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Pitch Arsenal Scores - End of Season Update

Enjoy the last 2016 update to my pitcher rankings based solely on “stuff”, i.e. groundballs and swinging strikes

San Francisco Giants v Chicago Cubs
Would you believe we have a new arsenal champ, and it’s this guy?
Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

Continuing the trend from my last update of honoring the recently passed great contributors to our society (Gene Wilder and John Saunders are still missed), I submit the following .gif of a baseball player that had a joy for baseball that few players ever show, along with hall of fame talent.

Anyway, I’ve detailed my method (shamelessly borrowed from Eno Sarris and the team at Rotographs) in previous posts, so I won’t go over it here. Basically, I looked at the swinging strike rate and ground ball rate on each pitch type a pitcher throws and gave them a score based on their value relative to league average. I totaled up all the individual pitch scores and ended up with a single number for every starting pitcher. I cut the list off at 100 to keep it readable. Plus, they start to get pretty mediocre at that point anyway. This list is up to date for the whole 2016 season. Here is the big list:

Rank Pitcher 2016 Arsenal Score
1 Mike Montgomery 10.46
2 Carlos Carrasco 9.93
3 Noah Syndergaard 9.58
4 Lance McCullers 8.71
5 James Paxton 8.64
6 Jon Lester 7.72
7 Jake Arrieta 7.66
8 Robert Gsellman 7.37
9 Clayton Kershaw 7.14
10 Bud Norris 6.96
11 Marcus Stroman 6.91
12 Zachary Neal 6.43
13 Clayton Richard 6.39
14 Cole Hamels 6.14
15 Charlie Morton 6.06
16 Corey Kluber 6.02
17 Rubby De La Rosa 5.83
18 Chad Bettis 5.60
19 Jacob deGrom 5.08
20 Archie Bradley 4.94
21 Carlos Martinez 4.82
22 Junior Guerra 4.81
23 Yu Darvish 4.76
24 Steven Matz 4.67
25 Tyler Anderson 4.67
26 Cody Reed 4.51
27 Robbie Ray 4.42
28 Yordano Ventura 4.30
29 Danny Salazar 4.15
30 Garrett Richards 4.06
31 Jameson Taillon 3.82
32 Alex Reyes 3.81
33 Jose Fernandez 3.78
34 Sean Manaea 3.77
35 Johnny Cueto 3.67
36 Stephen Strasburg 3.65
37 Chris Archer 3.47
38 Michael Fulmer 3.40
39 Trevor Bauer 3.37
40 Brock Stewart 3.36
41 Max Scherzer 3.35
42 Aaron Sanchez 3.35
43 Aaron Blair 3.21
44 Alex Wood 3.11
45 Joe Kelly 3.10
46 Dallas Keuchel 2.99
47 David Phelps 2.95
48 Jon Gray 2.94
49 Luis Perdomo 2.93
50 Zachary Godley 2.88
51 Chris Rusin 2.87
52 Jon Niese 2.86
53 Madison Bumgarner 2.80
54 Dylan Bundy 2.71
55 Aaron Nola 2.69
56 Kevin Gausman 2.68
57 Tyler Chatwood 2.65
58 Gio Gonzalez 2.62
59 Matt Garza 2.61
60 David Price 2.58
61 Jaime Garcia 2.55
62 CC Sabathia 2.54
63 Cody Anderson 2.49
64 Sonny Gray 2.41
65 Cesar Vargas 2.31
66 Francisco Liriano 2.25
67 German Marquez 2.25
68 Nathan Eovaldi 2.09
69 Blake Snell 1.92
70 Patrick Corbin 1.86
71 Matt Moore 1.71
72 Ivan Nova 1.70
73 Chad Green 1.70
74 Jharel Cotton 1.63
75 Chris Sale 1.62
76 Taijuan Walker 1.62
77 Jason Vargas 1.57
78 Kendall Graveman 1.56
79 Jake Esch 1.53
80 Jarred Cosart 1.51
81 Drew Pomeranz 1.49
82 Adam Conley 1.46
83 Tanner Roark 1.33
84 Matt Harvey 1.31
85 Tyler Skaggs 1.15
86 John Danks 1.12
87 Tyler Glasnow 1.02
88 Ross Stripling 1.00
89 Albert Suarez 1.00
90 Matt Andriese 0.90
91 Michael Wacha 0.86
92 John Gant 0.83
93 Zack Greinke 0.82
94 Daniel Mengden 0.80
95 Rich Hill 0.79
96 Gerrit Cole 0.73
97 Vincent Velasquez 0.68
98 Jordan Zimmermann 0.67
99 Shelby Miller 0.64
100 Kenta Maeda 0.64

