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Pitchers on the Way Down

After looking at pitchers showing positive signs of second half surges, we now turn to pitchers with red flags and potentially poor second halves.

Boston Red Sox v Seattle Mariners
Boston’s lefty ace has been pitching like an innings eater lately; his swinging strike rate might justify that.
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Last time, I discussed starting pitchers that have increased their velocity and/or swinging strike rates the most in the second half of the season. Some interesting names emerged that might be primed for a good run the rest of the way. Today, we get to the opposite of that. That is, the opposite of positive or encouraging signs. You know, bad stuff.

The two tables today are merely the upside down versions of the tables from last time. No, they aren’t actually the same tables turned around, but they are the same column names with the pitchers sorted from biggest drop in velocity or swinging strike to least.

Name 1st Half SwStr% 2nd Half SwStr% Change
David Price 12.9% 7.4% -5.5%
Archie Bradley 8.9% 3.7% -5.2%
Luis Perdomo 11.9% 7.5% -4.4%
Ricky Nolasco 9.4% 5.0% -4.4%
Kenta Maeda 12.3% 8.2% -4.1%
CC Sabathia 10.3% 6.2% -4.1%
Jered Weaver 8.4% 4.4% -4.0%
Hector Santiago 9.8% 6.5% -3.3%
Christian Friedrich 9.3% 6.2% -3.1%
Drew Smyly 11.3% 8.4% -2.9%
Gio Gonzalez 9.8% 7.1% -2.7%
Matt Moore 10.4% 7.7% -2.7%
Michael Fulmer 11.5% 8.9% -2.6%
Vincent Velasquez 11.7% 9.1% -2.6%
Jake Arrieta 10.9% 8.4% -2.5%
Kendall Graveman 8.3% 6.0% -2.3%
Jeff Samardzija 9.4% 7.1% -2.3%
Noah Syndergaard 15.1% 12.9% -2.2%
Zach Eflin 6.8% 4.9% -1.9%
Jeremy Hellickson 11.5% 9.7% -1.8%
Aaron Sanchez 8.3% 6.6% -1.7%
Masahiro Tanaka 11.2% 9.5% -1.7%
Miguel Gonzalez 9.0% 7.4% -1.6%
Carlos Martinez 9.0% 7.4% -1.6%
Drew Pomeranz 11.4% 9.9% -1.5%
Jose Quintana 8.1% 6.7% -1.4%
Marcus Stroman 8.8% 7.5% -1.3%
Chris Sale 10.6% 9.4% -1.2%
Jerad Eickhoff 9.7% 8.6% -1.1%
Scott Kazmir 10.2% 9.1% -1.1%
Edinson Volquez 8.9% 7.8% -1.1%
Mike Fiers 8.9% 7.9% -1.0%
James Shields 9.0% 8.1% -0.9%
Junior Guerra 11.1% 10.3% -0.8%
Michael Wacha 8.4% 7.7% -0.7%
Rick Porcello 7.5% 6.8% -0.7%
Hisashi Iwakuma 8.1% 7.5% -0.6%
Bartolo Colon 5.3% 4.7% -0.6%
Jon Gray 12.0% 11.4% -0.6%
Jorge de la Rosa 10.6% 10.0% -0.6%
Adam Wainwright 8.3% 7.8% -0.5%
Anthony DeSclafani 9.4% 8.9% -0.5%
Tyler Anderson 10.4% 9.9% -0.5%

Now, for the fastball velocity table:

Name 1st Half FBv 2nd Half FBv Change
Archie Bradley 92.8 91.1 -1.7
Danny Duffy 95.2 94.1 -1.1
Ricky Nolasco 90.7 89.6 -1.1
Brandon Finnegan 91.8 90.8 -1
Steven Wright 83.4 82.4 -1
A.J. Griffin 87.9 87 -0.9
Dan Straily 89.4 88.6 -0.8
Sonny Gray 92.9 92.1 -0.8
Drew Smyly 90.2 89.4 -0.8
Logan Verrett 90 89.3 -0.7
Jameson Taillon 94.6 93.9 -0.7
Hisashi Iwakuma 87.9 87.3 -0.6
Hector Santiago 91.8 91.2 -0.6
Jon Gray 95.3 94.8 -0.5
Stephen Strasburg 95.1 94.6 -0.5
Kevin Gausman 94.9 94.4 -0.5
Michael Wacha 93.2 92.7 -0.5
Christian Friedrich 89.4 88.9 -0.5
Zach Eflin 92.5 92.1 -0.4
Patrick Corbin 91.5 91.1 -0.4
Noah Syndergaard 98.1 97.7 -0.4
Vincent Velasquez 93.8 93.4 -0.4
Madison Bumgarner 90.8 90.4 -0.4
Luis Perdomo 94.1 93.7 -0.4
Kenta Maeda 90.1 89.7 -0.4
Carlos Martinez 95.8 95.4 -0.4
Adam Wainwright 90.1 89.8 -0.3
Jeremy Hellickson 90.1 89.8 -0.3
Scott Kazmir 91.6 91.3 -0.3
Chris Sale 92.9 92.7 -0.2
Jake Arrieta 94 93.8 -0.2
Aaron Sanchez 94.7 94.5 -0.2
Bartolo Colon 87.8 87.6 -0.2
Martin Perez 92.8 92.6 -0.2
Tanner Roark 92.1 91.9 -0.2
Jorge de la Rosa 90.1 89.9 -0.2
Edinson Volquez 93.4 93.3 -0.1
J.A. Happ 91.6 91.5 -0.1
Matt Boyd 91 90.9 -0.1
Eduardo Rodriguez 93.3 93.2 -0.1
Chad Bettis 92 91.9 -0.1
Kyle Gibson 91.1 91 -0.1
Carlos Carrasco 93.8 93.7 -0.1
Mike Foltynewicz 95.3 95.2 -0.1

