Who to Watch: 8-15-2016
Norris was a significant story in prospect circles in 2014 when he went from High-A to the major leagues in one season. He struck out 163 batters in 124.2 minor league innings pitched and in 6.2 innings at the major league level he whiffed four, including David Ortiz in a memorable relief appearance at Fenway Park.
Entering 2015 expectations were that he would be the next big thing. MLB Network did a story about how he drove to spring training and lived in his car, how he shaved with a knife and was a rugged "Grissly Adams" lefty for Canada's baseball team. Well, 2015 was a bust and we later found out that he had cancer, which he has since overcome. The "stuff" is above average and the strikeouts have always been there, even when the ERA and Whip hasn't been. The Tigers have received fantastic seasons from Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer, but to win the Wild Card they need something from the bottom three and Norris has the best repertoire of the group. The Whip is 1.61 in four starts and tonight he faces an aggressive Royals lineup. It will be a good test to see if the "stuff" can survive and even dominate a lineup that makes a lot of contact but doesn't hit a lot of home runs. The Tigers need this and Norris needs to start to show that he is more than a "stuff" guy and that he can be a number three starter or better moving forward.
The Marlins are in the thick of the Wild Card chase (.5 games back), but they just lost A.J. Ramos (fractured middle finger) Giancarlo Stanton (groin strain) and Adam Conley (middle finger tendinitis) to the disabled list. The Marlins bullpen has been the fifth worst in baseball in August with a BB/9 of 5.44 and an ERA of 5.24.
The Marlins ability to remain in contention this late in the year has to be considered a successful season regardless of how it finishes, but they need to reach back for something special to overcome the recent rash of injuries. Their offense ranks 22 of 30 teams in runs scored in August while their pitching staff also ranks 22 of 30 in team ERA, so there isn't an obvious place to look and see how they do it. That being said, there is room for improvement on both sides of the lines. Tonight, they face a very beatable Reds squad.
Detwiler was once touted as an up and coming prospect with the Washington Nationals, only to fizzle out and fade away, but he threw an eight inning gem against the Orioles in his only start of the season. The A's have had success with pitching reclamation projects (Drew Pomeranz) and Detwiler is someone to watch and see.
The Rangers were declared the big winners of the Trade Deadline, but they have been one of the more overrated teams in baseball after an extremely strong start to 2016. They rank twenty fourth in runs scored in August after being thirteenth in July.
Ray is an intriguing pitcher. I ranked him higher than most for Baseball America in my pre-season pitcher rankings because of his strikeout potential from the left side and he hasn't disappointed in that regard this season. Ray is must-see TV because for a pitcher to get so many swings-and-misses and still pitch to a 4.57 ERA and a 1.45 Whip is mysterious to say the least. That is why, for me, he is a guy to watch and the Mets aren't an offense that scares you. Ray has 34 strikeouts in his last four outings combined and tonight it wouldn't surprise me if he threw up double-digit whiffs tonight. Look for Curtis Granderson to sit or to strikeout four times.
The Mets are in must-win territory right now, but that's nothing new. I predicted they would miss the playoffs in spring training, re-asserted that fact every few weeks and now manager Terry Collins announced to the world that they know it.
The Giants have been one of the worst teams in baseball since the All Star break and they are in jeopardy of losing the division lead to the surging, Puig-less, Dodgers. The Pirates were both buyers and sellers at the deadline and are currently 1.5 games back of the Wild Card. Tyler Glasnow is being re-evaluated after feeling discomfort in his injured shoulder, which hurts, but Jameson Taillon (2.85 ERA - 1.08 Whip has been the Pirates best pitcher, which is a huge boost. This is a huge series for both teams and is a must-see series.
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