by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
During June there were 21 qualified pitchers who struck out at least 35 batters. There are plenty of names that we’d expect to be on the list, from Chris Sale to Max Scherzer to Gerrit Cole. However there were also some surprising performances, so let’s take a look at the noteworthy names and what we think the future holds:
Trevor Bauer – Cleveland Indians
62 K over 41.1 IP in June
Bauer paired strikeouts with a strong month across the board, posting a 2.18 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Don’t point towards luck, considering a .330 BABIP and 70.4% strand rate, and as a long hyped option you have to wonder if he’s finally backing it up on the field.
His 14.5% SwStr% and 32.2% O-Swing% are impressive, and his SwStr% has been consistently elevated all year long (13.2%, compared to 9.6% for his career). His slider usage is up over the past few years, which is likely the key to his success:
- 2016 – 0.43%
- 2017 – 5.57%
- 2018 – 14.22%
That pitch has generated a 21.21% Whiff%, so there’s little reason to think that his approach will change. He appears primed for a full breakout and could continue this success moving forward.
Jose Berrios – Minnesota Twins
44 K over 38.2 IP in June
Berrios posted a 3.26 ERA and 1.09 WHIP for the month, as he also showed off strong control (2.56 BB/9). Control and strikeouts haven’t been a big question, though he’s shown a spike in strikeouts this season courtesy of an 11.8% SwStr% and 34.7% O-Swing% (which he nearly matched in June, with marks of 11.8% and 33.2%, respectively).
The question here is his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark, and a 37.5% groundball rate in June is a red flag. There’s no doubting the upside and a strikeout per inning is very real, but there’s going to be bumps along the road.
German Marquez – Colorado Rockies
39 K over 33.1 IP in June
He may be the most surprising name on this list, though there are plenty of red flags:
- O-Swing% – 26.4%
- HR/FB – 24.3%
Coors Field obviously factors into the HR/FB, and he hasn’t shown a good O-Swing% since reaching the Majors (26.3% for his career). He has seen a spike in swinging strikes (11.4% SwStr%) as he’s throwing more sliders than ever before (20.92%), and that pitch is getting the most swings and misses to date (16.09% Whiff%). It’s also generating groundballs (60.00% of balls in play), so a little bit more luck in the HR/FB would go a long way.
This appears to be a change in skill, and while he may never be a must start option the adjustments are promising. As a streaming option the value is there, and he could become even more than that in time.
Tyler Mahle – Cincinnati Reds
37 K over 33.0 IP in June
Surprise number two, Mahle has generated the strikeouts courtesy of a 13.0% SwStr% and 32.8% O-Swing%. One big game really boosted the mark (12 K over 5.2 IP) and he’s been hit or miss throughout the month. He leans on his fourseam fastball to get the job done (68.05% for the year), doesn’t have a true wipeout pitch (15.56% Whiff% on his slider is his best mark) and has struggled with his control (4.64 BB/9 in June). It all comes together for a nice performance recently, but not someone we’re going to buy into.
Jack Flaherty – St. Louis Cardinals
37 K over 27.1 IP in June
He had a 14.4% SwStr% in June, pairing the strikeouts with solid control (2.96 BB/9). The SwStr% is a spike in performance, though he’s been good all year (12.4% for the season). Part of the improvement may have been throwing his sinker less (11.44%) and in turn focusing more on his fourseam fastball (44.49%). Obviously the latter features more strikeout potential (averaging 93.40 mph), though it’s his slider that his feature swing and miss pitch (24.09% Whiff%).
Flaherty’s biggest problem has been home runs, but a 26.3% HR/FB in June (16.1% overall) looms large. There’s a good chance that he improves on that number, and with the change in pitch repertoire and solid control there’s every reason to believe that he’s turning a corner. Now is the time to try and buy, while other owners are potentially down on him.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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