There's a reason we watch things like strikeout, walk and ground-ball rates even in the face of good ERAs and WHIPs. They can help us spot a problem with a pitcher before it manifests itself and becomes a real situation.
We're probably at a full-blown situation with Joakim Soria - he might even be a step away from being a Mexcloser (badumching). He's now blown three of his last four save chances and future closer Aaron Crow inches his way to being the present closer. But we've known something was wrong with Soria all year, as his strikeout rate is down about a third and his walk rate has doubled. He's getting fewer ground balls. His velocity is down. He's only pitched 21 innings, and he could turn it around, but it seems likely that a health or mechanical issue is plaguing him right now.
John Danks is in trouble. A pitcher with average career rates all around, he had above-average control last year and had a decent year. This year his control is average and the whole package is meh. He gave up nine runs on three homers in four innings against the Jays and doesn't look like a buy-low. Carl Pavano is also in trouble. He's still got his control, but he's not striking out anyone and his ground balls have not returned. Giving up five runs on ten hits in eight innings with just three strikeouts seems about right for him. Even though he didn't walk a guy, his upside is so muted that he's droppable in most leagues. J.A. Happ only gave up one run against the Diamondbacks. He even struck out eight. But Happ is also an extreme fly-ball pitcher with poor control and mediocre strikeout punch. He's not worth picking up in mixed leagues.
Sometimes those rates can tell us to be suspicious of a good start. Jair Jurrjens has seven wins and a league-leading 1.51 ERA. But he also has a below-average strikeout rate and a career ground-ball rate that's right on average. He's good, but not league-leader good. Until his opponent Sunday night, Johnny Cueto, finds the strikeout rate from his rookie year, he's in the same boat. No rate stands out as distinctly above-average. Alexi Ogando's hot start has masked the fact that, other than his excellent control, his rates are below-average. He struck out four and walked one while giving up five runs in six innings in a loss to the Royals, and selling high will be a good idea after his next good start. Josh Collmenter struck out five Astros and walked one to hold them to two runs and continue his good start. But he also doesn't have a great strikeout rate and his strange delivery might just mean that the deception will run out once he sees teams a second time.
And of course, sometimes those rates can help us spot a buy-low. Ryan Dempster's rates are the same they've always been, but the results have been off because he's been unlucky with home runs. Sunday, he allowed two runs in six innings and struck out five. And didn't give up any home runs. Ricky Nolasco might have given up eight runs to the Dodgers in the worst start of his career, but he's got excellent control and only walked two in five innings on Sunday. He's still an excellent pitcher. Justin Masterson's rates show us that he hasn't been especially lucky - he's deserved his good start. If someone thinks they are selling high on Masterson after his six earned in five innings against the Rays, take him off their hands for cheap.
* A few bullpens deserve highlighting. Craig Kimbrel hit a sketchy stretch a while back but now has four straight saves. His extremely awesome strikeout rate made him worth hanging on to through thick and thin. Kenley Jansen was given a save chance recently and might be the closer of the future because of his strikeout punch, but now he's on the DL with shoulder inflammation. Matt Guerrier and Javy Guerra are still in the front seats in that pen, with hot prospect Rubby De La Rosa perhaps the dark horse. Don't forget Vicente Padilla, who is rehabbing now. Andrew Bailey returned from the DL finally and pitched a scoreless inning. He'll be closing soon. Joe Nathan's inflammation in his elbow is no big deal for Tommy John survivors, say the Twins. They put him on the DL anyway. There's still a non-zero chance he gets the closer role back. Frank Francisco blew his second straight save Saturday and had to be bailed out by Jason Frasor. Most likely, Jon Rauch gets the next save chance, but don't drop Francisco yet. Though Neftali Feliz has been terrible, and was removed in the middle of his save chance on Sunday, his manager still says he's the closer going forward.
* Docta docta give me the news. Buster Posey will miss the rest of the season, his trainer confirmed. In some leagues, you might be able to pick up the returning Geovany Soto, who is back from his groin injury. Hanley Ramirez left Sunday's game with lower back stiffness, but there's no news yet about how much time he might miss. Matt Holliday should return to the lineup Monday after missing some time over the weekend with a sore quad. Wandy Rodriguez is on the DL with fluid in his pitching elbow, which is bad news. Rafael Furcal has been off the DL for a week but finally had his best game since that return with three hits (one a home run) on Sunday. Carlos Beltran was removed from Sunday's game with tightness in his hamstring but doesn't expect to miss time. Julio Borbon and his hamstring will begin a rehab assignment Monday. Corey Hart has some sort of virus that has kept him out of the weekend's games, but should be back soon. Cameron Maybin's knee has kept him out of two straight games, but there's no talk of a DL stint yet.
Gordon Beckham will return to the lineup Monday because the swelling around his eye has gone down. Steve Pearce had been playing well at the hot corner for the Pirates but his calf has him on the DL. Josh Harrison will come up to replace him and though he doesn't have a ton of power or speed, he could be able to manage a decent batting average and be interesting in deeper league. Teammate Ryan Doumit was the latest victim of a takeout slide, and after leaving the game with crutches he'll head back to Pittsburgh for an MRI and should miss some time.
