It’s the MLB Game Day Recap Day 35 which means it’s time to talk about the year of the pitcher. To baseball fans of a certain age, the year of the pitcher in 1968. Famously, Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA and averaged 8.96 innings per start. Carl Yastrzemski was the only hitter in the American League who hit over .300, and he hit .301. The entirety of baseball had a triple slash of .237/.299/.340. There were also five no-hitters. The parallels to 2021 seem striking. There is no Bob Gibson and Mike Trout will definitely hit over .300, but the entire league is slashing .234/.311/.394 entering today. There have already been three no-hitters. Sure, the overall league power numbers are up, but the average and on-base look eerily similar. We may very well be seeing the second year of the pitcher.
John Means clearly owns this category today, throwing the first single pitcher no-hitter for the Orioles since 1969. Consistently written off in fantasy circles as a good pitcher on a bad team, Means out to remind the world he is the next Dallas Keuchel. Already an All-Star during his rookie campaign, Johnny Boy wants to add a Cy Young to his mantle. Starts like tonight are obviously history makers, but they’re also something else. Joe Musgrove announced he and the Padres were two to be noticed. Carlos Rodon’s shouted, “I’m back, never doubt me again”. John Means? His start yells to everyone that he is a pitcher to see. He’s no longer hidden behind the mediocrity that is the Baltimore Orioles, he’s risen above that. Good for John Means.
Freddy Peralta had to eventually break, and he finally had his first bad outing of the season against the Phillies. All five runs charged to Peralta were allowed in the first inning as Rhys Hoskins knocked in one with a single and Didi Gregorius blew the game open with a grand slam. Still having a clear breakout season, this was the first stumble for Peralta in 2021. I’m not sure if it’s fortunate or unfortunate for fantasy owners that it all came in one inning. It means that Peralta was “that close” to having another elite outing. It also means that Peralta still might be due for another dreadful start. Regardless, he’s still firmly entrenched in my circle of trust and should be started weekly with confidence.
Yusei Kikuchi has strung together back-to-back top-flight performances even though he was on the losing end of the John Means no-no. The owner of a gigantic negative discrepancy between his FIP and ERA last year, Kikuchi was a popular breakout candidate in 2021 and he finally looks like he’s turned a corner. Having allowed only three runs and nine baserunners across his past 14.0 innings, while striking out 14, Kikuchi looks like he is here. If he’s was cut early in your league, put that waiver claim on him ASAP.
Luke Weaver keeps underperforming and tonight was nothing new. He allowed six runs across four innings against the Marlins and frankly looked awful. At some point, his 2019 breakout year will become his 2019 aberration year. The centerpiece of the Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis trade, Weaver has never found his footing the dessert once lofty expectations were placed on him. Now struggling to a 6.07 ERA this year, fantasy managers can kick Weaver to the curb in all leagues as he simply cannot be trusted. Sure he might drop a gem in less than six innings once every few months, but he’s not worth the headache of trying to find out where and when that game will appear. Look elsewhere fantasy managers, this one is currently a lost cause.
The Emilio Bonifacio Award
Brandon Lowe appears to have finally risen from his April slumber. My pre-season pick to end the year as the number one fantasy second baseman, Lowe went 1 for 4 with a three-run dinger night against the Angels accounting for all the Rays runs in their 3-1 victory. The 1B, 2B, OF eligible Lowe, who we must mention pronounces his last name very weird, has now hit safely in six of his past seven contests. With six homers and 17 RBIs on the season, Lowe has done plenty to tread water while he waited to get his average up around .200. A playoff hero in 2020, expect big things from Brandon in 2020. I’m sticking with my prediction that he ends the year as the numero uno 2B.
The James Shields Award
We’ve already devoted sections to John Means and Yusei Kikuchi, so let’s talk about the night’s other Shields winners: Sonny Gray, Chris Bassitt, and Dallas Keuchel. Gray completely blanked the scuffling White Sox allowing just two singles to Tim Anderson and Nick Madrigal along with two walks. Consistently under drafted this offseason, this may be the first start in a long line of breakouts for Gray. Chris Bassitt had three straight starts of 6.0 innings allowing three runs, so naturally today he added one more scoreless inning in a loss to the Blue Jays. Overlooked by many due to his age and career mediocrity, Bassitt might be a nice buy for managers who need consistency. Dallas Keuchel went seven innings striking out one. You could say he’s the old John Means.
The Brad Lidge Award
Lou Trivino set off a classic relief pitching bomb when he entered the game in the eight against Toronto. Relieving the aforementioned Chris Bassitt, he allowed five runs while recording just one out. Originally the surprise choice to pick up saves with Trevor Rosenthal sidelined for the season, Trivino seems to have lost the grip on the ninth inning to Jake Diekman. Never an overpowering pitcher, this blow-up did not actually destroy his full-season numbers. His 4.15 ERA and 1.33 WHIP appear league average, while his in-game ERA of 135.00 and WHIP of 15.00 certainly are not. Diekman appears to be the ninth-inning man going forward, but Trivino could still see plenty of opportunities.
The MLB Game Day Recap is all about baseball. The year of the pitcher is a classic season that still has endless lore. We are now nearly as far removed from this season as 1968 was from the dead-ball era. The year of the pitcher led to a change in mound height in baseball, and our modern year of the pitcher might lead to another. An excellent idea that is certainly not original to me is to make the baseball time perfectly symmetrical. Move the mound back to the exact center point of the diamond, 63.75 feet away from home plate. We needed to reinvigorate offense in 1969, and we will need to do it in 2020. The year of the pitcher should always be a sign to make a drastic change. MLB, make it.