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Statcast Pitcher Risers/Fallers - Statcast Scoreboard (Week 16)

Welcome back to Rotoballer's series using Statcast to extrapolate, dig into, and commiserate over data to examine pitching performances. The weekly series will be dynamic as we fine-tune our findings and enlighten ourselves on the information and tools at our disposal.

It's All-Star Week so rather than approaching the column in typical fashion, we'll use this edition for reflection, savoring and reprimanding yours truly for my calls to-date. It's been an immensely fun and rewarding exercise to unearth interesting Statcast-related topics to discuss each week and while us fantasy analysts are never 100% accurate, providing multiple perspectives and angles are how we hope to help our faithful readers.

The conclusion for my report card is inconclusive. Relativity is the name of the game, and I think I tried my best to identify mispriced starters at the appropriate time based on the weekly theme. There have been some successes and some face-plants on the way. Not all the namedrops are agreeable, but that's what makes a market in the awesome world of fantasy baseball.

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Half-Year In Review

All stats as of July 16

Week 2 - Barrel %

Our maiden endeavor looked at Barrel data. For risers, Tyson Ross has enjoyed a renaissance campaign after two injury-marred seasons. He's rewarded owners that snatched him up early with 11 quality starts and serviceable ratios (8.06 K/9, 1.27 WHIP). Lance McCullers Jr.'s Barrels/BBE has worsened to 8.2% so his ERA remains stubbornly high. As expected the .455 BABIP from Week 2 collapsed to.268 leading to a 30-point drop in WHIP. McCullers' FIP (3.63) confirms he'll be a strong play in the second half on a high-powered Astros team.

Zack Greinke and Michael Wacha still sit in the top-half of barrels surrendered. While Greinke's fantasy value is supported by his strikeouts and excellent control (5.39 K/BB), Wacha's someone to avoid for the exact same reasons (1.97 K/BB).

Week 3 - BABIP

Our risers based on BABIP are a mixed bag. Sonny Gray continues to be a disaster but it's a relative call at this point. Most managers are probably looking for reasons to dump him but the significant difference between his ERA (5.46) and FIP (4.34) indicates he's worth the risk as a waiver flyer or dirt-cheap trade offer. Vince Velasquez hasn't seen his value change much since our bullish call. He continues to lean too heavily on his curveball instead of the league's sixth-best changeup which he throws a paltry 5% of pitches.

The microscopic BABIPs of Reynaldo Lopez (.154) and Sean Manaea (.169) were clearly unsustainable and both devolved meaningfully. Lopez struggles badly with control, hindering his K-potential while Manaea still sports a fortuitous BABIP of .222. Both could continue falling in the second half.

Week 4 - Exit Velocity

Our argument in Week 4 was the reversal of early but fluky exit velocity results. J.A. Happ has lowered his average exit velocity to 88.5 MPH and the veteran's solid ratios (9.99 K/9, 1.19 WHIP) should keep him a useful fantasy asset. The verdict is still out on Robbie Ray who missed two months with an oblique injury. His four starts since returning haven't been encouraging (5.23 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)

Like Ray, Hyun-Jin Ryu suffered a long-term injury (groin) shortly after our bearish call but was in the middle of a breakout season. Rick Porcello's sparkling numbers from early on have evaporated, possibly directly linked from his exit velocity rising from 85.5 to 88.4 MPH. Porcello's current stats are about where they should be (3.76 FIP) so consider him fairly valued now.

Week 5 - wOBA-xwOBA

We delved into the intricacies of actual versus expected outcomes in Week 5. Both our risers (Sean Newcomb, Dallas Keuchel) made positive strides with Newcomb emerging as a must-own in fantasy leagues. However, he's badly struggling with walks (4.46 BB/9) so beware a reversal of fortune.

We were triumphant in our faller calls. Jarlin Garcia hasn't pitched in the majors since June 1 and Jake Junis started deteriorating in May and officially turned into a pumpkin in June. His xwOBA is a staggering .351 (MLB average is .317).

Week 6 - Two-Strike xBA

James Paxton promptly threw a no-hitter after we touted him in Week 6. The delta between his Two-strike xBA and BA has tightened considerably to .016 so Statcast worked its magic. Eduardo Rodriguez has lowered his ERA by almost two runs since our analysis. The strikeouts and wins upside keep him on all fantasy radars, but a recent ankle injury might put his season in serious jeopardy.

For our fallers, continue to avoid both Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Williams. Gonzalez holds a miserable 4.25 BB/9 while Trevor Williams no longer has the strong ERA to support his lack of strikeouts (6.45 K/9).

Week 7 - Early-Inning SLG

It might've been unfair to classify Justin Verlander a riser, but our thesis in Week 7 was searching for consistency via early-inning results. While his ERA has jumped from 1.21 to 2.29, Verlander is still money and merits top dollar. For all the yammering about Patrick Corbin's declining velocity, his impressive numbers have barely changed and the strikeouts remain outstanding (10.96 K/9).

