Thursday, June 13, 2013
Bits: A's rotation continues to sparkle
By Eric Karabell
The first Oakland Athletics pitcher chosen in ESPN average live drafts prior to this season was not one of the current members of the stellar rotation or closer Grant Balfour. It was brittle left-hander Brett Anderson, who is trying to recover from his latest malady, a stress fracture in his right foot. Meanwhile, one A's hurler after another continues to shine, contributing to the team's first-place status in the AL West.
On Wednesday night, right-hander Dan Straily held the New York Yankees to three singles and two runs over 6 2/3 innings, earning his fourth win and lowering his WHIP to an impressive 1.07. A night earlier, longtime fantasy punching bag Bartolo Colon earned his fifth consecutive win, permitting nary a run for the third time in four outings to stymie the Yankees. On Thursday, Jarrod Parker, one of the top rookies from 2012, will aim to lower his season ERA for the ninth consecutive start. Sure, it was elevated to begin with, but that's still quite a feat. And there's also right-hander A.J. Griffin and lefty Tommy Milone thriving. None of these five pitchers is owned in more than 85 percent of ESPN leagues, but over the past month-plus, each has been terrific.
[+]Enlarge Sara Molina/Sacramento River Cats Dan Straily worked up the minor league chain quickly and appears to be settling in at the big league level.
Straily's performance was the latest in a run that should solidify his rotation spot. He wasn't considered a noteworthy prospect when the 2012 season began, but then his already-terrific strikeout rate went to the next level, and he forced his way from Double-A Midland (108 K's in 85 1/3 innings) to Triple-A Sacramento (82 K's in 66 2/3 innings) to the big leagues, where he kept missing bats. On Wednesday, Straily didn't overpower the Yankees with strikeouts, but he threw many strikes (61 of 86 pitches). He has been a different pitcher this season, one who doesn't throw quite as hard but can still overpower hitters. If you're wondering why his ERA is so high (4.45), note that his FIP (3.15) is quite a bit lower, and that is a lot more telling.
As a rookie, Straily fell victim to home run and walk rates, but he certainly has cut into those this season, and he has been a bit unlucky with his rate of runners left on base. The only pitcher qualified for the ERA title to have a lower LOB percentage than Straily is beleaguered Chicago Cubs right-hander Edwin Jackson. At this point, fantasy owners should prefer Straily to Anderson, though the ownership percentages show the opposite. I've had enough of Anderson, who wasn't pitching so well even when healthy, and I see little reason to wait for him in 10- and 12-team formats.
Without question, Colon has been Oakland's top pitcher this season, and one of the best in baseball of late. In fact, he enters Thursday the No. 3 pitcher on the ESPN Player Rater over the past 30 days, and he also has teammates in the top 60 over that span (Balfour is 7th, Parker is 14th, Straily 24th, Milone 60th). Colon has permitted one run over his past four outings, covering 29 innings. While some might question his methods -- Colon was suspended 50 games last year for testing positive for a banned stimulant -- he has been terrific in 2013, boasting one of the lowest walk rates in baseball, and it all looks legit. Frankly, everything we're seeing from the Oakland staff looks legit.
Box score bits (AL):Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino made his big league debut Wednesday and had a single in four at-bats. Mariners catchers rank among the worst in baseball (28th in OPS), and while Zunino wasn't thriving at Triple-A Tacoma, he has a good opportunity to win the starting job. Just don't consider him 10- or 12-team worthy just yet. Same with right-hander Jeremy Bonderman, who tossed eight innings of three-hit, shutout ball before Tom Wilhelmsen blew his lead. The eight strikeouts in three outings is a big problem. Better to go with the Houston Astros starter that earned a tough no-decision Wednesday. Right-hander Jordan Lyles fanned 10 Mariners in seven shutout innings. He's 2-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his past six starts. Speaking of the M's, demoted second baseman Dustin Ackley played left field for Tacoma on Wednesday, and he's hitting .417 with twice as many walks as strikeouts in 14 games. Those in AL-only formats have been burned by him before, but eventually he'll hit. Meanwhile, I'd add setup man Carter Capps today, just in case struggling Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen is hurt. He has been awful in June. Finally some non-Mariners talk. I caught some of Ubaldo Jimenez's start Wednesday and yes, he handled a good offense in Texas. But he has walked three or more hitters in four of five outings. I'm still not buying. Albert Pujols literally limped around the bases after hitting his 11th home run Wednesday. He'll keep playing, but I say he ends up around 25 home runs and a .260 batting average. Good luck selling high.
Box score bits (NL): Remember when the Cincinnati Reds had to at least be thinking of letting Tony Cingrani remain in the rotation at the expense of Mike Leake? Well, Leake won again Wednesday, allowing one run on three hits over eight innings at Wrigley Field. His ERA is down to 2.76, 18th in baseball. Cubs lefty Travis Wood, incidentally, allowed two runs to lose the game, but his 2.65 ERA ranks 14th. Somehow Wood still isn't close to 100 percent owned in ESPN leagues. Colorado Rockies outfielder Eric Young Jr. has three stolen bases in the past week. If he continues this trend, it likely won't be with the Rockies; he was designated for assignment Wednesday and could be traded soon. The guy can certainly run, so see where he lands. This is, however, good news if you're relying on Tyler Colvin, who should keep a job but likely won't start when Michael Cuddyer is healthy.