STARTERS: BPV leaders, April 2017

Let's begin our monthly look back at the starting pitchers who posted the best skills during the previous month.

First, here were the aggregate stats and skills posted by starting pitchers in April 2017, segregated by league:

April 2017 Baselines*

Lg   ERA   WHIP | Ctl  Dom  HR/9  GB% | H%   S%   hr/f | FAv   SwK%  FpK%  Ball% | BPV
===  ====  ==== | ===  ===  ====  === | ===  ===  ==== | ====  ====  ====  ===== | ===
AL   3.90  1.29 | 3.2  7.9   1.2  43% | 29%  74%   13% | 92.5  10.0%  64%    37% |  77
NL   4.18  1.31 | 3.1  7.9   1.2  46% | 30%  72%   13% | 92.4   9.5%  60%    36% |  82
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
MLB  4.04  1.30 | 3.1  7.9   12  44%  | 30%  73%   13% | 92.5   9.8%  61%    37% |  80
*starting pitchers only

***

Let's dig deeper into these aggregate stats to find the SP who posted the best skills in April.

Here were the most skilled starting pitchers in April:

100+ BPV, April 2017*

Name            Lg  Ctl  Dom   HR/9  GB%  H%/S%   hr/f  FAv   SwK%  FpK%  Ball%  BPV
==============  ==  ===  ====  ====  ===  ======  ====  ====  ====  ====  =====  ===
Syndergaard, N  NL  0.7  10.5   0.0  58%  39/67%    0%  98.7   14%   57%    33%  208
Sale, C         AL  1.4  12.4   0.2  42%  29/86%    3%  94.9   17%   70%    31%  205
Pineda, M       AL  1.3  11.6   1.6  48%  33/80%   21%  94.7   15%   75%    31%  201
Severino, L     AL  1.3  11.0   1.3  56%  23/71%   21%  96.9   12%   59%    36%  196
Vargas, J       AL  0.7   9.8   0.4  47%  32/86%    5%  86.9   15%   64%    34%  183
Kershaw, C      NL  0.8   9.9   1.0  45%  26/79%   11%  93.2   12%   70%    29%  181
Paxton, J       AL  1.7  10.9   0.0  39%  29/81%    0%  95.9   15%   65%    35%  167
deGrom, J       NL  3.1  12.5   1.1  44%  33/82%   15%  95.2   18%   60%    33%  162
McCullers, L    AL  2.8  11.2   1.2  55%  35/71%   22%  94.5   12%   58%    37%  159
Bumgarner, M    NL  1.3   9.3   0.7  46%  32/74%    7%  92.1   11%   65%    32%  156
Walker, T       NL  2.1  10.0   0.9  44%  33/68%   10%  93.5   12%   55%    37%  145
Greinke, Z      NL  2.0   9.8   1.2  42%  34/80%   13%  90.5   13%   63%    36%  144
Arrieta, J      NL  2.5  10.6   1.9  43%  33/72%   21%  91.6   11%   56%    37%  143
Bauer, T        AL  2.7  11.0   2.0  40%  34/58%   21%  93.6    9%   55%    40%  142
Morton, C       AL  2.6  10.0   1.0  49%  36/69%   14%  95.8   10%   58%    36%  137
Scherzer, M     NL  2.4  10.7   1.1  31%  27/76%    9%  94.2   15%   61%    34%  137
Pomeranz, D     AL  2.9  11.2   2.1  35%  31/77%   23%  91.8    9%   60%    38%  136
Ramirez, J      AL  2.8  11.1   0.8  32%  29/62%    9%  96.8   14%   61%    36%  135
Hernandez, F    AL  1.0   7.4   2.0  50%  39/78%   27%  91.1    9%   69%    32%  134
Carrasco, C     AL  1.8   8.7   1.3  44%  20/87%   17%  93.8   12%   70%    34%  130
Cahill, T       NL  4.1  11.3   0.8  61%  34/67%   14%  90.8   14%   66%    36%  130
Ryu, H          NL  2.7   9.8   2.0  47%  32/79%   29%  89.7   12%   59%    36%  129
Salazar, D      AL  4.3  13.0   0.9  32%  37/70%   11%  94.9   16%   60%    35%  127
Name            Lg  Ctl  Dom   HR/9  GB%  H%/S%   hr/f  FAv   SwK%  FpK%  Ball%  BPV
==============  ==  ===  ====  ====  ===  ======  ====  ====  ====  ====  =====  ===
Martinez, C     NL  4.4  12.2   1.3  47%  37/71%   17%  96.1   13%   58%    36%  126
Wainwright, A   NL  2.5   9.4   1.1  48%  45/67%   14%  90.6    9%   56%    36%  126
Strasburg, S    NL  1.8   8.0   0.5  53%  28/70%    7%  95.6   10%   64%    31%  126
Cole, G         NL  1.8   8.1   1.5  47%  29/77%   16%  96.3   10%   68%    33%  122
Nova, I         NL  0.3   5.5   0.5  51%  23/84%    7%  92.7    7%   67%    34%  121
Maeda, K        NL  2.1   9.4   2.4  31%  32/57%   20%  91.3   14%   63%    35%  121
Samardzija, J   NL  2.9  10.1   1.7  39%  33/56%   23%  94.0   11%   56%    37%  120
Porcello, R     AL  2.7   9.5   1.8  43%  36/74%   15%  91.6   11%   68%    33%  120
Leake, M        NL  1.4   6.8   0.0  55%  29/85%    0%  90.4    7%   66%    35%  118
Tomlin, J       AL  1.2   6.6   1.2  53%  42/47%   17%  86.6    6%   65%    34%  118
Stroman, M      AL  1.7   6.9   0.5  60%  32/76%   10%  93.8    9%   59%    34%  116
Estrada, M      AL  3.0   9.9   0.9  40%  30/81%    8%  89.5   13%   62%    32%  116
Lackey, J       NL  2.7   9.0   2.1  48%  31/70%   23%  90.9    9%   71%    33%  115
Keuchel, D      AL  2.2   7.3   0.8  63%  19/94%   15%  88.5   11%   61%    36%  111
Garrett, A      NL  2.7   8.6   1.6  49%  30/64%   19%  91.4   12%   63%    34%  108
Wacha, M        NL  2.2   8.4   1.1  37%  28/83%   11%  94.6   11%   55%    36%  107
Triggs, A       AL  1.8   6.8   0.3  56%  25/81%    4%  88.5   10%   59%    37%  106
Kluber, C       AL  3.2   9.7   1.6  38%  30/73%   17%  91.4   11%   64%    34%  106
Skaggs, T       AL  2.8   8.9   0.9  40%  32/71%   10%  91.5   10%   65%    33%  103
Miranda, A      AL  2.4   8.3   2.1  41%  28/81%   19%  92.1    8%   58%    39%  103
Lester, J       NL  2.8   8.0   0.9  56%  35/77%   10%  91.5    9%   54%    39%  103
Manaea, S       AL  4.4  10.0   0.4  64%  28/54%    6%  92.2   14%   56%    41%  102
*min 20 IP

