Through his first 13 starts, Jordan Zimmerman was borderline dominant, giving up a paltry 21 earned runs over 94.2 innings. His ERA stood at an even 2.00, his WHIP at 0.89 and he had already accumulated nine wins. The results had him as a Top-5 Fantasy option, even with his pedestrian strikeout totals.
His last eight starts, though, haven’t been so glowing, as he has given up 29 earned runs spanning 46.1 innings. This rough patch has many asking me what to do. There aren’t many things worse at this stage of the season than having a pitcher getting repeatedly roughed up.
When I get a guy like this on my roster I tend to bench them until I see signs of a rebound. First thing you need to identify is what has changed after the hot start. Right away you can see Zimmerman has been giving up more homers. He has given up eight over his last eight starts after giving up just six over his first 13.
The long balls are a result of his struggle to keep the ball down in the strike zone. During his hot streak he retired 54.2 percent of the batters he faced via the groundball. That number dropped to 46.8 percent when he went cold. For a guy that ranks among the league leaders in contact percentage (83.2 percent) and only generates a league average 8.3 percent swinging strikes he has to be on his game.
When you start seeing those groundball outs consistently in the 12 per game range, things are back to normal. Until his groundball rate normalizes, stick to using him in plus matchups at night and preferably at home. He has a 2.64 ERA and 10 wins in 15 starts under darkness. In day games he has struggled to the tune of a 5.06 ERA, and he has given up six of his 14 long balls over just 32 innings.
After giving up 10 earned runs in 3.1 innings against the Tigers on Wednesday, Gio Gonzalez saw his ERA jump from 2.97 to 3.57. While that start is an eyesore, it also could be a blessing in disguise for savvy Fantasy owners looking to buy low on a guy who was fantastic prior to that. A slow start to his season that saw him give up 19 earned runs over his first six starts skewed his numbers. Since the calendar turned to May he’s given up more than three earned runs in a start just once aside from the aforementioned beat down. His surface numbers show a guy doing just about exactly what he did last season minus the gaudy win total. If you need strikeouts, this is exactly the guy to target immediately.
Pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery have always proven to be wild cards, and on Monday night Brandon Beachy proved that adage correct. He gave up seven earned runs over 3.2 innings against the Rockies at home, giving up eight hits and a walk while striking out five. Throw in the fact that he gave up two dingers and only induced four ground balls and you see just how bad he truly was. He has swing-and-miss stuff; that hasn’t changed. What has changed is his ability to locate it, particularly down in the zone. Control is the last thing to return to pitchers coming back from elbow surgery. Because of this, he will continue to make for a very risky option in the coming weeks. Your better bet is to leave him benched until his control returns. The odds on him returning to his pre-injury dominance this season are no better than 50-50.
The Rays Wil Myers has been an absolute beast since the being called up on June 18, posting a .331/.372/.528 triple slash line with seven homers over his first 142 at-bats. Had Yasiel Puig not taken the league by storm, I am pretty sure all the talk would be about this talented 22-year-old. While I am positive his power is for real, I am not anywhere near being sold on his average holding anywhere near the .300 range. A look through his splits reveals that he has had a propensity to hack early in the count. He has only worked a three ball count in 23 of his 153 plate appearances. Throw in the fact that he is swinging at 50 percent of the pitches he sees and missing 12.3 percent of them and the recipe for regression is in place. If your league trading deadline hasn’t past yet, now is the perfect time to sell high.
Throughout the season I have sporadically checked in on the league as a whole in terms of stolen bases. Last season, there was an average of 1.33 stolen bases per game played. There are 2,430 regular season games played every year. This season, through 1,615 games played the league is averaging 1.09 per contest. With exactly two-thirds of the season complete, that is officially a huge drop-off. Because of this, I implore you to take a good look at your standings. If there is one category you can likely make a significant move in, it would probably be stolen bases. Scour your waiver wire for guys that can bump you up. Eric Young Jr. has 13 stolen bases over the last 30 days and is available in just about 40-percent of leagues on ESPN. If your wires are dry, attack the owners near the top of the standings for some help. Sweeten the deal with players you know will get a deal done. Its crunch time people! Time to go out and win your league!
The MLB trade deadline came and went, and the biggest name traded was Jake Peavy. He came over to the Red Sox in a three team deal and will make his debut Saturday. While I like the move by Boston, the most interesting part of the move was that they traded away Jose Iglesias, who was starting for them at third base. His loss leaves Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder as the only options on the 25-man roster currently capable of manning the hot corner. Will Middlebrooks started the year there, but was horrible and just hasn’t been able to find his swing down in Triple-A. This means the name you all should be tracking is top prospect Xander Bogaerts. He just logged his fifth game at third in Triple-A, and once the team gets comfortable with his ability to play defense there he will be the likely call-up. Those of you in deep leagues should seriously consider picking him up now. He definitely has a Manny Machado type of feel to him.
Through his first two full seasons, Freddie Freeman flashed enough promise for many to hope he can fully emerge as a Fantasy force. This year, he has managed to put everything together with a .309-59-13-71-1 line over his first 403 plate appearances. At just 23, he already has 1,658 plate appearances. Growing up in the bigs takes time for just about everyone. Freeman’s time has arrived. He is on pace to set career highs in just about every offensive category aside from homeruns. In my eyes, he honestly has the ability to morph into a guy just a tick below Joey Votto. Remember, Votto didn’t get his call for a full season until he was 24. This is one kid I will be targeting heavily in my drafts next season, as I expect continued improvement.
*All statistics include the games of Thursday, August 1
[Photo via BeGreen90]