John Lackey’s resurgence highlights this week’s edition.
Before I get started, just a quick note to remind you to tune in to hear Rick Wolf and me on Colton and the Wolfman on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio (Sirius 210 XM 87) for a special Wednesday night edition from 7pm-9pm ET – second half strategies and some fantasy football too.
Ok, now really back to business . . .
John Lackey: John Lackey was really good again on Friday, giving up just 2 runs and 3 hits over 7 innings. Over his last 7 outings, Lackey has gone at least 7 innings, given up no more than 2 runs in any of those outings and has a sweet 41/8 K/BB ratio. Do I believe in Lackey for the second half? You bet. The stats, consistency and prior track record of major league success speak loudly. It is also worth noting that his velocity is back to exactly what it was post injury. That said, there will be some correction coming as his BABIP is depressed and the FIP says the ERA, while good, will not remain THAT good. Buy, but do not expect a Cy Young second half.
Jeremy Hefner: According to reports, Jeremy Hefner will be the starter when the Mets resume play on Friday after the All Star break. Between the bad Mets play and the greatness of Matt Harvey, Hefner has flown below the radar. However, you should look it up – since June 4, Hefner has a ridiculous 1.76 ERA over his last eight starts. Overall, his 3.33 ERA and 1.15 WHIP are very strong. Question – can this continue? Well, I think he will be good, but like Lackey, NOT this good. Hefner’s BABIP is way below last year and his strand rate is way up. When those normalize, they will give life to the 4.38 FIP he posted in the first half. Roster Hefner in NL only leagues and spot start him in mixed leagues. Just do not make him the next Doc Gooden (or even Ron Darling) just yet.
Raul Ibanez: The miracle in the northwest continues. Raul Ibanez hit his 23rd and 24th homers Friday as the Mariners beat up on the Halos. As a Yankee fan who watched Ibanez deliver clutch hit after clutch hit last year, I have to admit I am rooting for him. However, if I owned him in any league (which I don’t), I would be looking to sell (I would even take a price equal to 50% of his current production). Simply put, at age 41 Raul is not going to hit 45-50 HR this year. He just will not. Since 2006, Raul has topped 24 HR just once and now has that number in the first half. Believing in miracles was fun when watching the 1980 US Hockey team but doing it with 41 year old outfielders in pitchers’ parks is a dangerous game to play. Revel in the success then sell while you still can.
David Hernandez: David Hernandez was the latest DBack pitcher to record a save, striking out two Friday against the Brewers. Honestly, I have no idea what to make of the AZ pen or what Gibby is thinking. However, I do know that Hernandez has the best stuff and most healthy arm of any of the bullpen choices. Yes, Hernandez has not been as good as he was in 11 and 12 as evidenced by that ugly 4.57 ERA. However, Hernandez does have a nice 1.15 WHIP, is striking out a batter per inning, and has reduced his BB rate. Once he gets the HRs under control, which he should, he will be lethal in the second half. Cream tends to rise to the top and Hernandez should so rise in the AZ pen. Speculate.
Corey Kluber: Corey Kluber was just great Friday, twirling 7 2/3 shutout innings while giving up just 3 hits and striking out 8. As we approach the break, Kluber has a 94/22 K/BB rate over 94 innings to go with a 1.24 WHIP. His ERA is good at 3.88 but should improve. His xFIP is just 3.02 and given that his velocity is up and BB rate down, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. Question – was Kluber’s emergence foreseeable? Answer – Yes. Kluber is a big kid who throws hard and gets a lot of swinging strikes. Guys who miss bats tend to succeed. Kluber showed the ability to do that and it is paying dividends in 2013.
Doug Fister: Doug Fister pitched like well, Doug Fister, in a Friday win over Texas. Fister tossed 6 innings of 2 run ball, while striking out 5. So far this year, Fister has a 7-5 record, 4.02 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 93/22 K/BB ratio in 121 innings. Other than the ERA, the numbers are in line with what one would expect. The question is what to expect for the second half. First, Detroit will win games, thus the Ws should be there. The other stats should improve as well. His 3.50 FIP says the ERA will come down and his elevated BABIP and reduced strand rate should normalize further enforcing second half improvements to come. Buy if you still can.
Chris Tillman: Chris Tillman beat the Jays Friday to up his record to 11-3. Thus far this year, Tillman has been solid but other than the wins, not spectacular. He has a 3.95, 1.35 WHIP and a K/BB barely above 2.0. So, in reality, Tillman is only helping in the wins category. The question is whether he will improve those other stats in the second half. Answer: probably not. His 2012 numbers were a result of an unsustainable .234 BABIP which has now normalized. Given that his FIP for the first half is over 5.00, it may be time to sell the 11 game winner high while you still can.
And last and but not least, this from the Baron of the Bottom of the Page -- Schultz says: “This Monday, Major League Baseball will trot out their latest edition of the Home Run Derby. In doing so, they will make yet another attempt to convince people that it is baseball's version of the NBA's Slam Dunk competition, only you don't need to be a savant to know its participants. (Seriously, name the winner . . . scratch that, name one entrant in the 2013 Slam Dunk SnoozeFest). While The Week That Was often deals in math and common sense, sometimes it's more fun to traffic in myth and wild unproven theories. Much like the Madden Curse has taken hold of the NFL, the Home Run Derby Curse seems to strike down at least one of two finalists each year.
Last year, Jose Bautista put on a show for the Kansas City crowd only to injure his wrist a couple weeks later. In 2011, Adrian Gonzalez fell one home run short of a title in Arizona and has yet to be a power threat since. Hanley Ramirez failed to squeak by David Ortiz in the 2010 Derby and has spent most of the next three years disappointing everyone, when able to play. In 2008, Justin Morneau outlasted Josh Hamilton and then the former AL MVP entered the witness protection program. Even going back to 2005, Bobby Abreu slugged 41 home runs in Comerica(!!!) and might not have hit that many for the rest of his career. The 2004 edition with Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and David Ortiz shall remain notable for reasons that won't be touched upon here.
Those with roto-interests in David Wright, Pedro Alvarez, Bryce Harper, Michael Cuddyer, Yoenis Cespedes, Prince Fielder, Chris Davis and Robinson Cano might be best served to see them very briefly and non-memorably on Monday night.
As the upcoming week has an exceptional amount of down time, look for the Mid-Season All-Schultz Teams in the next Week That Was.”
Response: Sometimes Schultz just makes me laugh. The Home Run Derby should be fun and that of course, is the point!
Final thoughts: July 16, 2013 is a big day in sports. Of course, there is the midsummer classic. However, there is also the video release of “42”, the terrific Jackie Robinson story and the long awaited (and well worth the wait) release of Matthew Berry’s book “Fantasy Life”. If you like baseball or history, the movie is a must see. If you read this column, play fantasy sports or just enjoy reading a gifted writer, you will enjoy Matthew’s book – a lot! (www.fantasylifethebook.com).