Notable pitching performances by Jon Lester, Cole Hamels and Danny Duffy.
We take a short trek to the port-side of the rubber in this week’s edition of pitching notes, tackling three left-handers with different pedigrees and assorted approaches that have each been very effective this season. Let's dig into the breakdowns.
A big and exciting moment for Raul Mondesi Jr. turned into 12 minutes of the worst experience baseball could offer. Let's slow it down a little.
On Wednesday, the Angels played the Royals. I should note that I did not watch this game live. The Angels aren’t very good, and the Royals aren’t very good. These are two sub-.500 teams, and one of them was on the way to being even sub-.500ier, so I did other things with my evening. But then I came across this tweet from Grant Brisbee:
Let's spend some time looking slack-jawed at Chris Young's season.
Chris Young has always been an oddity. For one thing he’s an Ivy Leaguer in the major leagues. He’s also 6-foot-10, but Young was never a power pitcher and his average fastball hasn’t topped 89 mph in a decade. Not particularly durable and frequently on the disabled list, he’s nonetheless managed to pitch 12 seasons in the big leagues and is currently signed to a multi-year contract at age 37. For that entire career he’s been baseball’s most extreme flyball pitcher, posting an absurdly low groundball rate of 26 percent, yet Young’s homer rate is barely worse than average and his rate of homers per fly ball is one of the lowest around.
Or at least it was, until this season.
After more than a decade of mostly successfully walking a very thin line as a soft-tossing extreme flyball pitcher, Young has seen those soft-tossed flyballs leave the ballpark at an alarming rate. In his most recent start Tuesday night Young allowed four homers in 2 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays, which is only tied for his second-most homers allowed this year. He also surrendered four homers to the Indians on June 5 and served up five homers to the Yankees on May 9. Combined in those three starts Young allowed 13 homers in 9 2/3 innings. This year 25 pitchers have thrown at least 100 innings while allowing 13 or fewer homers. Last season Jake Arrieta allowed a total of 10 homers in his Cy Young-winning campaign, during which he logged 229 innings.
The Mets face the World Series champs again, but their starter gets knocked out by a line drive in the first. Meanwhile, Belt whiffs against a position player pitching, and an inside-the-parker that technically wasn't.
The Tuesday Takeaway
The very first plate appearance of Tuesday night’s World Series rematch didn’t bode well for the Mets. Whit Merrifield led off with a comebacker to the mound that struck Bartolo Colon’s thumb, and after just four pitches, New York’s starter was out for the night.
The last piece of the Cueto deal to make the bigs might end up being the real prize.
The Situation:When Alfredo Simon pitching every five days is Plan A, virtually any other pitcher is an upgrade. Simon lost his rotation spot, Daniel Wright stepped in and now the Reds will summon Reed to pitch Saturday after the latter was optioned to Triple-A Louisville. Reed had to play the waiting game to avoid reaching Super Two status and should be in Cincinnati for the long haul now that the deadline has passed.
Background:Drafted out of Northwest Mississippi Community College with the Royals’ second-round pick in 2013, Reed stalled in his first two pro seasons as he fought his command. But after finding a more repeatable delivery, he was able to reverse his control issues and pound the strike zone. The Reds flipped Johnny Cueto for Reed, Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb at the trade deadline last summer; coincidentally, all three will start for Cincinnati against Houston this weekend. Reed put up gaudy numbers in the Southern League, capping a breakout season with a career-best 10.87 K/9 in eight starts for Double-A Pensacola. He kept a similarly impressive pace in five spring training games, joining the Louisville rotation after the Reds’ last round of cuts and averaging just under a strikeout per inning.
Manny Machado and Yordano Ventura take swings, Adam Duvall takes bigger swings, and Julio Urias finally does okay.
The Tuesday Takeaway
Trying to come up with a lede for a section about Tuesday night’s fracas between Manny Machado and Yordano Ventura is like trying to herd angry wolverines. Any attempt at humor will fall flat. What’s important is that what happened in Baltimore was stupid. Flat-out stupid.
Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain would be the biggest gets on this summer's market. Would a cold streak get the Royals there--and would the Royals plausibly be better off?
The Royals couldn’t have had much worse a weekend. The Indians stole the first game of the four-game set played between the primary contestants (for the moment) in the fight for the AL Central, scoring once in the eighth and once in the ninth to walk off with a 5-4 win against a Wade Davis-less Kansas City bullpen. Then, from Friday on, Cleveland made a much more forceful statement, completing the sweep by outscoring the defending champs 20-2 in three more games. The Royals woke up Monday morning in Baltimore more or less where they’ve been for the last few weeks: sitting in second place, among a cluster of four deeply flawed teams vying for the AL Central title. The only things that have changed over those few weeks are the identity of the team they’re chasing (the Indians’ rise has coincided with the White Sox’s fall), the quality of their competition (Michael Fulmer has established himself in the Tigers’ rotation, and perhaps stabilized it in the process, and the Sox just traded for James Shields to fortify their staff), and the length of their injury report.
That last one—Mike Moustakas hitting the DL for the rest of the season with a torn ACL—has me wondering a little bit. It’s too early to have this conversation, because right now, the Royals remain above .500, and in this American League landscape, even a team sitting squarely at .500 would have a fair chance to reach the playoffs. It’s not too early to have the conversation about having the conversation, though, so let’s have that once-removed conversation: If the next few weeks go one direction instead of the other, should the Royals explore trading one or both of Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer?