Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:

NFL    NBA    MLB

Already have an account? Log in here.

[X]

Forgot Password


[X]

Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 21


Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

This week we're looking at two rookies. A domestic (Adrian Houser), and an import (Yusei Kikuchi). Both have put him some interesting results as of late and deserve a deep dive to see if they're worth adding down the stretch.

Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 08/12/2019. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers widely available that could be useful in fantasy, whether they have been recently added by a ton of teams or are still sitting on waivers.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!

 

Adrian Houser, Milwaukee Brewers

16% Owned

2019 Stats (prior to these starts): 63.2 IP, 4.24 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 15.6% K-BB%

08/10 vs. TEX: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K
08/16 @ WSH: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

Houser may occasionally throw up his lunch on the mound, but he’s also been throwing up zeros over some dominant innings over his last two starts. Houser has allowed just two runs combined over his last 13 innings, along with 14 strikeouts. Houser once had a little bit of prospect pedigree, having come over to Milwaukee as part of the deal that sent Carlos Gomez to Houston. That pedigree faded as Houser struggled in the high minors, but he’s finally flashing some upside in 2019. Houser boasts a deep five-pitch arsenal, highlighted by a 95 MPH four-seamer. He also throws a two-seam fastball, a curveball, a changeup, and a brand new slider.

Houser has ramped up his slider usage as of late, throwing the pitch 19% of the time over his last three starts, an increase of 7.5%. Well, there’s our answer. He increased his slider usage, and now he’s good. Now we can move on to more important things, like Jason Vargas’s recent hot streak…

Alright, fine, there’s more depth to Houser’s performance than that. Guess we’ll have to table Jason Vargas for now. Or I can sum it up in one sentence. Don’t add Jason Vargas. Now, back to Houser. Houser’s slider is not only a brand new pitch, but he’s been throwing it more often, which has coincided with his hot streak. Normally, that’s how pitchers take the next step. But, in Houser’s case, the slider’s performance just doesn’t stack up. The pitch has below average movement and spin, and batters are hitting .375 against the pitch this season. The pitch has performed even worse as Houser’s increased his usage. Over his last three starts, batters are hitting .400 against Houser’s slider, and the whiff rate has fallen 4%, to a measly 11.4%. Houser is succeeding in spite of his new slider, rather than because of it.

The real key to Houser’s success has been his fastballs. Batters have struggled against both his four-seamer and sinker. Opponents are hitting .186 with a .194 xBA and 88.7 MPH average exit velocity against Houser’s four-seamer, and are hitting .242 with a .203 xBA and 82.9 MPH average exit velocity against his sinker. Houser’s sinker lives up to the pitch’s reputation as a groundball pitch, as batters have an average launch angle of -5 degrees against his sinker along with a 75% groundball rate. The success of this pitch makes me believe most in Houser’s 3.71 xFIP as an ERA estimate, because Houser’s 20.8% HR/FB ratio seems abnormally high based on his ability to induce groundballs. Houser also has a wide gap between his xSLG (.342) and actual SLG (.418), which gives us even more reason to buy into a forthcoming reduction in power numbers against him.

Houser profiles as an above-average ground-ball pitcher with good contact management skills. His strikeout numbers seem a bit juiced by his 10-strikeout game against the Rangers. That game was a little fluky, as Houser notched 13 of his 18 swinging strikes with either his four-seam or two-seam fastball. Owners shouldn’t expect results like that to be sustainable over time. If we subtracted that game from his totals, Houser would have an 8.1 K/9 as a starter. That’s a respectable number, especially considering his groundball abilities, but nothing special. Houser still has value depending on the matchup or week ahead. I wouldn’t rush to grab him, but I wouldn’t be afraid to use him either.

Verdict:

Elite groundball numbers and sinker performance make Houser a viable starter. His secondary arsenal lags behind his fastballs, and therefore Houser’s strikeout potential is limited. He’s a viable streamer or two-start option, and certainly worth adding in an NL-only league.

Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle Mariners

31% Owned

2019 Stats (prior to this start): 126.1 IP, 5.56 ERA, 6.00 FIP, 9.4% K-BB%

08/18 @ TOR: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K

Many were excited to see Kikuchi come from Japan to the majors, but after posting a 4.94 ERA in the first half, Kikuchi probably spent his All-Star break pricing out flights to Tokyo. Things had only been getting worse for Kikuchi, as he’s posted a 5.84 ERA since the break. Even with some rather ugly numbers, Kikuchi has put up solid numbers in two of his last three starts. He struck out eight Padres over five innings on August 7, and fired a CGSO Sunday in Toronto. Sandwiched between that was a five run stinker against the worst offense in baseball, the Tigers. It is starts like that which have made Kikuchi so frustrating to predict. Seriously, who gives up five runs to the Tigers? Even with poor outings like that tarnishing his record, a CGSO is such a rarity these days that Kikuchi’s performance demands our attention.

Kikuchi’s arsenal is about as basic as a mid-20s woman who drinks White Claw. He has a four-seam fastball that clocks in at 92.5 MPH, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. The slider and changeup have been the best two pitches for Kikuchi. He has a whiff rate above 24% on each pitch, along with an opposing BA below .240. Kikuchi has been increasing his slider usage over these last two starts, having thrown the pitch 33.3% of the time in his last start. He’s been throwing the pitch over 30% of the time over his last six starts, but with mixed results. He has a 5.73 ERA over that stretch, but he’s either given up five runs or more, or two runs or fewer. There’s been no middle ground for Kikuchi, even though he’s begun using his best pitch more often. His strikeout rate has risen to 7.37 K/9, which is a 0.5 K/9 improvement, but still woefully underwhelming. And these are the results he’s getting by leaning on his best pitch. The rest of his repertoire leaves much to be desired.

