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Pitch Arsenal Scores - August Update

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

Cleveland Indians v Texas Rangers
Syndergaard always tops my list, so I thought I would give #2 a shot at being the image for the article.
Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images

Here is some introductory text. It will prepare you for what follows. I couldn’t think of anything witty to say here, so enjoy this .gif of the late, great Gene Wilder.

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 through August 29 and includes everything since the beginning of the season. Here is the big list:

Rank Pitcher Arsenal Score
1 Noah Syndergaard 10.05
2 Carlos Carrasco 9.56
3 James Paxton 9.11
4 Lance McCullers 7.96
5 Jake Arrieta 7.70
6 Clayton Kershaw 7.46
7 Luis Cessa 6.66
8 Jon Lester 6.47
9 Rubby De La Rosa 6.20
10 Corey Kluber 6.13
11 Marcus Stroman 6.11
12 Junior Guerra 6.08
13 Chad Bettis 6.04
14 Charlie Morton 6.02
15 Zachary Neal 5.96
16 Bud Norris 5.81
17 Cole Hamels 5.66
18 Robbie Ray 5.23
19 Jacob deGrom 4.89
20 Steven Matz 4.68
21 Tyler Anderson 4.50
22 Cody Reed 4.46
23 Jose Fernandez 4.23
24 Jameson Taillon 4.13
25 Carlos Martinez 4.10
26 Garrett Richards 4.09
27 Yordano Ventura 3.90
28 Sean Manaea 3.84
29 Aaron Sanchez 3.78
30 Max Scherzer 3.77
31 Trevor Bauer 3.75
32 Luis Perdomo 3.68
33 Stephen Strasburg 3.46
34 David Price 3.38
35 Michael Fulmer 3.36
36 Albert Suarez 3.34
37 Jon Gray 3.34
38 Joe Kelly 3.18
39 Chris Archer 3.16
40 Alex Wood 3.11
41 Dallas Keuchel 3.03
42 Johnny Cueto 2.96
43 Zachary Godley 2.92
44 Sonny Gray 2.87
45 Danny Salazar 2.81
46 Jaime Garcia 2.79
47 Clayton Richard 2.73
48 Jon Niese 2.67
49 Nathan Eovaldi 2.66
50 Aaron Nola 2.62
51 Chris Rusin 2.58
52 Kris Medlen 2.47
53 Gio Gonzalez 2.43
54 Cody Anderson 2.28
55 Kevin Gausman 2.08
56 Matt Garza 2.08
57 Cesar Vargas 2.02
58 CC Sabathia 1.99
59 Justin Verlander 1.95
60 Patrick Corbin 1.91
61 Francisco Liriano 1.70
62 Jarred Cosart 1.69
63 Dylan Bundy 1.67
64 Felix Hernandez 1.60
65 Madison Bumgarner 1.53
66 Matt Moore 1.51
67 Tyler Chatwood 1.46
68 Edinson Volquez 1.45
69 Rich Hill 1.43
70 David Phelps 1.36
71 Kendall Graveman 1.34
72 Yu Darvish 1.33
73 Adam Conley 1.32
74 Matt Harvey 1.31
75 Daniel Mengden 1.28
76 Archie Bradley 1.22
77 Chris Tillman 1.16
78 Ivan Nova 1.14
79 Gerrit Cole 1.02
80 Michael Wacha 1.02
81 Blake Snell 0.98
82 Ross Stripling 0.97
83 Reynaldo Lopez 0.95
84 Kyle Hendricks 0.94
85 Vincent Velasquez 0.92
86 Jordan Zimmermann 0.84
87 Mike Montgomery 0.81
88 Joe Musgrove 0.81
89 Collin McHugh 0.74
90 Chris Sale 0.73
91 Michael Pineda 0.68
92 Kenta Maeda 0.65
93 Zack Greinke 0.60
94 Nate Karns 0.57
95 Matt Andriese 0.57
96 Shelby Miller 0.55
97 Rick Porcello 0.54
98 Tanner Roark 0.43
99 Mike Foltynewicz 0.41
100 Ross Detwiler 0.34

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. Some guys, like Joe Musgrove, didn’t have enough fastballs to qualify, so their overall score is hurt by only including their secondary pitches. The next update will better represent his ability.

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.

