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Strikeout Rate Risers and Fallers - Buy or Sell for Week 11


Welcome back to the strikeout rate risers and fallers series for Week 11! Each week we will take a look at two K% risers and two fallers, analyze what is behind those changes, and then decide if they are actionable. A pitcher can best control their fate by generating swings and misses, so this exercise holds particular importance for fantasy value. Understanding strikeout trends and the stats behind them can help you sort through all the noise and determine which pitchers are legit and which pitchers should be avoided.

The players in this article were chosen using RotoBaller’s K% Risers and Fallers premium Tool. This tool identifies players who are surging and falling in strikeout percentage over the last 30 days. The goal of this tool is to help you find pitchers who are showing improving or declining K%.

We've had enough baseball now to start identifying some relative longer-term trends, but there is still plenty of time to take advantage of those trends in the first half of the season. Let's take a look at some risers and fallers to give you the inside edge!

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!

 

Strikeout Rate Risers

All stats current as of Sunday, June 9

 

Wade Miley - Houston Astros

Season K%: 19.9%, Last 30 Days: 25.6%

Our first K% riser had quite the career revival last season and looks to be continuing the magic. Wade Miley found success in 2018 with the Brewers after several seasons of mediocrity, thanks to the introduction of the cutter into his arsenal. This trend has followed him into 2019, as he has compiled a 6-3 record with a 3.14 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and a respectable 19.9% K rate. That mark has jumped to an impressive 27% in the last 30 days, so have Miley's changes from 2018 stuck?    

Two things stand out in terms of Miley's recent spike in K rate. The first is his mix of pitches. Miley has relied heavily on his cutter in May (46.3% usage) but has mixed in his changeup, four-seamer, curveball, and sinker pretty evenly (usage between 16.3% and 8.5%). Miley was able to generate strikeouts with all of those pitches in that time apart from the sinker, and while those numbers depend on the count situation in which he throws them, the fact that he can keep hitters missing without overpowering stuff shows that he is pitching smart.

The second thing that stands out is Miley's swing-and-miss success with his changeup. His changeup has been his best pitch in that regard at 18.2%. Despite not throwing hard (87.2-MPH cutter, 90.5-MPH fastball), he has a good change of pace with his changeup (81.3 MPH).

Miley has been a huge fantasy surprise the past two seasons thanks in part to his new cutter. While his K rate has been up in the past 30 days, there isn't a ton of evidence that that number should continue at that level. Miley has shown that he can be a successful fantasy pitcher without the strikeouts, so fantasy owners should continue to rely on him even if he can't maintain his current K rate.

 

J.A. Happ - New York Yankees

Season K%: 20.6%, Last 30 Days: 23.4%

The second K rate riser has been a strikeout pitcher the past two seasons, and while his K rate overall is down this season, his mark within the last 30 days has been a certain improvement. Despite his age (36 years old) and mediocre 4.48 ERA, J.A. Happ has been able to generate a 23.4% K rate over the past 30 days. What should fantasy players make of Happ's performance?  

Unfortunately for those who own him, Happ's rise in K rate seems to have a simple explanation, and not one they were hoping for. In his last six starts, Happ has generated three, three, four, five, seven, and 10 strikeouts. The two games with the impressive numbers came against the Mariners and the Royals, two favorable strikeout matchups.

Happ's fastballs, which he has relied on most, don't have a ton of life or movement on them (91.3 MPH, 2,329 revolutions per minute on fastball (47.9% usage); 88.8 MPH, 2,120 revolutions per minute on sinker (23.3% usage)). His changeup has a decent swinging-strike rate (14.9%), but his other offspeed pitch, his slider, only has an 8.6% swinging-strike rate.

Happ hasn't been as impressive as he has been the past several seasons, and I am not buying his recent spike in K rate. He has provided value as a back-end fantasy starter, but his 4.38 SIERA supports his ERA and his decline in velocity is not surprising due to his age. In sum, I would not expect Happ's K rate, or fantasy value, to be as high as it has been in the past 30 days.

 

Strikeout Rate Fallers

All stats current as of Sunday, June 9

 

Jerad Eickhoff - Philadelphia Phillies

Season K%: 21.9%, Last 30 Days: 16.2%

Our first K rate faller had an impressive 2016 fantasy season but was mediocre in 2017 and was hurt in 2018. Jerad Eickhoff had a great start of 2019 but has dropped off since, posting a 4.14 ERA over 54 1/3 IP with a 21.9% K rate. His K rate has fallen to a pedestrian 16.2% in the last 30 days; can fantasy players trust Eickhoff going forward?

Eickhoff does not have overpowering stuff (his fastball has averaged just 89.5 MPH) and has to rely on the movement of his pitches and his pitch mix to be successful. He is still mixing his pitches well, throwing his fastball (38.9%), slider (32.7%), and curveball (28.2%) almost evenly in May. If he is mixing his pitches the same, why has his K rate fallen? 

The answer is straightforward; Eickhoff's command has been off. He has posted a bloated 5.57 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP (compared to a 1.14 season mark) and a whopping 11 home runs allowed over his past 32 1/3 IP. His lack of command has manifested itself in fewer strikeouts, more hits, and more damaging hits (his 5.08 SIERA over that time frame supports this in addition to the HR).

It seems that Eickhoff needs to pitch almost perfectly to be successful given his style and that has not happened lately. His lack of overpowering velocity means he needs pinpoint accuracy and that has clearly not been the case lately. I am not confident that Eickhoff can be a meaningful fantasy contributor given what we have seen over the past 30 days.

 

Chris Paddack - San Diego Padres

Season K%: 27.4%, Last 30 Days: 22%

Our second faller caused a lot of hype in dynasty leagues as a top target and it looks like he needed little time adjusting to the big leagues. 23-year-old rookie Chris Paddack has a stellar 2.97 ERA and 0.89 WHIP with a 27.4% K rate in 60 2/3 IP this season. However, his ERA over the past 30 days is a pedestrian 4.23 and his K rate has fallen to 22%. While the K rate is still respectable, do fantasy owners need to start worrying about Paddack?

Fantasy owners definitely do not need to be worried about the K rate on its own. Paddack has continued to rely mainly on his devastating changeup to rack up strikeouts. He has thrown the pitch roughly 30% of the time in the past 30 days has a solid 17.7% swinging-strike rate with it on the season. Paddack also still has the rookie advantage of big-league hitters not having seen his stuff much.

Regarding the other aspects of his game, Paddack's 1.12 WHIP and 3.40 SIERA suggest that he has been just fine. The one thing that stands out is the seven HR he has allowed over his last 27 2/3 IP. His batted-ball profile has been solid on the season (86-MPH exit velocity, 32.1% hard-hit rate, 14.7-degree launch angle) so the elevated 2.28 HR/9 in the last 30 days seems like just bad luck. I wouldn't be worried about Paddack heading into the end of the first half of the season. His numbers have been solid overall and his underlying numbers suggest that positive regression can be expected.

K-Rate Risers and Fallers - Premium Tool

Identifying top strikeout rate risers and fallers for each week can help you spot the best pickups before your competition. RotoBaller's Premium K-Rate Risers and Fallers tool has you covered every day. As thoughtful fantasy baseball players, we won't lead you astray. This tool will soon be active once we have a large enough sample size in the season to be considered reliable.

This type of data is available as part of our Premium MLB Subscription. Don't settle for basic stats and surface-level advice from other sites. RotoBaller brings you advanced statistics and professional analysis that you need to win your fantasy leagues and DFS games, because we're ballers just like you. We are your secret weapon!

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