Sell High Candidate: Is Now The Time To Move On From Michael Wacha?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Wacha has been among the best starters in the league this far, with a 2.18 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over his first 11 starts (70.1 IP). The question is if the time is now to sell high on him or is there any chance that he maintains these impressive numbers? First a couple of key stats:

  • .236 BABIP
  • 82.6% strand rate
  • 6.01 K/9
  • 8.7% SwStr%

It’s obvious that the luck metrics are elevated, especially when coupled with an 20.8% line drive rate. There’s a good chance that he regresses moving forward, which will obviously take his ERA and WHIP with it.

If that was the only issue we wouldn’t have much concern, but significant luck coupled with a reduced strikeout rate is a significant concern. After posting a SwStr% of 10.2% last season he’s been below league average this year (9.6%), which has helped lead to his drop in strikeouts.

What’s interesting is that while his change up led to 27 K last season (second most of his repertoire), he’s thrown it less this season (18.8% vs. 14.7%). His Whiff% is also down on his Fourseam fastball (11.88% vs. 8.33%) and you have to wonder if the reduced utilization of his changeup is helping him fool opposing batters less. That’s a bit of conjecture, but it would make sense.

The bottom line is that the strikeouts are down and he hasn’t shown significant signs of improvement. Without them, when coupled with the risk of a luck regression, Wacha almost feels like a ticking time bomb.

Granted he brings solid control with him (2.18 BB/9) and an increased groundball rate (46.7%), but would that be enough to offset the concerns? Just to make it worse, his groundball rate went from 55.1% in April to 44.9% in May. The latter is right around his career mark of 44.4%, making it much more believable.

Unless he is able to start generating more strikeouts Wacha carries a significant risk with him. Now may be the perfect time to sell before the implosion comes, as you should be able to maximize your return.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

5 comments

  1. Chris says:

    you have to wonder if the Cards are purposefully having him pitch more to contact so they can try and keep his innings/pitch-count more efficient. They need him healthy for playoffs, so this might be a strategy to get him to 7innings-100 pitches (last year I recall him not last past 6 innings often, though the strikeouts were there.)

  2. Mark says:

    Can you name a few hitters and pitchers you might try to target in a trade for Wacha? I own him in a year-long points league and have been considering trying to move him.

    Thanks!

  3. JMH says:

    His last 5 games:

    11,2 SwStr%
    12,5 SwStr%
    6,5 SwStr%
    10,6 SwStr%
    10,5 SwStr%

    So lately he actually is showing more swing and miss. The one recent game he didn’t have a high SwStr% was against the Royals. The team with the lowest K% in the Majors.

  4. John says:

    What tier player are you looking for in return for Wacha given his start to the year? Looking to upgrade my outfield with Dickerson/Ellsbury on the DL.

  5. Rotoprofessor says:

    Chris/JMH – Both are fair points and are worth monitoring. Time will tell which is accurate.

    Mark/John – Basically get a feel for what’s out there and see if there’s a true believer. I don’t think you are going to get a Top Tier player at any position, but a second tier OF type may be possible if someone in your league sees him as an ace.

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