Phil Hughes SP (NYY) - Hughes picked up his 7th victory of the season yesterday as he pitched wonderfully against the Nationals. He allowed just 1 ER in 6 IP while striking out 9 and only walking 2. Currently Hughes has some nice peripherals. His K% of 22.4% and BB% of 6.2% both beat the league averages pretty easily and combine to give him a very solid 3.60 K/BB ratio. However, Hughes' FB risky ways are preventing him from posting a sub-4 ERA. He has just a 33 GB% (32% last year, 34.8 for his career) and is giving up 1.82 HR/9. Moving forward I expect Hughes to be better in the HR department as his current 13.8 HR/FB% should regress towards his career mark of 9.6%. Hughes will be a risky play at home in homer friendly Yankee stadium, but should be solid against weaker teams especially on the road in bigger ballparks. He is also a very solid option if you need help in the counting stats (K's, W's).
Yu Darvish SP (TEX) - I was all set to write about how Yu Darvish's control problems just won't go away as he walked 2 batters in his first 3 innings yesterday. However, Darvish really settled in after that and did not hand out another free pass for the day. His final line was an impressive 2 ER in 8 IP with 11 K's against 2 BB. Darvish also had 8 ground ball outs against 3 fly outs. When Darvish has his control under wraps, he has elite potential, but as his BB% indicates (12.7%) those starts are rare. Put it all together and Darvish still has a sub-4 FIP and xFIP despite the really high walk rate that in my opinion will only decline from here on out. I am a buyer here as I see more upside rest of season than I do downside.
Matt Moore SP (TB) - Moore pitched phenomenally yesterday allowing just 1 hit over 7 IP; he struck out 8 and walked 3. While Moore has been somewhat of a disappointment, there is no doubt about his ceiling being high. Consider that in 6 of his last 7 starts he has posted a K/9 in the double digits. That is pretty dominant. However, there are a couple of things Moore needs to get worked out before he can put it all together. The first one is control as Moore is walking 11% of batters he faces and has walked at least 3 batters in 8 of his 13 starts. The second one would be to reduce his FB riskiness (39.9 GB%). Moore already appears to be doing this as his worst GB% in his past 5 starts is 42.9%, and in the other 4 starts the GB rate has been above 50%. The third one might come as a surprise, and I would not have even noticed it had fellow analyst Drew Dinkmeyer not pointed it out to me: get lefties out. It is almost unfathomable the problems the left handed Moore is having against like handed batters this season. Lefties own a .965 OPS against Moore. When all is said and done I am buying here in both seasonal and keeper leagues. Moore's consistent ability to strike out batters does not grow on trees, and he is already showing signs of reducing the amount of homers he gives up. Also, even if Moore doesn't end up with the expected right/splits we normally see out of a left hander, his current numbers against lefties seem extreme. My inclination is that an adjustment will be made as well as just some natural regression and left handed batters will have a tougher time against Moore from here on out.
Trevor Plouffe (MIN) - Plouffe's remarkable power run continued last night as he hit two more homers, giving him a homer in 4 straight games and 7 homers in 7 games. Plouffe currently owns a .336 ISO! Some of the comments I read on Twitter seemed to indicate that Plouffe is a hacker with decent pop who will run into trouble eventually due to his hacking ways. However, Plouffe's current streak is not the result of an overly aggressive guy just happening to run into a lot of pitches. His chase percentage of 26.9% is actually 3 points lower than the league average, and his swinging strike rate 7.8% is 1 point below the league average. While some regression is definitely likely to hit Plouffe, I am giving his current run a bit more credence than I intended to when I sat down to write this blurb. The chase rate and sw strike rate are not indicative of a free swinger taking giant hacks. Obviously Plouffe will not continue at this pace and his average does not project to be much better than what it currently is (.240), but Plouffe could make a run at a 30 homer season. Heck even the conservative ZIPS projection system anticipates him to finish the year with 26.
Justin Masterson SP (CLE) - Masterson got just what a struggling pitcher needs yesterday: a date with the Pirates. Masterson pitched 7 scoreless innings and struck out 9 batters; he also walked 3. The outing lowered Masterson's ERA to 4.38 on the year. I don't see any reason to expect Masterson to get any better or worse the rest of the year as his current numbers are in line with his skill set. Masterson's K% of 17.7% is right in line with what he has posted the last 2 seasons (17.5, 17.4). His elite GB% has been remarkably consistent over the years (55.9 % career), and this year's mark is no different (54.4%). Masterson's BB rate, though, has grown from 7.2% last season to 10.4% this season and is largely responsible for the deterioration of his ratios. If we look at Masterson's 5 year BB percentages (11/10.6/9.1/7.2/10.4), it looks to me as if last year's mark is an outlier which is why I don't anticipate Masterson improving from here on out. One other reason for Masterson's rise in ERA is one that we should have seen coming; his HR/FB% was just 6.3 last season but is now just over 10 as it was in 2009-10.