Archive for ‘Starting Pitchers’

Tuesday: 01.28.2014

2014 SP Guide Sample: Drew Smyly

Doug and I will be sharing a handful of samples over the next couple of weeks to give you an idea of what you can expect in the 2014 SP Guide. We have selected a diverse group across both leagues for the samples ranging from established aces to promising on-the-rise arms. We start with one from the latter end in Detroit’s Drew Smyly, a popular sleeper as he prepares for his first full season as a starter. The mechanics report card denotes the split between mine and Doug’s writing. Everything above the card was written by me, the card and text are Doug’s. If you have questions, comments, or funny jokes you can either comment here or reach us on Twitter @sporer and @doug_thorburn. Details on how to order the guide are included at the end of the piece. 

I feel like the Drew Smyly v. Rick Porcello battle in Spring Training was more of a media creation that the Tigers didn’t go out of their way to downplay than a true competition. I think the job was Porcello’s almost regardless of what happened in their Spring Training outings, but they went toe-to-toe with six strong starts apiece. If it was a competition, it’s fair to say Porcello won with a 3.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 21 strikeouts, and zero walks in 24 innings. Smyly had a perfectly respectable 3.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 17 strikeouts, and three walks in his 21.3 innings, but Porcello was sharper.

The end result had the Smyly fans pining for him to get a shot, though it was mostly in vain since they knew it would require an injury to Detroit’s excellent rotation. Smyly was great as a reliever for the Tigers even though they foolishly turned him into a LOOGY for the final two months and the playoffs.

smyly-2013

I’m not suggesting that the change in role is responsible for the plummet in results; I’m just showing how he performed in the two splits. Not only was it silly to cut his workload from a value standpoint, but it also kept him from logging 90-plus innings as he did in 2012 which would’ve left him better equipped for a full season in the rotation. His pace after four months was 91.7 innings which wouldn’t have been too far from his 121 from 2012 (with minors and playoffs included) considering the fact that it all came in the bullpen.

Speaking of his 2012 work, the large majority was spent as a starter, the results of which have no doubt fueled the excitement for a full year of him in the rotation. In 18 starts he had a 3.79 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 22.3 percent strikeout rate, and 3.4 K/BB ratio over 95 innings. The biggest concern with him in the rotation full-time is his underdeveloped changeup. It hasn’t prevented him from stopping righties, but he’s straddling the line of average against them.

In 2012, his 749 OPS against righties bested the 758 league average just barely, while his 699 in 2013 comfortably beat the 724 league average. OK, “comfortably” is overstating it, but his 27 percent strikeout rate and 6.3 percent walk rate against them suggests he clearly didn’t struggle. As a starter, those rates were at 19.2 percent and 7.8 percent, respectively. The changeup usage went from 8.1 percent in 2012 to just 2.4 percent last year while the slider more than picked up the slack.

His slider usage against righties jumped from 12 percent to 24.6 percent with the results improving significantly, too. His OPS-against on the pitch went from 659 to 546 with the strikeout rate jumping from 32.4 to 41.5 percent in 34 and 53 PA, respectively. His primary strategy in 2013 was to work the fastball away and then bury his curveball and slider inside on righties.

 smyly-vRHB

He has the stuff to be one of the best fifth starters in the league and if either the changeup develops or his pair of breaking pitches continues to neutralize righties, he can easily be a strong fourth starter-type, but I think there is an expectation that he will be a fringe three starter out of the gate and I’m far less certain of that outcome. Let’s just say that Smyly is going ahead of Porcello in a lot of leagues and I find that be insane – a comment meant to pump Porcello more than to tear down Smyly, but pump the brakes on expectations for the young lefty.

reportcard-smyly

Smyly’s delivery does not inspire confidence that he can hold up in the starting rotation, both in terms of withstanding the workload and fooling batters multiple times through the order. His balance wavers throughout the motion, starting with a forward lean during the stride phase before he veers in the opposite direction as he approaches. The end result is a very unstable position at release point, tilting to the glove side while the back foot comes off the ground prematurely, often leaving Smyly as a one-legged pitcher with a shallow release who is on the verge of keeling overboard.

smyly-dt

The guide’s release date is the earliest ever, coming out over a month earlier than the 2013 iteration.

