The Ditch List: Is It Time To Move On From These Three Struggling Pitchers (Yu Darvish & More)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

As the sample sizes start to grow the impulse to cut bait on a slow starter increases.  How long do we stand pat, or do we move on and grab the latest hot young prospect (or whoever you can find sitting on the waiver wire)?  Let’s take a look at three veteran pitchers to try and determine if it’s time to “Ditch ‘Em” or if we should “Stick With ‘Em” for a little bit longer:

 

Jose Quintana – Chicago Cubs
2018 Statistics – 19.2 IP, 7.78 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, 7.32 K/9, 5.03 BB/9

I have always been lower then most when it comes to Quintana, as seen by ranking him outside the Top 30 starting pitchers in our preseason draft guide.  Here’s a quick excerpt of what was said at the time:

“While he showed more strikeout stuff overall, with a 9.87 K/9, and he could maintain a slightly higher mark in the NL, the underlying metrics don’t support it (8.4% SwStr%, 28.4% O-Swing%).  Couple those limitations with an unspectacular groundball rate (44.8%) and the questions are going to be there.”

The biggest issue this season has been his control, considering his walk rate is more than double his career mark of 2.45 BB/9.  He’s simply fooling opposing hitters even less (26.1% O-Swing%) and considering an already pedestrian number (28.9% for his career) and 3.45 BB/9 in the first half of ’17 (only one month below a 2.57) he may never flash the numbers we’ve seen before.

As expected the strikeouts have dropped (8.1% SwStr%) and home runs have been an issue (1.37 HR/9, in part due to a 45.2% groundball rate).  With the weather warming the latter could become even more of an issue, and we also need to note that his velocity is down about 1 mph on both his fourseam fastball (92.64 to 91.65) and sinker (92.41 to 91.46).

He should improve upon his 58.4% strand rate, but with the skills in question he may never live up to the preseason hype.  Completely dropping him is extreme, but selling him to an owner who believes may be prudent.

Verdict – Ditch ‘Em (assuming it’s a trade)

 

Yu Darvish – Chicago Cubs
2018 Statistics – 19.2 IP, 6.86 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 9.61 K/9, 5.03 BB/9

Darvish’s miserable 2017 postseason (6.14 ERA over 14.2 IP) has carried into the regular season, which is going to cause the concerns to grow.  The big issue is clearly the efficiency of his pitches, as he’s seen both his SwStr% (8.9%) and O-Swing% (24.8%) plummet.  The big change is on the Whiff% of his fourseam fastball (4.00%, after an 11.98% mark a year ago) and opponents are hitting .360 with a .440 SLG on the pitch thus far.

Those are all concerning numbers, especially since they could indicate a regression in his strikeout rate, and you have to wonder if they put credence to the idea that he was tipping his pitches in the playoffs considering he’s maintained his velocity (94.70 mph).  Just to further complicate matters is a drop in his groundball rate (38.2%), leading to a 1.37 HR/9 (after a 1.30 HR/9 in ’17).

The ceiling remains too high just to give up on him, but there’s clearly something “off” and the struggles have been lasting for far too long.  What does that mean?  We’d hold him on our bench to see if he can show a glimmer of hope that he can get back to being the pitcher he once was.

Verdict – Hold ‘Em (but only on your bench)

 

Sonny Gray – New York Yankees
2018 Statistics – 16.1 IP, 8.27 ERA, 2.08 WHIP, 8.27 K/9, 6.06 BB/9

The owner of a career 3.01 BB/9, that has obviously been the biggest issue for Gray…  That said the other metrics point towards improvement on the horizon:

  • Line Drive Rate – 17.2%
  • Groundball Rate – 51.7%
  • BABIP – .379
  • Strand Rate – 59.5%

He hasn’t been good, failing to go past 4.0 innings in three of his four starts, though he’s surprisingly stopped throwing his slider as much (15.83% to 7.91%) and has been heavily relying on his curveball (14.10% to 31.96%).  Maybe that has led to a little bit of the control issues, but as we’ve said that should sort itself out in time.  There’s enough here to stay patient, at least for a little while longer.

Verdict – Hold ‘Em

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings?  Make sure to check it out by clicking here.  

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