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Deep Dive: Don’t Sleep On Anthony DeSclafani

I cannot believe the 2020 season is already here and I am bringing back my deep dives. I‘m starting them off with a player I cannot seem to talk about enough and that player is Anthony DeSclafani. I truly believe we can see a breakout of sorts this year.

He is not an ace by any means, but I think there is a solid mid-rotation upside for your fantasy team here and you can get him as your 5th or 6th starting pitcher in drafts as of now. I am going to dive deep and provide in-depth reasoning to buy-in.

Health has been an issue in the past but I do think this will be the year it all comes together. I’m wildly optimistic about him as you can see. Although the 2019 season as a whole was not something to write home about, there were some very interesting changes that took place in the second half. So that is exactly where we will start.

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Deep Dive: Don’t Sleep On Anthony DeSclafani

The Splits

When you take a look at the two halves, on the surface you see he improved across the board in just about every category. The only negative change is in the K/9 department where he regressed from 9.35 to 8.66. The dip in strikeout rate can be explained by the slight dip in both O-Swing% from 32.1% in the first half to 31.4% in the second half. However, this appears to have been by design and was part of the new approach implemented in the second half.

In the second half, Anthony DeSclafani started to pitch to contact and throw more first-pitch strikes. The F-Strike% went from 58.2% to 64.7%. He also allowed more Z-Contact and O-Contact which translated to an increase of 2.3% in overall contact rate from 77.8% to 80.1%.

DeSclafani managed to allow more contact without upping the number of pitches he threw in the zone. The zone rate essentially remained the same for both halves. They were only separated by 0.1% so if you want to get technical it improved in the second half ever so slightly. The encouraging part was the quality of contact allowed in the second half.

Soft contact improved from 14.9% to 19.9%. With it came an improvement in ground ball rate from 38. 2% to 48.4%! That is a huge increase in GB%. This is exactly what you want to see if a pitcher has increased their contact rate. This caused a drop of 6.7% in FB rate from 41.4% to 34.7%. This further led to the HR/FB rate to come down as well.

These changes all worked in his favor to induce more weak contact and more ground balls. This was not the only change in the profile. There was an overall pitch mix change as well.

Pitch Mix and Pitch Usage Breakdown

I have highlighted where and when the change took place. You can see there was a tangible pitch mix change to coincide with the change in production. He began to throw the four-seam fastball and curve a bit less while increasing the usage of the sinker, slider, and changeup. When there is a tangible change that is followed by a change in production I am all about it and I buy-in.

Now I am going to take this a bit further and dive into each pitch and how they performed in each half. What I am looking for is just how much did the change in pitch mix may have helped in improving the pitch and its outcomes and if there were any actual changes to the pitch itself.

The Four-Seam Fastball

This is probably his worst pitch of Anthony DeSclafani’s arsenal. This is one of the two pitches he decreased usage on in the second half.

Although the FIP and xFIP obviously jumped up about 2 full runs, the really interesting part of the splits is the K rate and contact rate changes. This falls in line with the findings we found in the overall numbers at the beginning.

You can see in the second half although DeSclafani traded strikeouts for ground balls and weaker contact. There was a decrease in K rate, swinging strikes, and chases on the four-seam fastball. Meanwhile, he was able to increase the ground ball rate and weak contact%. There was also a BABIP correction from the first to the second half. It improved from .321 to .232. That’s a lot of  BABIP correction right there.

When you take a look at the placement of the pitches, it was obvious he stayed up in the zone. Or should I say attempted to. He often left it in the middle of the zone.

In the second half, he increased his zone rate 1.5% but he managed to keep the fastball still relatively up in the zone. DeSclafani also seemed to throw it a bit more around the zone compared to the first half where it was pretty concentrated to one area.

I don’t know about you, but I do not like to see fastballs down the middle and it appears he moved from throwing them high in the zone to putting more so down the middle. Again, this lends itself to why it was likely thrown less entering the second half. He has far more effective pitches.

