Being a Razzball baseball content provider is tough. Grey writes up everyone and does it in a way that makes the gods nod their heads and say, “We done good. We done very good.” As I was combing Grey’s mustache, I brought this issue to his attention. He responded with, “My Son, I am but a man. A great man, but a man nonetheless. Oh, by the way, you missed a spot on my stache. Anyhoo, after you’re done combing my toe hairs, leave this establishment, head east, and look for the navy blue trash can with the words HERE painted in red. Inside you shall find your answer.” I did as Grey instructed. As I lifted the cover to the trash can, I was welcomed with a pungent, yet satisfying aroma. When I stuck my head into the trash can like an idiot, what I saw wasn’t so bad. It was Jake Odorizzi curled up with his knees holding up his chin, a phone in his right hand, and the browser showing his Fangraphs page. Why did the Odorizzi smell good and why was he smiling while curled up inside a trash can?
Odorizzi is the 184th overall player and 70th pitcher being selected in NFBC drafts (ADP from 1/1/20 – 2/5/20). That explains why he’s curled up in a trash can. But why is he smiling? Last season, he struck out 178 batters in 159 innings, won 15 games, and posted an ERA of 3.51. The 178 strikeouts were the 29th-most in all of MLB last season. He and James Paxton were the only pitchers to throw fewer than 170 innings. See, smells good, right?
Now, let’s dig in and see what we can unearth.
The first thing to focus on is the 10.08 K/9 rate. The prior two seasons, that number was at 8.87 and 7.97. Naturally, the swinging strike rate was a career-high 12.7%. He wasn’t getting batters to swing more outside the zone, but he was getting batters to swing more in the zone and miss. Hmmm, new pitch or sequencing? Time to go back a few years.
In his final year with the Rays, Odorizzi threw the fastball 48% of the time and complemented it with a changeup (22%), slider (11%), and cutter (12%). He also threw a curveball, but only 5% of the time. The following year, he went to the Twins, where he increased the fastball usage 6%, threw the slider 5% more, and decreased the cutter and changeup usage by around 5% each. Well, last year, Odorrizi continued to increase the fastball usage, now at 57.8%, but the slider and cutter usage decreased, while the curveball ticked up a percent and the changeup remained the same. Time to focus on the fastball. Lo and behold! What do we find? The velocity increased from 91.3 mph to 93 mph. That is a huge difference.
When I look at the splits, I find some very encouraging signs. Most notably, the improvement against righties. Throughout his career, Odorizzi had a 20.9% strikeout rate against them and gave up 1.35 HR/9. Last year, the strikeout rate popped up to 25.7% while the HR/9 tanked to 0.83. The BABIP was low at .239, so there’s bound to be some regression, but missing bats is missing bats.
The Twins are projected to win 101 games this season. For fantasy, placing too much emphasis on wins is stupid, but it doesn’t hurt that Odorizzi is on a team that should be very good. The draft price is excellent, the peripherals look solid, and as long as he can remain healthy and keep that velocity increase on his fastball, Odorizzi should be smelling mighty good all year. TREASURE