Fantasy Baseball: Is it possible Asher Wojciechowski and Jose Urquidy are, you know, good?
Asher Wojciechowski and Jose Urquidy were unlikely pitching successes this weekend, but Scott White thinks they may have some staying power.
There's an account on Twitter, @OldTakesExposed, that uses 20/20 hindsight to shame those whose bold assertions were later proven wrong. No fanfare. No gloating. Just a simple retweet days, months or often years later.
It's cold. It's calculated. It's cowardly. And it's cracking its knuckles over this one.
You know that near no-hitter for Asher Wojciechowski on Sunday? I'm not sure it was a total fluke.
It's hard to imagine, I know. He's 30 years old, has bounced between seven organizations and entered 2019 with a career 6.64 ERA. If he was good, someone would have figured it out by now.
Unless ... he wasn't good until now.
Let's start with the stat line from Sunday's game. One hit in 7 1/3 innings. That's ... whatever. Hits -- or a lack thereof -- can be pretty fluky. Of course, he also had 10 strikeouts, which are less fluky, but you know, plenty of bad, non-strikeout pitchers have had double digit-strikeout efforts before.
Which brings us to the swinging strikes. He had 23 of them, which is the sort of number we lose our minds over when Blake Snell reaches it -- Snell of course being the major-league leader in swinging strike rate.
OK, but it's an isolated incident, right? Just a magical afternoon when Wojciechowski resembled someone truly dominant but still a grand departure from anything else he's done.
Except that two starts ago, he had 18 swinging strikes. To put it in perspective, Clayton Kershaw's season high is only 15. Wojciechowski's swinging strike rate in five appearances since the Orioles called him up would rank behind only Snell and Max Scherzer. In his past eight appearances, minors included, his K/9 is 11.5.
And then there's the matter of what he actually looked like:
The shape on that breaking ball ... na-asty. Those rising fastballs to Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez ... *finger kiss*.
I can't imagine with all the failure on Wojciechowski's resume that those pitches always looked that way. Maybe he just did a terrible job getting ahead in the count or didn't know how to put away hitters, but Sunday was clearly a different story.
Jose Urquidy was the other weekend standout with the microscopic ownership percentage. He may be an easier sell than Wojciechowski because he's not a 30-year-old minor-league journeyman, but he wasn't a well-known prospect coming into the year and bombed in his first two major-league starts, putting together a 10.50 ERA.
And then came this effort against a vaunted Rangers lineup:
While the difference in result is obvious, the difference in approach is just as much so. Urquidy's best pitch is the changeup, delivering a 23 percent whiff rate, and he went from throwing it about 15 percent of the time in his first two starts to 43 percent of the time in this one.
Just like that, we see how he had 12.0 K/9 (compared to just 1.8 BB/9) in the minors this year, including a nine-start stretch just before his initial call-up in which he had a 2.77 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 12.9 K/9.
Now, the increased changeup use may have been more a matter of circumstance than design. The Rangers stacked their lineup with left-handed hitters, and the changeup is most traditionally used against opposite-handed hitters. Case in point: Neither of Urquidy's two strikeouts against righties came on the changeup.
So while it's encouraging the Astros are giving Urquidy a start the next time through, instead skipping Rogelio Armenteros, he's not any more of an open-and-shut case than Wojciechowski is. Especially with the trade deadline coming up, his grip on a rotation spot is tenuous.
But the point is that in 2019, with offense running the sport, by the time a pitcher is an open-and-shut case, he's long been gobbled up. Low-probability though they may be, this weekend saw two pitchers showcase significant, game altering-type upside. If you don't have the roster flexibility, so be it, but if you do, you'd rather their next starts come when they're safely stowed away just in case the encore is as promising.
I'm not saying it will happen, those of you who delight in exposing old takes, but I'm saying there's a chance.
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