Razzball is one of the more incredible communities in fantasy baseball, and the quality of the comments is one of the first places I would point towards for proof. Although after one sentence this seems like a kiss ass article, it is not. This is merely a thank you to commenter LenFuego for the premise of this week’s article. In the first article of the series, I offered Zack Grienke as a bounce-back pitcher of note from 2017. LenFuego pointed out that Grienke had a handful of poor starts in the 2016 season that anchored his ratios at career highs. Thus, his 2017 bounce back was primarily due to eliminating these outlier starts.
It is a dangerous task to simply take out the poorest starts in a pitcher’s season. As much as we don’t want them to, the blowups still count. However, I certainly think it is relevant to locate pitchers who had a deceptive 2019 due to a segment of their season, or a single game, not being representative of their year.
This is was my process in identifying a few pitchers who may have had deceptively good 2019s and qualify as a Restored Vet:
- Accumulated the top 30 starting pitchers with over 50 IP by WAR from 2017 and 2018. WAR isn’t a fantasy stat, but I wanted to venture outside of fantasy rankings for the original set of players for this group.
- Compared this list to the current NFBC Draft Champions ADP top 30 starting pitchers.
- Investigated the pitchers who weren’t in the current top 30 starting pitchers by reviewing monthly splits and game logs to find poor stretches.
This is a much more manual process than last week. The subsequent list was large, but many of the pitchers could be eliminated for varying reasons. The result was four starting pitchers who simply looked different than the rest. I’ll be honest… These four guys are an accumulation of boring pitchers. Sometimes boring pitchers win leagues. Jake Odorizzi and Mike Minor finished as top 25 starters in 2019. This group is comprised of pitchers close to that mold. These players are skewed towards deeper leagues, but in 12 team leagues it never hurts to get a jump on the watch list.
Marcus Stroman – Current NFBC ADP: #215
Marcus Stroman had a bumpy three start stretch prior to being traded. He allowed 12 earned runs in 14 1/3 innings pitched. Stroman made significant changes to his pitch mix in 2019, recognizing he needed to make an adjustment to rediscover success. Stroman began throwing a cutter at an elevated percentage. Essentially, he became a 3-pitch pitcher throwing a sinker, cutter, and slider at 92% of all pitches. The strategic component to this mix is that everything comes out of the same arm slot but moves in varying directions. For a non-strikeout pitcher simply missing the barrel is the key to success. Stroman did this at the best rate of his career (4.1% barreled), and in the top 6% of the league, last season. Stroman won’t wow anyone with his K rate, but offers the potential of 12-15 wins, 150-175 Ks, 3.25-3.75 ERA, and a 1.25-1.30 WHIP. These numbers are similar to Jake Odorizzi in 2019, with less downside. I can see Stroman sneaking into the top 25 fantasy starters for the year from his current 15th round ADP.
Chase Anderson – Current NFBC ADP: #456
Anderson allowed a ten spot to the Nationals in mid-August of 2019. This start bloated his ERA from around 3.5 for the year. Anderson will always be prone to giving up the home run as a fly ball pitcher moving to his third hitters park in his career. However, Anderson simply doesn’t get squared up very often. His barrel percentage, exit velocity, and hard-hit percentage are all below league average. Anderson increased his change-up usage approximately 6% year over year. The change-up has always been his premier pitch, offering a positive pitch value in nearly every season of his career. His underlying metrics will always look terrible, but he has consistently beaten them year after year. Anderson pitching off his change-up at a higher rate can offer fantasy owners a potential sub 1.25 WHIP over 400 picks into a draft. There just aren’t many others who can do the same.
Gio Gonzalez – Current NFBC ADP: #478
Gonzalez allowed 12 earned runs in two starts in August, both of which came at home. Simply removing these starts Gonzalez yields a 2.50 ERA over 80 innings. His peripherals were slightly worse than those numbers because he pitched to a BABIP, but he has had a low BABIP for much of his career. Gonzalez threw his change-up more than 30% of the time in 2019. It has always been his best pitch and generated a .155 batting average against. Gonzalez allowed a hard-hit percentage and exit velocity on batted balls near the 90th percentile for all pitchers. Over the off-season, Gonzalez moved teams to a softer hitting division, a better home park, and colder weather that should aid a non-strikeout heavy repertoire. In taking Gonzalez in the 30th round you are effectively acquiring Kyle Hendricks 20 rounds later. Gio is worth a stab in super deep formats.
Danny Duffy – Current NFBC ADP: #475
Duffy was roughed up in two separate starts (@TEX and @MIN). In removing those starts he had a 3.67 ERA in 2019. Duffy has been forced to go through a career transition after being a bullpen/short inning starter in the early stages in his career. In 2017, Duffy lost over two miles per hour on his fastball. In recognizing this velocity drop he began throwing his fastball much less and threw off his slider at a higher rate. In 2018, Duffy’s slider usage plummeted to 16%, opting for a curveball for the first time in his career, and was roughed up to the tune of 4.88 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. In 2019, Duffy returned to what worked and began throwing his slider at a higher rate. He started using his slider and curveball in tandem at 35% of all pitches thrown. Using these breaking balls at varying speeds he spiked the value of his slider once again. His slider had a .239 batting average against, a whiff percentage of 15%, and drew swings at the highest percentage since 2013. Often when pitchers are handed their first velocity dip it takes a few seasons to find the best way to attack hitters with the skillset that remains. In tinkering for several seasons Duffy may have done just that. Keep him on your watch list at the start of 2020.