With the season still out in the horizon, it's a good time to once again dig back into the Sabermetric analysis that shape our projections inthe Fanitstics 2020 Player Projections Draft Advisory Program. These notes are just some of the notes available within the program for over 600 players. Today we'll take a look at some of the indicators that are defining our 2020 Starting Pitcher projections:
Sale, Chris For the 3rd straight season, Sale's season has been cut short due to injury. His fastball lost 1.5 MPH last season and was not a plus pitch for him in 2019. In hindsight his elbow hasn't been right since 2017. Wednesday, after trying to play catch on flat ground, he came to the realization that Tommy John surgery was the only option left. The team has announced that at some point he will undergo the procedure. The wildcard here is when that procedure will take place, as recent limits on elective procedures due the strain on the healthcare system (see COVID-19) might push out the scheduling. Regardless, Sale's 2020 season is over before it began, and some of 2021 will be lost as well. When the 2020 season does begin, and yes we need to stay positive, we know that the Red Sox will be in a world of hurt without the likes of Sales, Price,and Procello in the rotation.
Corbin, Patrick Corbin won 14 games last season, but could have easily won 16 with a little more offensive support in his 24 quality starts. Continues to succeed as a heavy groundball pitcher (50%) and a holy grail 10.2 split between his fastball and change. ERA might have been aided by a career high .77 Strand Rate, which is going to be difficult to repeat, despite an excellent 10.6 K/9 rate. 2019 BABIP: 0.290(-0.012)| SwStr%: 14%(-1%)| Avg FB: 91.9(1.1)| FB/Chg Split: 10.2| HR Distance: 420ft(13)| Strand%: 0.77(0.06)| HardHit%: 34.5%(-7.2%)| Avg Velocity: 89(0.9)| Elevation%: 7.5(0.2)| Barrels%: 9.4(3.4)| HR/FB%: 14%(3%)| GB Rate: 0.50(0.01)| xFIP: 3.59(0.34)| xSLG: 0.416(0.041)
****For explanation of stats, see Glossary below****
Ray, Robbie Warning signs include a loss of 1 MPH on fastball and a bloated Hard Hit rate for 3 consecutive seasons. That said his 20% HR/FB rate is likely to drop back into the 15-17% range. Last couple of seasons, he turned into more of a flyball pitcher, which has damaged his ERA. Strong 12.1 K/9 and well below average 80% contact rate point to a pitcher that is pretty safe to repeat his last 2 seasons. | 2019 BABIP: 0.305(0.013)| SwStr%: 14%(1%)| Avg FB: 92.4(-1.3)| HR Distance: 410ft(18)| Strand%: 0.75(-0.01)| HardHit%: 43.4%(-1.0%)| Avg Velocity: 87(-2.7)| Elevation%: 12.8(-1.3)| Barrels%: 10.7(2.0)| HR/FB%: 20%(3%)| GB Rate: 0.37(-0.02)| xFIP: 3.76(-0.58)| xSLG: 0.430(-0.009)
Minor, Mike Be wary, Minor's 80% Strand% does not match his 8.6 K/9, which means his 3.51 ERA could have been closer to 4.50 last season. We do like his ability last year to keep his BABIP below league average (which he's done for the last 3 years), and his sub 3 BB/9. 2019 BABIP: 0.287(0.028)| SwStr%: 12%(2%)| Avg FB: 92.6(-0.2)| FB/Chg Split: 6.1(7.0)| HR Distance: 402ft(-3)| Strand%: 0.80(0.12)| HardHit%: 35.4%(-2.5%)| Avg Velocity: 86(-1.3)| Elevation%: 16.4(-2.1)| Barrels%: 7.0(-3.8)| HR/FB%: 13%(1%)| GB Rate: 0.40(0.06)| xFIP: 4.60(1.01)| xSLG: 0.394(-0.001)
