This is starting to get a bit ridiculous, but as a Cubs fan I’m enjoying every minute of it! Dempster was dominant again on Sunday night as he allowed just 1 ER in 8 innings of work against the White Sox. He scattered 10 hits and walked just 1 while striking out 4 and ran his record to 9-2 on the season, including an incredible 9-0 at home. We’ve touched on the peripherals before and how Dempster has zero chance of maintaining this level of performance (0.79 Strand Rate, .219 BHIP%), but Dempster’s actually making improvements in his peripherals as the season progresses, which suggests while he won’t maintain “this” level of performance, he’ll be more than just a spot-starter (which was my original diagnosis). Dempster’s K Rate has improved steadily since the beginning of the season (.59 in April/1.07 in May/.81 in June) and his BB Rate has improved in each of the 3 months (.51 in April/.37 in May/.18 in June). With the decreased BB’s and improving K’s, Dempster’s establishing a new base-line that we haven’t seen before, putting together the type of line we’ve seen in years past in guys like Roy Oswalt. There is no chance he keeps up the current level of production but given these improvements in his command and K rate, Dempster has the chance to be a legitimate #2 fantasy starter. There will be gloomier days ahead for Ryan as he’s been arguably the luckiest pitcher in all of baseball to this point and he’s clearly a sell high candidate, but he looks more legitimate in June than he did in April or May.
Lannan threw his 5th consecutive quality start and made it 8 consecutive starts with 3 ER’s or less on Sunday by limiting the Rangers to just 2 ER’s in 6 innings. While Lannan’s results have been really strong, there are some significant warning signs to take notice of. Lannan’s current Strand Rate of 0.78 doesn’t coincide with his 0.59 K Rate and is actually deflating his ERA by about a run. His skills suggest that of a more of a mid-to-low 4’s ERA starter than the current 3.34 ERA His K Rate has also declined in each of the last 3 months (.78 in April/.57 in May/.48 in June). While he’s posting elite GB Rates (over 57%), he’s surviving on some well placed GB’s and strong DP rates. Once this reverts Lannan will settle in as nothing more than a spot-starting option in traditional formats.
Pence knocked out his 2nd HR in the last 4 days in what his fantasy owners hope is a breakout from a horrendous June in which he’s hit .203/.221/.392. Unfortunately, Looking at Pence’s underlying peripherals it looks as if this is what Pence is. He’s going to hit for power and challenge the 25 HR plateau but his high K Rate and lack of plate discipline will limit his batting average contributions to the mid .280’s and his spot in the Astros lineup along with his lack of BB’s makes him just an average contributor in Runs and RBI’s. It looks like last year’s incredible debut was a bit more luck driven than Pence owners would’ve hoped for.
After yammering on for months about Lincecum’s inflated Strand Rate and a likely rise in his ERA coming, it’s nice to finally see some of the regression. Nine of the seventeen base-runners Lincecum has allowed in his last two starts have found their way to home plate and as a result Lincecum’s ERA has risen just over half a run from 1.99 to 2.54. Outside the Strand Rate, which still has some room for regression, all of Lincecum’s peripherals are just fine. He’s just as good as he was last season but his ERA is about a run lower than it should be right now.
After a ridiculous start to June, Cantu has slowed the pace considerably on the recent road trip going 8-38 with 10 K’s. As Joe mentioned previously Cantu’s production this season isn’t that fluky. The power is legitimate as Cantu combines a good FB Rate with a violent approach that leads to solid HR and overall extra base hit numbers. What isn’t real is Cantu hitting anywhere above .290. With a K Rate approaching 20% and strong FB tendencies Cantu is more of a .270’s hitter who offers good power and RBI production. His lack of BB’s negatively impact his Run scoring production, but hitting in front of Dan Uggla has aided that a bit in the 1st half of this year. As Uggla cools during his typical August/September slide, I’d imagine Cantu’s Run numbers will come down a bit as well. Cantu’s a pretty legitimate .275-75-25-85 player, which means he’s a “bit” ahead of pace currently, but on the whole his production shouldn’t be viewed as unsustainable. For what it’s worth Cantu has a CRAZY home/road split going right now (1.003 OPS at home vs. .666 OPS on the road) and for some reason he’s had similar trends throughout his career (.853 vs. .702), so it’s worth paying attention to.