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One thing that's apparent even after the first weekend of baseball: There are some baaaaaaad lineups around the majors right now. Which is going to make it tough to figure out which eye-popping pitching matchups are real.
For instance, let's look at the Tigers-Blue Jays series. That one saw the following pitching performances Thursday and Friday:
- Jordan Zimmermann: 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 12 swinging strikes on 70 pitches
- Marcus Stroman: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 16 swinging strikes on 94 pitches
- Matthew Boyd: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 10 K, 19 swinging strikes on 85 pitches
- Matt Shoemaker: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 15 swinging strikes on 87 pitches
- Spencer Turnbull: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 10 swinging strikes on 91 pitches
- Aaron Sanchez: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 12 swinging strikes on 90 pitches
- Matt Moore: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 14 swinging strikes on 84 pitches
- Trent Thornton: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 10 swinging strikes on 75 pitches
That comes out to: 48 IP over 8 GS, 1.69 ERA, 0.708 WHIP, 53 K, 13 BB, 16.0% swinging strike rate
Now, individually, those players aren't without merit. Zimmermann is in the process of reinventing himself and had a great spring; Boyd has long seemed like he should be better than he has been; Stroman is a very good pitcher whose 2018 was ruined by injuries; Shoemaker has been very effective before, with one of the best splitters in the game; and so on.
But … does anyone really want to chalk up the lack of offense in those games to dominant pitching? Maybe time will show that every single one of those pitchers really is taking a big step forward, and all four will be Fantasy relevant. However, it's more likely that these are just two extremely bad offenses, built almost with the intention of being very bad.
And they aren't alone. The Orioles, Marlins, Indians, Royals, Giants, and Diamondbacks all have lineups that can be charitably described as "Somewhere north of hopeless." What does that mean? For example, we may want to take Jake Odorizzi's 11-strikeout performance against the Indians with at least a pinch of salt. Of course, you should always look under the hood to see if anything is there.
In Odorizzi's case, he spent the offseason looking to fix his mechanics, what he attributes his poor 2017 and 2018 seasons to. Odorizzi specifically talked in the offseason about using Rapsodo machines to tinker with his delivery, including making sure he was throwing his fastball with the right spin axis. Spin rate and spin axis are the key factors (along with velocity) that determine how a pitch moves.
With 15 swinging strikes on his four-seam fastball Saturday, it looks like that work may have paid off. He pitched in the upper half of the strike zone almost exclusively with the fastball, and the Indians couldn't touch it, despite below-average velocity.
Does it mean Odorizzi is a stud all of a sudden? No, of course not. Again, this is a terrible lineup outside of two hitters, and it's just one game anyway. However, this result did line up with Odorizzi's offseason goals, so it's something to keep an eye on.
Six players to add from this weekend
- Jeff McNeil (61% owned) – (Only-kind-of) Bold prediction: It ultimately won't matter whether Todd Frazier or Jed Lowrie are healthy. McNeil is going to be in the lineup somewhere.
- Trevor Richards (54%): At one point Friday, Richards fell behind Nolan Arenado, 2-0. He followed that up with three straight changeups in the strike zone, and Arenado swung through all three. How many pitchers can do that? (Pablo Lopez and Sandy Alcantara also showed signs of dominance for the Marlins against the Rockies, and are well worth adding to your roster. This is a legitimately interesting rotation.)
- Dansby Swanson (19%) – Swanson had a great spring, driving the ball all over the field after dealing with a wrist issue for most of last season. He slugged a homer Saturday, and has hit three balls harder than 97 mph in his first two games.
- Yandy Diaz (9%) - Diaz never really got a chance with the Indians, but he's started the first four games for the Rays, and smoked a homer off Gerrit Cole Friday. He has an intriguing mix of high exit velocity and strong contact skills, and even led off Sunday.
- Jeremy Jeffress (25% owned) – With Corey Knebel heading for Tommy John surgery, Jeffress has a good chance to emerge as the Brewers' closer, once he's back from his shoulder injury.
- Yonny Chrinos (12%) - The Rays didn't even use the opener for Chirinos Sunday, and he backed up their faith, with six strikeouts and only two hits in seven one-run innings against a stacked Astros lineup. He's got a hard, heavy sinker, and racked up whiffs with his splitter.
Winners and Losers from this weekend
- Chris Paddack – He lived up to all of the hype in his debut, striking out seven in just five innings against the Giants. He had 11 swinging strikes on 79 pitches, and was equally effective with the fastball or changeup.
- A.J. Pollock – An injury ruined a great start last season, but he's 7 for 17 with 6 RBI, 4 R, and two walks to one strikeout in four games.
- Matt Barnes – The Red Sox only got one save chance in a four-game set against the Mariners, but it went to Barnes. He's the guy.
- Paul Goldschmidt – Four homers in four games is a heck of a way to ingratiate yourself to a new fanbase.
- Willians Astudillo – Just let the guy play. In his first start, he went 2 for 2 with 2 RBI. He's a .368 career hitter over 100 career plate appearances.
- Ryan Braun – He's hit a lot of balls hard, and his new swing seemed to work Friday, as he clubbed a three-run homer. There's life in this bat yet.
- Would-be Aces – Jack Flaherty, Walker Buehler, Zack Greinke, Zack Wheeler, Miles Mikolas … They'll have better days ahead of them.
- Freddy Peralta – Peralta really is a one-pitch pitcher, and that trick just didn't work in his first start against the Cardinals. His margin for error is slim.
- Justin Upton – Upton is expected to miss 8-12 weeks with his toe injury. He's probably worth hanging on to, but this is tough to swallow.
- Hunter Strickland – Diagnosed with a Grade 2 strain of his lat, Strickland is going to miss a couple of months recovering. Chasen Bradford got the save Sunday, but there isn't an obvious replacement here.
- Daniel Murphy – Murphy is heading to the IL with a fractured finger; the only question is if it's going to be a few weeks, or longer. We'll find out shortly, but this is a disappointing start for a guy who has struggling to stay healthy with leg injuries in recent years.