What makes a pitcher effective? Is it an untouchable fastball? Is it the ability to “nibble” the corners? What about guys like Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux? They surely never blew anyone away with their fastballs, but had great movement on their repertoire of pitches. Their precision and command was impeccable. I ask these questions as I look at the struggles of certain pitchers. Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg, and the Chicago Cubs bullpen have had recent issues that have hindered many fantasy team owners. Many times, it’s as simple as changing a grip on the baseball. Other times, it could be a mechanical issue. I preach location, location, location. This is a main factor when it comes to getting hit hard. I believe it’s fair to say almost all Major League hitters can hit a fastball. Even if a pitcher throws 95+, someone will be able to turn on their best fastball. It’s important to get the ball elevated or hit corners. Taking a look at Strasburg, the main problem is his command. He’s left a lot of pitches perfectly in the hitting zone, and this has lead to his early season struggles. With Kershaw, batters are jumping on his first pitch, and he’s throwing too many fastballs. Hitters have adjusted to these two pitchers, and they both need to make adjustments. The same can be said for the Cubs bullpen. Velocity and mechanics haven’t been an issue. Their relievers have been relying on fastballs, especially when behind in the count, and have been getting too much of the plate with these pitches. Hitters are murdering the fastball. Last week, Travis Wood’s 88 MPH fastball was sent into the stands for a grand slam by Mark Reynolds. There’s absolutely no way a guy that barely breaks 90 MPH can leave a belt-high fastball in the middle of the plate. These are minor issues that can be corrected. The point I’m trying to make is that many top pitchers have had early season issues. Many owners are running like chickens with their heads cut off. There is no need to panic. These players aren’t injured. There are minor adjustments that need to me made to change the outlook of their entire season. In case you missed it, here’s a clip of the grand slam (Click on Image). Look at the pitch type (fastball), velocity (88 MPH), and location (belt-high, middle of the plate).
[mlbvideo id=”101341883″ width=”400″ height=”224″ /]
Where Have You Gone Andrew McCutchen?
I’m not saying that I blame his haircut on his slow start to the season, but how do you explain one of the best outfielders in baseball hitting .223 with two home runs and 14 RBI five week into the season? He’s had a sore left knee since Spring Training. His manager acknowledged that it has impacted his ability to run to first. Yet, McCutchen says the knee isn’t the reason behind his early season woes. I find it hard to believe that his troublesome knee isn’t the main culprit. Hitting a baseball is hard enough, but if you’re not 100% healthy, there are major issues that can arise. If you’ve ever watched Andrew McCutchen’s swing, he generates power by lifting his left leg to the load position before striding forward. He has a great stiff front leg. If his knee is bothering him even a little, there’s no way he can comfortably stay stiff and generate great hip torque. He’s rolled over a lot of pitches thus far, and it’s a direct correlation to his 10% line-drive rate. He’s been around 20% for his career. Many times, if batters are rolling over a lot of pitches, they are getting their arms extended too early, causing the barrel to be far away from their body allowing their top hand to overtake the swing, causing a lot of ground balls to third. To correct this, a hitter wants to keep their arms closer to the body and hit inside the ball. I want to take it one step further and argue that this happens when a hitter strides open. The lead knee (the left knee for a right-handed batter) and front shoulder will open up. I truly believe McCutchen may be doing this to try and take pressure off his knee. If he has a stiff front side, then there is a decent amount of pressure on his knee. If he opens up, the pressure subsides. This issue is something I’d be greatly concerned about. If he’s still battling the same knee soreness from Spring Training, then something has to be going on. Right now, he’s a buy low candidate. His value has never been lower. If you are in a keeper or dynasty league, now would be the time to make a deal for him. If it’s a re-draft league I’d have my questions as to the severity of his knee. For Andrew’s sake, he did go 8-24 last week with four runs scored, one RBI, and one steal.
Week 5 Fantasy Studs
Anthony Rizzo [1B – CHC]: Rizzo is becoming one of the best first baseman in baseball. He continued his ascent, hitting .355 with three home runs and seven RBI. He stole another bag giving him seven on the season. He’s consistently produced and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Along with Matt Carpenter, Rizzo has been making an early season push for the NL MVP.
Marlon Byrd [LF – CIN]: He’s been pretty solid for a 37-year-old veteran. His average may not show it, but his power numbers have been pretty great, hitting six home runs for 17 RBI. Last week, Byrd went 8-21 with three home runs and eight runners driven in. He’s gained popularity in many leagues and is owned in around 40% of leagues. If you are looking for a little bang for your buck, Byrd is a nice addition off the waiver wire.
Ryan Braun [RF – MIL]: Braun’s average and home runs are starting to increase. He posted a .348 average last week with one long ball, four RBI, and two stolen bases. Looking to rebound from last season’s subpar performance, Braun could be a player you could acquire for a moderate price. He’s still the premier hitter in the Brewers’ lineup. If the price is right, go out and get him.
