Another trade was executed this week! I shipped out Trevor Cahill along with newly minted closers Brad Brach, and Cory Knebel, to Ben Pernick (McCullers of the Rainbow) for Alex Wood and Jeff Samardzjia. I’m punting saves, needed help in the ratios, and always looking for high K upside. Pernick was happy to get two more closers to pair with Jim Johnson and Craig Kimbrel, and a SP back in Cahill who’s impressed thus far. Let us know what you think in the comments. We’ll see how it plays out going forward. Here’s what else happened during week 6 in the Pitcher List Staff League!
Max Eddy (12 Years a Save) vs Rick Graham (Mr. Holland’s Opus):
This was a true nail biter going into Sunday with batting average, Strikeouts, and the pitching ratios all very much in play. It ultimately boiled down to Rick’s addition of Hector Santiago’s ill-fated 2.2IP, 7H, 8ER, 2BB, 1K implosion against the Tribe. I was fortunate as Santiago negated my ill-advised stream of Tim Adleman who tossed 1IP, 3H, 3ER, 2BB, 0K @SF before being mercifully removed from the game with neck tightness. Bullet dodged.
On the offensive side of things Paul Goldschmidt continues to roll padding his weekly line of 7/23, 6H, 3HR, 6RBI, 1SB with a multi-tater game on Sunday. But I was ultimately happier with Jonathan Villar’s 8/21, 4R, 1HR, 5RBI, 1SB performance on the week. Villar’s early season K% spike has been much discussed so it’s rather comforting to see the results of the week in the context of the following chart as well.
Last season was most likely his peak in terms of batting average. If he continues to pull the ball at a 45.7% clip, up 13.4% from ’16, while generating %59.8 ground balls his potential BABIP, and therefore Batting Average, will lose some floor. Nonethless the plate discipline and contact rate improvements over the last 15 games indicate that buy-low window could be closing.
Rick’s offense decided to take the week off from hitting taters as he entered the weekend with a goose egg in the HR column. Multi-homer weekends from Trea Turner and George Springer helped end the power outage, and return some confidence in the early round picks. Nonetheless the long ball has been hard to come by lately for Graham’s squad. First sackers Eric Hosmer and Anthony Rizzo have combined for exactly one tater thus far in May. It’s no surprise to see Hosmer’s batting average hovering near .300 as the rate of balls he’s put in play at a launch angle between 10°-19° has jumped up 10% from last season to 20.2%. A return to 25 homers seems less like though. Not only has Hosmer lost volume on balls hit between 19°-39° (down 7.1%), he’s also lost Exit Velocity as well (95.2 MPH in ’16, 92 MPH this year). Given he plays in one of the worst parks for homers in the league Hosmer’s HR/FB% can ill afford the backward slide in these crucial power metrics. I’m a bit concerned about Rizzo as well, but we’ll check in with him next week.
Ben Pernick (McCullers of the Rainbow) vs. Christopher Edmunds (Stunning Bunts):
Pernick drew a solid matchup this week facing an MIA owner, and got just enough production to pad his win column. Buster Posey and Michael Conforto went goofy this week combining for a 19/43, 16R, 6HR, 9RBI line of püré goodness. Four of those homers came from Posey who’s managed to increase his launch angle 2.3° thus far. Despite the overall increase in angle he’s decreased the rate and Exit Velocity on balls hit between 19°-26° which are the most optimal for homers. But he has pulled those balls more going from a 4.7 spray angle (towards RF) to a -7.4 angle (towards LF). There’s some mixed signals going on with this data. We’re all aware at this point that hitting the ball harder, and then pairing it with the right upward trajectory, is crucial for power. But horizontal spray, or pulling versus going oppo, is important too considering how much closer to home plate the foul poles are. Posey’s overall Pull% has only increased a percentage point, but his Oppo% is down 6.3%. It’s a trend worth watching as more pulled fly balls could nudge up his HR/FB%, but it’s also worth noting that three of his taters came on the road. Posey will always be limited in the power department playing in AT&T Park, but we could see a return to 20 homers if he keeps pulling.
Andrew Todd-Smith (Wacko Contenders) vs. Ian Post (Ian’s Pornogriffey):
The Contenders were able to nimbly maneuver around Post’s power barrage to notch that sweet first W. Welcome to the Win column ATS! Carlos Carrasco continued his early season dominance going for a 7IP, W, 3H, 0ER, 0BB, 7K against the Blue Jays. Carrasco has excellent skills across the board 8.57 K/9, 1.49 BB/9, 25.2% Hard%, and 2.94 xFIP. He’s relying a bit more on his Change Up and Curveball this year at the expense of his Fastball and Slider. The former pitches have lost some whiffs from the previous season, and with less usage of the slider, which is his best pitch for whiffs (22% SwStrk), it’s tough to imagine him achieving the 9.9 K/9 Zips has projected for him rest of season. But Carrasco has yet to allow a non-grounder on his Changeup. It has a 100% GB%, and the Curve is at 80% according to the PitchF/X tab on his FanGraphs page. There’s enough of everything here to believe Carrasco can be an ace for the rest of the year provided he stays healthy, duh. Wouldn’t it just be the ultimate irony if this dude, of all the dudes, goes for 220IP? What a ridiculous season it’s been for pitching injuries.