The guide will be released on February 5th 12th!

(Guide delayed a week)

There are a couple different options available to you this year:

Check out Paint The Black!!

Friday: 01.24.2014

2014 Starting Pitching Guide Announcement

It’s that time of year again! The 2014 Starting Pitcher Guide is approaching the finish line and will soon be available for your eyes and brain to consume. The guide is going into its seventh season, evolving from a massive message board post into the book-length PDF you’ve come to love.

If you bought the 2013 guide, you learned:

  • …that you should take a flier on Julio Teheran late in your leagues. (Remember, he was coming off of a 5.08 ERA in Triple-A in 2012)
  • …that Jose Fernandez was worth a flier in even non-keeper NL leagues. (Of course I said that because I thought he could spend the last two months in the big leagues, not have a Cy Young-worthy season, so I’ll go easy on the backpatting)
  • …that there was another level to Homer Bailey. (A career-best ERA in a career-high innings with a career-best WHIP and career-high strikeout rate)
  • …that Mike Leake could have plenty of value, especially if you used him on the road. (Aroldis Chapman was still being considered for the fifth starter’s role, if only loosely. Meanwhile, Leake took the job and started 31 games with a 2.81 ERA in 16 road starts)
  • …that you shouldn’t buy Mike Fiers’ excellent 2012 work. (He flamed out with a 7.25 ERA in 22.3 IP)
  • …that Wily Peralta is capable of some nice stretches and has keeper league value based on 2014 intrigue. (He closed the season with a 3.05 ERA in his final 17 starts with 20% K rate)
  • …that you should stay the course on A.J. Burnett while others jumped off. (He improved his ERA by 0.21 and led the NL with 9.8 K/9)
  • …that buying Trevor Rosenthal even without a starter’s or closer’s role was the right thing to do. (He only netted three saves, but his 108 Ks in 75.3 IP with excellent ratios had big value in all applicable formats)
  • …that you could put some trust in Wade Miley. (His ERA rose 0.22 to 3.55 while his skills eroded a bit, but he was a nice value in all but the shallowest of leagues and even in those he had a 2.93 ERA in the second half making him a worthwhile stream option)
  • …that Andrew Cashner was worth investing in regardless of role. (He was starting by April 20th, so it didn’t require much patience to start paying off)
  • …that Chris Tillman displayed the secondary stuff good enough to have confidence in him even as his fastball lagged a bit behind. (He had an All-Star season including an excellent second half)
  • …that doubling down on Jon Lester was a good idea. (He had a 3.75 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 177 Ks [plus 15 wins] in 213.3 IP)
  • …that it was time to invest in John Lackey again! (He had his best season since 2007 with the best control of his career)
  • …that “the emaciated offense might push his [Hiroki Kuroda] win total back down to the 11-13 range of his LA days, but he is still a worthy target.” (His season was nearly a carbon copy of 2010 in LA, complete with an 11-13 record)
  • …that “there is definitely something here” with regards to Ivan Nova. (He stifled his homers en route to a 3.10 ERA, stifled only by injury that limited him to 139.3 IP)
  • …that it was time to buy in on Alex Cobb. (He was excellent in 143.3 IP with only a batted ball to the head slowing him down)
  • …that Chris Archer was someone to get on board with immediately! (He was third in the AL ROY with 128.7 excellent IP from June through September)
  • …that remaining all in on Max Scherzer was the only way to go. (He won the AL Cy Young)
  • …that “this [Anibal Sanchez] is a strong profile for the middle of your rotation and it also offers some potential upside.” (He finished 4th in the AL Cy Young)
  • …that Ervin Santana’s huge home run rates always regressed the following year, cutting his ERA sharply in the process. (His 1.97 HR/9 dropped to 1.11 bringing his ERA from 5.16 to 3.24 at the same time)
  • …that A.J. Griffin had 2013 value, preferably at home. (Despite far too many HRs allowed, he had a 3.83 ERA in 200 IP including a 3.54 at home)
  • …that Hisashi Iwakuma was someone to definitely buy. (He finished third in the AL Cy Young)
  • …that Yu Darvish had Cy Young-potential. (OK, so the SPG is hardly the only publication that felt that way)

