The MLB season has historically been full of peaks and valleys. For two weeks, players can look like world-beaters. For the next three weeks, however, they can fall into a horrendous slump.
As such, the regular season could be a tale of two halves. In the past, many players have struggled during the season’s first half (pre-All-Star Break) but they manage to pick it up afterward. On the other hand, some players can seem to be on a hot streak before the season’s first half, but they can then become entirely ineffective thereafter.
Many high-priced veteran players are scattered throughout the league, and many of them have struggled prior to the 2018 All-Star Break. Many consider said veterans to be overpaid and declining. However, some players have had a resurgence during the season’s latter half, when their respective teams needed it most.
David Price, Boston Red Sox
The 33-year-old has been looking like a definite $217 million bust recently. Throughout the year after he signed his mega-contract, Price ate 230 innings. However, he had an ugly 3.99 ERA. Last year, he threw just 74.2 innings due to an injury and was eventually moved to the bullpen. The start of this year wasn’t much better for Price. He posted a 4.42 ERA and 1.250 WHIP during the first half.
He will have the opportunity to opt-out of his seven-year deal this winter. Considering the way in which he has been pitching, combined with his health problems from last season, it would be smart to remain locked into his deal.
However, Price has turned a page during the second half of 2018. He’s looking much more like the Cy Young-caliber ace that fans grew accustomed to seeing in Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Toronto.
In 57.2 innings since the All-Star Break, the southpaw has a 1.56 ERA, 0.832 WHIP, and has struck out 60 of 223 batters faced (a good 27% K rate.) His team’s rotation has been shaky outside of Chris Sale. Even Sale has had two DL stints this season and just came back this past week to throw only one inning. As such, the Red Sox needed Price’s resurgence.
One half does not necessarily rationalize a seven-year deal. However, considering the factt hat Price posted good numbers in limited time last season, this stretch may be more than just a fluke. He is getting more horizontal movement on his pitches. His success may have to do with mechanic change. Both his horizontal and vertical release points have been altered over the summer, and he may be able to carry this success over into the next few seasons.
Cole Hamels, Chicago Cubs
Talk about needing a change of scenery. Hamels was not having a great season with Texas, posting a 4.72 ERA and 1.373 WHIP, but the script has flipped since he joined a playoff-bound team in Chicago. Hamels is a bit of an exception to the “post-All-Star Break” category because he joined the Cubs at the trading deadline, and he has been a revelation since changing uniforms. However, maybe fans shouldn’t be too surprised by his overall success. Instead, it may be smart to focus on Hamels’ current level of success.
His 4.72 ERA should be taken into context because he had a rough July; his ERA was inflated from 3.61 to 4.72 in just three starts. Hamels had a 6.41 ERA at his hitter-friendly home park in Arlington, but he had a 2.93 ERA on the road. With Chicago, his numbers have deflated to a 1.42 ERA and 1.046 WHIP, and hitters have just a .667 OPS against him. The Cubs have been lacking a definite ace, as their pitchers have not been performing ideally as of late. Hamels is filling that role perfectly, so far, however.
Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have been having some issues with their offense, recently. They are 1.5 games back of first in the NL West, as of the morning of September 14. Fans can’t blame their performance on their star third baseman Justin Turner, however. Turner has shrugged off his spring training injury and is playing as usual. He missed the first six to seven weeks of the regular season due to a fractured wrist, and he had another DL stint toward the end of July. Even when Turner was playing, it was obvious that he wasn’t quite right. He had a .747 OPS and five home runs in 189 plate appearances before the break, and he struggled immediately after.
However, it seems as though Turner just needed some more reps and more time to recover. Since the All-Star Break, the veteran has been hitting .371/.458/.678 with eight homers in 168 plate appearances. During this stretch, he collected August’s National League Player of the Month, raking to a tune of .402/.491/.722 and six home runs.
His groundball rate has decreased to just 22%, with 33.1% of his batted balls going for line drives and 44.9% for flyballs- with the help of a 19.8-degree launch angle. He has combined these numbers with a decrease in his soft contact to 8.5 %, while still upping his hard contact to just over 50%, according to FanGraphs. Turner has reminded us who the team’s true leader is, as well as who the Dodgers want most at the plate with the game on the line.
Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees
Tanaka has shown us a combination of good, bad, and great games during his tenure with the New York Yankees. The first half was a whole lot of bad, continuing from a disappointing 2017 season. He had a 4.54 ERA in 15 starts as a $22 million man for a starting pitching-deprived franchise in New York City. The franchise was fortunate that Luis Severino was pitching like a Cy Young contender during the first 15 weeks.
However, as Severino has fallen off significantly, Tanaka has had a resurgence at a much-needed time. The Japanese pitcher is dealing like the ace his talent dictates he could be, posting a 2.30 ERA, 1.040 WHIP, and 61 strikeouts in 58.2 innings. This is a promising sign after struggling from the start of 2017 to this year’s All-Star Break.
Featured Image via Flickr/apardavila