I’m back with more young pitchers. This week, we double dip into the Mets rotation, find two pitchers trying to be Tim Hudson (and not doing a very good job) and two more who have resurrected their 2015 values.
Recap: A little background on SOBB (StrikeOut percentage minus Base on Balls percentage) to start. You may have seen it on FanGraphs as K-BB%, as they added it last year, even without the catchy name. The reason they added it is the same reason I started and have been using it for three years: SOBB is a terrific predictor of future pitcher success or decline.
Using strikeout percentage is already a great start in evaluating pitchers, but taking it a step further to SOBB helps identify pitchers who are dominating hitters… or being dominated by them. SOBB helped predict the success of Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom last year, while also pointing to Brandon McCarthy eventually turning things around. It’s not perfect – no stat is – but it’s dang near close, and it’s why I will be highlighting notable SOBB artists from around the league each week. For reference, see the chart below for SOBB levels.
Steven Matz, NYM
It’s only been two starts, but Matz is showing signs that he could become the best hurler on the Mets’ staff. Through two starts, Matz has a 17.3 SOBB, which is nearly identical to his 17.5 mark in Triple-A. He has the potential to push it higher, as in his second start (Dodgers) Matz struck out eight and walked two. He posted a 26.1 SOBB in that game, and he already has a 11.4 SwStr% and 65.4 F-Strike%. Matz has always carried a K% in the mid to upper 20s, which will help him succeed in the majors and possibly push Jacob deGrom as the Mets’ best (yes, it’s deGrom and not Matt Harvey right now).
Williams Perez, ATL
Perez landed on the DL recently, and it’s probably a good thing for owners who were about to take the gamble. Perez is a risky pitcher since he pitches to contact and relies on ground balls. That’s okay in the majors… if you are highly skilled at it. Perez’s SOBB has regularly fallen in the low double-digits and was just 7.0 through 11 games. That’s part of the reason behind his 4.44 xFIP being higher than his 2.88 ERA. NL-only leaguers can grab Perez, but he’s too much of a risk in general mixed leagues.
Nick Martinez, TEX
Martinez is another pitcher you want to avoid, even more than Perez. Martinez’s SOBB is 5.4 and it was 3.6 last year and 4.5 during his last stint in Double-A. That’s awful. Tim Hudson regularly had a SOBB around 10 for his career, but he also offset the low mark with terrific ground ball numbers. Hudson never fell below a 53.1 GB% and had a few seasons over 60. As for Martinez, he’s sitting at 43.3. Even AL-only owners should stay away from this land mine.
Kendall Graveman, OAK
Graveman started the year roughly. In his first four starts, he had a 8.27 ERA, just seven strikeouts, nine walks and 15 earned runs. That equaled a negative SOBB! It was -2.4 over those starts, but then Graveman hit the minors and figured some things out. Since then, Graveman has increased his K%, lowered his BB% and improved his SOBB to 9.4. Now, that is far from great and still falls into Poor territory. However, Graveman is carrying a 49.2 GB%, which could still use improvement but is a bit hurt by one outing (Padres on June 18). During that time, Graveman has also posted an ERA of 1.78. While he will regress because of a high LOB% of 92.2, his xFIP is still below 4.00 at 3.88, which means Graveman can be a decent end-of-the-staff starter for many teams.
Noah Syndergaard, NYM
Sydnergaard isn’t outright dominating… yet. The signs are there though. He struggled a bit in his first outing, as is expected of most youngsters, walking four and giving up three runs in 5.1 IP. Syndergaard still struck out six, but it was a bumpy debut. Since then, Syndergaard has a 3.21 ERA, 2.91 xFIP, 53 Ks and just 8 BBs in 53.1 IP. That’s good for a 20.6 SOBB, and he twice topped 40 percent (Padres June 2, Blue Jays June 15). The best part is that Syndergaard’s BB% is just 3.7 over that time, which was his only real concern from the minors: would he have enough control to be consistent?Well, he does and is, and if you need help down the stretch, trade for him and don’t be afraid to pay a high cost.
Taijuan Walker, SEA
Walker is another pitcher like Graveman who struggled early. Walker never hit the minors, but some owners wish he did, and others likely dropped him. Through May 24, Walker had a 7.33 ERA and 7.7 SOBB with three negative SOBB games. Since then, Walker stopped walking people and started striking out a lot more, as his SOBB is 24.4 from May 29 to now. That’s terrific, and it’s why Walker is 6-1 with a 2.32 ERA in that time. The main reason behind this (besides improved control) is Walker boosted his SwStr% to 11.3 and has a great 68.3 F-Strike%. If you still had any doubts, they should be washed away.