Kolten Wong [2B – STL]: Wong has put together a great start to the 2015 season. He’s compiled a .336 average with 17 runs scored and 17 RBI. He hasn’t stolen as many bases as one would like, but is 3-for-4 in attempts. He’s hit four home runs on the season, and two came last week. For a fantasy position that doesn’t have many studs, Wong has been a great pick in later rounds of a fantasy draft.
Michael Lorenzen [SP – CIN]: Lorenzen had two starts last week against Pittsburgh and the Chicago White Sox. He pitched well in both, going for at least 5.0 innings in both and surrendering only one run in each game. He had six strikeouts to seven walks, but he’s only pitched in three games in his rookie season. He’s a player I’d keep an eye on as the season goes on.
Francisco Rodriguez [CL – MIL]: It’s hard to believe he’s in his 13th season at the age of 33. He’s been around for a long time and has been one of the best closers in baseball. He’s one of the reasons I don’t reach for closer such as Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman. Jonathan Broxton was slated to be the Brew Crew’s closer, but after being signed during Spring Training, K-Rod kept his job from last season. He’s saved six games this season, sporting a 1.50 ERA with a 16:2 K:BB ratio. He was 2-for-2 in save chances last week, striking out six and giving zero free passes to hitters.
Trevor Rosenthal [CL – STL]: This season he’s tied for second with 11 saves, and he looks to be blossoming into a premier closer. He’s managed a 19:6 K:BB ratio and 3-for-3 in save opportunities last week. He gave up only two hits with no walks, no runs, and three strikeouts. He’s been as solid as one would hope from a closer.
Jared Hughes [RP – PIT]: Hughes pitched four games of scoreless baseball out of the bullpen last week. He has been solid all season, and he’s contributed to Pittsburgh having a top-10 bullpen in the MLB. He’s a 6’7″ righty that has 16 strikeouts in his 11.0 innings of work. Having Jared Hughes and Tony Watson in their bullpen makes it easier to breathe if Mark Melancon has any more struggles during the season. Melancon has settled down from the beginning of the season, but Hughes and Watson are more than capable to close out games for the Pirates.
Favorite Matchup Week 6
Jon Lester: [vs. NYM & vs. PIT] From a statistical standpoint, Lester hasn’t been that bad in terms of runs allowed. He’s only allowed over three runs once, but has give up three runs three times. Theoretically, he’s kept the Cubs in the game five of his six starts. It’s safe to say he hasn’t had the best run support, but he’s settled down in his previous two starts, pitching seven innings in both with ten strikeouts to only three walks. The Mets have been hot, and the Pirates are starting to come around. I look at these two starts to really show if Lester has settled in with the Cubs. If he’s turned the corner, he’ll finally be a number one starter on a fantasy team.
Wily Peralta: [vs. CWS & @ NYM] Peralta has a respectable 3.92 ERA. He’s posted 24 strikeouts to only eight walks. If his offense can keep hitting after this weekend, I like his chances against both the White Sox and Mets.
Lance Lynn: [@ CLE & vs. DET] Lynn’s record (1-3) doesn’t tell the story of his season. He’s only given up one run in four of his six starts. The other starts he gave up a total of 11 runs. His K:BB is [42:10], so he’s been pretty solid. I love his chances against a struggling Indians team and a Tigers teams that hasn’t reached its full potential.
Gerrit Cole: [@ PHI & @ CHC]: Cole hasn’t pitched in less than five innings in any of his six starts. He’s posted a 4-1 record with a 2.27 ERA. He has an 11 K/9. He gets a horrendous Phillies team and a young Cubs team that has had their ups and down.
Kris Bryant Watch:
He connected for his first home run Saturday against the Brewers. He hasn’t been as hot as he was during Spring Training, so I’m assuming the book is out on Bryant. He needs to lay off of the high heat. He gets great extension in his swing and I know he wants to hit anything he can reach. Unfortunately, the high heat is nearly impossible to consistently reach, especially when it’s 95+ MPH. He now has 33 strikeouts in 81 at-bats (40% K Rate). He’s struck out three times in five of his first 22 games and got the “golden sombrero” once. I believe if he lays off the high heat (easier said than done) and starts looking to jump on pitches early in the count, he can get on a hot streak. He’s taking too many first pitch fastballs.
Stars of Week Five:
C – Yadier Molina (STL) & Miguel Montero (CHC)
1B – Anthony Rizzo (CHC)
2B – Kolten Wong (STL)
3B – Todd Frazier (CIN)
SS – Jung Ho Kang (PIT)
LF – Marlon Byrd (CIN)
CF – Peter Bourjos (STL)
RF – Jason Heyward (STL)
SP – Michael Lorenzen (CIN)
CL – Trevor Rosenthal (STL) & Francisco Rodriguez (MIL)
(Click the BLUE link below to listen)
Major League Fantasy Sports Radio Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday May 17th from 7-9pm est for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. We will take live callers at 646.915.8596. Our topics this week will be the A.L. East, A.L. West, and everything fantasy relevant within those divisions. Feel free to jump in the conversation.