Everyone has their winding-down routine for the end of a long day. Some listen to music, others cozy up with a book. Maybe you fix a drink, take a drive, enjoy a long shower. Maybe you listen to Vin Scully. Maybe you scribble with crayons.
Me, I watch Hisashi Iwakuma pitch. That's my soothing place, my retreat.
Iwakuma's 2014 season met a hitch in spring training – finger injury – but he's back with the Mariners and making beautiful music again. Iwakuma was solid, if unspectacular, in last week's win at Houston, and he was terrific in the follow-up Thursday night. It added up to eight scoreless innings, four hits, zero walks, seven strikeouts. Have a look at the pretty pictures, look at the baseball tumbling down. Look at all those awkward Kansas City swings. A walk in the park.
The schedule is about to get trickier for Iwakuma: Tampa Bay, Texas, Houston (gift that keeps on giving), Detroit. But over the long haul, he's well-slotted for success. Heck, now might be a good time to go get Iwakuma; I still consider him a trifle underrated in fantasy circles.
If I were shuffling the starting pitchers right now, I'd have Iwakuma around $20-22. And here are some of the jucier names I rank lower than Iwakuma (consider these possible trade avenues to explore): Cole Hamels, David Price, Mike Minor (remember, he came back from a shoulder injury), Jon Lester, Homer Bailey. Happy hunting. Let me know how it goes.
• Over in Tampa, Price continues to be one of 2014's most frustrating owns. He didn't have his best stuff in a five-inning loss to Baltimore: 9 H, 3 R, 1 HR, 1 BB, 3 K. It marked his lowest strikeout game of the year, and the seventh time in eight starts he's allowed a souvenir.
Enter my buddy Jeff Erickson of Rotowire:
Bad news for David Price - just allowed a two-run homer. Good news - his xFIP will have a bigger gap with his real ERA!
— Jeff Erickson (@Jeff_Erickson) May 8, 2014
Price carries a 4.53 ERA, despite a sparking 9.7 K/9 and a tiny 1.01 BB/9. The problem, of course, is the homers (15.8 HR/FB). His FIP stands at 3.50, his xFIP at 2.68. He's also down 1.3 mph on his fastball, though he's making the best of it (note the boost in swinging strikes).
No one expects Price to keep the current ERA or the homer rate, which would easily be the worst of his career. But are pitchers completely blameless for home runs? And on the other side of the sphere, do good pitchers deserve any credit for keeping the ball in the park?
I've long felt much of the fantasy industry goes too far with the "it's not your fault" theme of homer allowance, and with that in mind, xFIP isn't a stat that means much to me. I don't want to normalize home run rates (waving at you, Timmy Lincecum), and I imagine in a few years, we'll look at home runs a lot differently. I don't view fly balls as one gigantic lottery, and I certainly don't want to completely absolve pitchers for the home runs they allow.
And when you pitch in the bloody AL East, the taters just come with the scenery. Sure, life under the catwalk helps Price, like it helps most pitchers; he's a 2.92/1.11 man over his career Tropicana Field. On the road, the ratios jump to 3.60/1.22. (Oddly, he has 10 more wins on the road. Oh, you wicked siren.)
Here's my forecast for Price, rest-of-season: 10 wins, 3.37 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 133 strikeouts. Season to taste, and share your Price points in the comments.
• The Rangers went to the farm for reinforcements, adding 20-year-old second base prospect Rougned Odor to the big league roster. A new name to make 1,000 terrible puns with, I guess. I'm not going to bother adding him in any mixed league where I need to give up anything notable in exchange. (If you have a free spin and want to take it, that's all you.)
Odor just turned 20 in February, so we're talking about a long-range story. He jumped two levels with the promotion to Texas. His slash line was nothing special at Double-A Frisco (.279/.314/.450), though he did have six homers and six steals (in nine attempts). Ron Washington slotted him eighth on Thursday; Odor went 0-for-4.
The Rangers could have Jurickson Profar back in the first half of June, and that's something I'm optimistic about. Profar's already been around the block once, gotten his cleats wet, so to speak. He qualifies at three infield spots, too. I'm surprised Profar is owned in just 41 percent of Yahoo leagues. I know some of you guys have DL spots; put them to use, captain.
Speed Round: The home run ball is alive and well in the YYZ; Toronto cranked five balls out of the park in a laugher over Philadelphia. The Jays have 49 homers, best in the American League. The two friskiest Yahoo pickups went deep Thursday: Juan Francisco (I don't believe) and Colby Rasmus (maybe it's fool's gold, but I'll sign off) . . . Marlon Byrd might see some time in center field as the Phillies debate what to do with slumping Ben Revere. Byrd's defense might not fit the defensive assignment, but his bat is just fine (.317, four homers, 22 RBIs). He went 2-for-4 in the Toronto finale, missing a homer by a few feet (hobbling Ryan Howard somehow didn't score on the play, starting from first base with two outs. Come on, man. Fred G. Sanford would have made it.) . . . Justin Masterson didn't have a spotless game against Minnesota, but a victory and 6.1 useful innings, we'll take it (4 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 7 K). He's still around one strikeout per inning on the season. I'm not expecting a smooth turn next week at Toronto . . . Jose Abreu tweaked his ankle in Thursday's loss but the club isn't overly concerned about it . . . A sore hamstring knocked Juan Uribe out of the loss to San Francisco . . . Four more hits for Alexei Ramirez, chasing his average up to .338. I don't know why he's picked on so much in some circles: as a career .280 hitter, this run isn't that ridiculous. He's also giving us category juice (four homers, five steals) and he's tied to what looks like a super offense. I'm holding. You can fear the monster under the bed if you want.