AL SP Stock Watch: Santana, Hammel & Quintana

We’re three and a half weeks into the season and nearly at the point where the first major pitching metric stabilizes. We know that K/PA (or K% on the player pages) stabilizes at 150 batters faced, and starting pitchers are creeping ever so closer to that minimum. So at the very least, we have to start taking strikeout rates seriously, but that’s really about it. Let’s now take a look around the American League and some of the movers and shakes in starting pitcher land.

Ervin Santana

From a results standpoint, last season was a disaster for Santana. But really, the majority of his problems stemmed from a crazy 18.9% HR/FB rate. But then we learned over the offseason that Santana had a small ligament tear in his right elbow. Usually elbow injuries affect a pitcher’s control, but all his control related metrics looked pretty normal. Perhaps it hurt his command within the strike zone and it led to all those homers? He didn’t have surgery, so the issue is still there, but clearly his performance has not been impacted by it thus far.

Santana is almost exclusively a fastball-slider guy, which makes it not surprising at all that he would deal with elbow problems. So far this season, he has thrown his slider even more frequently than ever before as if he’s playing chicken with his elbow ligament. I doubt that small increase in sliders thrown has driven the SwStk% spike, but his advanced metrics do support his strong peripherals. Of course, since his pitch mix is essentially the same, encompassing the same two pitches as always, you have to come away thinking this is the same old Ervin we have become accustomed to.

He’s going to post an average strikeout and walk rate and give up more fly balls than the league average. He’s replacement level in 12-team mixed leagues and perhaps a sell high guy in AL-Only leagues if anyone is actually willing to bite. With a mediocre offense backing him and a question mark whether he remains healthy all year, I wouldn’t count on him contributing much positive value all season.

Jason Hammel

Last year in an injury shorted season, Hammel broke out after finally leaving the unfriendly confines of Coors Field. His strikeout and ground ball rates spiked, his SwStk% jumped and his fastball velocity increased. Basically, everything came together to validate the breakout and make one believe it was repeatable this year. But the Hammel that pitched so well over 20 starts for Baltimore last year has yet to appear in 2013. The ground balls have turned into fly balls, the velocity has dropped back to levels not seen since 2009, the SwStk% is the lowest of his career, and the strikeout rate is unacceptable.

Given Hammel’s uninspiring career before last season’s surprise performance, it would be easy to already chalk it up as a fluke. But should we? Quite possibly. Every single one of his pitches have induced a lower rate of swings and misses compared with last season. Last year, his curveball generated a 37% whiff rate per swing, yet after 23 curves this season, not once has a batter failed to make contact when he swung. That’s pretty crazy. His fastball is also generating ground balls at half the rate it did last year. Given his sketchy past, it’s real hard to figure a rebound here. I would not look to try buying low in AL-Only or deep mixed leagues and wouldn’t argue with you if you considered dropping him in your 12-team mixed league.

Jose Quintana

In all honesty, I want to just throw up my hands, shake my head and say “I don’t know”. But that’s not helpful at all, is it? I had many issues with Quintana heading into the season. He completely skipped Triple-A, which isn’t that scary for a pitcher, but he was hardly impressive there, managing just a 7.6 K/9. After an unimpressive rookie season last year from the perspective of SIERA, suddenly Quintana now sports a more respectable 7.9 K/9, compared to the poor 5.4 rate he posted last year. His control remains strong, but his ground ball rate is down a bit.

Many commenters have pointed out that Quintana’s fastball velocity is up this year. This is true, but not to a significant degree — just about a mile per hour increase. Not including last night’s start since the data is obviously not available yet as I type this, the whiff rate on his fastball has indeed increased rather dramatically. Unfortunately, the ground ball rate decline could be traced back to his fastball as well, as it has generated grounders at about half the rate as it did last year. I still remain less than excited, but will admit he deserves more credit than I have given him. I am not confident that he will maintain 12-team mixed league value all season, but he will likely rise in the next tier rankings update.




Print This Post

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.


16 Responses to “AL SP Stock Watch: Santana, Hammel & Quintana”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. k_r_i_s_k_o says:

    Would you swap Ervin for Brandon Morrow? Morrow hasn’t been very good since 2011 to be honest but for some reason I’d take him over Santana. He’s cut down on the walks (Morrow) but at the same time looks kinda hittable with that 91 mph heater yesterday in Baltimore. His velocity has gone down last couple of starts, I remember in his first one he touched 98.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • feslen says:

      probably not. Keep Ervin while he’s hot and then sell high. Morrow might turn it around sooner or later.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • I was going to include Morrow in this, but wanted the data and velocity from last night’s start, so I didn’t. Since I think Ervin is replacement level and Morrow has the potential to be quite good, I’d still rather have Morrow as worrying as his season has been so far.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Jerzbravesboy24 says:

    Time to cut bait on Ubaldo? Drop him for a Bartolo Colon/similar vet SP or rogue saves guy?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. mdecav says:

    F’n Quintana. That creep can roll.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Frank Kim says:

    Has your opinion on Hammel changed after his start in Oakland? Not many K’s but he did get a lot of groundballs.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nope. First off, I’m not going to change my opinion after one start. Second, those lack of strikeouts are the biggest concern. He’s just completely not missing bats.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Frank Kim says:

        Thanks for replying Mike!

        First I didn’t mean to vote down on your response. I thought that was the reply button. :-)

        Second, yes it was just one start. But wasn’t your data based on just three starts in 2013? So this start adds 33% more data.

        I agree that the K’s are worrisome but thought the groundballs were encouraging.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Frank Kim says:

        Another question. Where did you find that Hammel had a 37% swing rate on his curve in 2012? I was looking at his stats and I see a 37.5% career Swing% for his curve. Is that what you mean?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Yeah, the grounders were definitely encouraging, but I’m most concerned about the lack of strikeouts. All sorts of awesome data is found in the player pages of Brooks Baseball. brooksbaseball.net/player_cards/pcSearch.php

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Frank Kim says:

        Thanks Mike for pointing me to Brooks Baseball. I see the data you are talking about and now share your concern about Hammel. :-)

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jon Hoffman says:

        Any thought to the low LD rate (around 12%) and high Infield fly rate says weak contact to me. Looks like hold and hope that the weak contact can move back to Ks.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *