First off, go read Ralph’s post on Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. I always assumed – and I could be wrong – that many think us Razzball-ers are confined to our computers, changing our eyeglass prescription on a monthly basis as we go bleary-eyed from starting at our MLB.tv streams and Baseball Savant tabs. That is hogwash. Once a week, I make sure to step outside for an increment of 15-20 minutes. On Saturday, I took a leap of faith and decided to extend that window to a whole three hours as I absorbed a Hartford Yard Goats (this is their terrifyingly fantastic mascot) game with the almighty @ProspectJesus and fellow Razzball-ite @PaulTheMartin. It was a grand time, with extended looks at multiple top-20 prospects.

Alas, that is not what this post is about. I just couldn’t think of an intro and I wanted to brag about my weekend.

More bragging: we’ve been slaughtering it here on Razzball of late. Grey has made some fantastic sleeper calls including Patrick Corbin and others. My last pitcher-based column included Dylan Bundy, Jose Berrios, and Joey Lucchesi, three pitchers who spun fantastic outings in the past week and likely weeks to come.

Watching copious amount of baseball over the last 10 days, I noticed a slew of pitchers who were either up or down in velocity on certain pitches or entire repertoires. Analysis tends to hover around this data point for the first month of the season simply because it doesn’t take a lot for pitch velocity to stabilize, especially compared to other statistics we love to look at.

A lot of these risers and fallers, you likely already know about (think Kenley Jansen). So instead, I chose two pitchers with changes in velocity that can be linked to another aspect of their performance; maybe a little bit under the radar…

Jose Berrios

Changeup up 1.1 mph

Qualification: I didn’t have access to Berrios’ data on Brooks Baseball or Baseball Savant from his Saturday start while writing this blurb.

Berrios’ inclusion on this list is one part velocity and one part presumed pitch manipulation. Circling back to splits is something I tend to do often. Pitchers with a breaking ball as their primary offspeed pitch tend to have natural platoon splits. For right-handed pitchers, this often means they’re often working to lessen damage left-handed hitters will do against them. Jose Berrios is no different. While his issues weren’t as great as some, left-handed hitters posted a wOBA of .341 against him last year compared to right-handed hitters mustering only a .269 mark (median wOBA in 2017 was right around .330).

While Berrios’ two-seamer is likely one of the reasons he doesn’t get destroyed by left-handed bats, my willingness to edge him up a notch comes with the development of his changeup. A pitch he threw only 14 percent of the time to left-handed hitters kicked up to 20 percent in his first start. Aligning with the theme of this column, the pitch also saw an increase in velocity of roughly 1.1 mph. It’s not an eye-opening uptick, but with changeups, a small differential in velocity can matter. Success of changeups often come from velocity differentials off of a pitcher’s fastball. The most basic knowledge being that a changeup around 10+ mph of differential to a pitcher’s fastball will generate more whiffs, while one with a smaller gap 7-8 mph off of a fastball will help to induce more groundballs.

Berrios’ differential has gone from exactly 10 mph in 2017 to 8.7 mph so far this season. This suggest that the pitch might be more inclined to generate groundballs, something overall last season Berrios did at a below-average rate. There is a chance after we see the data from his start on Saturday – where I’ll note from a glance, his changeup usage was lower than average – Berrios will look a lot more like he did last year.

I don’t think it’s solely a coincidence, however, that his nine-inning gem came with elevated usage and superb location of the pitch to the Orioles. I’ll leave you with two looks at this pitch that provide a example of how feel-based changeups can sometimes be (see below). The 82-mph offering to Dee Gordon has a lot more depth compared to the 85-mph pitch to Robinson Cano. The velocity uptick might be a matter of Berrios acclimating himself to the pitch this season, or it might be alteration of his grip. I endorse the result of either result, simply because it might be signaling an elevated confidence in the pitch. If Berrios’ changeup improves, we’re looking at a fringe SP2 with an even higher ceiling.

I think there is a small buy-low window here with Berrios if his/her owner in your league considers his most recent rough-up better representative of his future. With the development of this pitch, we might see many more like his complete game as opposed to a struggle to get through five innings.

Luis Castillo

Four-Seamer down 1.6 mph

Two-Seamer down 1 mph

Changeup down 1.2 mph

Slider down 2.5 mph

Castillo’s velocity changes are across the board as opposed to an acute instance like Berrios. Unfortunately, there isn’t an uptick like one often hopes for. The reason myself and others were all-in on Castillo coming into this season comes from the two-seamer he added during the second half of last season. Combining the use of that pitch with the elevation of his relatively flat four-seamer allowed for the pitch to spike in effectiveness due to manipulation of the hitter’s eye level (and other factors). Mixed that in with his plus-plus changeup and plus slider, and we were looking at pitcher who could finally establish his fastball early in counts to bring him to his secondary offerings with being touched up.

