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Remember Cory Luebke? He's worth keeping an eye on

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Cory Luebke's short body of work pre-injury makes him worth our attention

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Corey Luebke hasn’t appeared in an MLB game since April of 2012. He’s coming off 2 Tommy John surgeries since he last pitched, after his first one failed. There’s a chance he’ll never be an effective pitcher again. But his body of work in his short career requires us to do our due diligence on him, especially after Cory Brock tweeted this:

The Washington Post shed light on the success rate of pitchers who have a second Tommy John surgery:

While Tommy John surgery can be extremely successful, with success rates as high as the 90th percentile, one surgeon said that the second surgery’s success rate can drop to the 60 percent range.

We don't know how Luebke will hold up this spring, but he's worth keeping an eye on.

Career Overview

In 188.1 career innings, Luebke has a FIP of 3.05 and a park/league adjusted FIP- of 85. He’s struck out over 25% of the batters he’s faced, generated over a 10% swinging strike rate and has kept walks to about league average.

Table 1

ERA

ERA-

FIP

FIP-

xFIP

xFIP-

Career

3.25

91

3.05

85

3.21

83

Table 2

K%

BB%

SwStr%

GB%

FB%

Career

25.6%

7.6%

10.2%

41.7%

37.4%

41 of these innings are relief innings where he didn’t have to go through the lineup multiple times, so here is a look at his numbers as a starter:

ERA-

FIP-

xFIP-

K%

BB%

SwStr%

GB%

Starter

89

86

84

25.0%

6.9%

9.6%

38.9%

In 2011, league average K% was 18.6%, so Leubke was significantly above league average in strikeouts. League average swinging strike % in 2011 was 8.6%, so Luebke is also above average in that category.

2011 Luebke limited hard contact as often as 2011's Justin Verlander and 2011's Tim Lincecum

Luebke was very difficult to square up, and one primary reason for this is because he throws his pitches on a downward plane and batters have a hard time putting the sweet spot of the bat onto the ball.

Luebke was so tough to square up that his hard hit% was 11th best in baseball amongst starting pitchers in 2011, sandwiched between 2011 Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and the good version of Tim Lincecum. Luebke's limiting of hard contact continued throughout his 5 starts in 2012, as well:

Year

Hard hit%

MLB avg hard hit%

2012

18.3%

20.3%

2011

18.1%

20.3%

Limiting hard contact plays anywhere. Luebke’s above average HR/FB rate of 8.6% is a product of both limiting hard contact and playing many games in pitcher’s parks.

Repertoire: All of Luebke's pitches were above average by wRC+ against

Luebke has thrown 5 types of pitches in his career. He was primarily fastball/slider/change with some two seamers and curves mixed in. All of his pitches were above average by wRC+ against, and his offspeed pitches were well above average:

Pitch type

# of pitches thrown

wRC+ against

Fastball

1,930

95

Slider

713

76

Change Up

300

63

Two seamer

168

41

Curve

33

-2

Downward angle on fastball

As mentioned above, Luebke was difficult to square up, and one main reason is because of the downward plane he threw the ball on.

This pitch is a great example. I love the downward plane on this 92 mph fastball. It’s like a bowling ball. The sound the bat made after hitting the pitch is really loud and ugly, too:

Here's another good example:

Luebke threw his fastball roughly 1500 times in 2011 and opponents averaged an 85 wRC+ against the pitch. He threw his fastball 216 times in 2012 and opponents averaged a 93 wRC+ against it. You can see why; it’s difficult to hit hard.

Luebke’s fastball also flashed good movement. Watch the catcher on this .gif:

Despite the camera angle being off to the side, you can tell the amount of movement the pitch has by the reaction of the catcher.

Strong velocity when needed

Luebke could reach back and blow a fastball by somebody when he needed to. Here's him touching 95 mph:

Very effective slider

Luebke’s slider has been a very solid pitch for him in his career. Opponents average a 76 wRC+ against it and he generates an above average swinging strike rate with it.

Here’s a strikeout against LHB Aubry Huff:

Here’s Luebke striking out Andrew McCutchen with his slider:

Luebke likes to throw it so that it ends up low and inside against RHB:

Pitch

GB%

SwStr%

wRC+ against

Slider

46.6%

17.4%

76

Good Change up

Luebke's third pitch is his change up, and it's good. It generates weak contact and lots of ground balls. Here's an example:

Pitch

GB%

SwStr%

wRC+ against

Change Up

64.3%

9.7%

63

Luebke also experiments with a curve, but has only thrown the pitch 33 times in his career according to Pitch FX.

Behind home plate view

Here’s a view from behind home plate of Leubke’s delivery and release angle:

Mechanical adjustments

Cory Brock reported that Luebke will be making adjustments to his mechanics before he returns to the mound in 2015 in an effort to preserve his elbow ligament.

"There will be some changes," Luebke said when asked if his pitching mechanics will be different when he returns to the mound. "There's two or three things I was doing that didn't help the elbow, with my hips and my lead leg."

Luebke in 2015

The Padres may assign Luebke to middle reliever duties in 2015 to ease him back in, which would give him very little value in fantasy leagues. There was so much to like from him back in 2011-12 that he's worth monitoring this spring, though. Monitor his progress, monitor his stuff, monitor what coaches, teammates, and scouts are saying about him, and when he steps on the mound, watch him pitch. If his stuff looks similar to where he was pre injury, and the Padres decide to let him start, he's someone who can be worth rostering for the duration of his innings cap.