Jon Lester (SP-BOS)- After a string of tough starts, Lester was able to turn in one of his best starts of the year on Thursday night against the Padres. While he did not earn a decision, Lester did have a quality start allowing just one run on six hits and one walk while striking out five in seven innings of work. Lester lowered his ERA to 4.41 in the process, and his 4.09 FIP and 3.95 xFIP suggest he should continue to improve over the second half of the season. Lester has the ground ball rate to succeed, but his velocity has steadily decreased by 0.2 mph over the last three seasons. This is not too troubling, but it can help to explain the increased HR/FB ratio and decreasing swinging strike rate over the last few seasons. His strand rate of 71.3 percent still has some room to improve, and his 18.2 percent line drive rate is still a good indicator that he can improve his numbers.
Alex Rios (RF-CHW)- Rios went 1-for-4 with a strikeout, a run scored and a stolen base in last night's game against the Orioles. The stolen base was his fifteenth of the year to go along with his eleven home runs and .268/.325/.439 slash line. He struggled through most of June hitting .248/.306/.337 with just one home run. Owners should not worry about what seems to be somewhat of a decline. His 11.8 percent HR/FB ratio is very close to his ratio from last season (11.8 percent), and he has actually improved his walk rate to 7.7 percent. His batting average has taken a hit because of a 40-point drop in his BABIP to .296 even though his batted ball profile has remained almost identical to last season. His home run and stolen base total will rival his numbers from last year (25 HR and 23 SB), and he should be able to finish the season with a .275/.335/.450 type of line. The question remains whether he will traded by the end of the month.
CC Sabathia (SP-NYY)- Sabathia delivered a strong performance on Wednesday night in the Yankees 3-2 win over the Twins. He improved his record to 9-6 after allowing two runs on seven hits, one home run and three walks while striking out nine in seven innings of work. The left-hander lowered his ERA to 4.06, but his 3.92 FIP and 3.51 xFIP suggest he could be an interesting buy low candidate. Sabathia has shown improved velocity over the last few starts, and averaged just below 93 mph with his fastball in last night's start. His strikeout rate has dropped this year to 7.69 K/9, but his 10.8 percent swinging strike rate suggests there is room to grow. Besides the 13.8 percent HR/FB ratio, Sabathia is starting to look like more and more like the pitcher he was before his offseason elbow surgery. His HR/FB ratio should see some regression, and I do ultimately expect him to pitch to an ERA somewhere between 3.50-3.75.
Tom Wilhelmsen (RP-SEA)- After being temporarily removed from the closer role by Eric Wedge, Wilhelmsen produced a 1-2-3 inning on Wednesday night to record his seventeenth save of the year. He managed to lower his ERA to 3.68 for the season, but he did not record a strikeout in the outing. Wilhelmsen has struggled to record strikeouts this season, producing a career low 6.63 K/9. His swinging strike rate has dropped some to 9.7 percent, but I would expect that rate to increase in the second half of the year. His walk rate of 4.17 BB/9 is the greater concern, as he struggles to throw first pitch strikes (53.8 percent). Wilhelmsen has benefitted from a .206 BABIP, but that has been somewhat negated by his below average strand rate (64.5 percent). Wilhelmsen's ERA will stay in this type of range for the rest of the year, but his strikeout rate should improve to help owners in the second half of the year.
Eric Hosmer (1B-KC)- Hosmer went 2-for-4 with a strikeout, a home run and two runs scored to help lead the Royals to a 6-5 win over the Indians on Wednesday night. The home run was his eighth of the year, and he improved his slash line to .279/.330/.419 to go along with his seven stolen bases. Hosmer's seasons was looking like a complete failure at the beginning of June, but the first-baseman was able to rebound with a strong month hitting six home runs and producing a .303/.347/.541 line. However, I still have many concerns about Hosmer as we head into the second half of the year. During his hot streak in June, he still produced a 55.7 percent ground ball rate and has a 57.1 percent rate for the year. He should be able to make up for the fact that he can have 15 stolen bases, but this should be another season where he fails to reach the 20 home run mark. I bought into Hosmer's hype after his strong rookie campaign, but I am starting to worry that he his greatest comp will be to Lyle Overbay (with more speed).
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