To Trust or Not To Trust: How To Handle These Questionable Starting Pitchers (Despite Perceived Name Value)

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Not all “big” named, or widely owned, pitchers are created equal.  We are always getting questions about whether to trust certain pitchers, or whether to sit them.  With that in mind let’s take a look at three notable names who you may be struggling with and try to help decide on how to proceed:

Kyle Gibson – Minnesota Twins
2019 Statistics – 105.1 IP, 4.02 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 9.06 K/9, 2.48 BB/9

Despite a 48.5% groundball rate Gibson has struggled with home runs, and while it could be worse a 1.28 HR/9 (18.8% HR/FB) has helped him to a 70.4% strand rate.   If he could ever get that in check, even if it’s just to last year’s numbers (1.05 HR/9, 70.4% strand rate), he would instantly become a must start option.

At the current rates, though?  We can’t quite say that, especially given this key split (HR/9):

  • Home – 0.68
  • Road – 1.90

With his ability to get swings and misses much improved (13.4% SwStr%) as he’s thrown his fastball less (50.6% in ’19, compared to 58.2% for his career) it all comes together nicely.  At the very least he’s a must start at home, and there’s the potential even when he’s on the road (though for now we’d pick our spots).

Verdict – Start him at home (and potentially on the road)

Chris Archer – Pittsburgh Pirates
2019 Statistics – 90.2 IP, 5.36 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 10.52 K/9, 4.47 BB/9

It wasn’t long ago that he was thought of as a potential ace, but he’s taken a monstrous step backwards nearly across the board in ’19 as it’s all fallen apart…

  • He’s been extremely home run prone (2.18 HR/9)…
  • He’s been hit incredibly hard (42.6% Hard%)…
  • His control has been terrible (4.47 BB/9)…

Part of the issue has been a significant decline in his groundball rate (35.6%, compared to a career 44.9% mark).  Overall he’s been using his slider less, though in July he’s been using it a little bit more (39.59%).  That said it hasn’t led to significantly better results (4.76 ERA), and the groundballs have been even worse (25.6%).  He hasn’t been hit as hard (33.3%) and the control has improved (3.71 BB/9), but with the home run issues looming can he really be trusted?  He’s worth stashing, at least for now, but don’t consider him a must start.

Verdict – Stash him for now

Jon Gray – Colorado Rockies
2019 Statistics – 120.1 IP, 4.11 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 9.27 K/9, 3.37 BB/9

Gray pitches half his games in Coors Field so it’s an easy formula, right?  Start him at home, sit him on the road…  Wait, what?  It seems like a crazy conclusion, but just look at the ERA split:

  • Home – 3.90
  • Road – 4.29

OK so he hasn’t been a tremendous option regardless of where he’s pitched, though he has been a little bit better at home.  He continues to show strikeouts (9.27 K/9) as well as enough control (3.37 BB/9) and groundballs (48.3%), and you also have to think his .325 BABIP will improve (37.6% Hard%).  Of course the home run number is actually skewed by one good month (0.48 HR/9 in June), the only month he’s had better than a 1.46 mark.

If he’s going to allow home runs at that type of rate he’s not going to be a trustworthy option.  While there’s always going to be intrigue, it’s better left on your bench regardless of where he’s pitching.

Verdict – Stash him for now

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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