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.
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.
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.
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.