For our fallers, Luis Castillo should no longer be rostered in standard fantasy leagues. His fastball is down from 97.7 last season to 95.6 MPH, resulting in a poor wFB/C of -1.37. Chris Archer is still getting stretched out after a month-long absence with an abdominal strain but hasn't made it past five innings in his two starts since returning. He's a buy-low target despite the continuation of the early-inning woes.

Week 8 - Poor-Contact ISO

Jose Quintana's numbers have improved since we discussed his league-worst .167 ISO on poor contact in Week 8. That figure is now .117 but still 29 points higher than the next closest pitcher. Maybe it's something structural, but Quintana's walks (4.15 BB/9) and FIP (4.63) are not his friend, making him tough to defend. Jameson Taillon has been a streamer hero for me this season. His numbers have hardly shifted since our previous discussion but strikeouts are up to 8.75 K/9.

On the flipside, Jake Odorizzi's unsustainable Soft% and LOB% fell substantially and his ERA (4.54) and FIP (4.64) have predictably normalized. A still-depressed weak contact ISO of .021 hasn't helped Cole Hamels, who continues to yield hard contact (43.7%) and long balls (20.2% HR/FB) at an alarming rate.

Week 9 - O-Swings-and-Misses

Maybe I was grasping at straws this week, but I regurgitated both Corbin (riser) and Williams (faller) when discussing swinging strikes outside the zone. Trevor Bauer keeps mowing down hitters (11.69 K/9) and his peripherals suggest he a realistic top-15 starter for the stretch run. Our other faller was Tyler Chatwood, who's finally brought his K/BB above 1.0 (1.04). Well done Chatty. Aside from that backhand achievement, his season's been horrendous and the 20% ownership should be closer to zero.

Week 10 - Monthly wOBA Splits

We looked at xwOBA data on a monthly basis in Week 10. Unfortunately, our risers were Caleb Smith and Tanner Roark. Smith is out for the year after undergoing surgery to repair a lat injury. Meanwhile, Roark has seen his xwOBA spike back to .352. Combining that performance with a BABIP increasing from .241 to .306 has not been an effective recipe. Roark's once again settled in as a middling starter with a laughable 3-12 record.

We were down again on Rick Porcello here, but as mentioned he's appropriately valued at this juncture. Alex Wood has settled his xwOBA (.309) between April's luck (.248) and May's perils (.349) so he too seems fairly priced. The worrisome changeup has self-corrected to an above-average normalized pitch value of 0.69.

Week 11 - Full Count Inefficiency

Week 11's topic was an emotionally fueled selection for us fantasy viewers that have intolerance for laborious innings. Those are precious pitches wasted! We opted for longshots Kevin Gausman and Brandon McCarthy to prove our point. While they haven't made material steps in their headline returns, both are useful streamers in the second half.

Mike Foltynewicz has seen his ERA tick up since our column and while he's still providing quality strikeout and WHIP ratios, his HR/FB (0.89) and LOB% (80.4%) seem too lucky to overpay for. Our other faller was Eduardo Rodriguez, who's fantasy discussion is on indefinite hold while he works through a possibly devastating injury.

Week 12 - Fastball Quality

We keyed in on the high, stinky cheddar for Week 12, identifying Velasquez and Tyler Mahle as heater specialists. Velasquez is safe to queue up away from Citizens Bank Park (2.42 ERA away), but tough to trust consistently until he improves his pitch mix. Mahle's had an up-and-down rookie season and his fastball has relapsed in July (5% whiff rate, .350 BAA). Hold him if you have the patience.

Zack Godley hasn't budged since we tried to downgrade him, so chalk that up as a loss for me. His batted-ball metrics remain discouraging with a 94.0 MPH FB/LD exit velocity. Dylan Bundy has worked his way towards fantasy obsolescence, with a 7.32 ERA since June 17.

Week 13 - June FB/LD Exit Velocity

We touted Brent Suter and Eric Lauer in Week 13 due to their soft FB/LD tendencies. Neither have jumped off the page since, but could be deployable in spurts after the break. Suter's pinpoint control (1.74 BB/9) makes him regularly competitive. Despite a July 15 meltdown (2 IP, 5 ER), Lauer has shown flashes including coming within an out of shutting out the Dodgers on July 10.

Gerrit Cole has yet to be impacted by his higher-than-normal FB/LD exit velocity (93.9 MPH), so serves me right for trying to hate on an ace. Our other faller was Luis Castillo, who I ranted about in Week 7's recap.

Week 14 - Pitching Under Pressure
Week 15 - wOBA-xwOBA Splits (before and after May 31)

Since we're only two weeks removed (or less) from the last couple columns, it's tough to claim victory or admit defeat. We can rank our risers and fallers in order of confidence as follows:

Risers - CC Sabathia, Nick Pivetta, German Marquez, Jhoulys Chacin
Fallers - Jon Lester, David Price, Kenta Maeda, Andrew Heaney


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