Yesterday I did this piece for the Marlins’ hitters, but I figure we should also start buying and selling on the team’s pitchers. Keep in mind once again that, due to regression to the mean, everyone will likely look closer to the mean moving forward. When I say I’m “buying” on a player, I’m not buying that player’s current performance so much as I am buying a reasonable future expectation of what he is currently doing. The regression here is still very much implied.
With the disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk about some pitchers.
Josh Johnson’s Strikeout Rate: Sell
I don’t like to bet against JJ, but he isn’t going to strike out this many guys (27+% at the moment). His swinging strike rate (swings and misses/total pitches) is at 12.9% right now, above his 9% average for his career and for the last two seasons. Hitters are making career-low contact with his pitches despite swinging at the same rate. BIS does have him inducing more swings out of the zone, which may be impacting the ability for hitters to make contact. I can’t be sure how well that will stick, but I’ll bet on the career side. I’d be happy if Johnson struck out 23% of his men along with that ground ball rate and home run prevention ability.
Clay Hensley’s Strikeout Rate: Buy
As Dave Cameron of FanGraphs mentioned earlier, something had to change in Hensley’s repertoire in order to get this drastic a difference. So far, not only has he struck out a huge number of hitters (35.5% so far this year), but he’s also allowed 24 balls in play through the air (line drives or fly balls) with only nine on the ground according to BIS. This is a stark contrast to his previous ground ball tendencies. Also according to BIS, he’s throwing fewer sliders and fastballs in favor of a curveball, used over 22% of the time. Pitch f/x confirms this increased curveball usage. He has not faced an unusual amount of lefties or righties, so it isn’t likely to be an early usage oddity due to that. It remains to be seen, but I think Hensley may have adopted some more swing-and-miss stuff with the move to the pen.
Leo Nunez’ ERA: Sell
I’ll leave it at this: there is no way Nunez will allow home runs at the rate that he is letting them through. Last season, he gave up 13 facing 292 batters, but so far he has seen 41 guys (about 14% of that number) and allowed just one homer (thought that homer was a killer). Of course, Nunez allowed no runs during April, meaning he stranded 100% of all of his baserunners allowed, so clearly that won’t stick either. Just do not expect a lot from Nunez because of that first month. His walks and strikeouts were around last season’s totals, though slightly better in a far smaller sample. I don’t think this sudden lack of home runs is indicative of a new ability to prevent the long ball. Clearly, he’ll be somewhere in between last season and so far this year.
Nate Robertson’s strand rate: Buy
Robertson cruised through five innings last night before getting hammered by the San Francisco Giants in the sixth. Right now, he’s stranded 67.6% of runners on base, and I tend to believe that this may continue. It may not necessarily be an issue of him being bad; in the games that I recall off the top of my head, we’ve actually seen him pitch pretty well through the first two times in the order. By the time we reach the third part of the order, however, it seems Robertson may be gassed. The opposing batting lines support this to some extent, but I would say this would warrant some further investigation via Pitch f/x.