Starting Pitcher Statcast Review: Corbin Burnes, Walker Buehler, Lance McCullers Jr. (2021)
Hey yo! We’re back again to check on some insights we can glean from Statcast data. We still aren’t quite to a highly useful sample size, but every day gets us closer. Soon we will have enough data to get into some more interesting analysis, but for this week we are going to keep this pretty simple again.
We’ll check on some velocity gainers and losers, some CSW leaders, and some batted-ball stuff, all with the goal of finding starting pitchers to acquire or trade away based on how they’ve looked so far.
- Corbin Burnes is a super-stud, with his cutter being one of the game’s most effective pitches. Consider him a top-five starter moving forward.
- Charlie Morton and Carlos Rodon look healthy during hot starts. No guarantees they can keep this velocity up as we get deeper into the season, but they are currently must-start pitchers.
- Even after Huascar Ynoa‘s blow-up start last weekend, I’m still very interested, as his stuff is really popping. The velocity is way up on the fastball, which is important given his shallow arsenal.
- Keep an eye on Nick Pivetta and Casey Mize. They have added velocity this year but have not shown much ability to command their pitches. If they can start throwing more strikes, they could turn in some big starts.
- Walker Buehler has three straight quality starts to begin his year, but he has just 12 strikeouts in 18 innings. The slower fastball no doubt has a hand in that. I suspect he’s just getting ramped up, but it’s something to monitor.
- A trendy pick after his solid 2020 season, Triston McKenzie has not looked sharp this year. The velocity has taken a step backward.
- Dylan Cease and Drew Smyly are also high-upside players, but that upside is much less likely to hit if throwing their heaters at a diminished velocity. I am pessimistic about both.
This is a great statistic when you just want one metric to show you the best pitchers in the league. This is a highly predictive stat, and the leaderboard displaying the premier pitchers.
Here’s what it looks like right now. Note that I calculate this slightly differently than some other people, so the numbers might differ from what you’ve seen. This is a two-page table, so you can click to see page two in the top right.
- Validation for Burnes and Joe Musgrove. They are throwing tons of strikes and not allowing many of them to be put in play.
- Lance McCullers Jr. pops out here, even though his last start was derailed by illness. He has looked awesome early on and is a nice buy-low option.
- Brady Singer, Freddy Peralta, and Nathan Eovaldi might be available on waivers right now, and I would absolutely buy in a deeper league. They have all looked great so far this year.
Weak Contact Leaders
Statcast categorizes each batted ball into one of six bins based on launch angle and velocity. The best type of batted ball is a “barrel”, which is labeled a six. The ones are the worst kind of contact, which is a ball hit weakly directly into the ground. For this calculation, I’ve taken categories 1-3, which almost all of the time turn into ground-outs or pop-outs. I found the percentage of each pitcher’s allowed batted balls that fell into these categories. Here are the leaders:
- It’s not really fair that Burnes is on the top of this leaderboard as well. He has dominated hitters to a ridiculous level.
- Positive stuff from Tyler Glasnow, who previously had issues with the long ball. He has not given up much good contact this year, and that teams up awesomely with his high strikeout rate.
- Some positive news for Luis Castillo, who has had a brutal start to the year. He’s a nice buy-low candidate.
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