Boyd had his start pushed back to Sunday after the Tigers shuffled their rotation. Boyd owns a middling 4.24 ERA on the year, but his stellar 31.4% and 5.8% strikeout and walk rates, respectively, have kept him fantasy relevant. Boyd has endured a rough August though, and although his strikeout rate has remained strong (10 per 9 innings), walks and home runs have caused problems leading to an ugly 6.10 ERA for the month. Indeed, Boyd has allowed a home run rate north of 8% this month, and his SO/BB ratio has dipped to 2.88 (5.43 for the year) despite his still high strikeout rate. Changes in Boyd's production can be traced to his slider (his second most used pitch per Statcast); the pitch appears to have been classified as a curveball by Brooks Baseball frequently (an infrequent occurrence in the past), though Statcast still calls it a slider, indicating the pitch has become more of a slurve. Unsurprisingly, Boyd's slider (I'll use the Statcast definition) has produced results that differ from what they've been this year. Boyd's slider has hit the zone less (without pushing his chase rate up, leading to more walks) and generated more swings and misses, but likely misses its spot more frequently based on its 20% barrel rate (leading to his increased home run rate -- Boyd's slider hadn't allowed a single home run this year before allowing two so far this month). Monitor Boyd's slurve going forward -- he should be able to maintain a high strikeout rate, but if he doesn't improve (or restore) the pitch then the increase in walks and home runs appears likely to stay (though probably at lower rates than Boyd has posted this month).
Ohtani went 0-4 with a strikeout against the Astros on Friday. Even as he's stayed off the mound, Ohtani has followed up his impressive rookie year with a solid sophomore campaign, and the 24-year-old took an .892 OPS into Friday's game. An increased ground ball rate has slashed Ohtani's power numbers (which are still strong and backed by a 92.7 MPH average exit velocity and 12.3% barrel rate), but his improved plate discipline profile has helped push him towards a batting average and OBP better than last year's. Ohtani has cut his o-swing rate from 32.3% to 30.9% while increasing his z-swing rate from 65.3% to 72.4%, leading to an increased contact rate and a decreased strikeout rate (Ohtani's strikeout rate sits at 23.3% compared to 27.8% last year). It's possible (likely, even) that Ohtani's approach has become more defensive -- he may be swinging at pitches in the strike zone that he wouldn't otherwise swing at with the goal of avoiding strikeouts, leading to his increased ground ball rate. Even with his increased ground ball rate, Ohtaini is still an upper tier fantasy hitter, and his declining strikeout rate should excite fantasy owners.
Sheffield allowed three runs over four innings against the Blue Jays on Friday. Sheffield was called back up from AA to start on Friday, but his role with the team going forward is unclear. In 12 minor league starts before being called up, Sheffield had posted an impressive 2.19 ERA with a 4.72 SO/BB ratio. Sheffied and people with the Mariners have credited a change of scenery and improvements in his mental game for Sheffield's recent success after the 23-year-old struggled in AAA, and the top prospect has certainly benefited from a more "normal" baseball in lower level ball as well. Overall, Sheffield is still the player that ranked 27th overall on Baseball America's preseason top-100 prospects list, and if he can carve out a consistent role in the Seattle rotation then he should be worth a roster spot in most leagues.
Thaiss went 1-4 with a double for the Astros on Friday. Thaiss has been a poor offensive player this year and took a .691 OPS into Friday's game. Thaiss boasts solid power and a valuable plate approach, but his poor contact skills and somewhat poor batted ball quality limit his immediate upside. Thaiss owns an 88.9 MPH average exit velocity and a 43.3% Statcast hard hit rate, but his xwOBA on contact sits below the league average mark, likely due to his 3.3% barrel rate and predictable batted ball profile -- Thaiss pulls the ball at a 55% rate. When opposing defenses shift against Thaiss (which they do 43.8% of the time), Thaiss has posted a poor .224 wOBA compared to his .353 mark (better than the league average by a healthy margain) when not shifted against. Still, Thaiss does offer an impressive plate approach that features a 21.1% o-swing rate and 72.3% z-swing rate, so even as his poor contact skills (14.1% swinging strike rate, 68.2% contact rate) push his strikeout rate up, Thaiss's walk rate should remain high. Overall, Thaiss will probably have to become a more complete hitter (either by improving his batted ball quality -- though his mishits are relatively low -- or beating the shift, or improving his contact ability) to become fantasy relevant, but his power and plate discipline should have him on fantasy owner's radar.
Lynn allowed seven runs over 5.2 innings with 10 strikeouts against the White Sox
on Friday. A sparkling 20.4% SO-BB percentage (12.6% MLB average, 14.1% career average for Lynn) has powered Lynn to the best season of his career (Lynn's had posted 6.1 bWAR entering Friday's game -- his previous career high was 3.6 in nearly 40 additional innings), but walks have been an issue over his past few starts as the 32-year-old had allowed 11 free passes over his last 17 innings prior to Friday's start. Lynn's walk problem has been driven by two primary factors: he's not throwing in the strike zone as frequently as he had been, and he's getting hitters to chase pitches outside of the zone less frequently than he had been. Of those two factors, Lynn's declining chase rate is the more significant and concerning issue, but both trends expose potential red flags related to Lynn's fastball. Although Lynn's fastball has generated as impressive amount of swings and misses lately (even compared to his full season numbers), it's been getting hit hard at a higher than usual rate, missing the strike zone at a higher than usual rate, and missing the edge of the strike zone at a higher than usual rate. These trends indicate that either Lynn is focusing on increasing strikeouts at the expense of increasing walks (which hasn't really worked; Lynn has struck out 17 batters over his last 17 innings compared to a 10.2 K/9 on the year) or that he's lost some command of the pitch. Lynn should still be an above average fantasy starter over the rest of the year, but his fastball performance will be worth monitoring.
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