Iwakuma Tosses No-No (and other notes from 8/12/15)

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Since returning from the DL with a lat strain on July 6, Seattle Mariners right-handed pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma had seen a mixed bag of results with a couple of really good starts mixed in with a couple of bad ones and a few mediocre ones to compile a 3.64 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 47 IP. However, in front of the home crowd on Wednesday, Iwakuma laid to rest any concerns by tossing a no-hitter with 7 strikeouts and 3 walks against the Baltimore Orioles.

Over the last few seasons, Iwakuma has been one of the more underrated pitchers in the game, which is probably due to his lack of strikeout appeal. Since Iwakuma came over to the Majors from Japan in 2012, the average strikeout rate for starting pitchers has been 7.24 K/9 and Iwakuma has posted a 7.52 K/9 in his career. So while he has been a bit above average in strikeouts, he’s surely not the master artist of the strikeout. But where Iwakuma comes up big in his game is in his precision control.

During that same time frame since 2012, the average walk rate among starting pitchers has been 2.76 BB/9, yet, for his career, Iwakuma sits nearly a full walk lower at 1.78 BB/9. Iwakuma also has a knack for limiting hits thanks to a strong 50.5% ground ball rate that induces a lot of soft/medium hit ground balls that go for easy outs. So Iwakuma’s exceptional walk rate combined with his ability to get a lot of ground ball outs has allowed him to post a 1.08 WHIP, which is the 5th lowest WHIP out of all pitchers in the Majors since 2012 (minimum 400 innings pitched). There probably aren’t many baseball fans who would have guessed that.

Now that Iwakuma has proven himself to be healthy and productive with this no-hitter, he should go on to perform just as he has over the last few seasons as long as he doesn’t incur another injury, and that is some incredibly useful fantasy material.

Now let’s check out the rest of Wednesday’s action.

Kevin Gausman – 7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 K with the L. Gausman put up a decent start against the Mariners on Wednesday, but obviously it wasn’t enough considering his offense couldn’t muster up a single hit. He’s still trying to find himself as a Major League pitcher as he is dealing with some inconsistency and can’t get into a rhythm. He makes for a decent pickup in deep leagues or as a streamer in the right matchups because of his upside. He’ll take a 4.48 ERA and 1.21 WHIP into his next start against the Mets who hopefully aren’t as hot when he faces them for his sake.

Matt Kemp – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 2 K. Kemp hit a 3-run shot on Wednesday and is now hitting .256 with 12 HR, 63 RBI, 54 R, and 9 SB. His numbers surely aren’t anywhere near where the Padres would have hoped for when trading for him this past off-season. If you take out his horrible month of May, Kemp would have a .280 AVG with the same 12 HR that he has. Unfortunately, we can’t just throw away that month.

James Shields – 6.1 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 7 K with the L. Shields has had to deal with a poor defense behind him all season long, but the career high walk rate (3.18 BB.9) and the very high home runs allowed rate (1.41 HR/9) are his own doing and can’t be blamed on his defense. As such, he’s left with a 3.89 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, which are his highest marks since 2010. The bright spot for him though is that he is racking up strikeouts at a career high pace (9.84 K/9) in his first season in the National League. Not a whole lot of improvement should be expected from Shields over the rest of the season at this point.

Joey Votto – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB, 1 BB. It’s been vintage Votto all season long and he’s now hitting .304 with 20 HR, 54 RBI, 64 R, and 7 SB. As suspected, because of his propensity to walk (18.2%), Votto’s RBI total is relatively low for a player with his hitting abilities and who has been batting 2nd or 3rd all season long. However, fantasy owners don’t really mind as long as he is healthy. He’s brought solid returns this season and there’s no reason why he won’t continue to do so since he is healthy.

Raisel Iglesias – 6 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K with the W. The 25-year old Cuban rookie pitcher may finally be settling into some sort of groove after enduring some hardships in his first several starts. Over the last 3 starts, he’s had a quality start in each with a 2.89 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and 19 K/4 BB in 18.2 IP. The Reds may shut him down early this season in an effort to limit his workload, but he’s going to be someone to watch going forward and he may make for an intriguing selection in 2016 fantasy drafts. His next start will be a tough one against the Royals.

Aaron Nola – 5 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K with the W. After 5 Major League starts, Nola is now 3-1 with a 4.25 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 23 K/6 BB in 29.2 IP. He hasn’t been logging strikeouts at a very high rate, but he’s shown some nice stuff and his control has been as advertised and is part of what will make him a pretty attractive option as a young pitcher moving forward. Unfortunately, his next start will come against the big bats of the Blue Jays and he should be benched in fantasy leagues for that start.