Kikuchi’s fastball has been smoked this season for a .324 BA and 89.9 MPH average exit velocity against, and his curveball has been even worse. Batters are hitting .323 with a .361 xBA and .629 SLG against Kikuchi’s curveball in 2019. Even with increased slider usage, the fastball and curveball make up approximately 60% of Kikuchi’s pitch mix. How does a starter get away with throwing meatballs 60% of the time? He doesn’t. That’s why Kikuchi has a 5.19 ERA and 5.72 FIP on year. He hasn’t been getting away with using these pitches, and he can’t exactly phase out his fastball, so that means we should keep our hands off Kikuchi in standard leagues.

Verdict:

Based on his history of roller coaster performances, imbalanced arsenal, and lack of big strikeout upside, Kikuchi simply doesn’t seem worth the risk. It’s more likely he’ll be chased by the fifth inning than go for seven strong. If one was desperate they could use Kikuchi in a pinch, but he has even struggled in what should be easy matchups this season. This start isn’t enough to sway my opinion of him, especially during this crucial time of the season.

More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice




More Recent Articles

 

Week 8 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

This was a REALLY difficult week to rank, because there are so many usable DSTs this week. There are usable options all the way down to Tier 4 this week, and you're going to have something available to you on the waiver wire in even the deepest of leagues. Below are RotoBaller's Week 8 defense... Read More


Week 7 Start/Sit: Monday Night Football Matchups Analysis

Even if this doesn’t turn out to be great MNF game, at least it's a divisional game with some importance. This is what Jets fans need to tell themselves heading into their second Monday Night Football game of the season. With the New England Patriots coming to town off their annual semi-bye in which they... Read More


Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups & Adds

It's Chase Edmonds' world, we're just living in it. Wait, what? Hopefully you added him, as suggested in this column the past two weeks, because even if David Johnson is deemed healthy enough to actually play, it's likely Edmonds continues to see action. In QB news, by the halfway point of Thursday night, we already had... Read More


Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 8

The regular season continues to advance at a relentless pace as we have now entered planning for Week 8. Some of you are ecstatic with the level of production that has been delivered by your running backs. But many of you have been contending with unwanted developments at this position including injuries, inconsistent usage, and... Read More


Wide Receiver Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 8

We're heading into Week 8 of the NFL season. By now, some of y'all are getting a good sense of where you're at fantasy-wise, if you're heading to the postseason or playing for fun or, in a dynasty league, building for the future. This look at wide receivers is for all of you. As we... Read More


Week 8 Tight End Waiver Wire Picks and Streamers

A two-team bye week is a lot easier for fantasy football players to navigate than a four-team bye week. Fantasy owners are going to have to live without Dallas’ Jason Witten and Baltimore’s Mark Andrews in Week 8. If you have one of the those players as your starting tight end, the problem is that... Read More


Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 8

Tragedy struck a few top quarterbacks this week, as both Patrick Mahomes and Matt Ryan left games with injuries. We already know Mahomes will miss 3-6 weeks, while more will be revealed about Ryan's status later today. Either way, owners of these quarterbacks will need a backup plan in place, and this week the waiver... Read More


Waiver Wire Express - Week 8 Lightning Round

The better part of seven weeks is in the fantasy football books, making those early trends very real -- for better or worse. One must still consider the matchups played thus far and those to come, but usage and volume are becoming reliable. Week 8 sees the Ravens and Cowboys hit their bye week. To... Read More


Fantasy Football News and Injuries - Running Updates

Below is a quick-hit list of running notes on relevant injuries and player news, including pre-game reports and live in-game updates. Stay tuned for updates all throughout the week and on Sunday morning game day:   Week 7 Will Fuller (hamstring) is expected to miss several weeks. Matt Ryan is out for the game with an... Read More


Week 7 Fantasy Football Staff Rankings

Below you will find all of RotoBaller's fantasy football weekly rankings, tiers, player news and stats for the 2019 NFL season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Weekly PPR Rankings Weekly Half-PPR Rankings Weekly Standard Rankings Dynasty League Rankings     Fantasy... Read More


NFL Matchup Ratings Tool - Weekly Player Projections

  If you see the red "Upgrade" button below, then you are not a Premium subscriber, or have not yet logged in. Learn more about our NFL Matchup Ratings and projections system. Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of... Read More


Week 7 Chat - Live Fantasy Football Game Day Q&A

It's Sunday Morning Week 7... Do You Know Who to Start? Each Sunday morning of the NFL season, RotoBaller's experts will be moderating the industry's leading live chat room and answering a bunch of your fantasy football questions, from around 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM ET. Come join in on the fun, and get your... Read More


Updated Week 7 PPR Rankings (Top 300)

Welcome to Week 7 RotoBallers. Below are our updated consensus Week 7 PPR rankings for fantasy football, including some running notes on relevant injuries, player news and rankings updates: Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison are both active. Todd Gurley is officially active, Malcolm Brown is out. Christian Kirk is not expected to play this week. David... Read More


Fantasy Football Starts and Sits: Matchups Analysis for Week 7

Welcome to our Week 7 matchup analysis and start/sit column for fantasy football. We'll be covering every single contest from the Sunday slate in one convenient location, helping you make the best decisions for your fantasy lineups. Be sure to check back regularly because this article will be updated as news comes in regarding injuries and other... Read More


Wide Receiver Matchups To Target in Week 7

In Week 6, Julio Jones didn't score, but he came through with a decent fantasy day, going over 100-yards receiving. Brandin Cooks brutal Week 6 showing was a little bit of a surprise given his 2018 track record against the 49ers, but the Rams offensive line was overwhelmed which led to a rough day for... Read More