Real or Mirage: Identifying Which Surging Starting Pitchers Are The Real Deal (Stripling, Clevinger & More)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

It’s easy to become infatuated with any hot player, and it’s determining if they are for real or not that is key to fantasy success.  Sometimes it’s better to move on too soon then try to get every last drop of value out of a player, ultimately to be burdened by a few blowups (which undo all the good that had been done).  With that in mind, let’s take a look at three pitchers who have been thriving in June and determine if they are real or just a mirage:

 

Ross Stripling – Los Angeles Dodgers
June Statistics – 24.0 IP, 2.63 ERA, 9.75 K/9, 0.00 BB/9

His impressive run stretches beyond June, as he owns a 2.37 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 10.74 K/9 and 0.79 BB/9 over his 10 starts (he also has made 11 appearances out of the bullpen).  He’s showing all the skills we look for, including a 49.7% groundball rate as a starter, but the question is if he can maintain them over the long haul?

  • Groundballs – He owns a career 49.4% groundball rate, so while this isn’t “elite” it’s a skill that’s easy to envision him maintaining
  • Strikeouts – There’s potential, but does a 10.9% SwStr% support the overall gaudy number? He’s increased the usage of his changeup (11.83%) and it’s generating a 15.79% Whiff%, so while his June mark may be more indicative of his skills it’s more than enough
  • Control – It’s fairly obvious, but can we expect anyone to maintain this type of pinpoint control? At the same time he owns a 2.19 BB/9 over 246.2 IP in the Majors

The fact is that Stripling is going to regress (89.0% strand rate), but that doesn’t mean he’s going to fall off a cliff.  He has the skills to continue to excel and should be a usable option from here on out.

Verdict – Real

 

Mike Clevinger – Cleveland Indians
June Statistics – 27.1 IP, 2.63 ERA, 9.55 K/9, 2.96 BB/9

Overall he hasn’t benefited from luck (77.2% strand rate, .285 BABIP), though the question is if he can maintain his currently elevated strikeout rate.  For the full season he owns an 8.18 K/9 (to go along with a 2.91 BB/9 and 45.1% groundball rate), so there are solid, but unspectacular, skills.  What has caused the strikeout spike?

The biggest change in June has been a significant jump in his Whiff% on his fourseam fastball:

  • April – 6.69%
  • May – 5.25%
  • June – 13.87%

He’s not throwing the pitch any harder and he hasn’t shown that type of upside on the pitch before (5.53% Whiff% in ’17).  He’s going to be solid, which is what we’d expect, but he’s not as good as the June numbers indicate.  His value may never be higher, so shopping him and seeing what’s out there makes sense.

Verdict – Mirage (he’s solid, but not this good)

 

Jhoulys Chacin – Milwaukee Brewers
June Statistics – 24.1 IP, 1.85 ERA, 7.77 K/9, 2.59 BB/9

He’s struggled to generate strikeouts overall (6.78 K/9), so the recent surge is nice to see.  The problem here is that he hasn’t been generating many groundballs (40.9%) yet hasn’t had home run issues (0.62 HR/9).  Pitching in Milwaukee it’s only a matter of time before that catches up with him, and with just modest strikeout stuff and control there’s a huge red flag hanging over him.

Verdict – Mirage

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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3 comments

  1. Sawyer says:

    Surprised you think Clevinger is a mirage. He is just over 9 K/9 in his career. He was over 10 k/9 last year over 121 IP. I’ve been expecting the Ks to come around this year.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      It’s not to say that he’s not a solid option, I just don’t see him maintaining these numbers (and that makes him an ideal sell high candidate, especially if you can flip him for an upper level bat)

      • bbboston says:

        RP: As usual, great article!

        That said, I’m with Sawyer. He did it last year and Clevinger is maturing into another special Cleveland pitcher. What wasn’t discussed in the article is that Francona insisted he show more control, during Spring ball. His stuff is so nasty that he’s able to get guys to swing outside of the strike zone; nevertheless, historically, his worse pitch was his fastball. Last year, he lived dangerously by giving up a ton of walks and then striking guys out with men on base, etc. Now he’s brought his bb/9 down. I don’t know why he’s striking guys out guys with his FB since I can’t see his games, but I’ll bet he’s learned to throw it at the top of the zone and it’s become a change of pace pitch for him, as his slider/curve pitches are nasty and on the lower edges.

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