Mound musings: Felix on a roll

BY foxsports • June 26, 2009

Over his last six starts, Felix Hernandez has a 1.00 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.

Three games against the NL West have certainly helped, but after back-to-back seasons with WHIPs approaching 1.40, Hernandez may finally be realizing all that potential, and it's easy to forget he's still just 23 years old. While his command could still use some improvement, his 8.68 K/9 mark is a career-best, and despite Seattle fielding one of the better defenses in baseball, Hernandez's BABIP (.311) has hardly been lucky. While his G/F ratio has dropped from a remarkable 2.67 in 2007, of the top-30 starting pitchers who have induced the most groundballs in 2009, Hernandez has the best K rate by a wide margin, which is the type of combination that could eventually lead to a Cy Young.

Quietly, Brad Hawpe has developed into a superstar this season. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a more overlooked hitter with a .900-plus OPS over the past four years. Sure, he's probably the worst defensive outfielder in baseball (-46.6 UZR/150 last season!), but his current .338/.411/.605 line more than makes up for it. And while Hawpe has certainly taken advantage of Coors Field, he's actually posted a .912 OPS while hitting three more homers on the road than at home this season. He's also shown marked improvement against lefties, with a .977 OPS. He can safely be considered a top-20 fantasy outfielder.

Speaking of Coors Field products, it's safe to call Billy Beane the loser in the Matt Holliday trade. While Holliday turned in a fine May, he currently looks like a league average corner outfielder, which is the same player he always was when outside of Coors Field throughout his Rockies career. Because he's continuing to run and bats in the middle of the lineup, Holliday remains a productive fantasy option, but it's highly doubtful Beane could get a similar package as Carlos Gonzalez and Huston Street in return right now. An excellent defender and terrific base runner, Holliday is no scrub, but he's also about to become quite expensive, and because of the change in economy and disappointing A's season, Beane may be forced to deal him soon, as his alternative (letting him sign elsewhere after the season and getting draft picks in return) may no longer be an option, as there's a real chance Holliday would now accept arbitration (which Oakland would have to offer in order to get compensatory picks) during the offseason, and his price would unlikely fit in the Athletics' plans.

The Dodgers have the best record in baseball and may very well not have one starter in the All-Star game.

I hesitate to recommend Homer Bailey, who has done nothing but disappoint when given opportunities in the majors, but the same could be said about Edwin Jackson entering 2009, and some pitching prospects just take longer to "get it" than position players. Since adding a split-finger fastball, which the organization had previously prohibited, Bailey is 4-0 with a 0.47 ERA and a 38:7 K:BB ratio over his last five starts. Finally junking the changeup, Bailey is also regularly working in the 96 mph range, so while I wouldn't necessarily start him Saturday against the Indians, I would stash him if possible.

With Carlos Beltran sidelined with a knee injury, Ryan Church is looking at a lot of time in the middle of the Mets' lineup. He doesn't offer a ton of power/speed potential, but he is running more than ever this season (five steals), and remember, he had nine homers over just 42 games before a second concussion ruined his season last year. Church has a strong .309/.381/.491 line in June, and he stands to benefit while finally getting some job security. There are worse options for those in deeper leagues.

I was high on Ricky Nolasco entering 2009, and through two months, he was so bad, a trip to the minors was rightfully in store. Sure, a crazy high BABIP was partially to blame, but that certainly didn't ease the damage he caused fantasy owners. With a 1.80 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and a 25:5 K:BB ratio over four starts since rejoining Florida, it looks like a nice second half could be in store. While his BABIP is likely to continue to go down, it's worth noting the Florida defense is pretty awful, so he'll have to deal with that over the remainder of the season, but it's safe to say Nolasco deserves better considering his current 3.94 xFIP. Obviously it's too late to buy-low, but hopefully frustrated owners didn't cut bait, as the 8.13 K/9 and 3.44:1 K:BB ratio are legit.


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