What We Learned In Week Eight

Quick Note: After the post on Friday about Fernando Martinez, Tim Marchman emailed me to say the headline was a joke. Whoops. Sorry about that, Tim – keep up the good work.

We’re now at the 50 game mark for most teams, which essentially represents the first third of the season. We’re getting away from performances that can be explained using “small sample size!”, and starting to get to the point where contenders and looking to upgrade at the expense of rebuilders. What did we learn last week?

The Rays will be fine without Akinori Iwamura.

When Tampa lost their starting second baseman for the rest of the season with a torn ACL, the rumor guys went into hyperdrive in suggesting that Andrew Friedman would be in the market for a veteran infielder to help fill the hole. However, the Rays stated they would fill the void from within, and it seems fairly apparent that they’ll be able to do just that. The injury makes Ben Zobrist a full-time player, and given how he’s playing, that might make Tampa a better team overall. He hit .417 with six extra base hits and seven walks last week, continuing a breakout that isn’t losing any steam as the season goes on.

Maybe Kenny Williams should be looking for hitters?

After having Jake Peavy decline an invitation to join the White Sox, Kenny Williams has reportedly set his sights on other front line starting pitchers to bolster his rotation for the second half of the year. However, the guys he’s looking to replace (Clayton Richard and Bartolo Colon) have been just fine and continued to make strong cases for themselves last week with quality starts. Meanwhile, Carlos Quentin has landed on the disabled list and the team still has significant holes at 2B, 3B, and CF. A good starting pitcher would be nice, but perhaps Chicago should focus on fixing the leaks on the boat before they start upgrading the furniture?

Ervin Santana should still be rehabbing.

The Angels got two starts out of Santana last week, and they weren’t pretty – 6 1/3 innings, 19 hits, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts, 3 home runs – a 21.62 ERA supported by a 10.64 FIP. His average fastball is 90.7 MPH since returning from the DL, a far cry from last year’s 94.4 MPH average. Just take a look at his Pitch F/x velocity chart:


Even if his elbow doesn’t hurt anymore, perhaps sending him back to the minors to build some arm strength might be a decent idea?

Josh Outman‘s quiet breakout continues.

Heading into the season, the kids getting all the attention in the A’s rotation were Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill, but Outman is quickly establishing himself as a peer to his more hyped rotation mates. Armed with a mid-90s fastball and a devastating slider, he blew opposing hitters away again last week, striking out nine in 6 2/3 innings. In 73 major league innings since being acquired for Joe Blanton, Outman has posted a 4.06 FIP, and his stuff shows the potential for much more if he can harness his command. Blanton pitched well for Philadelphia in the playoffs last year, but you have to think that pitching starved Phillies wouldn’t mind having Outman back at this point.

Marco Scutaro is having a hilarious season.

Part of the Blue Jays strong start to the season was the out-of-nowhere offensive surge from Scutaro, who starting hitting for power and drawing walks like a clean-up hitter rather than a 33-year-old journeyman infielder. Given his historical performances, regression to the mean was inevitable, and last week, Scutaro drew just one walk and didn’t hit a single home run in 30 plate appearances. Instead, he made up for it by hitting .483. When one flukey performance wears out, he just finds another.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

11 Responses to “What We Learned In Week Eight”

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  1. brian says:

    Outman’s .239 BABIP is pretty glaring.

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  2. dbuff says:

    Ben Zobrist has been the more effective hitter but Willy Aybar is also seeing more playing time in Tampa. Pat Burrell’s injury has led to Aybar’s use as DH. He has 44 AB’s as DH against 50 as infielder. Madden has been hitting Aybar 5th in the lineup lately which is certainly a vote of confidence.

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  3. joser says:

    But the best thing about Outman — aside from having one of the greatest names for a pitcher in recent memory (I’m looking at you, Grant Balfour) — is his bitchin’ fashion sense.

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  4. redbird says:

    Wow…where to start:

    1) Since the WSox lost that ugly, franchise-worst 20-1 game vs the Twins they’re averaging 6.00 runs per game. Not bad at all.

