Fantasy Baseball: Cy Young Disappointment and a Top 10 Overlooked Closer
A young star pitcher and last year's Cy Young winner are struggling. Meanwhile, two closers are impressing, including one with a history of disappointment. Plus, as always, we have your pitching streamers for next week in SOBB Your Way to Success.
As always, we use SOBB (breakdown here) as the initial base when projecting a pitcher's future performance.
Range of starting pitcher SOBBs (K-BB%) and the values they hold.
Range of relief pitcher SOBBs (K-BB%) and the values they hold.
Cheers or Tears
Michael Fulmer, DET – It was hard to find anyone who didn't think Fulmer would regress a bit from his brilliant debut last year. Through his May 22 start, it appeared everyone was wrong and Fulmer was on his way to being a Cy Young contender. Unfortunately, Fulmer's last four starts have been minor league worthy with a 5.54 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and just 13 strikeouts in 26.0 innings. Fulmer wasn't going to strike out a batter per inning, as he projects to a mid-seven K/9, but his mark was just 4.5 in those starts. Looking at the competition, the teams he faced either rank poorly or have a high strikeout rate. Both the White Sox (faced twice) and Angels rank low in runs (20th and 22nd). While the Rays score more (Top 10), they have the highest K% in the league at 25.8 percent. There are two factors behind Fulmer's struggles of late, as the majority of his metrics are in line with his norm. Fulmer's slider and changeup lost some of their effectiveness. Additionally, Fulmer is hanging pitches in the strike zone more often, which is leading to more hits and quality contact. It's quite possible that Fulmer is going through a rough patch and/or a "dead arm phase." That would make sense given his drop in SOBB (14.7 to 6.4), but it's worth monitoring his next start, especially pitch location. Fulmer still has less than two full MLB seasons, which could mean the league is adjusting or that he's struggling a bit with the rigors of his second year in the majors.
Rick Porcello, BOS – Similar to Fulmer, no one was buying Porcello's 2016 performance given his career year in ERA and 22 wins in 33 starts. Even with that ERA, the win total was boosted by his team, and Porcello had just 189 strike outs despite pitching 223.0 innings. Porcello has regressed back to his 2015 self. That year Porcello pitched to a 4.92 ERA with 7.8 K/9, a .332 BABIP and 1.3 HR/9. Last year, those numbers were 3.15, .269 and 0.9. To date, Porcello has 5.05, 8.3 and 1.6 marks. His SOBB didn't see a huge boost last year, but it was up 2.5 percentage points from 2015 at 17.6, and it's down to 16.1 this year. Digging deeper, Porcello has career highs in SwStr% (10.2) and F-Strike% (68.4), which makes his numbers a bit surprising. So where is the big change besides a slight dip in SOBB? Well, Porcello's changeup went from being very effective last year back to being his worst pitch, as it was in 2015. Want to see a clear picture of Porcello's problem? Look at the graphs. Location. Location. Location. This also helps explain his extreme jump in Hard%. Porcello clearly had a career year last season and isn't going to be near that value this year.
2016 Changeup Location
2017 Changeup Location
Felipe Rivero, PIT – Once the Pirates finally made to move to take Tony Watson out of the closer's role, the initial report was that Rivero and Juan Nicasio would share the job. If you happened to grab Rivero, don't worry about the split duty plan coming to fruition, especially after their game on June 16. Rivero has three saves since taking over and allowed just one earned run. For the year, Rivero has a sparkling 0.70 ERA with a 0.70 WHIP and a 22.9 SOBB. The SOBB isn't quite terrific, but it doesn't need to be when both his ERA and WHIP are below 1.00. Rivero is a lefty and in that June 16 game he entered the game during the higher leveraged point in the eighth inning. Nicasio took over in the ninth and promptly gave up four runs, blowing the game. To be fair, Nicasio had allowed just one earned run since April 22 prior to that blowup, but with Rivero being nearly perfect, it's hard to see Hurdle going back to Nicasio. While he does have a nice 2.37 ERA and 9.5 K/9, Nicasio's SOBB is at 17.5, which is close to last year's 18.1. Nicasio is good, but he's not as effective as Rivero – as we see in Hurdle asking Rivero to take the tougher matchups that night. Don't worry about Rivero losing much, if at all, to Nicasio.
Fernando Rodney, ARI – Since the start of May, Rodney has very quietly been one of the best closers in Fantasy Baseball. That's because he has 14 saves and a 0.00 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 16.2 innings. Strip away the name, and you would think we were talking about Wade Davis or another elite level closer. Rodney's numbers are similar to last year when it comes to strikeouts and walks. He's a top-level K-machine but he walks way too many batters. Rodney's SOBB was 13.1 last year and is 16.5 this year despite K% marks of 26.2 and 28.4. The good news is that Rodney always limits hits with less than one per inning, helping to limit the damage. While Rodney's BABIP looks lucky compared to last year (.258/.302), his strand rate has been unlucky at 54.8 (career 73.2) so you don't have to worry too much about luck regression. People simply assume Rodney is a low-level closer because of the WHIP, his history and that 4.73 ERA, but he's much better than that. Enjoy him if you have him and if you don't, try to grab Rodney from his owner.
Streaming Pitchers to Target Next Week (Last 30 Days Stats)
Padres: 20.5 SOBB, 28.2 K%, 90 wRC+
Mike Foltynewicz, ATL; Brandon McCarthy, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD
Orioles: 20.3 SOBB, 25.9 K%, 88 wRC+
J.A. Happ, TOR; Jacob Faria, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb, TB
Rangers: 18.9 SOBB, 26.7 K%, 93 wRC+
Mike Clevinger, Trevor Bauer, CLE; Derek Holland, Jose Quintana, CHW
Athletics: 18.6 SOBB, 26.7 K%, 100 wRC+
Mike Fiers, David Paulino, HOU; Julio Teheran, ATL
Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire
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