Keep in mind that it doesn’t take too many starts to appear on this list (200 four seams, 100 sinkers, 50 offspeed or breaking pitches), so some more recent additions to rotations will show up.

There are some of the big names near the top like Syndergaard, Carrasco, Arrieta, Kershaw, Kluber, and Lester. We all expected them. I’m most interested in the surprises, especially those in the top 30, so I will focus on them.

It is nice to see Stroman making good on his potential, both with his results later in the year and with his score here. I still think he has upside. James Paxton’s crazy new velocity boosts all his pitches, but the results still weren’t great for much of the year. However, his arsenal is now nasty and his FIP and xFIP are all just above or below 3.0, so if he can stay healthy (a big IF), he could be a top 20 pitcher next year. His September was a good way to finish (2.06 FIP, 2.65 xFIP).

Oh, I haven’t talked about the elephant in the room yet? Yeah, Mike Montgomery is #1. What? Isn’t he the Cubs sixth starter after being a reliever/swingman in Seattle? Yes, yes he is. I think some small samples are at play somewhat here, but he does have above average ground ball and swinging strike rates on three different pitches, which is rare. His four-seam gets a ridiculous 58% (35% is average) ground ball rate, while his change-up has a 28% swinging strike rate, double the league average. I don’t think he is the best pitcher in baseball, but given a job, he will be ownable in all leagues next season and could be a reliable option.

There are some young guns on this list like Taillon, Manaea, Cody Reed, Alex Reyes, Aaron Sanchez, Steven Matz, Tyler Anderson, Michael Fulmer, and then... some odd ones like Robert Gsellman, Zach Neal, and Brock Stewart. The first group all get my seal of approval and should be good options for the 2017 season. The second group will require some more discussion.

Gsellman might actually belong in the first group, even though he was never as highly touted as most of those guys. I like what he showed this year. At 23, in his first season in the majors, he put up a 2.63 FIP and 3.38 xFIP, with a 22.7% K% and an 8.1% walk rate. That is a top 25 starting pitcher in fantasy, for sure. It’s only 44 innings and his role next year is uncertain, but I prefer him to all the guys in that second group and to his teammate, Seth Lugo.

Zach Neal is weird. I don’t know him personally, so I can’t comment on his personality, but I mean his stats are weird. He had a 9.6% K%! Or, if you prefer, a 3.47 K/9. Sure he had an elite walk rate, but that is ridiculous! He had one pitch that could get swings and misses, a cutter, with a very, very good 20% SwStr%. Every other pitch fools no one. He got above average grounders on two pitches. That’s really it. I’m not sure why he ended up so high on this list, but he did get a ton of ground balls. I’m going to stay away until he shows he can get his K% into the 17% range or higher.

Brock Stewart tore up the minors this year en route to the Dodgers. Well, things did not go so well in the majors, with a 5.79 ERA, 5.90 FIP, and 5.03 xFIP. The arsenal score likes him because his two secondary pitches really fooled hitters and his slider also generated 75% ground balls. However, those things alone aren’t enough for me to buy him for 2017 yet. He probably won’t have a job to start the year and he needs to cut down on the home runs and boost the K% a little to keep his ERA below 4.

That’s all the names from the top 30 or so I thought were worth discussion or that I hadn’t discussed recently elsewhere, but let me know in the comments if you have any questions about anyone on the list. I can certainly let you know how they got to their total score (which pitches, grounders, swinging strikes, a combination, etc.) or answer any questions about them in general.

Coming up next time: a comparison of arsenal scores from 2015 and 2016 to see whose arsenal improved or declined the most this season. Tschus!