AL SP Stock Watch: Parker, Buchholz & McAllister

You probably know my deal by now. I am extremely patient. It takes a lot for me to change my valuation of a player. After three or so starts, not much is going to alter my views of a pitcher. Unless I see a significant change in velocity, pitch mix or rumblings of some sort of injury, I stick to my pre-season guns for the most part. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at a couple of American League starting pitchers making waves early on.

Jarrod Parker

Parker was a popular late round pick this season coming off a strong rookie campaign last year in Oakland. However, I wasn’t a fan from the get go, identifying him as one of the most overvalued pitchers when I compared my rankings to the RotoGraphs consensus. Now after two starts, his ERA sits at a lofty 10.80, while his WHIP stands at a robust 2.66. Time to pat myself on the back? Not yet. Although he has struck out just four batters and walked eight, his advanced metrics suggest this is still the exact same pitcher he has always been.

In fact, he has been generating swings and missed at nearly the same rate as last year, while he has actually thrown a higher rate of first pitch strikes. His velocity is fine, and while he is throwing his fastball a bit more often at the expense of the changeup, it’s not a significant change to think it should have such a profound effect on his results. The bottom line is that the underlying skills suggest he’s basically what he was last year. Unfortunately, his results last year were deceiving as his HR/FB rate was just 6.8%, allowing him to outperform his SIERA. So he should absolutely rebound, but that rebound might not be to the level many expected from him to begin with. As such, I don’t consider him a buy low candidate in 12-team mixed leagues. You could take a shot in AL-Only leagues, but it should be real low since I didn’t think a whole lot of him to begin with.

Clay Buchholz

Buchholz’s career has been all over the place and I have been on board and off board many times. Now sporting a miniscule 0.41 ERA over 22.0 innings through 3 starts, some might start to take notice again. But is he actually doing anything differently than he has in the past? Nope. This is the exact same Buchholz we have always known. His pitch selection is identical to his previous two seasons when he started throwing a cutter, while his fastball velocity is down a bit. As usual, he has posted a below average SwStk% despite outwardly good stuff. The sub-par SwStk% has matched up with his mediocre strikeout rates, but this year he has punched out one more batter than the numbers of innings he has pitched. So the strikeout rate looks like a complete fluke.

The good news though is that his inflated walk rate looks to be random as well, as his F-Strike% is normal and above the league average. He hasn’t generated the typical ground ball rate he has in the past either, which makes him seem that much more fortunate that he has only allowed one home run so far. So just like we see with Parker, the underlying metrics tell the story — that we are not witnessing a new talent level and a pitcher’s surface results are deceiving over such a small sample. No change to the valuation of Buchholz for the rest of the season rankings.

Zach McAllister

McAllister actually showed pretty decent skills last year, but an underwhelming minor league career and below average SwStk% made me less than optimistic about his outlook this season. This year he has yet to walk a batter in 12.1 innings, while his strikeout rate has declined as expected (of course, it remains a small sample size, so no pats on the back just yet!). Oddly, his SwStk% has actually spiked, which makes the early strikeout rate decline odd. His pitch mix is almost identical to last season, while his fastball velocity is down a bit.

My opinion of him has not changed and the projection systems aren’t too kind either. However, I definitely am less bearish than ZiPS which projects a crazy 5.09 ERA RoS! I think Steamer is much more reasonable and close to my own projection, as that system is expecting a 4.37 mark. That’s clearly worthless in shallower mixed leagues, and to be honest, a good middle reliever might have more value in AL-Only leagues.




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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.


20 Responses to “AL SP Stock Watch: Parker, Buchholz & McAllister”

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  1. jon frasier says:

    What about Jose Quintana? He has 17 K’s in 17 innings with only 4 BB’s and it’s been reported that his velocity is up. Anything point to this being sustainable?

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    • wobatus says:

      shhhh

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    • Cannon says:

      I contended all spring when everyone was down on Quintana, because he faded in the second half, to not overlook him. He had jumped AAA entirely and pitched a combined 184 innings between MLB and AA after only pitching like 100 innings max in A+ so fatigue may have been a factor. I also noticed during ST that he had maybe 3 starts all spring which suggested to me that CWS thought the same thing and were limiting his pitching. I personally like him in deep leagues since that is all that I play, but not sure how he would rank yet in 12 team. If someones SP rotation resembles a MASH unit though you could do worse.

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      • Wobatus says:

        I like Quintana. His velocity is up a tad. Of course, yesterday a bunch of his strikeouts were of Colby Rasmus, who is a K machine this year and can’t hit lefties, and Brett Lawrie, who just got back. He has looked good in other games too, though.

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  2. Bryan says:

    What about Buchholz’s decreased time between pitches? Could that account for anything sustainable?

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  3. Curious Joe says:

    Yesterday, an article on a different but great baseball site suggested that where Clay is pitching from on the rubber could be behind the recent improved performances. The article cited pitching data collected from Brooks Baseball and went on to indicate that he made the change in the second half of last year when he also had stronger than normal results.

    Taking a look at his pitch selection may not be enough if that is indeed the case if hitters are actually having more difficulty squaring his pitches up. Right now, it seems as though he’s been able to get the first pitch strike (61.9% F-strike, to follow up 62.7% last year – both above league average) and hitters are expanding the zone and having difficulty when swinging at those pitches (60.5% O-contact). His overall contact % is also lower than his career norms.

    Of course, we are dealing with sample size issues here. But when Buchholz has made another adjustment that we may have reason to believe has lead to some of these results, it seems as though there may be more reason for optimism than is alluded to here.

    What do you think Mike?

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  4. Curious Joe says:

    BP

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  5. bjs2025 says:

    I’ve never seen someone this low on Jarrod Parker. The siwinging strike % and the widely printed opinion that his change up is top 3 In the game along with pitching in Oakland make him very attractive. I guess I don’t see how he belongs with these pitchers.

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    • Johnny Come Lately says:

      How he belongs with what pitchers? He’s so good that you can’t even mention his name in an article with other pitchers?

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    • Ned Shakeshaft says:

      I don’t know if you’ve seen Parker pitch this year, but when a guy is that much of a mess it’s pretty pointless to try and read anything out of his metrics.

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      • Did you read what I wrote about him? His metrics suggest he is not a mess. His F-Strike% is up from last year and SwStk% is almost the same. Sounds to me like it’s just been bad luck and random small sample flukiness.

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      • Cannon says:

        I have read somewhere, not sure where….I think here in another article that the problem may stem from hitters game plan against him, It seems that they are laying off of his fastballs and making try to actually hit the strike zone with his change, which apparantly he does not have as much command of as people thought. That was his out pitch last year and he really does hit the strike zone with it. it is better described in the other article. I will try to find it and post again here.

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  6. Ruki Motomiya says:

    How is Buchholz use of the Splitter fared this year, in terms of how much it has been used?

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