2016 AL Starting Pitcher Tiers: May

It’s that time of year again, American League starting pitcher tier update time! You are no doubt well aware by now that ERA means literally nothing to me this early in the season. Player movement between tiers will only occur when there’s a change in underlying skill, pitch mix, or velocity.

Tiers are named for the best characters on the brilliant FXX show, Man Seeking Woman.

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Roto Riteup: May 5, 2016

“Don’t throw a fastball down the middle to Big Papi.”

That’s Carlos Rodon’s advice to the world after feeding David Ortiz a 93 MPH fastball down the chute for a home run. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

Also, here’s this:


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Bullpen Report: May 4, 2016

• Well, it finally happened — Jeanmar Gomez finally blew a save. It wasn’t pretty either, as the righty was touched up for two runs on three hits and a pair of walks. The outing was ugly enough to bring his (SSS) xFIP from 3.27 to 3.81, which is actually not too far off last year’s 3.98 mark. We’ve mentioned here a couple times that Gomez is probably just good enough to hold onto the gig when things are going well, but he doesn’t have enough swing-and-miss stuff to avoid bad stretches where guys are making solid contact and putting the ball in play. He has been used a lot lately (8 times in the Phillies last 12 games), so maybe a day or two off will do him good. I expect he’ll get the next save opportunity, but we’ve kept him yellow even through the “good times” for a reason. I’ll slide Hector Neris (2.05 xFIP, 43% K%) ahead of David Hernandez (2.26 xFIP, 39%) based on his save a couple games ago (when Gomez was getting a day off). However, it wouldn’t be shocking if either of them (or even Andrew Bailey) saw run in the ninth inning for Philly at some point going forward.

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The Sleeper and the Bust Episode: 340 – Aledmys to Introduce Myself

5/4/16

The latest episode of “The Sleeper and the Bust” is live!

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Notable Transactions/Rumors/Articles/Game Play

Mailbag

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Play

The Continued Ascent of Mike Moustakas

Perhaps more than anything, the Kansas City Royals are a lesson in maintaining patience with your prospects. It was true with Alex Gordon, who got off to a slow start in his career and now represents one of the more consistent outfielders in the game, in a variety of ways. It was probably even more true of Mike Moustakas, who as recently as 2014 spent time in the minor leagues. And yet, here we are just a couple of years later, living in a world where Mike Moustakas has become a reliable presence not just for the defending World Champions, but for prospective fantasy owners as well.

For Moustakas, 2015 featured career highs across the board. He hit 22 home runs, knocked in 84, with a slash that went .284/.348/.470/.817. His ability to hit for extra bases was reflected in his .186 ISO, which ranked eighth among big league third sackers. His 124 wRC+ also, unsurprisingly, represented a career mark and trailed only names like Josh Donaldson, Matt Carpenter, Kris Bryant, and Manny Machado in that regard. So exactly what changed for Moustakas, and how has he furthered that development into what could be another career campaign in 2016?

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Tipping Pitches: Chris Tillman Surging

It’s understandable if you came into the season with Chris Tillman buried on your starting pitcher list. After back-to-back intriguing seasons in 2013-14, he ran all the back toward and even beyond his ominous FIP numbers with a 4.99 ERA in 173 innings. In those two solid seasons, he posted a 3.52 ERA, but was all the way up at a 4.22 FIP. An already-tenuous skillset sank further, yielding a 1.9 K:BB ratio and took Tillman off the radar in just about every league type.

On Tuesday night he dropped seven strong on the Yankees, shrinking his ERA to 2.81 and tying a career-high with nine strikeouts (7th ever, 2nd this year). This time around, there’s actually support for his numbers. He has a 2.64 FIP thanks in large part to a 26% strikeout rate and just 24 hits allowed in 32 innings. His 9% walk rate is a little high, but workable with those strikeout and hit rates for sure. His 11% swinging strike rate is far and away a career-high and supports the surge in punchouts.

What’s Tillman doing to draw such strong results? Let’s take a look at the three main areas that I (and most, I think) often look to first when a pitcher is showing a big change in performance, for better or worse.

VELOCITY

I’m fairly certain that velocity is the first check for everybody when seeing what’s up with a pitcher. Brooks has Tillman up over a full tick at 93.8 MPH – a career-best and his first time north of 93 on average since 2012. The cutter is the only other pitch where more velocity would help and while he is up, it’s negligible at just 0.6 MPH. The 87.4 MPH mark is second-best in his career behind the 87.5 he logged in 2013. His velocity increase is a tangible, positive change, but it alone certainly doesn’t explain this jump in performance.

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Thoughts on Jeff Passan’s Book, “The Arm”

I have finally finished Jeff Passan’s new book, “The Arm” and have a few pieces of information I found interesting.

• When the ulnar nerve is brought in injury discussion people get excited. Here is why, “… ulnar nerve, a tube of fibers that originates at the spine snakes down the arm and controls fine-motor movement in the hand.” The nerve may need to be moved to get away from bone chips.

Mike Marshall would even take it a step further

“… when a pitcher showed professional potential, he would go in for surgery to transpose the ulnar nerve.”

• The major issue with a second Tommy John surgery is the holes drilled in the arm weakening the bone like it has with Jarrod Parker. Here is a description when the book mentions Todd Coffey‘s second surgery:

“Surgery dabbles in fractions of a millimeter. The drill holes from Coffey’s first surgery left his ulna in danger of cracking.”

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Ottoneu April Power Rankings

Starting in July of last season I began posting monthly power rankings for ottoneu FanGraphs points leagues, taking up the mantle of work previously done by Nate Emmerson (who was gracious enough to share his process and python scripts with me). With April in the books, it’s time for the first edition of the 2016 power rankings, and this time I am including rankings for all four ottoneu formats.

The first ranking I’m going to present shows the top individual teams in all FanGraphs points leagues based on their Pace, which is a metric I calculated by taking each team’s Pts/G and Pts/IP and multiplying them by their projected games (max of 1,944) and innings (max of 1,500).

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The Change: What Pitcher Stats To Use Early in the Season

A few weeks back, I looked at hitter stats that you can use early in the season. And they presaged the Domingo Santana mini-breakout! Now it’s time to look at pitchers, and let you into my toolbox.

There will be leaderboards.

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The Daily Grind: DFS, Streaming, and More for May 4

Agenda

  1. SaberSim Exclusions
  2. The Daily Grind Invitational and Leaderboard
  3. Daily DFS
  4. SaberSim Observations
  5. Tomorrow’s Targets
  6. Factor Grid

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