by Connor Henry
Amongst the frenzy of the fantasy playoff push, it’s common to see the most baffling players on the waiver wire. Two 0-for-5 games and a 3rd round pick could be looking for a new fantasy home. Or maybe two, 4 run outings for a top tier pitcher and the owner drops them on the spot. Could there be something better on the horizon for these players? For recently “struggling” pitchers let’s take a look at the 4 trends below:
- Soft Contact: League Average 18%
- Hard Contact: League Average 35.5%
- Swinging Strike %
- Left on Base %
The guys we’ll be discussing are pitchers who, over the last 30 days, have shown impressive skills but might not be garnering much attention due to a subpar ERA over that time.
Zack Godley – Arizona Diamondbacks
One of the breakout pitchers of 2017, Godley came into this year with high expectations and has caused many of his fantasy owners plenty of anguish. Despite a hot streak after the All Star Break, over the past 30 days he has pitched to a 5.22 ERA making many owners question his spot on their roster. Over that same time span, however, Godley has a 3.39 SIERA and a 3.36 FIP giving him the third largest “ERA – FIP” value for qualified pitchers. So should we expect him to finish out the season strong?
- Soft Contact %: 13
- Hard Contact %: 49
- Swinging Strike %: 12
- Left on Base %: 57
He is an interesting case because he seems to have lost his ability to generate weak contact, which he had been displaying the past season and a half. Over the past 30 days his 49% hard contact rate ranks second highest among qualified pitchers and his 13% soft contact rate is in the bottom 15 of qualified pitchers. Yet his BABIP sits at .297, which is roughly league average. In addition to these odd trends, he is not generating his usual number of groundballs (only 43%) while inducing almost no popups.
However, Godley is showing positive trends in his data including a 12% whiff rate and 34% O-Swing rate, showing that his curveball is fooling hitters once again. Perhaps what we need to attribute his lack of recent success to is his dismal 57% left on base rate. Mainly what hinders a pitcher’s ability to strand runner’s is home runs and a lack of strikeouts. Over the past 30 days he has an about league average HR/FB rate and an above average strikeout rate, which is completely contradictory and speaks to bad luck.
Verdict: Over the past 30 days Godley has a 3.36 FIP, an average BABIP and a great strikeout rate, but his dismal left-on-base rate has raised his ERA to 5.22. While I would like to see the hard contact rate come down and the ground balls rate come back up, I’m still optimistic due to his completely unsustainable left-on-base rate even if the BABIP is a bit fluky. He’s a hold for me.
Andrew Heaney – Los Angeles Angels
(Note – all numbers are prior to yesterday’s start) An oft-injured Angels pitcher (that’s actually all of them), Heaney has always hinted at his fantasy potential. He came into the year basically undrafted in all formats but quickly rose to relevance due to his performance through the first third of the season. He’s since been re-injured and taken a step back due to an inevitable regression but now that he’s healthy again he’s been even worse. Over the last 30 days Heaney has 4.99 ERA but that comes with a 4.10 FIP and even more impressive 3.82 xFIP. Is his recent form the REAL Andrew Heaney?
- Soft Contact %: 27
- Hard Contact %: 36
- Swinging Strike %: 12
- Left on Base %: 70
Heaney is doing a fantastic job at inducing soft contact. Surprisingly, with that high of a soft contact rate and a popup rate sitting around 20% his BABIP over the past month is still .315. Although the hard contact rate is slightly above league average, he’s not giving up an exorbitant amount of line drives or home runs.
His left-on-base rate, unlike his BABIP, actually sits about league average. His HR/FB is slightly above the league average of 13% but is not outrageous while his swinging strike rate of 12% should garner an uptick in his strikeouts, which over the last 30 days have dropped under 8 K/9 innings.
Verdict: As long as Heaney stays healthy I envision him getting back into the form that made him fantasy relevant at the beginning of this season. He’s inducing tons of soft contact and popups that could allow his BABIP to fall and if his swinging strike rate sustains, his strikeout rate is bound to climb. Add a lower BABIP to a higher K% and Heaney’s ERA is bound to drop. I’m holding him in all formats and picking him up wherever he’s available.