I am not one to ever make much of a small sample size, especially just two weeks worth. However, pitchers usually show a change in skills more quickly than hitters (or at least it can be identified more easily). Plus, as we make our way through the final month of the season, we have to deal with the reality that pitchers do tire and/or, younger pitchers are getting figured out. Here are three American League starters who have posted surprisingly poor SIERA marks over the last two weeks.
I have continually ranked Lester pretty highly and he has been one of the more controversial players in those articles. After an insane 9.36 (!!!) ERA in 25 July innings, he was finally making me feel good when he posted a 3.59 mark for the entire month of August. While his strikeout rate remained down a bit, his overall skill set was as strong as it always has been. But over his last 3 starts spanning 21.0 innings, his strikeout rate has plunged even further to just 5.1, while his walk rate was an uncharacteristic 3.9. That all combined to result in a 4.90 SIERA. His fastball velocity hasn’t dipped, so that’s not the problem. And until his last start against the Mariners, his SwStk% was fine as well. So it’s not obvious what has contributed to the strikeout rate decline. And last, his F-Strike%, aside from the Seattle game once again, has been good.
For the season, all of his plate discipline metrics are slightly better than last year, when he posted a 3.47 ERA. For whatever reason, batters have been hitting him hard this year, as they have posted a nearly 23% line drive rate and 14.4% HR/FB ratio. Without any obvious explanation here, I am convinced that this is just a random season of bad results and he will be quite the bargain in drafts next year.
I was quite pessimistic upon his trade to the American League and figured he would be worthless in standard 12-team mixed leagues. So far in 40.0 innings over 7 starts for the Tigers, he hasn’t even been worth anything in AL-Only leagues, as his ERA sits at 4.50 and WHIP an ugly 1.65. We know that on average, a pitcher’s strikeout rate will decline after moving from the NL to the AL, but Sanchez’ has completely plummeted from a solid 8.2 to a pathetic 5.0. The interesting thing is that his fastball velocity has actually increased by a mile per hour with the Tigers, but his SwStk% has declined.
Over the last two weeks, his strikeout rate is just 4.1, but at least he has offset that with impeccable control resulting in a 1.4 BB/9. Given that his stuff seemingly looks fine, I would assume his strikeout rate will improve and he’ll again generate some AL-Only value. Mixed leaguers, however, might still want to hold onto him as his remaining schedule is pretty decent. He should get the Angels, Indians, A’s, Royals, and Twins, so he might still be worth starting in mixed leagues by the end of the season.
Diamond has been one of the most pleasant surprises among AL starters this season, displaying impeccable control and inducing a ton of ground balls on the way to a 3.35 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Unfortunately, given his weak strikeout rate, he truly has to continue showing pinpoint control to survive. And he hasn’t done that over the past 14 days. With just 7 strikeouts in his last 14.1 innings, he simply cannot afford to also walk 5 batters. While he certainly didn’t deserve a 6.91 ERA over that span, his 4.60 SIERA tells us that he truly hasn’t pitched well.
With his low strikeout, low walk and high GB% game, he has limited margin for error. Any game in which his control is missing is going to mean a ton of base runners and the only hope is that some of the grounders will turn into double plays. His below average velocity, SwStk% and uninspiring minor league track record suggests a much better strikeout rate isn’t likely in the cards. Though you have to assume he will improve a bit next season, you also can’t expect him to maintain another mid-1.00 walk rate given his good, but not great, F-Strike%. He remains merely a matchup mixed league play and will likely head into the 2013 season having borderline positive value.