Toe the Rubber: Week 4

Hello and good morning everyone! This past week was rather slow on the pitching front with the big exception of the first no-hitter of the season, but I’ll touch on that in a little bit. The weather cooperated a bit better across the country so we all got to see baseball every day. That’s enough to warrant a mini celebration right there!

There was a lot of good pitching last week, but most of it was from guys we’ve come to expect that from. Sean Manaea went ahead and took things further tossing the first no-hitter of the season Saturday against the Red Sox; that’s the first against their franchise in 25 years. If you go way back to last week, a long time ago, I wrote my thoughts about Manaea saying “a lack of strikeouts is going to keep him from becoming a top 50 pitcher.” Boy if he didn’t stick my words right back down my throat.

Manaea struck out 10 batters on Saturday, which tied a career high. The addition of 10 strikeouts to his season totals put his K/9 numbers (7.4) back near his career average (7.8). I still stand by my assessment on him from last week – though I might include him as a top-50 pitcher, but just slightly cracking the top 50. Throwing a no-hitter doesn’t really mean anything. Edinson Volquez was the last guy to throw a no-hitter; he’s nothing special. And take a look at Phillip Humber, that dude threw a perfect game! I’m a White Sox fan and even I’ll say he’s probably the worst pitcher to ever do so! Congrats to Manaea though, it is a great accomplishment.

Before I dive into the rest of the article this week I want to make a public acknowledgement regarding the event that unfolded Friday night with Danny Farquhar. Seeing and hearing about something like that happening to a guy who you’d think would be in peak physical condition is shocking, and that’s an understatement. Remember what we do on this side of fantasy baseball and what you all do on that side, it’s all fun banter, but there are real lives here that are much bigger than this. If you’re a guy or gal that prays often, please pray for Farquhar and his family as he has a long road to recovery.

Cool your heels on Quintana

When looking at Jose Quintana’s stats in a Cubs uniform one might think he’s been cursed by the Billy goat. He’s only made 18 starts for the Cubs, so a lot of that can be skewed one way or another by one bad outing – like his start against the Braves just over a week ago. He toed the rubber in cold, rainy weather. If you watched any of that game, or saw the result, you’d agree the weather played a huge role in how that all came out. Unfortunately, when looking at stats, every outing is included, but you can take them with a grain of salt.

Q’s numbers as a Cub include a 4.50 ERA, BB/9 of 2.8, K/9 of 9.9, a WHIP of 1.23 and an encouraging FIP of 3.62. As you compare these numbers to his days on the south side of Chicago the only drastic difference is his K/9 and ERA; everything else is relatively the same. Perhaps the curse many Cubs fans thought they got rid of by winning the World Series is still hiding out.

Okay, so maybe curses don’t really exist, but try telling a Cubs fan that. Diving a bit deeper into Q’s numbers this year will tell you a large part of his issue is the lack of command he has had in the early going. His BB/9 is over 5.00, more than double his career average, so expect improvement in that regard going forward. Couple the increased walk rate with a BABIP of .339 and a lot of runs are going to score.

Quintana had an okay start his last time out considering it was in Coors Field. He only lasted 5.1 innings, but he only walked a batter while striking out 7 – encouragement moving forward. He did allow 8 hits which catches the eye a bit, but then again, it was in Colorado. Players talk all the time that if you’re not used to it, it’s a tough place to play, let alone pitch.

As Quintana goes forward don’t be afraid to use him regularly. If you choose to sit him against a tougher lineup, or in a hitter-friendly ball park, that’s understandable. He has increased his floor a bit with the increased K/9 numbers since joining the Cubs and if the walks slow down he’ll be back to his old self in no time. His April outings the last two seasons have been rough, so chalk that up to playing in cold weather. That should be gone going forward and so should your questions as whether to deploy him regularly.

Patrick Corbin, is this sustainable?

Saying Patrick Corbin has been brilliant this year would be an understatement. Asking whether it’s sustainable or not… well, the short answer is yes. On to the next guy! Kidding of course, but in all seriousness, Corbin will be in the top-5 in Cy Young voting at season’s end. Remember you heard it here first!

A lot of the metrics suggest Corbin is in for a big season. His ground ball rate is out of this world, his K/BB ratio is ridiculous, and his WHIP is barely a number! Let’s first start with the numbers that won’t see much regression, his GB/FB data. Corbin currently has a GB/FB ratio of 1.89 as he’s inducing ground ball outs 53.7% of the time. This number seems ridiculous until you compare it to his previous two seasons in which it’s been 50.4% and 53.8%. Why are ground balls that important to Corbin? Well, when he allows the ball to be hit in the air he gives them up in a big way. He’s got a career average HR/FB rate of 13.8% – not terrific, though in today’s game it’s a number that can be dealt with.

His K/9 rate of 12.96 is sure to decline some as the season progresses, no big deal as it’s got some room to come down. The big sticking point will be if he can keep the walks to a minimum, which through five starts, I don’t see that as being a problem. He currently has a K/BB rate of 8.00. That’s not something that’s going to be maintained for 30+ starts, but even if it’s half of that, good things are going to happen.

Prior to his Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2014 Corbin was slated to be the ace for the D’Backs. He’s finally looking like that ace pitcher again. He’s shown signs through the past three seasons, but it appears now he’s back to where he was prior to surgery. Some of that could be due to adding a curveball this year, or a slight increase in velocity. Either way Corbin is at the top to stay.

