Throwing Heat Week 8

The season has begun and we are back with Throwing Heat! For those who didn’t read these articles last season, this weekly article focuses on pitchers who are pitching well. When we are further into the season it will be based on a pitcher’s previous three starts but for now, it will just be their most recent starts.

This article’s beauty is that it highlights all types of pitchers from the best in the league to pitchers who are barely rostered. If someone is on a hot streak they will be in this article. I will also tell you if the hot streak is legit or if it appears to be a facade. I hope you enjoy it!

*Stats as of 6/13*

Jon Gray, TEX

Last three starts: 18.0 IP/3.50 ERA/12.50 K/9

On the season, Jon Gray has pitched in ten starts to a total of 52 innings but has produced a below-league average ERA of 4.85. It’s a bit of a surprise seeing as one would assume he would pitch better since leaving Colorado. In fact, he was a popular sleeper for fantasy coming into the 2022 season.

With that said it seems like Jon Gray might be starting to figure things out. As shown above he has pitched much better in his last three starts against Cleveland, Chicago (White Sox), and Tampa Bay. His 3.50 ERA in these three starts came with a 2.91 FIP, 3.41 xFIP, and 3.34 SIERA. While that is nice to see it is just three starts so do we see anything here to make us think this small sample is legitimate?

There have been two big changes in this time frame so let’s throw some charts your way. Here is his pitch percentage by game.

As you can see he has dropped his four-seam percentage while increasing his slider percentage. This is significant since his slider is his best pitch. On the season it has a high SwStr% of 18.6% and it’s because Gray has impeccable command on the pitch.

On to another chart!

In this chart, you can see an increase in fastball velocity from Gray. Sure he is throwing it less but an increase in velocity can lead to a much better fastball moving forward. In April Gray was throwing his fastball 94.5 MPH and in May it rose to 95.4 MPH and now in June up to 96.1 MPH. While it’s a smaller sample since we are only halfway through June his fastball’s wOBA against went from .384 in May to .242 in June.

Overall we see two changes in Jon Gray’s arsenal and velocity which makes these three great starts more compelling. I think he is a solid bet moving forward.

Michael Wacha, BOS

Last three starts: 19.0 IP/1.42 ERA/5.68 K/9

In this three-game sample his 1.42 ERA came with a 3.03 FIP, 4.03 xFIP, and .228 BABIP. So he was definitely lucky but not insanely lucky. A lot of this also comes from one really great start against the Angels where he pitched a complete-game shutout with six strikeouts.

Just like we did with Jon Gray, do we see anything new here to make us believe that this is the Michael Wacha we will continue to see? Well the K-BB% of 13.7% is rather mediocre, there isn’t an increase in velocity, and I only see a slight pitch mix change in favor of his fastball. But when you look at his 2.33 ERA on the season why would he change anything, right?

I don’t think Wacha holds his season 2.33 ERA but I think a low four to high three ERA the rest of the way is possible which makes him a decent streamer. The .213 overall BABIP is too much of a pill to swallow for him to not see regression.

Spencer Strider, ATL

Last three starts: 14.0 IP/2.57 ERA/ 12.86 K/9

We all waited for Spencer Strider to become a starter and once it happened he didn’t do what we really expected. In his first two starts while the strikeouts were there he was wild with his command and couldn’t complete five innings. To put it into perspective, in his first two starts he had an 18.4% walk rate which is astronomically high.

But we all knew that wouldn’t last since his walk rate on the season while not great wasn’t that bad. Finally, he got a start against Pittsburgh and he was able to right the ship. He pitched 5.2 innings where he had just one walk, eight strikeouts, and a ridiculous 18.5 SwStr%.

Strider features a three-pitch mix with a slider and four-seam that both produce above-average whiff rates. He throws high 90’s and continues to show how lethal he truly can be. I expect him to be fantastic moving forward just keep an eye on his innings since he only pitched roughly 100 innings last season.

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