Nothing makes fantasy owners more excited than a pitcher with K-binges. Every time a pitcher flashes a huge K rate with sub-par ERAs and WHIPs, everyone goes rushing in drafts the following year trying to pick them up.
Think about it. Max Scherzer is still got everyone teeming with excitement despite his 5.17 ERA and Yovani Gallardo still can’t get it all together, yet is always big haul on draft day. While chicks dig the longball, fantasy owners dig the K.
So where does that put a guy like Henderson Alvarez? A career 3.97 K/per nine guy, but a 3.73 career ERA and 1.22 career WHIP in two short seasons with the Blue Jays had a lot of experts slapping on a big sleeper label. Alvarez started the year hot with three wins in his first four, sporting a 2.61 ERA, but he hasn’t won since, giving up 4 or more ERs in four of his last five starts.
Alvarez isn’t exactly a guy that is expected to have a huge fantasy impact in shallower mixed leagues, but I am interested to see how he looks after injuries have ravaged the Blue Jays rotation, claiming Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, and Drew Hutchinson within a week of each other. Alvarez is suddenly thrown into a top-of-the-rotation role, and I’m interested to see how he takes to the weight bestowed on his shoulders.
Here’s how he looked in last night’s interleague bout against the Brewers:
First Inning: After a leadoff home run to give him an early run of support, Alvarez’s first pitch is a 92-MPH fastball high to leadoff man Norichika Aoki. He falls behind 2-1, but the next one is bunted down the first base line and Alvarez fields it well, one down. Alvarez is right back in the zone with a 91-MPH fastball that sunk a good 6-inches to Nyjer Morgan. You can see how he is able to get so many outs with contact with that sinking stuff. The next pitch is virtually in the same spot, but doesn’t quite sink as much, and the 93-MPH fastball is slapped up the gap for a single. Alvarez starts Ryan Braun with a fastball that’s tapped foul, then checks twice on Morgan, flashing a pretty solid pickoff move. Going to be tough to run on him. The 0-1 is then muscled to left for a single, runners at first and second now. Alvarez quickly falls behind Aramis Ramirez 2-0, then gets a nice 2-seam fastball in there, 2-1. It’s another sinking 93-MPH fastball dipping low, then the same pitch at 94-MPH and it’s a walk. Bases loaded. Alvarez’s first pitch to Corey Hart is a tad low and outside, 1-0. The second pitch is laced opposite field, but it cuts foul, 1-1. The next pitch is flied out lazily to Jose Bautista in shallow right, and with Joey Bat’s strong arm, Morgan is unable to tag for home. Big out there for Alvarez, two down. The first pitch to Rickie Weeks is an 83-MPH slider staying on the plate for a strike, but a 94-MPH fastball is off the plate, 1-1. Alvarez has better velocity than I imagined, and it breaks down pretty sharply. Not that bad of an arsenal. Now 2-1, Alvarez hangs an 85-MPH slider in the middle of the plate, but Weeks fouls it off. The 2-2 is another 94-MPH fastball that cut in and low to Weeks, full count. The payoff pitch is a 94-MPH fastball that stays straight and Weeks slaps it up the gap, scoring Braun and Morgan; Ramirez is thrown out at third, inning over. Tough first inning there, giving up a two-run single on a full count, but it could have been worse.
