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The Tigers might have themselves another young ace. Now all they need to do is keep him healthier than they did Jeremy Bonderman.
Rick Porcello had his breakout game on Tuesday, tossing seven shutout innings and limiting the Twins to four hits and three walks. Better yet, he recorded 14 of his 21 outs on ground balls and another three on strikeouts, raising his season totals to 46 ground-ball outs and 15 strikeouts. That means of the 86 outs he has recorded through five starts, 70.9 percent have come via one of those means. Watch
Didn't think a rookie could make that kind of impact this quickly, did you?
I know I didn't. It was just two short weeks ago that I made the Bonderman comparison in Out of the Box: "Let's not forget that the last 20-year-old Tiger to make the leap from high Class A ball to the majors, Jeremy Bonderman, lost 19 games with a 5.56 ERA and 1.55 WHIP as a rookie." Of course, I followed that statement up with "but Porcello is a special pitcher and one who can't be entirely written off."
Here's an interesting thought: Though they weren't the same age at the time of their rookie campaigns, why can't Porcello have an impact more like Justin Verlander's first full year in the bigs? Take a look at how these Tigers fared their first five rookie-year starts:
Bonderman: 6.58 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, .368 BABIP
Porcello: 4.71 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 4.7 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, .250 BABIP
Verlander: 3.52 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, .225 BABIP
No, Porcello hasn't been quite Verlander-esque, but in that grouping he has been much closer in performance to the 2006 Rookie of the Year winner than he has the 19-game loser of 2003. At the time, Bonderman found himself in Detroit because of a clear lack of better options and no need to wait on the team's future; today, Porcello is in the Tigers' rotation both because he deserves to be and because he gives them a chance to win.
Expect a potentially rocky ride, as is traditionally the risk with any 20-year-old with no previous experience above Class A ball, but we're talking about a pitcher many scouts would have forecasted a future Cy Young winner. There should be more outings like this ahead, so long as he keeps the ball down as effectively as he has.
• Sticking with the rookie theme, Brett Cecil had an impressive major league debut, going six innings and holding the Indians to two runs (one earned) on six hits. He threw 61 of 96 pitches for strikes and didn't walk a batter. That's quite a change from the Cecil who racked up an 8.31 ERA and 1.73 WHIP in four starts for Triple-A Las Vegas to begin the season. He's at least now matchups-worthy, having been quite the strikeout artist in his minor league career (194 K's in 185 2/3 career innings), but be prepared for him to struggle against some of the more loaded offenses in the league. Watch
• If you're a Joba Chamberlain owner, no, you're not happy about the four runs he surrendered to the Red Sox in the first inning of his Tuesday start, but otherwise his performance was the precise reason you drafted him. He set a career high in strikeouts with 12, and retired 16 of the final 20 hitters he faced, giving up only two walks, a hit-by-pitch and an infield single during that span. Chamberlain has 20 K's in 18 innings in his past three starts, two against Boston and one against Detroit, while allowing six earned runs on 18 hits. It might not feel like he's improving, but make no mistake, he is. Watch
• The Brewers' mastery of the Pirates is nothing short of remarkable; they won their 17th consecutive game against Pittsburgh, the longest winning streak by one team over another since the Orioles won 23 in a row against the Royals in 1969-70. Notable: With Trevor Hoffman apparently unavailable after working each of the previous two days, Carlos Villanueva got the ball and notched his third save of the season. That the Brewers went back to him despite his having blown two of his previous three save chances when Todd Coffey was readily available says a lot about the pecking order in that bullpen. Watch
• Kenshin Kawakami absorbed his fourth consecutive loss in his return from a shoulder injury, and while his stat line of two runs in five innings might not sound so bad, a closer look reveals a few warning signs. It took him 113 pitches to get even that far into the game, an extremely inefficient rate, and he surrendered 11 baserunners, more than two per frame. I can't help but wonder whether he's truly pitching at 100 percent. Even if he is, he belongs nowhere near a fantasy lineup right now. Watch
• In that ugly 10-10 suspended game between the Astros and Nationals, one thing of note was that Julian Tavarez, previously considered a member of Washington's closer-by-committee, pitched in the seventh inning and served up three runs while recording only one out. He couldn't look further from being save-worthy than he has his past two outings (1/3 IP, 2 H, 2 ERs on April 30), plus Kip Wells also served up a run in 2 2/3 innings of relief later in the game. With Joe Beimel due back from the DL on Wednesday, the Nationals almost assuredly will thrust him right into the role. Grab the lefty if you're desperate for saves.
