Throwing Heat Week 9

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 façade. I hope you enjoy it!

*Stats as of 6/21*

Tyler Mahle, CIN

Last three starts: 21 innings pitched, 1.71 ERA, and a 12.00 K/9

What’s most interesting to me when it comes to Mahle and his performance lately is the fact that he is somewhat tackling the “he can’t pitch at home,” situation. In his last three home games against the Diamondbacks, Nationals, and Giants he has pitched over 18 innings with a 1.93 ERA and 11.57 K/9. I think mentally this could really help Mahle moving forward.

Since his eight earn run performance against the Cubs Mahle has just four earned runs in his last four starts (27.2 innings). His strikeout rate has rose to 34%, his walk rate dipped to 6.6%, and his SwStr% skyrocketed to 14.8%. Nothing much has changed with Mahle in these four starts but I think that’s okay since he was such a good pitcher last year and maybe he just had a tough time with the shorter spring training?

Only time will tell but his 6.45 ERA in April seems to be behind him because in the month of May and June his ERA for those two months is 3.61.

Aaron Nola, PHI

Last three starts: 23 innings pitched, 0.78 ERA, and a 7.83 K/9.

The slight dip in his K/9 from 11.11 to 9.94 compared to last year looks a bit worrisome but his strikeout rate basically mirrors last season so don’t let that fool you. Nola has quietly put together a really good season so far with a 3.11 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 28.7 K%.

Miles Mikolas, STL

Last three starts: 23 innings pitched, 1.57 ERA, and a 7.04 K/9.

We all know Miles Mikolas isn’t really a strikeout pitcher. He is and always has been a weak contact type of pitcher who keeps the ball on the ground. That doesn’t mean he isn’t useful though. He has a high floor and I think people undervalue him because they forget that he can be a workhorse.

In 2018 he pitched 200.2 innings and in 2019 he pitched 184 innings. This season he has completed eight innings twice and seven five times. He ranks third in the league in terms of innings and can make up for his lack of strikeouts per game by accumulation.

Mikolas is a sneaky good pitcher to have and his season numbers so far look pretty dang good with a 2.64 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 14.5 K-BB%.

Mitch Keller, PIT

Last three starts: 17.1 innings pitched, 2.08 ERA, and a 6.75 K/9.

Mitch Keller struggled out of the gate to start the season and after about seven starts the Pirates put him into the bullpen. After two relief appearances, he has now made four starts and in those four starts, he has a 2.42 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, and a 19.1 K%.

What happened here was out of nowhere Keller started throwing a sinker. It popped up in May where he used it 11.7% of the time and then it really showed up in June when it became his number one pitch as he used it 38.7% of the time. He ditched the four-seam that he always struggled with and went with a sinker that has better movement and induces weak contact.

Just to compare the two pitches, the four-seam has a .374 wOBA against, a .495 SLG against, and a .308 batting average against. The sinker has a .293 wOBA against, a .282 SLG against, and a .205 batting average against. Clearly a much better pitch.

Keller isn’t going to win you your league and he certainly won’t become a superstar because of this pitch mix change. It does make him a viable pitcher though, one you can stream, and one who is somewhat reliable.

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