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
You can find Dokken on Twitter @NathanDokken
Drop Caleb for Bieber?
@chris pierce: Absolutely.
Educate me please because that “zone contact rate” metric you cited in the German blurb is new to me. For context, what would league average be?
@Blah: League average is around 87%. The highest mark in the league right now is deal ol Bartolo at 93.5%, but that works for him – he’s trying to induce weak contact, not miss bats. The best marks are all your aces, Scherzer, DeGrom, etc between 75-80%. German is up to 80% now after his recent dud and he’ll continue to regress, but it’s a great way to gauge a pitchers bat missing ability.
Really appreciate that explanation, insightful, thanks so much!
@Blah: Any time, Mr. Blah. It’s what I’m here for!
Thanks! Good explanation, I don’t love all the new stats out there but this one seems like it could be useful in the future!
Just wondering since I’m new to zone contact rate, after how many starts do you think it would take for their zone contact rate to “normalize” I guess? Like yeah a horrible 1st start or 2 or a great 1st start or 2 would slant most stats. But if a guy had say 10 starts would you expect his zone contact rate to go up or down dramatically in the future? Or would say 20 starts give you that much of better idea of how good that pitcher really is?
@Chris: That’s a little hard to say, I would say though that around a 50 inning sample is about as low as I’d want to go for a sample size. It’s a nice complementary stat, but I wouldn’t use it on its own to draw too many conclusions.
Need a little advice from a ‘pert! Who do you like better this week?
Shane Bieber @ Stl
Tanner Roark @ Phi
@Skinny Mike: I’d be happy starting either, but I think I’ll go with Bieber. Roark could rack up a lot of strikeouts but I think he stands a bigger chance of getting blown up.
Another owner has expressed interest in my best trade chips. This year and one more of both Juan Soto and Acuna. I also have the next two years of Vlad.
I have #9 Bauer, #15 MadBum, 40 Fulmer, 45 Musgrove, 51 Rodon, and 56 Velasquez on my team.
#13 Greinke & #32 Price are available and I need some pitching stats (QS,K,ERA,WHIP)
Giving up Soto seems too high to only move up that much…same with Aucuna and Vlad.
Is it really going to be that big of impace to add Greinke and Price if I’m basically replacing VV and Rodon?
@coacher: If you can only keep a guy two years that lessens the blow a bit. If you could get Price AND Greinke for Soto and have a shot at that championship, that’s not bad.
Dream Warrior Dokken – Looks like Skaggs is now starting Monday against the Royals, so makes for a more favorable start than against the BoSox. Trying to decide whether to pick him up or not. My SP drop candidates would be Bieber and C Rodon. Or hold? Thanks.
@Prog_Nation: I would easily rather own Skaggs than either. If you need WHIP go Bieber, if you need K’s and can take a hit in WHIP take Rodon.
Thanks for the great analysis, Dokken! Musgrove’s last start burned me, so I’m having a difficult time agreeing with how you’ve ranked him ahead of Eflin, Bieber, and Peralta who I’m thinking to drop him for. Are you still just as high on Musgrove after his last start, and do you think the gap between him and the guys I listed, particularly Bieber and Peralta, is really as large as it seems in your ranking?
p.s. Clevinger’s hairdo is definitely a think of beauty.
@The Shoe: Thanks Mr. Shoe, happy to help! There’s a pretty big tier from about SP40-60 where everyone is basically a streamer in standard mixed leagues. Musgrove has had some misfortune in terms of a .343 BABIP and low 67% strand rate. He’s by no means a must own, but he gets the Padres in Petco this week and you’ll want to own him for that one. I do expect Bieber to be a quick riser though, and he’s got the Cards this week which should be a nice matchup for him.
@Dokken: OK hmm. So I asked Son a very similar question, but if you had to pick three guys out of the following who would they be?
Gibson, Eflin, Peralta, Musgrove, Bieber, Velasquez
I know I could go by your rankings, but perhaps you have some guys you like better than others even if you have them ranked lower (hope that makes sense).
@The Shoe: Totally, I think about that all the time actually. I like VV for example, but he can go 2-3 starts where he just kills you and I have to drop him in the rankings. I’ll go Gibson Eflin Musgrove, but they’re all close.
Help me out a little, please. I have an OF lineup of Rosario, Desmond, Mazara, and Cespedes. My UTILs are Cruz and Gurriel. I would be comfortable with a top 25-35 pitcher to get me through the season. Nobody wants Cespedes and nobody wants to pay fair for Mazara. So I’m left with overpaying Mazara and a couple pitchers I see are Rich and Bieber. I prefer to not lock myself down with that last UTIL spot, I’m still eyeing batters like Buxton and/or Tucker to pick up.
Trading Mazara for Hill. Should I do it? I looked at Hill’s game today and I don’t think it’s as bad as it looks. 3 of his 4 runs were batters that he HBP. Is Hill, or even Bieber, have enough of an upside to chase to trade Mazara away for?
@Simsbad: No way I trade Mazara for Hill, who could be lost for the season at the drop of a hat. He’s worth more than Bieber, too. I’d see if you could wrangle free Nick Pivetta from whoever owns him, he is chronically underrated. Just a thought. No matter what I’d want someone from my top 30 in a trade for Mazara.
@Dokken: So I’ll need to convince myself to pry over Pivetta for my Mazara. It’ll be tough, I’m pretty stubborn. One last question. I really want Buxton off F/A, been watching his results all week and loved his swing for his homer he hit this week. Can I justify dropping Castillo (good 2-start next week), Cespedes, S. Gray, Stroman (noticed you didn’t rank him), or risk waiting until rosters lock tomorrow to drop Loaisiga?
@Simsbad: I would just drop Stroman for Buxton. Buck brought back a small leg kick, so hopefully that helps him rise from uselessness. Stroman is easily replaceable, Buxton has a chance to be elite.