• The "Padilla Flotilla" was in full force Tuesday, as Vicente Padilla mastered the Mariners for eight innings, allowing but one hit and one run in a 7-2 victory. He has back-to-back quality starts, but those should speak more to the ineptitude of his opponents -- the Athletics being the previous one -- than his ability. Seattle, to note, has totaled 40 runs in its past 13 games against right-handed starters, and has a .696 team OPS against that side, 26th in the majors. (Keep that in mind, matchups-seekers.) Oakland, incidentally, ranks dead last in baseball in team OPS, at .644. Watch
J.J. Hardy, Brewers
It's about time Hardy contributed something, putting into perspective how poorly he had played the first month of the season. By going 3-for-3 on Tuesday, Hardy raised his batting average 28 points yet it remained beneath the Mendoza Line. He had four RBIs and two walks in the game, though, and has now hit safely in three straight contests.
Edinson Volquez, Reds
If there was any doubt that Volquez wasn't a one-year wonder, he sure has quieted his critics -- of which I admit I was one -- in his past four starts. With his eight shutout innings on Tuesday, he has allowed only four runs and nine hits in 27 innings in his past four turns, striking out 27 hitters in the process. Volquez thus far looks very much for real.
By winning their 12th consecutive home game on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers matched the major league record for wins at home to begin a season, previously held by the 1911 Detroit Tigers. Here's how magical they have performed at Chavez Ravine: They somehow coaxed five innings of one-run ball out of spot starter Jeff Weaver. Yes, that Jeff Weaver, he of the 94-114 career record and 4.70 ERA.
• Despite his batting .200 with a .551 OPS in his first 10 games for the Braves, then declining a requested rehabilitation stint, Garret Anderson was activated from the DL and immediately inserted into the cleanup spot on Tuesday. He proceeded to go 0-for-4, three of those at-bats coming against Livan Hernandez, and stranded three baserunners. One can only imagine how much of an upgrade he'll be over Brandon Jones, who was demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett to create room on the roster; it'll probably be minimal.
• A day after he pulled up lame with a hamstring strain, Jorge Posada was placed on the DL by the Yankees on Tuesday. That leaves the team with a catching tandem of Jose Molina and Francisco Cervelli, the latter promoted from Double-A Trenton to serve as a backup. With Molina, an Angel Berroa/Ramiro Pena tandem filling in at third base and Brett Gardner getting occasional starts in center field, the Yankees, at least until Alex Rodriguez returns, could have as many as three almost automatic outs in their lineup on any given night. Don't be so terrified by a Yankees matchup for your opposing starter.
• The Tigers' Carlos Guillen also landed on the DL on Tuesday, as he's suffering from right shoulder inflammation. That's great news for Josh Anderson, as he made his first start of the season in the leadoff spot and went 2-for-5 with an RBI. He'll play practically every day in left field while Guillen is out, and both Jeff Larish and Clete Thomas, promoted from Triple-A Toledo, should get some playing time between the corner outfield spots and at DH. Larish is worth a look in deep AL-only formats.
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AJ Mass: Is he finishing the year 25-0 with a 0.50 ERA? Not likely. Is 20-4 with a 2.50 ERA reasonable to expect? At this point, sure. But since he's already earned you 6-0, 0.40, that means from this point forward, he's 14-4 with, say, a 3.30 ERA. That's still great to have, but if you can deal for a top-10 hitter or a pitcher who gets you even 12-5, 3.50 ERA and a top-40 hitter, you're ahead of the game.
-- Full chat transcript
Brendan Roberts: Yes, I do. He's that good a hitter. Watch him for a game of at-bats. It really is a treat the way he works counts and has selective aggressiveness. Professional hitter, and a legit .300 guy.
-- Full chat transcript
Wednesday's fantasy chat schedule:
Tristan H. Cockcroft, 11 a.m.
Eric Karabell, 3 p.m.
• Let's get a Matt Wieters update: He went 3-for-6 with an RBI in a doubleheader for Triple-A Norfolk, raising his season batting average to .290. He has hit safely in 10 of 12 games since his return from a strained hamstring, though his .377 slugging percentage and a ratio of one strikeout every 4.3 at-bats suggest he's not exactly dominating the International League yet. Even if he does start tearing it up, his "slow" start should guarantee he'll remain in the minors until the Orioles feel he's safely outside the super-two arbitration range -- think June -- but at least he's making progress.
• Desmond Jennings recorded his sixth consecutive multi-hit game and ninth in his past 10, going 2-for-3 with a triple and three RBIs for Double-A Montgomery. He's batting .512 (22-for-43) in his past 10 contests and .402 in 26 games for the season, probably putting himself on the verge of a promotion to Triple-A ball.
For more on fantasy baseball's future stars, check out the minor league report Monday through Friday.
• Carl Crawford meets a familiar foe in A.J. Burnett, against whom he has batted .359 (14-for-39) and stolen 10 bases in 11 attempts in his career. On pace for more than 100 stolen bases -- a plateau not reached by any player since Vince Coleman in 1987 -- Crawford should be a fantasy category filler on Wednesday.
Check Daily Notes for more on Wednesday's games.