Under the Radar: Brandon McCarthy

Saturday the FanGraphs crowd caught the Texas-Cleveland matchup and saw strong performances from starting pitchers Justin Masterson and Brandon McCarthy. Masterson struck out six batters in 3.2 IP while McCarthy had 3 Ks in 3 IP and did not allow a run. Masterson solidified his place as one of the Tribe’s top pitchers while McCarthy helped his chances to land a spot in Texas’ starting rotation.

Over at Mock Draft Central they give an ADP for the top 454 players. McCarthy does not make the list. Some of the pitchers who are on the list ahead of him include Oliver Perez and his 6.82 ERA, Luke Hochevar and his 1.49 WHIP and John Lannan and his 3.88 K/9. McCarthy did not even get a write-up in FanGraphs Second Opinion. I think it is safe to say that he is not on most people’s fantasy radar at this point in time.

McCarthy has two things working against him: his injury history and his gopher ball tendencies. Last year McCarthy had his second stress fracture in his right shoulder and missed nearly three months of the season. He has been on the DL four times in the last three years, including two 60-day stints. In 2009, McCarthy had a 1.20 HR/9, a rate that would have ranked among the worst in the majors if he had enough innings to qualify.

While it remains to be seen if McCarthy can stay healthy, he got better as the season progressed last year in allowing homers. In April, McCarthy surrendered 6 HR in 22 IP. For the rest of the season he gave up 7 HR in 75.1 IP. McCarthy was at his best in September, after he came back from the stress fracture. In his final 33.1 IP, he allowed just 2 HR.

Now this could easily be just the results of a small sample. But one interesting note is McCarthy’s batted ball profile after he returned from the DL. He had a 49.1 GB%, nearly double of his mark in April (26.4%). McCarthy posted a 1.44 GB/FB mark, compared to a 0.92 GB/FB mark overall in 2009 and a 0.82 lifetime mark in the category.

After his return from the disabled list, McCarthy threw fewer fastballs and more of his off-speed pitches. His FB% was 40.3 percent in September, compared to 64.9 percent overall. He threw more of each of his remaining three pitches, with his change seeing the biggest increase. In the final month, McCarthy threw his change 23.6 percent of the time.

With an average FB velocity last year of 88.8 and a Pitch Type Value of -7.6 runs with his heater, McCarthy can afford to throw fewer fastballs. One thing to keep in mind is that there is some confusion about which pitches he actually throws. In the Associated Press story following Saturday’s outing, McCarthy said, “I really wanted to work on the cutter.” Meanwhile, neither FanGraphs nor BrooksBaseball.net show him throwing a cutter last year. Also, there was talk at the beginning of 2009 about McCarthy throwing a “slurve,” which further muddies the water.

Regardless of the terminology used, the bottom line is that McCarthy threw more grounders in the final month of the season last year. It’s too soon to draw any conclusions, but fantasy players should keep in mind that McCarthy may be a different pitcher going forward. If he continues with these ground balls, he could be a candidate for an early waiver wire claim.

We hoped you liked reading Under the Radar: Brandon McCarthy by Brian Joura!

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He added the cutter this past off-season.