A couple of weeks back, I examined why the industry might have missed on some breakout hitters. It was tough to find anything actionable with the hitting breakouts. It’s now time to see any useful information that can be extracted from the pitching side.
I collected the information on any pitcher who finished the season with positive production in a 15-team league and saw more than a $10 jump in value from their draft-day price. I didn’t want to just use the difference in ranks because the gap from #1 to #15 could be over $10 but the difference between #250 to #300 might just be $1. In all, 46 pitchers made the cut
There were several more categories than hitters butseveral are actionable. One item I ran into was an issue with where to draw a line with the change. Bradley Newman pointed out the mechanical changes Giolito went through to see his production drastically improve.
this shows 1) change in delivery 2) side of rubber 3) change in pitch mix https://t.co/E4SoldMqx7
— Bradley Newman (@PhillyStars27) October 23, 2019
The changes were the root cause but if his plate discipline stayed the same, the adjustments wouldn’t have mattered. Also, it’s tough for the average fan to find out about these adjustments in real-time. The linked article was taken from late-May after Giolito was already universally owned. It was useless for any fantasy owner.
Here are the pitchers, the reasons they may have been undervalued, and an analysis of some common trends.
|NAME1||IP||W||IP jump >= 20||K/9 > 1.0 increase||BB/9 > 1.0 drop||Dropped pitch||Added pitch||pitch mix change’||Increase Fbv||Unexpected Saves|
|NAME1||Crowded MLB rotation||1st mlb season||Limited Times-thru-order||MiLB IP not taken into account||Injury history||No respect||Agism||Dodgeritis|
- Wins. It’s tough to project any pitcher for more than 15 to 16 Wins. Those who near 20 see a huge jump in their final value.
- On the same note, any pitcher who has an innings jump will obviously be more valuable. Eighteen pitchers saw their innings total from the previous season jump by over sixty innings. An additional seven seems to not have their minor league innings accounted for in their projections. Good pitchers who have a suspect past might group of pitchers to invest in since they have the upside of 180 to 200 innings (see Stephen Strasburg).
- The holy grail of increase projection can be seen by a higher strikeout rate caused by a higher fastball velocity and/or a change in their pitch mix. Twenty-two experienced a repertoire change while 14 saw their fastball velocity jump by about 1.5 mph. These changes can be spotted quickly and should be the focus of any early season analysis.
- Quite a few pitchers were getting no respect with a heavy dosing of over-30 agism thrown in. If owners are looking for an edge, they might need to: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…”
- A common theme is obvious with closers and extremely actionable. Besides Yates, Smith, and Hader, the other closers who jump up were 1) in a suspect bullpen situation and 2) saw a talent jump from the previous season. Grinding through the bullpens of suspects closers for breakouts might be a way to find Saves on the cheap.
- I expected more pitchers to fall into the rookie and injured categories. The breakouts aren’t coming from these groups. It’s pitchers changing for the better. Focus on pitchers already in the majors.
The big actionable information from this study is to find pitchers who are changing for the better. It can be either starters or relievers in shaky bullpen situations. Owners should not become attached to their drafted starters and grind the waiver for breakouts.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.