The Weird and the Wonderful — 4/21/22

Over the last few days, I have shared the wacky rates hitters have posted over the small sample early season so far. Let’s now jump to starting pitchers. A total of 27 starters have made three starts so far, while the rest of the qualified are sitting on two. So these rates are not very meaningful, but are certainly fun to look at.

  • Generating soft contact? Keeping hitters off balance? Insert your favorite cliché to explain these pitchers who are current members of the elite sub-.160 BABIP club:

    Brad Keller
    Michael Kopech
    Alek Manoah

    Gosh, I love when a low BABIP drives fantasy owners to pick up a pitcher that wasn’t even drafted in the majority of shallow leagues. Sure, Brad Keller has been stronger than ever over his first two starts, with a strikeout rate over 20% for the first time, validated by a double digit SwStk%, and improved control. His four-seam velocity is also up a bit and he has thrown his changeup more at the expense of his sinker. That’s normally a positive, but his changeup has been awful, generating just a 5.6% SwStk% and has just an 8.1% career mark.

    His four-seam SwStk% is into double digits for the first time, how long will that last? I guess he’s not a terrible speculation, but I’m thinking most of the activity here is due solely to the 1.38 ERA, driven almost entirely by that league leading BABIP. Bottom line is it’s only been two starts and 13 innings.

    It’s anyone’s guess how many innings the White Sox will let Michael Kopech throw, and how few wins he’ll qualify to record. But he’s been a bit disappointing so far, which is clearly overshadowed by the .143 BABIP and 0% HR/FB rate. His control has been poor and his strikeout rate has been merely fine, rather than the excellent we may have expected from the former top prospect. An extreme FB% also adds to the risk of future gopheritis.

    I valued Alek Manoah significantly lower than everyone else heading into the season apparently, and so far, he’s made me look silly. I don’t know what’s up with his control, but he has been generating tons of swinging strikes, which is a good sign.

  • These pitchers can’t buy an out as more than 40% of their balls in play have fallen for a hit. Meet the .400+ BABIP club:

    Kyle Hendricks
    Tyler Mahle

    Remember when Kyle Hendricks was the hit suppression king? Year in and year out, his soft, but apparently baffling, stuff resulted in well below average BABIP marks. Last season was the first warning sign that the shine was wearing off. This year has been a truly bizarre beginning, as he has become a whiff king, resulting in a career best strikeout rate, but his control has deserted him. His LD% is also through the roof, which helps explain the high BABIP. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve sworn off low strikeout guys who somehow make things work, as the risk is too high and there’s no strikeout cushion to keep value afloat.

    Man, Tyler Mahle has posted a 7.82 ERA, but his SIERA sits at a career best 3.42! Like Hendricks, the problem here is an inflated LD%, which isn’t really worrisome over such a small sample. I don’t see any reason for concern here.

  • Who hate worms? These pitchers do! They all sport GB% marks over 60%:

    Framber Valdez
    Aaron Nola
    Shane McClanahan

    This is nothing new for Framber Valdez, who sports a career GB% of 66.4%. What’s absolutely crazy is his GB% is up to 74.4% and he’s allowed a microscopic 2.6% FB%! Imagine if he finishes the season with a sub-10% FB%.

    Aaron Nola’s elite GB% is a good thing as so far, previous line drives have become grounders, but that won’t last. The only good news to take away here is perhaps he is rebounding toward his pre-2021 batted ball profile, as last year his FB% surged to 40.5%, marking a new career high. A return to the 30% FB% would reduce his HR/9. As usual, his skills look solid, but bad fortune has inflated his ERA. Given that this happened last year too, I wonder if his owners are second guessing their decision to roster him and willing to sell at a good price.

    Wow, it’s been quite the first 15 innings for Shane McClanahan, who I boldly predicted would lead the AL in ERA. All these grounders are new, which if sustained, could make him the most highly skilled pitcher in baseball, from a SIERA perspective. Check out that strikeout and SwStk% rate!

  • Save the worms! This is the 55%+ FB% club:

    Michael Kopech
    Carlos Rodón
    Miles Mikolas
    Shane Bieber
    Bailey Ober

    There’s Kopech again, allowing tons of fly balls, which is a scary thought considering his poor control early on. That’s potentially a lot of multi-run dingers. Allowing so many fly balls is far more preferable in San Francisco than Chicago, so I’m not too worried about Carlos Rodón’s profile.

    Wow, Miles Mikolas’s batted ball profile has flip-flopped, as he has suddenly become an extreme fly ball pitcher, though it’s been just 10.1 innings. His SwStk% is worse than ever before, and it’s never been particularly good to begin with. If your leaguemate picks him up because of that shiny ERA, just smile and try trading with him as he’s clearly not a good evaluator of pitching performance.

    Something is clearly not right with Shane Bieber. His fastball velocity is down to a career low, his SwStk% is down to around the league average, and he has become an extreme flyballer. I don’t believe he is fully healthy. Luckily for his owners, his ERA sits below 3.00, so there’s still time to sell high here if you’re worried and your leaguemates aren’t looking under the hood.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a strong SwStk% paired with such a low strikeout rate, but Bailey Ober has accomplished such a feat. He has always been a fly ball pitcher, but this is a new level. he can’t possibly succeed this way unless his strikeout rate bounces back above 20%.

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.

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2 years ago

Surprised to see Nola on the >60% GB rate considering he’s given up 4 HRs in 3 starts thus far. So, I checked his HR/FB rate. It’s a whopping 36.4%!!!