Corey Kluber is a former fourth round pick with a career 4.42 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in the minor leagues. He posted a 5.14 ERA and 1.49 WHIP as a rookie with Cleveland last season, although that did come with a 54:18 K:BB ratio over 63.0 innings. In 2013, he’s quietly become interesting. Over his last five starts (not including one in which he lasted just two innings thanks to a rain delay), Kluber has a 2.31 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with a 32:5 K:BB ratio over 35.0 innings. While Kluber’s last start came at home against a struggling Nationals team, the other four included @Tex, @NYY, @Bos and at home against Detroit, making the stretch all the more impressive. He has a lack of pedigree and is 27 years old, but if you ignore the small sample, here’s a pitcher with a 24.6 K% and 4.6 BB% paired with an 11.0 SwStr%. In other words, those are the peripherals of a star. Seriously, take a look at the company of pitchers who are strong in these areas, and see just how favorably Kluber stacks up. (Also notice how legit Hisashi Iwakuma has been). And that’s not even factoring in his accompanying 1.45 GB/FB ratio (and his 9.1 IFFB%). Kluber’s fastball has seen an increase in velocity the last couple of years, and he now relies on a cutter more so than in the past. Systems can’t agree if his breaking pitch is a curveball or slider, but it’s been a terrific offering no matter how it’s classified. He’s held left-handers to just a .235/.286/.374 line this season, and it’s probably safe to expect his .365 BABIP versus righties to drop moving forward. I for one certainly didn’t see this coming, and again, it’s been a small sample, but Kluber is currently owned in just 20% of Yahoo leagues. Given the aforementioned peripherals, that number should be closer to 100%.
Here’s Cuban prospect Alfredo Despaigne taking home run watching to the next level. (H/T Grant Brisbee and Carson Cistulli)
Here’s Bob Costas’ curious take on the decline of Western civilization.
Giancarlo Stanton is batting .393/.433/.929 with four homers and 10 RBI over seven games since he returned to the lineup. There’s no question his injuries have been frustrating, but he also quietly has seven home runs over just 103 at-bats this season. When Stanton gets hot, the home runs tend to come in bunches. Having some fun with numbers, if you add up his stats from May, August and September last season (this isn’t TOTALLY arbitrary, as he missed time with an injury in between), you get this line: .316-51-29-65-4. In 261 at-bats! Yes, that’s 29 homers over 261 ABs. Banged up and hitting in the worst lineup in baseball, Stanton has hit one home run per 14.7 ABs in 2013, which isn't far behind NL-leading Carlos Gonzalez (1 HR per 13.4). Stanton is just 23 years old. As for playing on a team on pace to finish with the fewest runs scored in more than a decade, Stanton’s 38.1 Zone% would rank second to last among all hitters if he qualified (meaning only one other hitter in baseball has seen fewer pitches in the strike zone this season), so it appears the team context will hurt him in more ways than just his counting stats. Nevertheless, he’s a special enough talent to overcome it; let’s just hope the guy can stay healthy for once.
Meet “Special Head.” This guy is the man.
Jon Lester was one of the bigger pitcher disappointments last season, when he posted a 4.82 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. Fantasy owners who gambled on a bounce back were awfully happy through the middle of May, as Lester sported a 2.72 ERA and a 6-0 record over his first nine starts this season. Unfortunately, he hasn’t won a game since, as he’s posted a 7.20 ERA and 2.06 WHIP. Over those last 35.0 innings, he’s walked 18 batters and served up seven home runs. Lester’s average fastball velocity (92.4 mph) has dropped for the fourth straight year, and the same is true about his SwStr% (7.8). Those types of trends are moving in the wrong direction, and the soon-to-be free agent appears to be costing himself some money. Things won’t get any easier soon either, as his next start comes in Detroit. Life really does suck pitching in the American League East.
Holy crap. If you haven’t heard about the circus acrobat who had a mental breakdown (and was almost certainly on PCP) and accosted people at a BART station last week, check this out. The unedited version isn’t hard to find.
Manny Machado wasn’t regarded quite as high as fellow 2010 first round picks Bryce Harper and Mike Trout (although Machado was taken 22 spots ahead of the latter), but he’s fast closing the gap of that perception. First, the negatives. Machado hasn’t walked this month and hasn’t homered since May 5, and he’s been caught on three of his eight stolen base attempts. However, the 20-year-old is batting .322 and is on pace to finish with 103 runs scored and 85 RBI. He has a healthy 24.7 LD% and while all the defensive metrics caveats apply, the former shortstop currently has the highest UZR in the game. Moreover, Machado is on pace to hit 73 doubles this year, which would easily be the most in major league baseball history. Did I mention he’s still not of legal drinking age?
