Welcome to Ronnie’s Run Down! This column looks at some fascinating matchups and facts that might peak the interest of the reader as that day’s games are reviewed. This is just my attempt at creating come compelling thought on any given day. There are nine innings in baseball, and nine points in my daily run down.
1. Jason Vargas is set to make his fourth start of the season Monday against the Miami Marlins. This couldn’t be a better time to be a Marlins hitter because Vargas is just horrendous right now. He’s struggling to record strikeouts, averaging just 6.6/9, and he is walking hitters at the furious pace of 5.1/9. His absolutely abysmal 2.68 WHIP has lead to a 13.86 ERA, oh, and by the way, he has recorded only one inning all season in which he has not allowed a baserunner. This should be a fun day for Justin Bour and company.
2. Ozzie Albies, if you read my stories, is one of the hitters I predicted would have a breakout year in 2018. Boy am I glad this kid started hot. Through 44 games this season Albies is salshing .277/.317/.581 with a NL leading 13 home runs. Those power numbers are sure to regress, but this kid can hit and his batting average and walk rate should rise as the season goes on. Today however is not likely to be a good one for Ozzie. He isn’t hitting righties well, slashing just .229/.283/.486 on the season. He faces a tough challenge in Philly right hander Nick Pivetta, who has struck out 53 batters in 46 innings with just a 1.13 WHIP.
3. Bartolo Colon is getting a little silly. He’s Winnie The Pooh in a Rangers uniform. We should be watching his legs kick after he gets stuck in a jar of honey, but instead we are watching this natural wonder pitch to a 2.82 ERA in 7 starts. He should be up against the wall in his 8th start as he faces a powerful Yankee offense, but the Bronx Bombers have struggled this season on the road slashing just .239/.306/.426. This should be an interesting matchup.
4. We have a bullpen showdown tonight as the Diamondbacks face the Brewers at Miller Park. In my last bullpen update, the Brewers topped the list and the Arizona squad came in at number 5. The Brewers are still right up there on the list sitting second in important categories such as WAR (2.9), K/9 (10.3), and LOB% (81.1). The DBacks are also holding strong in the top 5 with a Major League best 2.52 ERA and a very high 79.3 LOB%. Throw two solid starters like Zack Greinke and Chase Anderson into the mix and runs should come at a premium for this game.
5. The Chicago White Sox are in the midst of another terrible season, but every dog has his day and this may be there day. Monday the South Siders face Andrew Cashner and the Baltimore Orioles. Cashner isn’t having a great season, but this matchup is particularly dim for the 31 year old right hander. Only one other team in baseball has tagged Cashner for a worse WHIP (2.05) over his career than the White Sox. He has also never beaten the AL Chicago club in 4 career appearances against them, and has a lifetime 4.50 ERA at US Cellular Field. The White Sox stick, but today may be their day.
6. Miles Mikolas might look like he entered the game 40 years too late, but this year he is off to a very strong start. He hasn’t allowed more than 2 runs in any of his last 6 starts, which included a stretch of 4 games where he threw 28 innings allowing only 4 runs on 22 hits. He doesn’t have those gaudy strikeout numbers whiffing only 6.5/9, but the undefeated Mikolas leads the league with an incredibly low 0.9 BB/9. I would expect walks to be pretty rare today as the Royals have one of the lowest walk rates (7.7%) in baseball.
7. The solid-when-healthy Shin-Soo Choo is staring down the barrel of a strong matchup as he and his Rangers face Masahiro Tanaka and the New York Yankees. Choo has done well in his MLB career against Tanaka, batting .417 (5/12) lifetime against the right handers. Choo has performed better at home (.274/.337/.405) than on the road (.232/.327/.400), and Choo could be a viable sleeper. Tanaka has struggled mightily as of late, pitching horribly in the month of May; over his last three starts Tanaka has thrown only 16.1 innings and a 5.51 ERA.
8. Gio Gonzalez is in the beginning of another very good campaign. He has a 2.36 ERA through 8 starts and is striking hitters out at a career high clip of 10/9; he is also stranding a career high 81.9% of his baserunners. He seems to be on a role, but looks can be deceiving. His 3.72 xFIP suggest that luck has played a role in his hot start and he is more like the average Gio Gonzalez than his ERA would appear. Batters are also making a lot of solid contact against the Nationals lefty as evident by his 30.7 Hard%, a full 3% above his career average and his second highest total since 2009. Don’t pull the plug on Gio just year, his opponent today, the San Diego Padres, hit lefties terribly. On the season, the South Calli club is slashing just .229/.292/.408 against southpaws.
9. Speaking of San Diego, the Padres bullpen has made a strong showing in the month of May. They’ve stranded a second best 85.1% of their inherited base runner for the month and allowed a league best 2.36 ERA for the month of flowers. If you keep an eye on pens, ride high with this group led by pen ace Brad Hand (14.9 K/9, 0.93 ERA), Kirby Yates (13.5 K/9, 0.00 ERA), and Craig Stammen (9.4 K/9, 1.04 ERA).