James Paxton has certainly discovered new velocity this year, but it has only led to mixed results. His 3.83 ERA is deceptive, however, because he has actually pitched more like a guy with a 3.5 ERA or even lower. His FIP sits at 3.04, his xFIP at 3.58. His K%-BB% is way above average at 15.9%. He gets a very good number of grounders and his swinging strike rate overall of 11.7% is nutty. That’s good for #20 in baseball among starters with 70+ innings. He is looking very good when healthy and should be money in the bank down the stretch in all leagues.

Luis Cessa (who has a sub-7 K/9!) clocks in at number 7? I just picked him up today in a deep dynasty league, but I’m still cautious. He shows up here because his fastball, slider, and curve all have above average whiff rates and his slider gets tons of grounders. His overall numbers in 30 innings (2 starts) are pretty meh, with a 4.56 xFIP and 4.33 SIERA. I would be careful with him and can’t recommend him yet outside of AL-only leagues of very deep mixers. He’s got good velocity (95 mph) and three swing-and-miss pitches, but there isn’t enough of a track record and it hasn’t translated to his K% yet, so I have to recommend a slow play.

Marcus Stroman bears mentioning, even though he’s not much of a surprise because he has transformed from a disappointing first two months, where he couldn’t strike anybody out, to what everyone wanted him to be. In the first half, his K% was a measly 16.9%. Since then, it’s 27.1%, which is 9th best in baseball among starters. Enjoy the new production throughout your fantasy playoffs and deploy him with confidence.

Junior Guerra was having an unexpectedly great year, at least until he got hurt. He’s coming back this weekend and the arsenal score shows you that this breakout is mostly legit. Yes, his BABIP sits at 0.242, which won’t last forever and his xFIP and SIERA are 4.2 and 4.33, but his FIP is very good, he has two great pitches (splitter and curve) and a very good one (fastball). His overall swinging strike rate is 10.9%, which is #27 in baseball for starters. I like him down the stretch in all leagues, assuming he is fully healthy now.

Back to some surprise names with Zachary Neal. Who? Yeah, I didn’t know him either. Apparently he is in the A’s rotation now. His appearance so high on this list is due mainly to extreme ground ball tendencies and a crazy good cutter. His changeup is above average in whiffs also. His two-seam, cutter, and changeup all get above average ground ball rates. His 9.1% K% (not a typo) is astonishing for someone getting a 9.8% swinging strike rate overall. He’s got a 3.38 K/9 if you prefer that. All those grounders are the only thing keeping his xFIP and SIERA in the low 4s right now. I expect more strikeouts going forward and if he can keep up the grounders at the same time, he could turn into something interesting in deep leagues. Like Cessa, exercise caution here because he is still on shaky ground, but there are pieces here of a much better pitcher and one that could someday be mixed-league relevant if he can put it together.

Remember when I discussed Stroman having the 9th best K% since the ASB? Guess who’s number 1? No cheating. I think you opened a new browser tab and peeked. Well then you already know it is Robbie Ray! He has had elite stuff all year when it comes to strikeouts, but the hits and homers just keep coming. I don’t know what he needs to do differently, but hitters either strikeout or hit the ball very hard, with no in-between. He is great for K/9 leagues since he will be a huge boost to that category even if his ERA or WHIP aren’t great. He could certainly put it all together and be Arizona’s true #2 starter any day now.

Tyler Anderson’s breakout season continues. Yes, he’s a Rockie, but he’s actually been better at home (using ERA, FIP, and xFIP) and his home/road K% and BB% are identical. He should be started with confidence in most leagues. I really like his profile.

Jameson Taillon has been the best pitcher in Pittsburgh this year (at least by BB%, xFIP, and GB%). That’s a big surprise for a guy two years removed from Tommy John. Gerrit (only one “t” in his name, who knew?) Cole hasn’t been himself, leaving the door open for Taillon. The Pirates have a favorable schedule in September and he has looked very good this month. Expect more 3.3ish ERA and FIP pitching and I hope you snagged him earlier in the year. He’s going to be good for the stretch run. He’s at 139 innings, so there is a chance he gets shut down. There is no official innings limit on him, but he does receive extra days between starts sometimes.

That’s all the names from the top 30 I thought were worth discussion or that I hadn’t discussed in previous arsenal score updates, 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. Tschus!