SPECULATOR: Forgiving bad days

It's one of the worst feelings in our game.

You're out and about (in normal times). You pull out your phone to check on your starting pitcher for the day. And bam: the other team has seven-plus runs by the third inning. Any errors? Nope, all runs are earned. Assuming you haven't thrown your phone yet, you check your league's live standings and—at this juncture of the season—you've dropped five points. It stings, and we've all been there.

But what if we turn these nuclear starts into a buying opportunity? At this point in the season, one bad outing can still have lingering effects on a pitcher's ratios, but how different would those stats look if we gave them a pass? Players on fantasy teams are sometimes unfortunately referred to as "shares", "stocks", or any other popular non-human term, so it's easy to forget that they're people. And especially in 2020, sometimes people just have a bad day.

Some might call it cherry-picking, but through our speculative lens, we'll be lenient and grant a mulligan to several SP whose ratios might be inflated thanks to one bad day at the office. The chart below shows a number of SP with one (and only one) bad start of 6+ ER, and what their "What If" ERA and WHIP would be if we ignore that outing.

All statistics are through Sunday, August 23; players with write-ups are in bold:

                       YTD     |  ONE BAD START  |   "WHAT IF"
Pitcher             ERA  WHIP  |  Date   IP  ER  |   ERA  WHIP 
=================  ====  ====  |  ====  ===  ==  |  ====  ====
German Marquez     4.38  1.27  |  8-20  5.0  10  |  2.25  1.09
Frankie Montas     5.22  1.47  |  8-18  1.7   9  |  2.60  1.08
Lance McCullers    5.74  1.31  |  8-05  3.7   8  |  3.90  1.19
Nathan Eovaldi     4.98  1.31  |  8-15  5.3   8  |  3.41  1.21
Jon Lester         5.06  1.09  |  8-21  3.7   8  |  2.74  0.91
Lucas Giolito      3.89  1.24  |  7-24  3.7   7  |  2.32  1.06
Brandon Bielak     4.37  1.32  |  8-22  1.3   7  |  1.69  1.03
Ross Stripling     5.46  1.42  |  8-17  3.0   6  |  4.05  1.35
Jesus Luzardo      3.67  1.37  |  8-14  3.3   6  |  1.90  1.23
Alec Mills         4.76  1.10  |  8-19  3.7   6  |  2.84  0.89
Justin Dunn        5.57  1.38  |  8-17  2.0   6  |  3.32  1.16
Rick Porcello      5.76  1.64  |  7-26  2.0   6  |  3.91  1.39
Chris Paddack      4.26  1.14  |  8-13  3.0   6  |  2.83  1.01
Antonio Senzatela  3.96  1.10  |  8-23  5.3   6  |  2.90  1.06
Matthew Shoemaker  4.91  1.01  |  8-04  4.7   6  |  3.43  0.81
Ryan Weber         5.91  1.55  |  7-26  3.7   6  |  4.08  1.36
Kyle Hendricks     3.55  1.00  |  7-29  4.3   6  |  2.41  0.89
Gio Gonzalez       5.11  1.86  |  7-26  3.7   6  |  3.43  1.86

American League

Nathan Eovaldi (RHP, BOS) looked like the rest of the BOS rotation on August 15, when he gave up 8 ER in 5.3 innings at Yankee Stadium. Take away that outing, and Eovaldi's sitting pretty with a 3.41 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 30/4 K/BB. And even if we count it, Eovaldi's 3.85 xERA and 138 BPV get firm support from our command sub-indicators (12% SwK, 64% FpK). He's been a much better pitcher than his 4.98 ERA would leave you to believe.

Lucas Giolito (RHP, CHW; pictured) blew up on Opening Day with a seven-ER disaster against the buzzsaw Minnesota Twins. Giolito has been elite since then, allowing just eight runs in his last five starts with a 42/13 K/BB. The early dud will inflate Giolito's ERA all season, but the underlying skills and post-Opening Day results look just as good as 2019's breakout.

Even the best pitching prospects hit bumps in the road. Jesús Luzardo (LHP, OAK) ran into one recently with six ER at SF on August 14, but he's otherwise come as advertised. Luzardo's missing bats (13.6% SwK) behind an excellent curveball/change-up combo, getting ahead in counts (65% FpK), and he's given up just eight runs over his other seven outings. With pitch count concerns a thing of the past—Luzardo's thrown 89+ pitches in three of his last four starts—the coast is clear for a strong finish.

Frankie Montas (RHP, OAK) missed a start with back issues in August and was greeted rudely by an ARI offense that torched him nine ER upon his return on August 18. The case for giving him a pass: Montas gave up just four ER in his first four starts combined, using his newfound splitter to miss bats and get Ks. The case against? Back issues often don't just go away, and Montas followed up the desert disaster with a PQS-1 vs. LAA in his most recent start. We're treading carefully here with the injury risk, but speculating on a pre-injury Montas could pay major dividends.

National League

If you drafted Germán Márquez (RHP, COL), you knew Coors Field was part of the package. Márquez's home park reared its ugly head with a 10-ER dud in his most recent start (vs. HOU), which bumped his season-long ERA over two full runs. There will surely be more bad days to come at Coors, but if you tightrope Márquez for road starts only—he's put up a 3.19 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 4.8 Cmd away from Coors since 2018—you're getting a quasi-ace.

Another ho-hum Kyle Hendricks (RHP, CHC) season of good ratios (3.55 ERA. 1.00 WHIP) and low strikeouts (6.6 Dom), but a deeper look suggests Hendricks has been even better. Our game logs show that Hendricks gave up six of his 15 ER in one start at the bandbox that is Great American Ballpark. Hendricks has put up an other-worldly 2.41 ERA and 0.89 ERA in his other five starts. We aren't speculating on any kind of breakout from Hendricks—the Dom/SwK combo is as vanilla as ever—but this ratio goodness can only be matched by a select few.

Chris Paddack (RHP, SD) had a six-ER blunder at LA on August 13, but has given up three ER or less in every other start. Paddack's skills have been good—not great—as his 4.15 xERA and 113 BPV are more a reflection of his pinpoint control than anything else. But the strikeouts have dipped—Paddack has just 29 Ks in 32 innings with a 10.8% SwK as he tries to find a consistent third pitch (his new curveball has just a 7% SwK). The 24-year-old has pitched better than his surface ERA, but the rest-of-short-season returns might be underwhelming given his draft cost.

 

The Speculator is not designed to make definitive assertions about the future; rather, it is designed solely to open reader's eyes to possibilities they may not have previously entertained, and in doing so, provide a different perspective on the future. Many of the possibilities will be of the "out on a limb" variety. All are founded on SOME element of fact. But none should be considered any more than 20% percentage plays.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.