Everybody knows that Yu Darvish can pitch, but lately he's been going deeper and deeper into games and proving that he doesn't always need to throw so much filthy breaking stuff to get through innings. He's gone at least seven innings in each of his past six starts, and so far this season, Darvish has posted a 1.13 WHIP despite a .303 BABIP. His only two losses this season are to Oakland and Toronto, both in Arlington. He's getting more fly ball outs and has done an excellent job keeping the ball in the park, even though he pitches his home games in a batter-friendly venue.
While his strikeout numbers are still sublime (10.65 K/9), it's obvious he's learning how to be more economical with his dazzling array of pitches, the most effective of which has once again been his slider. Batter contact rates against him are slightly up, but he's throwing much fewer breaking balls and still getting plenty of swings and misses on his fastball, which isn't good for hitters. Continue to use Darvish in just about any situation where your team salary can afford it, and assuming there aren't similarly dominant pitchers like Masahiro Tanaka and Johnny Cueto available at cheaper prices.
Last week's Tuesday/Wednesday starter review
Masahiro Tanaka, NYY (@SEA)—Tanaka's Tuesday start was pushed back until Wednesday following the Monday rainout, which kind of torpedoed Chris Young's Wednesday start (I'll get to that later). But Tanaka was unfazed by the switch, winning his 10th game of the season and going the distance with 11 strikeouts and just one walk. He gave up two runs on six hits, but once again looked very professional even without his best stuff. I'm not fading him anytime soon.
Adam Wainwright, STL (@TAM)—Wainwright made his June 10 start, notching a win over Tampa Bay with just two Ks, two walks and seven hits allowed. He didn't give up any runs, but underwent an MRI on his elbow (which came back negative) the next day. Wainwright then received a cortisone shot for what has been deemed “tennis elbow" and won't make his next scheduled start as a precautionary measure. Stay away for now.
Yu Darvish, TEX (vs. MIA)—The Whirling Darvish improved to 7-2 following Wednesday's complete game shutout of the Marlins. The dominant righty held Miami to just six hits and issued three walks to go along with 10 strikeouts. As I mentioned earlier, he'll remain a top salaried pitcher with plenty of upside regardless of matchup.
Chris Young, SEA (vs. NYY)—Young wasn't just victimized by the Monday rainout that pitted him versus Tanaka, but the resurgence of Mark Teixeira, who hit a three-run homer off the tall righty in the fifth inning. He's struck out just 35 batters this season and has issued 32 walks. One of the main reasons I recommended him was the matchup, and that factor was dead in the water once Ma-Kun was slated to go against him.
This week's Tuesday-Wednesday
Johnny Cueto, CIN (@ PIT)—Cueto (6-5, 1.85 ERA, 109 Ks)was dealing his last time out, striking out 12 Dodgers in six scoreless innings, but his high pitch count prevented him from going deeper. Look for him to post another high K count against the Pirates on Tuesday and get another victory against Brandon Cumpton.
Dallas Keuchel, HOU (@ WAS)—Keuchel (8-3, 2.38 ERA, 75 Ks) is on a roll this season. In his past six starts, he's allowed just 37 hits and seven free passes in 54.1 innings—remarkable numbers for a largely unheralded starter. The Nationals can scrape together some hits and occasionally flash power, but I think even the surprisingly effective Tanner Roark might get overpowered by the Astros offense and give Keuchel the confidence he needs to notch his ninth win of 2014.
(Day) Chris Sale, CWS (vs. SF)—Sale has whiffed 68 batters over 59.1 innings in nine starts this season, and while the Giants have some high-profile bats (Buster Posey that can mash against lefties, the White Sox ace has still held 178 righthanded batters to a .171/.209/.272 line this season. Against lefties, he's just plain ridiculous, scattering just two hits (both singles) and two walks facing 37 batters for a .057/.108/.057 line.
(Night) Felix Hernandez, SEA (@ SD)—King Felix doesn't lose that much of his pitcher's advantage heading to Petco Park, though the Padres do have one or two capable left-handed batters.Still, there's just nothing exciting about the San Diego offense right now, and Hernandez has been especially difficult to hit this season, as he's raised his K/9 to 9.48 and is walking fewer batters (1.61 BB/9).
(Night) Clayton Kershaw, LAD (vs. COL)—The Rockies have been disappointing on the road and Kershaw continues to get better. Outside his disastrous outing versus the D-Backs, Kershaw has given up just 11 earned runs in eight starts and is striking out 11.55 batters per nine innings, while walking just 1.30 this season. The Rockies generally hit lefties well, but Kershaw is the new Sandy Koufax in L.A.
NOTE: Make sure you check the weather forecast and any changes in probable starters from the revised schedule. There's not much worse than a zero from one of your starters—and it's usually avoidable if you're prudent about the risks you're willing to take.
Hitters to watch/target this week
Oakland hitters: You just can't afford to fade Athletics hitters when they are facing the Rangers on Tuesday, though Wednesday it's worth avoiding them all against Darvish. Derek Norris is having a great season and Brandon Moss is officially the legit major league slugger that the Red Sox, Pirates and Phillies hoped he'd become in their organizations. Yoenis Cespedes has been making amazing throws, but he's bound to start producing more at the plate and makes a good buy-low candidate at his depressed price.
White Sox hitters: Just like with the A's, I won't be going crazy adding Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham to my lineups on Wednesday in a game that promises to be a pitcher's duel, but it's worth considering them and a few others on Tuesday against Cain and for the series with Minnesota.
Angels hitters: The Halos hit pretty well on the road (.256/.340/.408) and Mike Trout is really coming around offensively, which should fuel more production from Kole Calhoun, Howie Kendrick and Albert Pujols. Josh Hamilton is showing no negative effects from his time off to start the season, and I'm always ready to plug in dirt-cheap DH C.J. Cron at 1B against hittable left handers like T.J. House, who they face on Thursday in Cleveland.
Brewers hitters: Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez are both ready to break out with some multi-HR games, and it could happen in Chase Field against the D-Backs.And don't forget about offensive weapons Scooter Gennett, Jean Segura and the power-hitting Khris Davis. This is a lineup that can score runs in heavy, heavy clumps.
Yankees hitters: They understandably aren't getting a ton of play on daily fantasy sites, but with Carlos Beltran healthy and Mark Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury producing as of late, it's time to start stacking Yankees in their home park—where production has been pitiful to start 2014. The Blue Jays will roll out Mark Buehrle and a couple young power righties, but I'm banking on Brian McCann ending his homerless streak in this series and the Yankees lefties to smack a few out against Drew Hutchison. Brett Gardner is an excellent table setter and the middle infielders are cheap for their upside.
Other hitters to watch/target this week: All Dodgers hitters; Juan Francisco, TOR; Kyle Seager, SEA; Seth Smith, SD; Ian Desmond, WAS; Matt Carpenter, STL; Ian Kinsler, DET; Giancarlo Stanton, MIA; Starlin Castro, CHC; Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE; Drew Stubbs, COL; Ben Zobrist, TAM; Evan Longoria, TAM