Let’s look at some pitchers of interest based on key stats over the last month. These advanced splits are well off the beaten path and come courtesy of our friends at Inside Edge, stat provider to MLB.
Felipe Vazquez has been a shadow of the pitcher he was last year (4.21 ERA and 1.44 WHIP now vs. 1.67 and 0.89). He’s battled the dreaded forearm discomfort. His fastball velocity is down 1.5 mph from last year, according to Rotowire. So let’s isolate the period where he has battled his injury. Over the last 30 days, his two-strike miss rate is 10.9%, fourth lowest among qualified relievers (league average is 25.3%). This is a shocking decline in effectiveness and can reasonably be interpreted as evidence that Vazquez simply is not healthy.
My Yahoo colleague and @breakfast_pod partner Scott Pianowski has been all over Justin Miller. The soon-to-be 31-year-old righty has exploded on the scene this year with 17 Ks in nine innings since his call up. He’s allowed no runs and one baserunner — just absurdly effective. It’s not his pedestrian fastball velocity that is the cause however. His fastball just moves in ways hitters can’t predict: opponents have missed it 21 of 49 fastball swings, the second-best rate in the last 30 days and more than twice the league average.
Lance Lynn’s fastball is back. He’s recoded 19 of his 26 Ks with the pitch in his last 30 days, that rate of 73.1% compares with the league average of 42.1%. And only five other starters have higher rates. Lynn has a pretty good track record historically and is just 29% owned. He relies on his fastball more than anyone this side of Bartolo Colon (77.5%).
Clayton Richard also has full-season stats that are underweight his recent performance given he was so bad the first month. Like Lynn, he’s sitting on most waiver wires. The opening day starter has an ownership rate on Yahoo of just 27%. Over the past 30 days, opponents are hitting .185 vs. him, ninth best among starters (league average .242). He also has 31 Ks in 42.1 IP and four wins in the period.
We worried that Patrick Corbin was going to be like Chris Archer in having rough patches due to such a limited arsenal. Corbin is just sliders and fastballs, though some claim the slider is like multiple pitches because he varies the velocity on them. But the fastball is becoming subpar — in the past 30 days, opponents have missed it on just 7 of 116 swings (6% compared with the league average of 17.4%). But the slider is still wonderful, witness its effectiveness as a put-away pitch: opponents’ two-strike miss rate vs. Corbin (and that slider) is 35.6% in the same period — third highest among qualified starters. Corbin’s fastball velocity is down almost two mph. The full-season stats are still electric. But I would be a seller. Expect Corbin to be merely good going forward, with an ERA closer to 4.00 than his current 3.00.
Now Jose Berrios I’m all in on. His two-strike-miss rate the past 30 days is even higher than Corbin’s: 38.1%. He has 44 Ks in the last month (37.2 innings); and he’s given up just 11 runs. While Berrios’s third pitch, his change, is not effective on paper, according to Fangraphs, I believe that you have to combine the fastball and changeup numbers because those pitches work in concert. Berrios’s changeup is making his fastball (which is just a tick over average in velocity) one of the game’s most effective pitches. (One could argue this, I suspect, about Corbin’s fastball and slider.)
Blake Treinen is just electric right now. The last 30 days, hitters have a .114 OBP against him, that’s the best among all relievers (average is .303). This includes a league best .071 batting average against, too. And just to make it the triple crown of sorts, his OPS allowed of .257 in the period is also tops among relievers. The other leading OBPs for relievers the past 30 days are Seranthony Dominguez (.154), Seth Lugo (.169 in 83 PAs against, nearly twice as many as Treinen), Kenley Jansen (.176, worry no more) and Jesse Chavez (.184 in 76 PAs).
Lugo is the rare Inside Edge A+ pitcher across all 24 statistics they track. In Sunday’s outstanding start vs. the Yankees, he reached 97 mph with his fastball and 90 on his slider. He threw 31 of 35 breaking pitches for strikes. He did lose about three mph on pitches 76-90, but still averaged 92 then. Lugo could be an ace closer, a roving reliever who piles up innings or a very capable mixed-league starter. He’s only 27% owned. Please fix that pronto.