Examining Fantasy Baseball's most disappointing starting pitchers

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/phi" data-ylk="slk:Philadelphia Phillies">Philadelphia Phillies</a> starting pitcher <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/8623/" data-ylk="slk:Jake Arrieta">Jake Arrieta</a> has struggled to miss bats and fantasy owners should expect his ERA to rise in the second half. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Jake Arrieta has struggled to miss bats and fantasy owners should expect his ERA to rise in the second half. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

After examining the most disappointing hitters at the halfway point of the season, we’re going to dive into the starting pitcher market. It’s not an easy task as Scott Pianowski recently dubbed it a fool’s errand. Specifically we’ll breakdown the five most disappointing starting pitching values, according to TGFantasy’s calculator (12-team mixed league, $260 budget, 33% on pitching). Most of the stats courtesy of our friends at MLB stat provider Inside Edge.

Astros’ Dallas Keuchel ($1)

Keuchel has the fifth-lowest fastball velocity at 89 mph but it’s actually faster than last year. His groundball rate is just good (56.5%) and not crazy good like last year (67.5%). Overall, the sinker is not working as well, with a .283 average against vs. .228 last year. And it’s earned as his well-hit vs. the fastball is .169 this year (average is .184) compared with just .134 last year. When he falls behind, opponents are hitting .427 (38-for-89) — average is .335. And he’s falling behind more than the other trailers who average only 53 balls put in play on these counts. So Keuchel’s key pitch is no longer dominant by any measure. I can’t see how this fixes itself.

Phillies’ Jake Arrieta ($4)

Arrieta has a terrible strikeout rate relative to expectations. That of course drags down his averages, too. His velocity is actually up. He gets two strikes regularly but his rate of punch outs after them (34.8%) is 10th worst. Average is 42.5%. He just can’t miss bats — just 14% of strikes are swings that miss (average is 17%). Every one of Arrieta’s four offerings is down in swing-and-miss rate. He’s inducing a lot of double plays and generally pitching effectively around his contact woes. So the bet here is that that the strikeout problems continue while the ERA rises to expected levels: in other words, Arrieta will be worse going forward.

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Diamondbacks’ Zack Godley (negative value)

Godley is just getting pounded with a .177 well-hit rate. Last year, this was a problem, too, with a .169 well-hit allowed (average for the period is about .156). Last year, he was missing more bats though. I hate pitchers who can’t control the fastball and Godley’s rate of strikes with the pitch is just 59% compared with the average of 65%. This creates hitter counts and Godley has allowed 79 at bats when hitters are ahead in the count; and he’s sixth-worst in allowing a .430 batting average in these situations. The odds of Godley finding fastball command in season are slim. I hate that I’m I have nothing positive to say about these disappointments. Would you take two negative statements instead?

Cubs’ Jose Quintana (negative value)

Quintana’s major problem is getting through the lineup a third time. League average is a .323 OBP (remember, if you’re getting to the lineup a third time you probably are pitching well to begin with and much better than a .323 OBP allowed); but Quintana’s is .462 (91 PAs). That is the worst rate in baseball. Quintana’s keeping bad company at the bottom, too, with Jake Odorizzi, Andrew Cashner, Tyler Mahle and Jakob Junis also pulling up the rear.

Last year, Quintana’s OBP allowed third-time through the lineup was .300, 27th best out of 125 qualifiers. I’m not reaching here, honestly. Quintana has been effective later in games recently and he is effective earlier in games this season. So if anyone on this list is a good bet to bounce back in the second half, it’s him. Of course, his walk rate has to come down, too, since the end of May but not down far enough. He’s won just one of six starts in that period. You have to figure on his wins rebounding if he can figure out a way to again pitch more effectively deeper into games. So we finally have a recommendation, sort of. The trouble is that Quintana is still unbelievably 93% owned when he should probably have been dropped already in half our leagues. This is classic brand-name buoyancy. I would not trade anything well beyond replacement value for Quintana.

Red Sox’s David Price (negative value)

Price’s allowing a .615 slugging percentage on breaking pitches (.615 in 122 ABs); league average is .340. This includes a well-hit average of .333 on the curve (just 12 at bats) and .164 on the slider (110 ABs.) League average vs. the slider is .124. So this is his problem. His fastball has been fine — a .198 batting average against and sterling .128 well-hit against his heater (average is .187 well-hit against a fastball). So it’s unlikely velocity is an issue. Price has complained of numbness in his hand multiple times this season and that can cause a pitcher to lose the feeling for his breaking ball. So Price’s troubles seem related to an injury he’s pitching through, of no help to us (usually the case).

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