Starting Pitcher Barometer for Week 16: Second Half Stars & Scrubs
Each week Nathan Dokken updates his Top 100 2019 Starting Pitcher Rankings for the remainder of the MLB season.
This is undoubtedly the hardest week of the season to write this weekly piece. There have only been a scant few games since the last Starting Pitcher Barometer. Naturally, that means there is much less to adjust than usual. Fewer adjustments mean less to discuss. However, with a full half-season in the books, I have made up my mind on a few guys and dropped them precipitously in my starting pitcher rankings. I’m also going to predict a second-half Riser and Faller. There’s even a newcomer this week who is an old friend that I sure as hell didn’t expect to be ranking this season. Enough of this break – back to baseball!!
The Starting Pitcher Barometer
- Jordan Yamamoto, MIA (+23) – Yamamoto continues to excel through five starts with a 1.24 ERA and 9.31 K/9. That officially places him within the outskirts of the Streaming Zone. The downside is the 4.66 BB/9 and a not-so-hot-to-trot 4.78 SIERA. I’m not so sure the strikeout rate holds with just a 9.2% swinging strike rate either (achieved mostly thanks to the 18.6% SwStr% on the slider). With this years added velocity, however, he is proving himself to be worthy of Top 100 discussions at the very least.
- Rick Porcello, BOS (-27) – I wrote up Porcello in this week’s Fire & Ice. As the ranking drop indicates, he has been bad and I’m not sure he’ll bounce back to a great extent. Follow the link for further details! Do it! Do it now!!
- Jake Arrieta, CHC (-16) – This has nothing to do with Arrieta’s recent skull denting threats upon the Toddfather. Rather, it is just a sad realization that Arrieta’s time not even as an ace, but as a serviceable fantasy starter, is probably cooked. His 7.08 K/9 is a negative in innings cap leagues. His already bad 4.67 ERA is even less than his 5.07 FIP and 4.82 SIERA, meaning positive regression isn’t on the horizon. He’s allowing more hard contact at 36.7% than ever in his career. Don’t hang on to him in standard mixed leagues just because of the name.
- Yusei Kikuchi, SEA (-31) – I’ve tried to remain optimistic with Kikuchi, but a full 19 starts with a 4.94 ERA and 6.68 K/9 is just too much. He has fallen from the fishing in the Streaming Zone into the spelunking the caverns of the list. As is the case with Arrieta, Kikuchi’s ERA estimators bear nothing but bad news, ranging from 5.06 to 5.36. He is also averaging just 5.16 innings per start, although that is made worse by an appearance as an Opener. That adds up to just eight quality starts in those 19 tries, for you QS leaguers out there. It’s time to move on in most formats. Yes, even in spite of the cool name. *sighs audibly and deletes Yu Kikuchied My Poochie team name*
- Domingo German, NYY (SP28) – German is back (yes, technically he should have been on last week’s list but I forgot so LAY OFF ME I’M STARVING)! He slots back in barely inside the top 30 with frankly more risk of dropping out than rising. The -.027 difference between His .282 wOBA and .309 xwOBA is the 14th highest regression differential among starters. SIERA believes he has deserved a 3.86 mark to this point, which is tolerable as a top 40 arm. His 9.83 K/9 is very legit, supported by an outrageous 14.1% swinging-strike rate. Even if there is some ERA regression over the second half, the strikeouts keep his floor pretty high.
- Andrew Cashner, BAL (SP90) – Hello, old friend! It seems like just yesterday that Cashner was the new kid on the block with the sweet new Game Boy. All of a sudden he’s nearly 33 and playing for the cellar-dwelling Orioles. Maybe he still has the Game Boy. In any case, Cashner (somehow) has nine wins and a 3.83 ERA over 17 starts with the O’s. At 9.3%, he actually has his highest K-BB% since 2015. That’s not saying much, but in 32 innings since the start of June, Cashner has a 1.41 ERA with an 11.8% K-BB%. It’s not entirely luck, as FIP has him at 2.55 over that span. He started throwing his changeup more and has scrapped his sinker, which has at least made him relevant again. Still, over that span, he has a mere 5.1 K/9. We aren’t talking about a huge ceiling here. Feel free to ride the Cash Train in deeper leagues until the golden wheels fall off, but you can’t be upset when they do.
Let me preface this by saying that this is not an easy exercise to do with yourself. I’ve already baked in a little bit of what I think is going to happen with my current starting pitcher rankings. So take that into consideration with these second-half predictions.
- Andrew Heaney, LAA (SP76) – Heaney had a strong but not overwhelming 2018 campaign with a 4.15 ERA and precisely one strikeout per inning over precisely 180 innings (precisely 30 starts). Something about all those even numbers together gets me warm and fuzzy. As is often the case, unfortunately, injuries derailed the start to his season. Now with eight games under his belt, Heaney has posted a stellar 10.58 K/9 but has negated that glory with a 5.18 ERA (5.03 FIP). His 3.67 BB/9 has risen well above his 2.25 BB/9 from 2018, but his F-Strike% of 64% and Zone% of 43.8% aren’t far off of his 2018 marks. That gives me optimism that the walk rate will fall. Meanwhile, his 14.3% SwStr% is a career-high and his 70.2% contact rate is as well. This is thanks to Heaney slinging more sliders than ever at 29% and an increase in fastball velo to 92.7 MPH. His SIERA is just 4.23 and that mark could continue to improve as the season wears on.
- Mike Minor, TEX (SP29) – I featured Minor just a couple weeks ago and sort of made my regression case already back then. Minor has a luxurious 2.54 ERA and 8.77 K/9 over 117 innings. That has made him a prime trade candidate as we head towards the deadline. Minor’s peripherals all point towards a 3.77-4.42 ERA pitcher, however, and it will be hard for him to maintain a 0.92 HR/9 with the way the ball flies out of Arlington in the dog days of summer. I’d expect him to remain in the SP40-60 range even with regression, but it’s best to sell high if you have him now.
The Top 100 Starting Pitchers
Fell Off The List
Jose Urquidy (Performance), Zach Plesac (Performance), Danny Duffy (Performance).
Are you digging on Nathan’s 2019 Starting Pitcher Rankings? If so, check out his full archive for more great analysis.
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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