That was hardly all of it and I won’t pretend that they were all hits, but if you read the 2013 SPG and applied the guiding principles, you no doubt found some gems in your drafts and auctions. The 2014 SP Guide is ready to improve upon that with the best offering yet.

This year’s guide features over 365 in-depth pitcher profiles. The groups are broken down into “the rotation” – the five guys likely starting the season in the rotation, “up next” – those who could be called upon to fill in when necessary, and “the prospects” – the best arms the system has to offer and also who you should be stocking your dynasty and keeper league teams with this year.

Those expected to be in the rotation and the top prospects get the most consideration as they are the game changers that will help you win your fantasy league. Or if you don’t play, then you will simply become more knowledgeable about the pitchers you’re watching on a nightly basis.

Doug Thorburn is back with his mechanical report cards. This year he’s going deeper, delivering several cards per team instead of a select handful as in 2013. We will both be including bullpen coverage. This will be purely fantasy-oriented, outlining the hierarchy of each bullpen with some potential guys who could emerge for sneaky saves.

Plus there will be more graphics, GIFs, charts, and pictures than ever to help you digest the knowledge even better. I’m a visual person myself. I want to see the pitcher freeze a batter with his 12-to-6 curve or horribly miss his spot and allow a 450-foot homer.

The guide’s release date is the earliest ever, coming out over a month earlier than the 2013 iteration.

The guide will be released on February 5th 12th!

(Guide delayed a week)

There are a couple different options available to you this year:

Check out Paint The Black!!

If you signed up for PTB at launch with the promise of a discount code for the SPG, you will be emailed details on how to get that pricing. If you won a free copy from the TINSTAAPP podcast contest, you will have the guide sent upon release.

Saturday: 05.4.2013

Jeremy Guthrie’s New “Success”

Jeremy Guthrie has a 3.06 ERA through five starts which looks like a continuation of his post-trade work with the Royals from last season when he had a 3.16 ERA in 91 innings over 14 starts. All told, he had a 3.14 ERA in 123 2/3 innings with 1.10 WHIP. He is blasting the zone resulting in a minuscule 5.8 percent walk rate – a marked improvement over his 6.9 percent career rate. His strikeout rate is at 16 percent as a Royal, up from a 14.3 career mark. Everything seems to suggest he has found a new level of production in his early-30s with his new club.

That strikes me as odd, though.

You don’t usually see a guy with 1111 innings of a certain level of production become something significantly better in their 30s. At least not without a major change in their pitch mix either by adding a pitch or using what he has differently. There hasn’t been any of that with Guthrie which made his improvement even more suspicious. This split of his innings as a Royal definitely stood out:

Guthrie

IP

ERA

WHIP

K%

BB%

vs. CWS

35.7

0.50

0.81

21%

2%

vs. Rest

87.7

4.21

1.31

14%

7%

Guthrie has owned his Saturday night opponent since becoming a Royal and it is driving his new found success. Against the rest of the league, he’s simply been the solid, if unspectacular Jeremy Guthrie we’ve known for nearly a decade, but he’s a Cy Young frontrunner against the Pale Hose. Let’s see if he continues the dominance tonight in Kauffman Stadium.

For those wondering, two of these five starts have come in Kauffman Stadium and he’s allowed five runs, but only one earned in 13 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts and two walks.

Tuesday: 04.30.2013

A New Pitching Podcast – Pilot Episode

From the gentlemen who brought you the 2013 Starting Pitching Guide comes a brand new podcast dedicated to… wait for it … pitching!!! We started discussing the notion of this podcast all the way back in the winter when we first linked up to discuss the guide. Then after the success of the SP Guide and just how well we got along, it was a no-brainer to follow through with that original idea and thus a pilot episode is born. For those of you who like long-form podcasts, you’re going to be drooling over this one.

