STARTERS: Command sub-indicator surgers, 2018

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-indicators here:

Swinging Strike rate (SwK%)
First Pitch Strike rate (FpK%)
Ball percentage (Ball%)

These SP have posted the most improvement in their swinging strike rate from 2017 to 2018:

  • Swinging Strike Rate (SwK%) - 2018 YTD vs. 2017*
    
    Name                 League  SwK% '17  SwK% '18  Diff
    ===================  ======  ========  ========  ====
    Gray, Jon                NL      8.8%     13.5%  +4.7%
    Cole, Gerrit             AL      9.5%     13.7%  +4.2%
    Corbin, Patrick          NL     11.0%     14.9%  +3.9%
    Bauer, Trevor            AL      9.1%     12.9%  +3.8%
    Pivetta, Nick            NL      8.7%     12.1%  +3.4%
    Skaggs, Tyler            AL      8.1%     11.3%  +3.2%
    Holland, Derek           NL      7.1%     10.3%  +3.2%
    Verlander, Justin        AL     10.7%     13.8%  +3.1%
    Eflin, Zach              NL      7.3%     10.2%  +2.9%
    Snell, Blake             AL     10.8%     13.5%  +2.7%
    Velasquez, Vincent       NL      9.1%     11.7%  +2.6%
    Hamels, Cole             NL      9.7%     12.2%  +2.5%
    Ross, Tyson              NL      6.2%      8.7%  +2.5%
    Gibson, Kyle             AL     10.0%     12.0%  +2.0%
    Morton, Charlie          AL     10.9%     12.8%  +1.9%
    Cahill, Trevor           AL     11.6%     13.5%  +1.9%
    Wheeler, Zack            NL      9.1%     11.0%  +1.9%
    Gaviglio, Sam            AL      7.2%      9.1%  +1.9%
    Marquez, German          NL      9.1%     10.9%  +1.8%
    deGrom, Jacob            NL     13.3%     15.1%  +1.8%
    Sabathia, C.C.           AL      8.9%     10.6%  +1.7%
    Berrios, Jose            AL      9.5%     11.1%  +1.6%
    Zimmermann, Jordan       AL      8.1%      9.7%  +1.6%
    Maeda, Kenta             NL     12.3%     13.8%  +1.5%
    *min 40 IP each season

The following SP are putting up a first-pitch strike rate (FpK%) that is significantly higher than what they showed in 2017:

  • First Pitch Strike Rate (FpK%) - 2018 YTD vs. 2017*
    
    Name                 League  FpK% '17  FpK% '18  Diff
    ===================  ======  ========  ========  ====
    Hellickson, Jeremy       NL       59%       70%  +11%
    Ross, Tyson              NL       47%       57%  +10%
    Guerra, Junior           NL       54%       63%   +9%
    Bauer, Trevor            AL       57%       64%   +7%
    Gaviglio, Sam            AL       61%       68%   +7%
    Berrios, Jose            AL       59%       66%   +7%
    Nola, Aaron              NL       64%       71%   +7%
    Estrada, Marco           AL       59%       65%   +6%
    Verlander, Justin        AL       62%       68%   +6%
    Mengden, Daniel          AL       58%       64%   +6%
    Freeland, Kyle           NL       55%       61%   +6%
    Covey, Dylan             AL       55%       61%   +6%
    Scherzer, Max            NL       65%       70%   +5%
    Sanchez, Anibal          NL       61%       66%   +5%
    Fiers, Mike              AL       60%       65%   +5%
    Gallardo, Yovani         NL       58%       63%   +5%
    Severino, Luis           AL       65%       70%   +5%
    Pivetta, Nick            NL       59%       64%   +5%
    *min 40 IP each season

Finally, this bunch of SP has lowered their ball percentage the most from 2017 to 2018:

  • Ball Percentage (Ball%) - 2018 YTD vs. 2017*
    
    Name                 League  Ball% '17  Ball% '18  Diff
    ===================  ======  =========  =========  ====
    Ross, Tyson              NL        44%        38%   -6%
    Clevinger, Mike          AL        40%        35%   -5%
    Guerra, Junior           NL        42%        37%   -5%
    Holland, Derek           NL        40%        36%   -4%
    Mengden, Daniel          AL        38%        34%   -4%
    Hellickson, Jeremy       NL        37%        33%   -4%
    Bailey, Homer            NL        38%        34%   -4%
    Covey, Dylan             AL        41%        38%   -4%
    Pivetta, Nick            NL        37%        33%   -3%
    Verlander, Justin        AL        34%        32%   -3%
    Manaea, Sean             AL        35%        33%   -3%
    Paxton, James            AL        35%        32%   -3%
    Harvey, Matt             NL        37%        34%   -3%
    Taillon, Jameson         NL        36%        34%   -3%
    Wheeler, Zack            NL        37%        34%   -3%
    *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

Trevor Bauer (RHP, CLE) has taken his skills to a whole new level in 2018. And it has been more than a one-year jump. Check out his overall skills over the last four seasons: 64, 81, 121, 146 BPV. His growth this season has been fueled by substantial improvement in all of his command sub-indicators. They were marginal to mediocre in 2017: 9.1% SwK%, 57% FpK%, 39% ball%. Each one has improved significantly this year: 12.9% SwK%, 64% FpK%, 37% ball%.

