STARTERS: Command sub-indicator changes, 2019

Starting pitchers with improving command sub-indicators can make for excellent stretch-run targets.

For reference, you can review our research of each command sub-indicator here:

These SP have posted the most improvement in their swinging strike rate from 2018 to 2019:

  • Swinging Strike Rate (SwK%) - 2019 YTD vs. 2018*
    
    Name                 League  SwK% '19  SwK% '18  Diff
    ===================  ======  ========  ========  =====
    Giolito, Lucas           AL     14.4%      8.4%  +6.0%
    Boyd, Matt               AL     14.6%     10.2%  +4.4%
    Clevinger, Mike          AL     15.3%     12.0%  +3.3%
    Perez, Martin            AL      9.9%      6.8%  +3.1%
    Williams, Trevor         NL     10.9%      7.9%  +3.0%
    Castillo, Luis           NL     16.4%     13.5%  +2.9%
    Jurado, Ariel            AL      7.4%      4.5%  +2.9%
    Montas, Frankie          AL     11.5%      8.7%  +2.8%
    Snell, Blake             AL     17.8%     15.1%  +2.7%
    Bumgarner, Madison       NL     11.8%      9.2%  +2.6%
    Bieber, Shane            AL     14.2%     11.6%  +2.6%
    Smith, Caleb             NL     13.9%     11.6%  +2.3%
    Gausman, Kevin           NL     13.5%     11.3%  +2.2%
    Lynn, Lance              AL     12.3%     10.1%  +2.2%
    Gibson, Kyle             AL     13.6%     11.5%  +2.1%
    Gonzalez, Gio            NL     11.7%      9.6%  +2.1%
    Cashner, Andrew          AL      8.9%      6.8%  +2.1%
    Pomeranz, Drew           NL      9.1%      7.0%  +2.1%
    Strasburg, Stephen       NL     13.8%     11.9%  +1.9%
    Price, David             AL     11.5%      9.6%  +1.9%
    Anderson, Chase          NL     11.1%      9.2%  +1.9%
    Heaney, Andrew           AL     13.6%     11.8%  +1.8%
    Minor, Mike              AL     11.7%     10.0%  +1.7%
    Odorizzi, Jake           AL     11.9%     10.2%  +1.7%
    Lopez, Reynaldo          AL     10.8%      9.2%  +1.6%
    Cole, Gerrit             AL     15.6%     14.1%  +1.5%
    *min 40 IP each season

The following SP are putting up a first-pitch strike rate (FpK%) that is significantly higher from what they showed in 2018:

  • First Pitch Strike Rate (FpK%) - 2019 YTD vs. 2018*
    
    Name                 League  FpK% '19  FpK% '18  Diff
    ===================  ======  ========  ========  ====
    Snell, Blake             AL       68%       57%  +11%
    Plutko, Adam             AL       68%       59%  +10%
    Lynn, Lance              AL       62%       54%   +8%
    Gibson, Kyle             AL       65%       58%   +8%
    Gausman, Kevin           NL       65%       57%   +8%
    Samardzija, Jeff         NL       62%       55%   +7%
    Boyd, Matt               AL       65%       59%   +6%
    Giolito, Lucas           AL       62%       55%   +6%
    Price, David             AL       68%       62%   +6%
    Syndergaard, Noah        NL       65%       59%   +6%
    Mahle, Tyler             NL       68%       63%   +6%
    Scherzer, Max            NL       71%       66%   +5%
    Darvish, Yu              NL       61%       56%   +5%
    Wheeler, Zack            NL       67%       62%   +5%
    Bumgarner, Madison       NL       69%       64%   +5%
    Williams, Trevor         NL       65%       61%   +5%
    Ryu, Hyun-Jin            NL       63%       59%   +5%
    Perez, Martin            AL       63%       59%   +4%
    Lauer, Eric              NL       64%       60%   +4%
    Fedde, Erick             NL       59%       55%   +4%
    Minor, Mike              AL       62%       58%   +4%
    Pomeranz, Drew           NL       57%       53%   +4%
    Wacha, Michael           NL       56%       53%   +3%
    Covey, Dylan             AL       64%       61%   +3%
    Strasburg, Stephen       NL       64%       61%   +3%
    Eflin, Zach              NL       68%       65%   +3%
    Nova, Ivan               NL       60%       57%   +3%
    Buehler, Walker          NL       66%       64%   +3%
    Duffy, Danny             AL       61%       58%   +3%
    *min 40 IP each season

