Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Should We Believe In These Potentially Intriguing Starters?


How long do we hold out hope for a turnaround? When do we start to believe that a solid start can continue over the course of the season? Neither question is easy to answer, and with that in mind let’s try to determine how to handle these two potentially intriguing options:

Zack Godley – Arizona Diamondbacks
Godley was highly hyped a year ago but fell flat as he posted a 4.74 ERA and 1.45 WHIP over 178.1 IP.  There was hope of being a post-hype sleeper entering 2019, but over his first three starts things have been even worse as he’s pitched to a 7.41 ERA over 17.0 IP.  If you want to point towards poor luck for at least a little bit of explanation (56.1% strand rate) it’s fair, but the truth is that he simply hasn’t been very good.  A few key numbers:

  • Walk Rate – 4.24 BB/9
  • Hard% – 37.3%
  • HR/9 – 2.12

Considering his Hard% of 38.4% last season it’s becoming more and more obvious that his stuff simply isn’t fooling anyone…  Or is it?  Over his three starts this season he does own a 14.0% SwStr% and 36.1% O-Swing%, but with his velocity down on his sinker (92.02 in ’17 to 90.39 in ’18 to 89.49 to open ’19) just how long can he show that type of potential?

He’s seen his groundball rate plummet to 40.8%, despite being a sinker ball pitcher, which helps to explain the home run struggles.  Mix in walks continuing to be an issue and exactly what are we buying?  Everything is pointing in the wrong direction, making Godley a pitcher that we aren’t looking to buy.

Verdict – Deny ‘Em

Trent Thornton – Toronto Blue Jays
The former Astro likely wasn’t on many radars entering the season, but he’s been fairly impressive over his first three starts (albeit over 13.2 IP) despite his 4.61 ERA.  In regards to the three skills we look for, it’s been so far so good in two out of three:

  • Strikeouts – 11.85 K/9
  • Control – 2.63 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 31.4%

Control has always been his strongest skill and while he may generate a few more groundballs (41.6% at Triple-A last season), pitching in the AL East home runs are going to be an issue.  Then you have the strikeouts, where you have to wonder if he can maintain his current 12.2% SwStr%.  Over his minor league career he posted an 8.0 K/9, and while his 11.4% SwStr% shows some promise it’s hard to get overly excited.

With the likelihood of a regression in his strikeout rate, the home run issues and consistently difficult lineups to maneuver through now isn’t the time to be looking to buy.

Verdict – Deny ‘Em

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference


  1. Hey Prof – how would you rank these 2 start streamers for next week? Miley vs MIN/vs CLE, Minor at Oak/at Sea, Keller at TB/vs LAA, Burnes at STL/at NYM Thanks again!


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