Surprise!! Kershaw is back! Again. Hopefully for the last time. We all love Kershaw whether we own him or not (come on, the guy builds houses in third world counties in his off time). Therefore for the good of baseball, Kershaw should be allowed to have a personal masseuse on the field at all times to loosen him up between pitches. Anything that back needs, get that masseuse in there and rub it out. No more DL stints! Someone get me Manfred’s number. Of course, for every give there is a take, and we lost Carlos Carrasco to a nasty comebacker off the elbow. It doesn’t sound like he’ll be gone too long, but he’s off the list this week. Outside of that we had a relatively quiet week for starting pitchers. We lost the likes of Aaron Sanchez and Jose Urena to the DL, but those guys aren’t leaving anyone’s season hanging in the balance. Michael Wacha does appear to be gone for a significant amount of time with an oblique strain though, and that is a more significant loss. Despite the fact that he seemed obscenely overrated by the Razzball community, I didn’t want to see him go. Especially considering he’s being replaced by John Gant. Yay. We’re also in that dead zone before the midseason call ups, so we don’t have too many debuts to discuss this week on the list. Most starters pretty much pitched like you’d expect them to this week as well, so there wasn’t a ton of serious moving and shaking. That makes this sound like a bit of a dance, which I guess it kind of is. I prefer the Mashed Potato, myself. Since there isn’t a ton of movement, I want to touch on some of the guys I haven’t talked about this year in addition to a few newcomers to the list.
- Shane Bieber, CLE (SP62) – Bieber is back up and earned his second win of the season, shutting out the lowly Tigers over seven strong innings with nine K’s and just one walk. Three walks through three starts is about par for the course with Bieber, whose command is nothing short of pinpoint. He’ll help carry your team in WHIP, and won’t even be a negative in strikeouts the way many of the other low walk starters will. Guys like Mikolas, Mengden, even Manaea aren’t helping you much in K’s, but Bieber actually has a 12% whiff rate. He’s got a good shot to continue to move up from here, perhaps into SP40 range if he continues this K-BB%.
- Rich Hill, LAD (SP69) – If you have the slightest idea what to do with Rich Hill, you’re doing better than me. The Superblister is gone for the time being, but we all know it can come back at any time, like a C.H.U.D.. Hill came back from the DL this past week and did something he hadn’t done in months: he dominated. He held a very good Cubs offense to three hits in six innings without yielding a run. Maybe what he needs to do is change his name to Rich Mound and become a new man. Put all this Superblister business behind him once and for all! Also, he pitches from a mound, so it makes sense you see. Anyway, if I had Hill I doubt I could get anything for him so I reckon I’d roll him out and hope for the best. He seems to either kill it or suck hard, but we’ve seen him go on crazy runs in past years so what the hell. Live a little.
- Domingo German, NYY (SP78) – There were some curious commenters last week wondering why I hadn’t ranked German. Well, technically it was an error as I meant to include him in the 90’s somewhere and failed, but it also seems that I’m on the conservative side of the German spectrum. There’s no denying he’s missing a ton of bats. If he had pitched enough innings to be a qualified starter for the league leaderboards (which he is nowhere near), his 15.8% swinging strike rate would rank second in baseball behind only Max Scherzer. His 78.7% zone contact rate would be fourth, behind just Scherzer, DeGrom, and Sale. I like that stat because it tells me his stuff is good enough to pound the zone with and still miss bats. I don’t deny that. What he has struggled with, however, is control. It’s been better over his past five starts, and that’s why I bring him to the list as an option. If something has clicked with him, I don’t want to miss out on just how good he can be. He’s worth a flier in all formats, I will say that. I’ve never been a huge fan of his delivery though, and he’s dealt with plenty of injuries as well. He’s one of those “just in case” adds.
- Jaime Barria, LAA (SP88) – I’ve started to come around to Barria a bit recently. Solid ERA/WHIP, but bad peripherals have scared me off. Well now that he’s got nearly 50 innings under his belt, we’re starting to get a sense of who he really is as a Major League starter. His 12.1% whiff rate is very nice, and he’s getting chases out of the zone as well at 34%. His changeup and slider each get 18%+ whiffs, with the changeup looking solid enough to be able to lower his currently ugly .349 wOBA vs righties. He’s got a way to go before he’s a real asset anywhere, but he’s on my radar now.
The Unheralded Starters
- Mike Clevinger, CLE (SP34) – Who really is this Clevinger fella? He looks way different (on the stat sheet, anyway) than he did in 2017. Last year it was a huge 10.13 K/9 but an equally huge (you know, relatively speaking) 4.44 BB/9. This year? 8.18 K/9, 2.91 BB/9. Despite those different results, the ERA’s have been almost identical at 3.11 and 3.00. The Clevelander demands respect. His pitch mix is basically unchanged, and although his velocity is up a half a tick, he’s allowing more contact and getting fewer whiffs. His first pitch strike rate has shot up from 63% to 67% though, and he’s pitching in the zone nearly 3% more. That command has clearly taken a step forward, making him a more reliable starter. He also gets bonus points for having sweet hair and a bunch of tattoos.
- Matt Boyd, DET (SP52) – You can’t get a more “take it or leave it” profile than Matt Boyd, which is probably why I haven’t written about him yet. At least as far as I remember. He doesn’t get much exposure pitching on a tanking Tigers club, and his 7.26 K/9 isn’t exactly flashy like a neon sign for an all you can eat Chinese buffet. Man, I could go for some Chinese food right about now. Boyd has relied on a .242 BABIP for his 3.63 ERA, so worse days are probably coming. He isn’t a soft contact maestro, with a 35% hard contact rate that isn’t impressing anyone, so that BABIP isn’t gonna stick around. It is impressive, however, that he has been able to be a solid streaming option while losing three miles per hour on his fastball!!! Yes, his fastball dipped from 92 in 2017 to 89 this year. His slider is actually down six MPH, but that has provided more of a velocity gap and has made the pitch more effective. In fact, in terms of pitch value, his slider was his worst pitch last year. This year, it’s been his best pitch. What a wild world.
The Top 100 Starting Pitchers
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