After I went through the top starting pitchers over the last 30 days, I noticed quite a few veterans who were previously not highly touted coming into this year. I’ll try to stay away from the Max Scherzer’s, Justin Verlanders, and Walker Beuhler’s because we know they are great. And they are. Yes, Buehler has turned the corner, the slow start may have been lingering fatigue from several stressful playoff innings in 2018, but he looks every bit like an ace over the last month. A quick note on the Braves signing of Dallas Keuchel. I’m typically not a fan of Keuchel but given his extreme ground ball tenancies and landing in a great spot with the Braves, he could have some SP3/4 value in 12-team mixed leagues the rest of the way. I’ll be interested to see how his control metrics look because he has to keep walks down to be successful. The schedule for the Braves going forward is light and SunTrust Park is moderately friendly for pitchers.
Note: These numbers do not include statistics from last night.
Top Ranked Starting Pitchers - Last 30 Days
|Lucas Giolito||White Sox||5||43||0.97||0.65|
|Chris Sale||Red Sox||1||64||2.45||0.79|
Robbie Ray (SP – ARI)
Ray doesn’t quite belong on this list but he’s piled up the strikeouts and compiled three wins over the last month. What’s interesting to me is that his walk rate over the last 30 days is under 10%. It’s 9.9%, but still, that’s an improvement for Ray. His FIP is a 2.81 and his strikeout rate is a robust 32.8%. One reason for his success recently is getting ahead of hitters. Over the last 30 days, his first-pitch strike rate is 63.8% but only 56.1% thus far in 2019. This is huge for Ray. He’s also throwing his slider more often which is great for his strikeouts. He’s been able to throw his curveball for strikes (Zone% 46.3% this year compared to 37.9% in his career). I’m monitoring Ray because if he can maintain a 64% F-Strike% and bump his zone rate over 40%, he could get back to 2017 results, or better! Maybe I’m biased for throwing Ray out there as the NL Cy Young winner in my Bold Predictions article.
Julio Teheran (SP – ATL)
Teheran is MLB’s ERA leader over the last 30 days. But, how? How about a .181 BABIP, and an 87.1% strand rate? Oh, and he hasn’t given up a home run over the last month! He has seemingly done the impossible. Based on his embarrassingly low 6.2% K-BB%, he’s due for some major regression. But how much and why am I asking so many questions? Well, his 3.52 FIP shows quite a bit of regression but his 5.26 xFIP and 5.47 SIERA show that he’s been one of the worst pitchers over the last month. Regression is going to hit Teheran hard, very hard. If you’ve owned him through this stretch, congratulations, now flip him for almost any player that could help your team.
Lance Lynn (SP – TEX)
Am I just focusing on boring veterans here? Well, kind of, but, Lynn’s metrics are the opposite of Teheran’s. Lynn has been very good over the last month and his xFIP and SIERA are right in line with his 2.78 ERA. Plus, his FIP is way down at 1.75! A 28.6% K-BB rate will do that for you. Along with a nice boost in his strikeout rate, he’s also suppressed home runs. While the metrics are showing that his elevated strikeout rate should continue, I don’t expect the home run suppression to continue given his home park. That being said, Lynn looks like a nice option going forward. He’s throwing more strikes and increased the usage of his cutter/slider at the expense of his sinker. I have no issues with Lynn performing like an SP 4 the rest of the way.
Charlie Morton (SP – TB)
The 35-year-old has had a hell of a year and a hell of a second half to his career. He’s been fantastic and while his ERA-estimators expect some regression, they fall between 2.65 and 3.33. His velocity is starting to decline but he’s adjusted by throwing his curveball more frequently, introducing a slider, and reducing his fourseam/two-seam fastballs. This pitch mix change has resulted in a career-best strikeout rate of 30.2%. As with most pitchers who increase their usage of breaking balls, he may find himself in more deeper counts which could lead to additional walks. He’s held them at bay thus far. He’s also top 10 in the league among qualified starters in allowing the lowest quality of contact. I don’t fully trust his home run rate that’s almost been cut in half, so there should be some regression. Still, let’s enjoy this and I would expect something close to his xFIP of 3.33 the rest of the way. In this era, that’s a top 20 SP with an elite strikeout rate.
Mike Minor (SP – TEX)
Minor is another Texas Ranger and previously a boring veteran who is succeeding. The ERA and strikeout numbers are good but that WHIP stands out like a sore thumb. I’ll address the WHIP right away. He’s carrying an inflated .365 BABIP over the last 30 days. Obviously, that’s extremely high and won’t last but he’s managed to strand those runners 89% of the time. That explains the elevated WHIP and a low ERA. On the season, he’s carrying a .298 BABIP, so that seems just about right. So, does that mean I trust his current 2.52 ERA on the season? No, not quite. The strikeout gains are real given a 12% swinging strike rate (SwStr%) and 30% called strikes plus swinging strike rate (CSW%). Minor could be a trade candidate if the Rangers don’t compete this year. If he goes to a contender in a better park, he could provide top 30 value the rest of the way. If he stays in Texas, there will be a few long hot nights that are going to make you wish you kept him on your bench.
Brandon Woodruff (SP – MIL)
Woodruff just stood up to the Astros in Houston and escaped with a no-decision. The Astros are missing a bunch of pieces but a WHIP of 1.00 and six strikeouts is pretty impressive. His fastball has been great and he slings it 95+ MPH. Prior to last night’s game, his pitch value is 14.2 on the fourseam and sinker combined (10.7 on the fourseam). In addition, his 12.2% Swinging strike rate and 40.1% strikeout rate off his fastball are among the best in the league. Here is Woodruff’s heatmap on fastballs when ahead in the count.
Some other pitchers who succeed throwing 95+ MPH with elevated fastballs are Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Walker Buehler is getting there as well. Having that foundation is strong and can sustain success. I might actually be buyiug high on Woodruff.
Mike Soroka (SP – ATL)
Soroka saw some regression last night giving up 10 hits and five earned runs against the Pirates. Coming in he was carrying some crazy extreme numbers including a 17.6% infield fly ball rate, 58.4% ground ball rate, and a 2.9% HR/FB rate. In an era where the sinker is fading, Soroka throws a power sinker over 40% of the time and hitters have struggled against it. He’s getting ground balls almost 70% of the time on it! That’s Dallas Keuchel territory in terms of overall ground ball rate. Can he succeed pitching to contact though in this era or with hitters adjust? The ceiling isn’t as high with Soroka but I could see him with similar results to Kyle Hendricks as a best case scenario. Worst case, let’s not go there. I think he will be good but let’s not get carried away.
Dylan Bundy (SP – BAL)
Last year’s home run leader (in a bad way) has pitched well recently. His HR/9 over the last 30 days is down a respectable 1.23 compared to his ugly 2.13 HR/9 from last season. How is he doing this? Well, he’s throwing his changeup more frequently (10% more frequently) and while it was a negative pitch by pitch value last season, it’s neutral so far in 2019. It’s actually a solid pitch with a chase rate over 40%, a zone rate over 40%, and a SwStr rate over 16%, which is a Money Pitch per Nick Pollack of Pitcher List. The results were atrocious last year on the change with a 220 wRC+. He’s got it down to 102 wRC+ or essentially league average. He’s also managing to get ground balls nearly 60% of the time compared to 49% last year. So, the changeup is better and the slider is still very good. However, his fastball is awful and regression is coming in terms of BABIP. He won’t keep a .255 BABIP and home runs will always be an issue as long as he calls Camden Yards home. He will be better than last season but I still can’t fully buy in.
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