Since being acquired from the Cubs, Jason Hammel has had two disaster starts and two average starts. Yesterday was his worst start as member of the Athletics. Six of the eight runs he allowed came in the first inning, all with two outs.
From the very beginning of the game it was obvious he wasn’t going to have control. He wasn’t finishing his pitches, which hindered his ability to hit his spots with the fastball and caused him to leave a lot of sliders up in the zone. After the first inning he didn’t allow a hit for three innings, but even in those innings his command was still loose; it wasn’t as bad as the first inning, but it wasn’t near to the level he showed at the beginning of the season. In the fifth inning the lack of command continued as he walked the leadoff hitter and allowed a home run (on a fairly good pitch) two batters later.
After the trade I said Hammel would outperform Jeff Samardzija and so far that looks like a really bad call. In his first 11 starts of the year he had a 2.78 ERA and in his last 10 he has a 5.32 ERA. I still believe he can turn it around because the reason he hasn’t been effective is a lack of command and not a degradation of his stuff. He still plays in one of the best pitchers’ ballparks in front of the best defenses in the majors. Eventually he figures it out and returns to a top 50 fantasy starting pitcher.
Masterson Joins Cardinals
Justin Masterson’s biggest problem this year has been left-handed batters. In fact, other than 2013 he has always struggled against lefties. This year he has been hit especially hard by lefties to a tune of a .935 OPS, 155 points higher than his career totals.
A big reason why he only limited lefties to a .698 OPS last year was he threw his slider the second most in his career and, most importantly, missed a lot of bats. His problem this year is he hasn’t been able to locate his secondary pitches, which means hitters sit on his sinker and when it’s thrown in a specific zone batters demolish it.
He’s moving from the AL to the NL, which is a plus, and he’s leaving one of the worst defenses in the majors to an above average defense, which is also a plus. He’s currently on the DL but is expected to be ready to pitch in a few days and I would take a flyer on him in 12-team mixed leagues. I would also try to acquire him via trade because you can probably get him for a good discount. He was extremely successful against lefties last year so it’s possible the impending free agent to be figures it out again and pitches like a top 30-40 starting pitcher. That said, I would not start him in his first start off the DL because I want to see how his stuff looks.