Starting Pitcher Barometer, Week 7: Matt Strahm, With Aplomb
Trust. It’s an important thing to have in an esteemed fantasy analyst. Consider this a fantasy trust fall. I’ve got you, fam. You know this because I do not have Mike Fiers ranked inside the Top 100 of my starting pitcher rankings. Mike Fiers just hurled the second no-hitter of his career against the Reds. He walked two and struck out six. Do you know what that did to his ERA? Dropped it to 5.48. His 6.65 K/9 ranks 75th among qualified starters. Do not trifle with him. Let’s move on and discuss some starters you should be considering.
Starting Pitcher Barometer
- Matt Strahm, SD (+33) – Strahm had an early velocity drop and an awful first start (2.2 IP, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2 K), limiting my interest. The velocity is still dropping (now below 91 MPH), but he’s been so good since that first start that he deserved a bump. In those six starts, he has 36.1 IP with a 1.98 ERA / 0.88 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, and 0.7 BB/9. That’s a strong 20.6% K-BB% and a 2.86 FIP which dispells any small-sample luck. His primary strikeout pitch, the slider, has just a 15.14% whiff rate, so the strikeouts won’t be immense. Still, he should be owned everywhere, particularly as long as he keeps the walk rate so microscopic. You might say he’s the bomb…if people really still say that. I’m glad I went with “aplomb” for the title.
- Max Fried, ATL (+37) – I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop on Fried. That sounds like a cartoon, but really it’s just a nonsensical phrase. This is actually the second time this year I’ve featured Fried. The first time was admitting he’ll be in the rotation longer than I expected with Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright demoted. This time I’m admitting my surprise that he has not only continued to pitch in a starting pitcher role – he’s been improving. His walk rate is down substantially from 5.35 BB/9 in 2018 (4.15 BB/9 in 2017, for that matter) to 1.83 BB/9! That is a larger leap for mankind than Buzz Aldrin ever made. His first-pitch strike rate has skyrocketed from 57.8% to 66.9%, good enough for 13th among qualified starters. His zone% is also 5.9% higher. Better yet, he has started incorporating a slider this year to give him a third pitch, which so far has an 18% whiff rate. That’s the highest of any pitch he throws. It has allowed a .063 BAA while inducing 67% ground balls. This is an entirely different pitcher than we’ve seen in the past. While he got smoked on the hand and had to leave his last start, he should be good to go moving forward. He could provide you SP3/4 numbers the rest of the way.
- Collin McHugh, HOU (-38) – McHugh got McKilled in his last start, giving his owners McRegret. More like McPew, amirite? McPoo? The possibilities are endless. He was stellar through his first four starts, tossing 23 innings with a 1.96 ERA / 0.83 WHIP, 10.6 K/9, and 2.7 BB/9. His last four starts have totally negated that goodness as he has gone 18 innings with a 12.00 ERA / 1.72 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, and 3.5 BB/9. He’s endured a 32% HR/FB rate over that poor span. That certainly won’t continue, but that’s the risk you sometimes take with fly-ball heavy pitchers. He’s been relying on his slider very heavily at 43% usage, but when he does throw his fastball, it’s yielding a hideous .382 ISO. The command of his fastball just hasn’t been there, which is allowing batters to square him up for a career-worst 8.7% barrel rate. He could very well right the ship and get back into streaming territory, but you can’t use him until he gets right. Choke down a couple of McChickens while you’re waiting to use him again. Mmm.
- Trevor Richards, MIA (-18) – Richards was among the quartet of interesting Marlins starters who had my eye early in April. Caleb Smith has ascended into the top 30. Sandy Alcantara has unsurprisingly turned back into Sandy Alcantara after his brilliant first start. Trevor Richards and Pablo Lopez have stuck around in the Stream Zone. Richards is slowly and unceremoniously falling out of even that middling tier, however, thanks to his recent stretch of 17 ER in his last 24.1 innings. He’s still hovering around a strikeout per inning, but his 4.89 BB/9 is limiting him to just 5.26 innings per start. He’s actually been fortunate with a .248 BABIP, yielding a startling 5.24 FIP compared to his current 4.46 ERA. With Zac Gallen putting up video game numbers at Triple-A, it looks like the Marlins will pull the plug on either Richards or Alcantara shortly. Richards is just a deep league option for now.
- Jake Odorizzi, MIN (SP57) – Odorizzi is by no means a newcomer to the 2019 MLB season. However, he is a newcomer to the Starting Pitcher Barometer after hurling 13 consecutive scoreless innings against tough opponents in the Astros and Yankees. Not only that, he has 15 strikeouts to five walks in that span. Jumping a pitcher from unranked to SP57 is one fell swoop might seem aggressive move, but the vast majority of SP80-100 is a jumbled mess. Odorizzi could have easily ranked in the 80’s a week ago, but I have had a hard time shaking his 5 ER performance over 0.2 innings earlier this season from my addled brain. It was a very cold, rainy game, after which he said he couldn’t even feel the stitches on the ball. He had worked on his mechanics and flexibility all offseason to improve his consistency. Between his hard work and new Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson, it all seems to be coming together. There will be plenty of bad AL Central matchups the rest of the way in which you can make use of him.
- Anthony DeSclafani, CIN (SP79) – I’m very happy that DeSclafani is back in the Top 100. Not only does everyone struggle to say his name, which makes me giggle, it’s also the only name that rhymes with Gwen Stefani. So I mostly call him Anthony GwenStefani. Names aside, Tony Disco (a more popular moniker, I suppose) has managed a 3.65 ERA with a shocking 10.70 K/9 over his first 37 IP (7 GS). His 3.14 BB/9 is the highest it’s ever been at the major league level, but what about those K’s! This year he’s picked up a bit of velocity while replacing roughly 12% of his sliders with curveballs. He’s still getting torched by lefties with a .386 wOBA (.385 in ’18) and the slider and curve are both netting similar results, so I’m not sure he has really turned a corner. Still, his 4.16 2019 FIP isn’t far from his 3.86 xFIP from 2018, so perhaps it’s just the surface stats that are markedly different rather than his skills. He is still homer-prone, and you should expect the strikeouts to decline. Stream him in spacious ballparks where the homers won’t kill him.
The Top 100 Starting Pitchers
Fell Off The List
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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