by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
We’ve reached the midway point of the baseball season, and the time has come to truly evaluate your team and make the necessary adjustments. Parting with your obvious regression risks makes sense, assuming you truly can sell high and capitalize on their first half numbers. With that approach in mind, here are three pitchers you want to try and cash in on before it becomes too late:
Sean Manaea – Oakland A’s
117.2 IP, 3.44 ERA, 0.99 WHIP
Manaea entered Sunday’s start showing elite control (1.76 BB/9) and benefiting from a lot of luck (.223 BABIP), helping to justify the miniscule WHIP. Of course he also had been hit hard (38.8% Hard%) and the walk rate is hard to buy into (3.5 BB/9 in the minor leagues). Those two numbers alone make him a scary proposition, but then you throw in a disappointing strikeout rate as the cherry on top.
Carrying a 9.8% SwStr%, Manea has seen his Whiff% fall on all three of his pitches this season:
- Fourseam – 7.73% to 6.75%
- Changeup – 18.30% to 14.31%
- Slider – 19.35% to 13.76%
Part of the issue could be tied to a decrease in velocity (92.21 mph to 91.57), and while he has gained a bit he still hasn’t topped 92 mph in any month (91.95 in June is his high point). The home ballpark is a nice selling point, but a lack of strikeouts with the likely regression in both his luck and control makes him a pitcher to part ways with as soon as possible.
Chase Anderson – Milwaukee Brewers
99.1 IP, 3.81 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
Is someone from your league still holding onto the belief that Anderson could replicate his 2017 success? Take advantage, and do it now.
His strikeouts are down from last season, as his 6.98 K/9 is closer to his career line (7.45) than last year’s 8.47 ever did. He has used his fourseam fastball more (32.86% to 40.16%), though most of that has come at the expense of his sinker (19.67% to 13.39%). That would result in fewer groundballs, but not fewer swings and misses. That has come due to his curveball being less successful (13.59% Whiff% to 8.75%), with last year’s mark looking like the aberration.
That alone is concerning, but his lack of groundballs (35.7%), continued home run issues (1.54 HR/9) and opponents hitting him hard (37.5% Hard%) makes the outlook that much worse. Last year he managed to avoid home run problems (0.89 HR/9), but that always screamed for a regression (1.27 HR/9 for his career).
Get out now, while the numbers still appear respectable. There’s a good chance they get even worse (.224 BABIP, 79.0% strand rate).
Jon Lester – Chicago Cubs
106.1 IP, 2.45 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
Lester entered Sunday’s start with an impressive ERA, a solid WHIP and a plethora of questions. Just glancing at the metrics it’s easy to point to excessive luck as a reason for his success as he owns a .247 BABIP and 83.8% strand rate. It was just two years ago that he posted similar marks over the course of a full season (.256 and 84.9% in 2016), so it’s also impossible to call it a complete aberration.
The difference in 2018 is that the strikeouts are down (6.86 K/9) and the walks are up (3.22 BB/9), and those are just the surface numbers. He’s inducing fewer groundballs (39.0%, compared to a 46.6% career mark), so it’s impossible to anticipate him maintaining his 1.02 HR/9. He’s also being hit harder than ever before, with a 33.1% Hard% (26.7% for his career). Throw in an 8.5% SwStr% and it all comes together.
It’s easy to look towards his 2016 numbers and expect him to maintain his pace, but everything points towards a significant regression. Sell high now, while you still can, and use his name and previous success to do so.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out all of our Midseason Prospect Rankings: