Throwing Heat Week 21

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!”

Tarik Skubal, DET

Last three starts: 2.04 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 33.3 K%

It has been a wild ride for Mr. Skubal this season. He started the season off with a horrible month of pitching in April where he put up a 6.14 ERA and 1.68 WHIP. Randomly deciding to throw a splitter that clearly decimated his abilities and causing myself and many others to drop him in our leagues.

Then the month of May rolls around and Skubal decides to ditch the splitter and lean on his changeup again, a pitch that was great in 2020 and something he had worked on in the offseason. Then boom, he puts up a 3.33 ERA in May and a 3.14 ERA in June making me and the many others look foolish.

July rolls around where he has a rough month and now in August he has decided to show up again and he finished it out with a 1.59 ERA. Most impressively was his last start where he pitched five innings allowing two earned runs and striking out ten hitters.

What can we make of Tarik Skubal and his up and downs? For me, it comes down to one pitch and that is his four-seam fastball. Skubal’s four-seam comes in at around 95 MPH with decent movement and a quick release, it is sometimes located well at the top of the zone but can mostly be found in the middle of the zone. That’s a problem. This is Skubal’s most thrown pitch and when a pitchers main pitch gives up a 163 wRC+, .280 ISO, and .513 wOBAcon that doesn’t bode well. In fact, his .280 ISO on the pitch is the 7th highest on any four-seam by a starter. Even worse the blast% on his four-seam (10.5%) is 3rd highest in the league. Blast% basically takes into account the best barrels a hitter can have, essentially the optimal type of contact (you can read about it here). Basically, hitters are hitting Skubal’s fastball hard, very hard.

This seems to be the main crutch in Skubal’s arsenal and a big reason why he could continue to see some inconsistency. There is the upside here though because if he can gain consistent command on his four-seam he could be an absolute force. It will likely take him another offseason to do that though.

Robbie Ray, TOR

Last three starts: 1.64 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 37.8 K%

Oh baby, Robbie Ray continues to dominate as he now holds a 2.72 ERA and 1.03 WHIP on the season. We all know about Ray’s walk issues and he has been able to consistently keep his walk rate at an above-average level, cutting his career walk rate down by four points. Robbie Ray seems to be hitting his stride with a 1.99 ERA in July and a 1.59 ERA in August, start him every time and continue to enjoy the massive discount you got him at on draft day.

Blake Snell, SDP

Last three starts: 3.06 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 37.3 K%

So the Padres let Snell throw 122 pitches in his last start. It likely has to do with them currently not in the playoff picture and it’s essentially a must-win for them at this point. Time to take the training wheels off and let him pitch. Overall Snell has been a frustrating pitcher to own because he has a 4.58 ERA on the year and is seeing the highest walk rate of his career. Yet, his CSW% is near 30% and the swing and miss stuff is still there. To be honest, I’m not sure what is going on with him but he has been wildly inconsistent the past few seasons so maybe we should leave the guessing work to other fantasy players in our leagues next season.

Bailey Ober, MIN

Last three starts: 1.10 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 25.0 K%

Bailey Ober has been pitching well for the last two months with a 3.07 ERA. He keeps a consistently low walk rate which keeps the WHIP on the lower end but home runs can be an issue at times. The good news is it looks like that is improving. In the first month and a half, he pitched he had an HR/0 of 2.55, a ridiculous and horrible rate. Since then his HR/9 has been at a 1.43 rate, league average is 1.24. Ober has never been one to give up a lot of home runs in the minors and his contact numbers show that his home run rate should continue to drop.

With what we expect to be a lowered home run rate Ober should be a good pitcher to acquire for ratios but likely won’t get you a ton of strikeouts. He might be more of a matchup pitcher moving forward and maybe a bench against home run-heavy offenses but either way he certainly could be useful.

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