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AL SP Notes

Posted By Mike Podhorzer On April 19, 2012 @ 8:15 am In Starting Pitchers,Stock Watch | 18 Comments

As usual, pitching performances in the early going have run the gamut from complete domination to shockingly bad. It’s poor starts like these that make me swear to never pay more than $10 for a pitcher. But alas, most starters have pitched just three games and still have another 180 innings of baseball left to throw. So with that said, here’s a look around the American League.

Well, Francisco Liriano is certainly trying his darndest to make me look foolish after I boldly predicted he would be a top 10 starter this year. It’s as if that amazing spring training was just a dream, as his control has deserted him, a whopping third of balls in play against him have been line drives and his SwStk% is at the lowest mark of his career. But, there is one glimmer of hope and it relates to his velocity. In his first start, he averaged just 90.9 miles per hour with his two-seamer. That was down even further from where he sat last year, which itself represented a decline from his 2010 season. In his next start, he saw a minor bump up to 91.2 miles per hour. But it’s his last start that is encouraging- his velocity spiked to 93.0 miles per hour. Though the results obviously didn’t follow, it does relieve some fears that he is hiding an injury once again, and gives me hope that he can turn things around.

Jeremy Hellickson is last in the AL with a 6.18 SIERA. Yet, he’s doing the Hellickson thing again by maintaining a ridiculous .167 BABIP and nearly 94% LOB%. I expected his strikeout rate to jump this year, but so far he’s struck out just five batters over 13.2 innings. Do you think he becomes the greatest outlier in the history of the game? Either his peripherals improve in a hurry, or that ERA is going to skyrocket.

Speaking of Rays pitchers, Matt Moore has surely been a disappointment so far. Only 13.0 innings of course, but the 9 walks are not what fantasy owners expected. He did have a walk rate over 5.00 in Single-A in 2009, so he’s not a complete stranger to control problems. However, his F-Strike% is an elite 69.0%, which doesn’t match at all with that BB/9. With a healthy SwStk% as well, his peripherals should rebound quickly and he will resemble the rookie of the year candidate we all expected him to be soon enough.

The other pre-season rookie of the year favorite expected to battle Moore is Yu Darvish, who’s off to a disappointing start himself. His spring control issues made me wonder if that would carry over into the regular season, and indeed it has. Unlike Moore, though, Darvish’s F-Strike% is below 50%, which is awful, and suggests that his poor walk rate has been no fluke at all. His SwStk% of 7.6% is also surprisingly low. Last, while he was an extreme ground ball pitcher in Japan, which is one of the reasons I thought he would be a top starter here, his GB% has been just 41.5% so far. Of course, part of that is due to an inflated LD% of 34.1%, and some of those line drives are going to become grounders in all likelihood.

With no one truly knowing how Darvish would perform in his first year in the States, an attempt to acquire him right now is really just a shot in the dark. Unfortunately, I just do not have any unique insight into what he will do going forward, but if he comes cheap enough, do agree that it’s worth inquiring about his services for your team.

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