Let's take a closer look at a bunch of noteworthy skill performances in April.
 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Matt Andriese (RHP, TAM) had a so-so 3.86 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in April. And his underlying skills weren't very strong: 7.1 Dom, 3.2 Ctl, 46% GB%, 65 BPV. But they have some nice improvement potential, as his command sub-indicators were pretty good: 9.8% SwK%, 67% FpK%, 34% ball%. Andriese still carries some good growth potential.

Lance McCullers (RHP, HOU) posted a 4.34 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in April, giving reason for pause by owners who drafted him as a breakout target. Fortunately his skill foundation was one of the best in MLB that month and featured an elite combination of strikeouts and groundballs: 11.2 Dom, 2.8 Ctl, 55% GB%, 159 BPV. If he can maintain that level of control, McCullers could be on his way to a breakout. However, keep in mind though that his 58% FpK% and 37% ball% in April suggest that his sub-3.0 Ctl likely won't stick.

Jordan Montgomery (LHP, NYY) did not fare that well as NYY's fifth starter in April (4.15 ERA, 1.48 WHIP). And his aggregate skills didn't reveal a lot of reasons for optimism (76 BPV). That said, he posted an elite 15.0% SwK% that month, giving full support for his near-10.0 Dom. And his 63% FpK% suggests that his 4.0+ Ctl should get better. There's some buy low value here.

Charlie Morton (RHP, HOU) put up a rough 4.50 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in April, but few pitchers were more skilled that month than Morton was: 10.0 Dom, 2.6 Ctl, 49% GB%, 137 BPV. The key for him was adding velocity to his fastball (96-mph four-seam fastball). We've seen similar jumps in velocity from him before, so it remains to be seen if this one will stick. And his 9.8% SwK%, 58% FpK%, and 36% ball% don't suggest his 3.9 Cmd will hang around. He's a good short-term buy.

