Throwing Heat Week 10

Baseball is happening! I decided for the entire season to run a weekly article on pitchers who have been “heating up.” I will dive into what it could mean for the pitcher and what you should do with them. This should be a captivating concept because it will be pitchers of all levels, anywhere from aces to pitchers you would have never drafted. That’s what it’s all about, catching players as they improve and acting on it before anyone else can realize. Welcome to “Throwing Heat!”

Adbert Alzolay, CHC
Last three starts: 1.53 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 27 K%

What this three-start line doesn’t show is that in Adbert Alzolay’s last five starts he has a 2.83 ERA. In his last nine starts, he has a 3.26 ERA and in only three of those starts did he give up more than two runs. Simply put, he has been extremely consistent.

Alzolay came into the season deciding to go slider-heavy. In 2020 he threw his slider just 7% of the time and now this season he is throwing it at a 47% rate. Throwing a slider 47% of the time isn’t something we see every day. But it does remind me of someone. Patrick Corbin went from using his slider 27% of the time up to over 40% when he broke out. They both have very similar profiles. Two great sliders and two mediocre fastballs that are good enough to get by.

Alzolay is certainly interesting but one has to wonder how long can this last relying on one pitch? In his last five starts his 2.83 ERA came with a 4.08 FIP and 91 LOB% both suggesting that regression is coming. It’s tough to tell where his numbers will land by season’s end, but he is definitely someone to watch.

Framber Valdez, HOU
Last three starts: 1.64 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 30 K%

Okay so this is really just two starts, but Framber Valdez is back from the IL and I couldn’t be more excited. In his last start against the Red Sox (formidable offense) he pitched seven innings allowing one run with ten strikeouts.

He was fantastic using both his sinker and curveball. He threw the curveball 58% of the time inducing six whiffs and ten called strikes. He targeted it low and away against right-handed hitters and often his the corner of the zone. The curveball was able to induce nine whiffs with four called strikes and that pitch he consistently put towards the bottom of the zone as well. His sinker and curveball tunnel really well and make it extremely hard for hitters to guess which pitch is coming. Overall he finished with a 35% CSW rate and looked just like the 2020 Framber Valdez we all grew to love.

Sean Manaea, OAK
Last three starts: 0.87 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 28 K%

After Sean Manaea’s blow-up in Boston, he has been one of the better pitchers in baseball. Four starts since then and he has pitched 26.2 innings with a 1.69 ERA.

Manea has never been a high strikeout pitcher because of his lack of ability to induce whiffs. He sports three pitches in a four-seam, changeup, and slider. The breaking balls are better than the four-seam but he utilizes all three rather well. The changeup is his main swing and miss pitch while he uses his slider to induce weak contact.

The issue with him is he tends to throw across his body. That can lead to a loss of control and when you look at Manaea’s game log you’ll see some starts where he walks no one and others where he walks three hitters. The overall walk rate is low but at times he can be erratic. To note, walks don’t even tell the full story because it’s not just missing the zone. It is also leaving pitches in the middle of the zone.

Walker Buehler, LAD
Last three starts: 2.37 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 21 K%

Besides the lower strikeout rate, Walker Buehler is having a wonderful season thus far. Don’t let the strikeout rate worry you though, his CSW rate is right on par with past seasons as well as his SwStr%. Expect Buehler to see more strikeouts and to cruise through this season using that elite four-seam fastball of his.

Jordan Montgomery, NYY
Last three starts: 2.00 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 25 K%

Overall Jordan Montgomery has produced a 3.92 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 24 K%. If you drafted him you are loving that as you have profited a ton based on his draft day ADP. Consistency can be Montgomery’s problem as he always seems to have those starts where he just looks lost on the mound. For instance, his start against Baltimore where he lasted only three innings while giving up five runs. But then you get those high strikeout games like the one against the White Sox where he had 11 strikeouts. Montgomery’s game log is random but overall you are getting a good product.

As for whether Montgomery is for real or not I think you have to look at his pitching arsenal. He made a pitch mix change this season by relying on his curveball to be his number one pitch. Well, it certainly has worked. Right now it holds a 20 SwStr% and 42 O-Swing%, which is fantastic. He then rolls to the sinker to induce ground balls and also has a changeup that is well above average in whiffs. Between the three they have a combined 6.9 pVAL meaning that he utilizes all three really well. The two breaking pitches alone should carry him far, the only thing to ponder is how many innings will the Yankees let him throw?

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