Burnes, Judge, Kikuchi, J.P. Crawford, Lorenzen

Burnes has been dominant with the Orioles... Corbin Burnes (RHP, BAL) rocks a 2.35 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 23% K%, and 6% BB% in 99 innings. He's on pace to have career-high wins in Baltimore, boosting his earned value. Can Burnes sustain the elite ratios?

SeasonIPERA/xERAH%/S%WHIPGB%/FB%BB%K%SwK%HR/FBPX
2018382.61/3.5726%/79%1.0049%/30%7%23%16.7%13%128
2019498.82/3.9048%/58%1.8444%/30%9%30%22.4%39%174
202059.22.11/3.0230%/80%1.0246%/34%10%37%14.9%5%183
20211672.43/2.5632%/75%0.9448%/30%5%36%17.3%6%229
20222022.94/2.8729%/75%0.9747%/33%7%30%15.7%14%184
2023193.23.39/3.7828%/72%1.0744%/34%9%26%12.4%13%124
202499.22.35/3.4628%/82%1.0149%/35%6%24%12.8%10%148

The above-average skills appear stable with some luck in his favor:

  • Any time a player performs well, it's likely a mixture of luck and abilities. Burnes has been stranding runnings at a rate about eight percentage points above his career norm. However, he isn't lacking skills with an above-average K-BB% and SwK. The SwK declined over the past two seasons, about three percentage points below his career average, and why is that?
  • The slider for Burnes bounced back from a SwK perspective from 19.8% in 2023 to 25.6% in 2024, aligning with the career SwK on the slider of 26.2%. That's likely due to his slider dropping around 1-2 inches more often in 2024, supporting the high swing and miss rates. Meanwhile, Burnes's changeup (12.8%) and curveball (13.6%) took a step back from his career averages around 3-4 percentage points below.
  • His main pitch mix change comes from throwing more sliders, nearly twice as much at 15.8% overall, mainly against right-handed hitters (25%). The slider has been his most effective pitch, with a .241 wOBA against righties. Burnes also lowered his cutter usage by 12 percentage points in favor of more curveballs to righties (19.6%) and lefties (23.9%). That's notable because the curve has been deadly against lefties (.145 wOBA) and decent versus righties (.266 wOBA).

Burnes has four quality offerings against left-handed hitters, with the cutter being his worst one with a .232 wOBA. As noted earlier, the curveball allows a .145 wOBA, with the changeup having a .157 wOBA against lefties. Meanwhile, the arsenal for Burnes seems to be less dominant versus right-handed hitters. Regardless, Burnes boasts above-average to near-elite skills to sustain positive outcomes, though his xERA suggests something closer to his career xERA of 3.25. Burnes will make a push to finish as the SP1 overall in 2024.


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Judge has been one of the most dominant hitters when healthy... After 36 home runs, three stolen bases, and a .263 BA in 457 plate appearances in 2023, Aaron Judge (OF, NYY) looks to set records again in 2024 with 28 home runs, five stolen bases, and a .300 BA in 343 plate appearances. Let's examine Judge and his off-the-chart numbers.

SeasonPAHR/SBBA/xBABB%ct%GB%/FB%PX/xPXHR/FSB%/SBOBPX
2016954/0.179/.1659%50%36%/52%143/19618%0%/6%-100
201767853/9.286/.26820%62%36%/44%225/17536%69%/6%316
201849127/6.279/.25215%63%42%/36%176/12029%67%/7%200
201944627/3.273/.25615%63%41%/32%164/15435%60%/4%169
202011710/0.257/.2699%70%41%/38%173/10936%0%/4%252
202163539/5.289/.26912%71%42%/35%149/13728%83%/3%200
202269363/16.314/.30419%70%38%/44%243/19936%84%/10%468
202345736/3.263/.26820%65%31%/50%212/22130%75%/3%318
202434328/5.300/.30818%69%33%/49%264/20229%100%/5%507

Judge is a rare and elite talent:

