Tommy Milone (SP-OAK)- Milone saw his record fall to 3-4 on Tuesday night despite putting forth one of his strongest starts of the season. The left-hander allowed just one run (unearned) on five hits and zero walks while striking out five in seven innings of work. Milone improved his ERA to 3.13 for the season, and he managed to do all of this strong work on the road. Milone has relied on his impeccable control once again, but the real surprise has been due in large part to a career best strikeout rate (8.01 K/9). He came into the game with a career best 10.4 percent swinging strike rate despite seeing a dip in his average fastball velocity compared to last season (86.5 mph in 2013; 87.7 mph in 2012). However, Milone displayed better velocity in last night's start averaging 88 mph while touching 90 mph for the first time this year. I still have some reservations about pitching him on the road, but his improved strikeout rate should make owners more willing to gamble.
Michael Morse (OF-SEA)- Morse went hitless in four plate appearances with three strikeouts in the Mariners loss to the Pirates last night. Owners saw his slash line drop to .226/.288/.478, but he does have nine home runs in 125 plate appearances. Morse's power numbers have spiked from last season because of a change in his batted ball profile. After posting a career low in his fly ball rate in 2012 (24.6 percent), that rate has increased to 37 percent this season. While that has meant good news for his ISO (.252), his BABIP has dropped to .239 mostly because of a 16 percent line drive rate. More importantly his swinging strike rate has jumped to 15.5 percent (his highest since becoming a starter), which has caused his strikeout rate to jump to 27.7 percent. Morse has always been able to prevail with a high BABIP, and he should be able to get that number close to .300 over time. However, it might not be good enough to get his average above .250.
Junichi Tazawa (RP-BOS)- Tazawa was named the closer on Tuesday by the Red Sox, as the organization put Joel Hanrahan on the disabled list. I was surprised to see John Farrell go with Tazawa, but I happen to believe he is the best reliever in the Red Sox bullpen. Tazawa features a strong repertoire that includes a fastball that averages (93.8 mph) along with a strong splitter, curveball and occasional slider. He came into the came with 12.3 percent swinging strike rate, and he has only walked eight batters in his last 55 major league innings. Tazawa has shown a tendency to allow to many fly balls (41.2 percent for career), which could be a problem pitching in Fenway Park. However, there is no doubt he will rack of his share of strikeouts and his splitter could lead to a few more ground balls. I like his chances of remaining the closer with a strong performance during this period.
Roberto Hernandez (SP-TB)- Hernandez delivered a strong outing last night, but did not earn a decision after the Rays bullpen blew a 4-1 lead. The veteran right-hander allowed just one run on five hits (one home run) and one walk while striking out seven in six innings of work. Hernandez lowered his ERA to 4.66 for the year, while his record remains at 1-4. While he has continued to generate his requisite number of ground balls (53.2 percent), I have been impressed with his strikeout numbers over the first month of the season. His 9.08 K/9 would represent a career best, and he came into the start with a 9.2 percent swinging strike rate. The improved numbers have been a result of Hernandez using his change-up more frequently. He threw the pitch 36 times last night while getting 6 swinging strikes with it. His xFIP will continue to suggest he can pitch to an ERA below 4.00, but his career HR/FB ratio suggests (12 percent) that is unlikely. Hernandez can be utilized in deep leagues, but his improved strikeout numbers make him an intriguing option for spot starts.
Mark Trumbo (OF/1B/DH-LAA)- Trumbo went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts, three RBI and a home run in the Angels loss to the Astros Tuesday night. The right-handed bat has been hot of late, as he improved his slash line to .292/.361/.562 to go along with his nine home runs and 23 RBI. While owners know Trumbo can put together a 30 home run season, he has shown a better approach at the plate over the first month of this season. His 9.7 percent walk rate is a career best, and he has seen his chase rate drop to a 31.4 percent (a career low). The strikeout rate is still a bit too high for him to produce a .290 batting average, but I do believe he will finish with his best overall numbers in 2013. He has managed to produce a 19.9 percent HR/FB ratio in his 2 + seasons in the majors, and his 27.3 percent rate in 2013 is looking strong as of now. With his infield fly ball rate being cut in half, it is one possibility for the spike in his BABIP .(.345).
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