For Ian it was a tough loss, but he managed to bolster his lineup this week by adding Aaron Altherr. Altherr lit it up this week going 6/19, 5R, 4HR, 8RBI. There’s been a good amount of ink on Altherr over at FanGraphs, and if you’re not familiar with him check out these pieces from Dave Cameron, and Jeff Sullivan. The short of it is that Altherr’s wrist injury last year muted his projections coming into the year, and given his swing changes he should be valued as a legitimate offensive player going forward. His K% and BB% rates have gone in the right direction, he’s got a 40.7% Hard%, and his overall pitch selection seems to have improved with a 5.3% decrease in O-Swing%. It’s easy to look at his .392 BABIP, 25% K%, and 72% Contact% as cry “Regression!” He doesn’t have the traditional plate discipline profile of a .333 hitter, his current average should experience some natural regression. But his balls in play thus far have equated to a .438 xBACON (Expected Batting Average On Contact) per xStats. Besides being perhaps the best named stat in baseball, BACON is a useful tool for identifying batting average potential given that the stat represents BABIP+HRs. Altherr has shown, thus far, that when he makes contact it’s often in a range of Exit Velocities and Angles that result in positive outcomes. All that was Nerd for, “Atherr’s speed and talents for making strong contact make him an ideal candidate for a higher than average BABIP.”
Alex Fast (Betances With Wolves) vs William Wright (Céspedes Centipedes)
Another really tight matchup which ultimately came down to a make-or-break Sunday. Fast was at the disadvantage having only two probable starters that day against Wright’s three. Nonetheless he was able to eek out an unlikely win from closer Tony Watson to counter Adam Wainwright’s 7IP, W, 4H, 0ER, 5BB, 4K line against the Cubs. Alas for Fast it all came down to Taters, and the two Wright got from Bryce Harper and Yasiel Puig were enough to seal his fate.
Speaking of taters, or the lack thereof, Fast’s had to live with the relative wasteland that has been Todd Frazier thus far in 2017. What on earth is going on with this dude? The Todd Father is currenty slashing a wretched .173/.278/.316, yet he’s upped his BB% to 12.2% and trimmed his K% to %17.4, both represent career bests. His .182 BABIP is easy to point to, but Frazier’s also lost roughly 2MPH on his average exit velocity. That would seem to explain the 5% drop in Hard% which is down to 26.3% and continues a trend from ’16 when he lost 6% from his ’15 Hard%. But this is a guy that hit 40 Homers last season. There’s absolutely been some bad luck involved as xStats has him at a .258/.351/.500 xAVG/xOBP/xSLG, but I think in large part that’s based on some gains in Exit Velocity on balls hit between 10°-26°. Wait so that’s good right? Sure. Those balls in play are usually high-probability hits, and extra-base hits too, but again there’s an issue of volume. 22.5% of his balls in play last season came from that range of angles compared to 18.8% this season. Meanwhile he’s hitting far weaker ground balls. Frazier averaged 89.1 MPH on balls hit between <0°-10° last season. This year he’s averaging 83.6 MPH and while there’s been a 6.4% uptick in his Infield Hit% as he does have some wheels to beat out throws, these are not the hits your drafted for which you drafted Todd Frazier. He’s not a power hitter right now and despite the improvements in plate discipline there’s not a lot else to hang a hat on right now. It’s a weird profile moving forward.
This past weeks episode of the Real Housewives of Matt Harvey leaves Wright, and the rest of us beleaguered Mets fans, little to hope for. The Dark Not was shellacked, again, to the tune of a 5IP, 7H, 5ER, 5BB, 6K in Milwaukee. The 6Ks in 5IP would be encouraging if it wasn’t for the fact that the Brewers are 24th in the League in Contact% at 76%. Brewers hitters made contact on Harvey’s offerings 73% of the time during his outing, representing the best mark of the season for Harvey but considering the opponent it’s hard to get giddy over this. Also, his slider had less drop according to PitchF/X with almost 2 inches less drop than his last start. Oh, and then his average fastball velocity was back down. You know, that thing we were all hoping would come back eventually and propel him towards renewed effectiveness? Harvey sat 94MPH after showing an encouraging 95MPH average against the Braves in his previous start. I have no idea what to do with this dude. You certainly can’t be starting him until he shows some meaningful level of improvement. That being said progress isn’t necessarily linear, and there’s not a lot we know about guys coming back from TOS. If you can spare the roster spot stash him, but if you can’t we really haven’t seen enough to warrant him being owned in a 12-teamer.
