JAKE ODORIZZI: SLEEPER DU JOUR

For some time now, Jake Odorizzi has been a favorite pitcher of mine.  I have a soft spot for high K rates, this is true, but why wouldn’t I?  Strikeout pitchers are awesome!  Anyways, Odorizzi is a good strikeout pitcher.  Therefore, in case you got lost there, I have a soft spot for Odorizzi.  I realize there is more to pitching than Ks, which is partly why Odorizzi was a frequent guest on Fantasy Assembly’s world renown, Field of Streams.  Odoreater only touched the +50% ownership mark a couple of times and rarely did his ownership numbers climb higher than 65%, if I recall correctly.  Jake was a regular in Field of Streams, hovering around that 50% at times, but usually he was regularly available.  I mean, 11-13 with a 4.13 ERA is hardly something you’d think to start regularly.  In 2014, Odorizzi was great if you knew when to start him.  If you were a regular Field of Streams reader (is there a limit on shameless plugs), then you basically did know when he had some good matchups.  So, is that the Odorizzi we’ll get in 2015, once again?

A good place to start would be last year’s numbers and seeing if, maybe, Odoreater was unlucky or something?  It does happen, you know.  Of course you know that, you’re a smart intelligent human being.  I know that because you astutely chose to read Field of Streams.  Okay, so was Odoreater unlucky in ’14?  Well, let’s look at BABIP.  Now before you have a hissy fit, let me say, BABIP is certainly a somewhat flawed stat in determining luck, but it is a good jumping off point.  Odorizzi’s was .295, which is not egregiously far from the mean.  Some other things to consider would be HR/FB rate, although that was 8.7% so nothing really unlucky there.  Even his fielding independent ERA is not far from the actual ERA, so really I wouldn’t say he was unlucky.  The numbers for 2014 were about accurate over the season, so I guess the next question would be will something else make him a better pitcher in 2015?  A regularly rostered pitcher in a fantasy lineup is really what we want to kind of find out here.

Now, I am going to bring you all the way back to where we started.  Strikeouts.  Odorizzi is a good strikeout pitcher.  Odorizzi’s K% was 14th among qualified starting pitchers in 2014.  Like I said, Odorizzi is a good strikeout pitcher.  Yes, yes, there is more to pitching than strikeouts, but strikeouts are a great way to work out of jams.  Double plays are good, but with a strikeout, you are controlling everything (let’s ignore wild pitches on strike threes for now).  You’re not dependent on a fielder.  When a ball is in play anything can happen.  A case of the Knoblauch yips could ruin an easy inning for a pitcher in the blink of an eye, my friends.  So yeah, I like that 24% K rate.  One thing that sort of bugged me about Odorizzi was that his changeup was a bit lackluster.  A changeup being a plus pitch is, well, a plus.  Odorizzi did not have that and he doesn’t have a blazing fastball to begin with.  But, luckily, he met Alex Cobb.

Alex Cobb has a changeup/split finger hybrid which Odoreater started experimenting with according Rays pitching coach, Jim Hickey.  Experimenting doesn’t always pay instant dividends, especially when it comes to pitching, and it was no different here. P oor Jake struggled a bit early on in 2014, going through a stretch where he didn’t get past the fifth inning in seven of his first nine starts, posting an ERA of  4.98 in that span.  Not great.  He opened with six shutout innings against the Rangers making him highly addable in fantasy, only for him to allow 21 runs over his next five starts in which he only pitched 21.2 innings.  Not good.  Really it wasn’t until June that he looked like he had things figured out.  Look at his ERAs by month:

  • MARCH/APRIL- 6.85
  • MAY- 3.72
  • JUNE- 2.40
  • JULY- 2.90
  • AUGUST- 4.81
  • SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER- 4.79

Needless to say, he was very good in June and July.  ERA is not necessarily the best measuring tool, but his FIP took similar ups and downs.  What I could have really used to show that Odorizzi should be a nice sleeper pick in 2015 and going forward, would have been if the numbers showed a strong finish.  Well, they didn’t, so now what do I do?  Well, firstly I am going to see what may have caused this August and everything after (any Counting Crows fans out there?) swoon.  Well, the K% went down a bit as did the ground ball rate.  Not a great combo.  So was Odorizzi experimenting with pitches a bit more?  The Rays were kind of out of the race, but in addition to the K% and ground ball rate drops, the fly ball and line drive rates increased.   That will not help matters any.   There were no reports of injury that I saw, so should that slow start be a concern?  Apparently Odorizzi was fooling around a bit with his slider, trying to turn it into a cutter at times?   Yeah, that is kind of beyond me, but considering Odorizzi will only be 25 when the 2015 seasons starts, seems like he is young enough to keep tinkering and pull it together.

I think he doesn’t quite have full command of these pitches and walks have been a concern with Odorizzi.  Nevertheless as the 2014 season progressed, despite the rough finish, Odorizzi actually lowered his walk rate from what it was at the season’s start.  A low K/BB rate is something that causes me hesitation in drafting pitchers, but I saw the flashes of brilliance in that two month span last summer.  Overall, yeah, there are not a lot of numbers that point to Odorizzi being anything more than last year, but look, Odorizzi is a young pitcher who is still working on some pitches.  He strikes out a ton of batters without a super high-speed fastball and did I mention he is young?  Now, this may be a bold prediction, but I say draft him as a mid-to-late round sleeper, cause a month or so into 2015 Odorizzi’s will be flying off the shelves and you will be super jealous that you’re the only kid on the block without one!  In fact, I say Odorizzi finishes in the top 40 for starting pitchers. Write that down.

Will Emerson

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Affectionately know by close friends as Willie Moe, Will is back living in Boston after brief, 11 year stint, in upstate New York. Will loves numbers and baseball, so it is no surprise that he has been addicted to fantasy baseball for over two decades. That’s right, Will was playing fantasy baseball since before the internet was providing up to the minute stats and standings, and you had to get your hands inky checking box scores in the newspaper.