Closing Time: The case for Mike Foltynewicz

For those about to add, we salute you (AP)
For those about to add, we salute you (AP)

So Atlanta has this pitcher, Mike Foltynewicz. Hard to spell. Hard to pronounce.

Easy to own.

As we keep banging in this column, the pitching rules are different these days. Any starter with an ERA under 4 should be jumping up and down, screaming for your attention. Foltynewicz checks some other boxes, too; he’s in the NL East (a reasonable spot for a pitcher), and he’s in his age-25 season, a logical time for a step forward. (He also showed up on some prospect boards back in 2014.)

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Foltynewicz has been in fine form over his last seven turns, picking up four wins with a 2.98 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. He’s the No. 26 starting pitcher if you grade the last five weeks, which makes him playable in any format.

He might be outkicking his coverage in this recent span — although he’s around a strikeout per inning, he has walked 16 batters. He’s been the beneficiary of a .274 BABIP. His 2.97 June ERA doesn’t jibe with a 4.34 FIP or 4.76 xFIP.

Of course, you can say almost anything you want in how you cut up the numbers. When Folty is good, he is often very, very good. He had a no-hit bid in Oakland last week — broken up in the ninth inning — and he’s allowed two earned runs or less in 12 of his 16 starts. Three out-of-hand games led to 20 of the 39 earned runs he’s given up.

I can approve Foltynewicz for most fantasy use, just keep him away from the risky turns. Washington is a logical club to avoid (albeit Folty beat them Thursday), second in the majors in runs. The other divisional assignments are reasonable — Miami and New York have middling offenses, and the Phillies are 29th in scoring. Given the frame of today’s baseball, Foltynewicz is underowned at 30 percent.

Oh, and if you want to drop his name in casual dinner conversation – it’s fol-ten-EH-vich. Speak like a champion today.

• More than anything, Fernando Rodney is a survivor. At times he looked cooked in Detroit, a decade ago. He had a 1.69 WHIP with the Angels in 2011. Seattle fans don’t want to talk about his 2015 blowups. The fact that he’s still toiling in the majors at age 40 is an upset. The over cashed a long time ago.

Alas, this doesn’t mean Rodney should be trusted in the ninth inning.

Rodney couldn’t get out of his own way in April (12.60 ERA), before straightening out. He didn’t allow an earned run in May or June, a run of 19 appearances. But just when we thought the coast was clear, here comes ratio-rapping Rodney.

The man in the tilted hat picked up a win over Colorado, despite allowing three hits and a run. And then there was Thursday’s blowup at the Dodgers — two hits, four walks, four runs, game over. Rodney didn’t retire a batter.

The overall stats tell an ominous story — a 5.64 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP (too high for a closer), 18 walks in 30.1 innings. Rodney still misses bats  (34 strikeouts), but too often, he doesn’t know where that change is going. Archie Bradley (1.15 ERA, 0.90 WHIP) is already owned by those looking to massage the ratios, but he could turn into a save target in the second half. Arizona isn’t just messing around in 2017, it’s trying to win a division, escape the coin-flip game.

• July is a lovely month for outdoor sports and vacations, but if you’re a baseball general manager, you spend it on the phone. That’s especially the case in Milwaukee and Chicago.

The Brewers and Cubs are two of the most intriguing 2017 clubs — Milwaukee because it’s surprisingly good, Chicago because it’s oddly mediocre. The Brewers had a laugh in Thursday’s makeup game, a beat-the-traffic 11-2 special. Milwaukee’s now 4.5 games ahead of the Cubs. (St. Louis is another game back; Pittsburgh, seven back.)

Now we play the daydream game, the rumor game. Is Milwaukee kicking the tires on Jose Quintana or Sonny Gray? Is Chicago trying to figure out a Justin Verlander trade? I think the Cubs will be wise enough to figure this team needs to add something. And surely the Brewers can appreciate that any shot at a division title is worth going after.

I also suspect the Cubs understand Kyle Schwarber has “future DH” written all over him. Schwarber had a rough return to Wrigley, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and a throwing error. He’s back in Friday’s lineup. In a perfect world, Schwarber would get into a quick groove, allowing Chicago to explore the AL pitching market. You can still build an upside case for Schwarber the hitter, but you have to hide him on defense.

Travis Shaw is the surprise in the Brewers lineup, settling in as their best hitter (.296/.362/.564, 18 homers, even seven steals). And it hasn’t been just a home story — although Miller Park is terrific for lefties — as Shaw’s OPS is actually slightly higher on the road. The Crew is also thrilled Orlando Arcia is batting .291; he’s in the lineup primarily for his terrific defense at shortstop.

• If you’re into podcasts, I had a Thursday guest spot on the East Coast Offense program. You should be following Chris Liss already, for the rants as much as the roto. We talked some Cubs, some football, some poker, some Stopa Auction League.

If you’re not into podcasts, I’m sorry for the 19 seconds you wasted on this bullet point. I hope you can bounce back.

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