Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. In this edition, we look at a phenom who might be fulfilling his massive potential, a struggling pitcher in a bad environment, and more, including the Cardinals’ ongoing search to replace Adam Wainwright. Off we go:
Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Have yourself a week, Mr. Harper. The Nationals’ right fielder tore the cover off the ball last week, belting 6 home runs, knocking in 13, scoring 7 and slashing .444/.524/1.444 (before Sunday’s game). Three of the home runs came in consecutive at-bats on May 6 against the Marlins. Saturday night’s blast was of the walk-off variety against the Braves. Never one to shy away from the spotlight, Harper is showing a flair for the dramatic. The power surge has given him 11 home runs on the season; his career-high is 22. Given continued good health, it seems certain that he is going to cruise past that mark. It doesn’t appear to be just a hot streak, either. Harper is displaying impressive selectivity at the plate, having drawn a league-high 27 walks in 32 games. I hesitate to use the word “breakout” because Harper is only 22, but it is becoming relevant to ask if we are witnessing the huge season people have been expecting since he reached the majors. Harper is on pace to smack over 35 homers, drive in over 90 runs and score nearly 100. Totals like that would make him a top-10 fantasy outfielder. It’s also worth noting that Harper is a year younger than Mike Trout. The game is more interesting when its young phenoms start fulfilling their potential, isn’t it?
No player is playing better baseball than Bryce Harper right now. Hipmunk.com will help any baseball fan see the phenom at home or on the road, with Washington D.C. flights, including Washington D.C. hotels starting from $97 to catch multiple games in a series.
Kyle Kendrick, Colorado Rockies
The Rockies signing Kendrick was a head-scratching move at the time. Fly ball pitcher, at Coors Field. Kendrick allowed 25 home runs last year in Philadelphia (another hitter’s park). Haven’t we seen this before? Weren’t the Rockies worried about seeing Denny Neagle, Part 2? Then Kendrick pitched seven shutout innings in Milwaukee on Opening Day and the Rockies crowed about what a great signing Kendrick was. How has it gone since then? Well…..let’s just say “not well.” In his next five starts, he pitched a total of 33 innings, allowed 45 hits, 32 earned runs, 10 home runs, and struck out just 20 batters. Ouch. Kendrick’s season line now reads like a player who has been designated for assignment: 8.73 ERA, 1.697 WHIP, 12 hits allowed per 9 innings, 1.82 K/BB ratio. The 32 earned runs allowed are the worst in the National League. Kendrick has faced 153 batters and allowed 60 of them to reach base via hit, walk or hit-by-pitch. Yikes. There are times when you can write something off as a small sample size, but there are also times that you can trust what you see and realize that a player isn’t going to get better. This is the case with Kendrick pitching in Denver. Unfortunately for Rockies fans, they continue to resist the urge to promote top prospect Jonathan Gray, who is dealing at hitter-friendly Triple-A Albuquerque. As long as Kendrick continues to get the ball every fifth day, Rockies fans should hide their eyes and fantasy owners should stay far, far away.
Playing the Name Game
Player A: no W-L, 11.57 ERA, 3.43 WHIP, 2.1 IP
Player B: no W-L, 4.82 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 9.1 IP
Player C: 0-1, 5.89 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 18.1 IP (minors)
Player D: 0-1, 16.88 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 2.2 IP (minors)
Player A is minor-league lefty Tim Cooney, who received the first shot at filling Adam Wainwright’s spot in the St. Louis rotation. Obviously, it did not go well and he was sent back down the next day. Player B is Tyler Lyons, who has pitched better, but it isn’t showing up in the typical fantasy categories. His second start Sunday against Pittsburgh was a five-inning scuffle, yet it was an improvement over his season debut. Surprisingly, his FIP rating is 2.94, which indicates that better results should be on the way (his defense let him down yesterday, committing a pair of errors. It remains to be seen if the Cardinals will stick with him. Player C is Marco Gonzales, who is working his way back from a torso injury at Triple-A. Based on his results so far this season, he is not ready to move up to St. Louis. Likewise with Player D, who is Jaime Garcia. He was bombed in his initial start for Triple-A Memphis on Sunday. Cardinals beat writers have indicated that Garcia is ahead of Gonzales on the depth chart, but one wonders if that was written in pencil or ink.