Ken Giles – 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K with the SV. Giles has made 7 appearances since taking over as the Phillies closer on July 28 when Jonathan Papelbon was traded from the Phillies to the Nationals. All 7 of those appearances have resulted in converted save opportunities and he has recorded at least 2 strikeouts in each of those appearances as well. Papelbon went nearly 3 months of the season with just 18 save opportunities with the Phillies, and here comes Giles who gets 7 save opportunities in a matter of 16 days. Funny how things work out like that. Early in the season, Giles’ velocity was well below his average velocity from last season, but he’s only gotten stronger as the season has gone on and his velocity is now back up to last year’s levels. Outside of last season when he reached the Majors, Giles has never exhibited what could be considered good control, so that may be an issue for him at times. But he’s definitely got great potential as a closer and should do just fine in the role for the Phillies for the next several years. Consider him as a reliever that can profile similar to Craig Kimbrel or Greg Holland. For the season, Giles has a 1.75 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 68 K/21 BB in 51.1 IP.

Scott Feldman – 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K with the W. Feldman blanked the Giants for 6 innings and now has a not terrible 4.17 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. When the Astros traded for Scott Kazmir and then Mike Fiers, Feldman was a candidate to be ousted from the rotation, but luckily for him, Lance McCullers struggled in a start at exactly the right time to get demoted to the Minors just to get a couple weeks of rest and to monitor his workload. There’s no doubting that McCullers is the better pitcher of the two, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens when the Astros deem McCullers ready to return to action. Fantasy owners will surely be hoping for the rookie McCullers to be starting.

David Ortiz – 3 for 3, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. Big Papi had been scuffling in the first half of the season to get anything consistent going as he had just a .231 AVG and 15 HR at the All-Star break, but since then he has been on quite the rampage with a .333 AVG and 10 HR. He’s still got plenty left in the tank it would appear.

Eduardo Rodriguez – 5 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 2 K with the L. Not a pretty game for the Red Sox rookie lefty as it was the 4th time in 14 starts that he has given up at least 6 earned runs. At least the other 3 times were against good offenses, but it’s very discouraging to see him get hit so hard against a poor offense like the Marlins without Giancarlo Stanton. His next scheduled start is against the Indians, which also profiles as a plus matchup, but Rodriguez probably isn’t brimming with confidence at the moment. It was looking early on that he would be a fantasy asset, but it’s clear that he needs some refinement and is not a must own in fantasy leagues. He has a 4.83 ERA and 1.29 WHIP.

Dee Gordon – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB. It’s a rarity where we can say that Gordon truly filled up the stat sheet since he has very little power, but on Wednesday he filled up the stat sheet. Gordon is well off last year’s pace in runs and SB (partially due to missing 11 games during a DL stint), but he’s making up for it by hitting for a .330 AVG. His .387 BABIP is quite high, but he’s been spraying the ball to all portions of the field pretty equally and his speed permits him to leg out a lot of infield hits as he leads the league with 27. So don’t expect the batting average to necessarily fall too much, if at all, and he is still on pace for 50 SB (currently has 35 SB).

J.T. Realmuto – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R, 1 K. I’ve been mentioning all season long how Realmuto carries some sneaky appeal at catcher, and he came up in a big way on Wednesday by knocking in 5 runs in a single inning. For the season, he’s batting .255 with 7 HR, 35 RBI, 39 R, and 4 SB. Those aren’t super impressive numbers, but he’s been improving as his rookie season has progressed, and he’s going to carry some intrigue as a sleeper heading into 2016 fantasy drafts as only one of 2 or 3 catchers that could reach double digits in stolen bases and home runs.

Josh Donaldson – 2 for 4, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. Donaldson notched 2 more runs and 2 more RBI to remain atop the leaderboard in each of those categories. Remember, it doesn’t happen often where a player leads the Majors in both of those categories. It’s only been done 20 times in history and the last time was 2007 when Alex Rodriguez accomplished it.

Chris Colabello – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R. After hitting .224 in July to bring his batting average down to a “valley” of .312, Colabello is once again hitting out of his mind with a .526 AVG in August to shoot his season mark back up to .328. It is pretty surreal that Colabello is not really seeing any regression in his BABIP as it is once again back above the .400 mark, but he is hitting line drives at a very high rate (27.0%) to aid him in that area. But we still have to expect that to come down. Since the Blue Jays acquired Ben Revere at the trade deadline to play some left field, Colabello’s playing time has suffered a lot as he has only started in 5 of the last 11 games. That number would likely be lower if Edwin Encarnacion wasn’t dealing with a minor injury lately, as that has allowed Colabello to start as a DH. At this point, it’s hard to know what to expect from Colabello as he is defying logic. But pretty much anyone in that Blue Jays lineup can produce since the lineup is so dangerous.

