The Texas-Chicago matinee from Thursday was my kind of game. Jose Quintana and Matt Harrison are a couple of lefties who work quickly and throw strikes, so the match had a good pace to it. Addison Reed closed up with a tidy save (13 pitches, two strikeouts, no muss, no fuss). A baseball game doesn't have to be pinball to be interesting.
But where is Quintana's fantasy value headed? That's a trickier call and a longer story.
Quintana's final line from Thursday certainly gets your attention (8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K), not to mention his season stats. He's now 4-1 through eight big-league turns, with a 2.04 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. He's not a big strikeout guy (5.8/9), but that's not a grave concern when you rarely walk anyone (1.57/9). He's been effective against lefties and righties, home and away. An ordinary fastball (89.9 mph) doesn't have to be a flag, either. Soft rock can work if you're hitting your spots.
The Regression Police don't trust that ERA going forward, obviously. And if I wanted to take the cheap way out I could simply write "that ERA is going up" and call it a day. But simply yelling "regression" is not an answer, it's not a destination. The real question is this: what level does Quintana regress to?
Some of the luck ratios question the front-door stats, which is standard when any low ERA shows up. Quintana's managed to strand 83.3 percent of his runners, about 11 percent ahead of the league average. A 5.6 HR/FB rate is suspiciously low. FIP suggests a 3.04 ERA, xFIP says 3.73, and Sierra says 3.88. The latter two sound about right to me; I'm putting Quintana down for an ERA of 3.75 or greater from this point forward. Heck, the ERA was merely 2.77 in his nine Double-A starts this year. It's not impossible to score on the kid.
I'm not sure how the White Sox will arrange their rotation after the break, but there's no way I'd risk Quintana at Fenway Park (if he winds up pitching in the series that starts July 16). I will sign off on The Q if he works in the earlier series at Kansas City. The third series is a trip to Detroit, a dangerous spot given some of the right-handed bats in Motown. Share your Q expectations and projections in the comments (en Inglés, por favor).
• Thursday wasn't a good day for thumbs, as Dustin Pedroia is probably headed for the disabled list (he's dealing with a new problem in a different part of his right thumb) and Dee Gordon needs surgery (count him out for about six weeks). I'm significantly bearish on both players for the second half, to the point that I'd suggest liquidation mode immediately, take what you can get.
Gordon was already a monumental risk because of his pathetic offensive profile (he can run but a slash of .229/.280/.282 means you shouldn't be playing on a contender), and Pedroia's category juice falls flat if he's not dealing with a healthy hand and digits. Any injury can be problematic and almost any injury can linger, but the thumb injury has been underrated for years. Justin Upton, I'm worried about you, too.
• Giants reliever Sergio Romo is still available in about two-thirds of Yahoo! leagues, a puzzling ownership tag. His ratio stats (0.75 ERA, 0.75 WHIP) are terrific, he's managed to collect two wins and four saves as a non-closing reliever, and he's striking out better than a batter per inning. This is someone worth owning even if he doesn't have the ninth inning — and that role might be in flux as we speak.
Santiago Casilla blew his third save in four chances Thursday, handing away Matt Cain's victory at Washington. Casilla's also admitted to being tired, just what you never want to hear from someone who gets paid to work one inning at a time, 2-4 times a week. I haven't tracked down any Bruce Bochy comments that discuss the plan going forward (share them in the comments if you have), but when it starts drizzling, grab an umbrella. I recognize Romo is long gone in deeper leagues (and the most competitive mixers) and I understand the club handles his workload carefully, but this is still someone worth owning in every format. Get to work, amigos.
If Bochy decides Romo isn't fit for daily closer use, a closer-by-committee could unfold by the bay. If you're in a league where every save has a blood value, keep lefties Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt in mind. They might see 3-5 save chances in the second half.
• I know many of you are playing the streaming game, so let's have a look at Saturday's card. I like both sides of the Petco matchup, Clayton Richard (23 percent) and Homer Bailey (13 percent), though the Reds as a team have a strong OPS against lefties. Jarrod Parker (55 percent) deserves a higher ownership tag and certainly gets the green light against Seattle. Trevor Cahill (60 percent) is a go against the hapless Dodgers lineup, although he hasn't been great at home. No way I'm using any of the Boston-New York starters at Fenway, so that's a no to Phil Hughes and Franklin Morales.
I won't use Derek Holland (51 percent) right off the DL, a standard rule for me. Jason Vargas (36 percent) at Oakland is worth considering in deep pools, despite his recent form. Jeff Samardzija (36 percent) is a paper cup in a hurricane, but Citi Field doesn't scare me (likewise, Dillon Gee has a good shot to limit the Cubs). I'll pass on Gavin Floyd (40 percent) against Toronto.
• Just when it seems like the Giancarlo Stanton story has stabilized, the knee problem creeps up again. Stanton admitted Thursday that he might need arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body from his knee (sounds a lot worse than it really is; probably would be a short rehab, maybe 2-4 weeks). If I ran the Marlins, I'd scratch Stanton from the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game immediately. Real games matter; cheesy exhibitions don't. Perhaps the Justin Ruggiano Experience (which we discussed in Thursday's wrap) will get extended via Stanton's situation.
Speed Round: According to the Boston Globe, Andrew Bailey "might not be back until August or September." Score another one for the thumb. With that news, we all should consider new stash options for our DL slots. Alfredo Aceves didn't have an effective start to the year, but he's posted strong numbers over the last ten weeks. (If you need injury news on other Red Sox, make sure you check out Peter Abraham's post. Lots of injury tidbits there.) . . . Make it an 0-for-39 slump for Luke Scott, which hopefully pushes the Rays into the trade market. I say hopefully because they usually do nothing in July . . . Rick Porcello left Thursday's start in the fourth inning after being hit by one of the 59 line drives the Twins hit off him. Porcello allowed 12 hits but just three runs for the day, as Minnesota ran into three outs at the plate . . . Jonathan Papelbon blew another save and his ERA has pushed up to 3.45, but I'd buy low if there's any kind of an opportunity. There's no one else for the Phillies to turn to, and the contract buys a very long leash . . . A host of closers handled non-save chances effortlessly, including Craig Kimbrel, Jose Valverde and Heath Bell. A quiet day for that meme . . . Freddie Freeman had two hits, including a homer. He's going to have two additional cortisone shots over the All-Star Break (hopefully it's the same cortisone that saved Ryan Zimmerman). . . The Phillies might get Ryan Howard back this weekend, perhaps as soon as Friday. If he plays a full second half, I'd call for something in the .250-35-13-44 range. Solid numbers, but not on the superstar level. (And now it's confirmed, Howard has been activated. A frustrated city turns its lonely eyes to you.)