I consider Alex Cobb of the Tampa Bay Rays to be the third coolest Cobb on the planet, behind only Leo DiCaprio's character in Inception and the guy who played the sinister, baby-snatching biker from Raising Arizona. This Cobb came up through the Rays' system as one of a seemingly endless line of young, major-league-caliber right-handed pitching prospects. He was impressive in the minors, striking out 516 batters in 582.2 innings, while walking only 2.6 per nine innings. When he was promoted to the big leagues in 2011, he was impressive in a short stint as an injury replacement. Up until last night, he had been similarly impressive as a fill-in for the injured Jeff Niemann. He looked to have a long, decent career as a low-rent Jeremy Hellickson-type, with a vanilla pitching repertoire aided by Tampa's awesome team defense.
I mentioned Cobb as the third-coolest Cobb, cooler than corn or even Ty (I doubt Alex has ever run into the stands to kick an armless dude's ass). Adding to the coolness, last night Cobb did something that, well...just doesn't get done very often. Cobb threw eight innings against the Kansas City Royals and didn't walk a single batter. Not bad, right? That's a line that screams "fantasy value" and scores points for fantasy owners in the WHIP category.
Well, that's the good part. The bad part is that he allowed a somewhat astonishing eight runs, in thirteen innings, while going the distance. His ERA shot up nearly a full damn run. That isn't supposed to happen. When a pitcher gives up eight runs in a game, usually he ends up with some ghastly line where he's shelled out of the third inning.
What Cobb did is quite an impressive historical feat. No one has given up eight runs in a complete game performance since Randy Johnson did it in 1998. Pat Hentgen also turned the trick in 1996, but you'd have to go back to 1988 to find another such "accomplishment". For a comprehensive list of the hilarious names of the pitchers who have given up eight runs in a complete game, go here.
In the aftermath of Cobb's strange night, there was a flurry of reactionary movement in fantasy leagues. I noticed this morning that, by the count of Yahoo! Sports, Cobb had been dropped in more than 5000 public leagues. Now, this seems a bit knee-jerk to me. No, I don't know the context or depth of many of these leagues, and I understand that eight runs is an ugly number. However, I see Cobb's performance as kind of impressive. Yes, I said it. Impressive.
I mean, come on. He soldiered through a full eight innings after getting roughed up early. The Royals did most of the damage early; he gave up seven runs in the first four innings. A lot of pitchers would wilt under that barrage and not be able to stick it out for three more pitches. After the early struggles, the only blemish was a solo shot by Eric Hosmer.
Heck, his line has a certain pleasant symmetry to it. A nice, even eight runs in eight innings. He didn't walk anybody, and he hasn't been walking anybody all year, frankly (K:BB ratio is a solid 2.75). It was also coming off the heels of a 10-K performance against the Marlins. It's likely the Royals made a bunch of contact early, found some holes, and bunched runs together. Much of the damage off Cobb was done on singles through the infield.
Cobb is a reliable back end starter for a fantasy rotation. If anything, the fact that he didn't crumble after struggling early is a very good sign, sort of an indication of a mature pitcher, if you will. Cobb will not be a star, but I'd wager he'd still continue to be better than Niemann or Wade Davis, his potential replacement. It wouldn't be wise to give up on him after one freakish outing, regardless of how much owners panic on Yahoo!