Posts tagged ‘Ross Detwiler’

Wednesday: 05.16.2012

On Ross Detwiler

I am chronically a year early on players.  As the 2012 seasons unfolds, we get a chance to see who I was early on last year.  One such case has been Washington Nationals starter Ross Detwiler: see here and here.  I’m not exactly sure why I’m so often early, but Detwiler is hardly the first example (I was all over Matt Kemp for 2010 to name another, and thankfully I stayed the course for 2011).  OK, enough semi-humblebragging.  Better to be early than late, right?

The 26-year old southpaw was 6th overall pick in the 2007 out of Missouri State University.  He actually made his major league debut that September throwing a clean inning against the Atlanta Braves.  He spent all of 2008 in the minors, but then spent the next two years split between the minors and majors, though his 2010 season was cut short due to a busted hip.  He struggled to bring his minor league success (2.78 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 8.2 K/9 and 2.8 K/BB in 120 IP) to majors putting together a modest 105 innings with a 4.78 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 5.1 K/9 and 1.3 K/BB primarily as a starter with some bullpen work sprinkled in, too.

Part of the issue was that his 2.78 ERA in the minors during those two years likely skewed expectations toward the high side since his FIP outputs were significantly higher at each stop.  Even the peripherals likely raised expectations for Detwiler since the composite was pretty strong, but his work in AAA was a good bit below the total with a 7.3 K/9 and 2.1 K/BB.  Lefties as a whole can often take a bit longer to develop than their right-handed counterparts, though, so I kept faith in Detwiler heading into last year.  He showed some signs in 2011 finally cutting into his hit rate at 8.6 H/9, a career-best for any season whether in the minors or majors.

He has accumulated another 105 innings since the start of 2011 posting a 2.91 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 5.9 K/9 and 2.3 K/BB with this year’s strikeout and walk rates improving again to 6.4 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 (2.8 K/BB).  What has spurred the emergence of the promising 26-year old and more importantly, can he sustain it?


Detwiler is a four-pitch pitcher relying predominantly on his sinker and four-seamer and balancing them out with a curveball and changeup.  For his career, he has used the sinker 42% of the time, the four-seamer 29%, the curveball 15% and the changeup 14%.

That general split has held relatively firm every year save 2010 when he was throwing the four-seamer at 38% and the sinker just 26% while both secondary pitches were up at 18%.  This year he has shifted a bit taking 5% from the changeup and dispensing it to the four-seamer (now 32%) and curveball (17%), which is his best secondary pitch.  This shift has played a role in his success and based on what we have seen, even more curveball usage going forward would likely be a good thing for Detwiler.


From 2009-2010, Detwiler was an 89-92 MPH guy with his fastballs with the ability to touch 93-94 MPH every now and then.  His sinker was 88-91 MPH while the four-seamer was 91-92 MPH.  In 2010 when he was using the four-seamer more than ever, it was actually at its slowest, registering a 90.7 MPH average.  His changeup sat 83-84 MPH for those two seasons while his curveball was a slow curve sitting 76-77 MPH.

Since 2011 he has seen a rise in velocity with all of his pitches.  The four-seamer now operates 93-95 MPH with 96+ in his back pocket when he needs it.  The sinker is up to 91-93 MPH now, too.  Meanwhile the slow curve has become more of a power curve elevating from 76-77 MPH in 2009-2010 to 79-81 MPH the last two years.

His changeup sat 83-84 MPH previously, but now resides 84-86 MPH.  He has always had about an 8.5 MPH split between the fastball and changeup except for 2010 when his four-seamer velocity dipped.  That year showed just a 7.7 MPH split.


The uptick in velocity since 2011 has no doubt been a contributing factor to his improved performance across the board including this year’s career-high 6.4 K/9 through 39 innings.  No one is going to confuse someone with a 6.4 K/9 for Nolan Ryan, but it’s nearly a strikeout higher than last year’s 5.6 K/9 and it is his first season over 6.0 after spending most of his minor league career at 8.0 K/9 or better.

