Names carry a lot of weight in fantasy baseball, and every year owners will choose a big name with a history of high-level production even if those days are past or closing fast. Pitchers seem to enjoy this treatment more than other positions, and former aces are hard for the fantasy community to quit due to all the volatility the position experiences over time.
So, while drafting players with a history of production is not a bad idea, be sure you are paying a price equitable to their expected production, not the stats of seasons in the books.
This week in the down portion of the stock watch – we highlight a few pitchers who have dominated in the past, though they currently have a cloudy 2019 outlook due to injury, age, and other issues. Read on for analysis on their future production, and keep this information in mind as you make decisions in your redraft, keeper, and dynasty leagues.
As always, if you have a player you would like profiled or have a question about, feel free to post in the comment section or reach out to me on Twitter @hedenson18 with that or any other questions. We will be working our way around the diamond so you can submit your player requests in advance.
- Madison Bumgarner
Since his disastrous dirt-bike adventure in April of 2017, Madison Bumgarner has not been able to get back to the fantasy ace he was before the incident, tossing only 240.2 IP in 2017 and 2018 combined. Bumgarner threw 129.2 of those innings in 2018, producing a 3.26 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 19.8% K% in 21 starts. His ERA seems optimistically low (3.99 FIP, 4.32 xFIP, 4.42 SIERA) when compared to other metrics, and when combined with other worrisome changes in his approach the future looks a bit murky for the post-season warrior.
Bumgarner’s Hard% increased for the third straight season (31.6% in 2016, 35% in 2017, 41.6% in 2018) and his command regressed as well (4.4% BB% in 2017, 7.8% BB% in 2018). His velocity remained constant as compared to 2016, but the overall effectiveness of his arsenal dipped slightly in a couple strikeout related metrics (-3.1% O-Swing%, -1% SwStr%). Some of this is attributable to the degradation of his fastball, which was not as successful as compared to past seasons (0.39 wFA/C in 2016, -0.35 wFA/C in 2017, -1.14 wFA/C in 2018).
Usage of his fastball (34.2% FA%) dipped 8.8% from 2017, dropping it behind his cutter as his go to pitch (35% FC%). All of this makes it look like Bumgarner’s days as an elite pitcher are finished, barring a change in approach that allows him to retake his place among that groups. He definitely has the ability to make those changes, but the success of that endeavor depends on health and how his repertoire works against hitter from here on out. Without those changes, however, expectations for fantasy owners will need to dial back a bit, as the following pitchers produced similar results in 2018:
- Matt Harvey
You may not be surprised to see ‘The Dark Knight’ brooding away in the down portion of the stock watch. Since his heroics in the 2015 World Series, not much has gone right for Harvey, whether on or off the field. 2018 was no different, seeing Harvey post a bloated 4.94 ERA, a mediocre K% (19.8%), and a 1.30 WHIP in 155.1 IP for the season.
Additionally, you may be reading this and wondering why I am wasting my time bloviating about Harvey’s well-publicized struggles. He has not been fantasy relevant in 3 seasons, so why am I writing about such a lost cause when I could cover someone you would actually consider in 2019? Because, to my surprise, it looks like Harvey just might have some value left in him, if you dig deep enough into his second half stats.
Harvey’s 5.37 second-half ERA looks unnecessarily bloated (4.68 FIP, 3.88 xFIP, 3.80 SIERA) when compared to advanced looks. His strikeout rate increased (22.7%) and his SwStr% (11.2%) jumped as well. In fact, all of those strikeout-related marks, and others continued to improve as the season went on:
|Reds (1st Half)||64.1||18.40||27.70||68.70||82.10||62.60||8.60|
|Reds (2nd Half)||63.2||22.70||29.20||63.80||77.80||66.70||11.20|
You can see that batters increasingly swung more at Harvey’s outside offerings, generating less contact as the season wore on. He also got ahead of opposing hitters to a higher degree as well, putting him in a better position to use his arsenal in those matchups. Previously a fastball-heavy pitcher (39.6% of pitches in 2015 per Baseball Savant) who mixed all of his pitches (21.3% SI, 15.3% SL, 12.2% CH, 11.5% CU), Harvey’s sinker is now his go-to pitch (30.8% in 2018) and he leans more on his slider and less on his curve overall (28.4% FB, 24.1% SL, 11.4% CH, 5.4% CU).
This new approach changed even more in September, as Harvey mixed things up again, leaning even more on his sinker and slider (72.2% combined usage) while evening out the usage of his other three pitches (9.8% CU, 9.8% CH, 8.1% FB). This decline in fastball reliance coincided with his best month strikeout-wise (25.4% K%, 36.3% O-Swing%, 14.3% SwStr%) making it appear he has finally found the most effective pitching mix for the new Matt Harvey.
All of these signs, plus a return to his previous stinginess with walks (-5.3% BB% compared to 2017) has me slightly bullish that Harvey can return to fantasy relevance. Some of this will depend on where he signs his next deal, but there is enough within those second-half numbers to intrigue me in keeper, redraft and dynasty leagues. The Dark Knight is long gone, but if Harvey can keep up his second-half ratios, he has the chance to be a solid arm in 2019.
- Julio Teheran
Teheran continued a three-year trend of worsening control in 2018, walking 11.6% of batters faced (8.9% in 2017, 5.4% in 2016). He managed to limit the damage caused by these free passes due to a fortuitous BABIP (.217) that masked some of his struggles during the season. While his 3.94 ERA appears acceptable, in-depth looks (4.83 FIP, 4.72 xFIP, 4.67 SIERA) are more concerning, and he is unlikely to enjoy the same BABIP results in 2019 (.268 career BABIP) given that he posted his the highest Hard% (36.5%) of his career in 2018.
Velocity is also an area of concern, as Teheran lost almost 2 MPH on his fastball (90.4 average MPH in 2018) as compared to 2017. Despite these struggles, Teheran did set a new high for striking out batters, whiffing 22.4% of hitters faced. Improvements in his O-Contact% (-9.2%) and SwStr% (+1.8%) supported this jump, adding a positive note to an otherwise suspect performance. Unless Teheran can get back to his previous levels of control (sub-6% BB% in 2012-2014, 2016), however, he is going to struggle to be anything more than an inconsistent, back-end option for owners.
- Danny Duffy
Duffy’s 2016 (3.51 ERA, 1.14 whip, 25.7% K%, 5.8% BB%) seems like a lifetime ago and he has struggled to live up to that production ever since. Since that performance, Duffy has eclipsed 150 IP only once (2018) and has seen both his K% (25.7% in 2016, 21.4% in 2017, 20.4% in 2018) and BB% (5.8% in 2016, 6.7% in 2017, 10.1% in 2018) erode. That 3.4% jump in his BB% caused many of his issues this past season, contributing to his 4.88 ERA (4.70 FIP, 4.92 xFIP, 4.75 SIERA) and issues getting ahead of hitters (6.5% F-Strike%).
Batters caught up to his outside offerings, swinging less (-2% O-Swing%), missing less (-1.8% SwStr%), and generating more contact on those offerings as well (+7.3% O-Contact%). Most of Duffy’s secondary offerings did not perform as well compared to previous seasons (-0.25 wSI/C, -0.44 wCH/C, -2.26 wSL/C, +0.18 wCU/C), though his velocity remained constant (though lower than his 2015 averages).
Unless he improves his control and ability to make batters miss, Duffy is a low-end option for me in most leagues. He is still fairly young (29), but it is looking more and more like 2016 was the aberration in his performance rather than a level he can consistently achieve.