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Pitcher Advanced Metrics Studs and Duds - Second Half Preview

Welcome back to RotoBaller’s Statcast pitcher Studs and Duds article series! Each week I have selected an advanced stat, chosen two top performers and two under-performers, and analyzed what those stats could mean for future fantasy output. I have covered both Statcast and Fangraphs metrics to help identify hidden value as well as sell-high candidates.

The All-Star break has come and gone, so I thought it would make sense to review a few pitchers' overall Statcast profiles to identify two potential second-half studs and duds. The trade deadline is just as important for fantasy managers as for actual teams, so identifying value now is key.

As I have done throughout this series, I will not focus on obvious fantasy studs for this article. However, I will go over a few well-known names whose second-half future may have some questions around them. Let's kick off the second half with some potential pitcher studs and duds!

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:


Potential Second-Half Statcast Studs

All stats current as of Sunday, July 18, 2021.

Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays

(2-1, 2.90 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 31.0% Strikeout Rate)

This first pitcher got called up in the end of May and hasn't missed a beat since joining the Blue Jays. Alek Manoah is one of the Blue Jay's higher-end prospects and has backed that up through his first eight starts, compiling a 2.90 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 31% strikeout rate. Further, he has a great overall Statcast profile. What makes me think the 23-year-old will be able to continue his success?  

Manoah has found success so far in some unorthodox ways. He has used a good pitch mix of four-seam fastball, slider, sinker, and changeup. He swapped his four-seam usage for sinker usage in July, and his sinker location has been interesting. He has thrown the pitch in the top of the zone more often than not, which is atypical. However, he has a 9.1% swinging-strike rate with the pitch and has allowed a .154 batting average with it. This could potentially come back to hurt Manoah in the second half, as he has allowed a 16.1-degree launch angle. However, he hasn't allowed hard contact, as his average exit velocity and hard-hit rate are in the 67th and 80th percentiles in baseball, respectively. His 3.53 SIERA supports the fact that his batted-ball profile should be just fine.

Manoah has pitched well this season but has not garnered as much fantasy hype as other prospects who have not performed nearly as well in their first big-league stints. He has been mixing his pitches well, avoiding hard contact, and striking hitters out. His Statcast profile paints a solid picture, and I think he should continue to provide fantasy value. Rostered in 74 percent of leagues, there is still an opportunity to get Manoah without having to trade for him.


Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox

(7-5, 5.19 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 27.6% Strikeout Rate)

This next pitcher is one who has always had high fantasy hopes surround him, but has had an inconsistent career. This season has been an absolute dud on paper for Eduardo Rodriguez, who has a career-high 5.19 ERA. However, he has ended up in my potential Studs column because there is a lot to like under the hood. Allow me to pitch my case to you for why E. Rod could be a key piece to your second-half roster.

Rodriguez has a bunch of odd contradictions in his underlying numbers, but ultimately has a solid Statcast profile. First, he hasn't allowed hard contact. His exit velocity and hard-hit rate are both in the top-30 percent of baseball. However, he has a massive .353 BABIP, which is high in general and also a good deal higher than his .305 career mark. Second, his 1.33 WHIP is a fine mark and he has a career-low 5.7% walk rate and a career-high strikeout rate. This indicates to me that his WHIP could be even lower if not for his inflated BABIP. Finally, Rodriguez's 3.46 SIERA is much lower than his ERA and supports his solid batted-ball profile. All in all, it seems like he has pitched well but has gotten unlucky in a variety of ways.

This one seems like a relatively straightforward case of a buy-low candidate. Rodriguez is currently available in 38 percent of leagues, so fantasy managers with a flexible roster spot could pick him up and see how his second half develops. He had a strong first start of the second half, and his underlying numbers suggest that there should be more of that to come.


Potential Second-Half Statcast Duds

All stats current as of Sunday, July 18, 2021.

Marcus Stroman, New York Mets

(6-8, 2.78 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 20.2% Strikeout Rate)

Marcus Stroman is off to one of his best seasons in 2021 with the Mets, giving them support at the top of the rotation with a 2.78 ERA. Fantasy managers who have rostered him have gotten a lot of value to this point. However, his Statcast profile does not paint as rosy a picture. Should fantasy managers worry that he may not be as great in the second half?

Two things stand out to me as potentially detrimental aspects of Stroman's game. The first is his batted-ball profile. Stroman has been a ground-ball pitcher for much of his career and I have mentioned numerous times throughout this series that hard contact is not always bad if the ball is kept on the ground. Stroman's 6.4-degree launch angle isn't bad, but it is the highest of his Statcast career. Plus, he has gotten hit very hard. His average exit velocity and hard-hit rate are in the 29th and 15th percentiles of baseball, respectively. His 4.02 SIERA, while not bad either, is a good deal higher than his current ERA.

The second thing that stands out is Stroman's performance with his sinker, his primary pitch. There are two clear periods of performance for Stroman's sinker. April and May and then June and July. Stroman had higher velocity, higher spin rates, and stronger outcomes in the first two months of the season. However, the months following the ban of extra substances for pitchers has led to slight declines in velocity, definite declines in spin rate, and poor outcomes. It remains to be seen if this trend will continue, but I would not value Stroman nearly as much if he cannot get top results from his primary pitch.

Stroman has performed well this season so far, but his Statcast profile does not fully back it up. He does not strike out many hitters, so he has to rely on a strong batted-ball profile to be effective. His current batted-ball profile, SIERA, and sinker results do not inspire confidence, and I worry they will catch up to him in the second half.


Blake Snell, San Diego Padres

(3-3, 5.21 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 28.2% Strikeout Rate)

Our final pitcher has been one of fantasy's more disappointing players across the board. Blake Snell had a solid 2020 season, but that has not carried over to 2021. He had an ADP of 46 but has produced a 5.21 ERA and 1.60 WHIP through 17 starts. His Statcast profile is also not that of a top-tier starter. Fantasy managers have not yet given up on Snell, as he is currently rostered in 91 percent of leagues. However, hear me out on why the time to cut ties may be sooner than later.

There are several issues with Snell's game this season that worry me. The first is his. 1.60 WHIP, which is much higher than his 1.28 career mark. The main culprit of this is his bloated 14.1% walk rate. Snell has never had walk issues, so this is a troubling stat. Relatedly, his chase rate is at a career-low 25.7%, which is in the bottom-31 percent of baseball. Snell has maintained a high strikeout rate of 28.2%, but it is his lowest in the last four seasons. Further, his high walk rate and low chase rate indicate that he has been getting swings-and-misses by operating in the zone, which is impressive in one regard but also could come back to bite him later. Having to come into the strike zone more is not necessarily a great recipe for success. Finally, Snell has gotten hit relatively hard when hitters have made contact. His average exit velocity is slightly above league average, but his hard-hit rate is in the bottom-31 percent of baseball.

The bottom line is that Snell has not pitched like a high-end fantasy starter and doesn't have any obvious hopeful signs from his Statcast profile. His 4.46 SIERA is lower than his ERA, but that still is not the mark of an elite pitcher. Fantasy managers could attempt to sell-low on Snell to get some return or take a shot on one of the younger pitchers getting starts across the league (like Manoah), but it seems more and more evident that keeping him on your rosters is only hurting your team.

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