The Cardinals have a sizable lead in the division, thanks to their winning streak earlier this month, so they have some time to weigh their options before possibly making a move. Lyons deserves more time to show that he can be an effective fifth starter, as it would not make any sense to trade anything of value for a marginal starter, such as Aaron Harang. However, with the injury to setup man Jordan Walden (out 6-10 weeks), the bullpen has taken a major hit as well. Team GM John Mozeliak may be on the hunt for pitching, but it may be for reinforcements in the late innings instead of the rotation. All of which underscores the point you hear every season: you can never (EVER) have too much pitching.
Clearing the Bases
- Well, not only did the Pirates turn a triple play for the second year in a row, but the one they pulled on St. Louis on Saturday was a 4-5-4 trifecta. How did they do that? Like so: with runners on 2nd and 3rd, Yadier Molina ripped a liner to second baseman Neil Walker, who threw to third to double off Peralta. It should have ended there, but Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward brainlocked and just started walking back to the dugout. Third baseman Jung Ho Kang threw back to Walker, who stepped on the bag for the third out. You wouldn’t think counting to three would be that difficult, but let’s give it up to Heyward for proving me wrong.
- Random stat of the week: Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey has tossed three starts this season without striking anyone out. Anyone else think that’s odd for a knuckleballer? Meanwhile, Yankees starter Michael Pineda whiffed 16 Orioles in his start Sunday.
- How good was Pineda? He became just the fourth pitcher since 2000 to punch out 16 hitters with zero walks. The others? Randy Johnson (2001), Mark Prior (2003), Johan Santana (2007). That’s pretty good company. Pineda has mostly been an afterthought since his pine-tar-on-the-neck incident and subsequent injury, but he has been a true fantasy ace so far in 2015: 5-0 record, 2.72 ERA, 1.014 WHIP, AL-leading 54 strikeouts in seven starts (and an eye-popping 18:1 K/BB ratio!).
- Discouraging weekend for A’s pitcher Jarrod Parker, who was trying to come back from two Tommy John surgeries, only to suffer a fractured elbow Friday night during a minor-league rehab start. Another surgery looks likely for Parker. Baseball is a heartless game sometimes.
- People are talking constantly about how interesting it is to watch the Cubs now that prospects Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler are in the majors (and they certainly are), but how about the Mets? Once top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard debuts Tuesday, they will have the most interesting collection of young starters (Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard) since Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson were dubbed “Generation K” in the mid-90s.
- Entering Sunday’s games, your leaders in WAR (Wins Above Replacement player) for pitchers and hitters, respectively: Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain and Houston’s Dallas Keuchel, both at 2.6 WAR.
- Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, 29, became the fourth-youngest pitcher to reach 2,000 strikeouts. Only Bert Blyleven, Sam McDowell and Walter Johnson reached the milestone at a younger age.
- And yet, 72-year-old Bartolo Colon tallied his 6th win of the season just hours before King Felix got his. Someone should alert Crazy Brian Kenny. This means something!
- Clayton Kershaw walked four batters for the first time in more than two years. That start also marked only the sixth time in 216 career starts that Clayton Kershaw had allowed five or more runs in a single inning. Of note was Rockies’ pitcher Jorge de la Rosa rapping a two-run single to cap that fourth inning (who needs the DH, right?).
- Which he promptly followed up by walking the bases loaded and watching Adrian Gonzalez scorch a game-tying double. Sort of sums up the Rockies’ season. You get a fluky clunker of a start from the best pitcher in the league and can’t take advantage. The Rockies ended up losing 9-5.
- Other than Nolan Arenado’s superlative play this season, there hasn’t been much for Rockies fans to cheer about, but here’s a highlight: John Axford’s 2-year-old son, Jameson, threw out the first pitch last Friday night. If you don’t remember, the boy was bitten by a rattlesnake at the end of spring training and spent weeks in the hospital as doctors worked to save his foot. The good news is that they succeeded. Hopefully he will be up and mobile before the end of the season. It would be amazing to see the young man walk out on the field and throw out another first pitch.
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