He had a 6.8 K/9 in 142 innings at AAA so this newfound level might be his peak or close to it, but he would hardly be the first pitcher to add strikeouts as a major leaguer.  Minor league numbers can help give you an idea of how someone will perform, but they aren’t locked in stone indicators.  Madison Bumgarner spent two years on the wrong side of 6.5 K/9 before reaching the majors where he has a 7.6 K/9 career mark including an 8.4 K/9 in 205 innings last year.

The curveball has long been his strikeout pitch and the faster version of 2011-2012 is generating even more strikeouts.  In 2009-2010, he got a strikeout on 27% of the plate appearances that ended with a curve, but the last two years he is up at 40%.  When looking at why he has enjoyed a rise in Ks this year specifically, it is actually his fastball and changeup that are accounting for the jump.  The pair of pitches yielded a strikeout on just 10% of plate appearances that ended on one of them last year, but this year that mark is up to 13% spurred mostly by the changeup going up 5% to 14% in 2012.


The sharpest improvement for Detwiler in the early part of 2012 is the amount of groundballs he is inducing.  His sinker is the most effective it has ever been, inducing groundballs left and right en route to a career-best 54% rate (career 43% mark coming into 2012).

He has always been a groundball guy with a better than 1.0 groundball-to-flyball ratio, but this year’s contact against him has been overwhelmingly weak as the rise in groundball rate has come right out of his line drive rate which is down to 10%.  From 2009-2011, he carried an astronomically high line drive rate between 20% and 25%.

His line drive rate is going to see an uptick as the season progresses as 10% just isn’t sustainable.  The lowest line drive rate for an ERA qualifier going back to when that kind of data is available (2002) is 13.3% for Derek Lowe in 2002.  There have only been 12 seasons (spread among 11 pitchers as fake Fausto Carmona has two of them) under 15%.

The fact that it will rise and likely cut into his BABIP and subsequently his ERA isn’t a problem, though. I don’t think anyone expects him to finish the year with a 2.75 ERA and 1.09 WHIP anyway so some regression doesn’t make him a fraud.  How much regression is obviously the real question.


Even if he adds 5-6% to the line drive rate (most of which will go for hits as I believe the league BABIP on LDs is something like .700), his BABIP should remain on the right side of .300 as BABIP has never really been an issue with him as you saw from the chart above.  The problem is that not enough men who get on are left there.  Last year he enjoyed a 79% LOB rate, easily his highest rate ever and the first time in his career that he topped 67%.

Though off to his best start ever, he is still allowing 35% of his base runners to reach home.  League average is around 72% left on base.  He can cancel out most, if not all of his line drive rate regression by leaving more runners on base.  He doesn’t even need to push as high as league average to do so, either.  Of course, just because league average is 72% doesn’t mean pitchers are magically entitled to the mark.

Sometimes it is a matter of focus with runners on that ends up as the missing link for pitchers, while others have markedly different wind ups and stretch positions.  For Detwiler, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between his wind up with the bases empty and his stretch with runners on so perhaps it is mental for him.

This GIF isn’t great, but my computer was being wonky as hell and this was like my 12th attempt so we’re going with it.  (I definitely need a new computer now that I’m a full-fledged GIFer… or is it GIFist… jeez, could anyone possibly care less about this last sentence?).

Detwiler has allowed a career .693 OPS with the bases empty as opposed to a .751 OPS with runners on.  Last year his split was .691 to .721, but this year he’s at an impressive .480 with the bases cleared compared to .730 with men on.  He showed last year that he can leave men on at an above average clip.  If he can even get to average this year, he will mitigate the pending regression in that line drive rate.


Though we are just 39 innings into the season, there are reasons to be excited about what Detwiler has shown especially if you extend it back to last year which is really when he started to show signs of being worth the 6th overall pick.

Any pitcher who can miss some bats and keep the ball down is likely to be successful on some level.  He doesn’t miss a ton of bats, but he misses enough at this current rate and I think there is the potential for a few more (perhaps pushing as high as 7.0 per game) if he continues to rely more on that curveball as a finisher.  Meanwhile his groundball rate is elite at 54% and allows him to carry a mid-6.0s strikeout rate yet remain very successful.

