Dokken’s Dudes & Don’ts: The Starting Pitcher Don’ts
A big part of my draft strategy coming into the year was to go in early on pitchers who pile up the innings. Most starting pitchers don’t come anywhere close to 200 innings anymore. The bulk innings give you a big advantage in terms of strikeouts and fortifying those ratios. Now that we are less than two weeks away from what was supposed to be Opening Day, everything has changed. Go figure.
As of this writing, nobody has any idea of how many games will be played. There is little doubt at this point, however, that we are facing a shortened season. That turns my entire strategy on its head. If every healthy starting pitcher can only throw 150 innings, we have to throw out the workload advantages. Instead, we have to focus on the per-inning production.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll have to prorate these projections down to whatever we wind up getting from the season.
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Dokken’s Dudes & Don’ts: The Starting Pitcher Don’ts
The First Don’t: Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox
First off, I am not taking anything away from the massive adjustments Lucas Giolito made in 2019. I tip my cap to him. I take traditional Asian bow in his honor. I cook some traditional Yakisoba noodles because I just thought about Asian food. I have taken far longer than I had intended to on this article because I had to have lunch less than one paragraph into my first write-up.
What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, Giolito. Like I was saying, his adjustments were spectacular in 2019. He boldly adjusted his delivery. His fastball gained two ticks of velocity as he dropped the sinker and moved exclusively to the four-seam. He increased his changeup usage by 11% while basically ditching his curveball in the second half. His K/9 nearly doubled to 11.62 K/9 and his walk rate dropped by 1.77 BB/9. Massive, massive changes. He went from the worst pitcher by WAR in 2018 to the 10th best in 2019. So what’s not to like at SP15/ADP46?
Some of Giolito’s splits are a bit concerning.
While Giolito’s K-BB% actually rose over the second half, his results and expected results dissipated. Ditching the curveball for more changeups over the second half was the right call by the numbers. The decline in production was more a factor of some expected regression. A big problem that Giolito faces is the long ball. His HR/FB rate doubled over the second half as he became even more fly ball prone. He allowed a 1.49 HR/9 at home, where his ERA was 4.06. He allowed a poor 9.4% barrel rate that indicates his HR/FB rate could remain higher than average. His BABIP is also likely to rise from its .273 mark in 2019 due to the hard contact he allows.
Lucas Giolito will miss plenty of bats. He should also amass plenty of innings, provided there are no lingering effects from the lat strain that ended his season early. As a high-end #2 SP, however, he gives up too much hard contact for me to feel good about an ERA below 3.75. Those home run regression chickens may come home to roost.
Projection: 180 IP, 12 W, 4.10 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 210 K
The Second Don’t: Tyler Glasnow
Tyler Glasnow is potentially the most polarizing player heading into 2020. Clearly, I’m on the pessimistic side. Glasnow had what looked like a breakthrough after he was dealt to the Rays from the Pirates. Given some of what we now know about the Pirates old regime, this is of little surprise (I discussed it a bit with Mitch Keller in my SP Dudes).
In 2019, Glasnow was in cruise control through May 10th. Over those 48.1 innings, he posted a 1.86 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 10.24 K/9, and 1.68 BB/9. Obviously, those are Cy Young caliber numbers if you extrapolate them over the course of a full season. Those drafting him aren’t quite going that far, but at SP23/ADP68, he is either your ace pitcher or your #2.
One thing I don’t want from my SP1/2 is a guy who is 26 and has never pitched more than 112 innings in an MLB season. To make matters worse, his 2019 injury was a forearm strain and he wound up pitching only 60.2 innings in total. I’m not saying it’s coming, but forearm strains are often precursors to the dreaded Tommy John surgery. It’s just a little extra stress that I don’t need in my life.
Glasnow is also a two-pitch starter. I don’t care how good those two pitches are, it’s hard to turn over a lineup three times with two pitches. I’m also not convinced that his control issues have suddenly vanished. His BB/9 dropped dramatically from 4.27 in 2018 to 2.08 in 2019. However, his first-pitch strike rate actually went down, as did his Zone%. A two-pitch starter with control issues and an injury history doesn’t sound like an SP23 to me – it sounds more like Dinelson Lamet, who is probably also getting over-drafted at SP39.
Projection: 130 IP, 8 W, 3.95 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 160 K
The Third Don’t: Corey Kluber
Corey Kluber owners took it in the shorts in 2019. Five consecutive years with 200+ innings meant nothing as Kluber managed just 35.2 innings due to a fractured ulna. Perhaps it was even a relief that you didn’t have to continue starting him though since he came out of the gate and delivered a 5.80 ERA. His fastball velocity was down a tick to 91 MPH while his walk rate ballooned to 3.79 BB/9.
It’s safe to say I’m not banking on a full return to form for the soon-to-be 34-year old. Now a member of the Rangers pitching staff, he could at least get back to putting up bulk innings. Of course, as I mentioned in the intro, that isn’t looking like quite the advantage it usually is for 2020. If Kluber’s stuff continues to diminish – which Father Time generally insists upon – that will cause his K-BB% to continue to slip.
I’d be interested in a bounce-back investment if he was, say, SP40 or so. Corey Kluber is the 26th SP off of boards with an ADP of 85, however. A huge bounce-back is already baked into that price, sucking out just about all of your profit potential. Too much risk, not enough reward for me here.
Projection: 180 IP, 11 W, 4.15 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 175 K
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