That said I think I’ve come up with a way for it to appeal to even those who don’t like long-form. If you want to stretch the podcast out throughout your work week, I have labeled all of our segments by timestamp so you can pick & choose what you want to listen to as it fits your available time. We don’t yet have a name for the show, but I think we’ve decided one and once it’s set in stone, we’ll be in iTunes. We will also be setting up the obligatory email, Facebook page, and Twitter accounts, too. Until then, we would love your emails at thespguide@gmail.com for questions you would like answered on the show.

This is entirely a starting pitcher episode, but it’s a pitching podcast at large so if you have questions about relievers, that works. We do inject a little fantasy baseball talk into the show, but we’re not fielding any “should I trade for pitcher x or cut pitcher z?” questions. My other show, The Towers of Power Fantasy Hours, is fantasy-related and that would be the avenue for those types of questions. We also encourage you to watch our Game of the Week discussed starting at the 2:55:05 mark so you can follow along as we discuss it on next week’s episode.

Without further ado, our pilot episode:

Download the file here. (right click, save as)

  • 0:00 – 19:30 Intro
  • 19:31 – 31:57 Jarrod Parker
  • 31:58 – 38:11 Brett Anderson
  • 38:12 – 47:18 Jeremy Hellickson
  • 47:19 – 54:42 Matt Harvey
  • 54:43 – 1:08:07 Yu Darvish
  • 1:08:08 – 1:16:32 Clay Buchholz
  • 1:16:33 – 1:26:15 Jon Lester
  • 1:26:16 – 1:37:44 Alex Cobb
  • 1:37:45 – 1:49:03 Declining Velo in April (Verlander, Sabathia, Price)
  • 1:49:02 – 1:59:11 Strasburg & the Nats
  • 1:59:12 – 2:17:20 Samardzija v. Latos
  • 2:17:21 – 2:55:04 Our Game of the Week: Lincecum v. Cashner
  • 2:55:05 – 3:07:36 Picking Next Week’s GotW
  • 3:07:37 – 3:14:42 Close

Show Notes:

Monday: 04.29.2013

Matchups of the Week (Apr 29-May 5)

Lots of goodies this week, including several today (right now, in fact)

Monday

  • Matt Harvey (NYM) at Jose Fernandez (MIA)
  • Mat Latos (CIN) at Adam Wainwright (STL)
  • Matt Cain (SF) at Ian Kennedy (ARI)

Tuesday

  • Alex Cobb (TB) at James Shields (KC)

Wednesday

  • Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) at Paul Maholm (ATL)
  • Homer Bailey (CIN) at Lance Lynn (STL)

Friday 

  • Ross Detwiler (WAS) at A.J. Burnett (PIT)

Saturday

  • Tony Cingrani (CIN) at Jeff Samardzija (CHC)
  • Jose Fernandez (MIA) at Cole Hamels (PHI)
  • Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) at R.A. Dickey (TOR)

Sunday

  • Yu Darvish (TEX) at Jon Lester (BOS)

—–

ULTIMATE MATCHUP – Darvish/Lester

UNDERCARD MATCHUP – Cobb/Shields

 

Friday: 04.12.2013

Barry Good? Not Likely.

It doesn’t take a revisionist historian to understand that the 7 year, $126 million dollar deal that the Giants gave Barry Zito was a bad idea. Looking at the results of the nearly completed deal certainly backs up those of us who thought it was an overpay at the time, but the eroding skills and results during his final years in Oakland showed a guy who was morphing from a good pitcher to an innings eater. Innings eaters shouldn’t get seven year deals, let alone $18 mil a year on top of that.

