It's hard to believe, but we're already approaching the quarter pole for the regular season. With that in mind, it's time to try and determine which hot starts are sustainable, and which aren't. Two former fantasy aces have gotten off to hot starts, and one pitcher's sizzling start to the season looks more believable than the other.
All PITCHf/x data courtesy BrooksBaseball.net
Son of former All Star Andy Van Slyke, Scott was batting .336 with eight homers and 25 RBI in 32 games for AAA Tucson. Those numbers put him near the top of the leader boards in the PCL (his eight HR are second behind the aforementioned Rizzo). He was 6th in OPS sporting a 1.034 mark. We all take PCL stats with a grain of salt due to it's rep as a hitters league, however Van Slyke has two things working in his favor for a chance to succeed at the next level. Pedigree and combination of injury/poor performance ahead of him. He was called up because Juan Rivera has hit the DL with a severe hamstring strain or tear. We we learned from players like Jose Reyes, or going a little further back, Ken Griffey Jr. hammies can take more than 15 days to come back from. The Dodgers still have Tony Gwynn and Jerry Hariston (two other players with pro fathers, coincidentally) to play in the outfield, but Van Slyke can also play first base, which means the only person standing in front of him is James Loney. The same James Loney who is batting .213. The same James Loney who has a May OPS of .668 the last three years. The same James Loney who has a manager threatening his playing time should he continue to struggle.
If you are in a league that is NL only, or deep with weekly lineup changes, I would make the add and take a wait and see. He was raking in AAA so we know he can hit, it's just a matter of how much playing time he is going to get. Him slotting into 1B as well as OF only helps him, and I would imagine his pinch-hit-rbi-single in his first MLB at bat last night made a good impression.
There is no questioning that Middlebrooks is a skilled ballplayer. He put up a .302/.345/.520 line with 18 home runs in 397 plate appearances at Double-A last season and started the 2012 season on fire, tearing up Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .333/.380/.677 line with nine home runs in 100 plate appearances. Since being called to The Show, he hasn't exactly slowed down...at all. Coming into today, Middlebrooks was hitting .381/.380/.952 (no, that's not a .952 OPS, that's a .952 SLG!) with three long balls in only 22 plate appearances (he doubled in his first at-bat as I started writing this).
First up, the Cole Hamels suspension. I'm not going to go into the reasoning for the suspension, that doesn't matter. I want to focus on the actual act of suspending. I feel that suspending pitchers is a joke. He has a five game suspension. So pretty much that means he pitches on an extra day of rest. It's dumb. it's not a punishment. If a position player is suspended for 3 or 5 games, he actually misses 3 or 5 games. A starting pitcher only plays once every 5 games, so in essence he is suspended for games he wasn't scheduled to be in anyway. If a player is going to be suspended from games, he needs to be suspended from games he is actually going to have an impact on. I'm not a lawyer so I don't know what kind of language the rule needs, or how to make the players union and MLB agree to it, but for a starting pitcher to be suspended and have it be an actual punishment, he needs to miss a couple turns through the rotation or something. Now, all that being said, I own Hamels on my 2nd place Blog Wars team, and I'm pumped that he will be able to pitch this week in the weekly lineup format we use.
Next Item on the agenda; Carlos Zambrano, another player on my Blog Wars team. I grabbed him with my 2nd to last pick in the draft. The definition of draft lotto ticket, he has paid dividends so far. This week (a two start week) is the first I am actually using him in my lineup. He has a rep for not being the most stable guy in the club house, but neither is his manager. The Ozzie and Carlos marriage is one I figured would work, and to this point everyone has to be happy. He picked up his first win last night, a complete game 3 hit shutout in which he struck out 9 Astros. It was his 5th quality start in a row. There is a lot to like about him this year. His K/9 is up from last year while his BB/9 are down. His ground ball rate is back to where it was when he was the ace of the Cubs staff from '03-'06/'07. His current swinging strike rate is the highest it's been since 2001. Looking at his Heat Maps on Fangraphs, he has the off-speed stuff working, keeping his slider in on righties and the change up low and in on lefties. Both pitches are avoiding the strike zone and batters are chasing. I haven't been able to watch any of this games, but I imagine it pitches are heading for the zone then breaking out of it forcing the batter to swing. At this point he has earned some trust despite the level of competition in his quality start streak. (HOU, WSH, ARI, SF, HOU again).
36-year-old Paul Konerko is off to a tremendous start this season, hitting .347/.426/.614 with six bombs, 14 runs, and 17 RBI. His value might never be higher.
Paulie has hit over .300 for the past two seasons and he’s off to a great start in 2012. However, it’s highly unlikely that he will sustain a BABIP over .360. The question is, when his AVG drops, how far will it go? Konerko has a rather high 19.4-percent HR/FB rate, yet a rather low fly-ball rate, a stat that has been trending down for a couple of years now. Another trend has been Konerko’s rise in line-drive rate, which seems to be continuing this season as well.
Last season, Konerko had a fantascit first half of the season, hitting .319/.390/.564 with 22 home runs. However, he faded big-tme in the second half, hitting .272/.385/.447 with only nine home runs.
Because of his age and the possibility that he will fade a bit in the second half as he did last season, it’s worth shopping him around. However, if the price isn’t right, he’s a solid hold.