Yordano Ventura just turned 23 years old last month and currently sports a 3.28 ERA, so he’s been highly impressive. But something weird has been going on with his strikeout rate, as he’s fanned more than four batters in just two of his last nine outings (with six being the high). Put differently, Ventura posted a 9.8 K/9 rate over his first 48.2 innings this season compared to a 5.5 K/9 rate over 53.0 innings since. Ventura missed a start with an elbow injury, always a concern for any pitcher, let alone such a young one who throws so hard, but he’s responded with a 3.05 ERA over 44.1 innings since then despite the decreased strikeouts. And it’s not like Ventura’s velocity has been down during this stretch, as if anything, it’s actually been up. It’s an odd combination for which I have no explanation, and his 10.3 SwStr% is encouraging. Despite the recent inability to K batters with such incredible stuff, I think it’s safe to say Ventura’s future looks awfully bright, although it’s tougher to stay healthy when throwing so hard – the average velocity of his fastball (96.7 mph), cutter (94.6) and curveball (82.7) lead all starters this season, which is pretty amazing.
Billy Hamilton sat with a .247/.287/.340 line entering May 30. Since then, he’s posted a .314-23-4-26-19 line, when he’s been the No. 3 ranked fantasy player behind only Andrew McCutchen and Clayton Kershaw (the latter has posted a 0.69 ERA and 0.63 WHIP and seven wins over seven starts during this span, which is pretty tough to beat). Keeping a full-time role at the top of the lineup, Hamilton’s 37 steals (while getting caught an MLB-high 13 times) could actually be considered a bit of a disappointment, but he’s exceeded expectations everywhere else. After hitting 13 homers in 2,015 career at bats in the minors, the speedster somehow has five this season in the bigs. And while that’s almost certainly a fluke, he also has six triples and 18 doubles, giving him a higher slugging percentage than Pedro Alvarez, David Wright, Evan Longoria and Chris Davis. Moreover, despite hitting leadoff for a National League team, he has more RBI than Matt Kemp, Jason Heyward and Hunter Pence.
It’s safe to expect fewer homers and a better SB% moving forward, and any fears of Hamilton getting sent down have obviously been dismissed. And he’s not just valuable in fantasy terms (thanks to stolen bases), as Hamilton has been very good in real baseball, playing terrific defense in centerfield to go along with outstanding base running (despite all the caught stealings). The result is a player with a top-25 WAR in all of baseball, ahead of the likes of Adrian Beltre, Jose Abreu, Robinson Cano, Ryan Braun, David Price and Stephen Strasburg. Plenty of things can and will change from now to then, but Hamilton sure looks like a borderline first round fantasy pick in 2015. (UPDATE: he left Wednesday’s game with a hamstring injury because of course he did. Full disclosure: I own Hamilton in all five of my fantasy leagues, as I took him in the fourth round in all my drafts and spent $27 on him in N.L. LABR. I will now go into the fetal position.)
I’m beginning to think Ronda Rousey is good at MMA. (This was the beginning of her fight.)
I never read the book, but I’m a huge David Fincher fan, so there isn’t a movie I’m even remotely close to looking forward to as much as this one.
