On Saturday, I posted my five hitters who have broken out in 2015, so today I am writing about five starting pitchers who have broken out this season. Actually, I have a longer list of break out pitchers, so I will do my best to post part 2 in the coming days.
Onto my 2015 Breakout Starting Pitchers:
Carlos Martinez, Cardinals
The Cardinals have dealt with a number of injuries to their pitching staff this season, with ace Adam Wainwright out for the season with a ruptured achilles tendon, and Lance Lynn on the disabled list with forearm tightness. The Cardinals are one of the best run organizations in the game, and maybe in sports, so it should come as no surprise that even with those two pitchers down, the Cardinals have the best record in baseball.
One of the reasons for that is the breakout season from young starter Carlos Martinez. Heading into his start on Wednesday night, Martinez has won 7 of his 12 starts, going 7-2 with a 2.93 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 3.20 xFIP, a 1.26 WHIP and a 25.9% strikeout percentage. Part of the reason for the big difference in his ERA and FIP is due to all the walks. While he is striking out more than nine batters per nine innings, he is walking just under four batters per nine, and that usually comes back to haunt most pitchers. He has also given up 8 long balls in his 73.2 innings this far. While the walks and home runs are higher than owners would like, he is inducing ground balls at a 56% clip, which is near elite.
Martinez is on the cusp of becoming an ace, but will need to work on his control. He ranks 33rd among qualified starters in hard hit percentage allowed, so that is another skill that is working in his favor going forward.
Gerrit Cole, Pirates
I don't think it comes as a surprise to many to see Cole on this list, as he has been on the cusp of a breakout type year and is now a legitimate ace in his third season in the big leagues. He has shown growth across the board this season, increasing his strikeout rate from 24% to almost 28%, has reduced his walk rate from just under three walks per nine to right around two walks per nine, and has increased his ground ball rate by 3% to 52%. Add in the fact that he ranks 34th among qualified starters in hard hit percentage allowed, and he has put it all together on the mound this season.
Cole has won 10 of his 13 starts, going 10-2 with a 1.71 ERA, 2.37 FIP, 2.68 xFIP, a 1.08 WHIP and a 93-19 strikeout to walk rate in 84 innings. Right now, he is the favorite for the National League Cy Young award, and is anchoring the hot Pirates pitching staff.
And he isn't even 25 years old yet.
Chris Archer, Rays
Like the Cardinals, the Rays have dealt with their share of injuries to their starting rotation this season, as Matt Moore is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Jake Odorizzi going down with an oblique strain that will keep him out till around the All Star break. Lucky for the Rays, Chris Archer has pitched like he is the best starter in the American League, with one fantasy writer calling him the best starter in baseball.
Archer is 7-4 with a 2.00 ERA, 2.08 FIP, a 2.26 xFIP, a 0.94 WHIP and a 113-21 strikeout to walk rate in 90 innings pitched. He is striking out more than 11 batters per nine, walking two batters per nine and inducing ground balls at a near 51% rate.
The American League Cy Young award race could be interesting if Archer continues to pitch like this, Felix Hernandez goes back to pitching like King Felix and the next two starters profiled below continue to pitch well.
Sonny Gray, Athletics
The Athletics as a team have disappointed this season, but who could blame them with all the roster turnover that happened back in December courtesy of Billy Beane. That said, A's starter Sonny Gray is doing his best to prevent long losing streaks.
Gray is having a breakout season, winning 8 of his 14 starts, going 8-3 with a 1.60 ERA, 2.56 FIP, 3.23 xFIP, a 0.93 WHIP and a 88-22 strikeout to walk rate in 95.2 innings pitched. He is showing growth in his strikeout from 20% to 24% this season, has reduced the number of free passes, and has maintained his mid-50% ground ball rate. Only two starting pitchers have induced weaker hard hit balls than Gray's 21% hard hit rate, and one of them is the pitcher listed below.
Gray is probably the favorite to start the All Star game in about a month, and ranks third in the American League in fWAR, so he should be in the conversation for AL Cy Young award if he can maintain his breakout performance.
Dallas Keuchel, Astros
I recently stated here and on Twitter that I would trade Indians starter Carlos Carrasco for Astros starter Dallas Keuchel. That was met with plenty of people disagreeing with me, but all Keuchel has done is improve upon his 2014 performance on the mound. Even though he is the ace for the first place Astros, he doesn't seem to get the love of many other top starters, and I am not sure why.
Keuchel has won 8 of his 14 starts, going 8-2 with a 2.04 ERA, 2.89 FIP, 2.95 xFIP, a 0.95 WHIP and a 76-26 strikeout to walk rate in 101.1 innings thus far. He doesn't strike out many batters, as he strikes out just under seven batters per nine, but he limits the walks and long balls and owns an elite 64% ground ball rate. Add in the fact that he owns the lowest hard hit % (19.8%) among all qualified starters to this point, and you have yourself an ace.
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