    2) Arguably, the Sox’s gaping hole had been Alexei Ramirez’s anemic start. He’s raised his OPS 101 points since that 20-1 game.

    3) Though Fields has come up with a few clutch hits recently, Ozzie is ready to bring up Beckham’s 0.299/0.366/0.497 bat from AAA if necessary.

    4) The Sox recent superb pitching has been largely assisted by better outfield defense provided by Podsednik and Anderson; this is backed by your own UZR stats. Replacing their bats might be a wash if you consider defensive value.

    5) Guess how many runs the 2008 Sox had scored through 49 games? Answer: 218. They’ve scored only seven fewer so far this year.

    6) Guess how many fewer runs the 2008 Sox surrendered through 49 games? A whopping 43 less or almost a full run per game.

    7) Despite all the sad projections for the aging Thome/Dye/Konerko trio, all are now projected to exceed those projections. I should also add that old man Konerko is playing Gold Glove D this year (check out the sexy UZR he’s posted so far)

    Is it any surprise KW is looking for pitching, really???

    Next time, do yr homework please.

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    • Walter Jones says:

      I agree with redbird. Although Fields, Getz and the four-headed CF lagoon have been shaky at best, Ozzie Guillen/Don Cooper teams have long relied on pitchers who are able to go deep into games late in the season. Case in point: 2005.

      Although Colon and Richard have had a degree of success this season, and Contreras always could have the bounceback he’s pulled out of his butt each of the past few years, none is a “workhorse” in the Buehrle, Vazquez, Garland mode. Given how shaky Floyd and Danks have been, the lack of minor-league reinforcements and persistent rumors of Kenny trading from his veteran bullpen depth, I definitely can see why he’d look for a starter. And the Oswalt/Peavy tier isn’t the worst place to start, especially considering general market uncertainty.

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    • Teej says:

      Since the WSox lost that ugly, franchise-worst 20-1 game vs the Twins they’re averaging 6.00 runs per game. Not bad at all.

      That’s nine games. If you cherry-pick a tiny sample, you can say this about any team. The Sox have the third-worst wOBA in the AL and the fourth-fewest runs scored.

      The Sox recent superb pitching has been largely assisted by better outfield defense provided by Podsednik and Anderson; this is backed by your own UZR stats.

      2008 White Sox UZR/150: -3.3
      2009 White Sox UZR/150: -3.5

      If the outfield got better, I guess the infield got worse? If you trust 50 games of UZR data, the White Sox defense is slightly worse than it was last year. Fields has been bad at the plate and with the glove this year. Same with Getz. Both have been worse than replacement level. Those are pretty gaping holes.

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      • redbird says:

        You missed the boat completely. I was trying to show that the Sox have been slow out of the gate offensively (in part, I think due to the cold, rainy Chicago weather) but typically end up scoring a lot of runs since they have HR hitters in a launching pad of a stadium. Acquiring pitchers that miss bats and induce ground balls like Peavy and Oswalt is a smart. Pitchers of that ilk, by the way, are less dependent on defense anyway. And, again, KW is much, much more likely to resolve any real or perceived offensive deficiencies in-house (Beckham, Flowers, Viciedo, Danks) rather than on the free agent market or via trade. The likelihood of KW spending money or young arms on a “slugger” is downright absurd.

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      • Teej says:

        Who’s talking about what Williams is likely to do? Your point was that the offense is fine. You used a nine-game stretch to show that. It’s hardly convincing.

        I was trying to show that the Sox have been slow out of the gate offensively (in part, I think due to the cold, rainy Chicago weather)

        The Sox hit better in April than they have since. And if it was so cold and rainy, why were Chicago’s opponents able to score so many runs? You’re drawing conclusions based on some weird premises.

        The Sox have some big holes in the lineup. Meanwhile, they have the second-best FIP in the AL. Obviously adding a good pitcher will help any team, but that doesn’t change the fact that the offense is what has held the Sox back so far this year.

        But I guess I missed the boat.

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  5. phdave says:

    I wouldn’t mind having Outman back but not in exchange for a world series championship.

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  6. Doug says:

    It’s pretty comical how long Marco Scutaro has stuck around as a starter on my fantasy teams. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop… but it never does.

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