In last week’s pitcher installment of the buy or sell series, we examined two lesser-known pitchers – Glen Otto and Humberto Castellanos. The MLB offensive environment has heated up in May via runs and home runs per plate appearances, which means tread with caution when streaming pitchers or have patience. We’ll discuss two widely known pitchers, Frankie Montas and Miles Mikolas. They’re both performing well with intriguing metrics under the hood. Hit me up on Twitter with any questions or future buy or sell suggestions.
Buy or Sell – Frank Montas’ Pitch Mix Change & Miles Mikolas’ Success
Frankie Montas (SP, OAK)
One of the only Athletics starting pitchers I wanted in redraft leagues included Frankie Montas. After a career-best season with a 3.37 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 26.6% strikeout rate, and 7.3% walk rate in 187 innings, Montas has a slight bump in K-BB% (20.9%) with similar ratios in 3.55 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.
The .296 BABIP and 74.5% LOB% in 2021 weren’t outlier levels with a career BABIP of .305 and LOB% of 73.2%. Although Montas has a .257 BABIP in 2022 that might regress, it won’t heavily impact the ratios and results.
Montas has generated a chase rate (39.8%) over three percentage points higher than 2021, with a slight bump in the swinging-strike rate (14.1%). So far, the underlying metrics lead us to buy more than sell for Montas. However, let’s dive into the arsenal and results.
The Arsenal & Results For Montas
Montas relied on the sinker (29.2%), four-seamer (29%), splitter (22.4%), and slider (13%) in 2021. However, Montas swapped the sinker (21%) and splitter (28.1%) usage with a bump in slider usage up to 18.1% in 2022.
The pitch mix versus lefties remained similar, but Montas increased the splitter usage to 35.8%, with elite results in a .091 BA, .091 SLG, and .132 wOBA. Montas also upped the splitter usage versus right-handed hitters by seven percentage points at 20.3%.
Interestingly, the swinging-strike rate on the splitter dropped to 15.3%, down almost eight percentage points from the career average. However, it’s positive to see the high chase rate, evidenced by the 45.4% O-Swing% on the splitter.
Montas’ splitter is dropping almost three inches more and fading five more inches in 2022 versus 2021. That translates with the elite batted ball results on the split-finger. Also, the splitter generates a career-best 64.3% GB%, almost 12 percentage points higher than 2021.
Thankfully, the slider swinging-strike rate improved to 17.2%, up nearly five percentage points from 2021. The batted ball results align with a .160 BA, .400 SLG, and .240 wOBA versus the slider. Interestingly, the slider’s velocity decreased about 1.5 mph with a similar spin rate yet added three inches of drop, though not an above-average movement profile.
Buy or Sell Montas?
Several of the underlying metrics point to buying versus selling Montas in 2022. Montas boasts three pitches with a double-digit SwStr%, plus the ability to limit the contact quality. After leaving a game early on May 21 with a hand injury, it’s positive to see Montas return with an 11 strikeout outing versus Texas with seven scoreless innings.
Granted that it’s the Rangers, but the splitter had a 56% Whiff%, with the slider close behind at 40%. Montas has also been crushing in quality start leagues with six QS in ten games. Outside of the weak team context with 2.7 Run Support per Game versus a league average of 4.1. The Athletics rank third to last with 3.5 Run Support per Game in front of the Pirates and Tigers.
Miles Mikolas (SP, STL)
Forearm and shoulder injuries derailed Miles Mikolas’s fantasy impact and career the past two seasons. In 2022, Mikolas boasts a quality 2.67 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. The .263 BABIP and 80% LOB% will probably regress closer to the career BABIP of .286 and LOB% of 73.1%.
As a groundball pitcher with a career GB% of 47.2%, Mikolas limited the home run rate, evidenced by the 7.9% HR/FB% and 0.74 HR/9 in 2022. The HR/9 and HR/FB% will likely regress to the career rates, but it’s a matter of how much. Also, Mikolas is a contact pitcher with an 89.9% Z-Contact% and 83.7% Contact% that attacks hitters with a high 69.5% F-Strike%.
The Arsenal & Results For Mikolas
Mikolas lowered the four-seamer (18.3%) usage by nearly seven percentage points and bumped up the slider (29%), sinker (26.9%), and curveball (19.2%) by a few percentage points.
Interestingly, the results against the curveball and sinker improved from 2021. Mikolas increased the curveball usage against left-handed hitters with a .200 BA, .360 SLG, and .292 wOBA. Although it’s not a big whiff pitch, the curveball allowed a .400 BA, .600 SLG, and .460 wOBA in 2021 against lefties. Mikolas uses the curveball to generate a 60.7% GB% up from a career GB% of 54.3%, which likely translates into the improved batted ball results.
Buy or Sell Mikolas?
In theory, it’s good to pair Mikolas with a high strikeout pitcher since he pitches to contact with a career strikeout rate of 17.8%. The FIP (3.40) and xFIP (3.78) seem like more reasonable outcomes for Mikolas, assuming the BABIP, LOB%, and HR/FB% regresses. The BAT projects Mikolas for a 4.34 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and a 10.8% K-BB%, aligning with the potential regression concerns. That hints at selling, not buying the early results, or tread with caution in future games. With five quality starts over the past seven games, it gives Mikolas a high floor. Thankfully, Mikolas also pitches on a Cardinals team with the sixth-highest Run Support per Game at 4.9, meaning theoretically more chances for wins.