Jose Berrios (RHP, MIN) is another young SP whose growth this season has been substantial. While he still falls victim to a clunker every now and then, his overall stats (3.51 ERA, 1.05 WHIP) and skills (123 BPV) are near-elite. And that skills growth comes with a trifecta of improving sub-indicators: 11.1% SwK%, 66% FpK%, 35% ball%.

Trevor Cahill (RHP, OAK) has a history of being able to produce a lot of whiffs with his offspeed stuff when healthy. That has been the case again in 2018. After posting a good 11.6% SwK% in 2017, he has rode his impactful change-up to an overall 13.5% SwK% this season. That improvement has helped his overall skills go from good (97 BPV in '17) to very good (120 BPV in '18).

Kyle Gibson (RHP, MIN) now owns one of the best sliders in the game. It's the primary reason he has generated whiffs at a high rate this season (12.0% SwK%) after getting them at a much lower rate in 2017 (10.0% SwK%). His ability to generate both groundballs and strikeouts still gives him some untapped upside.

Tyler Skaggs (LHP, LAA) is another post-hype pitcher who has shown some legit gains in 2018. Not only have his stats been good (3.34 ERA, 1.25 WHIP), so too have his skills: 9.4 Dom, 2.7 Ctl, 47% GB%, 121 BPV. The key for him has been a huge jump in his swinging strike rate (8.1% SwK% in '17, 11.3% SwK% in '18).

Jordan Zimmermann (RHP, DET) struggled to stay healthy in recent years, a fact that was apparent in his poor stats and skills. He has been healthy this season. While his stats haven't been great (4.31 ERA, 1.23 WHIP), his skills have appeared rejuvenated: 8.5 Dom, 1.9 Ctl, 32% GB%, 113 BPV. He's missing more bats (8.1% SwK% in '17, 9.7% SwK% in '18) and continues to throw strikes early (67% FpK%) and often (33% ball%).
 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Patrick Corbin (LHP, ARI) has looked like an elite pitcher for most of the season. He has posted a 140+ BPV in three separate months. That skills growth has been no fluke. After posting a sub-2.5 Cmd against righties in each of the last two seasons, he has a top-tier 6.0 Cmd vR in 2018. In addition, his overall swinging strike rate has soared to an elite level (14.9% SwK%).

Zach Eflin (RHP, PHI) has put up a very strong 3.61 ERA and 1.11 WHIP after 15 starts, marks that have come with nearly full skills support: 8.3 Dom, 1.9 Ctl, 38% GB%, 114 BPV. He's continuing to throw strikes at a pretty high rate (63% FpK%, 34% ball%). The key has been finding a way to get more whiffs. He had a poor 7.3% SwK% in '17, a mark he has increased to a 10.2% SwK% in '18. He has added 1.5 mph to his four-seam fastball, a pitch that has helped him take a legit step forward.

Jon Gray (RHP, COL) has been a great buy-low target for a while. It's starting to manifest into results. He has an elite 1.52 ERA and 0.71 WHIP over 30 IP since July 1. He has posted a 100+ BPV in each month and a 140+ BPV in three of them. He's effective against both lefties and righties. And no pitcher has increased his swinging strike rate more than Gray has (8.8% SwK% in '17, 13.5% SwK% in '18).

Jeremy Hellickson (RHP, WAS) owns a 3.56 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 2018 in spite of dealing with injuries. After struggling to miss bats and throw strikes last season (8.3% SwK%, 59% FpK%, 37% ball%), he has improved all of those marks this year (8.7% SwK%, 70% FpK%, 33% ball%). Hellickson has some sneaky stretch-run potential.

Derek Holland (LHP, SF) is another veteran pitcher worthy of your attention, especially in deep leagues. Holland has put up a 3.96 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 21 starts. While his overall skills have been more average than good (78 BPV), he has made some intriguing adjustments since July 1. Check out his skills since then: 11.1 Dom, 2.7 Ctl, 38% GB%, 142 BPV. He's available in many leagues and could help you down the stretch.

German Marquez (RHP, COL) will enter 2019 with some legitimate breakout potential, even though his surface stats (4.69 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) might not suggest it. His skills have been very good: 9.7 Dom, 3.2 Ctl, 48% GB%, 116 BPV. He's missing more bats than ever (10.9% SwK%). And he's getting better as the season goes along. He has put up a 3.15 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in the second half, marks that have been paired with full support of his skills (175 BPV). Your window to buy low on Marquez is closing quickly.

Nick Pivetta (RHP, PHI) is another highly-skilled starting pitcher whose results are starting to mirror his upside. He has a 1.50 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in the early part of August. He has posted a sub-3 xERA in July and so far in August, and for the season, Pivetta has posted a 130+ BPV in each month this season. His command sub-indicators have gone from mediocre in 2017 (8.7% SwK%, 59% FpK%, 37% ball%) to excellent in 2018 (12.1% SwK%, 64% FpK%, 33% ball%).


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