Finally, this bunch of SP has lowered their ball percentage the most from 2018 to 2019:

  • Ball Percentage (Ball%) - 2019 YTD vs. 2018*
    
    Name                 League  Ball% '19  Ball% '18  Diff
    ===================  ======  =========  =========  ====
    Giolito, Lucas           AL        34%        40%   -5%
    Samardzija, Jeff         NL        36%        40%   -4%
    Boyd, Matt               AL        33%        37%   -4%
    Berrios, Jose            AL        32%        36%   -4%
    Williams, Trevor         NL        33%        36%   -4%
    Lynn, Lance              AL        36%        40%   -4%
    Plutko, Adam             AL        33%        36%   -3%
    Bumgarner, Madison       NL        33%        36%   -3%
    Pomeranz, Drew           NL        38%        41%   -3%
    Darvish, Yu              NL        36%        39%   -3%
    Perez, Martin            AL        36%        38%   -3%
    Glasnow, Tyler           AL        34%        37%   -3%
    Foltynewicz, Mike        NL        34%        37%   -3%
    Sanchez, Aaron           NL        38%        41%   -2%
    Odorizzi, Jake           AL        36%        39%   -2%
    Snell, Blake             AL        36%        38%   -2%
    Smith, Caleb             NL        34%        37%   -2%
    Morton, Charlie          AL        34%        36%   -2%
    Wheeler, Zack            NL        32%        34%   -2%
    Gonzalez, Gio            NL        38%        40%   -2%
    Cahill, Trevor           AL        37%        39%   -2%
    Lauer, Eric              NL        35%        37%   -2%
    Gausman, Kevin           NL        33%        35%   -2%
    Buehler, Walker          NL        31%        33%   -2%
    Matz, Steven             NL        35%        37%   -2%
    Duffy, Danny             AL        36%        38%   -2%
    German, Domingo          AL        34%        35%   -2%
    Ray, Robbie              NL        37%        38%   -2%
    *min 40 IP each season

Here is a closer look at several SP in each league with the most intriguing command sub-indicator improvements.
 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Shane Bieber (RHP, CLE) has transformed himself from a control artist to a pitcher that batters have a hard time making contact against (14.2% SwK% in '19 vs. 11.6% SwK% in '18). And his control sub-indicators haven't changed much at all from 2018 (64% FpK%, 34% ball% in '19 vs. 66% FpK% and 33% ball% in '18). There's no reason to expect a downturn from Bieber going forward.

Matt Boyd (LHP, DET) has enjoyed an explosion in his skills this season. After putting up a marginal 85 BPV in '18, he's the owner of an elite 181 BPV so far in '19. And those skills have the full backing of a 14.6% SwK%, 65% FpK%, and 33% ball%. While he'll carry regression risk heading into 2020 and is more likely to settle in as a mid-rotation SP, don't expect him to be prone to repeated blowups down the stretch.

Mike Clevinger (RHP, CLE) has looked like a frontline SP since getting healthy. And for the season, his skills have been firmly elite: 12.9 Dom, 3.1 Ctl, 44% GB%, 172 BPV. In fact, his top-tier 15.3% SwK% gives good support to all those strikeouts. In addition, he hasn't needed to be more wild in order to miss bats at a higher clip (65% FpK%, 37% ball% in '19 vs. 64% FpK%, 36% ball% in '18).

Lucas Giolito (RHP, CHW) has shown more underlying skills growth than any other SP in the game so far in 2019. Giolito has turned his ugly 13 BPV as a SP in 2018 to a strong 124 BPV in 2019. And that surge has come with the full support of a strong collection of command building blocks: 14.4% SwK%, 62% FpK%, 34% ball%.

Andrew Heaney (LHP, LAA) posted a poor 5+ ERA prior to going to the injured list due to shoulder inflammation. However, Heaney's 101 BPV suggested he deserved better results. And he's missing bats at a much higher rate (13.6% SwK%) than he did in 2018 (11.8% SwK%).