We had him ranked outside the top 65 starting pitchers when the season began (with a best ranking of 52). Boy is he making us look foolish. As Corbin sits right now he’s comfortably in the top-20 if not the top-10. He’s a must-start option going forward.

Is Carlos Martinez an ace?

It’s hard to believe Carlos Martinez is only 26. Being in a part of the country that airs nearly all the Cubs/Cardinals games it feels like he’s been around for a long time. In his age-26 season he seems to finally be stepping into that role of ace the Cardinals expected of him when he moved to the rotation in 2015.

Through five starts this year Martinez has a career high in K/9, WHIP and ERA. The ERA you can take with a grain of salt seeing as it’s only been five starts. His WHIP and K/9 could be sustainable throughout a full slate of 30+ starts. His K/9 this year is at 10.5; last year it was 9.5. Martinez’s WHIP is currently 1.13; last year it finished at 1.22.

Looking at some other numbers for Martinez in the early going suggest maybe things are a bit misleading. I know enough Cardinals fans to know Martinez causes more headaches than necessary with the lack of command of the strike zone at times. His BB/9 this year is 4.8. Martinez has always had a bit of a walk issue, carrying a BB/9 over 3.00 each of his four full seasons prior to this year. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, a lack of command is something that’s often paired with a high volume of strikeouts.

Another number that stands out in the early going is the strand rate Martinez is working with. At this point Martinez has stranded nearly 90% of the runners he allows to reach base. Surely that number will regress closer to his average of 77%, and as that happens that nice ERA of 1.42 will see a rise closer to where his FIP currently lies (3.34). One encouraging sign that might help from a steep regression is the ground ball outs Martinez is generating. Similar to Corbin, Martinez is getting a large number of ground balls, sporting a GB/FB ratio of 2.11. His career average ground ball percentage of 53.7% shows us this isn’t a fluke.

To answer the headlining question regarding Martinez, not fully, at least not a top-tier ace. He’s well on his way to becoming that, but he has got to get the BB/9 number down slightly. The high volume of ground balls (and strikeouts) will help Martinez control the other areas of his game.

We pegged Martinez as a top-15 starting pitcher to start the season and we weren’t too far off, though maybe a year early. Martinez will be a top-20 SP at season’s end. He’s a must-start at this point, though the walks do scare me slightly. He could also be a solid “sell high” candidate, though I’m not sure I’d move him with the possibilities that lie ahead for him.

Most Added

  • Chad Bettis, SP/RP, Rockies          +41.7 to 50.3%
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP, Dodgers             +39.6 to 58.3%
  • Bud Norris, RP, Cardinals                +34.9 to 45.5%
  • Josh Hader, RP, Brewers                  +25.3 to 67.5%
  • Walker Buehler, SP/RP, Dodgers    +18.6 to 23.9%

Finally, a week without a repeater from the previous week! Looking at the five guys above, the bottom two are the only ones that jumps out to me as guys I’d want on a roster.

Chad Bettis is set to be a two-start pitcher this week, which could be why his ownership number has jumped so high. Another reason could be due to his recent successes against the Nationals and Pirates. Either way, I’m steering clear from Rockies pitchers, especially ones that induce a lot of contact and don’t strike many guys out. Move on to the next guy.

Ryu is an interesting case. He’s pitched well from the start this year, and his K/9 numbers are over 10.00 which is encouraging to see. I’m not completely sold on him, but his matchup in the desert this week could bode well for all fantasy purposes. If you find him available and have the roster room, pick him up and deploy him this week.

Bud Norris seems to be hitting this list a little late. I wouldn’t be shocked by this time next week if Greg Holland has had multiple save opportunities and Norris has been pushed to the set-up role. If you’re looking for good ratios grab Norris, but don’t add him expecting a good amount of save moving forward.

The bullpen in Milwaukee seems to be a bit of a mess, with Josh Hader as the lone exception. Unfortunately for them he’s much to valuable in his current role to be switched to the 9th inning guy. He’s great for ratios and even solid in points leagues with the work he puts in and the strikeout numbers he puts up. If he’s available in your league he is better to own than a low-tier closer and a good number of back-end starters.

Unless you’re in a deep league Buehler isn’t worth the addition to your roster, but go ahead and click the “watch” button to his name. He had a good outing Monday and will likely see one more start before heading back to the minors. If he performs well again this weekend he could be back to stay sooner rather than later, but the short-term picture for him isn’t too bright.

Lines of the Week (complete games)

  • Sean Manaea vs Boston: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, WIN (108 pitches)
  • Patrick Corbin vs San Francisco: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, WIN (100 pitches)
  • Mike Clevinger @ Baltimore: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, WIN (107 pitches)
  • Jason Hammel @ Detroit: 9 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, ND (101 pitches)

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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2 thoughts on “Toe the Rubber: Week 4”

  1. Hi Kenny, love the analysis! Farquhar’s injury is extremely scary, especially the fact that his condition doesn’t appear to have changed much since he collapsed.

    Thinking of dropping Aaron Sanchez for Reynaldo Lopez. Something looks off on Sanchez. Lopez’s peripherals don’t look much better (both have control issues), but there’s more K upside, and he’s younger. Plus he doesn’t have to face the Red Sox and Yankees on the regular. What do you think?

    1. The great Roberto Clemente! On a personal level, yes, drop Sanchez for Lopez, but that’s just because I’m a Sox fan.

      Based off the info you gave it sounds like you’re already set on your decision. For those exact reasons I’d rather own Lopez, though you’ll get headaches from him time to time. Sanchez will have his gems, but he’s bound to miss time through the season and get hit around the park.

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