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Buy or Sell – Lucas Giolito’s Changeup Issues & Streaming David Peterson

With the weather heating up, the runs and home runs per plate appearance have increased in June. After a brutal April for offenses, the numbers boomed in May and June. Although we’re focusing on buying or selling pitchers, it’s a trend to monitor, aligning with the idea that it’s risky to stream pitchers. 

buy or sell

In this week’s buy or sell installment, we have a pitcher drafted like an ace in Lucas Giolito and a recent spicy streamer in David Peterson. Like Trevor Rogers, Giolito remains a hot name in the fantasy baseball community due to his struggles. As usual, we’ll look at the underlying skills to see whether we should buy or sell these two starting pitchers for the rest of 2022. 

Buy or Sell – Lucas Giolito’s Changeup Issues & Streaming David Peterson

Lucas Giolito (SP, CHW)

The White Sox ace went in an interesting NFBC ADP range of Aaron Nola, Lucas Giolito, Julio Urías, and Sandy Alcantara. Unfortunately, Giolito has performed the worst against the four aces, with a 5.19 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 69.1 innings. Giolito’s ratios remain near career worsts since 2018. On the surface, Giolito’s .360 BABIP looks brutal versus a career BABIP of .272.  

Thankfully, Giolito’s LOB% at 74.4% aligns with the career average. However, Giolito has allowed many home runs with a 1.95 HR/9 and 18.5% HR/FB% compared to a career HR/9 of 1.42 and HR/FB% of 14.8%. We could assume regression, which suggests buying rather than selling Giolito. 

Giolito’s strikeout at 27.1% sits near the 2021 numbers (27.9%), but the walk rate increased to 8.9%, nearly two percentage points higher than 2021. The SwStr% also trended downwards with a 15.2% SwStr% in 2021 down to 13.5% in 2022. Early positive signs for Giolito. 

Interestingly, Giolito’s Z-Contact% increased to 84.2%, up nearly six percentage points, though the overall Zone% dropped from 44.2% (2021) to 39.3% (2022). The lower Zone% aligns with the slight increase in walk rate, indicating Giolito’s struggles with control and command. So far, the underlying metrics hint at buying, not selling, with 2022 as the outlier.

Giolito’s Arsenal & Results

Lucas Giolito continues mixing in the four-seamer (47.7%), slider (24.8%), and changeup (23.6%) in 2022. From 2019 to 2021, Giolito relied on the changeup as his second most used pitch, ranging from 26.2% to 33.7%. Unfortunately, Giolito’s three main pitches have been brutal from a results standpoint in 2022.

However, let’s see what the underlying skills indicate regarding buying or selling Giolito. Interestingly, Giolito continues to have four offerings with a double-digit SwStr%. His slider remains the only pitch with a drop in SwStr%, around four percentage points from 2021. However, before Monday’s start against the Angels, the changeup had a 16.7% SwStr%. 

Outside of the SwStr% on the slider decreasing, the Zone% dropped over ten percentage points on the changeup, likely indicating command issues. Giolito’s slider and curveball increased in vertical movement, but the changeup hasn’t changed via the movement profiles. 

Unfortunately, it hasn’t translated into more whiffs on the slider and curveball. Since the changeup movement hasn’t changed much, what’s going on with one of the best pitches? It looks like the changeup gets crushed by right-handed hitters in 2022 with a BA, SLG, and wOBA nearly double of 2021 across the board. 

Although all pitches haven’t fared well, we’ll focus on the changeup since the Zone% significantly dropped. 

  • 2022 Changeup vs. RHB: .419 BA, .871 SLG, .574 wOBA
  • 2021 Changeup vs. RHB: .218 BA, .446 SLG, .317 wOBA
  • Career Changeup vs. RHB: .238 BA, .465 SLG, .339 wOBA

Interestingly, Giolito’s changeup location from 2021 to 2022 dropped in Zone%, yet it seems he has struggled with commanding the pitch. He still throws it in the zone, but the heat map jumps all over the place in 2022. 

buy or sell

Giolito has recognized the issues with the changeup, so we’ll want to monitor how it shakes out. 

Buy or Sell Giolito?

