David Shovein

Baseball Daily Dose

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Daily Dose: Vintage Verlander

Thursday, May 17, 2018


Vintage Verlander


To say that Justin Verlander’s career has been rejuvenated by last season’s deadline deal that sent him to the Astros would be an unbelievable understatement.


He entered Wednesday night’s start against the Angels with a league-leading 1.21 ERA and a league-leading 0.72 WHIP. That’s as good as it gets. He then took the hill on Wednesday and managed to lower both of those jaw-dropping numbers.


The 35-year-old right-hander notched his eighth career shutout on Wednesday, scattering five hits and a walk over nine masterful innings against what has been one of the top offenses in the American League this season.


He racked up seven strikeouts in the contest. His punch-out of Shohei Ohtani leading off the ninth inning was the 2500th of his illustrious career. He ranks second among active hurlers in the category, trailing only Yankees’ left-hander CC Sabathia. In the entire history of Major League Baseball, Verlander ranks 33rd in strikeouts. The next name for him to climb over is Hall-of-Famer Christy Mathewson with 2507.


Of those 32 players ahead of him on the list, 21 are already enshrined in Cooperstown, and there’s a very good chance that Verlander will be heading there as well when all is said and done.


Setting his postseason dominance aside, it’s almost laughable how good he has been through his first 15 regular season starts with the Astros. During that time, he’s 10-2 with a 1.05 ERA, 0.69 WHIP and 127/19 K/BB ratio in 102 ⅔ innings. It’s hard to find enough superlatives to describe just how amazing those numbers are.



What Verlander and teammate Gerrit Cole (1.75 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 13.57 K/9) are doing is simply incredible. They are easily the two early-season front-runners for the American League Cy Young Award, with Verlander holding the slight edge at the moment.


Verlander has always been a workhorse, and entered play on Wednesday averaging 99.2 pitches per start this season, with a high-water mark of 109 against the Twins in Minnesota on April 9. For most pitchers, I would have at least a slight concern about future performance after being extended to a season-high 118 pitches in this one, but I’m going to give Verlander the benefit of the doubt here.


He had been a victim of poor run support in recent weeks, as the Astros had scored a total of one run over his last three starts (0-2). He needed to be every bit as good as he was on Wednesday as well, because Garrett Richards twirled a gem on the other side of the diamond. The Angels’ right-hander allowed just a pair of unearned runs over his seven frames.


The Angels did mount a pair of threats against him late in the game, but weren’t able to scratch out a run. In the eighth inning, Kole Calhoun hit a ground rule double that put runners at second and third with just one out. Verlander dug deep and fanned pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena before getting Mike Trout on a weak grounder back to the mound.


The following inning Albert Pujols lined a two-out single into right field and Andrelton Simmons drew a walk, but Verlander was able to get Zack Cozart to pop out on his 118th pitch of the evening.


Verlander will look to extend his dominance and strengthen his resume for the Cy Young Award when he does battle against the Giants at home on Wednesday.



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Bringing Sexy Back


While Justin Verlander ranks second among all active Major League pitchers in strikeouts, 44-year-old Bartolo Colon ranks just behind him. He was also on the mound on Wednesday and doing some pretty impressive things in his own right against the Mariners.


He baffled the M’s hitters all day, allowing just four hits over 7 ⅔ innings of scoreless baseball. Colon punched out three on the afternoon and didn’t walk a batter.


He has been one of the biggest surprises through the first seven weeks of the regular season, proving to be a very valuable member of the Rangers’ rotation. The rotund right-hander, now 2-1 on the season, boasts a 2.82 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 32/4 K/BB ratio over his 51 innings of work.


The human highlight reel made another memorable play in the fourth inning of this one, when he was drilled in the gut by a 102 mph line drive off the bat of Jean Segura. Colon maintained his composure, went and tracked the ball down and managed to throw out the speedy shortstop in plenty of time.


When asked about it after the game, Colon told reporters, "It hit me more on the side than in the middle," Colon said. "I have a lot of big belly, so I can take it."


Even with his diminished velocity, Colon can be difficult to square up when he’s on his game and hitting his spots. Mariners’ third baseman Kyle Seager summed up as much after the game, 'It's unbelievable. He's not tricking you. He just executes and gets the job done.”


He still isn’t a recommended weekly fantasy option in most mixed leagues, given the fact that an impending blow-up could come at any time and that he still plays his home games in Arlington. He’s probably worth a look as a streaming option or a matchup play though.


