We’re three weeks into the season. Are you worried yet?
Whether your team is in first place or in the cellar, you surely have at least a player or two who hasn’t been performing. Over the last two weeks, we’ve looked at early velocity trends. Now several turns into MLB rotations, we have enough data to verify if early pitcher velocity issues were just a fluke or something more.
That’s why I’m a frightened Kevin Gausman owner.
According to FanGraphs, the average fastball velocities in his first four starts were 92.7, 93.5, 92.3, and 93.4. That adds up to 92.9 mph for the season, down more than two mph from the worst average velocity of his career (last season). Granted, the overall results have gotten better since his first start, allowing three runs or fewer in three consecutive starts, but Gausman still has a 5.57 ERA and has allowed six home runs in only 21 innings.
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Why am I so concerned about the impact of his velocity loss? Look at last year. There were only 13 starting pitchers who saw velocity decreases of at least one mph from 2016 to 2017. Collectively, that group was a complete disaster last season. The average ERA increase was 1.16 and average WHIP increase was 0.13. Just one pitcher among the group had improvement in both ERA and WHIP (James Paxton). Among the other 12 pitchers, there were several injuries (Danny Duffy, Rich Hill, Joe Ross, Chris Tillman), demotions (Adam Conley, Junior Guerra), and retirements (Matt Cain, Mike Pelfrey).
The early trend for Gausman isn’t good, and this is already a pitcher whose trends were going in the wrong direction before this season, with an ugly 4.68 ERA and 1.50 WHIP last year. At this point, I’m taking whatever I can get for Gausman in a 12-plus team league or just cutting bait in a shallower league.
-It’s always fun to look at gaudy stats at this point in the year. Two pitchers who have positive signs and upcoming two-start weeks are Rick Porcello and Jose Berrios. The pair lead MLB in K/BB ratio, and also have sub-2.00 ERAs to start the season. Berrios has 29/1 K/BB in 27.2 innings, which is very promising after posting a 3.0 BB/9 last season. He did have a career 2.5 BB/9 in the minors, including 2.4 BB/9 at Triple-A. Meanwhile, the inconsistent Porcello is back in Cy Young form after struggling last season. The biggest culprit for Porcello’s struggles in recent seasons has been his inability to keep the ball in the park, but he has yet to allow a long ball in 25.2 innings. Also, remember that Porcello led the AL in K/BB ratio during his 2016 Cy Young campaign.
-Trevor Cahill’s season debut was extremely encouraging, tossing seven scoreless innings against the White Sox. His move back to the rotation last season was overshadowed by a poor finish and shoulder issues with the Royals, so it’s easy to forget how effective he was early in the year with the Padres. Before getting traded, Cahill had a 3.69 ERA, 10.6 K/BB, and 3.00 K/BB ratio in 11 starts, along with a 3.44 FIP. Those were worthy numbers in mixed leagues, especially with his 56 percent groundball rate. He could be worth a flier if he’s still available in your league.
-Going along with Gausman, I’m still concerned about Robbie Ray’s loss of velocity. However, it is starting to trend in the right direction. He had his best velocity of the season vs. San Francisco on Wednesday, averaging 93.4 mph, still about one mph below last year’s average velocity. That increase was clear, with Ray throwing his fastball more often in that start. That’s a good sign, but I wouldn’t hesitate if you can get good value for him in a trade.
-Vince Velasquez has been very good over four starts, with a K/9 back above 10.0 and a 2.1 BB/9 that’s easily the best of his career and less than half of what it was last season. But this is also a pitcher who has never thrown more than 131 innings in a season, so let’s not jinx it, okay?
-The Reds fired pitching coach turned manager Bryan Price and current pitching coach Mack Jenkins after a 3-15 start. It’s no coincidence with the league’s worst rotation ERA (5.59) through 18 games. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, though. The team’s xFIP is 4.49, and Tyler Mahle, in particular, has had some bad luck. Mahle has a .356 BABIP despite a K/BB ratio of nearly 3.00. The long balls are a concern, but this is a pitcher who posted a 2.06 ERA between Double- and Triple-A last season with a 1.9 BB/9. I’m not ready to give up just yet.
Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, April 20, and are subject to change.
