There are dozens of fantasy stories from any slate. Here are some of the things that caught my eye Tuesday, on the field and on the spreadsheets:
• When does a bad start become a bad season? Tyler Mahle managers are having that discussion right now.
Mahle’s had five starts this year, only one of them successful. None of them have lasted longer than 5.1 innings. The ERA crept over 7 after the Brewers knocked him around Tuesday, and Mahle’s WHIP stands at 1.71. He’s a one-man ratio debaser.
A lot of the usual factors are at play. Walks are up for Mahle, strikeouts down. The usual bad luck signs are flashing — his BABIP is a crazy-high .367, and his strand rate is barely over 50 percent. The ERA estimators look at him sympathetically. Then again, Mahle’s only allowed one homer; that’s good luck, too.
The Reds have a subpar defense, and that’s not going to change in-season. Like so many cases, this comes back to K/BB — if Mahle can’t get back to his strikeout rate from 2020-2021, I can’t see how he succeeds here. At least the schedule cuts him a break; his next two turns are against Pittsburgh. If Mahle doesn’t right his ship against the Pirates ship, we might be in cut mode.
• Sometimes it can be hard to tell the Barlows apart. Scott Barlow pitches for the Royals. Joe Barlow toils for the Rangers. I knew a Ned Barlow in college, to my financial detriment. We’ve moved on.
Texas’s closing job appeared murky for a week or so, in part because the team couldn’t seem to beat anyone. Barlow’s secured things since, recording handshakes in his last two appearances (and wiping away the memory of that Matt Bush rogue save). Barlow’s allowed two homers, but with one walk and 10 whiffs over 7.1 innings, it’s easy to trust his stuff. He can get to 25 saves.
Brock Burke is the other interesting arm in this bullpen, a case of following the strikeouts. He’s punched out 21 men over 14 innings, to go with a wipeout ERA (1.93) and a playable WHIP (1.14). We know that when the two ratios don’t tell a consistent story, the WHIP tends to be more reliable — that ERA could be on the rise. But K/9 is always your friend for ratio management, especially when it comes with a microscopic walk rate (Burke has just three free passes; that’s a nice delta, Burke).
Barlow is up to 44 percent rostered in Yahoo, so he’s close to those graduation papers. Burke is rostered in a mere three percent. Do what you need to do.
• Speaking of following the strikeouts, Ryan Helsley looks too good to be true in St. Louis. Catch this line: 8.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 16 K. He’s not necessarily the closer here — though he does have one save — but with those wipeout stats, the Cardinals are sure to find high-leverage work.
We say this every year — you don’t have to prioritize middle-relief (or closer-in-waiting) heroes on draft day, you can find them in season. Now is the perfect time to go hunting on the wire, focusing on the K/BB ratios. If you can find someone tied to a winning team — as Helsley should be — all the better. You want to fish where the wins are biting.
It’s last call on Helsley in the shallower pools, as he currently rosters at 41 percent. That four-strikeout save from the weekend drew plenty of attention.
• Tommy Pham was dropped in one of my deeper pools this spring, and I didn’t notice it. I’m still kicking myself. Maybe Pham was similarly cut in your league; I’m surprised he’s rostered in a modest one-third of Yahoo leagues. There’s an interesting profile here.
Pham’s .240 average isn’t going to hurt in today’s game, and he already has four homers and a steal. A .329 OBP and .467 slugging are playable today, and he’ll generally be slotted third in the Cincinnati lineup. Heck, if I were redrafting today, I might target Pham in a Top 10 round. What the heck is he doing on so many waiver wires? I want that number raised as the week goes along.