Teheran, Julio xFIP shows a much higher ERA than expected, however xERA is right in line with his 3.81 ERA of 2019. Teheran has historically posted a HR/FB rate that is less than league average. That said his move to Texas will hurt that number. His SLUG against at home in Atlanta was only .372, that won't be so favorable in 2020....and the 77% Strand Rate is likely to dip back towards 73% and 75%. 2019 BABIP: 0.266(0.049)| SwStr%: 9%(-2%)| Avg FB: 89.7(-0.1)| FB/Chg Split: 5.7(7.2)| HR Distance: 408ft(9)| Strand%: 0.77(0.05)| HardHit%: 39.1%(2.6%)| Avg Velocity: 88(0.4)| Elevation%: 14.7(0.0)| Barrels%: 6.9(-0.3)| HR/FB%: 11%(-2%)| GB Rate: 0.39(0.01)| xFIP: 5.26(1.45)| xSLG: 0.413(0.024)
Bundy, Dylan No Run support lead to a 7W-14L season despite decent overall numbers 161IP/162K/1.35 WHIP/4.79ERA. Despite a superior 12.9% SwStr% and a 9.0 k/9 rate, his 71% Strand Rate has plenty of upside, which should help his ERA in 2020. | 2019 BABIP: 0.297(-0.019)| SwStr%: 13%(0%)| Avg FB: 91.2(7.7)| FB/Chg Split: 10.1(7.9)| HR Distance: 394ft(3)| Strand%: 0.71(0.02)| HardHit%: 31.2%(-3.4%)| Avg Velocity: 88(-1.0)| Elevation%: 13.7(-3.1)| Barrels%: 5.9(-2.6)| HR/FB%: 16%(-1%)| GB Rate: 0.42(0.08)| xFIP: 4.58(-0.21)| xSLG: 0.406(-0.055)
Gausman, Kevin Gausman regressed with his BABIP in 2019 posting a bloated .344. His 40% Hard Hit rate partially contributes to that, but not to this extent. Gausman kicked up his k/9 from 7.3 to a very impressive 10/9 in 2019. His SwStr% took a big jump from 11% to almost 15% in 2019. xFIP shows that his ERA should have been closer to 4.05 instead of 5.72. Look for a bounce back season in 2020. | 2019 BABIP: 0.344(0.045)| SwStr%: 15%(4%)| Avg FB: 94.0(1)| FB/Chg Split: 11.3(11.6)| HR Distance: 397ft(-4)| Strand%: 0.61(-0.13)| HardHit%: 40.0%(5.3%)| Avg Velocity: 87(-1.9)| Elevation%: 11.8(1.1)| Barrels%: 8.0(0.6)| HR/FB%: 15%(1%)| GB Rate: 0.38(-0.09)| xFIP: 4.05(-1.67)| xSLG: 0.451(-0.003)
Porcello, Rick Porcello had an extremely rough season with a 5.52 ERA (5.14 xFIP) and his 8.9 K/9 strikeout rate has dropped 7.4% from last year. He'll likely be better this year, but he shouldn't count on winning 14 games with the Mets this season. 2019 BABIP: 0.308(0.023)| SwStr%: 8%(-1%)| Avg FB: 90.5(0.1)| FB/Chg Split: 90.5(9.4)| HR Distance: 397ft(-1)| Strand%: 0.66(-0.02)| HardHit%: 34.2%(0.8%)| Avg Velocity: 88(-0.4)| Elevation%: 15.5(3.4)| Barrels%: 9.6(2.6)| HR/FB%: 13%(-1%)| GB Rate: 0.38(-0.06)| xFIP: 5.14(-0.38)| xSLG: 0.489(0.006)
Rodriguez, Eduardo In what has generally been a disappointing season for the Red Sox, Rodriguez has turned in another consistent season, and while his numbers aren't considered elite (3.81 ERA, 4.10 xFIP, 9.4 K/9) he collected 19 wins on the season thanks to good run support. His strikeout rate is a bit lower then last season but to balance that out he posted a career high 49% groundball rate. Rodriguez may not bloom into the elite starter many believed he would become, but he has become reliable as his career 4.04 ERA and 4.03 FIP pretty much indicate exactly what you are going to get year in and year out. - dbertolino | There is some upside in the 317 BABIP based on his only 29% hard hit rate allowed and 86 MPH average velocity against. | 2019 BABIP: 0.317(0.016)| SwStr%: 12%(1%)| Avg FB: 93.1(-0.2)| FB/Chg Split: 93(5.8)| HR Distance: 403ft(0)| Strand%: 0.78(0.04)| HardHit%: 28.7%(0.8%)| Avg Velocity: 86(-1.7)| Elevation%: 9.1(-4.3)| Barrels%: 5.9(-0.8)| HR/FB%: 13%(2%)| GB Rate: 0.49(0.10)| xFIP: 4.10(0.29)| xSLG: 0.380(-0.011)