Fast-forward to 2018 and everything Castillo lovers thought is wrong. His changeup usage has spiked, with his two-seamer usage higher and four-seamer lower than expected. My general speculation is that even with a strong changeup-to-fastball differential (still 10 mph in 2018), the drop in velocity of both pitchers might be making it easier for hitters to react and adjust. But that doesn’t explain why his slider has become a non-factor in the early going.

His release point on all of his pitches seem to be out of wack too. While he never possessed extremely structured, clean and repeatable mechanics (reminding me of Carlos Martinez aesthetically), his delivery worked based on his feel and bevy of options. Brooks baseball data is showing he may have raised his arm slot, which would naturally throw off his release point in a variety of directions. This is one of many factors I’ve speculated on that could be affecting his ability to succeed early on.

Even with all this said, and the overall dip in effectiveness, his swinging-strike rate has actually gone up to around 16 percent (4 percent increase). I hate to see a pitcher I’m high on start like this, but given what we know about his repertoire and deception, I’m leaning towards this being a fixable issue and one he can right the ship on sooner than later.

Castillo still has one of my favorite changeups in all of baseball. Here his first of the game to Harrison over the weekend, on the harder side compared to the average arm, but extremely deceptive and effective, even with his struggles.

 

 

TWITTER – @LanceBrozdowI restarted my old podcast! Two Strike Approach (iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher), BUT – I’m still talking prospects with Ralph every Thursday – ARCHIVE.

   
  1. lubey says:
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    Great stuff. Always look forward to reading your articles

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @lubey:
      Thanks!

      Appreciate the kind words.

  2. Fungazi 2.0 says:
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    I think both of Castillo’s starts have been at temperatures around freezing. Do you think he doesn’t like, or just isn’t good playing in cold weather?

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Fungazi 2.0:
      Very reasonable possibility.

      I wish there was a guide to which pitchers hate the cold like this for us to reference.

    • shibboleth says:
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      @Fungazi 2.0:

      I’m wondering the same. We’re not yet 2 weeks into the year, but as a Castillo owner i’m already experiencing all the Lows you might expect. My team is also a mess of DTDs and 10-Day DLs. It’s like the Mets conditioning program has taken over…

      I’ll be watching the next Castilloi start closely, and if it looks chilly I will probably bench. In which case, you’re welcome in advance for what is sure to be a sterling outing. :-P

      • Lance

        Lance says:
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        @shibboleth:
        Ha!

        Good, young SPs are often volatile.

        I just want more of a sample before panicking. Most encouraging is the whiffs he’s getting even if the Ks aren’t there. But then again, it’s easy enough to counter that with a negative stat of his.

        I’m gonna wait out the storm!

      • Jon Gray's broken toe says:
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        @shibboleth:

        Castillo’s last start was a couple of degrees above freezing temperatures in Pittsburgh, with the city receiving 2 cm of snow before the day was over. Let’s see what Castillo does in warmer weather.

  3. Ralph Lifshitz

    Ralph Lifshitz says:
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    I miss you lance….

      • J-FOH says:
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        @Lance: Get a room you two

        • Lance

          Lance says:
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          @J-FOH:
          We can make this a love triangle if you want J-FOH…

          • J-FOH says:
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            @Lance: I’ll be the cuckold in the corner

            • Lance

              Lance says:
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              @J-FOH:
              80-grade band name

              • J-FOH says:
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                @Lance: if I ever get a fantasy podcast it will be called 80 grade cuckold

  4. LadyScorpio says:
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    Hey Lance!

    Great article! I got Berrios last year when he was called up from the minors and kept him for my squad this year. I’m hoping that he puts it all together this season. I also have Wood, Ohtani, Taillon, Weaver, R. Lopez & A. Reyes as SPs. Had a great weekend as result of most of them! But am concerned about Wood and Reyes’ call up time. Thinking about adding 1 of these guys: Triggs, Skaggs, Kennedy or Junis. Which 1 would you recommend? I’m in a 10 team, roto, 6×6 keeper league. Need more K’s. ONLY female competing in my league. REALLY want to win!! Please advise.

