It was a great pitching duel at the Dome on Tuesday as Nate Robertson and the Tigers beat Matt Garza and the Twins 1-0. Nate went 7 shutout IP allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5. He imporves to 6-6 on the year with a 4.53 ERA. Nate is a low strikeout guy so I have never been a big fan. He lives on a slim walk margin and ground balls. Last night he controlled but the Twins hits and walks and got by with a pretty level GB/FB split. This outing aside, Nates 2007 bottom line is pretty much what you should expect. He gets the M's in Seattle next.
The Rays optioned out Jon Switzer on Tuesday to open up a roster spot for the return of Al Reyes today. The Rays' closer has been out since July 3rd with a "mild" rotator cuff strain. He should resume closing duties almost immediately.
Irvin Santana was rocked by the Rays to the tune on 7 runs allowed, all earned, in 6 IP on 14 hits ... count 'em ... 4 walks and 4 Ks. Those 14 hits are a career high for Ervin and he's now lost a career-high 5 straight decisions, leaving him 5-11 on the year. Santana's BB rate (3.4/9) and GB rate (0.78) are a bit low but the big differences have been in OBA where opponents are hitting .305 off of Ervin as opposed to a career .265, and in his HR rate which at 1.8 is by far a career high (1.2 career). 14.1% of the fly balls he has allowed this year have been homers as opposed to 7.7% last year and 9.0% in 05. Santana suffering from a .336 BHIP% so there's some bad luck involved in both his OBA and his HR rate but something seems to be missing this year. Sometimes a little physical nag or mechanical hitch can gut the life out of a pitch and maybe that's what is happening here. In any event it's time to sit Santana down until his vital signs stabilize.
James Shield was solid against the Angels on Tuesday allowing 2 runs in 7 IP on 7 hits and a walk while striking out 2. Shields drew 10 GBOs and he is starting to inch up that GB ratio as we go along here in 2007. He improves to 8-5 with a 3.91 ERA with the win. Shields is sporting a nice healthy 7.5/9 K rate and making that sing by allowing just 1.3 BB/9. Opponents are hitting .244 off of him due in some part to a .277 BHIP%. That is over 50 points lower than the .332 BHIP% he posted last year in 124 IP. James is also benefiting from a 73.3% strand%, but that's right in line with last year's strand percentage even if it is a little favorable. So James is limiting his walks and benefiting from a very favorable BHIP% and a somewhat favorable strand%. At this point we need to expect his OBA to rebound (negatively) as some of those hits fall in the second half but there isn't too much air in his bottom line. He might not match his sub-4.00 first half ERA on the back nine, but James will be a viable contributor. He's a decent sell-high if your league is appraoching it's deadline as well. You may want to pass on his next start in which he scheduled against Andy Pettitte and the Yankees.
Roy Halladay's start against the Yankees on Tuesday has to be encouraging for his owners. Roy went 7 IP allowing 1 run on 5 hits, 3 walks and 6 Ks. He threw 9 GBOs and got it all done in a tidy 112 pitches. This follows a very sluggish start against the Red Sox on 7/12 in which he walked 4 en route to allowing 5 runs in less than 6 IP for the second consecutive time and three of the previous four starts. His 6 Ks was his highest total in 6 starts and his 5 hits allowed was his lowest total in that span. Roy's indicators are pretty much in line, save for a low GB rate (by his standards anyway, 2.0 this year as opposed to 2.6 last year and 2.5 career) and a low strand% (65.6%). So maybe there's nothing to worry about here. I worry however about his work load over the years and wonder if he's simply worn. There's little statistical evidence of that and remember, I last saw him in that ragged game in Boston. Roy loves the Yankees though, going 6-1 against them in his last 10 starts with a 1.84 ERA. Even if this wave is headed for the beach, you have to continue to ride it until Roy makes it impossible to do so. he's still one of the AL's best starter options on most nights.
Ryan Garko came to the party late on Tuesday, but he more than made up for it with a two-run pinch-hit, two-run HR in the 9th inning and a game-winning Rbi single in the 11th as the Tribe topped the White Sox in extra innings. Ryan is up to .313 on the year with 12 HRs and 38 Rbi. He has an 11-game hitting streak going in which he is hitting .462 with 3 HRs and 7 Rbi. His zone command has been good (20.8% K rate and 6.2% walk rate) but there is still room for gains there. He has benefited from a .358 BHIP% but he posted a .333 BHIP% last year in 185 ABs. Things look solid for Ryan and we can continue to look for gains here and there as he matures as a major leaguer.