The Mets are on the verge of having a dominant starting staff and Zack Wheeler is a key component. Armed with an upper-90’s fastball and knockout curveball, the 24-year old enters the 2015 season primed for a breakout. In nearly 300 innings and 49 starts at the big-league level, great strikeout and ground ball rates point to ace potential. However, command has always been Wheeler’s Achilles heel and pitchers who walk too many batters don’t become frontline starters. The Solo Home Run Situations series has tackled added stress resulting from pitch selection — Wheeler presents an opportunity to revisit the series to explore how walks affect the young right-hander’s prospects.
Last week, Felix Hernandez was the focus of ROTOscouting’s ongoing look into the impact of Solo Home Run situations. Hernandez has maintained his health to the degree of throwing another third more Major League innings than the seven previous Solo Home Run pitchers combined (1983 IP for Felix versus 1469.1 IP). Part one discussed the importance of Hernandez reaching his late twenties without sustaining a significant injury. Part two looks at some other possible ways King Felix’s reign has lasted.
The Solo Home Run situations study has featured pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery or have missed time due to injury. This week, the focus is a pitcher who’s avoided the knife and thrown more Major League innings than all of the previous subjects combined: Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. Hernandez is having his best statistical campaign, already accumulating 5.4 WAR in his age-28 season. Still, Hernandez has been a reliable workhorse since entering the league in 2005. How do King Felix’s Solo Home Run ratios stack up against the young guns felled by elbow issues?
Masahiro Tanaka joined the ever-growing list of pitchers to hit the Disabled List with UCL injuries. Diagnosed with a partially torn ligament in his pitching elbow, the Yankees ace will undergo the same platelet-rich-plasma procedure Dylan Bundy attempted before succumbing to Tommy John surgery. Tanaka may or may not recover in time to be a factor in the AL East this year, but his game and pitch usage deserve further review. Given the nature of Solo Home Run situations, was Tanaka in greater risk of injury?
Michael Wacha was placed on the Disabled List on Sunday, leaving three Cardinals starters on the shelf. Wacha used a stellar 2013 playoff run to catapult himself into the conversation for best young starting pitchers in baseball. As a result, fantasy owners expected the lanky right-hander was in for a big 2014 campaign. Instead, Wacha’s season is on hold, joining another young gun figured to build on a strong 2013 debut, Gerrit Cole. We already examined Cole’s Solo Home Run Situations. Does Wacha follow the same pattern?
Martin Perez started the 2014 campaign on fire. Though we recommended cashing in on Perez, the young left-hander showed the ability to be an above-average starter, even if he promptly fell apart and suffered a torn UCL. On the shelf until mid-2015, does Perez’s injury make more sense considering his Solo Home Run situations?
Solo Home Run situations started with a look at three pitchers currently on the shelf, but the intent was always to explore pitchers before UCL injuries, and potentially assess any fantasy implications. First up is Gerrit Cole. After a fine debut in 2013, the big right-hander has struggled with consistency this year and was just placed on the disabled list with arm fatigue. So where does he stack up in Solo Home Run situations?
Diamondbacks lefty Patrick Corbin had a breakout 2013 campaign, going 14-8 with 3.7 WAR. A UCL injury sustained during Spring Training cost him his 2014 follow-up. After the strong results of the Solo home run situation study with Jose Fernandez and Matt Harvey, I was excited to examine the 24-year old Corbin, whose strikeout rate is significantly lower than the two power righties. How did Corbin fare in Solo home run situations? Was he in line with Fernandez and Harvey, or were there other factors in play?
Following last week’s post on Jose Fernandez and solo home run situations, one particular question kept coming back to me — 68.5% of Fernandez’s Major League innings were thrown in what we called “Solo home run” situations (ahead or behind by one run or tied). Is 68.5% normal? Let’s look at fallen Mets ace Matt Harvey.
Yesterday, Ben Flajole hit a grand slam with his piece on Jose Fernandez and situational pitching. Through researching game logs, he discovered the recovering right-hander threw nearly 70% of his innings in “Solo Home Run Situations”, or instances where a bad pitch with no men on base can change the outlook of a game. Advanced statistics delve into the game of baseball to determine what innings and situations are most important, but it’s an algorithm, unable to take the human element into account. In practice, a leverage index is correct in determining the first inning is less important to determining the outcome of a game than the seventh inning from a statistical standpoint. But is this the thought process of a pitcher on the mound?
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