Friday, May 10, 2013
Bits: Price, Dickey show improvement
By Eric Karabell
The defending Cy Young award winners faced off Thursday night, each struggling with ERAs on the wrong side of 5 and scaring fantasy owners quite a bit for a variety of reasons. But while neither Toronto Blue Jays right-hander R.A. Dickey nor Tampa Bay Rays lefty David Price earned the win in this rare head-to-head matchup of reigning Cy Young winners (only the third time), each pitched well enough to restore some confidence to panicking owners and remain wise buy-low fantasy options.
J. Meric/Getty ImagesDavid Price went eight innings Thursday in his matchup against fellow defending Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.
Price tossed eight solid innings, allowing four runs (two earned) on seven hits and a walk, striking out eight. It’s arguably his best outing of the season (second in game score), only the second time he went as many as eight innings, the second time he didn’t allow a home run and quite a change from the previous weekend, when he was lit up at Coors Field for nine runs. The best sign was Price’s velocity was back into the mid-90s again; he entered the game averaging 93.3 MPH on his fastball, down from 95.5 a year ago.
I was buying low on Price before Thursday anyway; I saw some of his outing last weekend at Coors Field and he was a bit unlucky to have permitted nine runs. Yes, his strikeout rate is down and his batting average against is inflated, mainly because more than half his pitches this season had been in the upper half of the strike zone, but Price entered Thursday with an xFIP nearly half (3.34) of his ERA (6.25). The BABIP will regress. I don’t care that it’s a contract year and if the Rays continue to struggle, Price might end up on a contender in July. He’s just a really good, safe and reliable pitcher. Price remains among my top 10 starting pitchers, so I’m a bit higher on him than colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft was in this week’s 60 Feet, 6 Inches column.
Dickey has been battling a sore neck and upper back, which he says is the reason for less velocity not only on his fastball, but more importantly his knuckleball. Many hitters have faced a knuckleball, but Dickey’s is harder than most. On Thursday he went six innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits and an alarming five walks, and he fanned five. Dickey has had better outings this season, but other than the walks, it was a solid performance. Dickey had allowed five home runs in his past two outings, and while he had trouble with knuckleball command Thursday, the ball was moving more than in past starts. This is good. I’d prefer to buy low on Price rather than Dickey, and I wouldn’t consider the right-hander a top-20 starting pitcher, but he should be owned in all 10-team mixed leagues, which he is not. I see Dickey producing a sub-4.00 ERA from here on out, but forget about Cy Young numbers.
Box score bits (AL):Kelly Johnson has settled in as the Rays’ regular left fielder, and his bat is heating up. Johnson has raised his batting average 50 points in a week with a trio of multihit games; Thursday he doubled and scored a run. … Blue Jays outfielder Rajai Davis stole two more bases Thursday, giving him eight. Honestly, how is this guy available in 96 percent of ESPN standard leagues? … Minnesota Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks doubled in a run Thursday. He now has 13 hits, 13 RBIs and 13 runs scored this season, and the first two numbers in his lowly batting average are, naturally, 13 (.133). Avoid Hicks. He should be in Triple-A. … Kansas City Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie won again Thursday, and boasts a 2.28 ERA to go with a 5-0 record. Hard to believe, but he’s absolutely worth a look in 10-team leagues, for despite his modest career work, it looks relatively legit. … Don’t worry, New York Yankees lefty CC Sabathia is not hurt. He was pulled after only four innings Thursday due to a lengthy rain delay. Sabathia should start twice next week. … Scott Kazmir beat Bartolo Colon Thursday. No, it’s not 2008 all over again. Kazmir fanned 10 without issuing a walk, which is really unusual. He hadn’t whiffed double digits in a game since 2009. I’m not as dismissive as I was a month ago, but Kazmir remains outside my top 75 starting pitchers.
Box score bits (NL):Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche singled twice Thursday and knocked in a run, and he is hitting .196. Hey, he was hitting .129 a week ago. LaRoche has a modest six-game hitting streak, with six walks in that span. It’s time to add him again. … The luckiest relief pitcher in the NL might be New York Mets closer Bobby Parnell; his win Thursday upped his record to 4-0, the same as starter Matt Harvey, who has 34 1/3 more innings. By the way, former closer Frank Francisco (elbow) is on a rehab assignment but is expected to assume setup duties when rejoining the Mets. … Cole Hamels is certainly worth trading for, but it’s worth noting his five-walk outing Thursday was the third time this season he’s issued four or more. Last season, he did it once. … Remember when San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford looked like a top-5 shortstop? He doubled in four at-bats Thursday but is still down to .252 for the season and .188 over the past fortnight. This is not a top-15 fantasy shortstop. Give me Andrelton Simmons and Alexei Ramirez instead.