The Weird and the Wonderful Pt. 3 — 4/14/21 by Mike Podhorzer April 14, 2021 Over the last two 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. Only a handful of starters have made three starts so far, while the rest are sitting on just one or two. So these rates are not very meaningful, but are 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-.100 BABIP club: Corbin Burnes Aaron Civale Luke Weaver Gosh Burnes is just ridiculous. Hitters can’t even put the ball in play (48.8% strikeout rate), and then when they actually do, it has nearly always found a glove. I would also like to issue a reminder that Burnes could be used as the poster boy for ignoring (mostly) BABIP and the other luck metrics (HR/FB & LOB%) and focusing on the underlying skills, as he posted a gruesome 8.82 ERA in 2019, versus a 3.55 SIERA, thanks to insane marks in all three luck metrics. Obviously, those luck metrics turned around and his results now reflect his underlying skills. Once again we find BABIP fluctuation, this time from Aaron Civale. A .250 mark during his 2019 rookie campaign covered up soft skills and made him a popular 2020 sleeper. In 2020, he actually improved as a pitcher, but his BABIP settled on the other side of the luck pendulum and his ERA jumped to exactly match his 2019 SIERA. Weird to see Luke Weaver here as his sports a career .321 BABIP, which is one of the primary reasons his career 4.62 ERA sits significantly above his 4.07 SIERA. Just a bit of BABIP and/or LOB% luck and his ERA dips below 4.00 and makes him mixed league worthy again. 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: Brady Singer Logan Webb Madison Bumgarner Tyler Anderson Both Singer and Webb had spring trainings that improved their outlook for the season. Singer’s velocity was up and it has remained up in the early going, though that hasn’t actually translated into results just yet. Webb was absolutely dominant, offering hope that a breakout was on the horizon, and it’s far too early to rid yourself of that opinion if you had it heading into the season. Madison Bumgarner’s velocity is up since bottoming last year, but it’s still sits at the second lowest mark of his career, so an improvement isn’t saying much. Obviously at this point, he’s done nothing to convince you he’s worth gambling your ratios on. Tyler Anderson has endured a scary trend — his LD% has risen every single season of his career. Most of that occurred during his time pitching half his games at Coors Field, but it continued its ascent even last year with the Giants. There are some good signs here though so he should still be monitored in NL-Only leagues. Who hate worms? These pitchers do! They all sport GB% marks over 65%: Marcus Stroman Adrian Houser Lance McCullers Jr. Stroman’s ridiculous 80% mark is over just 6.1 innings. Adrian Houser reminds me of Brett Anderson during his early Oakland years, but with a bit better whiff-inducing stuff. He really needs incredible infield defense, but sports a career .309 BABIP. Lance McCullers Jr. always owned the potentially ultimate skill set, combining strikeout ability with extreme ground bell tendencies, with only his control the question mark. Of course, he just cannot stay healthy, as his career high innings pitched in a season is just 126. Luckily for his owners, he’s always been pretty good even if he ends up hitting the IL at some point. If the baseball is truly deadened, this pair is trying to take full advantage by allowing as many fly balls as possible. This is the 55%+ FB% club: Max Scherzer Freddy Peralta Scherzer has always leaned fly ball, but this is a new level, of course. It’s been just two starts though, but it would be fun to see him end with this high a rate. He’ll need his HR/FB rate to stick in the low teens though to ensure he’s not allowing too many homers. Peralta has become a three true outcome pitcher — he either strikes the hitter out, issues a walk, or allows a fly ball. The most exciting thing here is the increased velocity, even though he’s starting and that velocity is being compared to seasons he has mostly pitched in relief. The best pitch result? A swing and a miss. Introducing the 20%+ SwStk% gang: Shane Bieber Jacob deGrom Trevor Rogers Bieber’s velocity might be down from last year, but hitters aren’t have any easier a time making contact with his pitches! We know deGrom is not human, making Rogers the surprise name on this list. A dominating spring training increased his draft day cost, and so far he has made good on that intrigue, even if his control has been awful so far. A nearly two mile per hour jump in fastball velocity certainly helps! These pitchers are either hoping their defenses will bail them out of all those balls in play, or they could rely on called and/or foul strikes to lead to strikeouts. Here’s the sub-6.5% SwStk% group: Brett Anderson Mike Foltynewicz Walker Buehler Chi Chi Gonzalez Casey Mize Anderson absolutely needs an amazing infield defense to survive, as he allows a ton of balls in play. Foltynewicz’s fastball velocity has definitely rebounded off last year’s troubling low, but it remains well below pre-2020 levels. So far, the early results suggests he needs that 95+ MPH average to make batters swing and miss. Walker Buehler?! His fastball velocity is down over a mile an hour and he’s never been as big a swing and miss guy as others in his strikeout rate range to begin with. In fact, over his career, none of his pitches have actually been elite at generating whiffs. He’s more of a pretty good at everything type guy. But with less juice on the fastball, it’s possible the effectiveness of everything else falls apart quickly. While I’m not projecting doom and gloom, what if this is an early sign a bust season is coming? And don’t forget that a 3.90 ERA would still be considered a bust, even if it’s still useful in your league. How does Chi Chi Gonzalez, owner of barely more strikeouts than walks throughout his career, plus a career 5.71 SIERA, earn a job in one of the most hitter friendly parks in baseball? Like some of the other names discussed earlier, Mize has enjoyed a fastball velocity surge, but that hasn’t yet translated into whiffs or strikeouts. Still, this Mize is far more promising for the future than the one throwing two miles per hour slower.