Who doesn’t need a friendly pat on the back once and a while? I mean, I pat myself on the back all the time! With life, it’s the little things (that’s what she said.) And so in terms of Dane Dunning, so far so good. And that’s definitely not sarcasm now roughly a quarter way into the season, as Dunning has provided a low 1.67 ERA on four starts and 12 games pitched. Bullpen arm turned starter due to the current state of league pitching (pitcher goes boom!), there are some concerns about how sustainable that ERA actually is going forward, but as the title states (spoiler alert), well done. But what comes next?
Well, this wouldn’t be fantasy baseball without the anxiety and frustration, and so there are some red flags present. The very low K/9 of 5.44 and xFIP of 4.58 projects a rocky road ahead. But the career low (by a wide margin) 2.09 BB/9 and near 49.2 GB% can be part of a successful recipe because food and I’m hungry.
Not really known for his velocity, Dane Dunning has always relied on a kitchen-sink repertoire and deception in his delivery. His fastball can reach the mid-90s, but he generally sits in the 90-92 range with a curveball, slider, and changeup which are all considered above average. Pretty much what you would want to anchor the back-half of your rotation, and thus fate has decided to put him exactly where he should be. Which still has value, especially as a bench streamer or as injury insurance. Granted, we just mentioned some of the red flags, but it should be noted that Dunning’s career K/9 of 8.07 indicates there’s room to still grow this season, even if his ERA does regress.
In terms of his batted ball data, his profile remains largely unchanged from his career. Obviously, he’ll give up a homerun(s) at some point, but there aren’t really any wild swings in his 43-innings of data. Contact has jumped five percent with a three percent dip in his SwStr%, but I’m not too concerned. One aspect that’s interesting and may bode well for his sustainability is the rise in his first-pitch strike percentage. That combined with his rising Zone% seems to be a strategy to be more aggressive early in the count, and the lower BB/9 from this new approach may show that it is indeed working as intended.
Yes, Dane Dunning is obviously pitching a bit over his head, but I like what he brings to the table, even with regression coming. In his past two starts, he’s pitched at least six innings and can build on that with what is a clear role in the rotation, at least until DeGrom returns. Not to mention that one of those starts was against a strong-hitting Braves team where he allowed just one run on six hits and just one walk.
So put everything together, that’s a potential top-50 starting pitcher that could be readily available depending on format. And as I alluded to above, sure, it’s easy to point at the inflated advanced stats like xFIP and his other red flags, I can’t deny that. But to me, the regression may not be as challenging as it would have been without his new approach to the plate, and as the transition from bullpen to the rotation completes itself, we could see a very productive above-average pitcher that helps your ratios. If that ends up being the case, well Dunning indeed, no?
Jay is a longtime Razzball everything who consumes an egregious amount of Makers Mark as a vehicle to gain wisdom and augment his natural glow. Living in the D.C. area, he also likes spending time visiting the local parks and feeding lettuce to any turtles he encounters, including Mitch McConnell.