariners as primarily a platoon player that starts against left-handed pitching. Against lefties, he is hitting .340 with 3 HR in 47 AB. He shouldn’t be considered for season long fantasy leagues because of the severe lack of starts, but for DFS he is a bit of an unheralded option when he’s up against a lefty.

Chris Davis – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. With another home run on Monday, Davis is now hitting .314 with 11 HR and 30 RBI in 24 games since the All-Star break. This is exactly the type of performance that he showed in his MVP caliber 2013 season and it would not be farfetched to say that he has returned to that level. As referenced earlier this season, his underwhelming 2014 season could have been attributed to his inability to take adderrall for his ADD after not getting the proper clearance to in time. But this year, he has been able to take the medication and he seems a lot more comfortable and focused at the dish. Of course he still is going to log a lot of strikeouts, but you take the bad with the good.

Justin Upton – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K. Upton has homered in back-to-back games to give him 20 on the season. He had a very poor July, but he’s doing better with a .290 AVG so far in August.

Howie Kendrick – Kendrick hit the DL with a strained hamstring and the Dodgers promoted Jose Peraza. Peraza is a second base prospect that they received from the Braves at the trade deadline, and more can be read about him here. Peraza should be given an opportunity to show what he can do as he could be the team’s second baseman of the future and is worth a look in deep leagues and surely dynasty leagues. However, Enrique Hernandez could also draw some starts at the keystone while Kendrick is out.

Brett Anderson – 5 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 1 K with the L. I mentioned in Soft Hit Rate Leaders that Anderson could be able to improve over the second half of the season since his soft hit and line drive rates were so low and he curiously had a higher than average BABIP. He had the look of a pitcher that should have had an ERA around 3.00 and a WHIP around 1.20, and he had been able to get that down to a 3.06 ERA and 1.28 WHIP heading into his start on Monday. But then he got smacked hard by the Nationals to inflate his numbers back up to a 3.43 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in one fell swoop. He’s been a bit unlucky this season, but he’s still giving the Dodgers quality innings.

Ian Desmond – 3 for 4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB. Here and there, Desmond has teased the fantasy population that he’s going to bust out of his season long slump, but this time, maybe it’s truly happening. He went yard twice on Monday and is now hitting .315 with 7 HR, 16 RBI, 16 R, and 4 SB in the last 20 games. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that he is out of the slump and is finally on track to consistently produce. He might make for a solid trade target as the fantasy trade deadline nears.

Gio Gonzalez – 8 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the W. Gonzalez had a pretty horrendous first couple months of the season as he had a 4.82 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in his first 13 starts. However, in his last 8 starts, he has not allowed more than 2 earned runs in a single start and he has 1.48 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. His BABIP still sits very high at .342 (2nd highest in the Majors), so he still has room for some more improvement. He’s had a poor defense behind him most of the season, which has contributed to the high BABIP.

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One thought on “The Not So Lean Jean as a Save Machi-ne? (and other notes from 8/10/15)

  1. Pingback: The Progression of Brandon Belt (and other notes from 8/11/15) | The Backwards K

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