Cardinals 23-year old righty Carlos Martinez has been enjoying a wonderful season in his sophomore year and first year as a full-time member of the starting rotation. He had a meeting with the division rival Cubs on Sunday night baseball, the same dynamic young Cubs offense that handed him his worst start of the season back on May 4 when they touched him up for 7 runs on 9 hits and 4 walks in just 3.2 innings. So Martinez was out for some revenge on the nationally televised game and he earned it with a line of 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K with the victory to improve to 9-3 with a 2.80 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 100 K/39 BB in 93.1 IP.
With the shiny 2.80 ERA, Martinez is outpitching his xFIP of 3.17 and his SIERA of 3.36. It would appear that he is getting a bit of fortune on his side with a .284 BABIP and 83.3% strand rate. The BABIP isn’t low enough where we would think that he is in for a huge regression though, because he has a solid defense behind him and he has been adept at limiting hard contact this year at 25.7% (23rd lowest in the league). However, the strand rate sits at 3rd best in the league and that should begin to regress at least a little bit, which would negatively affect his ERA. But overall, it is hard to believe that this breakout performance is a fluke. More likely, it is a case of a young talented pitcher with electric stuff learning how to pitch at the Major League level.
Where Martinez has improved the most over last year is in his ability to get left-handed hitters out. Last season, working mostly as a relief pitcher, Martinez gave up a .297 AVG and .462 SLG to lefties and a .244 AVG and .301 SLG to righties. So far this season, lefties are still hitting for more power against him, but the hits are coming at a far less rate. He’s holding lefties to a .221 AVG and .393 SLG this season, and righties are at a .223 AVG and .313 SLG.
The weapon that has been effective for him in guiding him toward this improvement against lefty bats is the development of his changeup. According to PITCHf/x data, Martinez threw a changeup just 2.9% of the time in 2014, but this year he is going to that offspeed pitch 15.6% of the time. And it’s the changeup that is inducing both ground balls (66.7%) and swinging strikes (19.5%) at the highest rate of any pitch for him.
Martinez’ 2015 campaign has been more than the Cardinals could have asked for, but early on in the season I suggested that Martinez would probably be put on some sort of innings cap since he only pitched 99.2 innings last season and his career high for a single season is only 108 innings from 2013. Cardinals management recently came out and said they believe Martinez could exceed 170 innings this year, which is a higher limit than I would have thought because often time teams don’t like their young, inexperienced pitchers to have much more than a 30-40 inning increase from either the previous season or their career high. But if he does exceed 170 innings, I wouldn’t imagine that he goes too much higher than that.
This would mean that the Cardinals may have to get creative in the second half to limit his innings and to have him available for the post-season. But with the 9 game lead that the Cardinals currently have in their division, if they can maintain it, then they could afford to skip Martinez’ start when they have an off day scheduled and/or put him in the bullpen in September. Doing so, also could work out in the team’s benefit because after the All-Star break when Martinez is in uncharted territory for himself in innings pitched, he could begin to show signs of wearing down — poorer command, decreased velocity, etc. So extra rest or a shift to the pen could be beneficial on both ends if that happens.
So if you own Martinez, then it could be a sneaky move to begin to shop him around for another piece that could help your fantasy team. Because if/when Martinez begins to display any sort of fatigue in the second half of the season, then other fantasy owners are not going to find him as attractive and they will hear rumblings from larger media outlets (or perhaps the Cardinals organization themselves) that Martinez will be treated more carefully with skipping his turn in the rotation or moving to the pen. Besides being completely shut down for the year, being moved to the pen would be the worst case scenario, unless it is to close games due to a Trevor Rosenthal injury. If Martinez is in the pen as a setup man in September then he will not be doing much to help any fantasy squads, especially for the playoffs in head-to-head leagues. So I would say that it is okay to ride him while he’s going well, but just beware of the events that may unfold and to be open minded about trading him away in season long redraft leagues.
Now let’s check out what else happened during Sunday baseball!
Stephen Strasburg – 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K with the W. Strasburg has been strong in two starts since returning from the DL, but we must keep in mind that one start was against a Freeman-less Braves offense that is in a big slump and one start was against the Phillies who have been one of the worst offenses in the league all season long. It’s still very encouraging nonetheless and he is probably safe to roll out, which also means that Joe Ross, who had been filling in as a part of the Nationals rotation and sent back to the Minors upon Starsburg’s return, can safely be dropped in redraft leagues. Strasburg will get the Giants in his next start.
Chi Chi Gonzalez – 6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K with the L. Gonzalez finally blew up in his last start versus the A’s, and though it was a quality start on Sunday, he wasn’t really all that sharp issuing more walks than strikeouts. As the league sees him more, he’s going to get more and more battered. The fact that he has 17 walks versus 14 strikeouts in 41.2 IP is all you need to know about Gonzalez and whether or not he is fantasy worthy. He’ll square off against division foes, the Angels, in his next start.