Second Inning: Alvarez’s first pitch of the 2nd is a 92-MPH fastball to George Kottaras, just outside, 1-0. Alvarez works it back to 1-2 with a steady diet of fastballs; the next one is belted opposite field to left, but, even though Rajai Davis was playing short, he’s able to run it down on the fly, one down. Alvarez goes down 1-0 okon Maysonet , but then a pair of nice 83 then 86-MPH sliders get him up 1-2. However, the next pitch is an 87-MPH hanger that stayed on a tee for Maysonet, who belts to deep left center for a double. A really bad hanger there, and Alvarez is having trouble with consistently throwing quality sliders. The first pitch to Randy Wolf is then roped right past shortstop for a single, runners at first and third. Alvarez starts Aoki with a high hanging slider, 1-0. Aoki is showing bunt; the Brewers love the suicide squeeze. And of course, the next one is bunted safely down and Alvarez tries to scoop and toss to home, but the ball runs under his glove. It’s scored a bunt single RBI, a tough luck run for sure, but Alvarez should’ve fielded that a little better. Giving up his third run, Alvarez starts Morgan with a fastball low, 1-0. After getting a called strike, Alvarez falls behind 3-1, then gets it full but loses Morgan on a very close pitch on the inside corner. Alvarez really wanted that one; it was right on the fringe. Bases loaded now for Alvarez versus Braun. Alvarez gets Braun to foul the first one back, then gets him swinging on a nasty slider breaking off the plate. He again goes to the slider and Braun ropes one to third; Lawrie’s only play is to dive and tag, barely getting the lead runner Aoki at third. What a play there from Lawrie, he knew he couldn’t throw Braun out. But it’s still another run tacked on to Alvarez with Ramirez up, runners at first and second. Alvarez falls behind 2-0, and the get-me-over fastball is belted into the gap for a double, scoring both Morgan and Braun. What a disaster for Alvarez, giving up 6 runs already. The next pitch is skied to center for an easy pop up by Hart, but it’s a horrendous outing already for Alvarez. Lets see if he can rebound for at least a few more innings.
Third Inning: Alvarez is back out there, and after Weeks fouls a few off, the 2-2 pitch is bounced highly to Lawrie at third, and Weeks beats out a wide throw anyway for an infield single. Nothing is going Alvarez’s way tonight. He falls behind Kottaras 1-0, then gets a strike, but the 1-1 is hit well for a single into right. Runners at first and second with no outs; Alvarez goes up 0-1, then gets Maysonet to swing at a slider bending way out of the zone and look at a fastball on the outer edge for his first strikeout on the night. Up is Wolf who successfully sacrifice bunts and moves the runners to 2nd and 3rd, two down. Alvarez falls behind 1-0 to Aoki, then 2-0. Alvarez gets a strike called on a fastball on the outer edge, then Aoki lines up and bunts the next one, but Alvarez fields this one well and he gets Aoki at first to end the inning.
Fourth Inning: Starting the fourth is an 89-MPH fastball painting the outside corner for strike one on Morgan. The next pitch is hit pretty hard to second and Omar Vizquel is able to get it to first for the out on a bang bang play. Nice play from the old vet, however instant replay shows Morgan was safe. A little break there for Alvarez. Up 1-1 on Braun, Alvarez goes with a fastball, low, 2-1. He goes back to the slider at 83-MPH and gets Braun unable to hold his swing, 2-2. The next pitch is another slightly hanging slider, but Braun dribbles it to short, two down. Maybe Alvarez is settling in, but his pitch count is obviously already very high. Again Alvarez falls behind 1-1, then hangs a slider high, 2-1. Alvarez is again trying to get a feel for his slider and throws an OK one, but Ramirez slaps it between third and short for a single. Alvarez gets ahead of Hart with a fastball, but the next one is yet another hanging slider, this one at 79-MPH, that Hart hits to left for a single. Just no feel for his slider today. Runners at first and second and Alvarez again gets ahead with his fastball, 0-1 to Weeks. Weeks fouls one off, then Alvarez misses outside and low, 2-2. The next one is popped up in the infield, and Alvarez gets out of the inning. And with that his day is over, closing the book on a tough, tough outing.
Final Line: ND 4 Innings 81 Pitches (51 Strikes)
11 Hits 2 Walks 6 Earned Runs 1 K
Final Analysis: What a disastrous outing last night from Alvarez, easily his worst on the season. Early on he was hanging numerous sliders, a tell-tale sign he’s trying to overthrow the pitch. Maybe feeling some pressure to deliver a solid outing with all the injuries to the other Blue Jays starters, Alvarez got a little too amped up. He just had no feel for his slider and his fastball lacked consistency.
The young 22-year-old pitcher does have some pretty good stuff if he can rebound from this start, but I wouldn’t want to use Alvarez in his next outing at Miami in any format. However, if he starts stringing a few solid starts together and getting large quantities of groundball outs, I would be interested in using him for a spot start against a bad team. But hey, in the AL East those opportunities are going to be few and far between once we cruise through interleague.