Last month, I went through pitchers who had improved their projections the most since the start of the season. It was May 5th, so we were looking at close to a months worth of games. To revisit the methodology, I wanted to look at pitchers who had improved their projections the most from the start of the season, while also examining their underlying skills. What I specifically was considering was pitchers who were inducing less contact in the zone – the area where batters are more likely to make contact – while also seeing if they were throwing in the zone more or less than they had previously. I was using zone contact rate in conjunction with frequency of pitches in the zone as a proxy for improved stuff. Of these two variables, improvement zone-contact rate being the more important.
Over the first month, this list would have been small: Chris Sale, Danny Salazar, Jeff Samardzija, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers, Michael Pineda, and Ivan Nova were the only starters who improved in both capacities. If we expanded the bounds on zone frequency, we would add Jacob deGrom, James Paxton, Zack Greinke, Taijuan Walker, and Carlos Martinez to the list. Not a bad list of pitchers if you’re trying to look for SP who are on everyone’s radar, but also could be showing real improvements in 2017.
Today, I want to revisit this exercise. However, I will only be looking at improvements over the last month. Over the last month, here are all SP who have improved their Ottoneu FGpts projections by more than .05 points per inning. (If you don’t play Ottoneu, this should be generalize enough to help you in standard leagues).
|Name||Pts Delta||P/IP||P||K/9||BB/9||FIP||Z-Contact Delta||Z-Contact||Zone% Delta||Zone||SwStrk%|
-20IP as of May 5
Before we dive into some of these names, there are a couple things to remember.
1.) This is only looking at improvements in projections from May 5th (last time I ran this study). So, if a player does not show a projection improvement (isn’t included) it doesn’t mean he is bad. Rather, look at this, in the most basic sense, as a list of participants who have shown improvements over where they were roughly 40 days ago. That doesn’t make them great, but it helps us see if anything is changing.
2.) Negative Z-Contact Delta is good, positive is bad.
3.) Positive Zone% Delta is good, negative is bad.
As I mentioned last time, this list is sortable.
Let’s start by grouping this data into 3 buckets. Those with improvements in zone contact rate of 3% or more, those allowing 3% more contact in the zone, and those who are within 3% of where they were last month.
That leaves our group of improvements at Jimmy Nelson, Alex Wood, Luis Severino, Tyler Chatwood, Brandon McCarthy, Jaime Garcia, and Sean Manaea. While their projections have improved, CC Sabathia, Scott Feldman, Trevor Bauer, Jordon Montgomery, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Edinson Volquez are in the less favorable category.
Let’s start with Alex Wood. Part of the Dodgers 10 day DL rotation, Wood is performing like the start Los Angeles hoped they were getting when they acquired him from the Braves in 2015. Actually, he is probably surpassing those expectations. Over the past month, he has improved his rest of season projections into the top-10 of all SP in terms of P/IP. However, because of the strategy the Dodgers are employing, it’s possible he will not be as strong of an innings source as some of the other names on this list. That isn’t a problem per se, it’s just something to be aware of. To go along with this, Wood is allowing 5% less contact in the zone than he was in April and his zone contact rate (85.1%) is below the league average for starters (86.6%). He is throwing less pitches in the zone than previously, however, he isn’t abandoning the zone completely (43.9% compared with 45.3% league average), so I wouldn’t be too concerned.
Updated Price: $18-$22
Jimmy Nelson might look like an Ace, but so far his projections have not caught up putting him at just under 4 points per inning for the rest of the season. This isn’t to be unexpected, projections can be slow to incorporate changes. However, over the past month he has improved by .32 points per game. So, even though he may not look like a strong rest of season player based off of his projections. We should be noticing the improvements he has already made. He is throwing more strikes, and players are making less contact than they have previously. That’s what I want to touch on. The league average starter throws roughly 45% of pitches in the zone, while Nelson is at nearly 51% in 2017 (3rd in the league). Since the end of last season, he is allowing nearly 4% less contact in the zone. While I don’t like him nearly as much as Wood in Ottoneu leagues (he plays in a much worse park for HR), I would bid on him going forward for any potential upside that is not yet captured by projections
Updated Price: $6-$10
While Eduardo Rodriguez has received some buzz due to his hot start to the season. (His 3 starts to end the month of April were superb) he has cooled of slightly over the past month. Allowing 8% more contact in the zone. While I don’t have much to say about him, I wanted to mention him specifically as an example of how I wouldn’t use this data. While I am far from a Rodriguez supporter, he is only allowing 82% contact in the zone. So to say that his contact rate has fallen from where it was a month ago doesn’t acknowledge that he is only allowing 82% of contact in the zone, clearing the league average by nearly 4%.
Updated Price: $4-$7
Are there any names or trends that stick out on this list? Manaea, Bauer, and Severino have been mentioned several times this season. If there are any names you want to delve into more detail on, we can discuss in the comments.
Joe works at a consulting firm in Pittsburgh. When he isn't working or studying for actuarial exams, he focuses on baseball. He also writes @thepointofpgh. Follow him on twitter @Ottoneutrades