by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
While SwStr% isn’t the end all, be all, when it comes to strikeout totals it certainly helps. Of course when it comes to “bigger” names we may not want to believe the number, but it also could indicate more issues on the horizon. Let’s take a look at three highly owned pitchers and try to determine if we should be holding on or trying to sell before it’s too late:
Kyle Hendricks – Chicago Cubs
Hendricks has always shown strong control (1.81 BB/9 in ’18, 2.14 for his career) and he continues to deliver a solid groundball approach (50.7% in ’18, 49.7% for his career). The question boils down to strikeouts, and while he’s thus far posted a 3.02 ERA it may be hard to envision him maintaining it as the strikeout rate continues to regress:
- 2015 – 8.35 K/9
- 2016 – 8.05 K/9
- 2017 – 7.93 K/9
- 2018 – 6.45 K/9
The trend had been slow, until this season, as he’s simply not getting opponents to chase outside the strike zone like he had previously (26.4% vs. 31.3% for his career). His best pitch remains his changeup, which he’s throwing 26.65% of the time, with opponents hitting .173 against it. That said we always had questions about his ability to maintain the strikeout rate, considering his career 8.7% SwStr% (7.4% in ’18).
Even if he gets the strikeouts back up into the 8.0 K/9 range, which we aren’t banking on, and improve upon his surprising 1.61 HR/9, his .227 BABIP and 89.7% strand rate tell us that the numbers will likely regress regardless. The numbers are strong, but don’t get excited.
Verdict – Possible Sell (strictly return dependent)
Chase Anderson – Milwaukee Brewers
As it is his 3.97 ERA isn’t special, and it’s looking like last year’s 10.2% SwStr% and 30.3% O-Swing% were exceptions not the new rule (8.0% and 26.0% in ’18, respectively). That’s led to the strikeout rate tumbling to a 5.96 K/9, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering his lack of a put away pitch (Whiff%):
- Changeup – 12.98%
- Curveball – 11.86%
- Cutter – 8.74%
- Fourseam Fastball – 7.83%
- Sinker – 6.74%
You aren’t going to maintain a big strikeout rate with those numbers, and home runs have become a serious issue (36.4% groundball rate has led to a 1.99 HR/9). Throw in a .210 BABIP and 85.7% strand rate and he has disaster written all over him. Sell him now while you can.
Verdict – Must Sell
Dallas Keuchel – Houston Astros
His SwStr% of 8.1% would be his worst since his rookie year, though it’s not that far off his career mark of 9.3%. The bigger issue is his groundball rate, which is still strong but not the elite mark he’s proven capable of (56.6% vs. 66.8% in ’17). He appears to have moved away from his sinker (53.19% to 45.43%) to instead throw his cutter (10.46% to 20.03%), which would support the number. The question is, why?
This season opponents are hitting .245 against his sinker and while we would expect an improvement in his 1.41 HR/9 regardless, a change should still come. That alone will help the overall numbers, even with a regression in his luck (.250 BABIP, 79.9% strand rate), and given his career numbers there’s good reason to believe the strikeouts will improve. He’s not going to be a strikeout monster, but the value and upside is there.
Verdict – Hold ‘Em
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, ESPN
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