Starting with the swinging strike decliners, we see David Price at the top. His results lately seem to make more sense in light of this drop in effectiveness. His season K% and BB% are still elite, but he can’t afford to not miss bats with the way he has been hit lately. I was firmly a believer in his bounceback in August and September, but this drop in SwStr% has me a little worried.

Some of the big SwStr% droppers are pitching well in spite of that drop, like Kenta Maeda, Michael Fulmer, Aaron Sanchez, and Jarad Eickhoff. However, all of them, along with some others on the SwStr% have seen their rates go from above average (league average for starters right now is 9.4%) to below average, and that’s a big deal. Even if it is just over a few starts. I have most concern about any of the pitchers that have seen their SwStr% drop below league average. In fact, most of the pitchers on the list have second half SwStr% below league average, except for Syndergaard (obviously), Junior Guerra (unfortunately hurt), Jon Gray (who I love) and Strasburg, among others.

Among the velocity decliners, I am most worried about Steven Wright, Brandon Finnegan, Drew Smyly, and Danny Duffy. Duffy has broken out this year and isn’t the biggest concern on the list, but part of his breakout has been a big velocity bump of about 2 mph since his previous years as a starter. As that velocity starts to go back to what it used to be, his other gains might go with it a little bit. He might be tiring as well. Just something to keep an eye on.

As for the others, Finnegan has been unusable in most leagues, so he probably isn’t hurting anyone and definitely shouldn’t be picked up. Wright, as a knuckleballer, doesn’t need 90s velocity or anything, but the fastball velocity dip coincides with a dip in knuckler velocity, down to 73 or so instead of his former 75. The more zip he can put on the knuckleball, the harder it will be for hitters to decide whether to swing at it or not while it dances around. R.A. Dickey won a Cy Young throwing a hard knuckleball. Once his slowed down, he wasn’t the same. Drew Smyly is apparently a lost cause this year. Between extreme hittability and injury concerns, he has been impossible to own. I would stay away. He wasn’t good enough with 91 mph heat, so 89 mph stuff isn’t going to work.

Now for the guys that are on both lists: Bradley, Nolasco, Smyly, Iwakuma, H. Santiago, Jon Gray, Wacha, Friedrich, Eflin, Syndergaard, Velasquez, Perdomo, Maeda, Carlos Martinez, Wainwright, Hellickson, Kazmir, Sale, Arrieta, Sanchez, Colon, de la Rosa, and Volquez.

Since these guys are on both lists, they might be the most likely to decline. However, studs like Gray, Syndergaard, Velasquez, Sale, and Arrieta are of low concern. It’s the guys with just barely good enough stuff to be used in fantasy that can’t afford to be on both lists.

That means guys I’ve recommended like Perdomo and guys that have been good all season: Maeda, Martinez, and Hellickson. With drops in swinging strikes and velocity, things can turn south quickly. Just ask Perdomo, Eflin, Bradley, and friends. Sometimes, these can be early indicators of injury, it seems. Eflin and Wacha, at least, have both recently gone to the DL with injuries.

I’m not saying to drop guys like Maeda, Martinez or Hellickson, but you need to be at least wary and be ready to cut ties in redrafts if their poor second half starts continue. They might be wearing down or playing through injury. Or in Duffy’s case, returning to old velocity levels. I own Perdomo, Smyly, and Martinez in some leagues and I am this close to jumping ship, even though they are very deep leagues (Smyly is simply being benched in a dynasty league).

Those are the takeaways I got from these lists. Take them with a grain of salt, a truckload of salt, or your seasoning of preference.

Before I go, may I just say, off the topic of baseball but on the topic of sports, that John Saunders was one of my favorite people on ESPN and I was deeply saddened by his passing. I am normally detached from celebrity deaths and don’t really get the feels from deaths like Prince or David Bowie, but watching Hannah Storm announce Saunders’ death really hit me for some reason. I’ve watched The Sports Reporters for years and just really liked how reasonable and level-headed he was. He always seemed like the most mature one in the room, whatever show he worked on. May he rest in peace. My heart goes out to all his family, friends, and ESPN co-workers. I know many don’t like what ESPN has become in recent years, but I don’t think many would cite Mr. Saunders as a reason for that decline. If anything, he is the exception. Thanks for all the entertainment and information, John. Tschus!