We get the split slates on Thursday like normal but the options are pretty tough through the day. I guess we can’t be surprised since we had so many great options on Wednesday, but it’s still not the most fun day ever for pitching on paper. Let’s get into Starting Rotation 5.20 and discuss exactly who we need to be targeting through the day to get our lineups into the green!
We don’t exactly have a ton of options but Mahle would be a target regardless of the size of the slate. Not only does he have a K rate of 29.5% but the Giants are whiffing at a 28.5% rate to righties, which has taken over the lead in the majors. The Giants will typically play at least five lefties in their lineup as well and that’s going to help Mahle in a big way. He’s held lefties down to a .251 wOBA, a 0.75 HR/9, and a 32.3% K rate. Righties have hit him far more with a .372 wOBA but it’s important to note the BABIP of .314 and the HR/FB rate is 22.7%. The xFIP to each side is both under 3.90.
Tyler Mahle, 88mph Slider and 95mph Fastball, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/RGbCGxXrmo— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 10, 2021
Tyler Mahle, 88mph Slider and 95mph Fastball, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/RGbCGxXrmo
When we’re looking at why Mahle has been better to lefties, it sure looks like the four-seam/splitter mix has a lot to do with it. Both pitches have a wOBA under .300 and the splitter is under .215 with a whiff rate of 40%. The four-seam has 32 of the 50 strikeouts Mahle has recorded so far and he may well be the best option on paper to anchor out lineups.
This is pretty much where we’re at that Rich Hill might be the second-best option for us. Now, he’s been worlds better than the start of the season but there’s still not a comfort level here. The K rate has gotten up to 26.6% and he’s going to need every bit of it because the O’s don’t whiff a lot to lefties at just 22.7%. They are also somewhat of a mixed bag to lefties, as the wRC+ and slugging are top 10, but most other metrics have Baltimore between 14-20. Hill does have a fly-ball rate barely over 37% and the hard-hit rate is barely over 31% so there’s not something that sticks out as a reason to attack Hill. The curve still stands out as well –
#MLB 2021 Pitch Quality Leaders⭐️ Curveball Horizontal Break (min 100 pitches)Top 3#Rays Rich Hill#Reds Tejay Antone#STLCards Adam Wainwright@RaysBaseball @TejayAntone @UncleCharlie50 #RaysUp #ATOBTTR #STLFLY pic.twitter.com/rGfvimBXKz— MLB Quality of Pitch (@qopbaseball) May 14, 2021
#MLB 2021 Pitch Quality Leaders⭐️ Curveball Horizontal Break (min 100 pitches)Top 3#Rays Rich Hill#Reds Tejay Antone#STLCards Adam Wainwright@RaysBaseball @TejayAntone @UncleCharlie50 #RaysUp #ATOBTTR #STLFLY pic.twitter.com/rGfvimBXKz
I’m not overly excited for Baltimore playing seven righties, which is their typical lineup. Hill sports a .306 wOBA to that side of the plate and a .703 OPS. Still, the xFIP is 3.82 and the Orioles struggling with the curve could wind up being the key. Hill has thrown 204 four-seam fastballs to righties and 195 curves, so it’s basically a 50/50 split. The curve only has a .232 wOBA and a 23.8% whiff rate while the four-seam has a 25.5% whiff rate. Now, the four-seam can be susceptible to damage with a .344 wOBA and three home runs, but it’s not like the Orioles kill that pitch either.
When we get the smaller slates and a bunch of imperfect spots, the best thing we can do is cause the strikeout upside for pitchers. German has a great matchup for that as the Rangers strike out 27% of the time to righty pitching and German is over 24% himself. We can also like the fact German sports a ground ball rate over 45% and Texas is sixth in ground ball rate to righties at 46.9%. What’s interesting about the K rate for German is the swinging-strike rate is 12.9% and the CSW is 30.1%. That would lead me to believe he can run up the strikeouts a little more than he has so far. Part of that is the O-contact rate (amount of contact made on pitches outside the zone) is 63.2%. German’s career rate is 59% so there’s room for improvement.