Quick Hits: Jeff Samardzija has been traded to the tougher league to pitch in, but his ERA (1.46) over his first 10 starts this season was the lowest ever by a pitcher who didn’t record a victory. He now joins an Oakland team that has scored the most runs in baseball and is much better defensively (the A’s have a 25.8 UZR compared to the Cubs’ 2.7) while also going from a home park that has increased run scoring by nine percent over the past three seasons to one that has decreased it by seven percent. He’s the rare pitcher moving from the N.L. to A.L. who should see a boost in fantasy value…Mark Reynolds owns the major league record for strikeouts in a season when he was fanned 223 times in 2009. His K% was 33.7 that year. George Springer’s current K% is 33.1. Despite that, he has 19 homers and five steals in just 281 at bats…David Robertson is striking out 16.4 batters per nine innings. Mariano Rivera’s greatest K/9 season was 10.9…Tough blow to Edwin Encarnacion’s owners, as despite entering May 6 with just two homers and a .228/.326/.374 line, he’s been a top-10 fantasy player this season…The move of Andrelton Simmons to the No. 2 hole helps his fantasy value, but that also means the Braves are now batting players with a .280 OBP and a .299 OBP in the top two spots in their lineup…While it’s hardly a surprise a hitter has performed better at Coors Field than on the road, Drew Stubbs has increasingly become extremely valuable in daily transaction leagues, as he’s batted .367/.397/.608 at home this season. He’s also added seven home runs and eight steals over 124 at-bats at Coors, making him essentially the most valuable fantasy asset this year during the 41 games he’s played at home. It will be interesting to see his playing time once Carlos Gonzalez returns from the disabled list Friday.
Headlines of the Week: Tiger In Kiev Zoo Suffers Stress Attack After Man Hugs Him…Couple Sues Hotel After Naked Party Crasher Ruined Their Wedding When He Waved To Guests Then Flashed Them During Ceremony…People Prefer Electric Shocks To Being Alone With Their Thoughts...Family Accidentally Recycles VCR With $6,000 Stashed Inside…Man Raises $40,000 On Kickstarter To Make A Bowl Of Potato Salad...Doctors Are Examining Your Genitals For No Reason…Man Who Took Poverty Vow Wins $259.8 Million Powerball Jackpot…Japanese Grapes Fetch Record ‘$5,400 A Bunch'…Living Large In 150 Square Feet: Why The Tiny House Movement Is Taking Off.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Since getting removed from the closer’s role, Sergio Romo gave up another homer Sunday, leaving him with more long balls (seven) and earned runs (20) than in any previous season of his career over just 33.2 innings. Manager Bruce Bochy has since officially named Santiago Casilla SF’s closer. His peripherals aren’t nearly as impressive as Romo’s, but since joining the Giants in 2010, only Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara have a lower ERA than Casilla’s 2.06 (minimum 200.0 innings). However, advanced stats paint a different picture, as Kimbrel has recorded a 10.7 WAR over that span, while Uehara’s is 8.1 compared to Casilla’s 0.9. Mariano Rivera has a 6.1 WAR over this stretch despite throwing 60.0 fewer innings. I still say Romo leads the Giants in saves over the rest of the season, but his hanging sliders by the day are making me look dumb…Here’s yet another legit Mike Trout walk-off homer...Steve Pearce has a .318/.376/.568 line with 10 homers and four steals over just 176 at bats. He was once regarded as a decent prospect, and while this recent stretch should be viewed with some skepticism, he’s currently batting atop an Orioles lineup that has scored the seventh most runs in baseball this season. Pearce has been the No. 14 ranked fantasy player over the past month…Adam Dunn’s RBI on Monday was his first since June 18. This from someone who plays mostly everyday, sports an OK .800 OPS and hits in the middle of a lineup that’s scored the 11th most runs in MLB (while playing in a home park that’s increased home runs for LHB by 19 percent over the past three seasons). In other words, that’s tough to do (and it came on a solo homer, so he actually hasn’t driven in anyone but himself since June 17)…I realize this is an unpopular opinion, but I’d fade Brian Dozier if betting on the Home Run Derby.
Police Blotter: Sheriff: Drunk Man Says Dog Drove Him To The Store…Woman Tried To Buy Meth From Off-Duty Cop For Sister’s Birthday…Convicted Killer Joran van der Sloot Marries Girlfriend In Prison...Robbers Enter Bank By Sawing Hole In Roof During Fireworks…Cops In Row Boat Chase After Cuffed Naked Guy...Handcuffed Man Accused Of Stealing Deputy’s Cruiser...Drunk Alabama Woman Steals Horse, Rides It To Rob Store…Fugitive Caught After Posing For Newspaper Photo…Daughter Slept Next To Mom’s Corpse For 3 Years…High-End Prostitute Accused Of Murder On Yacht At Santa Cruz Harbor…Police Officer Shoots ‘Aggressive’ Tortoise Dead.
