Francisco Cordero - Filling in for the injured closer Sergio Santos, Francisco Cordero did what Francisco Cordero do - he blew a save. The Mariners touched Cordero for two runs in the ninth inning on Friday. Last season, Cordero posted a 2.45 ERA, but his 4.02 FIP indicated he had been pretty lucky. This season, there's no such luck as Cordero's 4.50 ERA entering Friday was actually above his 4.15 FIP. Given, we're talking about only a handful of innings but the point remains: Cordero isn't an effective reliever. While there are many reasons to doubt Cordero's ability, perhaps the biggest is his declining whiff rate. After striking out 7.31 batters per nine in 2010, he only struck out 5.43 in 2011. He also hasn't struck out more than 8.00 batters per nine innings since 2008. Cordero will likely remain in the closer's role for now, despite the blown chance, but he's one of the worst options to get you saves in fantasy baseball.
Matt Harrison - It seemed unlikely, to say the least, that the Rangers' Matt Harrison would maintain an ERA under 2.00 for the whole season, so it was unsurprising to see him experience some regression Friday against the Rays. The left hander yielded four earned runs in the first inning and finished the game with a pitching line that showed five innings, 14 hits, six earned runs, three strikeouts and one walk. Despite a strikeout rate under 5.50 entering Friday's start, Harrison was successful thanks to a 62% ground ball rate, 1.66 walk rate and 0.42 HR rate. In summary, he wasn't allowing many base runners and kept the ball in the yard. Compared to 2011, when Harrison posted a 3.52 FIP and 3.39 ERA, the southpaw is inducing an 8% higher chase rate (36% compared to 28%) which is resulting in weaker contact that produces a lot of grounders. I like Harrison as a spot starter in deep mixed and AL-only leagues despite the low whiff rate and assuming he can maintain a strong GB rate.
Alex Gordon - Alex Gordon smoked a two-run HR, his fourth of the season, in the first inning against the Twins on Friday. Gordon was hitting just .213/.314/.373 prior to Friday, but that was partly due to a .250 BABIP. While it's unlikely Gordon will post another BABIP of .358 like he did last season, he should start to see his luck improve in the coming weeks. The good news is that his walk rate is 3% better than in 2011 and he's maintained a respectable .160 ISO and 23% line drive rate. Interestingly, Gordon seems to have a bit of Eric Hosmer disease as he's hitting 6% fewer fly balls and 4% more ground balls - good for a 1.33 GB/FB mark. All told, Gordon is swinging much better than his stats indicate so I'm not worried about his perceived slow start.
Jeff Francoeur - Frenchy has really struggled to start 2012, entering Friday's game with a .227/.266/.293 (!) slash line to go along with a whopping zero HRs and three RBI. He also hasn't stolen any bases after swiping 22 a season ago. So what's wrong with the free-swinging outfielder? For starters, he's swinging at more pitches outside of the strike zone than in 2011 (41% compared to 38%) and, worse yet, making contact on 81% of those swings (compared to 72% in 2011). This is causing Francoeur to make a bunch of weak contact and explains his inability to drive the ball into the gaps and over the fence. Considering Francoeur has always been someone who will swing at anything, this is definitely concerning. Last season, Francoeur thrived thanks to a .323 BABIP and career-low chase rate. If he remains an extremely impatient hitter, it's hard to see Francoeur coming anywhere close to producing his 2011 numbers. I'm definitely concerned if I own the Royals' outfielder.
Ivan Nova - The Yankees' starting pitcher on Friday, Ivan Nova, got shelled by Detroit to the tune of six earned runs in just 5 1/3 innings. He allowed 11 hits and three walks while striking out five. Nova now owns an ugly 5.68 ERA and 1.68 WHIP for the season. Entering Friday's outing, Nova had posted an impressive 9.75 strikeout rate and 0.89 walk rate, but he was struggling with the long ball as he owned a 1.89 HR rate. After punching out fewer than six batters per nine innings in 2011, the increase in whiffs is certainly a good sign. But based on his low minor league strikeout rates, it's likely more of a mirage than sustainable skill. He's yielding a 24% line drive rate and batters are making contact on 95% of swings on pitches in the strike zone, which is far too high. Nova might have been a back end starter if he pitched in the NL, but facing AL lineups, especially in the East, really saps his value. He can possibly be a spot starter, but there are some troubling signs that Nova is going to post an ERA well north of 4.00 by the time 2012 ends.
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