Arrieta, Jake Arrieta made a career of keeping opposing batters in the abnormally low zone. Consider that in 2015 and 2016 hitters only registered a .246/241 BABIP against. Last year opposing BABIP went up to league average .316. What's alarming is that he just doesn't generate the same SwStr% as he once did (11% in 2015 to only 7.2 in 2018). K/9 rates have dropped from 9.3 to 7.3. Looking at his pitch values, it appears that his fastball is still relatively intact at 92.5, although 2 MPH slower, and his Slider was a disaster last season (-2.5 value on fangraphs). He struggled in the 2nd half with a 5.34 ERA/1.66 WHIP, and a lot of that had to do with a bloated 386 BABIP. Although he's never going to be the pitcher he was in 2015, I think we're going to see a little bump up this season, possibly making him a value. | 2019 BABIP: 0.316(0.029)| SwStr%: 7%(-1%)| Avg FB: 92.5(-0.5)| FB/Chg Split: 4.9(4.9)| HR Distance: 402ft(11)| Strand%: 0.74(0.01)| HardHit%: 38.0%(10.3%)| Avg Velocity: 89(1.5)| Elevation%: 6.3(-1.7)| Barrels%: 6.8(1.2)| HR/FB%: 19%(5%)| GB Rate: 0.51(0.00)| xFIP: 4.46(-0.18)| xSLG: 0.449(0.001)
Lester, Jon Lester largely struggled for the Cubs in 2019 but had a particularly poor August and September. Lester's pitch mix has changed somewhat dramatically over the course of the season, and over the past month or so he's limited his four-seamer usage in favor of his cutter and sinker. Unfortunately for Lester, his sinker is arguably the worst pitch in his arsenal (worst by xwOBA and second worst by swing and miss rate), and his cutter performs like a below average pitch as well (based on xwOBA and whiffs/swing). One interesting (and encouraging) aspect of Lester's adjusting pitch mix is that his cutter and sinker have both seen their spin rate increase significantly so far this month, leaving the door open for some optimism down the road. Still, Lester's overall performance and arsenal are uninspiring, and fantasy owners shouldn't expect much from him through the rest of the year. -Phil Double | His bloated 347 BABIP offers hope that it was a lot of bad luck on the balls hit in play, as his was hit at about a league average 39%. Yes he's not the same pitcher he once was, but he does have the ability to offer some bounce back this season. 2019 BABIP: 0.347(0.057)| SwStr%: 9%(0%)| Avg FB: 90.3(-0.7)| FB/Chg Split: 5.9(6.0)| HR Distance: 407ft(7)| Strand%: 0.71(-0.09)| HardHit%: 38.8%(6.9%)| Avg Velocity: 88(0.3)| Elevation%: 11.3(-1.8)| Barrels%: 7.4(0.8)| HR/FB%: 15%(2%)| GB Rate: 0.43(0.06)| xFIP: 4.35(-0.11)| xSLG: 0.462(-0.007)
Montas, Frankie Frankie Montas (SP-OAK) is one of my favorite value arms to target for 2020. He completed just 96 innings of work in 2019 thanks to an 80-game PED suspension, but he did some stellar work when on the field, recording a 2.63 ERA, 9.7 K/9, and 2.2 BB/9. And in his return to the mound on September 25th, Montas showed little rust as he held the Angels to just 1 run on 4 hits and a pair of walks while fanning 6 in 6 innings of work. Sure, his 3.47 xFIP indicates that some good fortune helped him out (his HR/9 was only 0.75), but the addition of a splitter to his repertoire helped him boost the strikeouts as well as log a 49% groundball rate. The fact that he missed about half the season will likely make many fantasy owners overlook or devalue him as they question the legitimacy of his half-season sample size. But the metrics suggest that he made real strides and should be a solid mid-rotation guy for fantasy in 2020 with a chance to be even better than that. - ahodge | 2019 BABIP: 0.297(-0.028)| SwStr%: 12%(3%)| Avg FB: 96.6(0.8)| FB/Chg Split: 8.2(8.1)| HR Distance: 399ft(-1)| Strand%: 0.76(0.02)| HardHit%: 37.9%(-8.2%)| Avg Velocity: 87(-1.8)| Elevation%: 9.7(-0.1)| Barrels%: 3.8(-3.6)| HR/FB%: 11%(3%)| GB Rate: 0.49(0.06)| xFIP: 3.47(0.84)| xSLG: 0.359(-0.005)
