Most analysts listened when I made this pre-season request.
The only useful fantasy baseball analysis over the next two weeks should be:
1. Pitcher velo and repertoire
3. Bullpen usage
Anything else is just useless fluff.
— Jeff Zimmerman (@jeffwzimmerman) March 28, 2019
Almost too good. Every time I thought about writing about today’s topic, another writer stepped up. I’m done waiting and it is time to see which fastballs have changed, for the better or worse, since last year.
Instead of focusing just on velocity, I add in the fastball’s spin rate and the pitcher’s overall Zone%. With spin rate, I’ve seen pitchers try to keep up their velocity while dealing with an injury and the pitch’s spin changes. As for Zone%, if a pitcher is having issues finding the plate, they may have something mechanically wrong. By combining the three factors together, I’ve come up with an overall ‘Injury’ value where a -100 score means several negative forces are at work.
Besides just looking at the negatives, a pitcher can improve over time and these pitchers make ideal pickups. I’ll go over the pitchers who made the biggest gains and losses from 2018 to 2019. I’m going to stay away from weekly changes for now with the limited number of games, but all the numbers are available in this overall spreadsheet.
First, here are the pitchers who are headed down and a look at a few of them.
|2018||2019||2018 to 2019|
● Chris Sale: No surprise with him at the top. His velo drop has been well documented across the interwebs.
● Felix Pena: I was a small Pena fan coming into the season because of his above-average slider and change he threw last season. The breaking pitches are still productive, but his fastball velocity is down 3 mph. The drop started last season when he first moved to the rotation (93.5 mph), but it dropped to 92.0 mph by season’s end. Many pitchers experience this drop when moving from the bullpen to the rotation. His just took a while to stabilize.
Here is how his fastball has performed at different velocities.
It’d be nice to see it in the 92 mph range. One encouraging sign is that his velocity has trended up so far this season going from averaging 90.0 mph to 90.7 mph to 90.8 mph.
● Chris Archer: Archer rides a fine line to stay productive. He is a fastball/slider pitcher who relies on strikeouts to get by. Losing about 2 mph on his fastball could kill his fantasy value. The pitch has seen its swinging-strike rate drop from 6.5% to 5.1% and it’s Zone% from 52% to 46%. The results have been fine (2.45 ERA and 12.3 K/9) because his slider has a 35% SwStr%. Everything is all good but that could all end soon.
● Matt Strahm and Collin McHugh: Both are making the transition to the rotation and will see their velocity drop.
● Joe Musgrove: It’s tough to argue against someone with a 0.00 ERA. The results have been great but he’s done it with a fastball that has lost almost 2.5 mph. Additionally, the pitches in the strike zone are down 10% points. The slower fastball has not generated a single swinging strike.
But his non-fastballs have been great with his slider at a 40% SwStr%. He’s throwing the slider quite a bit more after dropping his cutter. A new pitch mix and a slower fastball mean a new talent level. It’s just tough to guess it properly three games into the season.
● Stephen Strasburg: A 1.5 mph drop and loss of strike-zone command are killing his value. The walks are up to a career high of 3.8 BB/9 and he’s getting hit around (1.1 HR/9, .311 BABIP) leading to 5.40 ERA. He needs to start pitching off his non-fastballs more but he’s gone the other direction. This season his fastball rate is up from 52% to 56%
That’s enough bad news. Now it’s time for some good news. Here are the pitchers heading in the right direction.
|2018||2019||2018 to 2019|
|Chase De Jong||FF||89.2||2217||147||49%||91.1||2331||28||41%||44|
● Drew Pomeranz: He needs to be owned in all formats as he rebounds from last season’s bicep and neck issues. His fastball velocity is up at 92 mph. The last time his velocity was that high, he posted an 8.6 K/9 and 3.66 ERA in 2015. This year the strikeout rate is up to 11 K/9 with a 4.00 ERA this season.
● Madison Bumgarner: The once an elite pitcher may have put himself back on that mantle with an additional 300 RPMs of spin to each of his pitches.
Pitch: 2018 Spin, 2019 Spin
Cutter: 2130, 2430
Sinker: 2080, 2390
Curve: 2300, 2570
Someone has been talking to the Astros.
●Josh Hader: 94.5 mph to 95.6 mph. Good luck hitters.
● Corbin Burnes: He may have found the sticky stuff also. His fastball lost about half a tick, but its spin has gone from 2560 rpm to 2860 rpm. With the extra spin, the fastball has retained its swinging strike rate (10.5% to 10.9%) while losing velocity.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.