Written by: Scott Rowland
This is starting to sound like a broken record: another week down, and another big week from the Cubs and White Sox.
Bryce Harper had 20 walks in his last 14 games, Cory Kluber pitched a complete game shutout, Altuve still sits atop the player rater, Robinson Cano, Nick Castellanos, and Jackie Bradley Jr are all surprise top 5 members over the past two weeks. Kershaw is the top pitcher, and Jose Quintana a surprise second. Those are the highlights.
Aaron Nola: The Phillies are a surprising 18-14 this season, thanks mostly to their pitching. Aaron Nola has been excellent the last two weeks. He has thrown 20 innings across 3 starts with a 1.25 ERA, 8.55 K/9, 1.35 BB/9, 76.9% strand rate, and a 66.7% ground ball rate. All of those numbers are above average in their respective categories, yet despite all that good work and he’s got one win to show for it.
How is he doing it? Nola is throwing his curveball almost 10% more than he did last season. It’s also a nasty pitch; Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs wrote a great piece on it, you can read it here. Nola’s biggest problem will be wins and innings pitched. The Phillies don’t have a reason to push him this season so he won’t throw a full slate of innings. His ERA won’t be 1.25 good all season, but I could see something in the high two’s/low three’s if he keeps up a good pitch mix.
Verdict: Strong Buy
Jose Quintana: Another surprise: the White Sox, have the second best record in baseball to go along with the second best ERA in baseball. We’ve known Chris Sale is an Ace, but Jose Quintana has been pitching like an ace the last two weeks. He has started three games, thrown 21 innings, given up only 2 earned runs, struck out 8.57 per 9, only walked 1.71 per 9, and earned a win in all three games.
Quintana is throwing his fastball more (almost 16% more) than his career average and has essentially stopped throwing a cutter. His fastball was the second most valuable fastball over the last two weeks according to Fantrax pitch values, barely being beaten by Kevin Gausman. Quintana will fall back a bit; his HR/FB rate was a measly 5% during this time, and he stranded over 96% of base runners. As these numbers regress, his ERA will rise. However, he should continue to be a good source of strikeouts, wins, and respectable ratios.
Kyle Seager: After a disappointing start to the season, Kyle Seager has really turned it on the last two weeks. Over that time he has hit .358 with 5 home runs, 13 RBIs and 9 runs scored. He has a 12.3% strikeout rate and 5.3% walk rate during this span.
Seager is doing this with a well above average 54.4% hard hit rate right now. This is leading to his unsustainable 22.4% HR/FB rate. As the number of hard hit balls come down we’ll see his power numbers drop off and his average will move down more towards his career numbers. He’s busted out of his slump in a great way and should continue to be a solid contributor.
Corey Dickerson: To say Corey Dickerson has struggled the last two weeks would be putting it lightly. His .061 avg and 40% strikeout rate are both worst in baseball over that time. The only bright spots are both of his hits went for home runs, and he’s carrying a 17.5% walk rate through those two weeks.
Dickerson is making hard contact about 12% below his career norms; combined with a much lower line drive rate show he’s no longer driving the ball. His swing rate both in and out of the zone are down, and his contact rate is down significantly. He won’t be this bad moving forward, but his splits away from Coors Field were fairly extreme.
Troy Tulowitzki: The Blue Jays are struggling as a team, scoring just over 4 runs per game after scoring 5.5 runs per game last season. Over the last two weeks Troy Tulowitzki is batting .128, with one home runs, three RBIs and four runs scored. His 32.1% strikeout rate is nearly double his career average, and his walk rate is right in line with his career. A BABIP of .172, and HR/FB rate of 5.9% show that this could just be bad luck.
Tulo’s batted ball data show that hard and medium contact are up, fly balls are up, line drives, and ground balls are down, and he’s pulling the ball instead of driving it back up the middle. Pulling fly balls with higher than normal hard contact rate should be leading to more home runs, backing up some level of unluckiness. However, not hitting line drives or utilizing the whole field say that the BABIP may not come back as high as what he’s produced for his career. His numbers will improve, but the days of Tulowitzki being a top-5 shortstop are behind him. Name value will probably keep you from buying as low as you should be able to, and if you drafted him you won’t be able to get enough value to sell him.
Luis Severino: After a nice rookie season with a sub 3 ERA and decent strikeout numbers, Severino was a popular back of the rotation pick among fantasy players. Over the last two weeks he has shown his downside with a 7.47 ERA and three losses across three starts.
Severino has kept a near league average strikeout rate and an above average walk rate – so what has gone wrong? Tommy Landseadel profiled Severino just last week, but the cliff notes version is he has not been able to keep the ball in the ballpark. A 29.4% HR/FB ratio is absurdly bad, as is letting almost half of baserunners score. Severino needs more seasoning before he becomes a valuable fantasy asset.
Verdict: Strong Sell
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