He’s the one who likes all our pretty songs
And he likes to sing along and he likes to shoot his gun
But he don’t know what it means
Don’t know what it means
– ‘In Bloom’, Nirvana
So you are an intimate fan or believer in something or someone from the very beginning. Through thick and thin, you stood by this something or someone and are finally rewarded when that thing or person blossoms into relevance. Now, you choose between fighting off or welcoming aboard the folks who previously were naysayers on the bandwagon.
The late Kurt Cobain wrote an entire song about it. ‘In Bloom‘ was a song aimed at their bandwagon fans who only knew a couple of their catchy songs and not their message. What backfired here was that ‘In Bloom’ was really damn catchy – perhaps their catchiest song outside of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. So, this created quite the hilarious conundrum. A song designed to call out their fake fans for listening to their mainstream songs probably just drew in more of the same.
Where was I going with this? Oh, right. So we are three weeks deep into this 2017 baseball season. It’s now time to start looking at the underlying meanings of player performance rather than just enjoying their surface stats. Granted, most stats for pitchers are still in the ‘normalization’ process including opposing AVG/wOBA, weighted pitch types, and home run rates.
The three statistics that I focus on at this point in the season are strikeout rates, walk rates, and pitch selection. It’s a good time to look at K% and BB% because these rates don’t involve outlying factors like defense or ballpark. For typical target rates for K% and BB%, check out this chart from FanGraphs. Players like Drew Pomeranz in 2016 were easy to spot on waiver wires because of early season strikeout and walk rates.
Now, if you are looking at a player that has differing K/BB ratios, here’s where the pitch selection comes in handy. Say you, like everyone else in baseball, is wondering how the hell Jason Vargas is pitching so well. You want to see if he’s doing anything different with his repertoire. Son of a gun, nothing has changed at all, same exact percentages as his below average self from 2014-2015. From there, you have a right to be skeptical from a guy who is throwing the same exact stuff and has a left-on-base percentage of 93.8%.
This is the time to use some data to determine pickups or drops. If you are thorough, you can differentiate between the pitchers putting on a fake show and the ones who could be in bloom for a wonderful 2017 campaign.
2017 Fantasy Baseball Week 4 Pitching Planner
The Auto-Start tier strictly includes pitchers that should be started every week regardless of matchup.
|Chris Sale||Red Sox||NYY|
|Marcus Stroman||Blue Jays||TB|
|Jose Quintana||White Sox||KC|
|Rick Porcello||Red Sox||NYY||CHC|
- No one promoted to the big boy tier this week. Step it up second tier! I will admit though that there are a couple of guys that are very close.
- There are no relegations this week, but I’m being very kind. Kyle Hendricks must have a bounce back start this week against a paltry Pirates team. The White Sox need trade candidate Jose Quintana to stop struggling, as do fantasy owners. Masahiro Tanaka needs to find his groove as well. Plenty of guys put on notice. I’m gonna be harsher next week!
Editor’s Note: Madison Bumgarner lost a fight with a dirt bike the other day and will be out for a couple of months. I’m not outright telling you to drop him, but if he is going to be out for longer than two months I’m considering it.
This tier consists of pitchers who don’t quite reach the trust level of Auto-Starts. However, due to matchup or recent performance, they are capable of having elite level production for the week.
|Drew Pomeranz||Red Sox||NYY|
- Vintage Beardman is back! Dallas Keuchel is back to his heavy groundball and weak contact inducing ways in the early going. Now, a 99% LOB isn’t going to continue. But, if you bought into Keuchel’s second half of 2016, you are looking pretty smart for it.
- Tanner Roark never gets any love. He’s forgotten about even in his own rotation. He barely walks anyone, hasn’t given up a dinger yet, and his FIP still says he can do better. He’s become quite the ‘set and forget’ pitcher for fantasy rotations everywhere.
- Those who drafted Felix Hernandez in the middle rounds have to be very pleased with what they’ve got from him in April. He’s got that four pitch mix rolling again and look sharp every time out. Even though it’s a tough two start week, I’m excited for King Felix for this week and rest of season to see if he can get even better.
- Jake Odorizzi would’ve been a good play this week had he not gotten hurt. It’s officially a hamstring strain and a trip to the disabled list. However, I think it’ll be a minimum stay so better days ahead for Odorizzians.
The Dream Stream group more closely reflects the pitchers that you might find on the waiver wire depending on league size.
|Marco Estrada||Blue Jays||@STL||TB|
|Francisco Liriano||Blue Jays||@LAA||TB|
- A perfect study of pitch selection comes in the form of Dylan Bundy this season versus previous ones. Bundy has brought back the cutter into his bag of tricks, throwing it for almost 30% of his pitches after not throwing it once (!) in all of 2016. It’s been a very effective pitch thus far and is a nice middle-ground velocity pitch between his hard fastball and off-speed stuff. I’m sorta buying this working in the long-term.
- The Pirates have been miserable this season, but there’s been one positive at least. Ivan Nova has been pitching lights out for them. Yes, you’d like to see the strikeouts get back up to his previous levels. However, allowing zero walks and 50% grounders is a great way to get the majority of hitters out. Nova is a great waiver add if he is still somehow available in your league.
- Ian Kennedy can be a pretty predictable player between allowed batted ball profile and strikeout-to-walk ratios. The key ingredient to success for him is mitigating the home run damage and he has done that very well this season. I tend to target teams that are trying to hit fly balls too much against him. The Twins fit this description very well.
- Flashback to the 2014-2015 glory days of streaming! Jesse Hahn is looking fantastic in his first few starts and gets a decent opportunity at Anaheim. I see a ton of ground balls induced in this game.
These pitchers are better left on your bench or the waiver wire. Guys closer to the top could be on the brink of being promoted in the right matchup or with a continued hot streak.
|Eduardo Rodriguez||Red Sox||CHC|
- Another unsung hero, Matt Andriese is doing his best Roark impersonation and becoming a solid reliever-turned-starter. If Toronto bats are still cold by this point, I would definitely consider throwing Andriese as a streamer.
- I have never been a Chase Anderson guy and he always has a stretch of games where he goes insane and makes you believe. I say don’t do it. This Braves matchup is going to tempt a lot of people but I could easily see Freddie Freeman hitting a couple bombs off of him. Best left on the waiver wire unless you’re in a deeper league.
- Time now for Tyler’s Simplistic Scouting Spotlight on Tim Adleman. He stands 6’5″ and has a standard throwing motion/delivery. There’s four pitches here including a two-seamer (92), four-seamer (92), changeup (84), and a nice hook (75). Best comparison I can come up with is Michael Wacha with less strikeout potential.
- I know the statistics don’t follow my train of thought here, but everytime I watch Tyler Anderson pitch I am impressed. He does lots of things well and shouldn’t be written off just yet. Luck will start to bounce his way soon enough.