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Pitcher Advanced Metrics Studs and Duds First Half Recap

Welcome back to RotoBaller’s pitchers advanced stats and StatCast studs and duds article series! Each week we have selected an advanced stat, chosen two studs and two duds, and analyzed what those stats could mean for future fantasy output. We have covered both Statcast and Fangraphs metrics to help identify hidden value as well as sell-high candidates.

The All-Star break is now upon us, so I thought it would be a good time to go over some of my takes from the first half of the season to see what I got right and what I got wrong. The goal of this series is to help fantasy players out, so I can't just take credit for my correct calls, but also be accountable for my missed takes.

While fantasy players gear up for the pivotal second half, let's take a look at my advanced metrics studs and duds takes from the first half!

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My Advanced Metrics Studs 

All stats current as of 7/8/19


Eduardo Rodriguez - Boston Red Sox

(9-4, 4.65 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 24.2% K rate)

I have written about E Rod several times in the series, first in the Week 10 wOBA-xwOBA edition and later in the Week 13 ERA-SIERA edition. Each time I stated that his advanced metrics pointed to positive regression, and he has improved since each time I wrote about him. His numbers still aren't great, but his stats under the hood still point to more regression. Let's take a look at what I saw and still see in Rodriguez.

I first noticed Rodriguez in week 10 when his xwOBA was below the league average but his wOBA was significantly above the league average. This is still the case (.325 wOBA, .305 xwOBA), although his wOBA has gone down since I last wrote about him. I then noticed another telling differential in week 13; Rodriguez's ERA was a good deal higher than his SIERA, suggesting positive regression could follow. Since I wrote about this, Rodriguez's ERA and SIERA have moved towards each other.  

While he has started to show some of the signs I have been hoping for, I still expect more from Rodriguez. First, as I mentioned about him in my previous articles, Rodriguez has done a great job at limiting hard contact all season long (86.1-MPH average exit velocity, 27.7% hard-hit rate, 9.9-degree launch angle) yet has still been unlucky on balls in play. His .324 BABIP is higher than his a .298 career mark despite the contact he has allowed. Second, Rodriguez has found strikeout success through the first half. He has a 24.4% K rate to this point and has nearly a 10% swinging-strike rate on his top three pitches, the highest being on his devastating changeup at 18.3%. 

There are a lot of encouraging signs behind Rodriguez's peripherals and he has slowly been regressing to the upside. I suppose I'm cheating a bit by calling this a win for me, but I expect that Rodriguez's performance will improve over the course of the second half. He seems like a great buy-low candidate. 

Julio Urias - Los Angeles Dodgers

(4-2, three saves, 2.45 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 25.6% K rate)

I have been high on Julio Urias all season long and all he has done is post great numbers when he has had the opportunity. I wrote about his expected statistics in week 7 and his exit velocity in week 11. The only frustrating thing has been his lack of work (51 1/3 innings pitched), but he has provided value with them and has been used in a variety of ways by the Dodgers. Let's go over Urias's impressive profile.

Urias is at the top of most of Statcast's advanced pitcher metrics. He is in at least the 80th-percentile for fastball velocity (95.1 MPH), fastball spin (2,498 revolutions per minute), curveball spin (2,554 revolutions per minute), hard-hit rate (23.9%), exit velocity (82.7 MPH) and all expected stats. Further, Urias has used his fastball and strong secondary arsenal of changeup, slider, and curveball to get strikeouts (25.6% strikeout rate) and swings-and-misses (13.9% swinging-strike rate). In sum, there is a ton to like about Urias as a dominant fantasy pitcher.

The one unfortunate thing for the 22-year-old is that, because he is so good, so young, and has had injuries in the past, the Dodgers will likely keep a close eye on his innings. He has never pitched above 78 innings, and that was in 2016. However, Urias seems healthy now and is too good of an option to not use. If he can get to 80+ IP with the ratios he has been posting, he will be a nice fantasy value in roto leagues.


My Advanced Metrics Duds

All stats current as of 7/8/19


Shane Bieber - Cleveland Indians

(8-3, 3.45 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 31.5% K rate)

I will admit, this guy has vexed me all season long. I have written about Shane Bieber in several K rate articles as well as several times in this series, each time saying that his numbers looked too good to be true and that negative regression was sure to follow. I called him a sell-high candidate several times, only to have him end the first half of the season as an All-Star. Now that I have admitted defeat, let me try to explain myself.    

For starters, Bieber has posted an incredible K rate without an impressive pitch arsenal. His fastball sits at 93.2 MPH with average spin and his slider and curveball don't have a ton on spin on them. His command has been strong as evidenced by his WHIP and 5.1% walk rate, but that alone does not fully justify a 31.5% K rate and an elite 14.5% swinging-strike rate. I still can't explain it, but Bieber clearly has good stuff.

Further, Bieber has given up a ton of hard contact this season. His hard-hit rate (45.6%) and average exit velocity (90.6 MPH) are both in the bottom eight percent of baseball with an 11.6-degree launch angle. Despite this, he has a stellar 3.20 SIERA. These stats seem to contradict each other, yet Bieber has reigned supreme.

I'm not quite sure how he is doing it, but Bieber has been a fantasy All-Star as well as a real one to this point. Fantasy owners should hope to lean on him in the second half of the season as a rotation ace, much to my befuddlement.


Jake Arrieta - Philadelphia Phillies

(8-7, 4.67 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 18% K rate)

My second biggest miss came from a pitcher who has attempted to reinvent himself with age. Signs pointed to a less-than-successful transformation (see week 7 and week 10), but I continued to say that Jake Arrieta would be alright as a contact pitcher. His most recent stats have proved that that is not the case. Let's take a further look at where I went wrong.

Arrieta is no longer a power pitcher and instead has pitched to contact this season (83% contact rate). He has also gotten hit hard (88.9-MPH average exit velocity, 37% hard-hit rate) but he has kept the ball the ball down in the zone and balls in play on the ground (6.7-degree average launch angle). He has had to pitch more carefully and his WHIP (1.46) and walks (8.5% walk rate) have suffered. Further, his .310 BABIP is a good deal higher than his career .274 mark but seems valid given his hard-hit rate. Finally, Arrieta’s 4.82 SIERA matches his ERA, indicating that he has pitched to form.

I had thought that Arrieta could get by from a fantasy perspective given his new style, but that just hasn't been the case. Perhaps I was giving too much credit to the name, but Arrieta's metrics have not made him a fantasy asset this season.

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