There haven’t been any wholesale changes to his approach this year (velocity, pitch mix, stance on mound, new pitch, etc…) that you would point to and say “this is why he is excelling”.  Rather it has been a maturation process that started back in 2011 when he began displaying more control as well as improved command.  The command has taken another step forward this year as continues to pound the zone, but leaves far fewer pitches “fat” where hitters can destroy them which is evidenced by the lowered line drive and elevated groundball rates.

He is becoming a better pitcher with more room to improve, too.  He just crossed the 200-inning threshold as a major leaguer this year, though, so temper expectations as he is still learning on the job.  From a fantasy perspective, trading Detwiler isn’t a bad idea if you get a nice offer, but don’t think that just because his numbers are excellent you can “sell high”.

Or at least sell high in the traditional sense.  A lot of fantasy managers probably didn’t even know who he was coming into the season so I doubt they are going to be ready to trade off a mint to acquire him after 39 big innings.  That doesn’t mean you can’t move him and get value in return.  Just don’t expect something commensurate with a 2.75 ERA and 1.09 WHIP if it were coming from someone like Zack Greinke or Cliff Lee.

Keep in mind that Detwiler was a last round pick or waiver pickup which play into his valuation.  That means if you can get some 16th-18th round guy, that is a pretty hefty return.  You might just want to hang on to your gem who is actually paying off, though, as so few ever do.  Even if he ends the season with a 3.75 ERA in 175 innings, it’s not like he will be getting slaughtered from here on out to get to that level.  He would post a 4.05 in 135 innings the rest of the way.

Tuesday: 03.22.2011

18 of My Favorite Pitchers for 2011, Part 2

Here is the second half of my favorites for this year:

Part 1

10. Kevin Slowey – Without a spot in the rotation his value is going to plummet, but it’s a buying opportunity.  Don’t draft solely for April.  It’s a 6-month grind and skills almost always win out.  Slowey has more talent than Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing, but to start the season both will have rotation spots while Slowey will work out of the bullpen.  Slowey will be an afterthought even in AL-Only leagues and I would be more than willing to slot in him as your 8th or 9th pitcher for a few bucks and wait for him to win a spot that he deserves.  A 4.6 K/BB rate doesn’t lie.  He’s long been one of my favorite pitchers and a poor decision by Minnesota at the beginning of the season isn’t going to change that.

11. Tim Stauffer – The former #4 pick overall took a while (29 y/o in 2011), but it looks like he’s finally paying dividends on that lofty draft status.  He plays in the perfect park for pitchers, showed a major uptick in groundballs last year (up to 55%) and has seen his team add strong middle infielders (Jason Bartlett & Orlando Hudson) to field those grounders adding up to a potential breakout season.  There is a slight premium on anyone in PETCO for obvious reasons, but Stauffer seems to be firmly entrenched off the radar in most standard drafts.  He went for $8 in NL Tout Wars and could easily return twice that when you consider what PETCO did for someone with lesser skills than Stauffer in Jon Garland.

12. Chris Narveson – His near-5.00 ERA from 2010 (4.99 in 168 IP) is sure to scare most away, but he pitched much better than that.  He doesn’t have the groundball tilt I usually like out of my pitchers, but with Milwaukee’s horrendous infield defense, that might not be such a bad thing.  He has nice base skills, the next step is learning to work with runners on so he can strand a few more guys.  Part of that is cutting down the long balls, too.  I think he takes a step forward in 2011 and ends up as one of those $1-3 glue guys instrumental in a team’s success.

13. Bud Norris – Like Narveson, his skills were better than his 4.92 ERA indicates, but many will pass based on that figure and the team name on his jersey.  I’d caution strongly against that as Norris has the kind of stuff that “out-of-nowhere” seasons are made of starting with his 9.3 K/9 rate being overshadowed by unimportant factors.  Are you one of those owners dying for an upside pick?  Norris is your guy.  The lofty strikeout rate is matched with an average groundball rate and a BABIP and LOB% combo worse than league norms that could be in for positive regression.  Even if he doesn’t take that major step forward this year, his sub-$5 price tag is at worst an even investment with all of the strikeouts.