Rougned Odor – 3 for 5, 1 SB. I keep mentioning Odor because he keeps on hitting and he should be owned in all leagues with his 15 HR/30 SB potential. Go get him — “Rougned Bringing A Nice Odor to the Texas Air.”
Josh Donaldson – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. Donaldson has cooled a bit as of late with his batting average dropping below .300 for the last few games, but he got back on the HR column for his 18th of the year on Sunday.
Drew Hutchison – 5.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 K with the W. Miraculously, despite a 4.99 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, Hutchison is now 8-1 on the season because the Blue Jays offense has averaged an astonishing 7 runs per game in his 16 starts. The 3 runs that the Blue Jays scored on Sunday ties the lowest amount of run support that he has received all season long. He’s generally been getting better as the season has gone on, but he should have a tougher time in his next start against the Tigers where he is not a recommended play.
Roberto Osuna – 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K with the SV. Osuna came on to protect a one-run lead for a four-out save on Sunday. I said before it happened that Osuna should be the guy in the 9th inning for the Blue Jays in “Jays to Have New Closer Osuna or Later,”
David Price – 6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. Price didn’t have his best stuff on Sunday in what was a good matchup against the White Sox. He got bailed out by his offense to avoid the loss and his 2.62 ERA and 1.12 WHIP are still excellent. However, he gets a very difficult matchup next against the left-handed killing Blue Jays. It’s hard to bench ace pitchers, but this might be one situation where it could be okay to. I probably wouldn’t, but I would have no issue if a Price owner did so.
Melky Cabrera – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. The White Sox really need Melky and Adam Eaton to get going if they want a chance at turning around their season. Eaton has been doing better as of late, and perhaps now Melky is beginning to turn it on after a 3-hit day that included his 2nd HR of the year.
Pablo Sandoval – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Sandoval went through a pretty big slump from the end of May to mid-June, but he is seemingly coming around after he ditched hitting right-handed against lefties. He’s hit .280 as a lefty versus lefties in 25 AB.
Chris Archer – 6 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 10 K with the L. Archer was done in by three long balls off Red Sox bats on Sunday, but the fact that he hit double digit strikeouts for the 5th time this season shows that he still has the goods. It’s just a minor stumble in what has been a brilliant breakout season. Archer is now 9-4 with a 2.31 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 133 K/25 BB in 109 IP. Check out “Archer Hits the Bullseye” for more information on Archer and his breakout.
Zack Greinke – 7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the W. With a Stanton-less Marlins team, Greinke was in a prime time spot to continue his wonderful season. He’s still not being as dominant as he once was as his current strikeout rate (7.81 K/9) is down considerably from last year (9.21 K/9). So I am going to keep calling for him to hit some regression and bumpier times as I mentioned a long time ago in “Getting Cranky With Greinke.” The .247 BABIP and a league high 88.9% strand rate are just not things that are sustainable, but for now he sits pretty with a league leading 1.58 ERA and 2nd best 0.91 WHIP.
Alex Wood – 7.1 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K with the W. On Sunday, Wood turned in his best performance of the season shutting out the Pirates for 7.1 innings. His ERA of 3.17 doesn’t quite match up with his 1.38 WHIP, but he has been pretty unlucky with a .334 BABIP to inflate that WHIP. However, with just 6.73 K/9, Wood is still trying to rediscover his strikeout abilities, but Sunday was a nice showing in that area. He’s not developing into a better pitcher this year like many believed would happen, but he’s a decent play.
Manny Machado – 3 for 8, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K. The Macho Man Manny Machado doing work again. He’s pretty awesome and is working his way into possible 1st round material for the 2016 fantasy baseball season. He’s now at a .305 AVG with 15 HR, 43 RBI, 50 R, and 11 SB.
Jimmy Paredes – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 3 BB, 1 K. I mentioned Paredes after Saturday’s game and he keeps on hitting as he seems like he is once again locked in at the plate. With two hits in game 1 of the doubleheader, that made it 5 multi-hit games in a row before he went hitless in game 2. His average is up to .321 now and he’s been a season long favorite of mine.
Ubaldo Jimenez – 8 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the W. Ubaldo has been enjoying a great bounce back season after his disaster 2014 when he saw a 1.5 MPH dip in his fastball velocity that led to a 4.81 ERA. His velocity this season is at the same level as last year, but he appears to be learning to pitch a lot better without the flaming speed and possibly the main reason for his success is that he is currently posting a career low walk rate of 2.78 BB/9. He is now 7-3 with a 3.09 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 89 K/27 BB in 87.1 IP. He probably won’t continue to be this good, but I am liking his chances of remaining fairly productive.