  • Judge struggled to make contact throughout his career, but the ct% sits three points above his career norm. He shows elite patience, evidenced by his 17.6% chase rate. That tends to help him with walks and leagues that reward on-base skills. Thankfully, he rocks mind-blowing exit velocity numbers.
  • Judge is a rare talent that boasts elite levels of hard contact. That's evident in his xBA, given the ridiculous xPX, nearly 30 points above his career average. Here's a reminder that we shouldn't expect regression in Judge's HR/F because the research in the Baseball Forecaster tells us hitters with an elite xPX can sustain higher home run rates. That aligns with his league-best xPX and barrels per plate appearance (16%), with the second-highest average exit velocity on flyballs and line drives (100.4 mph).
  • Though Judge possesses the athleticism and shows the ability to convert stolen bases, the opportunities remain low for him besides his outlier 2022 season. That's likely an attempt to maintain his health and avoid unnecessary injury risk on the basepaths. Regardless, Judge can reach the double-digit stolen base threshold over a season.

Judge has historic exit velocity numbers, with the most barrels (297) and the highest rate of barrels per plate appearance (14.2%) since 2021. Every skill metric looks similar to past seasons and close to the career-best season in 2022. There's a chance Judge pushes the boundaries and nearly surpasses 2022. He might warrant an argument for the 1.01 in 2025 if he sustains his production for another season.

 

Kikuchi might be finally settling down in 2024... Yusei Kikuchi (LHP, TOR) rocks a 3.65 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 24% K%, and 5% BB% in 81 innings. He built upon his 2023 season. Can he sustain these skills for the rest of 2024?

SeasonIPERA/xERAWHIPH%/S%GB%/FB%Ball%BB%K%SwK%HR/FBPX
20191575.56/5.341.5336%/70%44%/35%36%7%16%9.5%19%70
2020475.17/3.961.3032%/59%52%/25%38%10%24%12.8%9%97
20211574.41/3.941.3233%/72%48%/30%35%9%24%12.4%21%110
2022100.25.19/4.001.5035%/73%44%/37%38%13%27%16.7%24%95
2023167.23.86/3.921.2735%/76%39%/38%36%7%26%12.8%15%144
202481.13.65/3.651.2535%/76%42%/37%34%6%24%12.5%13%157

Kikuchi has been replicating the skills and numbers from the 2023 season:

  • Kikuchi's skills and luck factors look about the same in 2023. There has been a slight fluctuation in his ball rate, given the 35.6% Ball% in 2023 compared to 34% in 2024. He has been making slight control improvements compared to the career Ball% of 36%, though it's likely within the standard deviation in a given season.
  • The overall SwK stayed the same, but his slider's SwK of 14% and curveball at 11.3% fell about two percentage points from his 2023 numbers. However, Kikuchi's changeup took a step forward, with a 15.8% SwK, over one point higher than the career average. The main adjustment with the changeup involves adding over three inches of arm-side horizontal movement and locating it more often down and away to right-handed hitters.
  • Kikuchi threw more curveballs (27.3%) and fewer sliders (11.9%) to right-handed hitters. He lowered the usage of the curve and slider against righties by about 5-7 percentage points. Meanwhile, Kikuchi dropped the four-seamer usage by two points and the slider by five points while throwing more curveballs (21.7%) to left-handed hitters. Interestingly, the results improved against lefties, evidenced by the slider allowing a .186 wOBA and the curveball having a .178 wOBA in 2024. That's a 60-70 point difference from the slider's wOBA (.247) and curveball (.231) in 2023.

Surprisingly, Kikuchi has been the best Blue Jays' starting pitcher in K-BB% and SwK. The skills look sustainable for Kikuchi and similar to 2023, with slight pitch mix adjustments in 2024. In June, Kikuchi's outcomes suffered (4.87 ERA, 1.43 WHIP) due to the HR/F ballooning to 27%. Since Kikuchi possesses above-average skills, we'll want to buy into him sustaining solid results in 2024.

 

Crawford showed career-best power metrics in 2023, but can he maintain it in 2024... J.P. Crawford (SS, SEA) has seven home runs, 32 runs, 23 RBI, and one stolen base, with a .209 BA in 246 plate appearances. Crawford missed time with an oblique injury in 2024, but was his 2023 season fluky or do we see legitimate changes?

