Who’s inducing more swings and misses? Let’s take a gander at the American League starting pitchers whose SwStk% marks have most surged versus last year. Perhaps it’s added velocity, a new pitch, or change in pitch mix driving the spike. Let’s find out.
|Name||SwStr% 2016||SwStr% 2015||Diff|
Wowzers! Check out Danny Duffy crushing the competition! I discussed him last week, and obviously, I’m a fan. In the one game he started since publishing my article, Duffy threw six shutout innings, while striking out 10 batters.
Then Jeff Sullivan analyzed him on Monday, concluding with…
He shouldn’t be left unowned in any leagues.
Talk about a turnaround! In Matt Shoemaker’s first seven starts, he posted a hilariously bad 8.49 ERA, with a respectable 9.6% SwStk% mark, which was actually a bit higher than his season mark last year. Since, he has started five games, posting a 1.88 ERA, an incredible 48/1 K/BB ratio and an absurd 19.1% (!!!!!) SwStk%. His velocity is about a mile an hour half higher than it was at the beginning of the year, which represents about a two mile per hour jump from last year. It has resulted in many more whiffs from the fastball. The improved fastball is likely making his splitter even more elite. Obviously, this type of performance isn’t sustainable, but moving away from bad fastball/good splitter into average fastball/elite splitter is a big step.
Chris Tillman just keeps on going, as he has benefited from fastball velocity that is at its highest since 2012. Furthermore, he’s throwing his slider more and it’s generating a career high SwStk%. Rather than featuring an assortment of crappy pitchers, suddenly he has an assortment of solid offerings. I’d bet against him keeping his strikeout rate at its current mark, but he should be able to stay above 20%.
Michael Pineda has a 2.89 ERA over his last three starts. PROGRESS! The BABIP was still .314, but hey, he only allowed one home run. It should continue to get better from here and if he was somehow dropped in your league, pick him up immediately.
Even a jump in SwStk% hasn’t made Kendall Graveman palatable, and his strikeout rate remains poor. His cutter and slider have been excellent at generating swings and misses, but he needs to stop throwing his change/splitter. There are some positive signs in his skill set with his ground ball profile, and might just be a pitch mix change away from a breakout…or at least a sub-4.00 ERA.
No, Justin Verlander’s velocity has not rebounded and it remains stuck below 93 mph. But his SwStk% is actually at the second highest mark of his career, as is his strikeout rate. All those strikeouts are primarily a result of the best changeup he has thrown since 2011. It’s too bad he has become an extreme fly ball pitcher as home run will remain an issue.
With his history of suppressing BABIP, you would think that Chris Young adding strikeouts would become elite. That hasn’t happened, as his ERA sits at an ugly 6.15. His BABIP at .275 is actually the third highest mark of his career, which is pretty crazy. He’s also stranding a ton of baserunners. The real driver behind the gruesome ERA is that inflated 25% HR/FB rate. His career high HR/FB rate is just 10.4%! So what has led to the increase in strikeouts? The highest fastball velocity since 2007 and increased use of his slider to an outrageous 52%. And therein lies the problem — we always worry about fastball/slider pitchers having issues with lefties, and sure enough, they had hit Young to the tune of a .516 wOBA! Young might have to pick one or the other — go for the strikeouts or actually getting outs.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.