Why We Missed: Breakout Pitchers by Jeff Zimmerman October 23, 2019 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. Reasons Why We Missed 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 Justin Verlander 223 21 Gerrit Cole 212 20 Lucas Giolito 5.1 1.8 x 1.9 Lance Lynn 208 16 1.6 1.8 x 1 Shane Bieber 214 15 1.6 x Mike Soroka x Charlie Morton 194 16 27 x Hyun-Jin Ryu 100 Jake Odorizzi 15 1.1 1.8 Sonny Gray 45 2.0 x x Stephen Strasburg 209 18 79 Mike Minor 208 51 1.0 x Zack Greinke 208 18 Emilio Pagan 3.2 1.1 1.7 x Domingo German 18 53 Taylor Rogers 1.8 x 1.4 x Max Fried 17 54 2.8 x Héctor Neris x x Hansel Robles 2 x 1 x Luis Castillo 20 1.9 x Josh Hader 1.1 x Jack Flaherty 1 1.2 Jeff Samardzija 114 2.8 x x Seth Lugo 2.6 x x Will Smith 1.1 x Eduardo Rodriguez 203 19 66 Clayton Kershaw 16 Mike Fiers 15 1 Dakota Hudson 45 1.5 x x Ian Kennedy 2.5 x x 2.6 x Ryan Yarbrough 1.8 Chris Bassitt 1.1 x x x 1.5 Frankie Montas 4.7 x x Kirby Yates 2.1 x Anthony DeSclafani 32 1.1 Yonny Chirinos Matthew Boyd 3.2 x x 1.6 Jordan Lyles 54 x x Chris Paddack 51 Merrill Kelly Homer Bailey 57 1.8 x x Marcus Stroman 78 1.0 x x Wade Miley 61 2.0 x Patrick Corbin 202 1 Brandon Woodruff Adam Wainwright 109 Count 10 13 18 18.0 10 8 4 22.0 14 9 Average 208.1 60.9 2.2 1.8 1.4 Reasons Why We Missed (Part 2) NAME1 Crowded MLB rotation 1st mlb season Limited Times-thru-order MiLB IP not taken into account Injury history No respect Agism Dodgeritis Justin Verlander x Gerrit Cole Lucas Giolito Lance Lynn x Shane Bieber x x Mike Soroka x x x Charlie Morton x Hyun-Jin Ryu x x x Jake Odorizzi x Sonny Gray Stephen Strasburg x Mike Minor Zack Greinke x x Emilio Pagan Domingo German x x Taylor Rogers Max Fried x Héctor Neris Hansel Robles Luis Castillo Josh Hader Jack Flaherty x Jeff Samardzija x x Seth Lugo Will Smith Eduardo Rodriguez Clayton Kershaw x x Mike Fiers x Dakota Hudson x Ian Kennedy x Ryan Yarbrough x x x Chris Bassitt x Frankie Montas Kirby Yates Anthony DeSclafani Yonny Chirinos x x x x Matthew Boyd Jordan Lyles Chris Paddack x Merrill Kelly x Homer Bailey Marcus Stroman x Wade Miley x x Patrick Corbin x Brandon Woodruff Adam Wainwright x x Count 5 6 3 7 2 11 5 Average 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.