Throwing Heat Week 5 by Michael Simione May 3, 2021 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!” Pablo Lopez Last two weeks: 0.47 ERA 1.00 WHIP 24.7 K% Being a Pablo Lopez advocate this couldn’t make me happier. Lopez has been on fire this year! In six starts he holds a 2.34 ERA matched with a 3.14 FIP and 24.8 K%. Although the LOB% is a tad high his BABIP is right around his career marks, so let’s call that a wash. What’s interesting to see is in his last two starts he decided to have a changeup-heavy approach. For those who don’t know, his changeup is fabulous and by far his best pitch. Against the Nationals and the Giants he threw his changeup over 40% of the time leading to those numbers you see above. Lopez has never been a changeup first pitcher so this is an interesting development. Does he seem like a sub-three ERA pitcher? Not likely. But would you complain if he put up a sub 3.50 ERA? Kyle Gibson Last two weeks: 0.90 ERA 0.90 WHIP 19.7 K% What in the world is happening with Kyle Gibson? Coming off two seasons with ERA’s above 4.50 he now sits on a 2.16 ERA, 2.57 FIP, and 2.99 xERA in six starts. What’s even crazier is that he has yet to allow a home run this season. The problem with Gibson is that the home runs will come. The barrel rate against him isn’t much better than last year or even two years ago, plus it’s just bound for regression. What is good about Gibson, is that last season he relied on his sinker, slider, and changeup. The changeup just wasn’t cutting it so this year he shifted to his cutter and it has produced much better results. The slider has always been a great pitch to get opposing hitters to chase. The cutter gives Gibson a pitch to create whiffs with in the zone. This is what Gibson was missing last season and could lead to some sustained success for him moving forward. My bet? He finishes with a high three ERA and leaves a lot of owners happy due to acquiring him virtually for free on draft day. Madison Bumgarner Last two weeks: 1.06 ERA 0.47 WHIP 30.5 K% I would love nothing more than to see people’s thoughts on if his seven-inning no-hitter should count. What about counting it except putting a (7) next to it? Although if I recall correctly Bumgarner himself said it wasn’t a no-hitter. The popular discussion when it came to Bumgarner coming into this season was velocity. Last season his fastball averaged just 88.4 MPH and this season it is now up to 90.5 MPH with him touching 91 MPH in his last two starts. We all know this is important and we all know this can lead to bigger and better things. He won’t be as bad as last year but don’t expect this to be some kind of revelation for Bumgarner either. Hitters are still getting under the ball and his hard-hit rates aren’t the greatest. This is a step in the right direction, especially with his K-BB% getting near his career norm. It will be fun to see what he can do moving forward. J.A. Happ Last two weeks: 1.26 ERA 0.56 WHIP 11.8 K% J.A. Happ might become an ageless wonder like Nelson Cruz, except not as tantalizing. He’s becoming that boring old guy who just knows how to get it done. He isn’t doing anything too knew except throwing the fastball more. Which is fine because it has solid movement and he needs the pitch to paint the corners. Happ has always been good at utilizing his pitches while never being too flashy and should continue to be successful because of it. John Means Last two weeks: 1.33 ERA 0.69 WHIP 32.4 K% This should make everyone happy, John Means is back! The drop in velocity by design has worked out really well for Means. He is locating the pitch really well and pairing it with his changeup makes Means very difficult to deal with. A mid to low three ERA seems likely but what might stick is the new and improved strikeout rate. Means has never been a strikeout pitcher but right now he is still pretty with a 27.3 K%. If Means can keep the strikeouts up, that could be huge. Clayton Kershaw Last two weeks: 1.35 ERA 0.75 WHIP 31.1 K% Clayton Kershaw is still being Clayton Kershaw with a 2.09 ERA, 2.49 FIP, and 3.24 SIERA. The strikeout rate is a little low but that should rise with his 15.6 SwStr%. Hey Kershaw. You are awesome. Stay healthy. Please.