Chris Tillman – 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K with the W. 7 shutout innings from Tillman? I suppose even a blind horse will find water occasionally. There’s nothing to see here. He can’t be used in any fantasy league or in DFS.
Ryan Braun – 1 for 2, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB, 2 BB. Braun hasn’t done a whole lot in the month of June, but he still has a pretty nice looking stat line and has been doing better over the last couple of weeks trying to overcome a bothersome thumb injury. He’s hitting .259 with 15 HR, 49 RBI, 42 R, and 9 SB.
Mike Fiers – 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K. Fiers didn’t have the punchout stuff on Sunday with just 4 strikeouts, but right now I think we just want to see him pitch games without giving up a lot of hits and runs since he still has the highest hard hit rate in the Majors. He seems like a decent bet to improve on his overall numbers, but we do have to be careful with him since he has been getting hit so hard all season long.
Tommy Milone – 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K. A very nice game for Milone who has been a useful guy for the Twins this season. However, he shouldn’t be relied on too heavily in season long leagues because of his poor strikeout rate and proneness to have some blow ups.
Collin McHugh – 8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K with the W. McHugh turned in one of the best pitching games on the day and he has bounced back with two 8 inning games in a row. I’m still weary on him though because of his loss in velocity this season that has contributed to a big loss in his strikeouts. The nice game improved his record to 8-3 to go with a 4.51 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 84 K/24 BB in 101.2 IP.
Michael Pineda – 8 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K with the L. Pineda suffered the worst start of his career last time out versus the Phillies of all teams, but he came back on Sunday to turn in the type of start that we have been accustomed to seeing out of him. He walked away with a loss, but that’s not so much a fault of his own. He is now 8-5 with a 4.08 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.
Hector Santiago – 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. Santiago kept things going well by tossing his 8th game of the year where he went at least 6 innings and giving up 1 earned run or less. He has been pretty great for the Angels up to this point, but he’s still bound to fall on some tougher days once some of those runners that he lets on base come around to score. His 88.5% strand rate is the 2nd highest in the Majors, and with the way that Santiago gives up HR (1.24 HR/9) he shouldn’t be stranding guys at that high of a rate. His 2.58 ERA should only go up from here.
Felix Hernandez – 6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K. Felix has now alternated good and bad starts over his last 7 times taking the hill, so it’s been kind of a weird month of June for him where he finishes with a 5.51 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. However, his overall stats are much in line with what to expect from him at a 10-4 record with a 3.05 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.
Fernando Rodney – 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K. It is reported that manager Lloyd McClendon would prefer if Rodney were to reclaim the closer’s role, and for the second time in a row, Carson Smith, who has been closing games for the Mariners, worked in front of Rodney on Sunday. When this possible flip flopping was first going on and Smith notched his first save of the season, I said that McClendon might prefer Rodney in the 9th and that he probably would be given another chance at some point. It appears that is the case, despite Smith having done nothing to forfeit the job back over to Rodney.
Nolan Arenado – 2 for 4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R. Arenado went yard two more times on the road in San Francisco. He had two multi-HR games over the weekend in San Francisco, and he has 8 HR in the last 7 games. The man is simply on fire. For the season he is hitting .293 with 24 HR, 68 RBI, and 49 R.
Matt Duffy – 3 for 4, 1 RBI, 3 R. I recommended Duffy as a pick up earlier in the weekend and now he is hitting .303. Still hot.
Todd Frazier – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Frazier hit his 25th HR of the season as he continues to go dong crazy.
Steven Matz – 7.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K with the W. Matz’ debut didn’t start very well as he served up a leadoff HR to Brandon Phillips. But the young lefty settled down to show the Queens crowd yet another starting pitcher to be excited about. He even helped his own cause by going 3 for 3 with 4 RBI. He was hitting .304 in 23 AB in the Minors this season, so he definitely may be no slouch at the plate, which only furthers the comparisons to current lefty greats Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner who are also handy with the lumber. Read more about Matz in “Metz to Promote Matz” and do not leave him unowned in any league, but chances are he is already gone.
Salvador Perez – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R. Perez is finally cashing in on that power potential and has 12 HR almost halfway through the season, so his first 20 HR season is well within reach. What is unsightly though is his 1.5% walk rate. There isn’t a pitch that Perez doesn’t like.
Derek Norris – 2 for 4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 K. With a double dong day on Sunday, Norris set a new career high in HR with 11, surpassing last season’s total in nearly half the time. He’s been a great boost for the Padres offense this year, but his strikeout and walk rates and his batting average are trending in the wrong directions. Regardless, he should continue to be a nice option at catcher in fantasy because he is finally receiving regular playing time this year and also batting in the top half of the order on a consistent basis.