STARTERS: Expected Ctl, Dom gainers 2020

Comparing strikeout and walk levels with command sub-indicators like swinging strike rate and ball percentage can be an effective way to forecast changes in a starting pitcher's command.

Our research on swinging strike rates (SwK%) showed that SwK% has a strong link with dominance rate (K/9). As such, we can use it to calculate a SP's expected Dom (xDom).

Here is an updated correlation table between SwK% and Dom based on data from 2017 to 2019:

  • xDom Ranges by SwK% Level
    
                ------xDom by Percentile----
    SwK% Range  10th  25th  50th  75th  90th
    ==========  ====  ====  ====  ====  ====
    >15.0%      10.7  11.0  11.7  12.2  12.8
    14.0-14.9%  10.4  10.7  11.6  12.3  12.9
    13.0-13.9%   9.1   9.6  10.5  10.8  11.5
    12.5-12.9%   8.7   9.2   9.9  10.6  10.8
    12.0-12.4%   8.5   8.8   9.5  10.2  10.6
    11.5-11.9%   8.2   8.5   9.3   9.9  10.9
    11.0-11.4%   7.5   8.1   8.8  10.0  10.3
    10.5-10.9%   7.5   7.9   8.3   9.1  10.0
    10.0-10.4%   6.9   7.4   7.9   8.7   9.2
    9.5-9.9%     6.6   7.0   7.6   8.4   8.8
    9.0-9.4%     5.9   6.7   7.6   8.4   8.9
    8.5-8.9%     6.2   6.5   7.2   8.0   8.6
    8.0-8.4%     5.8   6.3   6.9   7.6   8.1
    7.5-7.9%     5.4   6.0   6.5   7.1   8.0
    7.0-7.4%     5.3   5.7   6.1   7.0   7.3
    6.0-6.9%     4.5   4.6   5.3   5.9   6.4
    <6.0%        3.6   4.9   5.5   5.6   6.0

These SP posted a Dom (K/9) rate in 2019 that was significantly lower than what their swinging strike rate supported, indicating that they could be due for a higher strikeout rate in 2020:

  • Dom vs xDom*, 2019
    
    Name                 League  SwK%   Dom   xDom  Diff
    ===================  ======  =====  ====  ====  ====
    Ynoa, Gabriel            AL   9.3%   4.2   7.6  -3.4
    Melville, Tim            NL  11.0%   6.5   8.8  -2.3
    Taillon, Jameson         NL  11.9%   7.2   9.3  -2.1
    Anderson, Brett          AL   7.7%   4.6   6.5  -1.9
    Young, Alex              NL  12.8%   8.1   9.9  -1.8
    Gibson, Kyle             AL  13.1%   8.8  10.5  -1.7
    Harvey, Matt             AL   9.1%   5.9   7.6  -1.7
    Sandoval, Patrick        AL  13.1%   8.9  10.5  -1.6
    Buchholz, Clay           AL   9.4%   6.0   7.6  -1.6
    Stanek, Ryne             AL  16.0%  10.3  11.7  -1.5
    Alcantara, Sandy         NL  10.9%   6.9   8.3  -1.4  
    Godley, Zack             NL  10.7%   6.9   8.3  -1.4
    Nova, Ivan               AL   8.3%   5.5   6.9  -1.4
    Yarbrough, Ryan          AL  11.4%   7.5   8.8  -1.3
    Sheffield, Justus        AL  13.4%   9.3  10.5  -1.3
    Straily, Dan             AL   7.2%   4.9   6.1  -1.2
    Pineda, Michael          AL  12.5%   8.6   9.9  -1.2
    Margevicius, Nick        NL   9.7%   6.4   7.6  -1.2
    Musgrove, Joe            NL  12.1%   8.3   9.5  -1.2
    Smeltzer, Devin          AL   9.1%   6.5   7.6  -1.1
    Leake, Mike              NL   8.1%   5.8   6.9  -1.1
    Castillo, Luis           NL  15.9%  10.7  11.7  -1.0
    Urena, Jose              NL   8.8%   6.2   7.2  -1.0
    Dugger, Robert           NL   9.3%   6.6   7.6  -1.0
    Cashner, Andrew          AL   8.8%   6.2   7.2  -1.0
    Gausman, Kevin           NL  13.6%   9.6  10.5  -1.0
    Means, John              AL   9.3%   6.6   7.6  -1.0
    Corbin, Patrick          NL  14.3%  10.6  11.6  -1.0
    Richards, Trevor         AL  11.7%   8.4   9.3  -1.0
    Canning, Griffin         AL  13.9%   9.6  10.5  -1.0
    Richard, Clayton         AL   6.2%   4.4   5.3  -1.0
    *min 30 IP

