Jon Gray: Top 30 Starter?
The Rockies might have themselves their first home grown ace in quite awhile in Jon Gray. Last night, Gray limited the Padres to 3 runs, one earned, on 4 hits, no walks and 7 strikeouts in 7 innings of work in the Rockies 7-5 loss. Gray left with the Rockies leading 4-3, and after Carlos Estevez struck out Melvin Upton with the bases juiced in the 8th inning, closer Jake McGee proceeded to cough up the lead in the ninth inning, allowing 4 runs on 4 hits to blow the save.
Gray is now 4-2 with a 4.70 ERA, 3.38 fit, a solid 1.16 WHIP and an excellent 68-17 strikeout to walk rate in 59.1 innings. In his 10 starts this season, he has three disaster starts, starts where he gave up 5, 6 and 9 runs. But, in those other sevens starts, he has given up two runs or less in each of the seven starts. Since giving up 8 earned runs in 3.2 innings in St. Louis on May 19th, Gray has given up 7 runs on 18 hits, 7 walks and 29 strikeouts over 27.1 innings.
Among starters with 50+ innings on the mound this season, Gray ranks 13th with a 10.31 K/9, ranks 28th with a 3.38 FIP, ranks 12th with a 27.9% K% and 9th with a 20.9% K%-BB%. His 4.70 ERA screams stay away, but if you look underneath the surface, he has performed like a near-ace this season. He is owned in just 37.7% of leagues right now, so grab him if you are in need of a starter who can strike people out.
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin spoke with first baseman Ryan Howard before Friday night’s game to inform him that Tommy Joseph will be his starting first baseman going forward. Joseph responded by hitting not one, but two home runs in the Phillies loss to the Nationals. Joseph went 2-4 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI and is now hitting .323-.333-.677 with 7 home runs, 10 runs scored and 12 RBI in just 67 plate appearances. He doesn’t walk much and strikes out like most power hitters do. He has been bit by the injury bug quite a bit in his minor league career, and I believe he dealt with concussions before moving from behind the plate to first base. Joseph should man the position for the rest of the season, but I wonder if he is holding it warm for Rhys Hoskins who is showing that his power does translate against the advanced pitching in Double A Eastern League this season.
Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg is off to the best start of his career, and last night he struggled a bit, allowing 4 runs on 5 hits, a walk and 10 strikeouts in 7 innings in the Nationals 9-6 win over the Phillies. The win moved his record to 10-0 with a 3.03 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 1.07 WHIP and a 110-23 strikeout to walk rate in 86 innings. He is tied for second in MLB with Marlins ace Jose Fernandez with 110 strikeouts, ranking only behind Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. He has given up two runs or less in 8 of his 13 starts this season.
Speaking of Kershaw, he was back to his dominant ways after his worst, for him, outing of the season earlier in the week. Last night, he limited division rival Giants to 2 runs on 5 hits, no walks and 13 strikeouts in the Dodgers 3-2 win. Kershaw is now 9-1 with a 1.52 ERA, 1.58 FIP, a stunning 0.65 WHIP and a 122-6 strikeout to walk rate in 100.2 innings. He has given up two runs or less in 12 of his 13 starts this season, and has given up one run or fewer in 7 of those starts. He has struck out 10 or more batters in 8 of his last 10 starts and in six of those starts, he has walked zero batters. Somehow, he just keeps getting better and better. Enjoy him while he is still elite. He could go down as one of the greatest ever, and I have seen one baseball insider already call him the greatest ever.
In fact, he tweeted it out this morning:
@drmike5150 He might be a Top-1 pitcher of all-time. Lots of numbers support that.
The Dodgers have had trouble scoring runs of late, and one Dodger hitter who is struggled to hit for power this season is first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. We ranked AGonz in our top 10 first baseman back in the preseason, but he is likely to fall pretty far in our 2017 rankings if his power doesn’t begin to show up. Through Friday’s games, Gonzalez is hitting .280-.361-.389 with just 5 home runs, 21 runs scored and 29 RBI. Among qualified first baseman, his .389 slugging percentage ranks 24th and there are 20 other first baseman with more home runs than Gonzalez’s five. Martin Prado and Jon Jay have a higher slugging percentage than Gonzalez this season. The culprit is the huge increase in ground balls this season, as his GB% has risen from 37% to nearly 55% and his hard hit rate has fallen as a result. I don’t know why he is still batting in the clean up spot in the Dodgers lineup.
Who saw this kind of performance from Yankees starter CC Sabathia this season? His performance is what makes baseball great, year in and year out. Last night, Sabathia shut out the excellent Tigers lineup on 5 hits, 2 walks and 4 strikeouts in 7 innings in the Yankees 4-0 win. Sabathia is now 4-4 with a 2.28 ERA, 3.33 FIP, a 1.21 WHIP and a 49-24 strikeout to walk rate in 59.1 innings. He is not the dominating starter he once was, but he has learned to pitch with reduced velocity this season. He is available in more than 60% of leagues right now, but that number should increase if he continues to pitch like this. Over his last six starts, Sabathia has given up just 3 earned runs on 23 hits, 13 walks and 34 strikeouts in 38 innings.
One hitter who has outperformed expectations this season is Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer as he is hitting for a lot more power this season than in any other season of his career. Last night, Hosmer went 2-4 with 2 home runs and 3 RBI, with both home runs coming off White Sox ace Chris Sale. The big night improved his season slash line to .324-.382-.547 with 12 home runs, 32 runs scored, 38 RBI and 4 stolen bases, and he is on pace to hit 32 home runs and drive in over 100 runs and both would be career bests. He still doesn’t hit many fly ball, but his hard hit rate has improved this season. That said, I think he will struggle to hit 30 home runs with such a low fly ball rate, but 20-25 is certainly in reach.
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