We’re at the point of the season with starting pitching where the last four weeks of data is actually the biggest sample but it’s still being masked by earlier stats. There are pitchers who have been very good the past 28 days and are under 50% owned. And there are pitchers who are still 80%-plus owned due to overall stats or draft pedigree but who are really laboring of late.
I think recent performance that encompasses five or six starts is bettable. Pitchers are really never fully healthy so recent data can be an indicator of relative health, good or bad. And even just betting on a hot pitcher to continue performing well makes sense given how quickly the foundational stats of walks and strikeouts stabilize. Remember, Ks and BBs are leading indicators for the WHIP and ERA we care about in our leagues.
Stats are from April 25th through Wednesday.
Hotter Than You Think
Again, the following are available in most leagues.
Jeremy Hellickson didn’t have much of a prior sample of course but is sitting at 1.29 in ERA over his last 28 innings with a combined total of only 21 hits and walks. His Ks-minus-BBs per inning (20 in 28 frames) are good, not great. He’s mixed-league worthy and available in most of them.
Andrew Heaney’s control in the period has been just average (11 walks in 31 frames), he is over a K per inning and has allowed only one homer. His ERA the last 28 days: 1.45 with a WHIP a little over 1.00. The bottom line here is that if any of these guys are available in your league, get them into your lineup.
Caleb Smith has a better ERA (2.28), K rate (33 in 27.2 IP) and WHIP (27 hits and walks) than the still-good Aaron Nola the last month — but is just 26% owned. He throws hard enough and isn’t even yet 27. You have to worry about control but at least he’s getting lots of easy outs (15.4% pop-ups for the year to go with the Ks).
Kyle Freeland pitches for the Rockies, all that’s keeping his ownership rate from being in the high 80s. I wrote about Freeland’s insane control when he was still in college. Being extreme ground ball helps control the park. Freeland has allowed only one homer the past four weeks with winning ERA (2.43) and WHIP (1.11).
Jhoulys Chacin is overlooked despite pitching for a decent team with a good bullpen and being hot — 2.70 ERA the past four weeks with playable Ks. His problem is only 12 Ks-minus-BBs in these 33.1 innings. Still, he should be owned. I don’t see much of a difference between Chacin and Hellickson. In this group, I would rank them Heaney, Smith, Freeland, Chacin/Hellickson for pickups.
Vincent Velasquez remains frustrating given the bouts of terrible control. But I list him here because he’s still 22 Ks minus BBs the past four weeks in just 25.2 innings. He has 34 Ks in this recent sample. I’ve been on the fence with him all year but, as I predicted, did pick him up (again) soon after writing this. Velasquez’s well-hit allowed for the year according to MLB stat provider Inside Edge is .094, up from the time we last checked in but still an A-plus. If you are in need of elite Ks, pick him up.
Colder Than You Think
We limited this list to those 80% owned or greater.
Carlos Carrasco is hurting his owners the last month with a 5.12 ERA. Do not trade or bench him however given that his Ks-minus-BBs is a sparkling 27 (in 31.2 IP). HIs problem is homers — five in those frames the past four weeks. But I always bet on homer rates to revert closer to the league average. At least split the difference. The homers should be about one per nine innings not 1.44. So that’s about 0.61 in expected ERA by itself (clearly even worse for Carrasco in this more recent sample).
Sean Manaea should be a solid contributor but is experiencing the regression we expected based on a less-than-stellar well-hit-average allowed. Then his well-hit was .121 and now it’s up to .142 for the year, so he’s getting hit harder than an average pitcher of late (league average is .155). His control is still great but he’s allowed 30 knocks in his last 29.2 innings, including four taters. He’ll be closer to the 4.55 ERA that he posted since late April than the 1.23 ERA he had in his first five starts. Call the ERA in the range of 3.50-to-4.00 for Manaea going forward.
Zack Godley has a 5.57 ERA the last four weeks with seven Ks minus walks in 32.1 IP. He’s also allowed 60 baserunners in the period. Godley seemed like a good bet with the humidor and on a good team given the skills he demonstrated in 2017. But now he looks like a fraud given his well-hit allowed is .176 and he just cannot throw strikes when it matters most. For MLB pitchers on 1-1 counts, 56% of at bats that don’t end go to 1-2 rather than 2-1. Godley’s rate is 41%. And 28% of his plate appearances against go to three-ball counts vs. the MLB average of 20%. These stats also courtesy of Inside Edge. Do I have to add his velocity is down nearly two miles an hour, too? Drop him now.
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