Nic Gardiner (Ze German) vs Nick Pollack (Appel of Manaea):
Who doesn’t love a show down between two Nic(k)s? Pollack was somehow able to hang in for the tie here, and had to be thrilled to see J.D. Martinez go 4/9, 2R, 2HR, 3RBI over the weekend in his return from DL. The fun lasted 24hrs and then the avalanche of sadness that has been Nick Pollack’s season in this league thus far continued to snowball as name sake A.J. Pollock was DL’d with a groin injury. It won’t be shocking to see Pollock miss more then the 10 days considering groin issues cost him a month at the end of last year. Nonetheless Carlos Correa turned it up going 10/22, 7R, 2HR, 10RBI and Corey Dickerson continued to rake with a 13/28, 7R, 0HR, 2RBI line on the week. I’m selling Dickerson right now. His average Exit Velocity is down from 88.8 MPH to 85.3MPH, and his average Launch Angle has dropped 5° as well. Correa on the other hand is showing signs of realizing his potential. His average Launch Angle is up from 6.9% to 11.3%, but more importantly he’s upped his High Drive% (balls hit between 19°-26°) from 7.9% in ’16 to 11.8% this year. These are the best balls in play and he’s scorching them with a 95.3 MPH. Given the increase in these balls in play it’s no surprise to see xStats has him for a .324/.400/.560 xSlash.
It was a tough week for Gardiner’s pitching staff. He had to be thrilled to see two-start Kevin Gausman crush in his first, and toughest, outing against the Nats on Monday with a 7IP, W, 5H, 2ER, 1BB, 8K performance. Looking down the schedule at a Sunday matchup against the wretched Royals seemed like a prime chance for Gaus to regain some value, but he got touched for 3.1IP, 9H, 5ER, 2BB, 3K of sadness. Furthermore two-start Blake Snell was punished by the Royals and Red Sox for a 10.1IP, 16H, 10ER, 4BB, 7K week, and was subsequently demoted to AAA over the weekend. On the bright side Rick Porcello continues to get whiffs and I’m beginning to believe in him outperforming his steamer projected 7.9 K/9 ROS. He’s typically been a 2-seam/Ground ball guy, but Porcello is throwing his 4-seamer more this year and he’s got an extra 2 inches of “rise,” or vertical movement, on the pitch. Literally it means the pitch is dropping less as opposed to rising more, but regardless of classification the effect has led to a roughly 2% increase in SwStrk% on the pitch. Another benefit is that the increase widens the vertical distance between his heater and slider. Porcello’s slider has lost roughly an inch in each direction this season, and is actually behaving more like a cutter in terms of movements. Nonetheless there’s a roughly 7 inch vertical gap from the heater instead of the 6 inch gap it had last year. It’s possible this is what’s behind the pitches 21.3% SwStrk%, which is nearly double what it was last season.
Max Posner (NY-FCJ) vs Ben Palmer (Seven Year Yelich):
It’s nice to see Palmer getting off the schnide with a landslide victory this past week. Mookie Betts went christmas HAM last week with a 9/24, 8R, 3HR, 11RBI, 1SB line and restoring confidence in his lofty ADP. I made a bet right before this stretch that he’d hit under 19.5 taters the rest of the way. He’s hit four since then. I’ll probably lose, but I think it’s gonna be really close. According to xStats Mookie’s upped his Pop Up% (Balls hit >39°) %7.4 from last year, and it appears that’s come at the expense of his Fly Ball% (Balls hit between 26°-39°). That rate has fallen from %14.6 to 8.9% this year. Consider those Pop Ups are essentially worthless outs. Without any splits it’s tough to dissect what he’s done lately, and certainly the power output is encouraging, but on the whole Mookie’s batted ball profile isn’t conducive to another 30 tater season.
This was a really tough week for Posner as Francisco Rodriguez lost his job and Jeurys Familia had surgery to repair a blood clot. Familia is likely out for the year, and K-Rod becomes droppable in all formats that don’t reward Holds, decreased velocity, or inflated HR/FB%. Masahiro Tanaka had another blow up outing going 1.2IP, 7H, 8ER, 1BB, 3K against Houston on Saturday and he gave up 17 hits in 8.2IP on the week. His SwStrk% is up this year to %12 which should be great for his K/9 but at 7.0 it’s clear the extra whiffs haven’t translated into outs yet. It’s possible Tanaka’s been in the zone too often. His zone rate is up 6% to 47% this year, which raises some eyebrows about his inflated BB/9 of 2.4. Perhaps there’s a sequencing issue going on here, but less Ks, more BBs, more pitches to hit, and more homers (he’s got a HR/9 of 2.0) don’t really sit well considering Yankee stadium is only going to get warmer.