Fire & Ice: Enjoying A Fantasy Kielbasa With A German (Marquez)
We’ve talked about quite a bit of hitting lately. Let’s switch sides, shall we? With only a few weeks left in the season, I’ll certainly discuss the rest-of-season value of German Marquez and Shane Beiber, as always. However, I’ll also assess their value as we begin (yes, already) to look forward toward 2019 drafts.
Fire – German Marquez
Folks, it’s high time we discuss German Marquez. Marquez, who is affectionately regarded as “The Coors Kielbasa” on the Nasty Cast podcast (hosted by yours truly), has been pure filth. Sure, he began the season innocuously enough. He was a Rockies pitcher, and that fact alone is enough to cross him off most draft boards. He’s no Jon Gray. He’s no…well, I’ve run out of good Rockies pitchers. He’s no Ubaldo Jimenez? He had one good season!
I digress. German Marquez wasn’t on any draft radars in the preseason, and he didn’t find his way on to many rosters after the first few months either. Through the first half of the season, he posted a 4.81 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. Typical Rockies starter numbers. However, his results have been substantially different over the second half.
Over 68.1 second half innings, Marquez has put up a 2.63 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. His strikeout and walk numbers are equally as impressive, with an 11.72 K/9 and 2.11 BB/9 over the same span. That K/9 is good enough for fifth among starters, trailing only Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Blake Snell, and Max Scherzer. Not bad company. German’s 2.10 FIP is third in baseball, trailing only Jacob DeGrom and Patrick Corbin. That tells us the ERA is no fluke.
Marquez has made wholesale improvements to his arsenal of pitches to take this step forward. Last year he was primarily a four-seam and curveball pitcher, tossing the occasional show-me change. Towards the end of 2017 though, he began to work in a sinker and backed away from the four-seam.
He’s upped the sinker usage to 8% on average in 2018, but it’s the development of his new slider that has really brought him success. He’s used it in conjunction with the curveball – his former primary breaker – for most of the season. However, the slider has overtaken the curve here in the second half. He has continued to work on it, and it’s much improved.
Since July 1, both the slider and curveball have achieved a 25%-plus whiff rate per pitch. Combine that with a 95 MPH fastball and a whopping 78% groundball rate on his sinker over that span, and you have a tremendous recipe for success. But how has he dealt with the dreaded Coors Field?
Overall, the 2018 numbers say: not well. He carries a 5.14 ERA at home versus a 2.83 mark on the road. However, over the second half he has tossed 34.1 innings at home. The results? A 2.10 ERA with a 2.05 FIP. We know that breaking balls tend to be less effective in Coors, but it seems like Marquez has found the formula to defy altitude.
You have to start German Marquez in all formats the rest of the season. He’s matchup-proof to me at this point, but I’ll give you his next trio of matchups anyway. He gets the Giants in San Francisco next, which is a matchup juicier than any burger you can buy. He then heads to Arizona and is home against the Phillies after that, and none of those matchups scare me off him one bit.
Looking forward to next year, I’m going to be very interested in German Marquez. He has sustained these ace-like numbers for an extended stretch, and there is a definite change in pitch mix to back it up. Simply speculating here, but I feel like many drafters will be grossed out by the fact that he’s a Rockies pitcher and his ADP won’t be too inflated. Should that be the case and he’s available in the late single-digit rounds, I’ll be all over him.
Ice – Shane Bieber
Perhaps you see that Shane Bieber is this week’s topic of discussion in the Ice portion of this write-up. Perhaps you then think, “What the [bleep]? Biebs killed it last time out! What are you thinking, Dokken?” The last sentence I get asked a lot. Well, ’tis true that Bieber shut out the Rays over 6.2 innings while striking out 11 in his last start. However, over the second half as a whole, he has a bloated 4.94 ERA over 54.2 innings. Not quite what we had expected when he got the call back in late May.
I will say that I was very intrigued by Bieber when he debuted. As the host of the Fantrax Dynasty Baseball podcast (two podcast plugs in one article, Yahtzee!), I was very aware of Bieber as a prospect. He displayed elite control throughout the minors, walking only 19 batters over 277 career MiLB innings. His stuff wasn’t overpowering, but his big frame and plus-plus control had me interested.
We are now 98 innings into his MLB career, and that walk rate is still quite good at 1.74 K/9. He has even increased his strikeout rate from the minors, with a 9.55 K/9 that almost cancels out the 4.32 ERA on the year. However, the BB/K ratio isn’t the whole story.
Bieber’s ERA may be 4.32, but his FIP is way down at 3.00! How much bad luck are we looking at here? He has allowed a .362 BABIP, and a below-average 70.3% strand rate despite the high K-rate. However, we can’t haphazardly regress his BABIP to .300, and here’s why.
Bieber has allowed a pretty awful 44% hard contact rate while inducing very few pop-ups at 5.3%. Also, while his slider is a tremendous weapon against right-handed bats, he has been crushed by lefties to the tune of a .380 wOBA. His curveball and changeup aren’t as effective as the slider, so he either needs to locate perfectly to get hitters out or try to improve those offspeed offerings.
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Finally, we come full circle and note that perhaps his big problem is actually his strength: command. He doesn’t issue free passes often, but that also means that he is pitching in the zone a lot. He his the sixth highest zone% of all MLB pitchers (min. 90 IP) at 48.4%. When you’re in the zone that much, you’re going to allow hard-hit balls more frequently. He misses plenty of bats, netting an 11.5% whiff rate on the year, so perhaps he’d be better suited to try to get chases outside of the zone more often and concede an extra walk here and there if need be.
Bieber is actually better than I thought he would be, despite the lackluster ERA. Once he learns to navigate MLB lineups more efficiently and effectively, he has the stuff to be a terrific starter. For the rest of 2018, he’s a streamer to me. His next opponent is Detroit, which I’m all about. However, he hosts Boston after that, which I want no part of. He finishes with the Royals, another cupcake of a matchup, and I’m back in for that one.
I’m going to be pretty interested in Bieber next year, although to a much lesser extent than Marquez. I can see Bieber taking another step forward with his pitchability, and he plays for a great team that should nab him plenty of wins. With an ugly surface ERA, I’d expect his ADP to be a relative bargain.
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