Matt Cain did not have one DL stint in the first eight Major League seasons, but on Monday he landed on the DL for the third time in the past three months. He was placed on the DL with elbow inflammation related to bone chips in his right elbow. The DL designation was backdated to prior to the All-Star break, so it’s possible he only misses one start. Bone chips can move around at times, which causes inflammation, but they can also move back into a comfortable spot thereby allowing the pitcher to throw.
If I’m a Cain owner I’m worried. He has the lowest strikeout rate of his career and his OPS against (.725) is the second-highest of his career. Before the DL news I had Cain as a buy low candidate because his biggest problem was the number of home runs allowed and control issues coupled with bad luck. Despite reaching an all-time low in 2011 his fastball velocity has increased year-over-year to the point where his 2014 fastball velocity is the highest it’s been since 2010. His ground ball rate is the highest of his career (45.1%) while the fly ball rate is the lowest of his career (35.7%).
His biggest issue has been the HR/FB rate (13.7%) and the walk rate (8.7%), which indicate he has had control issues. When I look at pitcher I am more inclined to buy low on a pitcher with control problems and in-tact stuff versus a pitcher with good control and depressed stuff; the upside is higher.
When I heard the news my initial reaction was to sell Cain, but it’s possible this is only a blip on the radar and he makes every start the rest of the year, which is why I recommend buying him in specific circumstances. For example, if I was between third and fifth place I would buy low because if his command improves he could be a top 30-35 starting pitcher and help put you over the top and bring you a championship. His fantasy value is so low right now he’s worth taking a shot on.
I’m Not Buying Daniel Nava
After an April slash line of .149/.240/.269 (75 PA) Nava was optioned to the minors. After being recalled in late May he has a .306/.392/.352 slash line. Those numbers look very familiar to the ones he put up last year (.303/.385/.445), but I’m not totally buying his current performance.
The biggest difference between the slash lines is the slugging component (it’s nearly 100 points lower), which indicate he’s hitting the ball with less authority and his current batting average is more BABIP-driven. The image below shows his BABIP and well-hit average (WHAV). The 2014 numbers are his stats since being called up in May.
Another major difference is the distribution of hit types. The table shows a breakdown. Overall, he’s on a hot streak and it’s unlikely the batting average is going to continue. Other than batting average he doesn’t provide anything else as he doesn’t have any home runs, 10 RBIs and 13 runs and only one stolen base. He’s only rosterable in deep mixed leagues.
I caught a few innings of Cliff Lee’s start and the nice thing to say was he looked rusty. I had high hopes for Lee entering this start because the Giants offense has been struggling and Brandon Belt wasn’t going to be in the lineup. Lee only threw first-pitch strikes about half of the time. His fastball sat 88-89 mph, which was 2-3 mph less than before he went on the DL, his cutter 84-85 mph, and overall he had suppressed stuff. Based on what I saw I don’t see any team willing take him at the trade deadline and if you’re a Rays fan you should be more excited because Price’s price just got even higher. If I own Lee I’m not starting him until he shows some improvement.
Josh Reddick will be activated from the DL on Tuesday. In the past Reddick was a lock to play every day in right field, but with the emergence of Stephen Vogt, Brandon Moss showing he can play a good right field, and Craig Gentry showing he’s more than a platoon bat, Reddick’s playing will likely be platooning against lefties. I’ve been saying for a two weeks that Reddick is going to be traded, and if it does happen he becomes a sneaky play as we head into August. If you have been riding Vogt’s hot streak, it’s time to look for other options because he’ll likely be limited to pinch hit duty primarily.