Zack Greinke (SP - MIL): After a string of 4 straight consecutive starts I thought the buy-low window had closed on Greinke, but after a tough afternoon on Thursday perhaps the window is slightly ajar again. Greinke gave up 8 hits, 2 BB's, and 6 ER's over 5 1/3 innings against the Cubs. He struck out 10, as he continues to show substantial growth in his K Rate, entering Thursday's start with a K/9 over 11. Unfortunately while the great K Rate continued on Thursday so did Greinke's crappy fortune. Greinke entered the game with a .344 BABIP and out of 13 balls that Greinke allowed in play on Thursday, 7 of them landed safely for base hits (.538 BABIP). Greinke also entered the game with a career-worst LOB% of just 63%, a number that only got worse after 6 of Greinke's 10 base-runners were allowed to score. Greinke's been one of the least fortunate pitchers in the league this season. He entered Thursday's outing with a 4.69 ERA despite a stellar 2.52 FIP. While over time we'd strongly expect that gap to narrow with Greinke's ERA lowering rapidly towards his FIP, but on Thursday the gap widened as Greinke continued to pitch far better than his line indicates. He's arguably the best buy-low SP candidate in all of baseball right now.
Matt Garza (SP - CHC): Garza picked up his 3rd win of the season despite it being, perhaps, his weakest start of the season based on peripherals. Garza struck out just 3, walked 3, and served up 2 HR's over 6 innings of work. He finished allowing 5 ER's on 9 base-runners but was bailed out by a Cubs offense that supported him with 12 runs. Since returning from the DL, Garza's posted a middling 10:9 K:BB Ratio in his first 16 innings and has served up 3 HR's. I hypothesized when Garza went on the DL that his increased slider usage this season may have contributed to the elbow soreness and while we haven't seen a significant decline in Garza's reliance on his slider since he returned, the results have been drastically different. If you look at the entire season's worth of data Garza's stellar K Rate coupled with a high BABIP and low LOB% make him an obvious buy-low candidate, but with the recent dip in peripherals coming directly after a stint on the DL, I've stepped back from making buy low inquiries.
Kyle Lohse (SP - STL): Back on April 22nd I wrote a lengthy and detailed post about why Kyle Lohse's improvement in primary peripherals (K Rate, BB Rate) may be a bit misleading based on the swing data. I thought I made a compelling case, laid out the data in a concise manner, and did so in a clear enough manner that would lead a reader to understand why I was preaching caution. The next morning I woke up to multiple emails from subscribers (presumably Cardinals fans, or perhaps relatives of Kyle Lohse) indicating they thought little of my recommendation and that I shouldn't make such "baseless" suggestions without looking at the facts. Here I thought the numbers I was quoting WERE facts, apparently they did not qualify. I chose not to respond to the emails and instead waited for Kyle Lohse to regress and then I'd quietly have my day. As fate would have it, Lohse then posted a 2.20 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over his next 7 starts despite a 4.6 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 44% GB Rate skill-set that was good enough for an xFIP approaching 4.00. With Lohse's performance once AGAIN defying his peripherals, this time for a 7-start period I never nor will I get my last laugh. Because while Lohse isn't deserving of his 2.88 ERA, (note: assessment of deserving based on his numbers/performance, not his smile, charismatic personality, or dreamy eyes), he has it and if owners followed my recommendation they missed out on a strong run of production. Over the last 3 starts we've started to see the tide turn for Lohse who has posted practically the same peripherals (4.85 K/9, 2.16 BB/9, 44% GB Rate), but received drastically different results (6.48 ERA, 1.56 WHIP). It's not a matter of Lohse being a different pitcher, but simply a matter of his luck turning. Lohse entered last night's start with a .248 BABIP (career .302), 77% LOB% (career 70%), and 5.2% HR/FB Rate (career 9.8%). Lohse's true level of performance lies somewhere in between the strong start and the recent slump. His indicators suggest he's deserving of a mid-to-high 3's ERA and WHIP in the 1.20's. With a K Rate around 5.0, he's just a matchups option and should be treated as such.
Ian Kennedy (SP - ARZ): Kennedy was spectacular on Thursday night as he took advantage of a friendly strike zone and mowed down 10 Giants over 8 innings. Kennedy's always had good command but this year he's shown more willingness to attack the plate (49% of pitches inside the zone, compared to 47% last year) and as a result he's cut down the BB's from 3.2 BB/9 to 2.4 BB/9. He walked just 1 on Thursday night and with all the strikeouts barely left enough balls in play to run into any trouble. He allowed just 1 unearned run on 4 hits and that 1 BB and lowered his ERA to 2.98. His ERA and WHIP numbers continue to benefit from favorable BABIPs and LOB%'s, something that has been consistent in Kennedy's two years as a starter. His skill-set suggests his high FB tendencies should result in more HR's and an ERA closer to 3.60 than 3.00, but considering the similarity in his BABIP and LOB% rates last year there's some room for hope that Kennedy can continue to squeeze a bit more out of peripherals than he should. He remains a solid mid-rotation fantasy starter.
Aramis Ramirez (3B - CHC): A couple weeks ago on the podcast we delved in a bit deeper on Aramis Ramirez. When looking at Ramirez's statistical profile this season the first thing that stands out is the rather significant drop in ISO that Ramirez has experienced while significantly improving his contact and his K Rate. At the time I noted that while Ramirez's power outage is something to monitor his track record suggests he typically doesn't get going until June. Well since the calendar has turned Ramirez has racked up 6 XBH's in 53 AB's, suggesting the power is on its way back. With the extra power Ramirez has starting driving in runs consistently, racking up 11 RBIs already in 13 June games. While Ramirez is certainly in the decline phase of his career, he's historically got it going from June on (.490+ Slugging % in each of the final 4 months) and this appears to be the case again this year. At a very thin 3B position he should be a solid Top 10 option the rest of the way.