14. Carlos Carrasco – We could have a budding Sporer Trifecta of Excellence (patent pending) profile on our hands.  It was only 45 innings of work last year, so temper the expectations a bit, but he had a 7.7 K/9 with an elite 57% groundball rate and his changeup was the best pitch in his arsenal.  This is a 3-time top 54 prospect (2007: 41, 2008: 54, 2009: 52) according to Baseball America so the pedigree is there, too.  Like Norris, his jersey will have some shying away or ignoring him completely, but his first full season in the majors could be a big one.

15. Derek Holland – It seems like I have been touting Holland for so long that he should be older than 24.  Alas, he doesn’t even have 200 major league innings under his belt yet here I am again espousing the virtues of this man’s abilities.  He started to come together in a 57-inning sample last year, but the loss of Cliff Lee opens an opportunity for him to finally prove it over a full season.  Although the sample was tiny, it was nice to see him greatly improve on 2009’s ugly 1.7 HR/9 down to 0.9 a season ago.  That’s about the limit for him if he is to have that breakthrough season many see as a possibility.  He’s one of those popular sleepers so be careful if his value gets too high in your league.

16. Jason Hammel – Similar to several guys on the list whereby he has above average base skills, but is missing one ingredient that keeps him from legitimate success.  For Hammel, it’s an ability to work with runners on as he his LOB% actually got further from league average 2010 leaving him with an ERA a half run higher despite improved skills.  You could easily be looking at $10+ profit out of Hammel if leaves a few extra men on base and continues or improves his already impressive skill set.

17. Chris Tillman – Remember when Tillman was the 22nd-ranked prospect in all of baseball?  It was alllll the way back in 2009.  He then proceeded to dominate AAA for 97 innings posting a 2.70 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 9.2 K/9 and a 3.8 K/BB.  Later that season he was knocked around in 12 starts in his major league debut resulting in an ugly 5.40 ERA and 1.55 WHIP.  The skills were nothing like his minor league pedigree at 5.4 K/9 and 1.6 K/BB.  It was essentially rinse & repeat for 2010 with 121 strong innings at AAA then 54 ugly ones in the majors.  He turns 23 on Tax Day this year.  Too often the fantasy community gives up on top prospects if they don’t set the world afire right away a la Ryan Braun or Jered Weaver.  This is a post-hype play going for as little as a dollar in some AL-Only leagues who could end up as a tremendous keeper for 2012 and beyond.  Worst case is he is still not ready in 2011 and you cut bait with little invested.

18. Ross Detwiler – This is my biggest spec play of the bunch.  I just think there could be something here with Detwiler.  He has 278 innings of minor league success suggesting he is better than the 106 innings of major league work thus far.  He is the left-handed Tillman with less fanfare and a few years older (OK, I guess there are a enough differences to make that a bad comp).  Point being he showed enough in the minors to be something of a top prospect and though he hasn’t put it all together at the major league level yet, there is reason to believe he still can and will.  Furthering his spec play status is the fact that he’s not going to have a rotation spot on Opening Day, but the four surrounding Jordan Zimmermann are neither bastions of health, nor particularly skilled at pitching so he will get a shot at some point.  If he doesn’t win a bullpen spot, just monitor him.  But if he does make the team out of camp, he could be a high strikeout $1 reliever as he bides his time for a rotation chance.

So there they are, my favorite 18 for 2011.  There is something in here for everyone regardless of what kind of league format you play in.  I guess the only thing missing is minor league prospects, but I posted 50 from each league just a few weeks ago, so you know who I like there.  I know it’s a big draft/auction week for everybody so I’m trying to get as much material out as possible for your last minute prep.  I have a draft tonight, but hopefully I can get another piece up shortly after it finishes.