10 Tidbits: Week of August 4th

I started this new column last week looking at 10 interesting things going on in baseball and giving my thoughts on them, particularly as they relate to fantasy baseball.

Zach Plesac is the Latest Product of the Cleveland Pitching Machine

We’re starting to see why Cleveland wasn’t worried about letting Corey Kluber via trade for what felt like a light return. Plesac and Aaron Civale have been excellent through four starts, joining Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, and Carlos Carrasco to form perhaps the best rotation in baseball. Plesac opened his season with eight shutout innings against a strong White Sox lineup that included 11 strikeouts and 0 walks.

He went to Cincinnati for his second outing and stood tall yet again with just a pair of home runs doing the damage in seven strong innings with 6 strikeouts and 1 walk. Nicholas Castellanos battled back from an 0-2 count to get it full and then hit a homer to left-center while Plesac battled back from a 2-0 count against Joey Votto to draw it full before the veteran lefty went yard in right field.

Plesac has dropped his fastball usage 15 points to 36%, leaning into his slider (up 5 points to 24%) and changeup (also up 6 points to 26%) with extraordinary results. He has a 32% strikeout rate, 2% walk rate, and he’s tied for the 6th-best Called Strikes+Whiff rate at 35% (min. 6 IP which yields 111 pitchers). Batters are 0-for-17 with 8 strikeouts against his slider.

Adalberto Mondesi Batting Low

After opening the season batting 2nd or 3rd for the first five games, Mondesi has batted higher than 6th just once in the last six games. He’s hitting just .244/.262/.341 with a 33% K rate and just 1 walk (2% rate). This is all with a .370 BABIP. He also has 1 SB in 3 attempts. This is a tough start for someone we already knew wasn’t a great hitter. This is the problem with typing up your speed in one guy, especially when that guy has a career .281 OBP. The margin for error with Mondesi is so small already and now that he’s in the bottom of the lineup, it could be tough for him to deliver on his lofty draft price.

Mike Yastrzemski is Dominating…

…and still has three games in Coors Field this week.

The 29-year old outfielder is up to .333/.490/.692 after hitting his 3rd home run on Monday night. He has 13 hits and 12 walks while batting in top 3 of the Giants lineup in all but one of his 11 games. He’s primarily been their leadoff hitter, with 8 games in that slot. He quietly put up a 121 wRC+ with 21 HR in 411 PA last year, too. I guess the Orioles just had too many good players to ever give him a real look from 2013-18 when he was in the minor league system.

Dylan Bundy is Leaning into His Slider

Sorry Orioles fans, this one might sting even more. Bundy has been fantastic in a pair of starts with his new team, posting a 2.84 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, and 27% K-BB rate in 12.7 innings. Like Plesac, he’s dropped his fastball usage substantially – down 11 points to 39% – with virtually all of those pitches going into his slider with a 10-point jump to a career-high 33% usage. The league is 0-for-15 with 10 strikeouts and 1 walk in 16 PA against the pitch.

Colin Moran is Smashing the Ball

Moran hit 13 HR in 503 PA and 11 in 465 the year before, but already has 5 in 35 PA this year. He is smashing the ball and pulling it a lot more with 65% Pull and Hard-Hit rates, not to mention a 0% Soft-Hit rate. Over at Baseball Savant, he’s 5th in Barrel Rate and xWOBA as well as 9th in Exit Velocity.

Obviously, he’ll smooth out a bit, especially his insane 56% HR/FB rate, but there are some process changes behind this including shifting from a leg kick to toe tap and diving deeper into the numbers (also in that same article). I think his roster rate needs to rise as this seems to have legitimacy to it. He’s only on 57% of ESPN rosters right now.

Hanser Alberto Hitting .429

Alberto used a .398 AVG against lefties (powered by a .435 BABIP) to hit .305 last year and we all expected a drop off this year as that BABIP smoothed out. I’ll speak for myself here (though I’m sure others would say they did the same), but I didn’t take into account the fact that his .237 BABIP against righties could absolutely rise and push his .238 AVG higher to counter some of those losses against lefties.

Thus far he’s hitting an insane and remarkably nice 6-for-9 against lefties with a comical .714 BABIP, but more importantly he’s hitting .346 against righties with the BABIP sitting just two points above that. He also has a couple homers, too. While these AVG-first pieces don’t always fit into everyone’s roster, it’s looking like Alberto is at least better than I believed based on his 2019.

Kyle Lewis Raking and Fanning

I had to put Lewis in the tidbits again because he’s still raking with hits in every game but one since last week’s article. He’s hitting .379 with his 3rd homer in the last seven games with a 37% strikeout rate, which has brought his rate down to 40% the year. I still don’t fully know what to make of Lewis. He can’t sustain at this rate with that kind of swing-and-miss, but I keep coming back to something in the Hunter Renfroe realm with extreme pop and a challenged AVG.

Matt Olson Sputtering Since Opening Day Walkoff Grand Slam

Olson was 2-for-4 with the aforementioned walkoff grand slam on Opening Day, but since then is hitting just .103/.316/.103 with 0 HR and 2 RBI. Should we be concerned? In a word, no. His exit velo of 93.2 mph is actually a smidge higher than last year’s 92.7, his xwOBA of .373 is 86 points higher than his wOBA, he’s striking out at a rate in line with a career level, and his walk rate is far and away a career-best at 23%. Stay patient.

Christian Vázquez is Raking Again

Prior to 2019, Vazquez had never hit more than 5 HR in a season only to smash a career-high 23 in 521 PA last year, powered by the rabbit ball and career-bests in all the standard hard-hit metrics. He has picked up where last year left off with 4 HR in 32 PA with similar batted ball output. He is firmly now a legitimate option even in 1-catcher leagues.

Tommy Milone has an 18% Swinging Strike Rate

I like Swinging Strike Rate, but if you need any proof that it’s not indicative of excellence by itself, I present to you Tommy Milone: 6th in SwStr% thus far. Few things scream “small sample caveat” louder than this. I feel like we did this last year when he opened with a 3.38 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and 14% SwStr% in his first two starts. He posted a respectable, but sparsely useful in fantasy 4.90 ERA in 101 IP the rest of the way. Maaaybe consider him as a spot starter in favorable matchups, but don’t get crazy.

We hoped you liked reading 10 Tidbits: Week of August 4th by Paul Sporer!

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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So you’re saying bringing in Tommy Milone doesn’t fully justify abandoning Bundy?! Poor O’s…
Also, thanks for the good news about Matt Olson. I was getting nervous.