Toe the Rubber: Week 3

Hello and good morning everyone! The wild weather across the country really put a damper on baseball this past week. A whopping six teams had the entire weekend off (Twins, White Sox, Tigers, Yankees, Blue Jays, Indians). For most of us that left us scrambling to find pitchers to stream over the weekend to reach the necessary thresholds (for those with a minimum innings pitch count). If you were lucky enough to nab Ivan Nova for his Sunday start against the Marlins you were rewarded nicely. I’ll admit, I was one of those guys – thank you for the pat on the back.

For the games that did get played this past week, a few pitchers, specifically the ones featured below, left us with question marks heading forward, both good and bad.

Sean Manaea…is he good?

Sean Manaea is an interesting case for me. I’ve been an owner of his in previous years and he provided me with nothing but headaches, especially in 2017. Looking at Manaea’s numbers this year the lack of strikeouts jump out at me. 20 k’s in 27.2 innings gives him a K/9 of 6.5 – not a number that points me in a pitcher’s direction. Even with the K/9 numbers down from previous years he is still maintaining a strikeout percentage near 20, which is his career numbers. The lack of walk’s for Manaea is something that appeals to me, currently sporting a BB/9 of 1.3. While he hasn’t had control issues in the past, it is far better than his career average of 2.6 and much improved on last year’s number of 3.1

One thing that has me a little suspicious of Manaea is his current FIP. His ERA after four starts this year stands at 1.63 yet his FIP is 4.03 which screams luck and potential regression. Another stat that shows the numbers Manaea has put up might be misleading is the ridiculous strand rate of 100%. If he has a strand rate of 100% then how does he even have an ERA, right? Manaea has given up only 5 earned runs on the year, but four have come via the home.

To get a truer reading on Manaea I went back and looked at his last 60 innings, dating back to August 26th of last season. During that time he is sporting a 2.67 ERA, a 3.02 FIP, K/9 of 6.8, and a BB/9 of 2.8. That tells me his early success this season is something that could be sustainable, but to a bit of a lesser degree. As mentioned, his strand rate is going to regress, and his BABIP this year will push higher (currently at .169). Manaea has always been a ground ball pitcher (1.26 GB/FB career ratio), so don’t expect these numbers to trend too much in the wrong direction, but you have to expect normalization in a situation like this and celebrate hugely if it doesn’t happen.

We had Manaea ranked as the 63rd best SP before the season began. According to ESPN his ADP wasn’t even registering, meaning he largely went undrafted. I think our preseason ranks had him nailed as he could be a top 50 option at the end of the season, but a lack of strikeouts is going to keep him from becoming more.

Is Chris Archer a spot starter?

If you’re a Chris Archer owner and you have a headache, please raise your hand. For those of you that aren’t raising your hands, you’re all liars! Archer has to be one of the most frustrating starting pitchers to own because he’s got the stuff to be an elite arm, but he just doesn’t put it together.

The last three seasons, including this one, Archer has put up double-digit K/9 numbers. Other common numbers in those three seasons is an ERA over 4.00 and at least 200 innings pitched. So essentially you know what you’re getting with Archer when drafting or holding onto him in keeper leagues, like I did.

Archer is sporting a 7.84 ERA through four starts this year. Yes, that’s an ugly number, but if you take his FIP (4.70) and xFIP (3.80) into consideration it is not that alarming. Looking back to his 2016 and 2017 season Archer sported a better FIP and xFIP in both those season, and while the results did not show in the ERA, his ERA was acceptable – albeit not for an ace. The two things that can be directly related to his lack of success this year is his walk rate and the lack of ground balls.

Archer has been a guy with slightly lower than average control, with a career BB/9 of 2.96, which isn’t uncommon in a guy with such high strikeout potential. This year, however, his BB/9 rate sits at 3.92, much too high even when striking out over 10 per 9. His career ground ball percentage is 45.6%; he’s at 40.3% this year. Fewer ground balls obviously means more fly balls, which has also pushed his HR/FB ratio to whopping 18.2%, 6 points higher than his career norm. The only positive takeaway is his IFFB% is up to 13.6, four points above his career average.

Chris Archer has earned enough respect with his strikeout potential not to get too worked up about him just yet. Batters have a BABIP of .379 against him in the early going, which is another number that will trend downward. As his numbers regress closer to the mean the Archer of the past couple years will return. His fastball velocity has decreased slightly, but his swinging strike percentage is right where it’s been the past couple seasons (22.8%), so nothing to be alarmed about there.

Chris Archer slotted in as our 14th best SP prior to the season and was drafted as such on ESPN sites (ADP 56). Archer doesn’t appear to be the top-20 SP we thought he’d be trending toward, but he’ll be top-30 at season’s end. I’m leery of using Archer against top lineups, but don’t feel like you’re making the wrong choice by starting him. Just be patient.

What’s up with Yu?

Cubs fans can’t be happy with the product Yu Darvish has displayed for them so far. I’m sure many of them are calling for their money back, dialing up Arrieta with desperate pleas for a Chicago reunion. Ain’t gonna happen people!

There’s no way to sugar coat it: Darvish has been flat out bad this year. Looking at his numbers it seems to be all related to not being able to get the ball over the plate, and when he does get it over the plate he isn’t missing many bats. Darvish is looking at a BB/9 of over 4.00, which is the worst since his debut with the Rangers back in 2012.  His F-Strike% is sitting just under 60%, his swinging strike percentage is at 9.6% (3 points below his past two seasons), and the contact rate against him is 77%.