Gerrit Cole: LAA, OAK
Carlos Carrasco: @BAL, SEA
Rick Porcello: @TOR, TB
Jose Berrios: @NYY, CIN
Masahiro Tanaka: MIN, @LAA
J.A. Happ: BOS, TEX
CC Sabathia: MIN, @LAA
Kevin Gausman: CLE, DET
Matt Boyd: @PIT, @BAL
Trevor Cahill: @TEX, @HOU
Jake Faria: @BAL, @BOS
Mike Leake: @CHW, @CLE
At Your Own Risk
Marco Gonzales: @CHW, @CLE
Tyler Skaggs: @HOU, NYY
Ian Kennedy: MIL, CHW
Josh Tomlin: CHC, SEA
Alex Cobb: CLE, DET
Miguel Gonzalez: SEA, @KC
Carson Fulmer: SEA, @KC
Matt Moore: OAK, @TOR
Phil Hughes: @NYY, CIN
Kenta Maeda: MIA, @SF
Gio Gonzalez: @SF, ARI
Robbie Ray: @PHI, @WAS
Vince Velasquez: ARI, ATL
Steven Matz: @STL, @SD
Chad Bettis: SD, @MIA
Brandon McCarthy: @CIN, @PHI
Tyler Chatwood: @CLE, MIL
Zach Davies: @KC, @CHC
Chad Kuhl: DET, STL
Chris Stratton: WAS, LAD
At Your Own Risk
Sal Romano: ATL, @MIN
Tyler Mahle: ATL, @MIN
Adam Wainwright: NYM, @PIT
Ty Blach: WAS, LAD
Matt Wisler: @CIN, @PHI
Bryan Mitchell: @COL, NYM
The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:
Thursday, April 26: Jake Junis vs. CHW
The White Sox have the 13th best OPS in baseball, but please excuse me for being a non-believer after they had the seventh worst OPS last season and made almost no offseason moves. Junis was pounded in his last outing after consecutive scoreless starts, but this is a matchup to use him.
Friday, April 27: Jake Odorizzi vs. CIN
The aforementioned Reds have the third worst OPS in baseball so far. That probably won’t continue when Joey Votto breaks out of his early slump, but there are huge holes in this lineup, especially without Eugenio Suarez. Odorizzi’s early peripherals are just as mediocre as last season despite a good beginning to his season, but this is another opportunity to use him.
Saturday, April 28: Jaime Garcia vs. TEX
Garcia has been a popular name in this spot, as he’s had some favorable early matchups. He has another coming next week against a Rangers lineup without Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus, and Delino DeShields that has a .629 OPS vs. lefties, eighth worst in baseball. Garcia already beat Texas two weeks ago when they were healthier.
Monday, April 23: Zach Davies @ KC
Davies has been very inconsistent early this season, as usual, but is coming off a 6.1 innings scoreless performance vs. Cincinnati. He gets another very favorable matchup on Monday against a Royals lineup that has the worst OPS in the AL vs. right-handers.
Saturday, April 28: Zack Wheeler @ SD
It’s much too early to say that Wheeler is back after two decent starts, especially when one was against the Marlins, but Matt Harvey’s struggles might have bought him more time in the rotation. If he can survive Sunday’s start at Atlanta, he has a weak Padres lineup waiting for him next weekend.
Sunday, April 29: Chad Bettis @ MIA
Bettis has been one of the best stories of the early season, with a 3-0 record and 1.44 ERA in four starts after returning from testicular cancer last year. His 1.50 K/BB ratio doesn’t support the great start, but he’s had three starts away from Coors Field and gets one more at Miami late next week. Not surprisingly, the Marlins have the third lowest OPS in baseball vs. right-handers.
6: BOS, DET, HOU, LAA, OAK, TB, TEX, TOR
7: BAL, CLE, KC, MIN, NYY, SEA,
6: ARI, CHC, COL, MIA, MIL, NYM, PHI, PIT, SD, STL, WAS
7: ATL, CIN, LAD, SF
Here’s some injuries to prominent players from the last week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at Rotoworld's Injury Page.
Byron Buxton: Placed on DL (migraines)
Logan Forsythe: Will return April 25 (shoulder)
Ken Giles: Day-to-day (back)
Carlos Gonzalez: Day-to-day (hamstring)
Brian Goodwin: Placed on DL (wrist)
Josh Harrison: Out six weeks (hand)
Ryon Healy: Could return next week (ankle)
Rich Hill: Could return April 25 (finger)
Max Kepler: Day-to-day (knee)
Kevin Kiermaier: Out 8-12 weeks (thumb)
Manuel Margot: Could report Sunday (ribs)
Chris Owings: Status uncertain (head)
Hunter Pence: Day-to-day (thumb)
Salvador Perez: Could return next week (knee)
Manny Pina: Placed on DL (calf)
Jurickson Profar: Status uncertain (concussion)
Erasmo Ramirez: Will return Sunday (lat)
Anibal Sanchez: Placed on DL (shoulder)
Jonathan Schoop: Could return April 24 (oblique)
Christian Villanueva: Day-to-day (hand)
Taijuan Walker: Out for the season (elbow)