Starting Pitcher Barometer, Week 11: Confounding Ranks
We’re switching things up a little bit this week. We’ve reached a point in the season where there is some stability in these starting pitcher rankings now. There is some movement within the top 30, but we generally know that crew. SP31-50 is a fairly consistent group. After that, all bets are off in the streaming and deep league tiers. That’s still an improvement.
However, this week we didn’t get a ton of call-ups, and there isn’t a large swatch of movement. Instead of talking risers, fallers, and newcomers, this week I’m focusing on starters who have been confounding to rank. If you don’t know what I mean, read on and you will understand.
Starting Pitcher Barometer
The Confounding Starters List
- Noah Syndergaard, NYM – Thor has been nothing short of just plain bad. His 4.83 ERA through 13 starts would be easier to cast aside if he were striking out a ton of batters, but he’s at a career-low 8.89 K/9. His walk rate hasn’t ballooned, and his ERA, FIP, xFIP, and SIERA all point to a deserved ERA of 3.61-3.97. The thing is, Thor has always had high BABIPs, so you can’t apply typical batted ball regression here. He’s still more of a thrower than a pitcher, with poor fastball command. Because of that, he yields more hard contact than those ERA estimators expect. I’ve always ranked him as a fringe-ace because he doesn’t put up high-end innings. Now that that has become more commonplace, he has given me another reason to discount him in terms of hitability and strikeout rate. He will still get better, but there are plenty of starters these days who can give you a 3.75 ERA and a strikeout per inning. He’s still a top 20 starting pitcher largely based on track record.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD – I finally bit the bullet this week and pushed Ryu into the top 25. I apologize to all of his owners because this definitely means that his annual trip to the IL is right around the corner. The only reason he hasn’t been ranked this highly before is simply due to that extensive injury history. The guy has a 1.66 ERA over his past two seasons (162.1 IP) after all! How do you rank a guy who is that good while he’s on the mound, but is uncommonly on the mound? He hasn’t pitched more than 127 innings since 2014. All you can do is start him in all formats until his health fails him.
- Kyle Hendricks, CHC – Nothing encapsulates Hendricks like these stat lines from back-to-back starts on 4/19 & 4/26: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 K; 5 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 3 K. You never really know what you’re going to get, but we’ve seen Hendricks be dominant for long stretches despite relatively laughable velocity and middling strikeout rates. His 2.84 ERA over the second half of 2018 won some people leagues, no doubt. He’s been over 180 innings three of the past four years, so he does give you pretty rare durability. It’s hard for me to rank a starting pitcher who won’t come close to approaching a strikeout per inning inside the top 30, but he’ll be flirting with that number quite a bit moving forward.
- Jake Odorizzi, MIN – It’s been hard for me to buy into Odorizzi with how bad he has been over the past two years. He makes the bad odor come easy with 4.49 ERA’s. It’s even more difficult when there isn’t a huge pitch mix overhaul to point to as a cause for his 1.96 ERA over a dozen starts. Even as of today, his SIERA is 4.05. He’s had some strand rate (83.6%) and batted ball (.240 BABIP) luck, but he has genuinely improved as well. His mechanics and balance are better than ever after making that a priority in his training this offseason. His fastball velocity is up 1.7 MPH. He’s throwing more strikes than any season since 2015 at 44.7%. Will he continue to be a top 35 pitcher all season? I have my doubts, mostly due to his 5.3% HR/FB rate compared to his 10.3% career mark. He still needs to be owned everywhere and should continue to pile on to his win total (which already sits at eight) pitching against some cupcake divisional foes.
- Max Fried, ATL – To begin the season, Fried was just rotation filler. The Braves rotation was in shambles, and Fried was a bit of glue. Not even superglue, just that white Elmer’s glue that barely held cheerios to your construction paper in Kindergarten. He was a two-pitch starter who had horrendous career walk rates in the majors. All he has done is add a whole new pitch – his slider – and cut his walk rate more than in half from his 2018 mark of 5.35 BB/9. His walk rate is now just 2.45 BB/9, backed up by a monumental leap in F-Strike% from 57.8% to 64.6%. That is a total transformation. Of course, now that everything has come together, he has allowed nine runs over his last 9.2 innings to make me question everything. It’s probably just a bump in the road, but his value could fade quickly if the walks start coming in bunches again.
- Kenta Maeda, LAD – Maeda has given me more headaches than every other starter combined. I was high on him coming into the year but was disappointed with a 4.41 April ERA. His peripherals weren’t encouraging either, with a 7.71 K/9, 4.13 BB/9, and 4.81 FIP. Fortunately, he righted the SS Dodger in May, posting a 2.73 ERA (3.23 FIP) along with a 10.31 K/9 and 1.52 BB/9 that were much in line with what I expected coming into the season. So now that he’s good again, how do we value his production considering he hasn’t pitched more than 135 innings since 2016? It’s pretty much a given that the Dodgers will limit his innings even if he doesn’t run into an injury on his own. He should be used like Ryu; start in all formats but just know that the end will come sooner than you’d like.
- Brad Peacock, HOU – The AstroCock had one good start, one bad start, two bullpen appearances, and eventually followed up a 3.2 IP 7 ER start with a 7 IP 0 ER 12 K performance. Most places charge for that kind of roller coaster ride. His 2.76 ERA in May shows us he is finally settling down. He’s the biggest riser of the week and should continue to climb as long as his plumage continues to shine. Just don’t expect him to pitch deep into games.
- Eduardo Rodriguez, BOS – E-Rod got some preseason hype about a new slider he was working on. Cut to June and not only has that slider not been a weapon, but his ERA is also 4.88 over 12 starts. His ERA indicators have him between 3.51-3.97, but most people aren’t playing in FIP leagues. Also, if you do, I don’t know whether to raise my eyebrow at you or high five you. Kudos for not feeling trapped in standard roto leagues, I guess. E-Rod’s walk rate is actually below three for the first time since 2015 even though his Zone% is down to 37.8%, by far a career low. He continues to nibble around the edges of the zone and running up his pitch count early. There should be positive regression here, but he will continue to be maddeningly inconsistent. He is yet another starter who is far from durable, maxing out at 137.1 innings in any single season. As SP57, he’s just a matchup play.
The Top 100 Starting Pitchers
Fell Off The List
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Nathan Dokken is a member of the FSWA and has had his work featured in numerous books and magazines. He has also appeared on many podcasts and radio shows and hosts the Nasty Cast and Fantrax Dynasty Baseball podcasts. His written work can be found exclusively at Fantrax HQ, and his personal thoughts and opinions can be found on Twitter @NathanDokken.
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