Zito had the one great season when he stole a Cy Young Award away from Pedro Martinez, but otherwise his key attribute was reliability as he a near-certainty for 34-35 starts a year. His coda with the A’s saw rapidly dwindling ability paired with remarkably fortunate ERA totals that hid from plain sight his drop into mediocrity. The first suspected culprit would be his home ballpark, known for fueling ERAs that easily outpaced the accompanying skill. Alas it was actually his road work that kept him afloat with two sub-4.00 ERAs in his final two years.

zitolast3

The results compared against the advanced ERA indicators further showed the impending doom:

zito3chart

Flash forward six-plus years and it’s not too surprising that Zito’s San Francisco career has yielded 1020 innings of 4.41 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 1.58 K/BB. In other words, he has been the innings eater we saw developing back in his late-20s logging 32 or more starts in all but one of his seasons with the other Bay Area ballclub (2011).

Two starts into the final year of this nightmare deal for the Giants has seen Zito mow down his competition for 14 scoreless innings, a 2-0 record, and an even 1.00 WHIP. Maybe it is the difficulty of finding topics early in the season or maybe some actually believe it to be true, but these two outings have spurred talks of some sort of rejuvenation for Zito with some suggesting that a situation may arise where he is on the cusp of 200 innings and the Giants may be inclined to fiddle with him in the rotation to avoid that threshold as it would kick in a 2014 vesting option for $18 million dollars. Slow your roll, folks.

Zito hasn’t yet thrown 200 innings as a Giant and only once has he been better than league average by ERA- registering a 98 in 2009, or two percent better than league average. Meanwhile, his next 2.0 K/BB ratio with the Giants will be his first. Furthermore, we’ve been down this road before.

First off, something about season openers sits well with Zito. In his last four season debuts, he has a 0.96 ERA and 0.68 WHIP in 28 innings with all three runs given up in 2011. He stayed hot in 2010 posting a 1.53 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 35.3 innings across five stats. His opponents in those five starts included four of the worst offenses in baseball that year: Houston (29th in wRC+), Pittsburgh (28th), LA Dodgers (22nd), St. Louis (12th), and Colorado (27th on the road). The rest of the year he put up a 4.72 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 164 innings.

He did it all again last year. After kicking off the season with a shutout of the Rockies (in Colorado no less!), he reeled off another trio of gems yielding a 1.67 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 27 April innings. He deserves plenty of credit for thwarting the Rockies in Coors as they were the 8th-best home offense, but the next three outings came against Pittsburgh (26th), NY Mets (22nd), and Cincinnati (23rd, but in fairness, 17th at home). The rest of the way? He was quite pumpkin-like with a 4.58 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 157.3 innings.

There is nothing in the 35 year old’s game that suggests these first two starts are indicative of a forthcoming strong season. His velocity continues to drop toward Moyerian levels checking in at 82.9 MPH this year, continuing a four-year plunge from 2009’s 86.5 MPH. It will be a major upset if he is an above average starter for 200+ innings and these first two starts don’t change the odds much, if at all. Fantasy managers, step away from your waiver wires, there’s nothing to see here.

Friday: 03.8.2013

The 2013 Pitching Guide: Coming Out Today!

Ladies and gentlemen,

You’ve been waiting all winter for this moment and the day is finally here. The finishing touches are being put on the 2013 Guide and it will be released this afternoon. Those of you who have ordered will find it in your inboxes this afternoon. The army of 1 is working at a Paul Walkeresque and Vin Dieselian rate to get everything in order with final edits, clean ups, charts, graphs, and even the final handful of profiles.

getexcited

Wednesday: 02.27.2013

SP Guide Update

I wanted to give y’all an update on where things are with the guide as we near release. The original target date for the release of this year’s Starting Pitcher Guide was March 1st. We aren’t going to hit that date, but we are definitely zooming ever closer to release. There have been several sleepless nights in a row – and I’m not complaining, I absolutely love working on it – and there are still more coming up. In order to put out the guide I’m comfortable with more time is needed. The date you can now look forward to is March 8th. By the way, this is why I usually hesitate to set a firm date at the very beginning of the process. I just never know exactly how long it’s going to take. Those of you that asked me via email or Twitter probably noticed I was rather non-committal.