Danny Valencia – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K. Valencia was claimed off waivers and traded from the Blue Jays to the A’s last week, which probably left him pretty sad that he was leaving a contending team. However, with the A’s, he has become a regular starter at third base with Brett Lawrie shifting over to second base due to the hole that was left when Ben Zobrist was traded to the Royals. This is pretty significant for Valencia because he has gone most of his career as a platoon player against left-handed pitching. However, this season, he has been performing against right-handers just as well as against left-handers, if not better. And he has especially been on fire since joining the A’s with a .391 AVG (9 for 23) and 3 HR in 5 games. Deep leaguers are going to want to give him a look for the stretch run since he’s stepped into a full-time role. Overall, Valencia is hitting .306 with 10 HR, 36 RBI, 30 R, and 2 SB in 65 games.

Aaron Brooks – 1.2 IP, 6 H, 8 ER, 2 BB, 2 K with the L. As suspected, getting giddy over Brooks after his dominant last start against the Astros would have been a mistake. Brooks’ magic was definitely not meant to last and he underwent a shellacking by the hands of the Blue Jays. We’ll cut him a little slack since it was against the best offense in the league, but he’s still not likely to be very impressive and should only be used in super deep leagues.

Grady Sizemore – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 2 K. Sizemore now has 4 HR in 9 games since being recalled from AAA after a brief demotion. He’s surely not the same player he once was, but he is showing that he does have some recollection of how to produce at the Major League level. He’s not much of a season long fantasy league option, but he is a cheap priced DFS option that should carry some decent value since he often hits near the top of the order for the Rays.

Curt Casali – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Casali had the mini hot streak in late July where he had two 2-HR games in a row and a total of 5 HR in a 4 game span. It was a surprise to say the least, considering that his Minor League track record is not that great. Since that little streak, the Rays catcher has tailed off a great deal but he got back in the home run column on Wednesday. You shouldn’t let that nice streak he had fool you, but if you’re super desperate for a catcher in 2-catcher leagues, then there are a few worse options than Casali.

Jake Odorizzi – 6 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. Odorizzi wasn’t likely to have an ERA under 3.00 all season long, so this type of regression was due. However, he still remains a solid option with his legitimate improvements due to a change in his pitch arsenal/approach. Odorizzi is now 6-6 with a 3.09 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 99 K/29 BB in 116.1 IP.

Yoenis Cespedes – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Entering Wednesday, Cespedes had had only real one impact game since coming over to the Mets, but just his mere presence in the lineup seemed to have helped out the Mets immensely. On Wednesday, he finally hit his first HR in a Mets uniform and the team is 9-2 since acquiring him.

Jacob deGrom – 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 10 K with the W. Total deGromination. So deGrom basically is really good and I don’t see that changing. He improved to 11-6 with a 2.03 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 152 K/28 BB in 146.2 IP.

D.J. LeMahieu – 2 for 4, 1 SB, 2 K. I said a while ago that LeMahieu should be able to hit for a .300 AVG for the season and he’s now sitting at .319. His BABIP of .393 is very high and should come down some, but he is hitting line drives at a nice rate of 26.8% and he has been excellent at using the opposite field 41.5% of the time, which is tops in the Majors. A line drive hitter who can go the other way like that usually translates to a very good batting average. LeMahieu also stole his 17th base of the season on Wednesday and is just one shy of his career high. He’s really emerged this season as a legitimate fantasy force.

Danny Salazar – 7.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 8 K with the W. The high walk total was pretty uncharacteristic of Salazar, but he still got the job done against a suddenly scuffling Yankees offense. Salazar improved to 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 151 K/40 BB in 132.2 IP, and he’s been very good over his last 6 starts and is finally settling into a rhythm. This can be considered a breakthrough season for the Indians righty, but he will enter 2016 with even further breakout potential.

Kris Bryant – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 K. Bryant’s production has tailed off in the second half of the season as perhaps pitchers have learned and made adjustments to how they pitch the talented rookie. So Bryant is going to have to make adjustments of his own. He did manage to go yard on Wednesday and is now hitting .249 with 16 HR, 66 RBI, 60 R, and 12 SB in 103 games.

