by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
After a brutally disappointing first half of ’17 the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman flipped the script, posting a solid second half and bringing hope that he had figured things out and put himself back on track. The question is if that is an accurate assessment, or is it more a case of fool’s gold. Before we try to answer that, let’s look at the numbers:
He wasn’t getting hit as hard, with his line drive rate going from 23.8% to 19.7%, and it would appear that his pure stuff was simply better than it was early in the season. There was a significant change in his pitch usage, which could help to explain the improvement. Just look at the split:
|April - June||66.93%||16.66%||0.31%||16.11%|
|July - September||61.67%||13.27%||0.49%||24.57%|
So Gausman was using his split-finger fastball roughly 33% more over the final three months, and the improved results were apparent. Is that a coincidence? Over the course of the season the pitched yielded a 22.44% Whiff% and opponents owned a .204 AVG and .361 SLG against it. In other words, the increased usage of his best pitch correlates with an overall improvement in production. Go figure, right?
While he had never been using the pitch that much previously, it makes sense and it’s a trend we’d expect to continue. The owner of a career 2.79 BB/9 the improved control after the All-Star Break also makes sense.
The question is going to be if he can figure out how to consistently keep the ball in the ballpark, something he’s never proven capable of (HR/9):
- 2015 – 1.36
- 2016 – 1.40
- 2017 – 1.40
He’s not a groundball pitcher and calls a hitter friendly ballpark home, plus he pitches in the American League, so the issue makes sense. Even during his renaissance second half he owned a 1.51 HR/9, so it’s hard to imagine that not being an issue. That’s going to help to cap his value, because it’s going to mean that an elite ERA likely won’t be in the cards (barring some type of dramatic change).
The strikeouts/control is going to give him appeal, and he’s well worth owning as a mid-to-back of the rotation starter for fantasy teams. Just know that if you select him you are going to need to have depth, because he’s never going to be a “set him and forget him” type starter. Think of him as a 3.90ish ERA pitcher overall, though if you pick your spots and pair him properly he should provide much more value than that. Don’t buy him expecting him to replicate his strong second half, but buy him at a discount and the knowledge of how to utilize him.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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