Reynaldo Lopez (RHP, CHW) is starting to show flashes of the upside that gave him SP2 upside a few years ago. While his overall stats remain poor (5.41 ERA, 1.48 WHIP in 129 IP), he's starting to turn his good raw stuff into more swings and misses (10.8% SwK% in '19 vs. 9.2% SwK% in '18). He still has work to do with his control (59% FpK%, 36% ball%). Nonetheless, he'll still carry some breakout potential heading into 2020.

Lance Lynn (RHP, TEX) owns skills that have gone from marginal (71 BPV in '18) to impactful (147 BPV in '19). And that surge has come with the support of a 12.3% SwK%, a mark that is much higher than the average 10.1% SwK% he put up in 2018. His control foundation has become much more solid as well (62% FpK%, 36% ball%).

Adam Plutko (RHP, CLE) is the owner of a 4.55 ERA after 59 IP, making him available in a lot of leagues. While Plutko isn't missing any more bats this year (8.6% SwK%) than last (8.7% SwK%), his 68% FpK% and 33% ball% give his pinpoint control good support. He just needs a groundball pitch (31/23/46 G/L/F) to avoid the HR-fueled blowups that have plagued him.

Blake Snell (LHP, TAM) remains on the shelf due to an elbow issue. While he's unlikely to provide any value down the stretch, those in keeper leagues could do worse than trying to get Snell at a discount. His 17.8% SwK% and 68% FpK% have been the most lethal combination of swinging and first-pitch strikes in the game, suggesting that he remains a legit 3.00 ERA pitcher in spite of his 4.28 ERA.
 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Madison Bumgarner (LHP, SF) still isn't posting the kinds of elite stats we are used to seeing out of him (3.92 ERA, 1.18 WHIP in 145 IP). However, Bumgarner's skills aren't much different at all from those he posted during his heyday: 8.8 Dom, 1.9 Ctl, 36% GB%, 123 BPV. And his command sub-indicators are near-elite: 11.8% SwK%, 69% FpK%, 33% ball%. Don't be surprised if Bumgarner puts up a 3.00 ERA during the final two months.

Luis Castillo (RHP, CIN) has watched his elite raw stuff go from dominant in 2018 (13.5% SwK%) to super filthy in 2019 (16.4% SwK%). Unfortunately those gains have come at the expense of keeping the ball over the plate, as both his first-pitch strike rate (55% FpK% in '19, 61% FpK% in '18) and ball percentage (40% ball% in '19, 35% ball% in '18) have declined significantly. He remains a high-risk/reward play.

Kevin Gausman (RHP, CIN) is not having a good season at all on the surface (6.19 ERA, 1.49 WHIP), stats that helped send him to waivers earlier this month. While he's getting work out of the bullpen now, it's worth tucking away that Gausman's command sub-indicators all have improved significantly this season: 13.5% SwK%, 65% FpK%, 33% ball% in 2019 vs. 11.3% SwK%, 57% FpK%, 35% ball% in 2018. Those tweaks give his 105 BPV a lot more upside. There's some sneaky profit potential here in deep leagues, and owners wanting to target a buy-low arm in keeper leagues should consider taking a flyer on Gausman again.

Drew Pomeranz (LHP, MIL) is another former high-upside SP that finds himself in bullpen work. That said, Pomeranz has posted some elite skills over the past month, including two games started: 11.7 Dom, 1.8 Ctl, 34% GB%, 176 BPV. Nearly all of his struggles came in May, when he imploded to the tune of a crazy 19.16 ERA and 3.29 WHIP. This is another good place to target if you need a pitching speculation down the stretch.

Caleb Smith (LHP, MIA) continues to be on an upward trajectory. Check out his BPV by year over the last three seasons: 32, 87, 118 BPV. In addition, he's missing a lot more bats this season (13.9% SwK%) than last (11.6% SwK%) while holding steady on his marginal first-pitch strike rate (60% FpK%) and throwing a much higher volume of strikes (34% ball% in '19, 37% ball% in '18).

Trevor Williams (RHP, PIT) isn't owned in most leagues due to his ugly 5.06 ERA in 100 IP. But if you're a pitching-starved team in a deep league, there's some hidden upside here. Behind Williams' subpar 84 BPV as a SP are these above-average command sub-indicators: 10.9% SwK%, 65% FpK%, 33% ball%. Those marks are much better than the ugly ones he put up last season (7.9% SwK%, 61% FpK%, 36% ball%).


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