Francisco Liriano (SP - MIN): For all the crap we've given Liriano this year, Liriano was quite simply exceptional on Sunday. He had great fastball command something that has eluded him much of the season and it allowed him to set up his slider more effectively. As a result he had Texas hitters behind all day and didn't take long to finish them off. He needed just 97 pitches (64 strikes) to get through 8 innings, allowing just 2 hits and 1 ER (both of which came in the 8th inning), while striking out 9 and walking none. In addition to the great K:BB Ratio on Sunday he also generated 10 ground ball outs, compared to just 5 fly outs. It was a dominant outing on all accounts and it was the kind of outing that his owners had been waiting for all season. He's now posted a 29:8 K:BB Ratio over the last 26 innings and allowed just 4 ER's in those 4 starts. It's hard to feel like one outing can change your opinion on a guy, but Sunday's start was so spectacular from Liriano that it did alter my perspective. Coming into this week I thought Liriano was done and something was up with his arm. Now I'm wondering if he can consistently command the zone if the drop in velocity won't matter. While his stuff has been down this year, he's still yielding just a 12% LD Rate and keeping the ball on the ground at a rate near 50%. If he can throw strikes consistently, he's got a chance to re-coup the value owners expected coming into the season. He'll get the Padres at home in his next outing, one that owners will surely want to take advantage of.
Adam Dunn (1B/DH - CHA): It appears we're at the point that any signs of life with Adam Dunn are enough to get everyone excited. After homering for the 2nd time in his last 4 games, I'm seeing a number of Adam Dunn "heating up" headlines. Dunn is now 3-12 over the last 4 games with those 2 HR's and just 5-29 in June with 14 K's. Heating up? Really? Look, I want to see it from Dunn as much as anyone, while I noted many reasons for concern on Dunn early in the year, I also indicated that his track record warranted belief. I still believe there's reason for hope and certainly the 2 HR's in 4 games is a good start, but for me the "heating up" will come when I see Dunn making more consistent contact. His K Rate has been above 40% in each of the first 2 months of the season and is up over 50% early on in June. Certainly the ISO is going to be the most important stat for Dunn the rest of the way, but the contact is meaningful too. It's the difference between Dunn being Mark Reynolds and well, the Adam Dunn of old. I do believe the power comes back and very recent "success" is a good sign that it will, but the old Adam Dunn? I'm not sure that's coming back. I'm looking for another 16-20 HR's the rest of the way, but with an average in the .220's and .230's the rest of the way.
Brian Matusz (SP - BAL): In Matusz's first start of the week I noted on twitter some concerns about the dip in velocity Matusz was dealing with. While Matusz eeked out a W in his first start of the week, the peripherals weren't inspiring (2 BB's, 7 Hits on 11 FB's, 5 LD's, and just 3 GB's). The high FB and LD Rates in his last outing were consistent with the performance in his first outing @SEA. On Sunday it was evident that his strong performance in the first two outings may have been more matchups driven than the good skills we expect from Matusz. Matusz was tagged for 5 hits, 4 BB's and 4 ER's in just 1 1/3 IP before being removed from the start. Matusz was consistently 86-87 MPH again, which is 3 MPH down from where he worked last year and 5 MPH down from where he worked in the minors. I've noted before a 3 MPH dip in velocity sends off warning signals for me about health and with that in mind I won't be starting Matusz until I see a recovery in the velocity. I'm officially concerned.
David Ortiz (DH - BOS): Back in 2009 I made one of the more regrettable calls of my analytical career when I emphatically pronounced David Ortiz as "DONE". He had posted a sub-.300 slugging % through the first two months of the season and was striking out in over 27% of his AB's. Fast forward two full years later and at the age of 35 Ortiz is posting power rates in line with his age 26-28 seasons. Perhaps its because Papi's so damn lovable that this significant improvement in bat speed and power isn't met with skepticism about Papi's past, but for the most part he's avoided any suspicions. Looking at Papi's numbers this season the thing that stands out the most is his incredible improvement in his contact rate, which has jumped 7 percentage points above his career average up to 85%. As a result he's striking out in less than 12% of his at-bats, a number that is 10 percentage points below his career average. He ranks fifth in all of baseball in wOBA with a mark of .434, which would serve as the 2nd best mark of his career. How this is all happening at the age of 35, I just can't understand. But fantasy owners who took advantage of Ortiz's depressed draft value due to his lack of positional value have scored a huge value.
Jorge Posada (C/DH - NYY): Interleague play couldn't be coming at a worse time for Posada. Posada put together his 4th multi-hit game in the last 5 and is now hitting .500 in June (14-28). He's been able to cut down his K Rate in June, striking out just 3 times in 28 AB's and is posting an astronomical 32% LD Rate in the small sample. All season long I've noted that Posada's skills weren't necessarily in decline he just wasn't getting a lot of luck. His EYE remains strong, as does his plate discipline, and his LD Rate was right in line with past years. He was hitting a few too many balls on the ground and saw some deterioration in his power rates, but a .250 BABIP was exaggerating a lot of Posada's problems. The big issue going forward for Posada's value is the fact that he's become a platoon DH. The loss in opportunities against LHP is going to make Posada a 4-5 game a week player and ultimately effect his counting totals. We're expecting improvement as thr season wears on but Posada's fallen down our catcher rankings largely due to the decreased opportunities. We now rank him just inside our Top 15 catchers going forward, making him a solid #2 catcher in mixed formats. Owners looking ahead for this week may want to look for other options with Posada as the Yankees face 2 LHP and 3 interleague games in an NL park where the Yankees won't be able to utilize the DH.