In addition, our research on the ball and strike rates of starting pitchers tells us that there is a strong link between ball% and Ctl (BB/9).

Here is an updated correlation table showing xCtl by ball% level:

  • xCtl Ranges by Ball% Level
    
           -----xCtl by Percentile-----
    Ball%  10th  25th  50th  75th  90th
    =====  ====  ====  ====  ====  ====
    <30%    0.8   1.0   1.3   1.4   1.9
    31%     1.1   1.3   1.5   1.9   2.1
    32%     1.2   1.6   1.8   2.1   2.3
    33%     1.5   1.7   2.0   2.3   2.5
    34%     1.7   2.0   2.3   2.6   2.9
    35%     2.0   2.2   2.5   2.9   3.2
    36%     2.1   2.4   2.8   3.2   3.4
    37%     2.3   2.7   3.1   3.5   3.8
    38%     2.6   3.0   3.3   3.8   4.2
    39%     3.0   3.3   3.6   4.0   4.4
    40%     3.2   3.5   4.0   4.5   4.9
    41%     3.5   4.0   4.6   5.2   5.5
    >42%    4.2   4.7   5.1   5.9   6.8

The following guys walked batters in 2019 at a significantly higher level than their ball% suggested they should have:

  • Ctl vs xCtl*
    
    Name                 League  Ball%  Ctl  xCtl  Diff
    ===================  ======  =====  ===  ====  ====
    Holland, Derek           NL    38%  5.9   3.3  +2.6
    Banuelos, Manny          AL    39%  5.5   3.6  +1.9
    Ponce de Leon, Daniel    NL    37%  4.9   3.1  +1.8
    Gallen, Zac              NL    35%  4.1   2.5  +1.6
    Eovaldi, Nathan          AL    39%  5.1   3.6  +1.5
    Ross, Tyson              AL    37%  4.6   3.1  +1.5
    Godley, Zack             AL    39%  5.1   3.6  +1.5
    Font, Wilmer             AL    35%  3.9   2.5  +1.4
    Sanchez, Aaron           AL    38%  4.7   3.3  +1.4
    Covey, Dylan             AL    38%  4.6   3.3  +1.3
    Hoffman, Jeff            NL    37%  4.4   3.1  +1.3
    Hellickson, Jeremy       NL    39%  4.9   3.6  +1.3
    Hill, Rich               AL    31%  2.8   1.5  +1.3
    Ray, Robbie              NL    37%  4.3   3.1  +1.2
    Valdez, Framber          AL    41%  5.8   4.6  +1.2
    Alcantara, Sandy         NL    35%  3.7   2.5  +1.2
    Rodon, Carlos            AL    38%  4.4   3.3  +1.1
    Nola, Aaron              NL    35%  3.6   2.5  +1.1
    Archer, Chris            NL    37%  4.1   3.1  +1.0
    Smith, Caleb             NL    35%  3.5   2.5  +1.0
    Pomeranz, Drew           NL    38%  4.3   3.3  +1.0
    Kluber, Corey            AL    36%  3.8   2.8  +1.0
    Teheran, Julio           NL    38%  4.3   3.3  +1.0
    Allard, Kolby            AL    36%  3.8   2.8  +1.0
    Gausman, Kevin           NL    33%  3.0   2.0  +1.0
    *min 30 IP

