Max Scherzer (SP-WSH) left Friday's start against the Giants after recording just one out (on 12 pitches) because of an apparent lower-body injury. The 36 year-old ace was in the midst of a rebound season, as he now owns a 2.21 ERA, 12.1 K/9, and 1.8 BB/9 through 13 starts (77.1 innings) after looking human in 2020 (3.74 ERA, 12.3 K/9, and 3.1 BB/9 across 12 starts). His 3.09 xFIP does point to a .239 BABIP (.290 career) and 89% strand rate (77% career) suppressing his ERA, but overall Scherzer's superb strikeout ability (17% swinging-strike rate), strong control, and ability to keep hard contact to a modest 36% clip per Statcast all work in his favor. Scherzer's fantasy owners will need to watch for news during the coming days and hope that he was pulled because of minor discomfort or for precautionary reasons. If he is able to make his next start, that one is slated for a home turn against Pittsburgh next week.
Jacob deGrom (SP-NYM) went 6 scoreless against the Padres on Friday evening, allowing just 1 hit and walking none while racking up 10 punchouts. The 32 year-old tossed 53 of his 80 pitches for strikes in the outing before exiting with right flexor tendonitis, a finger injury. A recent video that surfaced suggesting that deGrom may be doctoring baseballs raised concerns about how the scrutiny - which might result in him stopping any questionable practices, if he were engaging in them - might affect his performance, but this early return was encouraging, although marred by the early exit and injury concern. deGrom now owns a 0.56 ERA, 14.5 K/9, and 1.1 BB/9 on the year, with a 1.50 xFIP saying that although the ERA should rise he's still been really good. If he's able to make his next start, it's slated for a home turn against the Cubs next week.
Anthony DeSclafani (SP-SF) tossed a gem against the Nationals on Friday evening, a complete-game shutout in which he scattered 2 hits and a walk while fanning 8. He threw 71 of his 103 pitches for strikes in the outing. The 31 year-old is putting together a quality 2021 campaign, as he now owns a 3.09 ERA, 7.9 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9 through 13 starts (75.2 innings). The strikeout rate is certainly underwhelming for fantasy purposes, and his 3.94 xFIP does suggest that some regression could be coming - a .235 BABIP (.295 career) and 78% strand rate (73% career) are both suppressing his ERA a bit. But DeSclafani has induced worm-burners at a healthy 48% rate while posting a career-best 11% swinging-strike rate. Statcast shows that opposing batters have logged a 45% hard-hit rate against him, which is close to the 47% they recorded against him when he was still in Cincinnati last season. The Giants have a recent track record of salvaging starters (see Kevin Gausman and Alex Wood), so perhaps DeSclafani can continue to work some magic for his fantasy owners in 2021. He lines up for a start at home against the Diamondbacks next week.
Blake Snell (SP-SD) lasted just 4 innings against the Mets on Friday as he gave up 3 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks while fanning 4. He had tossed 4 strong innings before running into trouble in the 5th; all the runs scored against him came in that inning and he failed to record a single out. Snell threw 40 of his 71 offerings for strikes in the contest but did keep the ball in the yard. His previous start (7 shutout innings, 1 hit, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts) was encouraging, but his control issues and tendency to get hit cropped back up in this one. The 28 year-old southpaw now owns a 4.97 ERA, 13 K/9, and 5.4 BB/9 through 13 starts (58 innings) on the year. His 3.44 xFIP indicates that his .321 BABIP (.290 career), 71% strand rate (77% career), and 18% HR/FB (13% career) are all unlucky. And as much as the strikeout ability remains tantalizing, the walk rate - currently on pace to be a career worst - is very concerning. Finally, Statcast shows a 41% hard-hit rate, a career worst. Snell lines up for a start at home against Cincinnati next week.
Joc Pederson (OF-CHC) went 3-4 with a double, a homer, and 3 RBI against the Cardinals on Friday afternoon. The 29 year-old outfielder started the 2021 campaign slowly, but has heated up in recent weeks and is now batting .250 with 8 homers and 25 RBI through 190 plate appearances. Concerningly, he's been caught stealing 3 times while failing to swipe even a single bag. Pederson's 27% strikeout rate remains a touch high for him (24% career) and his .304 BABIP is a bit concerning given his .260 career BABIP. However, his 53% hard-hit rate per Statcast is his highest since Statcast was born in 2015, and he's logged a 20% line-drive rate that comes in north of his career rate (18%) while he's lofting flyballs at a healthy 43% rate. We should see a few more homers out of Pederson going forward, as his 14% HR/FB is a bit low (20% career). But I would be concerned that more power output could come with a lower average if his BABIP corrects to the mean.
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