After tossing eight innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers last Saturday in his first start of the season for the Brewers, Mike Fiers took things to another level in Thursday's outing against the Cubs. The 29-year-old right-hander gave up just three hits and one walk over six scoreless innings while striking out a career-high 14 batters.
It was a thoroughly dominating performance. And one you don't see very often. In fact, he's just the eighth pitcher in the past 100 years with 14 or more strikeouts in an outing of six innings or fewer. Max Scherzer was the last one to do it back in 2010.
So what to make of this situation? Well, Fiers shouldn't be a new name to fantasy owners, as he compiled a 3.74 ERA over 22 starts and one relief appearance with the Brewers back in 2012. He struggled to the tune of a 7.25 ERA in three starts and eight relief appearances with the big club last year before being demoted to the minors. His season ultimately came to an end after a comebacker broke his right forearm. However, back to full health this year, he had a dominant 2.55 ERA and 129/17 K/BB ratio over 102 1/3 innings in Triple-A Nashville. While those are video game numbers, Fiers is not a flamethrower. See what I did there? Don't worry, I'll show myself out.
Looking at Thursday's gamelog courtesy of the excellent Brooks Baseball, Fiers averaged just over 90 mph on his fastball and topped out at just over 92 mph. Yet he managed to get whiffs on 14 of 29 swings on the pitch. That's quite a ratio. As we've seen in the past, the big key with Fiers is his deceptive, over-the-top delivery. However, it also helps when he's commanding all four of his pitches well, like he did on Thursday. It can really throw hitters off balance.
With Matt Garza likely out until September with a strained oblique, Fiers should get another couple of turns in the Brewers' rotation at the very least. If he continues to have success, he could eventually push Jimmy Nelson to the bullpen. It might not be the worst idea for the Brewers anyway, as they'd likely want the rookie right-hander to adjust to a relief role in preparation for a possible postseason run. One side benefit is that it would help limit his innings. It's an interesting scenario to contemplate and we're probably getting a bit ahead of ourselves here, but Fiers is back on the fantasy radar regardless. I still wonder about his staying power, but those in mixed leagues should ride the wave for now.
Just one day after we learned that Rockies star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will require season-ending surgery on his left hip, now his teammate Carlos Gonzalez is done for the year, as well.
The Rockies announced late Thursday night that Gonzalez will undergo season-ending surgery to repair the patella tendon in his left knee. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Tom Heckett next Monday. Gonzalez has been bothered by tendinitis in his knee dating back to last season and an MRI on Wednesday revealed that the injury had gotten worse in the past few weeks. With the Rockies well out of the race, he's going to take care of it now.
Thursday's news closes the book on a season to forget for Gonzalez, who will finish with a disappointing .238/.292/.431 batting line to go along with 11 home runs, 38 RBI, and three stolen bases over 70 games. His .723 OPS is nearly 200 points lower than the .920 OPS he posted over his first five seasons with Colorado. Of course, constant injuries had a lot to do with the drop in production. In addition to the nagging knee injury and various bumps and bruises, he missed a month following surgery to remove a benign tumor from his left index finger.
Gonzalez has averaged 110 games dating back to 2011 and has never played more than 145 games in a season before, so it's difficult to look at him as a first-round talent in fantasy leagues going into 2015. But the risk will be easier to swallow assuming he drops to the second or third round. There's been plenty of speculation about the Rockies potentially dealing either Gonzalez or Tulowitzki, but trades could be a little tricky given their health concerns. At least Gonzalez's contract is a bit easier to take than Tulowitzki's. He's owed $53 million over the next three seasons before hitting free agency.
This isn't fantasy-related, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention MLB's new commissioner. Or comissioner-elect, anyway. While it took several rounds of voting on Thursday, MLB owners unanimously chose Rob Manfred as the 10th commissioner in baseball history. He will replace Bud Selig, who took the job in 1992 and will retire after his contract expires in January 2015.
MLB's chief operating officer, Manfred has been viewed as Selig's handpicked successor for quite a while, but he had to go up against two other candidates, MLB executive vice president Tim Brosnan and Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. Brosnan withdrew before the start of the voting on Thursday, leaving Werner as Manfred's only competition for the job. The initial votes showed some resistance to Manfred, as eight owners were reportedly in Werner's corner, but Selig eventually managed to get all 30 owners on the same page.
In the end, Selig got his wish and that's probably a good thing for fans. Sure, some of the conduct in the Alex Rodriguez investigation didn't paint Manfred in a positive light, but he has played a leading role in ensuring an unprecedented period of labor peace. He has also helped develop and strengthen the league's drug-testing policy. Given the alternative, sticking with the status quo doesn't look so bad.
AL Quick Hits: Edwin Encarnacion (quad) will be activated from the disabled list on Friday … Max Scherzer earned his 14th victory of the season on Thursday after striking out 14 batters over eight scoreless innings against the Pirates … Yu Darvish (elbow) underwent MRI on Thursday which showed only mild inflammation, but there's no timetable for his return … Evan Longoria went 2-for-5 with a home run, three RBI, and two runs scored Thursday against the Rangers … Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored in Thursday's win over the Astros … Yoenis Cespedes left Thursday's game against the Astros after fouling a ball off his shin ... Rays manager Joe Maddon said Thursday that Wil Myers (wrist) could be activated from the disabled list for a series against the Tigers from August 19-21 … Royals manager Ned Yost said Thursday that Eric Hosmer (hand) will not swing a bat for at least another week …Jake Odorizzi allowed two runs over seven innings and struck out seven batters in a win over the Rangers on Thursday … J.D. Martinez went 2-for-3 with a home run, two RBI, and a walk Thursday against the Pirates … The Athletics placed Jed Lowrie (finger) on the 15-day disabled list … David DeJesus (hand) will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Saturday … Christian Colon went 3-for-4 with a double and a stolen base in Thursday's win over the Athletics … Orioles prospect right-hander Dylan Bundy (elbow) has been placed on the 7-day disabled list with Class A Frederick due to strained lat muscle …
NL Quick Hits: Carlos Gonzalez could require surgery to repair tendinitis in his left knee … Stephen Strasburg struck out eight batters while allowing just one unearned run over seven innings in a win over the Mets on Thursday … Justin Upton left Thursday's game against the Dodgers with a mild left hamstring strain … Dee Gordon went 3-for-4 with a walk, two stolen bases, and a career-high four runs scored Thursday against the Braves … Yadier Molina caught a bullpen session Thursday for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb … Reds manager Bryan Price confirmed Thursday that Homer Bailey (elbow, neck) will be placed on the disabled list … Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Thursday that he doesn't expect Hyun-Jin Ryu (glute) to make his next scheduled start … Jayson Werth told Nationals manager Matt Williams on Thursday that his right shoulder feels 50 percent better … Michael Cuddyer (shoulder) is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Saturday … Brandon Phillips (thumb) will begin a minor league rehab assignment Friday with Triple-A Louisville … Kyle Lohse (ankle) isn't sure if he'll be able to make his next scheduled start … Jon Jay had a pinch-hit go-ahead double in Thursday's win over the Padres … Jorge De La Rosa allowed three runs over seven innings Thursday in a win over the Reds ... Marcell Ozuna delivered a walk-off double in the 10th inning to beat the Diamondbacks on Thursday … The Cubs will call up Dan Straily to start Saturday against the Mets … The Pirates claimed reliever John Axford off waivers from the Indians … The Padres placed Yonder Alonso on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right forearm …