James Paxton (LHP, SEA) entered 2017 as one of the game's best breakout targets. So far, he hasn't disappointed. Few pitchers were more electric in April than Paxton: 10.9 Dom, 1.7 Ctl, 39% GB%, 167 BPV. His 14.7% SwK% and 65% FpK% support his top-tier command. With three pitches that he gets a 13%+ SwK% on (including a steady mid-90s fastball), Paxton is on the path to emerging as an elite pitcher in 2017.

Michael Pineda (RHP, NYY) went undrafted in some leagues this year, as many people had been burned by him in the past and didn't want to experience that again. Those who gambled on his elite skill foundation were rewarded in April with a 3.14 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and the third-best skills in MLB: 11.6 Dom, 1.3 Ctl, 48% GB%, 201 BPV. He also owns the best collection of command sub-indicators in MLB: 14.7% SwK%, 75% FpK%, 31% ball%. And he's put up those gaudy surface stats in spite of his chronic gopheritis (1.6 HR/9), which has been muted by his elite control. No reason to sell high here.

J.C. Ramirez (RHP, LAA) posted a humdrum near-4 ERA in April. But behind that mark were some very intriguing skills: 11.1 Dom, 2.8 Ctl, 32% GB%, 135 BPV. His high strikeout rate was validated by a top-tier 13.8% SwK%. He has paired a 96-mph fastball with two offspeed pitches that generate whiffs (14% SwK% on curveball, 18% SwK% on slider). And he owns a 3.0+ Cmd against both LH and RH bats. It remains to be seen if his surge will stick or is an anomaly, but if you need SP help, his early skills are worth the speculation.

Luis Severino (RHP, NYY) emerged as an intriguing post-hype target in 2017 drafts. After carrying breakout potential a year prior and disappointing, Severino's 350 ADP was an indicator that people had soured on him. Turns out he delivered elite stats (3.00 ERA, 0.78 WHIP) and skills in April: 11.0 Dom, 1.3 Ctl, 56% GB%, 196 BPV. He missed bats at a high clip (11.8% SwK%) and attacked the lower part of the strike zone with greater regularity, which helped him keep the ball on the ground. He was lethal against same-sided batters (8.0 Cmd vR) but was very good against lefties too (4.0 Cmd vL). At age 23 and with his off-season work with Pedro Martinez, Severino is again a young pitcher on a growth curve.

Josh Tomlin (RHP, CLE) torpedoed the stats of his owners in April (8.87 ERA, 1.76 WHIP). While that would normally be a sign to stay far away after his struggles late in 2016, note that he was hurt more by unfriendly hit (42%), strand (47%), and hr/f (17%) rates more than any other SP. His base skills featured his normal profile: great command (6.6 Dom, 1.2 Ctl, 53% GB%, 118 BPV). Of interest was his sharp GB tilt; if that can stick, it would certainly stymie the gopheritis that has plagued him in the past. Just note that his tiny 5.6% SwK% was the lowest of any SP in the AL with 20+ IP, which will limit his ability to reproduce his 2016 1H again.

Andrew Triggs (LHP, OAK) was an intriguing end-rotation add in many leagues this spring. Turns out he delivered upper-rotation stats in April (1.84 ERA, 0.92 WHIP). His skills were good too: 6.8 Dom, 1.8 Ctl, 56% GB%, 106 BPV. He's someone who succeeds by command and groundballs more than raw stuff, as his fastball usually stays below 90 mph. But his 10.4% SwK% is pretty good, and it has been driven by two good offspeed pitches (15% SwK% on slider, 13% SwK% on curveball). His stats are likely to erode in May as his 25% H%, 81% S%, and 4% hr/f regress, but he should continue to carry value as a fourth or fifth SP.

Jason Vargas (LHP, KC) came out of nowhere in April and posted ace-like stats (1.40 ERA, 0.90 WHIP). It would be easy to assume that those marks were the result of a friendly hit rate, but with a 32% H% that month, that wasn't the case. His base skills actually were some of the best in the AL: 9.8 Dom, 0.7 Ctl, 47% GB%, 183 BPV. And they were backed by a 14.5% SwK% and 64% FpK%. The key has been his change-up. It has gone from being a very good pitch (20% SwK% with it last four seasons) to an elite one (27% SwK% in 2017). At age 34 and with a mid-80s fastball, we have to be cynical about his ability to retain this level of effectiveness. That said, his return from Tommy John surgery went really well in September of 2016 (102 BPV), so we can't completely dismiss his quick start to the season. Owners who got him at his 586 ADP already have turned a profit on him.
 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Tyler Anderson (LHP, COL) posted an ugly stat line in April (7.71 ERA, 1.58 WHIP). His base skills were very mediocre at best (54 BPV). But owners looking to mine for hidden skill upside could do worse than speculate here. He missed bats at a high clip (12.1% SwK%). He was hurt by a crazy 56% S% and 24% hr/f. And he was very good in 2016 (3.54 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 110 BPV). Now's a good time to buy low on him.

