Daily Dose: Buy low for the second half

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While the baseball world pauses for the All-Star break, here are a
dozen players who fantasy owners should be looking to acquire with
their value low …

Scott Baker – Baker got off to a homerific start as he battled
shoulder soreness and inconsistent mechanics, going 0-4 with a 9.15 ERA
and eight long balls after four outings. He’s been his usual self since
then, going 7-3 with a 4.46 ERA and 66/16 K/BB ratio in 81 innings. As
an extreme fly-ball pitcher homers will always hurt Baker, but he
hasn’t served up more than two in a start since April 22.

Cole Hamels – On the surface it looks like Hamels has declined
significantly this season, going 5-5 with a 4.87 ERA after last year’s
3.07 mark. However, the bulk of his struggles stem from an
unsustainably terrible .348 batting average on balls in play that’s 53
points worse than his career rate. Once that number gets back to normal
his strikeout and walk rates are as strong as usual and he’ll be fine.

Howie Kendrick – Kendrick has plenty of flaws in his game, but
there’s no doubt that he can post big batting averages and when the
Angels demoted him to the minors last month it just made him
undervalued. He came back two weeks ago, has hit above .300 since
returning, and the 25-year-old career .294 hitter should post his usual
high-average, low-power, solid-speed numbers down the stretch.

Cliff Lee – He hasn’t pitched as well as he did while winning the Cy
Young award last season, but the difference isn’t nearly as huge as his
lowly 4-9 record would indicate. Lee has suffered from a severe lack of
bullpen and run support, but his luck can’t help but improve and his
record could reverse itself in the second half if he keeps pitching
like the guy with a 3.43 ERA and 93/33 K/BB ratio.

Ricky Nolasco – Much like Baker, Nolasco’s brutal start to the
season masks an otherwise solid performance. His secondary numbers were
strong even when the Marlins demoted him to the minors, and since
returning he’s gone 4-2 with a 2.68 ERA and 53/8 K/BB ratio in 47
innings spread over seven starts. Since the start of last year he has
the eighth-best strikeout rate for pitchers with 300 innings.

David Ortiz – By this point everyone surely realizes that Ortiz has
snapped out of his early slump, but with his OPS still at a modest .733
not everyone is aware of just how good he’s been while slugging .617
with 11 homers, six doubles, and 29 RBIs in 35 games since the calendar
flipped to June. It should surprise no one if Ortiz posts a 1.000 OPS
in the second half.

Alexei Ramirez – Batting under .200 through 30 games has left
Ramirez’s overall stats looking sickly, but he’s at .318/.378/.484 with
10 homers in 55 games since. Ramirez has already drawn nearly twice as
many non-intentional walks as he did last year and is on pace for twice
as many steals. Despite the early hiccups, by season’s end he’ll likely
be a top-three fantasy shortstop.

Alex Rios – Rios is on pace for 20 homers, 40 doubles, 85 RBIs, and
25 steals, which is better all-around production than he managed last
season, but his .262 batting average is a career-low after he hit .302,
.297, and .291 in the previous three seasons. All of which adds up to
an ideal buy-low candidate, as Rios was a top-30 outfielder in the
first half and has room to move into the top 20.

Jimmy Rollins – Arguably the largest disappointment of the first
half, Rollins had a .227 batting average and .642 OPS after batting at
least .277 with a .770 OPS in each of the past five seasons. Throughout
the struggles he still showed plenty of power and speed with 29
extra-base hits and 16 steals, but an NL-worst .207 mark on balls in
play doomed him. That should be closer to .307 after the break.

Max Scherzer – Scherzer was one of my preseason breakout picks and
has lived up to expectations with a 3.64 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 96.1
innings, but his 5-6 record leaves him undervalued. He’s starting to
pitch deeper into games and has walked more than three batters just
once in his last 15 outings, so the wins figure to come easier for
Scherzer in the second half.

B.J. Upton – Upton missed the first week and got off to a brutal
start as he came back from offseason shoulder surgery, but has batted
.276/.352/.453 with seven homers, 24 total extra-base hits, and 24
steals in 55 games since mid-May. He’s a good bet to show even more
power in the second half, and only Willy Taveras and Jacoby Ellsbury
have swiped more bases since the beginning of last year.

Matt Wieters – Don’t let predictably failing to live up to the crazy
immediate hype convince you of anything other than the fact that
Wieters is human. Owners who expected him to arrive in the majors as a
fully formed MVP candidate have been disappointed, but he’s quietly hit
.300 with three homers and four doubles in the past two dozen games and
is capable of being a top-10 catcher going forward.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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I’m taking the day off to go down to Kentucky to watch horses do horsey things (watch for me photobombing equestrian types on NBC Sports Network). Bill will be along later today and Ashley will be here this evening, but I can’t leave you without the recaps because that’s what I do.

Don’t do anything dumb while your mother and I are out. We’ve marked all the bottles. We’ll know if you’re lying to us.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Dodgers 5, Giants 1: It was 1-1 until the 11th inning thanks to Julio Urias, making his 2017 big league debut, and the Dodgers’ bullpen and Matt Moore and the Giants’ bullpen takin’ care of business. The Dodgers got tired of it being close in the top of the 11th, however, beating up on Corey Gearrin, Steven Okert and Hunter Strickland for four runs. Andrew Toles knocked in the go-ahead run with a single. A sac fly, single and a bases-loaded walk finished the scoring. The Giants wouldn’t have even scored the one run if it wasn’t for the Dodgers throwing the ball around.