Quintana, Jose Quintana finished his season on a low note, he completed September with a disastrous 11.09 ERA over 5 starts, while lasting a total of 18.2 IP across the 5 starts. His 4.68 ERA overall is a career-high and also marks the third straight year that he'll have an ERA over 4.00. He may have gotten a bit unlucky this season with a .326 BABIP and 65.9% LOB%, but his xFIP still sits at 4.20, which indicates that he's far from being the pitcher who posted 3 consecutive sub-3.50 ERA season from 2014-16. Quintana doesn't carry much fantasy appeal heading into 2020. - mgreenfeld | 2019 BABIP: 0.326(0.044)| SwStr%: 8%(0%)| Avg FB: 91.4(-0.2)| FB/Chg Split: 4.80(5.3)| HR Distance: 402ft(-1)| Strand%: 0.66(-0.08)| HardHit%: 38.1%(5.0%)| Avg Velocity: 89(0.9)| Elevation%: 10.6(-0.4)| Barrels%: 5.7(-0.4)| HR/FB%: 12%(-3%)| GB Rate: 0.45(0.01)| xFIP: 4.20(-0.48)| xSLG: 0.433(-0.007)
Samardzija, Jeff After posting ERAs near 6.00 in May and June, Samardzija has posted a 2.67 ERA since the end of June. Samardzija has become significantly more reliant on his cutter over the past couple of months, but the rest of his pitch mix has been somewhat variable (Samardzija's fastball usage dipped in July before rebounding in August, and his sinker usage did the opposite), and his overall numbers suggest a significant decline in performance over the last month of the year. Although his hard hit rate has dropped over the last two months, it's still worse than the league average (37% in August and 42.3% in July) and most of Samardzija's other peripherals have remained largely in line with their full season numbers. Considering that Samardzija has benefited from a .186 BABIP and 3% home run rate over the past two months, he's unlikely to continue posting such strong results going into 2020. Combined with a roughly league average strikeout rate, Samardzija's likely to decline batted ball results make him decline candidate in 2020. - Phil Double | 2019 BABIP: 0.240(-0.047)| SwStr%: 9%(1%)| Avg FB: 91.9(-0.4)| FB/Chg Split: 6.7(92.3)| HR Distance: 404ft(2)| Strand%: 0.77(0.14)| HardHit%: 40.2%(8.7%)| Avg Velocity: 89(3.1)| Elevation%: 16.3(-2.8)| Barrels%: 8.4(-1.0)| HR/FB%: 13%(4%)| GB Rate: 0.36(0.07)| xFIP: 5.02(1.50)| xSLG: 0.472(0.061)
Bailey, Homer For the 1st time in many years, Bailey turned in a decent season with a 4.57 ERA/1.32 WHIP/157k/13W. This despite being hit at a 43% Hard Hit rate that didn't show up in his BABIP. His Strand rate was higher than its been in the past (71), and it looks like he got away easy with a lower than expected Batting Average against. Stay away in 2020. 2019 BABIP: 0.301(-0.026)| SwStr%: 11%(2%)| Avg FB: 93.0(-0.1)| FB/Chg Split: 5.7(93.1)| HR Distance: 393ft(4)| Strand%: 0.71(0.04)| HardHit%: 42.9%(2.0%)| Avg Velocity: 90(1.3)| Elevation%: 12.9(1.6)| Barrels%: 5.7(-2.9)| HR/FB%: 13%(-6%)| GB Rate: 0.44(0.02)| xFIP: 4.43(-0.14)| xSLG: 0.419(0.016)
Cueto, Johnny Cueto's return from TJS in 2019 was encouraging, his fastball returned to 2017 levels, but he didn't really throw his changeup often or well. That will come. The best thing he has going for him is coming back to the great pitcher's park in SF. | 2019 BABIP: 0.190(-0.063)| SwStr%: 7%(-2%)| Avg FB: 91.3(1.9)| FB/Chg Split: 7.9(7.7)| HR Distance: 421ft(27)| Strand%: 0.70(-0.09)| HardHit%: 40.0%(7.1%)| Avg Velocity: 84(-1.8)| Elevation%: 4.2(-7.5)| Barrels%: 8.9(-0.6)| HR/FB%: 23%(9%)| GB Rate: 0.54(0.10)| xFIP: 4.89(-0.17)| xSLG: 0.429(-0.017)
