Dallas Keuchel’s New Slider Still Looks Good

I asked twitter if I should write about Dallas Keuchel, Marcus Semien and Jonathan Schoop, or Brad Miller, and they spoke definitively: what’s going on with Brad Miller? So I wrote up Brad Miller and then I discovered that Blake Murphy had done the same. So he might include some of my charts and analysis, he might not, but we were too similar.

And I start again, with the second-most requested topic: Dallas Keuchel, come on down!

Keuchel was one of my pre-season deep league favorites, based on pitch-type peripheral analysis. What I noticed last year was that he’d turfed a bad curve for a good slider. He continued that trend this year. Take a look at the swing and ground-ball rates on his curve and slider over the last three years:

Year Pitch Use Velocity Whiff% GB%
2012 Curve 15% 72.3 5.9% 52.6%
2013 Curve 6.70% 75.5 9.0% 52.0%
2014 Curve 80.2
2012 Slider 84.1
2013 Slider 19.50% 80.0 20.3% 50.8%
2014 Slider 21.50% 80.5 20.6% 37.5%

I’ll take a pitch with above-average whiff rates and average ground-ball rates over a pitch with average ground-ball rates and below-average whiff rates. And so will Keuchel. The new slider goes faster than his old curve, and it also breaks away from lefties.

That last point is huge. Keuchel’s best pitch was his change-up. We have him with a 13% whiff rate on the pitch in 2012, but BrooksBaseball had him at 16% — let’s call it an average change-up for whiffs (15% = average). The pitch is more than ten miles per hour slower than his fastball, and features good horizontal movement.

But the change-up has reverse platoon splits, and that can be problematic even for a lefty. Ask Martin Perez. With the curve not really working for him, and not really boring away from lefties, the move to the slider made a lot of sense. In 2012, lefties hit .237/.333/.417 off him (.231 BABIP). In 2013, with the slider, they hit .273/.327/.423 but with a .360 BABIP. The BABIP hid what the per-pitch metrics showed.

So now, the slider is getting tons of whiffs, and the change-up is looking better. That’s probably because he hasn’t thrown a single change-up to a lefty this year. He doesn’t have to, he has weapons against them now with the sinker and the breaker.

Given his arsenal, it’s tempting to name him a pickup in all leagues. He has a sinker that gets 66% ground-balls, an above-average change-up for righties, and a plus slider for lefties. That’s all he needs!

Wander on down to his zone percentage, though, and you might get worried. Not even 35% of his pitches are in the zone! The good news is that it might not matter. Keuchel’s ball rates on his off-speed stuff aren’t good — perhaps he’s still trying to command them better — but his two-seamer (according to BrooksBaseball) gets a 25% ball rate, which is elite. That’s how he’s put up elite walk rates in the minors. He’s also getting strike one 65% of the time, which is sustainable and excellent.

Keuchel only throws around 90 mph, so don’t drop an established pitcher for him. But as a guy that gets ahead on strike one and gets grounders with a sinker he can command, and then has two putaway pitches that break in different directions, this lefty is a mixed leaguer now.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

32 Responses to “Dallas Keuchel’s New Slider Still Looks Good”

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  1. centerfield ballhawk says:

    Great writeup, Eno. You’ve touted him all year and after watching some of his last start I’ve walked away impressed. A rising strikeout rate, added velocity, three quality pitches that he seems to have complete control over… and he’s just 26 years old.

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  2. jcoats says:

    Keuchel or Mejia?

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  3. stonepie says:

    i was hoping someone would make this post. he’s 19th in the league in xfip right now and has been treading the right direction for a while now

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  4. Benjiboy says:

    Would it be worth dropping a Drew Hutchinson or Robbie Erlin for him in a 14 team roto league that includes k/9?

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  5. Monty Bayes says:

    With Sale to the DL I’m scrounging for SP help and noticed Keuchel. In a QS league how would you rank Keuchel, Tyson Ross and Travis Wood? How much will the Astros MLB-worst defense hurt Keuchel’s numbers?

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      He’s keeping the ball out of play. I’d rather have him than Ross or Wood if you have to play them every time out. Ross at home, just for home starts, is great though.

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  6. atoms says:

    Hey Eno, this is OT but I posted this in Karl’s Espinosa article and got no replies, and you are usually awesome about responding:

    Callaspo, Espinosa, or LeMahieu in a 5×5 OBP league? Callaspo has been hitting in the middle of the order, but he has a tough home park. LeMahieu has a better park, but he’s been hitting 8th in front of the pitcher (which helps his OBP but not the counting stats). Espinosa seems like more of a wild card. More power, good lineup, but higher downside risk and potential OBP difficulties.

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  7. Bill says:

    You like Keuchle over Drew Smyly? QS league.

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  8. Nick says:

    Is Keuchel a must own in a ten team AL only league?

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  9. Jeff says:

    How about a different comparison? Most of the earlier ones are with young/unproven guys.
    Keuchel, Beckett, or Morrow? Deep mixed league that counts QS and wins.

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  10. frank says:

    G’day Eno,

    Keuchel is getting it done & is looking good!

    A Semien & Schoop write up would be great though if you get a chance.


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  11. Eric says:

    Keuchel or Odorizzi?

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  12. Cody says:

    Keuchel is a lefty, correct? His slider breaks IN on lefties? Maybe I’m misinterpreting something, but that seems counterintuitive. Could someone please explain?

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  13. jon grant says:

    Drop Salazar for Dallas K? QS/ERA/K/WHIP 13 team league. Salazar is killing me

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  14. Clive Frobisher says:

    Would you drop Kyle Gibson and/or Jon Niese for Keuchel? 14 team mixed league. SP stats, W, CG, K, ERA, WHIP, K/BB, and QS.

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  15. jaymes says:

    Keuchal or Paxton the rest of the way? also, $100 free agent budget, dynasty league, need another starter for at least 6 weeks while paxton on the shelf. Trying to contend this year, what would you spend on Keuchal? even as a rental for the next 5-6 starts. thanks!

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