Fantasy Baseball

2016 Fantasy Baseball Pitching Planner Week 13: Pitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe

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pitching planner

Credit: Arturo Pardavila III

Ah, yes, ‘I can feel the changes’. (That’s from the Kendrick song I shamelessly punned the hell out of in the title. Sorry, had to do it!)

So, like everyone listed in the pitching planner I assume, I’m always trying to perfect my craft and figure out new ways to identify which pitchers to trust in short- and long-term scenarios. This week as I was studying Statcast and how to utilize that kind of information, it dawned on me. FanGraphs keeps tabs on pitch types, selection, and effectiveness!

I wondered… How can a dedicated fantasy player like myself use this information to my advantage?

So what I did, after I ranked the pitchers for the week, I looked at the pitch value chart for pitchers who have thrown enough innings to qualify. I then pulled up the overall team offenses versus certain pitches. It’s pretty simple after that – look at how a certain pitch type of Pitcher A stacks up against the rest of the field. Then, relate that to the team batting chart to see if that team excels or struggles against that pitch!

pitching planner

Credit: FanGraphs

As quick example, let’s say a pitcher you own is facing the tough Orioles offense this week and you are going back-and-forth on whether or not to start them. Pull up the chart to see what the Orioles do against all pitches. You see that they perform really well against higher velocity pitches like fastballs, sliders, and cutters. However, they suck against slower pace pitches like changeups and curveballs (to a lesser extent). In this case, a pitcher like Tanner Roark, who you might not normally think would succeed against a team like Baltimore, could thrive in this matchup.

Admittedly I know it’s a work in progress and I’m missing a lot of information like pitch types versus handedness of batters and pitch type trends in usage amongst others. However, I feel like there’s something to this methodology as a secondary form of selecting streamers and this week will assist in allowing my theory to play out for better or worse. If it doesn’t work out, I wasted quite a lot of time this week and I’m okay with that! Some scientists say that proving a hypothesis wrong can sometimes be just as ground-breaking as proving it right. (That’s such a wishy-washy statement!)

Well, I’m running out of introduction space, so let’s make this pitching planner a good one! I will be laying out some weighted pitch values for certain pitchers this week that intrigued me and feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@therealwody) for questions on weighted pitch types or extensions to my theory that could be useful!

Theme of the Week: Pitch Types & Values

Fantasy Baseball Pitching Planner – Week 13

Set & Forget – Sure-Fire Starters

  • Jake Arrieta (@CIN/@NYM) – By pitch values, Arrieta is once again heralded as a top performing pitcher with the 3rd best fastball and 7th best curveball amongst qualified pitchers. A common theme amongst the top tier pitchers in the game is a plus fastball, which makes complete sense considering how much more often the heater is thrown compared to other pitches and the type of deception you can create on other pitches if a batter is worried about the fastball during at bats. This will definitely be utilized in draft strategy with pitchers in the future for me.
  • Jose Fernandez (@ATL)
  • Clayton Kershaw (COL)
  • Corey Kluber (@ATL/@TOR)
  • Madison Bumgarner (@OAK) – He has nasty stuff all around based on the weighted pitch types as seen by his above average fastball, slider, and changeup. The Athletics are 20th or worst against all three of those pitches (based on the charts, they only hit curveballs at an elite level). This could be a stunner of a start for MadBum.
  • Jon Lester (@CIN/@NYM)
  • Stephen Strasburg (CIN)
  • Zack Greinke (PHI)
  • Steven Wright (LAA) – Guess who’s at the top of two pitch type charts? That’s Wright, it’s Steven (oh c’mon, that pun was gift-wrapped, I had to do it). Granted he is only one of two knuckleballers qualified, but his weighted value on that pitch would place in the top tier of the fastball chart, which is everyone else’s primary pitch. He mixes in his fastball and curveball just enough to be dangerous, which makes me respect the Red Sox pitch callers even more. The Angels will not threaten his fantastic run this week.
  • Johnny Cueto (@ARI)
  • Max Scherzer (NYM)
  • Jose Quintana (MIN/@HOU)
  • Trevor Bauer (@ATL/@TOR) – This is quite the jump for Bauer but hear me out. Last week I talked about his limiting of walks this season and being impressed with his first strike approach. This week, I want to point out how well he’s been mixing pitches as seen by his weighted pitch types. He’s got three pitches (fastball, curveball, changeup) in the above average in up club and a cutter that is a little below average. However, according to FanGraphs, this cutter was not thrown last year and it’s possible that this fourth pitch may be keeping hitters off balance just enough to make the other pitches more valuable. Lots of assumptions here, but I am excited about Bauer moving forward although I have no shares of him anywhere unfortunately.
  • David Price (@TB)
  • Chris Sale (@HOU)
  • Drew Pomeranz (NYY)
  • Jeff Samardzija (OAK/@ARI) – The Giants pitching staff has worked up another wonder in the free agent market by changing the pitch selection almost entirely for Samardzija. Over the last two years his cutter usage has increased from 11% in 2014, to 22% in 2015, and all the way to 33% this season. This at the expense of his split finger change, which has graded out as an average or below pitch. So with his cutter/slider/fastball combo, he should have pretty good starts this week against Oakland and even Arizona as they have shown the capability to struggle against a good slider.
  • Justin Verlander (@TB)
  • Kenta Maeda (@MIL)
  • Danny Salazar (@ATL)
  • Masahiro Tanaka (TEX) – Tanaka’s pitch usage chart was pretty crazy to me and could explain how he has so many arm issues. He basically throws three pitches around ~30% of the time – fastball, slider, and split finger. A split finger fastball can not be used ~30% of pitches without consequences. Not to be nostalgic, but that was my go-to pitch back in the high school days and, with that ball wedged in between your index and middle fingers, the only release mechanism possible is to limp your wrist and put more strain on the biceps and elbow. I can’t imagine throwing that pitch more than three or four times an inning as my 18-year-old self, let alone throwing it every third pitch as a professional expected to throw 200+ innings in a season. Enough of that reminiscing, for this week against Texas, I think the split fastball can be a deadly weapon.
  • Jacob deGrom (CHC)
  • Kyle Hendricks (@CIN)
  • Carlos Carrasco (@TOR)
  • Adam Wainwright (@KC/MIL) – Waino is back! After a brutal start to the year, he’s put together a string of good starts. His pitch usage hasn’t changed over the last four years and neither has his velocity, so control issues must have been present in the early portion of 2016. Well that’s no more a problem and his cutter/curveball combination matches up pretty well against both the Royals and Brewers this week.
  • John Lackey (@NYM)
  • Julio Teheran (MIA)
  • Cole Hamels (@NYY/@MIN)
  • Carlos Martinez (KC) – Owner of the best fastball/changeup combination in the majors, Martinez gets a Royals squad that struggles mightily against changeups. However, his slider has been below average this season, which makes me wonder what his pitch selection looks like against handedness of batter (which I couldn’t figure out how to do on multiple sites). It’s a nasty pitch, so I just wonder if it could be used in better scenarios or just locating it poorly versus lefties. I’ll try to figure something out on that front in the upcoming week.
  • Joe Ross (NYM/CIN)
  • Tanner Roark (NYM/CIN)
  • Dallas Keuchel (@LAA)
  • Noah Syndergaard (@WSH/CHC) – I wanted to keep Thor on the must-start list, but I couldn’t justify putting him higher on the list just because of his injury scare in the past week. This is why I was avoiding him in drafts. I mean obviously the guy is a top talent, but he along with Strasburg and Fernandez were guys that I couldn’t draft because of the obvious workload limits and potential injuries that could arise. You don’t throw an average fastball velocity (AVERAGE!) of 98.1 MPH as a starting pitcher and stay off the short list for potential arm issues. I hope he’s good to go and stays out of major injury trouble for his career, but I’m a worrier.
  • Yordano Ventura (@PHI)