DeSclafani, Anthony Descalafani had a glorious return from injury in 2019. In 166 innings he posted a solid 1.20 WHIP and 3.89 ERA. We liked the pickup in his fastball, which increased by 1 MPH in velocity, and the corresponding increase in his SwStr% from 9.3 to 10.1%. What appears to be lucky however was his 273 BABIP, which despite a 40% HardHIt%, helped him more than it should have in 2019. There will likely be a pullback in his overall numbers in 2020. | 2019 BABIP: 0.273(-0.021)| SwStr%: 10%(1%)| Avg FB: 94.7(1.1)| FB/Chg Split: 6.2(6.2)| HR Distance: 403ft(0)| Strand%: 0.78(0.09)| HardHit%: 40.3%(-1.6%)| Avg Velocity: 88(0.9)| Elevation%: 11.5(1.1)| Barrels%: 7.6(0.6)| HR/FB%: 16%(-4%)| GB Rate: 0.43(0.01)| xFIP: 4.30(0.41)| xSLG: 0.413(-0.010)
Leake, Mike SwStr rate is unappealing (8.1 last season) as has his K/9 rate 5.8, which makes him very susceptible to plays hit into play. ERA should have been closer to 5.29 last season. Although the dominance in pounding the KZone leads to very few walks, he get hit harder at a higher rate than most other pitchers (41% last season). Not a fantasy target. | 2019 BABIP: 0.295(-0.011)| SwStr%: 8%(1%)| Avg FB: 88.4(-0.3)| FB/Chg Split: 4.3(5.1)| HR Distance: 404ft(8)| Strand%: 0.73(0.03)| HardHit%: 41.0%(5.3%)| Avg Velocity: 90(0.8)| Elevation%: 11.5(3.2)| Barrels%: 8.8(2.1)| HR/FB%: 18%(6%)| GB Rate: 0.47(-0.02)| xFIP: 4.76(0.47)| xSLG: 0.520(0.014)
Bauer, Trevor We knew that his HR/FB rate was not sustainable coming in ("His ERA is likely to rise however as his 6.2 HR/FB rate is going to regress closer to his career norms of 10-11%. "), but the results of 2019 were totally disappointing for the outspoken and somewhat volatile starter. His Hard Hit rate last year popped up to 41%, the highest of his career. Taking a slower look, we see that location accounted for a vast amount of the carnage in 2019. His GB% coming into last season was .45, last year it dipped to only 38%. The angle of balls hit against him went from 11% to 16%. Lift inballs + solid contact is never good...even with a superior 10.7 K/9 rate. Look for him to tinker and revert back to his 2018 approach. 2019 BABIP: 0.287(-0.010)| SwStr%: 12%(-1%)| Avg FB: 94.6(0.1)| FB/Chg Split: 8.5(7.5)| HR Distance: 396ft(1)| Strand%: 0.70(-0.11)| HardHit%: 41.3%(5.4%)| Avg Velocity: 88(1.1)| Elevation%: 16.0(4.8)| Barrels%: 8.6(4.2)| HR/FB%: 15%(9%)| GB Rate: 0.38(-0.07)| xFIP: 4.33(-0.15)| xSLG: 0.406(-0.023)
Carrasco, Carlos Has a dominant 15% SwStr rate, which makes his 73% Strand Rate surprising as it should have been closer to 80%, which will likely revert and improve his ERA in 2020. For some reason he continually struggles at home (457 SLG), and dominates on the road (.345 SLG). Then consider the very unlucky .354 BABIP against, and the 22% HR/FB rate Health is really the biggest question as the skill set is intact as long as he can return to the 46% GB rate in 2020. 2019 BABIP: 0.354(0.039)| SwStr%: 15%(0%)| Avg FB: 93.5(0.0)| FB/Chg Split: 5.6(5.5)| HR Distance: 398ft(-4)| Strand%: 0.73(-0.01)| HardHit%: 40.1%(1.2%)| Avg Velocity: 91(1.7)| Elevation%: 12.9(3.1)| Barrels%: 12.8(6.8)| HR/FB%: 22%(9%)| GB Rate: 0.41(-0.06)| xFIP: 3.50(-1.79)| xSLG: 0.494(-0.048)
Explanation of Stats:
BABIP: Batted Balls Hit in Play - League Average near .300. On average pitchers have little control over this, however superior pitchers do have control in allowing weaker contact, while the opposite is true for poor pitchers. In parenthesis is the change over 2018.