With so many concerns for Giolito, should we buy, sell, or hold in redraft leagues? It would be easier to buy rather than sell Giolito if it came down to regression via the BABIP and HR/9. However, the underlying skills remain concerning via the SwStr%, Zone%, and pitch data. That said, the slider and changeup continue to generate whiffs at a healthy rate, so it’s reasonable to expect a bounceback second half of the season. 

In keeper/dynasty leagues, Giolito especially warrants a buy-low offer, and the same process applies in redraft leagues. Overall, we identified more reasons for concern than optimism, so don’t expect ace-like numbers from Giolito for the rest of 2022 unless a couple of skills improve. 

Update: On Monday, Giolito posted a season-best 71% Whiff% on the changeup versus a season-long 37.9% Whiff% on the offspeed pitch before Monday’s start. The movement profile hasn’t changed versus the season averages, so maybe it’s an outlier game.

We must go back to April 24 to May 10 to find Whiff% on the changeup that sniffs the season-best Whiff% against the Angels. Maybe it presents a sell-high opportunity for Giolito if one sours on him, though the underlying metrics still hint at buying low. 

David Peterson (SP, NYM)

Although David Peterson flashed in 2020, he struggled in 2021 with a 5.54 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 66.2 innings. Peterson provided positives and negatives in 2022, evidenced by the 3.10 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. However, it improved from a 3.60 ERA and 1.33 WHIP before his last two starts against the Marlins.

Walks remain a concern for Peterson with a 10% BB%, yet a mediocre 22.7% K%. With three of their top pitchers on the injured list in Jacob deGrom, Tylor Megill, and Max Scherzer, Peterson has a regular spot in the rotation. 

Peterson limited the home runs in 2022 with a 0.69 HR/9 and 10.3% HR/FB%. That’s better than his career HR/9 of 1.07 and an HR/FB% at 14.6%. They’re also 50% better than 2021 (1.49 HR/9 and 22.4% HR/FB%).

buy or sell

It seems the home run rates regressed in 2022, with the GB% increasing to 53.1% versus a career GB% of 49%. The increased GB% is due to the four-seamer (51.9% from 38.9%) and slider (50% from 41%) inducing more groundballs in 2022 versus 2021. The 11.1% SwStr% aligns with the mediocre K%. However, it’s interesting to see Peterson’s 46.4% F-Strike% down nearly 12 percentage points in 2021 and below the career F-Strike% of 53.7%.

Peterson’s Arsenal & Results

David Peterson typically mixes in four pitches at a double-digit rate with the four-seamer (36.4%), slider (26.8%), changeup (17.8%), and sinker (13.6%). Peterson lowered the sinker usage in 2022 by nearly 16 percentage points with more sliders and four-seamers. 

In particular, Peterson lowered the sinker usage against right-handed hitters from his most used pitch in 2021 (32.2%), dropping to 13.1% in 2022. The sinker has its purpose of generating a 55% GB%, though it allows a 33.3% HR/FB%. 

buy or sell

Peterson primarily relies on the four-seamer and slider against both-handed hitters in 2022. Thankfully, Peterson’s best pitch in the slider elicits a career-best 25.6% SwStr% and 41.6% O-Swing% versus a career SwStr% of 21.1%. The batted ball results look near elite, evidenced by the .169 BA, .292 SLG, and .238 wOBA against the slider.

Peterson’s slider has consistently been his best pitch from an SwStr% and results standpoint. However, it has been extra effective against right-handed hitters in 2022 with a 52.7% Whiff% and .221 wOBA versus a 33.8% Whiff% and .477 wOBA in 2021.

buy or sell

The changeup, four-seamer, and sinker boast above-average horizontal movement in 2022 and past seasons. Peterson’s slider doesn’t pop in the movement profile like the three other pitches. However, it still has 1.2 inches drop versus the average. 

Buy or Sell Peterson?

David Peterson’s ERA estimators bake in some regression, though it’s still serviceable with a 3.76 FIP, 3.86 xFIP, and 3.93 SIERA. Since Peterson’s BABIP, LOB%, and home run rates don’t seem like outlier levels, it’s probably a matter of whether he can sustain the pitch level data. Unfortunately, Peterson lacks the strikeout upside with the average K% and peak game logs of seven and eight in the past two starts. Peterson serves as a streaming pitcher with one above-average pitch in the slider. Overall, there might be more sustainability with Peterson’s profile than I initially expected. 

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