Nationals 16, Rockies 5: The Nats came into Colorado and scored 46 runs in four games. Which, damn. They put up 11 runs in the seventh inning here, with Bryce Harper hitting a three-run shot. Trea Turner hit for the cycle on Tuesday, finished a triple shy of another cycle Wednesday and hit a double and two singles and driving in two here. Harper is hitting .418/.535/.823 with eight homers and 25 RBI. That’s a 59 homer, 184 RBI pace. I know Harper has a habit of putting up big Aprils and that injuries have derailed him in the past, but this is shaping up to be a really special year for this guy.

Cardinals 8, Blue Jays 4; Cardinals 6, Blue Jays 4: The first game of the twin-bill ended in spectacular fashion with Matt Carpenter hitting a walkoff grand slam in the 11th inning. They wouldn’t have even gotten to extras, however, if it wasn’t for Randal Grichuk‘s two-run homer with two outs in the ninth which tied it up. So much drama in game 1 it’s a shame they had to suit up for fame 2 rather than just go out for drinks. But they did play game 2 and it went swell for St. Louis. Dexter Fowler, Greg Garcia and Matt Adams each had three hits. Fowler hit a dinger. The Blue Jays are a total mess. But they’re not the only mess in the bigs right now because . . .

Braves 7, Mets 5: M-E-S-S Mess! Mess! Mess! Six losses in a row and 10 of 11. They’re not scoring. Everyone is getting hurt. Just a disaster. The last time the Mets were this screwed up was just after the All-Star break in 2015 and you know what happened then. Oh, wait, they won the pennant. Eh, let’s let the New York press and Mets fans freak out. Maybe it’s actually warranted this time. Who knows. All I know is that Kurt Suzuki hit a big three-run homer here and when the Braves make you look bad, you’re not living your best life.

Mariners 2, Tigers 1: Justin Verlander and Hisashi Iwakuma battled. Verlander battled a tad better — allowing only an unearned run in seven innings while striking out eight while Iwakuma allowed only one unearned run in five and two-thirds — but the Mariners got the win anyway. The go-ahead run came thanks to a Ben Gamel RBI single off of Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth. Can’t trust the Tigers bullpen in a close game. Ever.

Phillies 3, Marlins 2Jeremy Hellickson allowed one run over six innings as the Phillies win their sixth straight. Hellickson is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA on the year. Philly is doing OK right now, but if they aren’t in contention come July, he’s going to be a pretty attractive trade target.

Indians 4, Astros 3: Down 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, Francisco Lindor hit a two-run bomb. And I mean bomb. The thing was estimated to be over 450 feet. Corey Kluber struck out ten over seven innings. In addition to being one of the best shortstops around, Lindor is hitting .301/.368/.614 on the year and he’s on a 40-homer pace. That $100 million deal he reportedly turned down is gonna look positively quaint.

Yankees 3, Red Sox 0: Masahiro Tanaka tosses a Maddux. You do know what a Maddux is, right? In case you forgot, it’s a complete game shutout in which the starter throws fewer than 100 pitches. Here it was a three-hitter in which he only allowed one runner to reach second base. Chris Sale was no slouch himself, striking out ten in eight innings. He’s pitched great this year but he’s not getting any help. They’ve only scored four runs in his five starts. Boston has scored  only 13 runs in their last seven games. They’ve been shut out three times in the past seven.

Diamondbacks 6, Padres 2: Taijuan Walker struck out 11 and Chris Ownings hit a pair of solo homers. Yasmany Tomas had a two-run homer.

Angels 2, Athletics 1: I had a dream last night that I owed the Oakland A’s $30,000 in medical bills. Something in the dream made it make sense — baseball teams ran hospitals or something — and for whatever reason, my family had used theirs and I was responsible for the bills. My family, by the way, included Ronald Reagan, who was treated at A’s hospital. Insurance wouldn’t cover a lot of his bills because a man had come out of the woodwork claiming to have been his lover, and the insurance company had a right to discriminate based on sexual orientation. What I’m sayin’ is that a lot was going on in this dream and I’m a little upset with the A’s over it right now.

Oh, by the way, Ricky Nolasco allowed one runs in five and two-thirds and four relievers combined to shut the A’s out the rest of the way. The Angels scored both of their runs in the first.

I probably do need that day off, eh? See you Monday.

Masahiro Tanaka throws a Maddux

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You do know what a Maddux is, right? In case you forgot, it’s a complete game shutout in which the starter throws fewer than 100 pitches. Friend of HBT Jason Lukehart invented that little metric and, because Greg Maddux is my favorite player ever, it’s pretty much my favorite stat ever.

In the Yankees-Red Sox game tonight it was Masahiro Tanaka doing the honors, tossing 97-pitch three-hitter in which he only allowed one runner to reach second base to beat Boston 3-0. He only struck out three but he didn’t walk anyone. He retired the last 14 batters he faced.

Chris Sale was no slouch himself, striking out ten in eight innings. He’s pitched great this year but he’s not getting any help. The Sox have only scored four runs in his five starts. Boston has scored only 13 runs in their last seven games. They’ve been shut out three times in the past seven. They scored more runs than anyone last year, by the way.

The game only took two hours and twenty-one minutes. Or, like, half the time of a Yankees-Red Sox game in the early 2000s. Progress, people. We’re making progress.