SwStr%: Swinging Strike Rate measures Swings and Misses divided Total Pitches. League average is around 10.9%. Elite Pitchers are in the 12-14% range.
Avg FB: Average Fastball Speed. Not to long ago anything over 90 was considered excellent. Today that average is 92.6. Elite average fastball speeds are now above 95MPH.
FB/Chg Split: Delta between Fastball and Changeup. League average is close to 8 MPH. Any split above 9 is considered Excellent. Any split above 10 is considered the "Holy Grail". Although there are several ways to compete, deception is the key to pitching success.
HR Distance: This represents the average Homerun distance of all the homeruns allowed by this pitcher. Although this statistic varies in effectiveness. Poor pitchers tend to get hit harder, and thus exhibit greater distance on HRs allowed. Yet pitchers with greater velocity on their fastball, also tend to give up longer homeruns, but in some cases, are still very effective pitchers. In other words don't overplay this indicator. League Average HR distance is 401ft.
Strand%: Measures the number of baserunners left stranded, as opposed to those baserunners that they allowed to score. Better pitchers have a higher strand%, and this will show up in their ERA. It's not a surprise that other indicators such as SwStr% and K/9 have a high correlation to Strand%. League average is .73.
HardHit%: measures the percentage of batted balls that are hit "hard". Hard hit rate was first developed by Sports Info Solutions (formerly Baseball Info Solutions) and data dating back to 2002 is publicly available. When it was first developed, analysts from Sports Info Solutions manually categorized every batted ball as being "soft" hit, "medium" hit and "hard" hit, however, the method of recording the statistic became much less subjective in 2010. While the exact formula has not been released, the current method of tracking "hard" hit rate involves an algorithm accounting for batted ball's air time, trajectory, landing spot, etc. The average HARDHIT% is currently 38%
Avg Velocity: A Statcast metric that measures Exit Velocity measures the speed of the baseball as it comes off the bat, immediately after a batter makes contact. This is tracked for all Batted Ball Events -- outs, hits and errors. Average Velocity off the bat is 88.7 MPH.
Elevation%: A Statcast metric that measures the elevation of the ball coming off the bat. Groundball pitchers will have a lower metric. Average Elevation angle is 12.7.
Barrels%: A Statcast classification is assigned to batted-ball events whose comparable hit types (in terms of exit velocity and launch angle) have led to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage. Average Barrels% is 8.0.
HR/FB%: Homeruns divided by Flyballs, how many flyballs pitched that flew out of the ballpark. League average is 16%. Some pitchers have some control/loss of control over this statistic, but generally it's out of a pitcher's governance.
GB Rate: Groundball Rate measures the percentage of groundballs allowed by the pitcher. League average is 43%.
xFIP: A different way to measure a pitchers "true ERA", through the Fielder Independent Pitching formula. xFIP subs in a league average HR rate, with the assumption that variations to HR/FB are uncontrollable. ((Fly balls / league average rate of HR per fly ball x 13) + (3 x (BB + HBP)) - (2 x K)) / IP + FIP constant.
xSLG: A Statcast metric that measures a pitchers expected slugging percentage.