Quick Hits Part Tres: I’d consider Brandon McCarthy’s move to the Yankees mostly a blow to his fantasy value. Sure, his run support should increase, but a big reason why he was 3-10 was his 5.01 ERA. He’s been an extreme groundball pitcher (55.6 GB%), but New York’s infield defense is extremely shaky, and he’s also given up a ton of homers (18.8 HR/FB%), and he’s going from a home park that’s increased dingers by six percent over the past three seasons to one that has increased them by 25 percent over that span. McCarthy has a 3.73 FIP (and a 2.94 xFIP), so there’s reason to expect a bounce back in ERA, but I wouldn’t exactly hope for a huge one now pitching in the A.L. East (even if the division isn't quite as good as in years past)…Despite a career low average FB velocity (88.1), Dan Straily has a 12.2 SwStr% while pitching in the American League. He’s allowed more pop ups (14.5%) than line drives (13.0%), and his 21.4 K% is tied with Jordan Zimmermann’s. Now joining the National League and most importantly, locked into the Cubs’ starting rotation, Straily is worth adding in most fantasy leagues. I’d definitely prefer him over McCarthy from here on out…Target Field is opening a self-serve beer station...Joey Votto has been able to maintain a fantastic .390 OBP but hasn’t homered since May 10, and his .409 slugging percentage ranks 179th in baseball despite playing in a home park that’s increased home runs for LHB by 23 percent over the past three seasons. His quad injury is clearly to blame, and it’s once again put him on the DL, and there’s no timetable for a return. The former MVP currently ranks as the No. 428 fantasy player, and we likely won’t see him again for a while. It will be tough to rank Votto as a top-40 player entering 2015.
Longread of the Week: Witness To An Execution.
Quick Hits Part Four: After striking out six times in eight at-bats Saturday (thanks to a doubleheader), Chris Davis hit his first homer since June 23rd on Monday. It’s safe to expect a bounce back from here on out, but shifts have really hurt him, leading to a .205/.320/.396 line. After being the No. 3 ranked fantasy player last season, he’s ranked No. 231 in 2014. Over his last 10 games, Davis has five hits compared to 17 strikeouts over 39 ABs…A hamstring strain will send Michael Bourn to the disabled list for 3-4 weeks, further killing Bourn’s fantasy value. From 2007-2012, he averaged 45.7 steals per 500 ABs. Since joining Cleveland last season, he’s averaged 18.5 steals per 500 ABs, including an even bigger decrease in SB% in 2014. Some have blamed manager Terry Francona, but the Indians actually recorded the sixth most steals in baseball last year…Brad Zeigler needs to be owned in all fantasy leagues right now…Aroldis Chapman has a strikeout in each of his past 38 appearances, which is just one short of the major league record…Here’s Yasiel Puig making an incredible catch (partly due to a poor route) that results in a double play…LaTroy Hawkins has more saves (17) than strikeouts (14) this season. He somehow has a 3.94 K/9 rate to go along with a 2.53 ERA while calling Coors Field home…After never allowing more than three earned runs during his first 16 starts in MLB, Masahiro Tanaka has allowed 3+ in each of his past two outings. Of course, he was bound to have some clunkers eventually, and his ERA still stands at 2.51 despite the recent slump (in which he had an 8:1 K:BB ratio), but the worry now is the poor stretch is because of an injury and not necessarily natural regression (he's 10-0 with an ERA under 2.00 when facing a team for the first time this season), as he’s set for an MRI and has been placed on the DL with elbow inflammation. Tanaka’s 13.7 SwStr% easily leads major league baseball (Felix Hernandez is second at 12.4). Let’s all hope for the best.