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Strikeout Rate Risers and Fallers - Buy or Sell for Week 8

Welcome back to the pitching strikeout rate risers and fallers article series! 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 now have about a month-and-a-half's worth of data to sort through, so we can really take advantage of the tool! Let's get into it and see what insights we can draw on our K% risers and fallers.

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, May 19


Yu Darvish - Chicago Cubs

Season K%: 28.6%, Last 30 Days: 33.9%

Our first K% riser is one who has always been a strikeout pitcher but had a disappointing, injury-shortened 2018 season and is off to a slow start in 2019. Yu Darvish has been a fantasy ace in the past but has a poor 5.14 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, and 17.2% walk rate in 42 IP this season. His 28.6% K%, however, has been impressive and he has pitched slightly better in the last 30 days, posting a 4.44 ERA, a 1.52 WHIP, and a 33.9% K%. The K% improvement is positive, but everything else is not, so what should fantasy owners make of Darvish's performance of late? 

Darvish's last five starts have been a mixed bag, allowing four combined starts in three of them and eight over the other two. The good thing is that his last two starts, especially his last, have been great (we'll get to that in a minute). The one constant across his five starts is an increased strikeout rate. Darvish has relied on a strong slider (15.7% swinging-strike rate) and also his cutter (an impressive 23.5% swinging-strike rate), a new trend in his arsenal. The move to his cutter has been a good one; Darvish has a strong .114 batting average against and .209 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) with the pitch, thanks in part to its high spin rate.

We'll now turn our attention to Darvish's last start. It was one of his most encouraging of the season, as he pitched 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball with 11 strikeouts and no walks. The lack of command has been a big issue for Darvish, but he said that he concentrated on taking more time between pitch deliveries in his last start, per the Cubs Insider. His strikeouts have never been in question, but the overall lack of command has gotten Darvish into trouble in terms of allowing baserunners and runs and also in terms of pitching deeper into games. Hopefully, he can continue to find his rhythm on the mound.

Overall, Darvish has gotten his strikeouts to this point but has not been able to find his command. His fantasy ceiling will be limited if he can't get things back on track, but his last start suggests that there may be a somewhat easy solution. Given his history, I would not give up on Darvish yet and would buy low on him for a reasonable price.


Max Fried - Atlanta Braves

Season K%: 22.4%, Last 30 Days: 26.2%

Our second K% riser comes from a batch of young pitching prospects out of the Braves' farm system. 25-year-old Max Fried is making a name for himself in the starting rotation this season, going 6-2 with a 2.86 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 46 strikeouts in 50 1/3 IP. Fried's strikeout numbers have been respectable all season but have been even more impressive of late. Is this young arm someone fantasy players should buy into? 

Fried relies heavily on a decent fastball (93.9 MPH, 58.9% usage). The pitch is ok but does not generate a ton of swinging strikes (8.3%). His secondary pitches, on the other hand, are filthy. Both his curveball and slider get a ton of movement on them thanks to high spin rates (2,867 revolutions per minute and 2,556 revolutions per minute, respectively). Consequently, Fried has generated much higher swinging-strike rates with those pitches (13.4% and 19.3%). He has been turning to his slider more in recent games, which would help explain the K% bump. 

It is always hard for me to make calls on young players, especially pitchers with conviction since there is no big-league history to go on. That being said, Fried looks like a promising talent. He was able to generate solid strikeout numbers throughout the minor leagues and seems to have translated that into the Majors. His 3.65 SIERA suggests that he has been outperforming his skills, but a 3.65 ERA would still be a solid mark. If he can continue to mix his secondary pitches in more, there is no reason to think he can't be a solid number-three or four fantasy starter for most of the season.


Strikeout Rate Fallers

All stats current as of Sunday, May 19


Jose Quintana- Chicago Cubs

Season K%: 23.1%, Last 30 Days: 16.9%

Our first K% faller has been a solid fantasy option throughout his career but has not been quite the same since joining the Cubs. Jose Quintana has gotten off to a pretty decent start to the season, posting a 3.68 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 23.1% K%. However, his K% has fallen to a mediocre level in the past 30 days, so should fantasy owners start to worry that he may underperform yet again? 

Fortunately for fantasy owners, there is a pretty straightforward reason for the drop in K% over the last 30 days. Quintana posted back-to-back games against the Diamondbacks and Cardinals in which he only had two strikeouts a game, which brought his totals down. The Diamondbacks game is a little puzzling given that their team offense is not all that good, but the Cardinals have been in the bottom third of the league in team strikeouts, so a small strikeout number there is not surprising. The good thing is that Quintana pitched well in those games without getting the strikeouts; the 30-year-old went 1-0 over 11 2/3 IP with a 3.86 ERA and 1.29 WHIP.

Quintana has never been a strong strikeout pitcher. His 91.5-MPH fastball isn't overpowering and the lack of spin on all of his pitches do not lend themselves to high strikeout numbers. That being said, he has posted a career-high 10.3% swinging-strike rate this season even with his recent fall in K%. I think that Quintana's floor is a back-end fantasy starter with the upside of a number-three starter.


Yonny Chirinos - Tampa Bay Rays

Season K%: 18.4%, Last 30 Days: 12.8%

Our second faller presents an interesting fantasy case in terms of his role with his team. Yonny Chirinos has acted as a part-time starter, part-time long reliever/first man up after an opener for the Rays this season. While the team's use of him may be new to the game, Chirinos has been successful, going 5-1 with a 3.26 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 18.4% K%. Like Quintana, Chirinos has never really been a strong strikeout pitcher, but his 12.8% mark in the last 30 days is low by any standard. With the lack of strikeouts and unusual team role, is Chirinos really a fantasy option?

In many ways, Chirinos' usage actually boosts his fantasy value beyond his given skills. He has pitched in bulk whether he has started or not (47 IP on the season) and his long reliever role gives him better chances to tally up wins. This fact, coupled with Chirinos' pitching skill, more than offset his lack of strikeouts. Chirinos throws relatively hard (his sinker sits at 94 MPH) but pitches to contact (82.5%). He relies heavily on his sinker (59% usage) to generate weak contact (86.9-MPH exit velocity, 33.8% hard-hit rate, 13.7-degree launch angle) rather than getting swings and misses.

The one thing that can be identified regarding Chirinos' lower K% is his performance with his slider. Chirinos uses his slider as his secondary pitch and while the pitch has been ok (9.7% swinging-strike rate, .250 batting average against), it simply hasn't been as good as it was last season (15.2% swinging-strike rate, .211 batting average against). The velocity and spin rate on the pitch has been the same as last season, so perhaps we just don't have a large enough sample size on the pitch to compare them.

Chirinos will not net fantasy players a ton of strikeouts but can be a solid contributor in ERA, WHIP, and wins. I like him as a sneaky fantasy option given his dual starter/reliever eligibility. At just 47% owned, he is a surprise player that can help fantasy players throughout the season, especially in roto leagues.


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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