Are we there yet?
After the annual four days of torture known as the MLB All-Star break, baseball finally returns tonight. Since it feels like a pitch hasn’t been thrown in a year, it’s appropriate to refresh our memories on one of the most alarming performances during the first half’s last day: The demolition of Jon Lester.
Lester failed to make it out of the first inning against Pittsburgh, allowing 10 runs (four earned) and recorded only two outs. That followed another poor start in which he allowed five earned runs in five innings vs. Tampa Bay. As a result, Lester’s ERA stands at 4.25 following the break.
So how concerned should Lester’s owners be at this point? Lester’s full body of work still shows some dominance, with a 9.2 K/9 and K/BB ratio near 3.00. On the other hand, he’s had issues keeping the ball in the park with a 1.3 HR/9, the second worst of his career, and Lester’s 3.1 BB/9 is his worst since 2011.
Those poor results could be explained by the lefty’s declining velocity. His fastball and cutter velocities are down more than one mph compared to 2016 and are his lowest since 2007. It’s particularly telling that after averaging 93.1 mph on his fastball for all of last season, he has yet to average that velocity in a single game this year.
We probably shouldn’t be surprised about the velocity loss for a pitcher who has thrown at least 191.2 innings in nine consecutive seasons and now has more than 2,000 major league innings under his belt.
Unfortunately, his ERA metrics also show a league-average pitcher, with a 3.97 FIP and 3.98 SIERA at this point. The strikeout rate is still great, but this clearly isn’t the ace we’d come to expect recently. It’s no wonder the Cubs spent so significantly yesterday to acquire White Sox ace Jose Quintana.
-Kyle Freeland finished his first half by nearly throwing a no-hitter at Coors Field vs. the White Sox. He’s been surprisingly effective at altitude this season, with a 3.23 ERA and 39/19 K/BB in 55.2 innings at home. It should be noted that before that great start, Freeland allowed at least four earned runs in four of his last five starts. The lefty is in the top 10 in groundball rate (55 percent), but his ERA metrics (4.76 FIP, 5.03 SIERA) don’t support his current sub-4.00 ERA. Fantasy owners should definitely still exercise caution with two starts at Coors Field next week.
-The entire Rangers starting rotation could be on the trade block if Texas doesn’t have a quick turnaround following the break. That includes former aces Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, free agents after this season. However, it would be surprising if either pitcher had an active trade market. Cashner has a 3.54 ERA, which is one if the biggest flukes in the first half if we consider his awful 1.11 K/BB ratio, 4.52 FIP, 5.70 SIERA, and significant velocity loss. Ross, back from thoracic outlet syndrome, has also shown major velocity issues with a K/9 that has declined by two strikeouts relative to his career average (8.4) and an ERA above 5.00. Both pitchers have a two-start week ahead, but neither can be trusted.
-Like the second half of last season, Luis Perdomo has shown signs this year of being a viable pitcher in deep leagues. The San Diego right-hander has a 4.54 ERA and 1.46 WHIP thus far, but his ERA metrics are much better due to a decent 2.30 K/BB ratio and league-best 67 percent groundball rate. The results for Perdomo have also improved recently, with a 3.10 ERA over his last five starts. Perdomo has a two-start week ahead, and his latter outing vs. San Francisco is somewhat enticing.
-The Rockies finished off the first half with a seven-game homestand and will embark on another six-game homestand starting Monday vs. San Diego and Pittsburgh. Get your hitters ready.
-Note: Many teams (DET, KC, MIA, MIL, OAK, TOR) still haven’t announced their full rotations coming out of the All-Star break, at the time of this writing. As a result, you’ll notice some omissions in the “Going Twice…” section below.
Jason Vargas: DET, CHW
Lance McCullers: SEA, @BAL
Jordan Montgomery: @MIN, @SEA
Dylan Bundy: TEX, HOU
Eduardo Rodriguez: TOR, @LAA
Ariel Miranda: @HOU, NYY
Adalberto Mejia: NYY, DET
Sam Gaviglio: @HOU, NYY
Jake Odorizzi: @OAK, TEX
Luis Cessa: @MIN, @SEA
At Your Own Risk
Josh Tomlin: @SF, TOR
Tyson Ross: @BAL, @TB
Andrew Cashner: @BAL, @TB
Chris Tillman: TEX, HOU
Jordan Zimmermann: @KC, @MIN
Clayton Kershaw: @CWS, ATL
Zack Greinke: @CIN, WAS
Stephen Strasburg: @CIN, @ARI
Jon Lester: @ATL, STL
Jameson Taillon: MIL, @COL
Ivan Nova: MIL, @COL
Julio Teheran: CHC, @LAD
Michael Wacha: @NYM, @CHC
Jerad Eickhoff: @MIA, MIL
Scott Feldman: WAS, MIA
Adam Wainwright: @NYM, @CHC
Brent Suter: @PIT, @PHI
At Your Own Risk
Kyle Freeland: SD, PIT
Sean Newcomb: CHC, @LAD
Luis Perdomo: @COL, @SF
Dinelson Lamet: @COL, @SF
Ty Blach: CLE, SD
Zack Wheeler: STL, OAK
Matt Moore: CLE, SD
Sal Romano: ARI, MIA
Rafael Montero: STL, OAK
The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:
Monday, July 17: Josh Tomlin @ SF
Tomlin is killed by the long ball, but that’s not something he has to worry much about vs. the Giants. They’ve hit a league-low 53 home runs against right-handed pitching.
Tuesday, July 18: Blake Snell @ OAK
Snell remains a risk due to his poor control, but he did throw five scoreless innings in his last outing. Oakland also has the worst OPS in the AL vs. lefties.
Friday, July 21: Homer Bailey vs. MIA
He’s still a risky play, but Bailey looked very good in his last two starts before the break and faces a middle of the road Marlins lineup.
Sunday, July 23: Ty Blach vs. SD
I don’t always recommend Blach, but when I do, he’s probably facing the Padres. They have a league-worst .632 OPS vs. lefties.
5: CHW, LAA
6: CLE, HOU, MIN, OAK, TB
7: BAL, BOS, DET, KC, NYY, SEA, TEX, TOR
6: ARI, CHC, COL, LAD, MIA, PHI, WAS
7: ATL, CIN, MIL, NYM, PIT, SD, SF, STL
Here’s some injuries to prominent players over the last week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at Rotoworld's Injury Page.
Tim Beckham: Will return on Sunday (ankle)
Ryan Braun: Day-to-day (calf)
Lonnie Chisenhall: Will be placed on DL (calf)
Yasmani Grandal: Day-to-day (hand)
Randal Grichuk: Placed on DL (back)
Junior Guerra: Could be placed on DL (shin)
Jason Kipnis: Placed on DL (hamstring)
John Lackey: Will return this weekend
Starling Marte: Scheduled to return on July 18
Michael Pineda: Out for the season (elbow)
Colby Rasmus: Out for the season (personal)
Joe Ross: Placed on DL (triceps)
Austin Slater: Out for the season (hip)
Michael Taylor: Placed on DL (oblique)
Mike Trout: Will return Friday
Edinson Volquez: Will return this week