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The Eye Test: Starting Pitcher three-pack

In this series, I will give you my personal scouting report from watching lots of baseball during the week while trying to leverage my perspective as a former college ballplayer and lifelong baseball fan.  I will also do my best to fuse this visual examination with the underlying statistics that we all know and love to provide the most accurate analysis possible.

Alex Wood: Los Angeles Dodgers

So I’ve been benefitting from a speculative add of Wood since Rich Hill’s blister drama began in its 2017 iteration.  I was not bold enough to start him in Coors field, but I did actually consider it.  He’s been that good.  Good enough to regret benching against that lineup in that park.

Looking at the numbers, there’s a lot of great stuff going on.  His FIP and xFIP of 2.40 and 2.12 respectively, actually suggest his 2.87 ERA has been slightly unlucky.  Furthermore, his ground ball percentage is way up at 62.8%, which is 2015 Keuchel territory.  He has a ridiculous 25% K% minus BB% on top of that.  So he’s striking out batters at a prodigious rate while managing the walks.  

Is there anything in the numbers that cries regression?  Not really!  His HR/FB% is a little low at 5% as opposed to a career average of 9.1%.  His strand rate is right at his career average of 72%.  Everything here looks great.

Wood’s eye test has been fun this season.  The reason I own him in a few deeper leagues is because his stuff looked electric out of the pen.  I figured with the glass like nature of some of his fellow Dodgers that he had a shot at getting into the rotation permanently.

He is throwing harder than he has since 2013 when he was a very valuable fantasy starter with the Braves.  He throws two other really good offspeed pitches off of that heater, which sits around 94 MPH.  The change and knuckle curve work beautifully off of that good velocity, particularly that changeup.

Eye Test Advice:  buy Buy BUY!!!  This guy had a history of being a top 25-ish starter with the Braves back when he threw this hard.  He is striking people out at an absurd rate, and both the numbers and the eye back it up.  The only thinking holding me back from saying that he might be an ace in the making is the previous injury concern coupled with the fact that the Dodgers are being very careful with him.  Can you blame them given the current state of their staff?




Robbie Ray: Arizona Diamondbacks

I’m not sure who to give credit to for the comparison, but I have heard Robbie Ray called the left handed version of Michael Pineda.  I’m 30 now, and my heart and stomach can’t handle that kind of up and down.  Because of that, I have no shares of him anywhere.  Still, I get a lot of questions from friends and fellow league mates about Ray.  So let’s dive in.

There’s some very mixed messages when you take a look at Ray’s numbers.  Let’s start with the good.  He strikes guys out.  Lots and lots of Ks.   The xFIP and FIP give owners hope that he might be a tweak away from becoming an ace, much like his righty counterpart, Pineda.  The FIP and xFIP sit at 3.55 and 3.19.  Both a drastic improvement over his current 4.14 ERA.

Now for the bad news.  He is walking about 5 batters per nine.  That’s really bad.  He is also giving up hard contact at a 51% clip at present.  That’s insanely bad.  That number is higher than chemically enhanced Barry Bonds at his peak!  Okay, his career average is 37.2%.  Maybe he can regress to that.  That’s still a hard hit percentage that almost any batter in the majors would strive for!

Onto the eye test.  There’s some good news here as well.  He’s added a fourth pitch, a curveball.  He has historically been a fastball and slider guy.  Ray would also occasionally throw a wildly mediocre change to keep batters honest.  Again, whoever came up with the left handed Pineda comparison absolutely nailed it.  This curve looks okay to the eye test, and Fangraphs pitch values is actually grading it out quite well, which is good since he’s throwing it about 15% of the time.  

I’m going to describe a recent encounter Ray had with Miguel Cabrera as I think it sums up how I feel about him nicely.  Ray got ahead in the count by giving up several foul ball laser shots.  One of these lasers was well over 400 feet down the left field line and was only foul by a few feet.  He then came back and threw an absolutely disgusting slider that made Miggy look like late stages Josh Hamilton.  He made arguably the best pure hitter in baseball look like a high school kid seeing his first real breaking pitch.  And that’s just how Ray is.  Pitch to pitch he can be awesome or he can be terrible.

Eye Test Advice: Hold if you need the Ks and can stomach the high WHIP and inconsistency.  Sell if you can find someone who buys his xFIP and that he is going to make a leap to ace status.  There is talk of adding a humidor in Arizona as well, and that can only help him.  Until then, there’s no reason to buy into a stat that neutralizes home runs when Ray pitches in a homer haven.

Luis Perdomo: San Diego Padres

Perdomo is someone that some analysts had a bit of hope for in deeper leagues.  Given the current state of pitching, it might be time to take a look in shallower leagues.  Between the abuse of the 10 day DL, issues with poor performance, and actual devastating injuries – many on my pitching staff are held together with duct tape; this are just ridiculous.  I’m sure many of you are facing the same situation.  So let’s see if Perdomo is a good fit to help you patch up your staff.

The numbers look pretty good.  His 4.13 ERA might throw your league mates off of the trail, but his FIP and xFIP sit at 2.96 and 3.27.  Perdomo is limiting hard contact to just 20% so far while keeping a whopping 69% of balls on the ground.  That’s probably due to go down a bit, but he was actually at 59% over 146.2 innings last year so he’s definitely a ground ball machine.  Because of this, I wouldn’t expect the high BABIP of .346 to automatically drop.  

I find this especially true since his track record both last year and in the minors is to be a high BABIP guy.  Some more good news is he’s striking more batters out this year.  Perdomo has his K rate up about 5% from last year and is sitting at a very respectable 21%.  He’s doing all this while walking a manageable 8.4%.  That’s still a bit high for my taste, but we didn’t draft this guy in the first three rounds so it’s hard to complain about three walks per nine.

Onto the eye test!  Perdomo looks like a good, savvy pitcher.  He sits just shy of 95MPH too, which definitely shows promise for a sinker baller.  He also throws a reasonably hard slurve ball and a “show me” change.  Overall, I like what I see.  He keeps batters off-balance and gets them to beat the ball into the ground.  Petco isn’t what it used to be for pitchers, but it’s still a good park to call home overall.  Also, he keeps the ball on the ground so much that maybe park factors don’t matter that much to him anyway.

Eye Test Advice: I would add him in any league that’s deep enough for Kendall Graveman to be owned.  The Padres probably won’t give him great run support so he likely won’t win as much as you’d like.  He is the kind of middle to back-end guy that won’t really hurt you though, and should give you quality starts.  If the strikeouts are real, he can actually be a really useful fantasy pitcher.  

He’s got good stuff  and peripherals.  I don’t think he has particularly high upside like say Alex Wood or Patrick Corbin, but he can definitely help give you some stability where you need it.  I may even be selling him short as there’s enough here to suggest he might be able to become what Sonny Gray used to be. 

Perdomo is widely available as well, owned in less than 5% of ESPN and Yahoo leagues.

 

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Mike Sheehan
Comedian, Powerlifter, and most importantly a Cum Laude graduate of the fantasy baseball school of hard knocks. Double major in points and categories with a minor in roto. Happy to be doing my Postgraduate work here at the Fantasy Assembly.

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