Hiroki Kuroda - Entering Friday's start against the Mets, Hiroki Kuroda had been a disappointment since coming over to the Yankees this season, missing fewer bats and giving up more HRs. I had him pegged for an ERA around 3.75 and a whiff rate in the 7.00-range, but both those numbers seemed like a stretch prior to yesterday's outing. On Friday, however, things came together for Kuroda when he faced the Mets as he allowed just 1 hit over 7 innings and struck out 7. For the season, Kuroda's 4.06 xFIP is higher than during the past 3 seasons and his chase rate has fallen by 4%. He's been falling behind hitters more often, as evidenced by a 5% drop in his first-pitch strike percentage and his whiff rate is down to 5.73 while his HR rate is up to 1.31. It's encouraging to see Kuroda pitch so well, but I'd like to see him string together a few more dominant performances before I sign off on starting him on a consistent basis.
Jason Kipnis - Jason Kipnis fouled a ball off the inside of his knee in the first inning against the Cardinals on Friday, but, after rolling on the ground for a few minutes, stayed in the game and finished 2-for-5. For the season, Kipnis has really been a nice fantasy option by hitting .281 with 9 HRs, 42 runs, 14 steals and 36 RBI. In 36 games last season, Kipnis struck out in 23% of his ABs but he's cut that to just 15% this year while maintaining an 8% walk rate. He's got a solid .165 ISO and his 23% LD rate supports his .303 BABIP. And perhaps the most pleasant of surprises, Kipnis has swiped 14 bags in 15 tries after never stealing more than 12 bases in a minor league season. What impresses me most about Kipnis is that his chase rate is a mere 22% - which is pretty incredible when you consider this is his first full major league season. The second baseman makes pitchers throw strikes and that's a big reason he's been so successful this year. It's hard to find a middle infielder who can hit 20+ HRs and steal the same number of bases, so Kipnis is obviously a very valuable player.
Jose Bautista - Jose Bautista homered for the 16th time and now has 41 RBI this season. Bautista's power numbers are just fine - .257 ISO, 19% HR/FB rate, .486 SLG% - but his BA is just .229 thanks to a .205 BABIP compared to a .309 mark in 2011 when he batted .302. That huge drop is mostly due to bad luck as the outfielder's LD rate (16%) is exactly the same as in 2011. Bautista's shown less patience as his walk rate has dropped by 7% but, otherwise, he seems to be basically the same hitter as the past couple seasons. That high BA last year was an anomaly - Bautista is much closer to a .250-.260 hitter - but his fantasy owners should still expect another 35-40 HRs and 100-110 RBI in 2012. His BA should absolutely rise in the coming weeks as well.
Gavin Floyd - Gavin Floyd took on the Astros in Chicago last night and allowed 4 ER on 4 hits (including 2 HRs) while striking out 9. For the season, Floyd's numbers are very similar to his 2011 campaign when he posted a 3.73 xFIP and 4.37 ERA. The biggest differences are that he's improved his whiff rate from 7.02 to an impressive 8.38, but has struggled mightily to limit the HRs - as evidenced by his 1.75 HR rate. He's also seen an increase in his HR/FB mark from 10% in 2011 to 16% this year. Those extra HRs have been killers for Floyd, who, otherwise, looks to be a back end starter in most league formats. While Floyd has always struggled with the long ball (1.19 career HR rate), he has been even worse this season. I definitely expect some regression moving forward, but not enough to get his ERA into the 3.00s. The improved whiff rate makes him a decent No. 5-6 SP in 12-team leagues.
Jeremy Hellickson - Jeremy Hellickson faced the Marlins on Friday and allowed 1 ER while walking 7 in just 4 1/3 innings. For the season, Hellickson once again has a much better ERA (2.65) than FIP (4.71) or xFIP (4.61). This marks the second straight season he's outperformed his indicators as he finished 2011 with a 2.95 ERA and 4.72 xFIP. And like last year, Hellickson is enjoying a very high strand rate (84%) and low BABIP (.248) which has helped suppress his ERA. The right hander has struggled with the long ball, yielding 1.33 HRs per 9 innings and a 12% HR/FB rate, but he's also managed to lower his LD rate to 19%. Overall, I still believe Hellickson is a great sell high candidate because I'm not convinced he can continue to outpitch his peripheral stats. However, he's been doing it for a year and a half, so at some point we may need to admit the pitcher has a secret sauce that sabermetrics can't quantify.
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