Trevor Cahill (RHP, SD) posted his usual line of marginal stats as a SP in April (4.50 ERA, 1.33 WHIP). However, his underlying skills were very good: 11.3 Dom, 4.1 Ctl, 61% GB%, 130 BPV. And his huge spike in strikeouts wasn't an aberration. He had a top-tier 14.1% SwK% in April. After his change-up being his best pitch for years, it has taken a back seat to his excellent knuckle-curve (23% SwK% in '17 after 12% SwK% on it in 2016). And his strong 66% FpK% gives hope for some control improvement. After never having posted a 90+ BPV in an MLB season, it would be easy to dismiss Cahill. But it's easy to forget that he's still in his 20s and has shown intriguing skill flashes in the past. Now that he's in SD, he'll likely remain rosterable for the rest of the season even if he loses some touch on his knuckle-curve.

Gerrit Cole (RHP, PIT) entered the 2017 season with some health risk. His April results have put those to bed, at least for now (3.60 ERA, 1.17 WHIP). As have his skills: 8.1 Dom, 1.8 Ctl, 47% GB%, 122 BPV. His velocity remains high (96-mph fastball), he's missing bats at a decent level (10% SwK%), and he's throwing strikes early (68% FpK%) and often (33% ball%). No reason to sell high here.

Patrick Corbin (LHP, ARI) put up a nifty 2.29 ERA in April. He can credit an 86% S% for a lot of that, especially considering that his base skills were more good than great (87 BPV). But two of his command sub-indicators were very good (12.0% SwK%, 63% FpK%), so he has a chance to continue to produce value in May.

Amir Garrett (LHP, CIN) flashed some of his upside in April, including a stretch of consecutive PQS-4 starts against PIT and BAL. Inconsistency plagued him though, and his 5.09 ERA for the month wasn't attractive. But his underlying skills were: 8.6 Dom, 2.7 Ctl, 49% GB%, 108 BPV. His command sub-indicators were good across-the-board too: 11.7% SwK%, 63% FpK%, 34% ball%. He was hurt by a 64% S% and 19% hr/f. He'll remain a high-risk, high-reward proposition.

Chad Kuhl (RHP, PIT) did plenty of damage to his owners in April (6.26 ERA, 1.74 WHIP). And his underlying skills that month did not point to a turnaround (25 BPV). But his command sub-indicators did: 12.1% SwK%, 64% FpK%. There could be some buy-low potential here in very deep leagues.

Kenta Maeda (RHP, LA) had a rough 6.58 ERA in April, but that mark was driven by a 57% S% and 20% hr/f more than anything else. In fact, his base skills were quite good: 9.4 Dom, 2.1 Ctl, 31% GB%, 121 BPV. He also put up a 14.3% SwK% and 63% FpK%. Now's a great time to buy low on Maeda if you can.

Jeff Samardzija (RHP, SF) did not produce much value to his owners in April (6.32 ERA). That said, his underlying skills point to a rebound in May: 10.1 Dom, 2.9 Ctl, 39% GB%, 120 BPV. He was victimized by a 56% S% and 23% hr/f. As those marks regress, so too will his surface stats.

Anthony Senzatela (RHP, COL) has been a popular addition in many leagues after his 2.81 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in April. Problem is, his underlying skills were not very good (64 BPV). And he did not miss any bats in April (5.5% SwK%). In fact, his swinging strike rate was the lowest in MLB among SP with at least 20 IP that month. There's some big regression coming.

Michael Wacha (RHP, STL) had a 2.55 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in April as his velocity returned to the mid-90s. It helped him produce good skills (107 BPV), and his 8.4 Dom was validated by a 10.8% SwK%. Just bear in mind that his 2.2 Ctl isn't likely to stick given his 55% FpK%, and he'll remain an injury risk given his chronic shoulder woes.

Adam Wainwright (RHP, STL) put up some ugly results in April (6.12 ERA, 1.84 WHIP). But his rebound potential is very strong given the skills he posted that month: 9.4 Dom, 2.5 Ctl, 48% GB%, 126 BPV. A crazy 45% H% was the real reason for his bad stats. That said, note that his 8.5% SwK%, 56% FpK%, and 36% ball% question the staying power of his elite skills, so he'll continue to carry more risk than he had during his peak years.


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