But now we have a firm date!

For those of you with drafts this week (March 2nd and 3rd) who wanted the guide specifically for those drafts only, it simply will not be ready in time. If the guide is no longer of use to you and you want a refund on your order, please email me at thespguide@gmail.com. While I really wanted to release on March 1st, it was only a key date because it started a month. It was arbitrary beyond that. Most drafts and auctions will still take place well into March and the guide will be ready in time for all of those.

curtisupclose

The first thing I see most mornings about 3 inches from my face.

The anticipation and excitement surrounding the guide has been incredible and I truly appreciate it. Please know how hard I have been working to give you the best product possible. If I was smart, I would’ve just blame Doug, right? When it doubt, throw it on the new guy?

I probably could’ve slapped it together to meet an arbitrary date I set in my head and never really announced, but I saw zero value in that. I take pride in putting together a product you will all love and this final week-plus will afford me the time to put together the best iteration yet. I know several of you are very excited for it and I know the last thing you wanted to hear was that it won’t be released this instant, but at the same time you now have a firm date to look forward to and it’s next Friday.

Now, here is a beagle with a fitted sheet on his head.

curtissheet

And the same beagle inexplicably guarding my socks:

"I'll protect these."

“I’ll protect these.”

Friday: 02.22.2013

MLB At Bat 13

I was going to do a post letting everyone know that At Bat’s 2013 iteration was available, but my BP colleague Maury Brown already did all the fantastic leg work so I’ll point you to his preview of the app instead:

Biz of Baseball Previews At Bat

Meanwhile, after a pair of fake fake games yesterday as the Red Sox split up to take on a pair of colleges, we get real fake games today with four Spring Training games on the docket. This is a beautiful site:

stgames

Elsewhere on the net:

I wrote about five interesting pitchers to follow this Spring Training as they battle to be a part of the Opening Day 25.

I had Mike Gianella as a co-host, filling in for Jason Collette, and Bret Sayre as a guest on this week’s Towers of Power podcast. Gianella and Sayre are both new additions to the BP fantasy team for 2013.

Sunday: 02.17.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 5 Days – Chapman Not Starting?

Only 5 days until live game action…

Aroldis Not Guaranteed Spot

Dusty Baker did his best Lee Corso imitation on Saturday when it came to the topic of Aroldis Chapman and the rotation for 2013. Baker was careful to note that we entered 2012 under similar assumptions before Chapman headed back to the pen and eventually took the closer’s job in late May. The money quote from Hal McCoy’s article:

Manager Dusty Baker emphasized that point Saturday morning when somebody said, “Your rotation was good last year, but you’re still making the move with Chapman. . .”

At that point, Baker interrupted and said, “Maybe. That’s a maybe. It’s the same situation as last year. We started with Chapman as a starter. Then Ryan Madson (closer) went down. We had no clue Chapman would be as good as he is as a closer. I don’t think anybody did.

We didn’t know if he was going to throw enough strikes,” Baker added. “We put him in a set-up role, going two innings, because he was groomed in spring training to be a starter and that helped him to get his control. So, right now, we’re in the same boat — trying to get him multiple innings in case he doesn’t start he can still be sharp.”

While this does make him more difficult to rank and project for 2013, it doesn’t really hurt his fantasy value. If anything, it’s a boon to it because unless he pulls a Chris Sale in the rotation, he is far more valuable to fantasy managers as a closer, especially at his current cost. In current NFBC mock draft data, Chapman is going 83rd overall whereas the unanimous #1 closer Craig Kimbrel is going 49th. It is only unanimous because we’ve been led to believe that Chapman is set to be Cincy’s 4th or 5th starter. If he ends closing again, he’s right there with Kimbrel and all of sudden becomes a huge value for those who are getting him at 84 or later.

Meanwhile, if they get a full-time starter who isn’t Sale 2.0 or better, then they vastly overpaid. Stay tuned as I’m sure we will learn much more in the coming month.

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