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Checking In on Corey Kluber and Brandon Finnegan

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Last week, I wondered what was ailing Kluber in his very slow start to the season. On Saturday, he pitched 8 strong innings. Did anything really change for him? I also wrote about Finnegan the first week of the season and thought he was ready for a breakout. How's he been doing?

Brandon Finnegan has struggled lately. What's going on? Elsewhere, is Kluber back to being himself?
Brandon Finnegan has struggled lately. What's going on? Elsewhere, is Kluber back to being himself?
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Just last week I wrote about Corey Kluber and his really rough start to the season. On Saturday, he decided he'd had enough of that nonsense and threw a gem against the Tigers. Did anything fundamentally change or is he still at risk of having a down year? I'm going to dive into that soon, but first I need to introduce my second subject.

I wrote about Brandon Finnegan in the first week of the season, suggesting that he was a sleeper this year. He started the year off very well, but has struggled lately. Has anything changed with him in recent starts?

Corey Kluber

Ok, now that we've got introductions out of the way, let's get back to Kluber. Corey (is it ok if I call him Corey?) was struggling in his first three starts, with a 6.16 ERA. Most of his peripheral stats couldn't explain his poor performance. The biggest culprit, it seemed, was a dip in velocity from 92-93 to 91 mph. Before I make the big reveal of his velocity from Saturday's start, here's his final line from that great trip to the mound.

8 IP, 1 ER, 10 K, 2.13 xFIP, 2.22 FIP, 0 BB

Not too shabby. Ok, you've waited long enough, his average two-seam velocity was: 91.9 mph. Definitely up from his previous starts: 91.3, 91.5, 91.1 mph. The velocity on all of his pitches was up 1-2 mph from his previous start. That clearly made a difference for him. After this start, the swinging strike rate on all five of his pitches is at or above (sometimes way above) league average.

With that one great start, his season FIP now sits at 3.06, with an xFIP of 3.20. He has a 9.67 K/9 with 1.67 BB/9. Those numbers are all very close to his numbers from the past three seasons, so things are already looking better. If he can keep his average velocity in the 92 mph range, you shouldn't have to worry about him. Here's an updated velocity chart showing the small jump up in this latest start.

kluber velo chart

Brandon Finnegan

Finnegan has had a bit of an opposite trajectory. He started hot and then cooled off in his latest starts. Unfortunately, the future doesn't look as good for him as it once did.

K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP SwStr%
19 12.4 3.86 5.49 4.81 10.7

Ouch. Only the swinging strike rate looks good at this point. He is walking way too many hitters and not striking enough out to overcome all those walks. Until he improves his control, I'm very concerned. He just doesn't have the overwhelming pitches to walk this many and still be successful.

His sinker, four seam, and change up are all good at generating swings and misses, but his slider isn't very good. Overall, he's still young, talented, and has some good swing-and-miss stuff, but his control is a huge liability. His velocity has been constant, so we can't blame that. There really isn't a need to dig deeper here, the walks are the culprit for his recent struggles.

I'm holding him in two leagues right now, but if the walks don't calm down in the next two or three starts, I'm ready to jump ship. Even with guys you like early in the year, you have to be able to drop them before they sink your team. Don't hang on to preseason sleepers that aren't producing without a good reason.

That's all for today, Tschus!