Headlines of the Week: Man Sues Doctor Over 8-Month Erection…In Unanimous Vote, Russia Passes Bill Making It Illegal To Tell Kids Gay People Exist…Russian President: I Did Not Steal Super Bowl Ring…Cannabis Factory Discovered When Police Open Car Windows After Officer Kept Breaking Wind.
Even Ace Ventura thinks this guy is careless loading packages.
I was so, so wrong recommending Dan Haren before the season. He does have a stellar 4.8 K:BB ratio, but I’m not going to kid myself into thinking his poor season is a function of bad luck, as he’s clearly throwing way too many meatballs. He’s always been a bit homer-prone throughout his career, but his 18 allowed over 78.2 innings this year is another level. He somehow has a .319 BABIP despite all those long balls (and a 15.5 HR/FB%), a 0.78 GB/FB ratio and a 12.1 IFFB% - now that’s a combination not easy to pull off. Haren’s average fastball velocity remains down (89.2 mph), resulting in him relying on his cutter even more so, much to hitters’ delight. (PITCHf/x has graded it as the single worst pitch among all hurlers in MLB this season). The crazy low BB% is nice and all, but Haren could stand to work outside the strike zone more, especially these days with his diminished stuff. And it sounds like he agrees, although the early results were less than encouraging. Not only did I like Haren bouncing back this year returning to the NL, I also noted how pitching for the Nationals should result in a strong win total. Naturally, Washington currently sports a team batting line of .233/.292/.375. In other words, if Haren fell and broke his arm five minutes after I hit “publish” in August, my prediction would have looked less wrong than it does now. Ugly.
Here’s a Star Wars Elevator Prank. “Do it one more time, and I’ll show you a different kind of force.”
Police Blotter: “Beer Is My Coffee,” says Florida man arrested for 9th DUI…Man charged with DUI despite blowing a 0.000 BAC…Florida man tasered after naked marriage proposal at wrong house…Man Confesses to more than 30 slayings...This acquittal needs to be highlighted so that something like it never happens again.
Quick Hits: Ryan Howard’s home run Monday (off Dan Haren, of course) was his first since May 29. He now has two long balls over his past 120 at-bats. Only Pedro Alvarez has a higher SwStr% (16.9) this season. Since returning from his Achilles’ injury in the middle of last year, Howard has a 74:7 K:BB ratio over 160 at-bats against left-handers…Small sample alert: After never finishing outside the top-10 in runs according to Park Factors over the past 10 years, Chase Field currently ranks 25th…Wil Myers posted a .342/.366/.684 line with four homers and four steals over his last 10 games in Triple-A, and with the call up to Tampa Bay, he’ll likely be an every day player. Then again, Myers is likely already gone in all but the shallowest of fantasy leagues… It’s interesting that the Rangers plan on keeping Jurickson Profar in Texas and moving him to left field with Ian Kinsler’s return. Regardless of real life ramifications, it’s obviously good news for Profar’s fantasy value, although the top prospect hasn’t exactly set the world on fire so far, batting .276 with two homers over his first 87 at-bats. He’s also been caught during both of his stolen base attempts. Still, his talent makes him someone who’s worth remaining patient...The Joey Votto Technicality...Mariano Rivera has two zero-out performances in his past eight appearances. He had two in his previous 1,071 appearances.
Longread(s) of the Week: “The Devil and John Holmes.” (H/T Scott Pianowski)
Bonus Longread of the Week: A classic. “The All-American Bank Heist.”
Bonus Longread of the Week Part 2: The new Kanye West album is pretty fantastic. But this insane interview with him might be even better.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Tom Wilhelmsen entered his last save opportunity with a 2.22 ERA – he left it with a 3.77 ERA and without the job, at least temporarily. It’s not really an overreaction, either, as he’s posted a poor 21:16 K:BB ratio over 29.1 innings on the year. Carter Capps seemed like the obvious choice to act as the Mariners’ new closer, but lefties were hitting .333/.404/.688 against him this season even before Monday's implosion, so it made sense Oliver Perez got the first chance. He’s a lefty, but he also doesn’t have big splits. Still, it’s pretty crazy Perez is somehow fantasy relevant in 2013, but so is the case…Eric Stults has a 1.45 ERA and 0.61 WHIP with a 22:1 K:BB ratio over his last five starts, a span that's totaled 31.0 innings and included one outing in Coors Field. He’s averaged just 86.4 mph with his fastball and is 33 years old, so there’s not massive upside, but he’s probably worth spot starting at home, even in shallow leagues. After a start in San Francisco this week, his upcoming schedule looks like this: Phi, @Mia, @Was and Col leading up to the All-Star break…From the “this makes sense department,” Josh Hamilton has seen the fewest percentage of fastballs (42.3) among all hitters this year...Barry Zito has a slightly lower BABIP (.264) at home this season than he does on the road (.511).
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Angels' Josh Hamilton struggling mightily
• The legend of Braves' Evan Gattis grows
• Future is now for Mets thanks to imposing pitching duo