Welcome to week 17 of 2 to Watch! To read previous editions of 2 to Watch, check out this link. All stats are from Fangraphs or Baseball Prospectus. We'll check in on last week's players (David Peralta and Alex Wood) next week, when we return to the regularly scheduled programming.
As you may have guessed, this is not a normal 2 to Watch. This week, instead of picking two interesting players and diving deep into their numbers to figure out if they are on the up or down swing, I'm going to focus on a list. This list is based on one of my favorite things in fantasy baseball: finding breakout pitchers.
If you've read any of my pitcher analysis, you probably know how much I love pitch type peripherals like, say, fastball swinging strike % (aka whiff %) or slider ground ball rate. Here is an intro to the concept and here is some more recent info. Oh, and here is some even more recent info. In case it wasn't clear, Eno Sarris gets all the credit for coming up with this concept and doing all the initial work. I am just re-creating what he did and updating it for the 2015 season.
Basically, the idea is to capture the things a pitcher can control that produce consistently good results over time. This is primarily swinging strikes (since called strikes rely on umpires, catchers, and other uncontrolled things) and ground balls, which produce low BABIPs (compared to line drives) and generally lead to outs. By looking at these two primary numbers on a pitch-by-pitch basis, we can see if a pitcher has more than one good pitch in his arsenal. If he has several pitches that are above average in these two measures, he starts to become a very interesting target for fantasy players, even if his current ERA doesn't suggest so.
I improved on my earlier arsenal scores (first link in the line with all the links) by not just giving a pitcher a "1" or a "0" if they were above or below league average for each pitch value but instead including how far above or below average they are. I did this using z-scores, which is a statistics thing. This essentially measures how many standard deviations away from the league average you are. I added up all the z scores for all a pitcher's pitches (starters only) and compiled a list of the best arsenals in the league.
Without further ado, here's the list (sorry, you'll have to scroll a ways before getting to my analysis):
|3||Rubby de la Rosa||7.67|
|57||Jorge de la Rosa||1.75|
So, first, I should point out that this list isn't a list of the best pitchers in baseball. There are other lists for that. This list doesn't account for walk rate and penalizes fly ball pitchers like Jake Odorizzi, Hector Santiago, and others. Those guys are unfairly hurt by this. David Price and Johnny Cueto are buried deep down the list, but their elite command and hard-contact limiting skills outweigh any shortcomings in their arsenals. However, the point of this list is to identify guys with good "stuff" that might not have translated that to good results yet.
We do see at the top of the list some names we would expect to have good "stuff", like Carrasco, Fernandez, Kershaw, Salazar, Hamels, deGrom, etc. We also see some eyebrow-raisers like Rubby de la Rosa, Chris Capuano, Brett Anderson, Chad Bettis, and others.
This list is a good sign for young breakout pitchers like McCullers, Joe Ross, Syndergaard, and Carlos Rodon. While I still worry about McCullers' and Rodon's walk rates, they clearly belong in this group of talented young arms that you should be buying. Ditto Carlos Martinez, who is more experienced than those guys but is in the midst of a real breakout. He was number one on this list last year when Fangraphs did a similar experiment.
The list also supports my belief in some veterans like Gio Gonzalez, Garrett Richards, Francisco Liriano, Jose Quintana, Shelby Miller, and Jaime Garcia (if he could just stay healthy). Ian Kennedy has all the skills and peripherals going for him, but hitters just seem to be able to square him up well and he gives up way too many homers. Otherwise, he would be a good buy low. Yordano Ventura still has hope as well, by showing up on this list. Kevin Gausman isn't a lost cause yet, either.
My love for Patrick Corbin a few weeks ago looks better by his placement on this list. As for those eyebrow-raisers I mentioned earlier, Capuano is out because he walks too many batters (he was just DFA'd), Bettis is on the DL and didn't quite convince me yet, Brett Anderson is Dallas Keuchel-lite (lots of grounders, few Ks) and is actually useful, and Rubby de la Rosa just needs to cut down on the homers and he could be very relevant.
Those are just my observations from the top 50 or so on the list. I'm sure you all can find lots of good info buried in this list and I hope it proves useful when planning your starters for the rest of the year. Feel free to ask me questions, dig into the list, and see what you can find! The regular 2 to Watch is back next week. Tschus!