Throwing Heat Week 14

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!”

*All stats as of 7/3

Dylan Cease, CHW

Last five starts: 27.0 IP, 3.67 ERA, 1.15 WHIP

I decided to include Dylan’s last five starts instead of his last three because he did have one hiccup of a start against the Houston Astros and it would have severely skewed his numbers. On June 17th in Houston, he pitches just 3.1 innings and allowed six earned runs. In his two starts since then, he has pitched 11.2 innings allowing just three earned runs with 14 strikeouts. Overall in the last month, Dylan has been really good and for the entire season he holds a 3.75 ERA. 

Coming into 2021 everyone knew he has all of the potential in the world. He throws hard and has a killer slider but he also came with a major flaw. Command. He always struggled with command both in the minors and in the majors. Between 2019 and 2020 he averaged a walk rate of 11.9%. This season, however, that walk rate has dropped to 9.9% and it has caused his strikeout rate to skyrocket to 29.3%. As the great Olaf says, all good things, all good things. 

Martin Perez, BOS

Last three starts: 14.0 IP, 1.93 ERA, 1.43 WHIP

Don’t look now but Martin Perez is back! Well, not really. Perez started the season off hot, in his first 11 starts he held a 3.09 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 21.1 K%, and 1.23 WHIP. They came two starts against the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays. In those two starts Perez pitched just 3.1 innings while allowing 11 earned runs. That’s good enough for a putrid 29.70 ERA and 4.80 WHIP. 

So now Perez has strung together three really good starts since those two blow-ups and the question is what do we make of it? One notable change he made in these three starts was the increase in changeup usage. He typically throws the pitch 24.6% of the time but in these starts his average usage went up to 32.5%. So is this pitch mix change legit?

On the season his changeup has let up a lot of hard contact. So far this season opposing hitters have a 141 wRC+, .371 wOBA, and .862 OPS against it. But maybe the increase in usage helped improve this pitch? One quick Statcast search and we quickly find out that’s not the case. His changeup in these three starts, opposing hitters have a .350 wOBA against it. Well maybe his cutter is better because of it? Nope, a .339 wOBA against the cutter shows otherwise.

All in all, Perez is back on track but he might not have continued success moving forward. The pitch mix change is interesting but based on pitch data the improvement isn’t really there. He seems like a streamer at best and I wouldn’t be rushing to pick him up off the waiver wire. 

Walker Buehler, LAD

Last three starts: 20.0 IP, 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP

I feel like Walker Buehler is often forgotten amongst the league’s best pitchers. So far this season he has pitched really well with a 2.35 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. Sure, the strikeout rate has dipped from 28.6% to 25.4% but he still is one of the best there is. To note, Buehler has publicly said that he is a slow starter and he seems to be warming up. In his last three starts he has a 32.4 K% so those strikeouts might be on their way. Buehler should be one of the better pitchers moving forward.

Joe Ross, WSH

Last three starts: 18.1 IP, 3.44 ERA, 1.09 WHIP

Joe Ross has made quite the comeback after not playing all of 2020 and missing most of the 2019 season. He has enjoyed a good season thus far with a 4.02 ERA. Ross has been a little inconsistent this season though, allowing 8 and 10 runs in single starts. But in the month of June, he was able to fix that. 

In June Joe Ross pitched five total starts, all of which lead to a 1.95 ERA. In three of those starts, he didn’t allow a single run and he also had starts with 7, 8, and 9 strikeouts. What could have lead to a great month was Joe Ross’ velocity. Before the month of June his fastball averaged about 93.4 MPH. In June he averaged 93.7 MPH and while that is a small increase it is worth noting that he averaged 94 and 95 MPH three times, something he did only once in the first two months of baseball. 

An increase in velocity is could lead to more success for Joe Ross. He has had past success where he finished seasons with an ERA under four and that isn’t really out of the question here. Ross is a solid addition for fantasy teams if he is still out there on the wire. 

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Joe Wilkeymember
1 year ago

Re: Buehler. “In his last three starts he has a 32.4 K% so those strikeouts might be on their way.”

His swinging strike rate in those three games is actually lower than the games leading up to that point. I know I’m in the minority, but I’m not sure he belongs anywhere near the top tier of starters. He’s got lots of red flags for me: roughly league average SwStr%, roughly league average barrel rate, .232 BABIP, nearly 83% LOB%. For me, he’s Anthony DeSclafani with fewer walks. Seriously, go look at their underlying numbers, they’re pretty similar.

Joe Wilkeymember
1 year ago

Gotta disagree with you there. If you look at pairs of qualified player seasons over the last five full seasons (2015-2019, of which there are 161 season-pairs), the correlation between CSW% change and K% change is high (.818), but the change in CSW% is almost solely driven by changes in SwStr. Called strikes have almost no bearing on K% compared to SwStr%. The correlation between SwStr% change and K% change is actually higher than CSW% (.828), where the correlation between CStr% change and K% change is .160.

Looking at it another way: there were 55 season-pairs in the set where CStr% changed by 0.5% or less in either direction. That group saw their K% change anywhere from decreasing by 8.7 points (James Shields, 2015-2016) to increasing by 16.2 points (Lucas Giolito, 2018-2019). There were 41 season-pairs in the set where the SwStr% changed by 0.5% or less in either direction. That group saw their K% change anywhere from decreasing by 4.8 points (Jose Quintana, 2017-2018) to increasing by 5.5 points (Trevor Bauer, 2016-2017), a much narrower range.

I’m not saying that CSW isn’t semi-useful, but swinging strikes are still the best indicator for K%.

Joe Wilkeymember
1 year ago

That’s fair, called strikes do tend to, let’s say, modulate extreme outliers. All I’m saying is even if you grant him an increase in K%, his other underlying metrics don’t exactly scream “buy”. For me, I think he’s closer to a low end #2/high end #3 starter in a 12 teamer rather than one of the best in the game right now. I’d take someone like Manaea or Marquez over him as it stands right now.