K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Is it a corny acronym? No doubt.

Does it have a purpose in fantasy baseball? Absolutely.

I’m not the smartest person on the planet. There is zero chance I can combine hundreds of metrics into a special formula to conveniently spit out 2020 breakout pitchers. Ask Rudy for that. However, I can break down the game to simple components and use a few metrics at a time. That is exactly what I plan to do in this series for the next month. Keep It Simple, Pat. K.I.S.P.!

Last week, I highlighted a group of pitchers who exceed expectations in the past 3 seasons. Time after time in reviewing these pitchers a commonality was the use of a highly effective secondary pitch. Additionally, the usage of this secondary pitch contributed to a rise in the effectiveness of the player’s fastball. This cohesion leads to the hypothesis of this week’s article, locating exceptional secondary pitches. If a pitcher throws hard with at least one valuable secondary pitch they will generate more strikeouts, more poor swings, and infrequent hard contact.

In order to find players that matched to this premise I did the following:

  • Started with 2019 Fangraphs pitch data and filtered out anyone with less than 50 MLB innings pitched and more than 400 career MLB innings pitched to isolate for Youthful Jumps.
  • Brought in the average fastball velocity for the last two years and removed all pitchers throwing less than 93.4 MPH. This isn’t an arbitrary number; Shane Bieber was the average velocity floor from the Youthful Jump group at 93.4 MPH.
  • Highlighted only players with a Standardized Pitch Value (Pitch Type Linear Weights per 100) for a secondary pitch over 0.5 for the 2019 season.

Shockingly, there were only 12 pitchers from the 2019 season who met the criteria. Of those, seven could be removed for various reasons mentioned at the end of the article for clarity. The five pitchers who remain are detailed below:

Max FriedMLB IP: 200 – Avg. FB Velo: 93.8 – Plus Pitch: Slider (1.43 wSL/C)

Notes: Grey already wrote up a Max Fried sleeper. Rudy’s projection machine loves him as well. This gets me all warm and bubbly on the inside. Fried underperformed his metrics in 2019 (4.02 ERA/3.32 xFIP/3.83 SIERA). It was his first season throwing the slider in his career. His curveball spin is elite. It would be reasonable to expect that Fried would utilize his slider at a higher clip (16% in 2019) in his second season with it in his arsenal, while maintaining his career curveball rate of around 25%. His changeup has been his worst pitch in his small MLB sample, and Fried has all but eliminated it. Fried made notable strides in walk percentage in 2019. He broke the 3.0 BB/9 for the first time in his MLB, or minor league career. Fried has shown an ability to reach a 12%+ swinging strike rate which would place him in elite territory. That warm and bubbly feeling? Yeah, it’s a rolling boil now.

Pablo Lopez – MLB IP: 170Avg. FB Velo: 93.8 – Plus Pitch: Change-Up (0.53 wCH/C)

Notes: The comparisons between the start of Lopez’s career and Luis Castillo’s 2017 rookie season is very close. Lopez pitch mix was 59/20/21 (FB/CB/CU). Castillo 2017 pitch mix was 62/15/23 (FB/SL/CU). Lopez walks less people with a career 2.38 BB/9 versus Castillo’s 3.20 BB/9. The final step Lopez needs to take is to avoid bats at a slightly higher rate. I think he can do it through more swing and miss on swings outside the zone. In 2018, Lopez had a 34.7% O-Swing percentage, but the contact on those swings was at a 67% rate. This is very uncommon, particularly for players with a dynamic arsenal. In 2019, among starters with 50 IP only 35 pitchers had an O-Swing percentage higher than 34%. Of those 35 pitchers only 11 had a contact rate as high as Lopez. If Lopez maintains the same O-Swing percentage and misses bats 3-5% more on those swings his swinging strike percentage will get to 12%. That is all that is necessary to completely change his career arc.

Yonny Chirinos – MLB IP: 136 – Avg. FB Velo: 94.4 Plus Pitch: Slider (1.07 wSL/C)

Notes: Chirinos is a great value pitcher at current cost with an NFBC ADP after round 20. Chirinos throws everything hard and pairs that with an ability to consistently throw strikes. His sub 2.0 BB/9 is excellent and makes for a unique combination. That said, I’m not certain that Chirinos has the potential to break into the top 25 starting pitchers. He gets barreled far too often (8.8% in 2019) and doesn’t show swing a miss stuff with a 10.8% career swinging strike percentage. There is a lot to like here including pitching for an intelligent organization, but the path to increasing that swinging strike percentage isn’t quite as clear for Chirinos. This holds his ceiling under Fried and Lopez for me, albeit with a higher floor than Lopez.

