At times, veteran left handed pitcher Bruce Chen, the “Panamaniac” (I just made that up because he’s from Panama, nobody really calls him that I don’t think — but maybe) shockingly mystified lineups with his soft-tossing ways. When there was a need for a starting pitcher a couple weeks ago in the Cleveland rotation, the Indians summoned Chen from their AAA affiliate in hopes that he could string together something pretty by lullabying hitters to sleep with his 84-85 MPH fastballs (don’t be jealous Jered Weaver). After two disaster starts versus the Twins and Rangers that left him with a 12.79 ERA and 3.94 WHIP, the Indians gave Chen the good ol’ DFA (designated for assignment) boot on Saturday. With the vacancy in the rotation, who will the Tribe turn to next? It’s hard to say at the moment, but let me introduce you to Zach McAllister.
McAllister is a big righty listed at 6’6″ 240 lbs. and he began his professional career with the Yankees before being the player to be named later that the Indians received as compensation for trading Austin Kearns to New York in 2010. McAllister was never a glamorous prospect, but the Indians gave him extended looks in their starting rotation in each year from 2012-14. In all his starts from those seasons, McAllister compiled a 4.36 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 7.33 K/9, and 3.06 BB/9 over 332.2 IP, which by most regards made him a below average starting pitcher. At the end of July of 2014, the Indians decided they had seen enough of him as a starting pitcher and sent him down to the Minors before recalling him in September to be a bullpen arm.
Upon being used out of the bullpen, McAllister proved to be pretty useful as he had a 2.57 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 14 K/2 BB in 14 relief innings in September. As it usually tends to happen when starting pitchers get moved to the bullpen since they don’t have to “save” their arm to go more than a couple innings usually, McAllister experienced a bump in his velocity. And during that bullpen stint, he actually did make one good spot start where he maintained the velocity gain throughout that game too, which was a pleasant surprise. Continue reading
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Last year, the Braves had two young and talented pitchers really take some big steps forward to each have breakout seasons, Julio Teheran and Alex Wood. The future on the pitching front was looking extremely bright for the Braves with hopes that with Teheran and Wood, who both entered the 2015 season at just 24 years old, they had another Greg Maddux/Tom Glavine type of duo to build on. Let’s take a look at what Teheran and Wood did last year to see what the benchmarks for them are.
Julio Teheran in 2014: 14 W-11 L, 2.89 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.57 K/9, 2.08 BB/9
Alex Wood in 2014: 11 W-11 L, 2.78 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 8.91 K/9, 2.36 BB/9
Even though each of them outperformed their SIERA, those are still nice looking stat lines and much of the same was to be expected from them in 2015 as they are just beginning to crack the surface in their young careers. But the expectations are not being met and there must be some reasons why. Continue reading
The cutter, also known as a cut fastball, is a pitch that is a hybrid between a slider and a fastball. It is a power pitch that offers a late sharp break when approaching home plate. Typically it does not have the same octane in regards to velocity as a regular four-seam or two-seam fastball and not as much wipeout break as a slider, but that late break that it has often gets the pitch classified as a slider when referring to pitch type data. When mastered it can be a truly effective and devastating pitch to have in an arsenal. The pitch was widely made famous by the great Mariano Rivera who was known to break a lot of bats of left-handed hitters as they had difficulty squaring up the barrel of the bat on the ball due to the late break in toward their hands. In addition to breaking bats of opposite handed batters, the pitch generally induces a lot of weak contact and more ground balls to go for easy outs, and the addition of the pitch to any pitcher’s arsenal could potentially keep hitters off balance to generate more whiffs.
There may not ever be a cutter as amazing and valuable as Rivera’s, but every year there seems to be a couple of pitchers who could be previously classified as “mediocre” or worse that go on to have a breakout season due to the addition and mastery of a cutter. We saw it last year with Jake Arrieta of the Cubs. Arrieta was a top young arm in the Orioles organization for several years, but was traded in July of 2013 along with Pedro Strop to the Cubs in exchange for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger (ouch, Baltimore!). Before coming over to the Cubs, Arrieta had a lifetime line of a 5.34 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 7.00 K/9, and 4.15 BB/9 in 433.1 IP. But it was when he joined the Cubs that he began to use the cutter. Initially, the results weren’t phenomenal as he was still learning the pitch and using it minimally, but he was seeing better overall results. Fast forward to 2014 and Arrieta ramped up his cutter usage to near 30% and he saw a big jump in his ground ball rate and soft contact rate from the previous year. The cutter was a true revelation for Arrieta as it was the second most valuable cutter in baseball behind Adam Wainwright’s. Arrieta finished the year with a 2.53 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 9.59 K/9, and 2.36 BB/9 in 156.2 IP.
Two young pitchers who were once regarded as top pitching prospects like Arrieta who have not had breakout success at the Major League level in their young careers yet are Shelby Miller of the Braves and Jake Odorizzi of the Rays. But wouldn’t you know it, each of them has developed a cutter and are seeing improved results because of it. Let’s examine Miller first. Continue reading
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Heading into the 2014 season, I was all about Tyson Ross and wanted to own him everywhere. He was coming off a 2013 campaign with the Padres where he spent most of the season as a relief pitcher before transitioning into becoming a full time starting pitcher. When transitioning from a reliever to a starter, a pitcher will usually lose velocity on his pitches, but Ross actually saw his average fastball reach new heights in velocity as it sat at 94.2 MPH on the year (compared to around 92.5 MPH the previous years). The increase in velocity, his killer slider, the home park, and the low profile that he had since he had never before been a full time Major League starting pitcher are all factors that made him very attractive as a breakout player for 2014. Besides the ugly 13-14 record, which is by no fault of his own, Ross did not disappoint for fantasy owners. The righty finished the 2014 season with a 2.81 ERA and 1.21 WHIP while striking out 195 batters in 195.2 IP. That all sounds like fun and games from a pitcher who is on the rise, so why is it that going into this season I had him ranked much lower than anyone else out there? Continue reading
*The order of these rankings are based on a valuation system for a 5×5 roto scoring league with 5 games played minimum for position eligibility. This is not necessarily the order I would draft these players in, as different factors should impact which player to choose.
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