Dream Stream – Streaming Options to Employ

  • Steven Matz (@WSH) – I really wanted to put Matz in the must start section, but the start against the Nationals has me hesitant. They are in the top 7 in all the major categories like AVG, wOBA, wRC+, etc. against southpaws which actually surprises me since, when I think of the Nats offense, I think of all the left-handed bats they present. Nonetheless, although Matz has been a little inconsistent lately ad the matchup isn’t ideal, I still would recommend starting him this week.
  • Sonny Gray (PIT)
  • Gio Gonzalez (CIN)
  • Jerad Eickhoff (@ARI)
  • Jake Odorizzi (DET)
  • Jason Hammel (@NYM) – Hammel has an interesting pitch chart that I am surprised hasn’t been exploited by more opposing offenses. His fastball/slider combination is lights out, fire, savage, whatever the kids are saying these days. However, his tertiary pitch (curveball) has been pretty terrible according to the pitch value chart. Why aren’t teams just gearing up for the fastball/slider in certain counts if the curveball isn’t fantastic? Regression from his shiny 2.55 ERA is almost inevitable and if you can deal him at SP2 or SP3 value then go for it! This week against the Mets, who struggle against fastball/slider combos, could be your chance to sell high.
  • Rick Porcello (@TB)
  • Junior Guerra (LAD)
  • Aaron Nola (KC)
  • Michael Wacha (@KC/MIL)
  • Jordan Zimmerman (@TB) – Zimm has been hittable over the past few weeks and some might say the regression is real. I’m not an “I told you so” kinda guy, so I will hold off on that front, but the major part of his regression seems to be the fastball. It’s graded out as below average amongst qualified pitchers and if he’s throwing that thing 65% of the time in his next start out against the Rays, I’m very concerned. However, if he’s able to mix in sliders and curveballs a little more frequently and earlier in counts, he may be able to have decent success as the Rays are average or worse against those two pitches.
  • Danny Duffy (STL/@PHI)
  • Jaime Garcia (MIL)
  • Doug Fister (CWS)
  • Michael Fulmer (MIA/@TB)
  • Collin McHugh (@LAA/CWS) – He’s been quietly putting together a couple of good starts and trying his best to match his 4.70 ERA to a more reasonable 3.74 FIP and become fantasy relevant again. What I like about McHugh is his ability mix up four pitches and, even though they are below average, maybe with more data as the season progresses he will be able to mix them up a little better. This week for example, if he can limit curveball usage against the Angels and limit changeup usage against the White Sox, it could be a wonderful two-start week. Seems too simplistic, I’m missing something right?
  • Francisco Liriano (LAD/@OAK)
  • Chris Tillman (@SEA)
  • Archie Bradley (PHI)
  • Jameson Taillon (@SEA)
  • Robbie Ray (PHI/SF) – Normally, I don’t trust Ray in my starting lineups. This week is no different. HOWEVER, I can’t ignore the juicy matchup against the Phillies and this week is a little bare in terms of two-start pitchers in the streaming category. If you are in a bind and scouring the waivers for someone to give you innings, Ray can certainly be that guy. The Giants have been just average in June offensively after losing a couple of key players so that start doesn’t worry me as much as it normally does.
  • Mike Leake (KC)
  • Lance McCullers (@LAA)
  • Nathan Eovaldi (@SD)
  • Adam Conley (@DET/@ATL) – Am I worried about the start against the Tigers? Yes, terrified. For those of you with daily transactions in your league, absolutely sit him and just start him against the Braves. However, if you have lineups that lock at the beginning of the week, I could still see plenty of people using him just for the upside in that Atlanta start. Last week’s 8-inning shutout performance was pretty amazing and there’s no reason to think he couldn’t do something similar to that for a second week in a row.
  • Jonathan Gray (TOR/@LAD)
  • Matt Harvey (@WSH/CHC)
  • Zack Davies (LAD)
  • Bud Norris (MIA)
  • Carlos Rodon (MIN) – According to the pitch values, Rodon’s slider has been a solid pitch but the rest of his arsenal lacks potency. The Twins aren’t a good enough offense to completely exploit these faults, but I’m still skeptical of how well this start could go for Rodon. Like I said earlier though, the pool for streaming options is thin and there’s also quite a few pitchers usually at the top of the streaming list that I’m avoiding this week so Rodon just makes the cut. What frequently happens when I skeptically stick someone in the streaming list is an embarrassing performance to make me look bad. C’mon Rodon, don’t let me down!
  • Drew Smyly (DET)
  • Julio Urias (@PIT/COL)
  • Brandon Finnegan (@WSH)
  • Taijuan Walker (BAL)

Bet & Regret – Streaming Options to Avoid

  • Scott Kazmir (COL) – Look, you could check out the home/road splits for the Rockies and feel compelled to start Kazmir here. I won’t be one of those people because I still feel confident in the right-handed bats from Colorado smacking the daylights out of any fastball he tries to groove past them. This could be a contrarian stack in DFS tournaments with LeMahieu, Arenado, Reynolds, and even Blackmon considering his R/L splits aren’t that extreme and he could be priced down due to handedness.
  • Chris Archer (BOS/DET)
  • James Paxton (BAL)
  • Marcus Stroman (CLE)
  • J.A. Happ (@COL/CLE) – Yeah, so, all that stuff above about the Rockies hitting southpaw fastballs well plus the Coors Field factor leaves me out on starting Happ this week. Then throw in the Indians who have been on fire in June offensively and I can’t make any argument for starting him this week.
  • Chad Bettis (@LAD)
  • Aaron Sanchez (@COL)
  • Jeremy Hellickson (KC)
  • Matt Wisler (CLE/MIA)
  • Mike Fiers (CWS)
  • Marco Estrada (@COL/CLE)
  • Josh Tomlin (@TOR)
  • Patrick Corbin (SF)
  • John Gant (CLE/MIA)
  • Bartolo Colon (CHC) – You know Rihanna sang a song about him once? “Throw it up, throw it up, watching Bartolo!” Okay those lyrics may be misheard, but that song could be about Bartolo’s extreme usage of the fastball. The Cubs would love that song and dance, seeing as they are in the top 10 versus fastballs as a team regarding the pitch value chart. This has blowup potential, just watch it all fall off (see what I did there? Maybe I need to have a lyrically-themed article one week. Hmm…)
  • Jimmy Nelson (LAD/@STL)
  • Matt Shoemaker (HOU/@BOS)
  • Daniel Mengden (@SF/PIT)
  • Blake Snell (BOS/DET)
  • Kevin Gausman (@SEA) – Gausman has decent but not great stuff, but the matchup this week is just brutal in Seattle. Honestly, this might be a wonderful start to exploit in DFS as the Mariners feast on righties and the pitch value charts basically fall right in line with what Gausman likes to do. Mariners crush fastballs while Gausman has around an average one. Mariners crush sliders while Gausman has a slider that grades out poorly. If Gaus can turn to his split this week, he might have a chance but I wouldn’t count on it. Any lefty starting for Seattle in this one is playable (cheap players include Seth Smith, Nori Aoki).
  • Hisashi Iwakuma (PIT/BAL)
  • Jake Peavy (@OAK)
  • Nathan Karns (BAL)
  • R.A. Dickey (CLE)
  • C.C. Sabathia (TEX/@SD) – Reality hit hard for C.C. against the Rockies at home last week, which honestly was to be expected as Yankee Stadium is probably in the next tier of pro-offense parks after Coors Field. Now, will the regression train keep on steaming through? I believe so. Texas has been on absolute fire over the last two months and are showing World Series potential. The Padres aren’t even in the conversation for playoffs, but they love facing southpaws and I’m expecting my boy Wil Myers to keep strutting his game (seriously, check out his stats this season!). Please don’t get cute, sit him this week.
  • Ervin Santana (TEX)
  • James Shields (MIN)
  • Michael Pineda (TEX)
  • Christian Friedrich (BAL)
  • Anthony DeSclafani (@WSH)

About Tyler Thompson

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