The Two-Seam Fastball (or Sinker)

Depending on which site you use will depend on what it is called. I am calling it a two-seam fastball.

This pitch is a much better fastball for Anthony DeSclafani. The ratio indicators suggest it even has room to improve. He managed to actually increase the K-rate 3.1% from the first half to the second even though the O-Swing and SwStr% both dipped. I would not expect that to be a common occurrence.

DeSclafani initially kept the two-seam fastball down and towards the right in the zone.

In the second half, DeSclafani attacked the zone more with this fastball with his zone rate going from 52.4% to 59.5%. Not to mention while inducing 4.9% more weak contact and 10.2% more ground balls.

The Slider

This is where things start to get more interesting.

This is where I am very intrigued. He obviously made a change here with the increase of RPM paired with the changes in both the V-Movement and the H-Movement. The pitch as a whole is different.

With these changes came the bump in K-rate, SwStr%, and chase rate. The barrel rate did increase which leads me to believe when he hung the slider it was hit hard. The BABIP stabilized during the second half. He increased the usage of the slider and it appears to have become one of his strikeout pitches.

In the first half DeSclafani left the slider in the zone more frequently (45.2% zone rate) and it was not as successful as a strikeout pitch.

In the second half, the slider was far more effective with the SwStr% up to 17.6%. This increase in SwStr rate came with an increase in the O-Swing up to 23.2%. He also threw the pitch outside the zone 2.3% more in the second half. The weak contact was about the same but the contact rate decreased from 41.1% to 37.6% and the ground ball rate increased 9.1% from 38.1% to 47.2%.

You can see he really focused the slider on the corner of the plate. With that came more hanging over the middle. This is something I expect him to correct having the full offseason to continue working on the slider.

The Curve

Although Anthony DeSclafani did throw fewer knuckle curves in the second half, it was still very effective. It was actually more effective in the second half.

He seemed to have made similar changes to the curve as he did for the slider. He improved the RPM by over 300 rotations per minute while improving the H-Movement and decreasing the V-Movement. The pitch was already successful as was but it became even more effective.

Every single thing about this pitch improved. I am not completely sure why he threw it less in the second half but I would like to see him increase the usage. It has the potential to be the best pitch in this arsenal and it definitely gives him two good breaking pitches with the slider being the second, which we already discussed. The only change noted in location is he threw it outside the zone even more.

The Changeup

Although he barely used the changeup in the first half, Anthony DeSclafani essentially doubled its usage in the second half which is what basically gave him a five-pitch arsenal.

The changeup is not much of a strikeout pitch but it is great for inducing soft contact. He barely even utilized it in the first half but when he did he threw it out of the zone more.

Whereas in the second half DeSclafani attacked the zone more. He threw it in the zone 53.3% of the time in the second half. This was a 10.3% uptick in zone rate from the first half. With it came a jump in weak% which jumped 20% to 86.7%.

In the second half, he made a point to utilize the changeup to attack the bottom of the zone.

Conclusion and 2020 Outlook

Anthony DeSclafani does not have the most overpowering stuff. He does offer the two fastballs in the mid 90’s and he keeps them up and over the middle. DeSclafani tends to work the zone low and outside with the offspeed offerings. He offers a five-pitch arsenal which is highlighted by the knuckle curve and slider. The Two-seamer is not a bad fastball either and those three pitches give him wiggle room to improve all around.

A decent bump in strikeouts is possible with the two breaking balls but it depends on the way he attacks hitters this season. It is obvious he made big-time changes in the second half. With the new and highly touted pitching coach they brought in, paired with the changes noted, I think there is room for a ton of success. He is going outside the top 250 in ADP and he is often your fifth or sixth starting pitcher. I love the price and I laid out why I believe there is upside to be had. I draft Anthony DeSclafani with confidence and you should too.

For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2020 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!

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