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Madison Bumgarner owners have reason to rejoice today.
By following up his eight-strikeout performance over seven two-run innings Wednesday with a nine-strikeout performance over 6 2/3 two-run innings Monday, their ace appears to be firmly back on track.
Corey Kluber owners had their turn Saturday. He went from being one of the most hittable pitchers in baseball over his first three starts to nearly unhittable against Tigers, striking out 10 over eight two-hit innings.
Johnny Cueto owners have been there. Michael Wacha owners have been there. Justin Verlander owners have been there. It's just kind of the way things go this time of year.
But I'm betting no pitcher's owners are breathing a bigger sigh of relief today than Chris Archer's.
1. Take a bow, Archer
It has been called the best pitch in baseball.
Chris Archer's slider. He lived by it last year. He has died by it this year.
When it behaves like a best pitch in baseball, throwing it 40 percent of the time (about twice as often as the average pitcher throws any offspeed pitch) makes sense. When it's not, this is how it turns out:
I mean, the strikeouts are great -- he's getting the movement with it still -- but when it's off target, like any other pitch, it'll result in some hits.
What happens to so many pitchers at the start of a new year is they take it easy in spring training and don't incorporate their full arsenals, so then they have to spend the first few weeks of the season regaining the feel of their offspeed pitches. We're led to believe the sky is falling when, actually, a progression is happening.
This is correctable. Archer can make his slider great again. But in the meantime, he seems to have found a workaround: his changeup.
"In the bullpen, it was feeling good," Archer said. "[Catcher Curt Casali] put it down a few times in the first inning, and I was like, 'Let's go with it.' Perfect situation where I was trusting what he put down. Got positive results, and now it's a legit weapon."
Archer threw his changeup about three times as often as usual Monday against the Orioles and his slider about two-thirds as often, and the results speak for themselves. He recorded 10 strikeouts over 6 2/3 shutout innings and, better yet, walked none. Clearly, the location was fine in this one, and he's a good enough pitcher that he doesn't need to live and die with his best pitch.
With that third pitch in his back pocket, we won't have to suffer through this regaining-the-feel phase anymore. And when he does get his slider back, watch out.
Now if we could only get Zack Greinke going.
2. Teheran turns it on
He may be of a lower stature to Fantasy owners, but Julio Teheran is the unquestioned ace for one of the worst teams in baseball and got back to pitching like it Monday against the Red Sox.
It was a lineup devoid of lefty mashers (no DH spot meant no David Ortiz, of course), and those are what have hurt Teheran the most. But Teheran's turnaround didn't look like some matchups-related gimmick to me. For the first time all season, he was throwing as hard as he should, consistently hitting 92-93 mph with his fastball after averaging about 90 over his first four starts. In fact, his velocity was up on all of his pitches, according to BrooksBaseball.net.
Despite allowing just one earned run, Teheran still took the loss, bringing him to 0-3. And that's going to be a problem pitching for this Braves team. Shelby Miller went 6-17 for them last year, remember, despite a 3.02 ERA. But Teheran himself went 11-8, and if he continues to pitch like he should, poor run support doesn't have to be the story of his season.
If nothing else, I'm convinced he's a pitcher you want to keep around after being on the verge of dropping him just a few days ago.
Yes, Zack Greinke was terrible again Monday, allowing seven earned runs over 6 2/3 innings, but particularly if you play in a Head-to-Head points league, you may not have noticed.
That's because he got the win, and that's because the Diamondbacks lineup is firing on all cylinders right now. Take a look:
And that's not even mentioning Paul Goldschmdit's two home runs and 10 walks over his last five games because we all know he's superhuman. But does he have company in the absence of A.J. Pollock?
The most convincing of those performances to me are those of Welington Castillo and Yasmany Tomas -- and by convincing, I mean I'm convinced they both have middle-of-the-order power.
I couldn't say that for Castillo before the season, which is why I ranked him only 18th at catcher, but seeing his monster power production with the Diamondbacks in the second half last year carry over to this year, I'm thinking he's a top-12 catcher, walks be darned.
Tomas profiled as a power hitter coming over from Cuba, so while I don't know what happened to him last year, the fact he's on pace for 31 home runs and 46 doubles doesn't seem out of line to me even though I expect both of those paces slow some (law of averages, you know). Maybe he'll be what I keep hoping Jorge Soler will be.
I'm still on the fence with Segura. At a position as thin as shortstop, it doesn't pay to play the skeptic except in a trade scenario, so I'll keep my fingers crossed. Prior to homering and doubling Monday, though, he had just two extra-base hits in his previous 14 games, batting .270 with a .620 OPS during that stretch. That's close to the Segura we saw in 2014 and 2015.
Drury would be interesting if he played every day, and he's getting pretty close as a super utility player, bouncing from third base to second base to left field to right field. He certainly bears watching. Owings is the least interesting to me, especially since he's not offering as much power as the others.
4. Let Aledmys play
To this point, Jeremy Hazelbaker has been the most off-the-wall name to contribute in Fantasy, but another Cardinal, Aledmys Diaz, may be the second-most.
And of the two, he looks like he could have more staying power.
Let's address the obvious first: He's 11 for 15 with one home run and two doubles over his past four games, with that home run coming at San Diego Sunday:
It puts him on pace for 26 homers and 68 doubles overall, which, looking at his minor-league track record, is out of character.
But the year-by-year breakdown doesn't tell the whole story. Month-by-month comes a little closer, but I'm going to use July 10, Diaz's first game since he was designated for assignment -- ousted from the 40-man roster in a vote of no-confidence -- as the turning point. From that point forward, he hit .337 with 10 home runs and a .986 OPS in 178 at-bats.
His ISO (which is like slugging percentage but with only the extra-base hits -- no singles) was .247. Paul Goldschmidt's for all of 2015 was .249.
Just for good measure, Diaz went on to hit .315 with four home runs and a .987 OPS over 73 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League. He has power, and with only three strikeouts in 54 at-bats this year, he makes enough contact to get the most out of it.
He's no defensive whiz at shortstop, but the more he proves himself with the bat, the more Ruben Tejada will become an afterthought. And I think Diaz is good enough to make Jhonny Peralta, who's probably out another two months with a torn thumb ligament, the same.
If it doesn't pay to play the skeptic with Segura, I could say the same for Diaz, and if not for the playing time concerns, I might like him even more.
5. Flamethrowers get results
One quality that Nathan Eovaldi and Kevin Gausman have shared during their mostly lackluster careers is that they both throw ridiculously hard, ranking among the best in baseball in pure velocity.
But at the highest level, velocity alone doesn't cut it. Quite simply, they're not missing the bats they should. They both did Monday, though.
I'm not sure which of the two excites me more. Gausman has less of a track record, which in this case is a good thing, but this was his season debut and first start back from shoulder tendinitis. Again, it means he hasn't let me down yet, but has Eovaldi, really?
OK, so yeah, he entered this start with a 6.11 ERA, which made me as dismissive as usual, but his six strikeouts in this start were actually his fewest in any start this season. He has 28 over his 24 2/3 innings of work and just no-hit the Rangers over his first six innings Monday, relying more than ever on the splitter that he only added a year ago. That pitch may finally be making a difference. If hitters can't sit on Eovaldi's fastball, won't it be more effective? Aren't we already seeing it?
I think I'd prioritize Eovaldi over Gausman on the waiver wire right now, but I'm intrigued by both. If you already added them for their two starts this week, you might want to consider them a more permanent solution.