I think I can speak for baseball fans everywhere when I say that I’d like to see Colon continue pitching for as long as he physically can. He’s truly a joy to watch on the hill.



Braun’s Balky Back


Brewers’ oft-injured outfielder Ryan Braun told reporters on Wednesday that he’s “far more likely” than not to land on the disabled list due to his aching back.


The 34-year-old has battled a vast assortment of injuries over the years, including several issues with his balky back. He has missed each of the Brewers’ last three games due to the issue already.


He’s off to a rough start at the dish this season, slashing just .222/.268/.413 with five homers, 20 RBI and four stolen bases. If indeed the back issue is a contributing factor to the poor performance, as his current 6-for-46 (.130/.196/.217) stretch over his last 14 games would indicate, then perhaps sitting down for a while and allowing it to heal would be the best course of action.


The Brewers are loaded with talent in the outfield and they certainly don’t miss a beat by sliding Domingo Santana into the starting lineup in Braun’s absence. In fact, they may be better off for it.


Expect the Brewers to make a roster move on Friday if Braun isn’t ready to return to the lineup after Thursday’s off-day.




American League Quick Hits: Brodie Scoffield, the agent for Red Sox’ catcher Blake Swihart, has asked the Red Sox for a trade, though they have seemingly no intention of abiding… Nelson Cruz is expected to miss a couple of games after getting hit by a pitch on his right foot on Tuesday… Robinson Cano underwent successful surgery on Wednesday to repair the fractured fifth metacarpal in his right hand… Carlos Gomez landed on the 10-day disabled list with a right groin injury… Jason Castro underwent season-ending knee surgery on Tuesday… Joe Biagini will remain in the Blue Jays’ rotation to start on Saturday against the Athletics… Edwin Encarnacion was scratched from the Indians’ starting lineup on Wednesday due to lingering back and neck stiffness… JaCoby Jones was forced to exit Wednesday’s game due to a left hip contusion… Michael Brantley had three hits, including a home run, leading the Indians past the Tigers to salvage one game of their three-game series… Trevor Bauer fanned 10 over eight shutout frames in that victory… Justin Smoak homered and drove in three runs as the Blue Jays clobbered the Mets… J.A. Happ allowed just two hits over seven shutout innings in that win… C.J. Cron belted his 10th home run and scored three times in a victory over the Royals… J.D. Martinez crushed his 12th home run, helping to lead the Red Sox past the Athletics.


National League Quick Hits: Wednesday’s game between the Nationals and Yankees, as well as the completion of Tuesday’s suspended game, were postponed due to rain. Both will be made up on June 18th… Starling Marte sat out Wednesday’s game due to a right oblique injury.. He’s considered day-to-day and remains hopeful that he’ll be able to avoid the disabled list… Nick Senzel (vertigo) is expected to return to the lineup at Triple-A Louisville next week… The Mets placed Yoenis Cespedes on the 10-day disabled list with a right hip flexor strain… Carlos Martinez is set to undergo a follow-up MRI on his right lat strain. The Cardinals are hopeful the new imaging will show improvement… Eugenio Suarez was held out of the Reds’ lineup on Wednesday due to a sore right ankle. He’s considered day-to-day… Chase Anderson (illness) is on track to return to the Brewers’ rotation on Monday… Jason Heyward (concussion) has been cleared to resume baseball activities… Juan Lagares sprained his right big toe when he crashed into the wall on Tuesday. He’s listed as day-to-day and shouldn’t miss any substantial time… Rich Hill (blister) made it through his bullpen session without issue and will make his scheduled start against the Nationals on Saturday… Todd Frazier (hamstring) won’t be ready to be activated from the disabled list on Friday when first eligible… Dansby Swanson (wrist) will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Thursday… Nick Pivetta racked up 11 strikeouts over seven innings of one-run ball in a victory over the Orioles… Bud Norris recorded the final five outs against the Twins on Wednesday, earning his ninth save in nine opportunities this season… Brandon Belt homered for the third straight day, and ninth time of the season, in a losing effort against the Reds… Christian Yelich clobbered a two-run homer in a rout of the Diamondbacks… J.T. Realmuto blasted a go-ahead homer in the sixth inning to lead the Marlins past the Dodgers… Ozzie Albies went 2-for-4 with a double, triple and two runs scored as the Braves topped the Cubs.




Dave Shovein is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveShovein.
Email :David Shovein



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