    Many thanks,
    LadyScorpio

    • steve stevenson says:
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      @LadyScorpio: I had a similar choice recently and went Kennedy without regret. He may not make it through the year but is a good bridge to Reyes, will give you IP and K in a crap division.

      • LadyScorpio says:
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        @steve stevenson:
        Thank you, Mr. Stevenson for sharing your thoughts. I have been burned by Kennedy before, so that was why I hesitated in adding him. Thanks again for your input. It’s much appreciated!

        LadyScorpio

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @LadyScorpio:
      Nice!

      This is tough. All four of these guys look decent early, so it’s just a matter of figuring out where you want to go in terms of upside, floor.

      I’d probably rank them Junis-Skaggs-Triggs-Kennedy (which is in direct opposition to what Steve is saying right above me, I know).

      We’ve seen this before with Kennedy, I’m just not buying it. In a 10-teamer you have to go upside. Getting innings is probably easy with my assumptions of what the waiver looks like. Kennedy is just an innings guy to me.

      Really tough on Junis simply because I’m doing this without his start tonight, but even independent of any assumptions with the cold from his first start in DET, his spring success is carrying over and I don’t think it’s a fluke. I liked what I saw a lot.

      Will try to watch each of these guys this week, and given how small the samples are, things could change, but I’ll stick with my above rank for now.

      Good luck!

      • LadyScorpio says:
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        @Lance:
        Yes, I actually did well with drafting my pitching staff. I’m glad that you approve. I mentioned to Mr. Stevenson that I’ve been burned by Kennedy before, so wasn’t sure if I bought his current status either. I was also thinking that Junis might be the one with the most upside. I don’t know pitching stats like you, it was just an instinct. Will see how he does tonight. He was recently dropped and won’t be available to add until tomorrow. I would consider streaming him, but with my league being as competitive as it is, I think it’s in my best interest to add him to my squad instead.

        • Lance

          Lance says:
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          @LadyScorpio:
          Awesome! Good luck.

          I’m hoping for a solid start from him tonight as well. Fingers crossed, I liked what I saw last time out.

    • Robpopp says:
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      @LadyScorpio: think it was grey but I forget exactly — spoke to the al central effect of Kennedy and Junis being aided by weak opponents for roughly 17 cakewalks this year. So you may not need to lock em in all year

      • Lance

        Lance says:
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        @Robpopp:
        Another good point by Rob above here.

        If these three guys are hanging on your waivers, you may not really need to grab and stash. If you can stream I’d just play matchups.

        Also depends a little on acquisition limits and keeper allotment, but that might be getting too granular.

      • LadyScorpio says:
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        @Robpopp:
        Thanks Robpopp. But like I mentioned in my reply to Lance, I doubt that I’ll be able to stream either of them with my league being so competitive. Still, I truly appreciate your insightfulness and help.

        LadyScorpio

        • Robpopp says:
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          @LadyScorpio: heck yeah, good luck! Even though it’s so early, I love this beginning period of plucking from the wire, almost like an extension of the draft

  5. TTRA1N says:
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    Would you trade Castillo for happ, Baez or Puig? Roto

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @TTRA1N:
      Not for Happ or Baez.

      Puig is tempting.

      I loved him preseason and he’s been getting very unlucky early. I think there’s a small buy-low window opening right now that I’d try to pounce on. Castillo might be an even swap for me in roto based on needs. I would try to shoot lower on the Puig owner and hold Castillo if I was in your shoes.

  6. Robpopp says:
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    Two hombres I wish I had on my roster. Can see 15+ W for each. Twins at least near-playoff bound, and Reds, though not, still have enough oomph on the top half of their O to get their best starter Ws, esp at home.

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Robpopp:
      I have a few Castillo shares, but actually no Berrios ones. I’m a little bit bummed!

      Sending over a few feelers on value, we’ll see where it goes!

  7. nick the smooth dick says:
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    I’ll just be over here wallowing in the fact I couldn’t get the night of work to Goat it up with you guys

  8. HamPorter says:
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    Good Morning Lance,

    Quick pitcher question for you. I’m in a 12 team NL only league. I had a string of injuries to starting pitchers and am suffering in wins, whip, and era. There is a team in my league with a slew of top end staring pitchers, but he doesn’t have a closer and is losing out there. I have Neris, Rivero (Vasquez), and Strickland. Would Neris or Strickland for Nola be a fair trade for Nola? I don’t think either of us can win without addressing our pitching needs.

    Thanks!

    • HamPorter says:
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      @HamPorter: Nola is in the last year of his contract as well, not sure if that makes a difference.

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