Chad Billingsley- LAN- Hot- Billingsley, besides having the most preppie sounding name in the majors, now has his first complete game to his credit. He was far more efficient than his last start, when he needed 113 pitches to get through 5 innings. Billingsley threw 3 fewer to go the distance against the Astros, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6 and running his record to 7-0 (3-0 in his 7 starts). His workload is troubling, as he will only turn 23 next week. Other than that, his indicators are favorable. His stamina has obviously increased. His K ratio of .94 is far above his numbers from 2006 and his BB ratio of .43 is significantly lower.
John Smoltz- ATL- Hot- Although he didn't strike out as many as in his last start (4 as opposed to 11) Smoltz still left people wondering, "Shoulder problems? What shoulder problems?"He needed only 84 pitches (with 3 times as many strikes as balls) to go 7 innings against the Giants and run his record to 10-5. Smoltz allowed 2 runs (1 earned) on 7 hits and 2 walks. The earned run was the only one he has surrendered in 2 starts (covering 14 innings) since the All Star break. Injury concerns are lessened for Smoltz (and perhaps I now have the record for most parenthetical remarks in a Fantistics blurb.)
Alfonso Soriano- CHN- Stats- Maybe Soriano and the Cubs were not the perfect match they seemed to be when he signed for the big bucks during the offseason. Wrigley Field has been the not-do-friendly confines for him as he is hitting just .246 at home after posting a .214 batting average during the just-completed 10-game homestand. Only 5 homers have come off Soriano's bat over the ivy in 199 at bats and he has only swiped 3 bases in Chicago. On the road, Soriano is still a force to be reckoned with. He is batting .354 with 11 homers in 189 at bats and has 10 steals. Is there a good explanation for these extreme splits? Well, it's possible. In 5 of the 7 seasons Soriano has been a full time player (including this season), he has performed significantly better in night games than in day games. This season is one of those 5 as he is hitting 38 points better (.320) under the lights than in the sunshine. It is also the first season when he has had more daytime at bats than nighttime. With the Cubs going on the road, Soriano's numbers will probably pick up in the short term. In the long term, it will pay to keep a watch on his day/night splits as his trends are not universal. When he flipped it in the other two seasons, his performance was just as extreme the other way. Last year, for example, he hit .319 in day games and only .257 at night.
Aaron Harang- CIN- Hot- Harang turned in an impressive performance yesterday, going 10 innings (the first NL starter to do so since 2005) and allowing just 1 run on 7 hits without walking anyone and striking out 10. Harang has been a workhorse the last couple of seasons and his overall numbers are impressive. He often does show some after effects from the more intense outings, though. Harang has followed up the 10 starts in which he has made fewer than 110 pitches with 7 quality starts. In the 11 starts where he has crossed the 110 pitch mark, he has followed up with quality starts 5 times. Yesterday he threw 122 pitches. It was the 5th time he has hit 120 or more pitches. Only once in the previous 4 has he followed up with a quality start. Do not be surprised if he has a rough outing next time but then bounces back to a solid performance.
Matt Cain- SF- Cold- Cain has lost command of the strike zone. The first four batters ran full counts against him, a large part of the reason why he threw 43 pitches in the opening frame. He ended up walking 4 batters in his 4-1/3 IP, making 9 free passes allowed in his last 2 starts, covering just 8-1/3 IP. Cain has only struck out 5 in that span, not sufficient for a power pitcher. Part of his problem may not be physical, as the lack of support he received may have greatly frustrated him as the losses mounted. Now, however, negative additions to his 3-12 mark have been his own fault. He needs to get his act together before he becomes a fantasy asset again.
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