If you remember back in the World Series, the Astros came out and said Darvish was tipping his pitches; that’s how they mashed his slider so well. Looking at the numbers I just gave you in the last paragraph, I’d guess that issue isn’t completely fixed and hitters have an idea of what’s coming their way. If that’s an issue that can’t be fixed soon the doubts about Darvish are only going to creep higher.

Velocity numbers, FIP, and BABIP all indicate Darvish could be in a world of hurt. Even if the BABIP regresses to his career average it would only drop 30 points. During the course of his career Darvish’s FIP numbers have always been relatively equal to his ERA, meaning he’s completely in control of his performance. He needs to find the plate and fix whatever he’s got going on.

Yu Darvish broke the top-15 in our rankings prior to the season, but at the moment he is hardly a top-50 option. He’s got an upcoming start in Colorado that I would avoid at all cost. Keep on eye on the amount of free passes Darvish issues going forward. If he can’t find the strike zone he should be on your bench except (maybe) for weaker matchups.

Jose Berrios is an ACE!

There is nothing wrong with Berrios; I just wanted to end things on a high note. Jose Berrios is an ace, currently a top 10 starting pitcher option, and I fully expect him to stay there. Alright, no need to say anything else, right? Okay, I’ll back up my claim here.

Berrios is working to the tune of a 2.18 ERA and has an even better FIP of 1.66. This is largely in part to the command of the strike zone Berrios is working with this year, with a BB/9 of less than 1.00. Judging by the rise in swinging strike rate and drop in contact rate it looks as if his stuff has gotten even better. I got to watch the outing Berrios had against the White Sox last week and yes, his stuff is lights out. This kid is only 24 and not even into the prime of his career yet.

I do expect some regression going forward, but nothing that will drop him from being a top-10 arm going forward. His BABIP against is a very good .229, which is probably 50 points less when factoring in his minors stats. His strand rate isn’t anything outrageous, sitting at 71.4%, so there might not be a whole lot of regression there. An area that could see the most regression is the pitches in the strike zone. He’s found the zone 61.8% of the time on average during his career, and that numbers sits at 67.8% so far in April.

The success Berrios has found over his last 10 starts dating back to August 19th lead me to believe this blistering start is sustainable. Over that span Berrios’ FIP is 16 points less than his ERA, 2.65 to 2.81. His K/9 is right at 10.00, and his BB/9 is at 2.5, with a BABIP of .289. This all tells me Berrios has began to put it together and is here to stay, cemented ace in the game.

Our cumulative rankings prior to the season had Berrios tied with Luis Castillo at 33. I actually thought Castillo would be having the start to the season Berrios has seen (couldn’t have been any more wrong about that), though the two are very relatable. If you’re not deploying Berrios for every start you should be forced to relinquish your ownership to someone else. Berrios has quickly become a must-start option.

Most Added

  • Joey Lucchesi, SP, Padres              +49.1 to 52.1%
  • Nick Pivetta, SP, Phillies                 +32.2 to 38.9%
  • Keynan Middleton, RP, Angels    +26.5 to 41.9%
  • Jakob Junis, SP, Royals                   +25.1 to 67.6%
  • Trevor Williams, SP, Pirates         +24.2 to 34.8%

Fresh faces this week with the exception of Junis. His K numbers improved over his last outing, but I’m still unsure of him. Blake Snell is owned in fewer leagues than Junis and I’d rather have Snell.

Joey Luccehsi is an interesting case. His debut was less than stellar, then he owned the Rockies both at home and on the road. His K/9 numbers seem sustainable as it matches what he’s done at the minor-league level throughout his career. He has never thrown over 130 innings in a season, and this is only his third season of professional ball so I expect some rough patches, but I’m buying into him at this point. Happ, Gausman, or Jon Gray are droppable for him at this point.

Nick Pivetta isn’t a guy that stands out to me. Being owned in nearly 40% of leagues feels like his high point. His minor league numbers track well, but he has problems finding the zone so I expect his BB/9 of 1.08 to rise drastically. Jacob Faria, Jordan Montgomery and Lucas Giolito are all guys I like more than Pivetta and they’re all owned in fewer leagues.

Keynan Middleton seems to be the closer going forward for the Angels. If you’re still searching for saves he’s a solid add. Don’t be silly and give up on a better arm this soon, but if you’re looking for a Knebel replacement and don’t want the headache of Barnes and Albers, Middleton is your guy.

Trevor Williams was a sleeper for me entering the season and he has shown why. The only downside to Williams is his limited ceiling. With a K/9 just over 5.00 there isn’t much upside to him. As with the guys mentioned in regard to Pivetta, the same stands here. He’s a nice stream option, but not a long-term fix.

Lines of the Week (complete games)

  • Carlos Carrasco vs Tigers: 9 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, WIN
  • Dallas Keuchel @ Mariners: 8 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, LOSS

If you have questions about a pitcher not listed today, or just simply want me to evaluate someone on your roster you’re having trouble deciding what to do with, mention it in the comment section below. Hit me on Twitter @KennyGarvey with any questions you may have as far as pitchers to start or sit, or pitchers you’re thinking about adding (or dropping). I’m always ready to strike up a conversation with readers! Good luck in your match-ups as the week finishes up, and catch you next week!


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