Let's take a closer look at a bunch of SP whose SwK% or ball% give them some nice profit potential heading into 2020.
 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Griffin Canning (RHP, LAA) looked like a growth target at times during the 2019 season. Check out his skills during the first half: 9.2 Dom, 2.0 Ctl, 36% GB%, 125 BPV. In addition, Canning missed bats at a high clip over the entire season (13.9% SwK%), a mark that suggested his 9.6 Dom should have been in the double digits. Canning was plagued by an inflated 39% H% in the second half which masked some of his peaks. There's some good profit potential here.

Kyle Gibson (RHP, TEX) posted a rough 4.89 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 2019. But he still carries some untapped upside due to his groundball tilt (51% GB%) and ability to generate whiffs (13.1% SwK%). In fact, that swinging strike rate suggested his 8.8 Dom should have been a 10.5 Dom.

Patrick Sandoval (LHP, LAA) was mediocre at best during his MLB debut in 2019 (5.03 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 81 BPV). While his high 40% ball% will continue to make him a risk for poor control, his stuff was better than it seemed. He carried a 13.1% SwK% in 2019, a mark that profiled him as a 10.0+ Dom guy. That nugget makes him worth watching this spring.

Justus Sheffield (LHP, SEA) is a good pitching prospect that struggled during his first extended look in the majors in 2019 (5.50 ERA, 1.72 WHIP in 36 IP). While his skills were marginal (75 BPV), underneath them lurked an interesting 13.4% SwK%, which suggested his 9.3 Dom should have been much higher. He's another arm that can pair a high rate of whiffs with an ability to induce groundballs (52% GB%). There's some intriguing post-hype appeal here.

Ryan Yarbrough (LHP, TAM) delivered a 4+ ERA in 2019, a mark that will lead some to avoid him in 2020. Don't follow suit. Yarbrough's skills were very good (121 BPV), they got better as the season went along (135 BPV in 2H), and he missed bats (11.4% SwK%) while pounding the strike zone at a strong clip (33% ball%).
 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Sandy Alcantara (RHP, MIA) enters the 2020 season as one of the more overlooked breakout targets in the game. For one, few SP were better in September than Alcantara was. He had a 2.59 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 42 IP that month, marks that came with pretty solid backing from his 110 BPV. His command sub-indicators for the entire season confirm his upside potential, as his 10.9% SwK% and 35% ball% both supported better command than what he displayed.

Luis Castillo (RHP, CIN) is another prime breakout target. His skills soared as the 2019 season went along (156 BPV in 2H). Few missed more bats for the entire season than Castillo did (15.9% SwK%). If he can pump the strike zone at a higher rate (39% ball%), Castillo has the goods to blossom into an SP1 in 2020.

Zac Gallen (RHP, ARI) looked good during his MLB debut in 2019 (2.81 ERA, 1.23 WHIP). While those marks didn't come with the full support of his skills (4.09 xERA), his aggregate skills were still good (102 BPV). And his solid 35% ball% suggested his 4.1 Ctl should have been closer to a 2.5 Ctl. Furthermore, his upper-tier 12.8% SwK% confirms that he has the arsenal to keep hitters guessing. This is another premium profit center.

Kevin Gausman (RHP, SF) was electric in a mixture of starting and relieving roles in 2019. He had a 140+ BPV in each of that season's final four months. He posted an elite 50/8 K/BB in 40 IP during the second half. And his command sub-indicators were pristine: 13.6% SwK%, 33% ball%. He's a great post-hype target regardless of his role.

Alex Young (LHP, ARI) posted a strong 3.56 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 2019. Problem is, those stats were not backed by the full support of his skills (85 BPV). That said, Young's command foundation was stronger than it appeared. He missed bats at a very high rate (12.8% SwK%) while keeping the ball on the ground (48% GB%). There's good profit here at his current 544 ADP.


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