For years the Los Angeles Dodgers have been World Series contenders. They’ve won the National League West division five consecutive years, but this year are not leading as of yet. Adversity is hitting the team hard. With Corey Seager out for the rest of the season, Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger are struggling to find consistency at the dish. Injuries have also been common as Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Justin Turner have all missed time. A couple of players have picked up the team offensively, but one has emerged in the rotation and is putting up his best season yet. The last couple of years, Ross Stripling had bounced around between the rotation and the bullpen, but now is making most of his opportunity with all the injuries. Stripling has a record of 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA, paired with a 10.58 K/9 and a 1.37 BB/9. He’s been amazing and we will see if he can keep it up or if he’s just a flash in the pan. Let’s see how he’s fared in the past.
Stripling is having his best season ever. The strikeouts and walks per 9 innings have improved while his HR/FB has lowered. His left on base percentage is a bit high at 89.0% and combined with his FIP number, they indicate he should regress a little bit more. Let’s dive into his plate discipline numbers to see if there are noticeable differences.
Right off the bat everything looks very similar to last season except the first pitch strikes. He has increased this number from 64.8% to 71.1%. What we can take from this is that he is getting ahead of hitters in the count and that could be a very important factor towards his success this year. He is also pitching more in the zone this year as it’s increased from 42.0% to 46.0%. Now let’s see what the outcomes are for the hits.
Once again his numbers are similar to last season. One thing that has changed is that players are popping up more from 8.3% to 17.9%. He is limiting the hard contact to a 25.7% rate and that is similar to last season. So the question is, is the pitch usage any different from last season?
Stripling is throwing his fastball and curveball at around the same rate as he did the previous season, but is now throwing the slider a bit less and the changeup more. Has he figured out how to use his changeup effectively? Maybe so. Last season, players were hitting 0.200 against his changeup that he hardly threw and 0.284 against his fourseam fastball. This season players are hitting 0.219 against his changeup but only 0.247 against his fourseam. Maybe players are having trouble picking up his fourseam now that he’s throwing more changeups. Let’s check out the movement and speed of his pitches.
For the most part his velocity is down a tick across the board except his curveball. We’ll skip over the horizontal movement as I did not find that big of a difference year to year. The vertical movement on his breaking balls aren’t drastic, but he is getting more downward movement with his curveball and changeup. Maybe this is not the main reason he’s been so effective but we can’t ignore the results. His curved ball is his best pitch and it shows as his whiff rate has increased from 12.89 last season to 17.73 this season. Whiff rates among the other pitches remain relatively the same so what do we make of this?
Ross Stripling is 28-years old and is putting up a career season. The biggest difference is he’s getting ahead of hitters in the count. Once ahead he has chosen to throw his changup more and throw his slider less. His curveball is his best pitch and he’s getting more whiffs thanks to an increase in downwards movement. He’s a four-pitch pitcher and is not missing the zone and hitters aren’t squaring up the ball as much as last year. If you were lucky enough to grab him in your league you are probably wondering if this is legit. The answer is yes, but the ERA will rise as his left on base percentage indicates. You just have to ride him until the wheels fall off and they may not fall off by that much.