Brad Keller – MLB IP: 283 – Avg. FB Velo: 94.2 – Plus Pitches: Change-Up (2.69 wCH/C) and Slider (1.17 wSL/C)

Notes: I didn’t log on to the internet today thinking I was going to discuss Brad Keller. I’ll start with the negatives, because I’m not confident that Keller fits the mold we are looking for. See that changeup populating in the plus secondary pitches? It was only thrown 0.5% of the time in 2019. Keller is a two-pitch pitcher: Fastball/Sinker and Slider. Generally, I don’t believe in two-pitch pitchers. I certainly don’t believe in two-pitch pitchers with an 8.6% career swinging strike rate. That said, Keller has proven to have a plus-slider and throws hard. If he can add the changeup into his pitch mix at a 10-15% clip there might be something here. The alteration in his velocity would help his strikeout rate tremendously. That is a wish at this point. In deep leagues and draft only contests Keller might have some dart throw potential.

Dakota Hudson – MLB IP: 174 – Avg. FB Velo: 94.2 Plus Pitch: Slider (0.75 wSL/C)

Notes: The frat brother SEO clicks on this article are going to be through the roof with Brad Keller and Dakota Hudson blurbs back-to-back. Hudson was lucky in 2019. There isn’t any other way to slice up the data. He outperformed his xFIP by a full run, and his SIERA by almost two full runs. Hudson plays on a team projected to win 85-90 games this year so he has a chance to luck into a win count similar to 2019. The components holding Hudson back from making a jump are his horrid walk rate and inability to generate more poor contact. The capability to not walk batters is pivotal for a contact pitcher and I can’t find data that shows Hudson can make that adjustment in his game. His swinging strike rate for a sinker heavy pitcher isn’t far from what is necessary for success. The issue is that he can’t get his nasty pitch (slider) over the plate to entice batters. The pitch is called a ball 50.5% of the time and only draws a swing at a rate of 25%. I’ll leave Hudson alone for now, but he’s now on mine, and, hopefully, your radar.

Pitchers meeting criteria that are established: Jack Flaherty, Shane Bieber, Walker Buehler, and Chris Paddack

Pitchers meeting criteria that are suspended: Domingo German

Pitchers meeting criteria that I’m not convinced will be in the rotation: Chris Bassitt and Zach Plesac

2020 Draft Kit
 
  1. Grey

    Grey says:
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    Solid confirmation for me, because I like all of the guys in this post, even Chris Bassitt

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      I think that Bassitt and Plesac might be my favorites from the dumpster pile of this list (including Keller and Hudson). Hoping they can win rotation spots.

      • Grey

        Grey says:
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        Yeah, I haven’t revealed my pitcher rankings yet, but I’m not 100% I’m in on Keller or Hudson, they have some fleas…But I do like them comparably to SPs around them… You should look at Stroman (if you haven’t)

        • Pat

          Pat says:
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          I actually like what the Mets have in general, which is probably a bad omen for my season.

  2. packers2018 says:
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    Your post are super helpful. Thanks for all your research.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Appreciate the read and comment Packer Backer. Go Bears.

  3. Harley Earl says:
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    This is a very interesting post with some very insightful and interesting information. This is really excellent work here, digging into some of the numbers but still keeping it relatively simple. Very, very well done article. Definitely some guys to think about or at least have on the backburner ready.

    • Harley Earl says:
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      Also, since your name is Pat, I would recommend changing your photo from Pete Rose to the old SNL skit character Pat.

      That has to be one of the greatest SNL skits ever.

      • Pat

        Pat says:
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        I cannot tell a lie… You are a little before my time. Had to look that one up.

        • Harley Earl says:
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          Pat ruled back in the day. Funny as shit. Haha!

      • Sport says:
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        Did they ever figure out if Pat was a boy or girl?

        Funny stuff!

    • Snacks Zillion says:
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      Cool article, thanks for the insight.

      • Pat

        Pat says:
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        Thanks Snacks

  4. hondo says:
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    Good read.Thanks.

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Appreciate the read Hondo.

  5. Shawnuel says:
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    Adrian Houser may not meet all your requirements but after analyzing his pith data and being fortunate enough to benefit from his excellent 2nd half of 2019, he gets me really excited for 2020.

    • Shawnuel says:
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      pitch data.

      • Pat

        Pat says:
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        Digging in now!

  6. Kutty says:
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    Thoughts on Luzardo? Looks like a ol skool Johan. I’m drafting him!

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      I like him a lot. It just depends on if you are willing to take a guy who probably tops out at 120-130 innings in round 10ish. Paddock was 27 on player rater but if you pick the right streams to pair with him to stretch the innings out he was probably a top 15-20 pitcher. Luzardo K rate a little deceptive out of the bullpen too. Just have to get a little more creative with your staff if you target Luzardo.

  7. Kutty says:
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    Also very cool write up. Thanks

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Appreciate it Kutty

  8. Very interesting, like Chirinos quite a bit this year. Thanks, good stuff Pat!

    • Pat

      Pat says:
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      Thanks for reading Smitty!

  9. Sport says:
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    Love the series so far!

    Maybe you get into this in series 3, but I see early ADP’s for Max Fried (125) and Pablo Lopez (337) are favorable.

    I am really looking forward your next write up. Thanks for your stuff!

Comments are closed.