* We're a third of the way through the season, but bounce-backs are still possible for position players, too. Aramis Ramirez hit his second home run of the year (and first since April 6), but everything else about his game has been okay. The power will come. Same for Nick Swisher, who homered and drew two walks Sunday against the Mariners. Power is a fickle beast. Colby Rasmus has great power upside, but just hit his first home run in 33 games Sunday. That shouldn't happen again. Justin Morneau has power - this we know - but he hasn't shown it yet this year. Three hits, even if they were singles, means that at least he's making contact and that makes him a better buy-low. J.J. Hardy collected two hits in Baltimore's loss and could have some better batted-ball luck coming. Even with major-league average power and a mediocre batting average, he has to be owned in all AL-only leagues because of how terrible that league's shortstop pool is. Mike Napoli collected three hits (one a home run) against the Royals. His power has been there all along, and even at his best he won't show a great batting average, but he should be able to manage better than his current .212 number there. Ryan Ludwick took his time, but he's hitting .361 over his past 16 games and collected three hits against the Nationals. He's not a great mixed-leaguer because of his home park, but he should be owned in all deeper leagues. Aaron Hill finally hit his first home run of the season (a grand slam). If he finds his power, then his bad batting average (and all those fly balls he hits) will have been worth it. But power is a fickle beast.
National League Quick Hits: Clayton Kershaw was dominant against the Marlins with ten strikeouts and one walk in a two-hit shutout, but we knew that already … Yovani Gallardo kept the Giants scoreless in eight innings with five strikeouts - he had a great May and looks to be back on track … Brandon Beachy (oblique) will return to a mound Monday … Eric Young Jr started at second base for the Rockies and collected two RBI - he's now had 14 at-bats since Friday and looks like an everyday player … In a facepalm of a move, it looks like Brandon Belt is going to play every-other-day in left field; he is still very exciting if he can get regular playing time … Kyle Lohse continued his strong work with two runs in six innings in Colorado; his best skill is control, and he's not this good, but he can help at the back of a staff … Allen Craig was never known for his glove, but he could become the Cardinals' second baseman according to his manager, and his bat is nice … Ryan Roberts got a hit and a stolen base against the Astros and though his power is mostly mirage, the rest of his game is real … Jhoulys Chacin has more strikeout punch and ground-ball ability, and though he allowed four runs to the Cards, his seven strikeouts mean he's still on track … Juan Nicasio didn't show the strikeouts that he had in the minor leagues, but keeping the Cardinals to one unearned in seven innings makes him immediately interesting even if he did only strike out two … Jon Niese struck out six and didn't give up an earned run, but it was against the Phillies' JV lineup as many regulars were out … Vance Worley was knocked around by the Mets and his minor league record agrees - he's a fly-ball pitcher without much strikeout punch most years and is best left for the deepest of leagues … Josh Thole collected three of those hits and despite his lack of power is interesting because he's a living, breathing, starting catcher … Jeff Karstens allowed two runs in five innings against the Cubs but we've got a long resume that's less exciting … Dustin Moseley gets ground balls and has okay control; that continued when he allowed two runs in five innings against the Nationals … Yunesky Maya allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Padres and is a wait-and-see even in deeper leagues … Jeff Baker (groin) lost his battle and was placed on the DL - prospect D.J. LeMahieu will come up to be a utility guy in his place … The Astros' Jordan Lyles is up and will take Wandy Rodriguez's turn, but his upside is muted enough to make him more of a deep-league speculative add … The Rockies called up Chris Nelson, who was playing well in Triple-A, but it's unclear where he'll play in that crowded infield … The Padres traded for Steven Tolleson from the A's, but he's not much of a prospect and shouldn't jump ahead of Logan Forsythe at second base, who himself deserves a look in deeper leagues because of his pop and patience and current playing time.
American League Quick Hits: Jeremy Hellickson's rate don't look stellar right now, but his minor league stats suggest that he can continue to pitch like he did Sunday, when he kept the Indians scoreless with six strikeouts and two walks in seven innings … Zach Britton gave up six runs in Oakland, but he's still got the excellent ground-ball rate and just needs to strike a few more guys out to be even better … Danny Duffy still has excellent upside, his three runs with four strikeouts and one walk in six innings Sunday against the Rangers was an excellent step in the right direction … Jason Vargas only made it through three innings against the Yankees despite being at home, which means now he's even a sit at home against decent offenses … Ian Kinsler was merely ejected from the game for arguing balls and strikes - no injury there … David Ortiz pinch-hit a game-winning home run Sunday, but his positional value (none) and strange career-best strikeout rate (at 35 years old) seem to suggest he's a sell-high … Erick Aybar had three hits and is smoking hot … Adam Jones thinks he'll be able to play Monday after leaving Sunday's game with a sore shoulder … Josh Willingham hit a home run and has value in deeper leagues despite his home park … Justin Smoak hit his first home run in 13 games and should be a little better in June than he was in May … Lefty Andy Dirks had two hits (one a home run) against the Red Sox, should play against righties going forward, and looks like he might be able to keep this up … Alex Cobb, a prospect with mid-rotation upside, will replace Andy Sonnanstine and start for the Rays on Tuesday … Jim Thome got a cortisone injection in his right shoulder Saturday and missed Sunday's game … Corey Patterson had four hits (one a home run), but we know who Corey Patterson is … Russel Branyan made two starts over the weekend for the punchless Angels and deserves a look in deeper leagues … Brennan Boesch hit a solo homer and an RBI double in the doubleheader Sunday but will need more to stave off the PT loss coming when Magglio Ordonez back … Miguel Olivo missed Sunday's game with a swollen face he got from a head-first slide into first on Saturday … Guillermo Moscoso allowed four runs in five innings to the Orioles and is not really a great spot starter … Bobby Jenks (biceps) finished his rehab … John Jaso has been terrible, but he's been unlucky on batted balls and is still walking enough to be interesting in OBP leagues; He had a single and a home run against the Indians … Rich Harden threw a bullpen session.