While the daily fantasy players tried to decide between Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer on Friday, the decision became an easy one when Scherzer landed on the disabled list with left neck inflammation. Due to the Nationals pending break in the schedule, it makes sense to give Scherzer time to get healthy and rested before the stretch run.
During his last start, Scherzer became only the fifth right-handed pitcher to record 1,500 strikeouts in a six-year span since 1893. He joins Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan, Curt Schilling and Tom Seaver as the only ones to do so. With Scherzer landing on the disabled list, he also joins the other top pitcher in most draft ADP to miss time. Clayton Kershaw is still out, and Madison Bumgarner’s lost first half due to his dirt biking accident. Those who waited for Chris Sale to anchor their staff will profit at the end of the season.
A trade happened yesterday with the Dodgers adding Curtis Granderson to their already loaded outfield. Granderson’s a tremendous dugout presence so playing time will not be an issue, so the team adds to their depth on the bench and in character. Plus, with an eye on the postseason, Granderon’s OPS versus Jake Arrieta (1.070), Scherzer (.920) and Tanner Roark (.933) could also play a role in this move. Thinking forward makes a difference in the playoffs.
- Machado homers three times with walk-off Granny
Manny Machado became the third player in major league history to cap off his three-homer game with a walk-off grand slam, joining Joey Votto (2012) and Khris Davis (2016) in doing so. Machado’s grand slam was the seventh of his career and third over the last 11 days. In the second half he has played 34 games with 25 runs, eight home runs, 34 RBI, two stolen bases, and a .343/.373/.607 slash line. Machado has only struck out 13 times with nine walks since the break as well with a .264 isolated power and .403 weighted on-base average. Positive migration seemed necessary for Machado, but the improved discipline along with spike in power could signal consolidation of his skills. Remember, Machado just turned 25 in July.
- All rise to all whiff?
It’s been a precipitous drop-off in the second half for Aaron Judge. Regression’s playing a part, but the propensity to swing and miss in the second half has risen to 37 percent of his at-bats. Judge tied the all-time record of 35 straight games with a strikeout, the other player’s a pitcher, and will face Chris Sale on the mound on Saturday. It seems likely Judge will break the record.
However, a look at his second half points to more reasons to worry. Judge’s .181/.342/.379 slash with a .198 isolated power and 89 weighted runs created plus metric puts him below league average. Home runs can be great for fantasy, but Judge will be a highly debated player on where to draft him in 2018 if this swoon persists.
- Cron’s powering up
Many focus on the decline of Albert Pujols and seamless transition back to fantasy prominence by Mike Trout returning from the disabled list, but could C.J. Cron finally be breaking out? It seems like fantasy owners await this pending breakout by Cron each year, but in his 23 games he has scored 13 runs with eight home runs and 19 RBI resulting in a .333/.373/.679 slash line. His isolated power is up to .346 since the break with a .435 weighted on-base average and eye-popping 182 weighed runs created plus (100 represents league average). Cron is also making hard contact 42.6 percent of the time while hitting fly balls 49.2 percent of the time. If he’s on the wire and your team needs power at corner infield, it’s time to give Cron a look.
- J-Up can’t stop, won’t stop
Stepping to the plate needing a triple for the cycle and facing Kenley Jansen, things did not look great for Justin Upton. He did not get the triple, but Upton did hit his second home run of the night along with his second career home run when facing the Dodgers elite closer. Upton joins Cameron Maybin and Martin Prado as the only players to hit multiple home runs in their career against Jansen.
As for Upton, he finished last night’s game 4-for-5 with three runs, a double and two homers for three RBI. He’s recorded multiple hits in four of his last eight games with four home runs and 10 RBI in this stretch. In the second half, Upton has been hot hitting .331/.411/.669 with 13 doubles, 10 home runs, 34 RBI, and four stolen bases in 33 games. He’s pacing towards 33 home runs and 13 stolen bases this year. Upton’s a streaky player, but fantasy owners will ride the production while he’s hot.
- Aroldis Chapman’s struggles continue
One day after affirming Aroldis Chapman’s my closer, Joe Girardi did some back peddling post-game on Friday night. Chapman allowed two more runs to the Red Sox in his inning of work giving up two hits, a walk and two earned runs with a strikeout. Against Boston, Chapman’s ERA rose to 9.95 on the season with 10 walks allowed versus seven strikeouts in 6.1 innings against the Yankees rival. Plus, Chapman’s yielded at least an earned run in his last four outings resulting in seven earned runs in 4.1 innings.
After the game, Girardi’s quote: “I’ll sleep on everything and we’ll talk about it like we always do and will go from there.” Chapman maintains he’s healthy, but his vertical release point suggests something could be going on, possibly related to his heavy usage last postseason by the Cubs. As for Saturday, if the Yankees get a save chance, my bet’s on Dellin Betances or David Robertson closing it out with Chapman needing the day or weekend off to, “get him right”.
- Other bullpen musings
A pitcher on the White Sox recorded a save in the post-Tyler Clippard era. Juan Minaya notched his first save of this year and his career in Texas Friday night. Minaya has been one of the better arms in their bullpen, so it made sense to move away from Jake Petricka and give Minaya a chance. He allowed a walk but struck out one for his first save, and if he gets the next chance, could be the closer the rest of the way for Chicago.
Playing Wheel of Scioscia when chasing saves can be frustrating. Case in point, Friday night. With Andrew Heaney only lasting five innings and trying to suppress Baltimore’s momentum, Scioscia used Cam Bedrosian in the sixth inning and he responded with a shutdown inning and a strikeout. Blake Parker then worked the seventh and the plan seemed to be allowing Yusmeiro Petit to work the last two innings for the save. Petit is stretched out to do so. However, why not use Petit in the sixth and seventh then allow Parker and Bedrosian to close it out?
It backfired on Scioscia and the Angels when Petit allowed two base runners in the ninth. Scioscia pulled Petit for the volatile Keynan Middleton who allowed a hit and then a walk-off grand slam to Machado. It’s Middleton’s first blown save and first loss of the year, but a damaging one. In the second half, Middleton’s ERA of 5.40 and WHIP of 1.90 portends a rocky finish to a game. Perhaps Scioscia will give the next chance to Bedrosian, but who knows.
Last, Seung-Hwan Oh notched his first save since July eighth recording the last two outs in Pittsburgh on Friday night. Oh has been a bit better of late, but Matt Bowman opened the ninth in a save chance, Zach Duke then entered after Bowman walked two hitters to walk one of his own. Oh allowed a sacrifice fly to David Freese which went to the center field fence just missing a grand slam, walked a hitter then struck out rookie Elian Diaz for the last out. Oh is still shaky, but it’s either he or Tyler Lyons to close going forward in St. Louis.
Statistical Credits: Fangraphs.com, MLB.com, ESPN.go.com
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