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Statcast Pitcher Studs and Duds - Exit Velocity for Week 11


Welcome back to RotoBaller’s pitchers Statcast studs and duds article series! Each week we will select an advanced stat, choose two risers and two fallers, and analyze what those stats could mean for future fantasy output. This stat is one that we used earlier in the season (see Week 4) but is particularly useful for fantasy purposes, average exit velocity (EV).

EV is a better stat for hitters than pitchers as hitters have a greater influence on the measure. That being said, EV is related to ERA for pitchers, and generally speaking, pitchers don’t want to give up hard contact as it improves the hitter’s chance of getting a hit.

Now that we have more data for the season, we can draw more telling conclusions from the trends we see. Let's get into it and see how the EV velocity for starting pitchers has changed!

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EV Studs

All stats current as of Monday, June 10, courtesy of Baseballsavant.com.

 

Rich Hill - Los Angeles Dodgers

(3-1, 2.40 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 83.4-MPH avg. EV)

Our first EV stud, despite his age, has put together a great season and currently has the lowest average EV among pitchers with at least 100 batted-ball events. 39-year-old Rich Hill has a 2.40 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with 52 strikeouts in 45 innings pitched. Let's see how the veteran has found his success. 

Hill is able to avoid hard contact (25.8% hard-hit rate, 8.5-degree launch angle) because of his deceptive mix of fastball and curveball. Hill's curveball is in the 97th percentile in terms of spin rate (2,924 revolutions per minute) and his fastball is in the 91st percentile (2,479 revolutions per minute). His pitch movement, coupled with his strong control (6.5% walk rate) allows Hill to limit hard contact and rack up strikeouts (28.0% strikeout rate, 9.8% swinging-strike rate) with essentially just two pitches (53.8% fastball usage, 39.8% curveball usage).

Despite his age, Hill has all the makings of a high-end fantasy starter. He pitches his home games in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium and has a strong 3.57 SIERA to back up his performance. The only issue for Hill is his history of injuries. Hill has only pitched more than 140 innings once in his career and has already done a stint on the 10-day IL this season with a left knee sprain. His proclivity for getting hurt plus his age limits his upside in points leagues, but he is still great on a per-start basis. Hill is more valuable in category leagues for these reasons. That being said, he is a strong fantasy asset in all leagues. I consider Hill to actually be undervalued given excess concern for his health and age.

 

Julio Urias - Los Angeles Dodgers

(3-2, 3.38 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 83.7-MPH avg. EV)

Our second EV stud has been surrounded by fantasy buzz since 2016, is only 22 years old, and is a teammate of Hill's. Julio Urias has shown that he can compete at the big-league level despite his age, whether it be as a starter or coming out of the Dodgers' bullpen. Even if he is not starting, Urias has provided solid numbers in roto categories and has the second-lowest average EV among pitchers who have logged at least 100 batted-ball events, so he can still be fantasy relevant. Let's take a further look into Urias' advanced metrics to see how he has provided fantasy value.

Urias is not just an EV stud; he is pretty much at the top of all Statcast fields. He is in at least the 80th-percentile for fastball velocity (94.9 MPH), fastball spin (2,485 revolutions per minute), curveball spin (2,757 revolutions per minute), hard-hit rate (24.5%), and is in at least the 74th-percentile for all expected stats. He relies heavily on his fastball (56.6% usage), which, to be fair, is quite a good pitch, but he also has a strong secondary arsenal of changeup, slider, and curve. Aside from avoiding damaging contact, Urias has been able to post solid strikeout numbers with a 25.5% strikeout rate and a 14.7% swinging-strike rate. His 3.81 SIERA, while higher than his ERA, is still respectable.

The only thing to possibly worry about for Urias is his playing time. He is still young, so an innings cap is always a possibility regardless of his role. Further, the Dodgers often switch around their pitching staff roles, but Urias hasn't started a game since April 18. However, he will continue to get used routinely if he keeps pitching this well and is just one injury away from getting another chance to start. Owned at just 18%, Urias is certainly worth a spot on fantasy players' benches as a stash and could be used in roto leagues now.

 

EV Duds

All stats current as of Monday, June 10, courtesy of Baseballsavant.com.

 

Shane Bieber - Cleveland Indians

(5-2, 4.07 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 90.8-MPH avg. EV)

Our first EV dud started off the season hot but has been regressing lately. I have written about the puzzling case of Shane Bieber in previous weeks, stating that he had conflicting underlying stats, more negative than positive. One of those negative stats has been EV and Bieber now has the ninth-highest average among pitchers with at least 100 batted-ball events. What should fantasy owners make of Bieber to this point?

Let's rehash Bieber's situation once again. Firstly, his pitch arsenal in itself isn't impressive; his fastball sits at 93.2 MPH and his slider and curveball don't have a ton on spin on them. Despite this, he has managed a strong 30% strikeout rate. I haven't been able to find a good explanation for this, which makes me question the validity of his K rate.

While the K rate is still a mystery, the second conundrum seems to be solving itself. Bieber had managed to keep his ERA and WHIP down despite a poor batted-ball profile, but things have started to regress. He has gotten hit quite hard this season (91.1-MPH exit velocity, 47% hard-hit rate, 13.8-degree launch angle) and his 4.07 ERA reflects this. Still, his 1.14 WHIP and 3.40 SIERA suggest that things could be ok, but I notice the batted-ball profile more than his SIERA.

Bieber is still a tough case to crack for me, but I am now more confident that he is a sell-high candidate in single-season leagues. He has had less success recently, which was foreshadowed by some of his poor underlying stats. Bieber is, of course, a great dynasty asset given his young age, but I cannot buy into him at this time.

 

Cole Hamels - Chicago Cubs

(5-2, 3.24 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 90.2-MPH avg. EV)

Our second EV dud is a veteran who has been a fantasy staple for many seasons and is still getting it done at age 35. Cole Hamels has been solid for the Cubs this season and has a tidy 3.24 ERA and 1.20 WHIP through 77 2/3 IP. However, his average EV is in the bottom 13th percentile in the league. Is this something that fantasy owners should be worried about?

There are both positives and negatives to Hamels' EV. The bad news is that his average EV has increased each season for the past five seasons to his current mark of a 90.2-MPH average EV and 43.3% hard-hit rate. The good news is that his average launch angle has decreased in each of the last three seasons; his 8.1-degree launch angle means that Hamels is keeping the ball on the ground, so his hard-hit rate is much less damaging.

Hamels can get away with this thanks in part to his devastating changeup. He has allowed a .119 batting average against and an impressive 27% swinging-strike rate with the pitch. As long as Hamels can get hitters to pound the ball into the ground he will be just fine. His 4.28 SIERA suggests that he has room to regress, but I think he is a fine middle-of-the-rotation starter for fantasy owners as the season continues.

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