Javier Assad (SP-CHC) blanked the Reds over 8 IP on Saturday, scattering 7 hits and a walk while striking out 7, but did not factor into the decision after Mark Leiter, Jr. blew the save. The 26 year-old righty threw 62 of his 98 offerings for strikes in the outing. Assad's ERA stands at a nice 2.69 through his first 87 IP of the 2023 campaign, but the other big numbers are not so pretty - a 6.9 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, and a 4.36 xFIP. Assad makes a living on contact, as opposing hitters have posted an 84% contact rate against him and he's limited the damage thanks to a 31% hard-hit rate. He rarely misses bats (7% swinging-strike rate) and his control has been shaky for most of the season. Assad has, however, shown some improvement since the All-Star break, as he did own a 1.91 ERA, 7 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, and 4.21 xFIP in 42.1 IP second-half IP entering Saturday's contest. He's now fanned 7 batters in back-to-back outings while surrendering just 1 run and walking 3 over those 15 IP, so one can't be faulted if they take a chance on him next week when he faces the Diamondbacks at home.
Griffin Canning (SP-LAA) took the loss against the Athletics on Saturday afternoon but was solid enough as he allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and no walks while striking out 7 over 6 IP. The 27 year-old righty threw 61 of his 89 offerings for strikes in the contest while surrendering a homer. Canning has been solid overall in 2023, logging a 4.30 ERA, 10.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, and 3.68 xFIP in 18 starts (104.2 IP). The gap between the ERA and xFIP does suggest that a 17% HR/FB in particular is inflating his ERA, but he does own a 15% HR/FB over his career. As usual, Canning's swinging-strike rate has been good (13%) while he's limited contact in general (73%), although his hard-hit rate comes in at about average at 37%. Encouragingly for fantasy owners down the stretch, he'd recorded a 3.65 ERA, 14.2 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, and 2.50 xFIP in 24.2 IP since the All-Star break entering Saturday's contest. He lines up for a turn at home against Cleveland next week and should be started there given his second-half performance to date.
Jake Burger (3B-MIA) had a day against the Nationals on Saturday afternoon as he went 2-5 with a pair of solo shots and an additional run scored. The 27 year-old slugger is now hitting .241 with 30 homers, 67 RBI, and 60 run scored, with a wRC+ of 120, across 441 PA this season. Burger has fanned a good bit (29%) while swinging-and-missing a lot (17%) and making contact at a well below-average rate (67%), but has made lots of hard contact (40%) when he's put the bat on the ball. He's improved in some key areas since the break, too, as he had recorded a .269 average, 23% strikeout rate, and 127 wRC+ in 173 PA since the All-Star break. He's widely available (including in about 87% of ESPN leagues) if you could use a power bat that probably won't hurt or help you in the average department.
Max Scherzer (SP-TEX) acknowledged after Friday's game with the Twins that he left his start after firing 6 shutout innings on 88 pitches because of tightness in his right (throwing) forearm. The 39 year-old righty, however, asserted that he was fine and that the move was precautionary. Team management later indicated that it was more of a "fatigue thing" so expect him to be monitored closely down the stretch. Although his 3.55 ERA, 10.5 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, and 3.92 xFIP through 25 starts (144.1 IP) might not be up to his usual standard, Scherzer just wrapped up a month of August that was his single strongest month of the current campaign, with a 2.64 ERA, 11.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, and 3.34 xFIP in 30.2 IP. Across the board, his peripherals are still good but not quite what they were in recent seasons, with a 13% swinging-strike rate, 74% contact rate, 31% hard-hit rate, and the 2.6 BB/9 all representing steps back from recent figures in those categories. Regardless, Scherzer's recent work with the Rangers and his overall body of work this season indicates that he's still got something left in the tank for fantasy owners.
Tarik Skubal (SP-DET) should be an excellent play in standard fantasy leagues for DFS on Sunday as he will take the hill against the White Sox. The 26 year-old is widely available in fantasy leagues (including in 80% of ESPN leagues) despite recording a 3.93 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, and 2.81 xFIP through 10 starts (50.1 IP). The ERA might be suppressing his fantasy ownership, but that shouldn't be the case as Skubal has missed lots of bats (13% swinging-strike rate) while recording a career-low walk rate, inducing grounders at a career-high 54% clip, and limiting hard contact to just 29%. The White Sox, meanwhile, rank 19th in the majors in team OPS (.719) versus southpaws, so it's not exactly a scary matchup for Skubal.
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