Three soft tossers who are struggling on the mound, a couple of soft tossers that are having success, and three hitters who have had a lot of success. Sooner or later the regression monster rears it's ugly head. Sometimes it takes a few weeks, sometimes a few months, and sometimes it might even take a year or two. Eventually though, the monster usually gets its target. Three hurlers for the Phillies, Cubs and Pirates might have been caught. The Athletics and Cardinals have good pitching staffs, and we'll highlight two names today that aren't exactly of the household variety. Offensively the Red and White Sox have two hitters that are performing fairly well while the Indians made a commitment to a hitter that has been excellent in limited work this season.
SOFT TOSSERS ON WAY DOWN
Here are three hurlers who have all had wildly effective seasons based upon draft day expectations, though none is performing well right now. That's what happens when you really don't have great stuff. Eventually the hitters catch up to you.
Kyle Kendrick had a 3.46 ERA seven starts ago. Now that mark is 4.36. Even worse, he's allowed 19 earned runs in his last four starts covering a mere 19.2 innings. Not good. However, it shouldn't be surprising that he's really been struggling of late. He just doesn't own top of the rotation stuff. He does have a career best 2.53 K/BB ratio, well above his 1.89 career mark, as he's walked fewer batters than normal. However, that's really the only step forward he's taken this season. This season he's struck out 5.36 batters per nine innings, roughly two full batters below the league average. His 0.94 HR/F ratio is just below his 1.15 career mark. His 1.31 WHIP is just below his 1.35 mark. His .289 BABIP is just above his .285 career mark. His 19.2 percent line drive rate is just below his 20.3 percent mark. His 10.1 HR/F ratio is just below his 11.4 career mark. Need I continue? He's pitching the same as always. With his recent tank job, care to guess how far his 4.36 ERA is off his career mark? Try 0.05.
Jeff Locke is still fourth in the NL in ERA at 2.47, and he's also got a 9-3 record for the Pirates. Things aren't trending in the right direction though. Over his last three starts Locke has permitted 27 hits over 16.1 innings. He's also issued 10 walks, another sign that the old worm is a turning. Locke has continued to be very fortunate with the long ball, he's allowed only seven homers all season, but when that situation stabilizes, and by that I mean when the fly balls start leaving the yard, that ERA could climb quickly. For the year Locke owns an impressive 53.3 line drive rate, but that HR/9 mark (0.48) and that HR/F ratio (6.8 percent) are very likely to move upward. His BABIP is also too low, given his stuff, at .261. Another sign that his 2.47 ERA just isn't an accurate portrayal of how he has pitched, take a look at his SIERA (4.44) and xFIP (4.09) marks. Both strongly suggest that the smoke and mirror show is about to end.
Travis Wood entered the 2013 season with a 4.22 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. This season he's sporting a 3.05 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. Has he drastically altered his pitching approach? Let's see. His 6.30 K/9 mark would be a four year low. His 3.18 BB/9 mark is above his 3.02 career rate. Nothing different there. Wood has a 0.82 GB/FB ratio this season. His career mark is 0.74. His current line drive rate is 21.8 percent, a tenth below his career mark. Again, no difference. One big change is that he's not allowing the long ball. Allowing more than a homer per nine innings his first three seasons, Wood has allowed only 0.65 per nine this season. That's a change, and one that could come to bite him as we move forward. Like with Locke above, SIERA (4.58) and xFIP (4.47) tell a different story with Wood as both suggest that his ERA should be WAY higher than it currently is. Additionally, do you know what his career mark are in those two categories? Try 4.37 and 4.44. He's not pitching any different than “normal” but his ERA is down more than a full run. The regression monster is gaining. Wood has allowed nine runs over his last 16 innings.
CARDINALS MAKING RIGHT ROTATION CHOICE?
Joe Kelly isn't Michael Wacha or Carlos Martinez, and that makes him an object of scorn in many fantasy leagues where the two elite prospects are causing their owners serious anguish as they continue to languish outside of the Cardinals starting rotation. However, maybe it's time we give the Cardinals and Kelly their due. Kelly tossed one run ball over 5.1 innings against the Dodgers Tuesday, and over his last 48.2 innings his ERA is microscopic at 1.48. Kelly is nowhere near as talented as the duo he's made wait for a starting role, but he's got the look of being a solid major league arm no doubt. He's a strong ground ball arm with a 50.4 percent ground ball rate for his 173.1 inning career, but those 6.28 K/9, 1.92 K/BB, .302 BABIP and 1.38 WHIP totals paint him as a league average arm who just in a nice groove right now.
BETTER THAN IT LOOKS
Dan Straily is 6-6 with a 4.41 ERA. That marks him as a very boring option, or does it? Straily has a solid 2.58 K/BB mark, and that 1.22 WHIP is pretty darn solid too. He's only striking out 7.20 batters per nine, but we can live with that. OK, maybe he's not much better than his ERA suggests, but that number could still drop by half a run and it wouldn't look out of place at all. Unfortunately he's failed to last five innings in each of his last four starts so he had better get that situation rectified or he could be removed from the Athletics rotation.
SHANE VICTORINO – BETTER THAN YOU THINK
Shane Victorino has been limited to 81 games this season due to injury, his back has been an on-going issue, but he's been very effective when out on the field. Shane is batting .291 on the season, this after posting at least two hits in six of his last eight outings. He's also gone deep twice with six RBIs in his last six games. In the runs scored column we've got a bonanza for Victorino with 12 runs scored in his last 10 games. Remember the 81 games I referenced? If good ole' Shane kept up his current pace over 150 games Victorino would hit about 13 homers, drive in 60 or so runs, scored 95 times and steal about 25 bases. That's not a very bad season now is it? He's always been a solid player, and it's been no different this season.
GORDON BECKHAM – A REAL MI OPTION
Gordon Beckham had an impressive rookie season hitting .270 with 14 homers, 63 RBIs and 58 runs scored over just 103 games, and many were predicting fantasy greatness. The next three years he failed, miserably, to build on that rookie effort as his best marks from 2010-12 were .252-16-60-62. Those are passable numbers for a middle infield option, but folks weren't expecting passable with Beckham. So just as everyone had pretty much given up on him, guess what – he's become a strong hitter again. He's been limited to a mere 58 games, you didn't think it was all going to be perfect did you, but he's batting a robust .306. A say robust because he's failed to hit even .255 in each of the past three years, and the last two seasons he failed to reach even .235. He's also sporting a .342 OBP after two years of falling to get to .300. His .408 SLG is the first time he's been over .380 since 2009. Still, those OBP and SLG numbers are league average stuff. Beckham has also only gone deep twice, driven in 14 runs, and scored 22 times in 206 at-bats. OK, so maybe after all of that he's only really been a solid option in the batting average category. At least he's done something positive.
INDIANS INK HITTER
Ryan Raburn signed a 2-year deal for $4.85 million with the Indians, and it includes a third year club option for 2016. Raburn, who qualifies at second base and the outfield this season, has been a terrific AL-only option this season, and not just because of his positional flexibility. In just 184 at-bats Raburn has hit .277 with an uber-impressive .935 OPS. He's hit 13 big flies, driven in 38 runs and scored 30 times. Give him 500 at-bats that that pace and we'd be talking about a .277-35-103-82 season. Yowzah's is right.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.
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