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Pitcher Statcast Review: Taijuan Walker, Jesus Luzardo, Dylan Bundy (2021)

Apr 15, 2021

Better numbers are ahead for Jesus Luzardo.

Welcome back to the second edition of statcast review – pitchers! The top pitchers in the game have made three starts now, and most fantasy-relevant starters have two under their belt. That gives us much more data to work with from last week, so this should be a little bit more fun this week!

Let’s get right into it.

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xwOBA vs. wOBA

The first thing we’ll check on is my favorite luck factor, xwOBA vs. wOBA. This is a decent way to see which pitchers have been unlucky on balls in play. If a pitcher has a high wOBA allowed but a low xwOBA allowed, chances are he’s fallen victim to bad batted ball luck. Here’s a look at the most unlucky starters by this metric so far (this data is current as of April 13th):

This is good news for managers that have rostered Corey Kluber, as his first two starts have been pretty discouraging. His strikeout to walk ratio is not in a good spot at all, so that is legitimate discouraging, but there is room for optimism here.

Some other notable names here are Fried, Taillon, Luzardo, and Gibson. None of those guys has had the start to the year they were hoping for, but the underlying numbers suggest that there could be better days ahead.

Home Run Luck

This early in the year, one swing of the bat can make a huge difference on a pitcher’s ERA. I wanted to take a look at which pitchers have given up the cheapest home runs so far. I took every pitcher that has surrendered three or more homers and checked the average distance and launch velocity of those homers. Here are the least lucky pitchers by those metrics:

Marco Gonzales is rostered in most moderately sized leagues, and it’s been a rough go of it early on. The five homers he’s given up have a lot to do with that, but seeing that the average distance on those homers is just 380 feet should make you feel a little bit better. Jake Odorizzi has made just one start but gave up three pretty weak homers in that start with an average exit velocity just at 97 on those three long balls.

Taillon and Luzardo appear on this list as well, further evidence that better numbers are ahead.

Velocity Improvements

Next, we will see who has added velocity early on. I went through and checked every pitch that every pitcher throws and compared their 2021 max velocity with their number from 2020. Here are all of the pitches from starters that have added one or more miles per hour this year.

Foltynewicz is an interesting speculative add at this point. He followed up his miserable first start with seven strong innings against the Padres, giving up just two hits and one run. His 3:3 strikeout to walk ratio isn’t what you want to see, but the solid start is something to build off of, and he seems to have his velocity all the way back to what it was in 2018.

It’s also encouraging to see Dylan Bundy adding some velocity to his fastball. The four-seamer has long been his Achilles Heel, and while he is using it less than ever before, it’s good to see him adding some velocity onto it as he tries to build off of his 2020 breakout season with the Angels. Probably the most interesting name on the list is Taijuan Walker, who has looked awesome in two starts so far. The stuff looks really convincing, and the ball is coming out of his hand great. I think he should be added across the board.

Optimal Outcome Rate

This is a little stat I cooked up myself. You are probably familiar with CSW rate (called strike plus whiff rate). Well, I decided to add onto that a little bit. I wanted to find the share of each pitcher’s pitches that result in an “optimal outcome.” These “optimal outcomes” are as follows (and were decided based on my subjectivity):

  • Swinging Strike
  • Called Strike
  • Foul Ball That Adds a Strike to the Count
  • Very Weak Contact (Soft Grounders or Pop-Ups)

I found this rate for every pitcher in the league and restricted this leaderboard to pitchers that have thrown 100 or more pitches so far. Here’s the leaderboard, I kept in every pitcher with a rate at or above 50%, you can flip through the four pages to see everybody here:

It’s mostly the usual studs on the list, but some standout names include Michael Pineda, Joe Musgrove, Rich Hill, Julio Urias, Bruce Zimmermann, Jose De Leon, Nathan Eovaldi, Jordan Montgomery, Yusei Kikuchi, Alex Cobb, Logan Webb, Tyler Anderson, Cole Irvin, Huascar Ynoa, and Mike Minor.

This is far from a proven statistic, but I think it makes intuitive sense. Every pitch you throw, you’re trying to achieve one of these outcomes, so these are the pitchers that have done that the most.

Some discouraging names from the bottom of the list: Stephen Strasburg (43%), Jose Urquidy (43%), Dylan Cease (43%), Lance McCullers (44%), Tyler Mahle (45%), German Marquez (46%), Max Fried (46%), Jesus Luzardo (46%), and Ian Anderson (47%).

That’s all the time we have for today! Check back next week for more!

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Jon Anderson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jon, check out his archive and follow him @JonPgh