The splits aren’t spectacular for German as both sides of the plate are over .300 with lefties sitting at .324. However, that’s also coming with a .306 BABIP to that side, and both sides at least whiff over 22%. The curveball has been the money pitch so far with a 40.4% whiff rate and a .145 wOBA and Texas has not hit that pitch well. I fully expect German o give up some production but also strike out 5-7 hitters.
Honorable Mention – Dane Dunning, who has some strikeout upside but has been worse to righty hitters. The Yankee lineup is a little beat up and he could be a stealth pitcher here. I could actually see him becoming a little chalky with the salary involved.
I’m still reluctant to totally buy into Vinnie Velo and this has all the makings of playing him to see him get smacked for no apparent reason. His salary does help mitigate those fears, however, and the reality is this is a great spot for him by a ton of metrics. The Marlins do not rate well against any of his pitch mix and every pitch has at least a 29.4% whiff rate. The 4.27 xFIP brings us some comfort and the 2.15 HR/9 is being fueled by a 24.1% HR/FB rate. The Marlins may not have the bats to take advantage of it. They are 26th or worse in slugging, ISO, and OPS on the season so the power lacks for sure.
The other great part for Velasquez is the Marlins strike out the fourth-most in baseball to righty pitching and only walk 7.3%. Velasquez has a 28.9% K rate so far and while the walk rate is gross at 14.8%, the Marlins aren’t scary in that metric. The weaknesses they have mesh well with Velasquez’s strengths, which means Vinnie Velo has a chance at a big game tonight. The 30.0% HR/FB to righties have skewed his numbers and they may well continue to come down in this start. At least we’ve seen him hit at least 19 DK the past three straight starts.
Alcantara got blistered in his last start, but don’t let one start cloud how solid he’s been all season. Every other start has been at least five innings, yielded no more than four earned runs, and has at least four strikeouts. Many starts are higher than these numbers but that’s been about the floor for Alcantara so far. He gets a good spot for strikeouts as Philly remains sixth K rate to righty pitching at 26% while Alcantara has racked up a 24.2% rate. He’s cut his walk rate down to a career-best 7.6% and that’s always been a small issue for him. Even better is the 48.2% ground ball rate and a hard-hit rate of just 27.7%. One of the biggest jumps for Alcantara has been the swinging-strike rate of 14.4%.
Alcantara will likely face five righties and the pitcher spot and that means he’ll be leaning on the slider more than the changeup. The change is his fourth pitch to the right side of the plate but the slider has 12 strikeouts, a .286 wOBA, and a 35.3% whiff rate so there’s nothing wrong with that pitch. Alcantara is also better to righties with a .278 wOBA and a 29.2% K rate. You can point out that the road ERA is 6.86 compared to the 2.30 mark at home, but the Dodgers start really skews that badly. It’s not a concern for me and you can use both pitchers from this game if you like.
On a five game slate we can afford to get weird and I can safely say that Smyly will not be in the main target list very often. This is the exception to the rule as he’s taking on the Buccos, who have been terrible to lefties all season long. Their highest ranking in our offensive categories is 24th, and that’s in OBP. They sit directly in the middle of the pack as far as strikeout rate at 24.1%, which is enough for Smyly to rack up a few. Make no mistake, Smyly has not pitched well this year at all. The 5.23 ERA is about what he’s earned so far with a 5.28 xFIP and a 6.49 FIP. The fly-ball rate is absurd at 48.9% with a hard-hit rate just under 39%. This is mostly targeting an offense that has been poor the entire season.
He is going to face 6-7 righties and that has been the biggest issue for Smyly this year. The K rate is only 15.5% and the wOBA is .357 so you’re banking on Pirate incompetence. As poor as Smyly has been, he has been able to show some upside. He just pitched six strong innings against the Brewers and he’s even got the Nationals twice. On a large slate, maybe we don’t go here but for this size slate, Smyly makes sense to take a shot with.
Honorable Mention – Nick Pivetta, but I don’t feel the need to pay the top dollar on the slate against the Blue Jays.
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