SeasonPAHR/SBBA/xBABB%ct%h%GB/LD/FBPX/xPXHR/FSpdSB%/SBO
2017870/1.214/.20718%69%31%31/27/4366/210%121100%/4%
20181373/2.222/.2339%68%30%37/21/40125/899%116100%/8%
20193967/5.226/.24611%76%28%45/20/3584/708%11063%/9%
20202322/6.255/.23910%81%31%44/23/3247/844%13567%/14%
20216879/3.273/.2569%82%32%45/23/3066/416%9333%/5%
20226086/3.243/.25711%84%28%46/23/3159/534%10960%/3%
202363819/2.266/.26315%77%32%39/23/37107/7512%84100%/1%
20242467/2.209/.23912%74%25%50/15/3498/10813%114100%/4%

We might have legitimate power gains:

  • Crawford typically rocked above-average plate discipline due to his ct% and elite chase rates (18%). We've seen a dip in the luck factors (h%), but the plate discipline should help boost the actual BA. Part of the h% decline seems related to his lower line drive rate.
  • However, Crawford's xPX aligns with his power output after outperforming his expected power skills in 2023. The career-best barrel rates (5.3%) and EV on FB/LD (93.4 mph) align with the career high in xPX. Crawford's time at Driveline might be paying off, though his 36% pull rate fell closer to his career average after 43% in 2023.

It seems that Crawford's power skills gains outweigh his groundball rates jumping back closer to his career average. Having a hitter go from below-average to average power skills gives us a floor of 15+ home runs, which we hadn't witnessed before 2023. Expect Crawford's batting average to shift toward his xBA given the similar ct% and power skill improvements. That said, Crawford's gradual power gains mean he can remain a compiler with average power, making him a valuable asset in deeper formats.

 

Is Lorenzen sucking us in again in 2024... Michael Lorenzen (RHP, TEX) has the lowest ERA since 2019, with a 3.04 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 17% K%, and 10% BB% in 77 innings. The Rangers might need to rely on him more than expected in 2024, but should fantasy managers lean on his skills?

SeasonG/GSIPERA/xERAWHIPH%/S%GB%/FB%BB%K%SwK%HR/FBPX
201845/3813.11/4.521.3831%/79%49%/25%10%16%7%10%41
201973/0832.92/4.061.1530%/79%43%/32%8%25%15%13%119
202018/2334.28/4.651.4032%/70%48%/34%12%24%13%9%80
202127/0295.59/5.041.3829%/58%44%/30%11%17%13%7%26
202218/18974.24/4.121.2829%/69%50%/32%11%21%12%12%69
202329/251534.18/4.691.2130%/69%41%/38%8%18%10%11%69
202413/13773.04/4.321.1627%/80%45%/37%10%18%9%13%50

Lorenzen's skills look shaky so proceed with caution:

  • With an xERA over one run above his actual ERA, it indicates the luck and skill factors don't align. Currently, his H% sits four points better while stranding seven points more than his career average. Unfortunately, Lorenzen's K-BB% has been brutal, and that's the case in 2024. Lorenzen struggles with control due to his 38.2% Ball% and flashes below-average SwK.
  • Lorenzen's changeup highlights the arsenal, with a 15.9% SwK. That makes sense since his changeup allows a .158 wOBA against right-handed hitters, the lowest among his arsenal. Lorenzen's changeup is also effective versus lefties, with a .224 wOBA. The cutter is his next best pitch in SwK at 14.2% in 2024. Since he shifted his usage throughout his career, it's hard to assess the changes, with an 11.1% usage in 2024, 0.9% in 2023, 11% in 2022, and 29.1% in 2021. 
  • He throws 82.1% of his cutters against left-handed hitters, and it's nearly unhittable with a .086 wOBA. Lorenzen seems to have an optimal approach versus lefties given his cutter, changeup, four-seamer (.241 wOBA), and sinker (.208 wOBA). Unfortunately, we can't say the same against right-handed hitters besides the changeup. His sweeper is the next best pitch against righties, with a .276 wOBA and the rest of his arsenal allows a wOBA of nearly .400 or above.

In deep leagues, it's understandable to find fantasy managers looking to stream Lorenzen. However, we'll ask, how lucky do you feel in a given week? He has a good approach against left-handed hitters, but may continue to struggle against righties with only one solid pitch in the changeup. Be cautious about streaming Lorenzen regardless of his 2.87 ERA (4.50 xERA) in May and 2.51 ERA (4.37 xERA) in June because trusting a starting pitcher with a single-digit K-BB% and SwK is foolish and risky.

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