Miguel Montero – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. Montero recently returned from the DL and he homered on Wednesday for the 11th time this season. With rookie sensation Kyle Schwarber performing so well at the plate in Montero’s absence, Montero may stand to lose a little bit of playing time over the rest of the season, but probably not too much. In a flurry of lineup changes, manager Joe Maddon appears good to move forward with inserting Montero back in as the regular catcher, moving Schwarber from catcher to left field, moving Chris Coghlan from left field to second base, moving Addison Russell from second base to shortstop, and moving Starlin Castro from shortstop to the bench. Castro, you are the weakest link, goodbye!

Jason Hammel – 5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. Although Hammel has only given up more than 2 runs in a start just once in his last 7 starts, he has not been the same since he was forced from his start on July 8 due to a lower body injury. Since then, he has not completed 6 innings in a start at all. He’ll search for better results in his next start against the Tigers.

Ian Kinsler – 2 for 5, 2 RBI, 2 R. Kinsler remains very hot and he got his season AVG back up to .300 on Wednesday. As mentioned last week, Kinsler has really found his stroke once he began to pull the ball more.

Bruce Rondon – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K with the SV. Rondon recorded his second save of the season for the Tigers with Alex Wilson sidelined with some shoulder fatigue. Upon the trade of Joakim Soria to the Pirates at the deadline, it was Wilson who stepped in to convert the first two save opportunities presented. However, as previously mentioned, Wilson doesn’t really have prototypical closer stuff like Rondon does. With Rondon’s success in converting two in a row, it’ll be interesting to see how manager Brad Ausmus utilizes the two going forward once Wilson is ready to return. Remember, Wilson is certainly capable of closing out games and he’s pitched well all year long, but Rondon has the greater long term appeal.

Andrew Heaney – 5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. Heaney turned in a decent start against the White Sox on Wednesday and he is 5-1 with a 2.53 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 40 K/9 BB in 57 IP in his rookie season with the Angels. Heaney is a talented young lefty, but he’s definitely not as good as his current numbers suggest. He’s got great makeup and possess excellent control as a finesse lefty, but his numbers should regress more toward the range of a 3.50 ERA and 1.20 WHIP (or worse). He’ll get another crack at the White Sox in his next start.

Aaron Hicks – 4 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 4 R. When top prospect Byron Buxton was activated from the DL and then optioned to the Minors, that had to be a huge confidence boost for Hicks since he has been the man roaming center field since Buxton went on the DL in early July. Hicks has been performing at a phenomenal level since being reinserted as a starter and he really should be owned in most fantasy leagues at this point. Since July 3, Hicks is hitting .325 with 6 HR, 21 RBI, 23 R, and 3 SB while starting all 34 Twins games, and often time hitting at or near the top of the order.

Miguel Sano – 3 for 3, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. Huge day for Sano for his first multi-HR game of his young career. The rookie has some massive power and is hitting .292 with 7 HR, 25 RBI, and 17 R in 33 games. However, despite the way that he’s drilling the ball at an incredible hard hit rate of 47.8%, his batting average is sure to come down and he should be thought of more as a .250-.260 type of hitter. But if he can hit 30 HR a season then a .250-.260 AVG would be just fine.

Mike Pelfrey – 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K with the W. Pelfrey is not an impressive pitcher overall, but he actually has done very well at home this season with a 1.97 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Apparently this must be taken into consideration when trying to stack against him in DFS.

Andrew McCutchen – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. McCutchen continues to rake at the plate with his 18th HR of the year. It would be nice to see him get going on the base paths again (just 6 SB this season), but fantasy owners can’t be complaining too much.

Clayton Kershaw – 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K with the W. Kershaw is now 10-6 with a 2.39 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 205 K/30 BB in 162 IP. Assuming Kershaw makes 10 more starts this season, he would be on pace for 291 strikeouts. The last time a pitcher recorded a 300 strikeout season was in 2002 when both Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling accomplished the feat. With the way that pitchers are babied nowadays, I didn’t think it would be possible that we would see another 300 strikeout season, but Kershaw is definitely going to have a chance to do it this season if remains strong down the stretch.

Jordan Zimmermann – 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K with the L. Tough luck loss for Zimmermann. Zimmermann has appeared to recovered from an early season loss of velocity and he now has a 3.34 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 114 K/26 BB in 148.1 IP. He’s not the same type of strikeout pitcher that he was last season when his velocity was at its peak, but he surely has some pretty solid overall numbers.

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