Bernie on the Scene: Do I Want These Pitchers Next Season?

Bernie on the Scene: Do I Want These Pitchers Next Season?

This article is part of our Bernie on the Scene series.

This is the last week of the regular "sprint" season. That means we can now reflect on the mistakes we made on our fantasy teams while looking ahead to next year.

There are some players who were just awful, producing statistics that come nowhere near their norm.  I discussed a few last week.  This week I want to look at pitchers about whom I have to think very carefully going into next year.

I still like ERA and WHIP as very revealing statistics. And they are stats scouts still trust the most today. Statistics as of Sept. 19.

Robbie Ray, Blue Jays, LHP (entering free agency)

Nobody has wasted a better pitching arm more than Robbie Ray.

Ray still needs a GPS to find home plate.  This season he has walked 41 hitters in 47.2 innings. He has struck out 63.

The Diamondbacks couldn't get him out of Arizona fast enough, as he was 1-4 with a 7.84 ERA when he was traded to Toronto. His WHIP was a miserable 2.00.

Since arriving in Toronto, Ray has lowered his combined ERA to 7.17, still plenty miserable. He has walked 10 in 16.2 innings with Toronto.

Ray has yielded 13 home runs in 47.2 combined American and National League innings.

Next year? No way for me. Even if he looks good in spring training, like he did this year, I'm not touching Robbie Ray. He will be 29 next season. If he hasn't found command yet, when will

This is the last week of the regular "sprint" season. That means we can now reflect on the mistakes we made on our fantasy teams while looking ahead to next year.

There are some players who were just awful, producing statistics that come nowhere near their norm.  I discussed a few last week.  This week I want to look at pitchers about whom I have to think very carefully going into next year.

I still like ERA and WHIP as very revealing statistics. And they are stats scouts still trust the most today. Statistics as of Sept. 19.

Robbie Ray, Blue Jays, LHP (entering free agency)

Nobody has wasted a better pitching arm more than Robbie Ray.

Ray still needs a GPS to find home plate.  This season he has walked 41 hitters in 47.2 innings. He has struck out 63.

The Diamondbacks couldn't get him out of Arizona fast enough, as he was 1-4 with a 7.84 ERA when he was traded to Toronto. His WHIP was a miserable 2.00.

Since arriving in Toronto, Ray has lowered his combined ERA to 7.17, still plenty miserable. He has walked 10 in 16.2 innings with Toronto.

Ray has yielded 13 home runs in 47.2 combined American and National League innings.

Next year? No way for me. Even if he looks good in spring training, like he did this year, I'm not touching Robbie Ray. He will be 29 next season. If he hasn't found command yet, when will he?

Rick Porcello, Mets, RHP

Rick Porcello is among the most maddening pitchers in the game. For example:

2015 Red Sox — 9-15

2016 Red Sox — 22-4

2017 Red Sox — 11-17

2018 Red Sox — 17-7

2019 Red Sox — 14-12

And now, he signs with the Mets as a free agent for $10M and … he stinks.

Porcello has started 10 games for the Mets. He is 1-5 with a 6.06 ERA and 1.53 WHIP.

He has ruined many a fantasy manager's pitching staff. But not mine.

Once considered to have one of the best secondary pitch arsenals in the game, Porcello can't figure it out. There is no change in Porcello's repertoire, velocity or pitch mix.

Next year? Porcello is way too great a risk to take a chance. Even as the last pitcher in your rotation, there is no certainty he can rebound. He'll be 32 next year and will be seeking a new contract. Or, perhaps he'll just go fishing and golfing. That would be fine with me.

Jack Flaherty, Cardinals, RHP 

Seriously? Is this what I got for targeting Flaherty as an early component of my pitching staff? Nobody, not even Robbie Ray or Jon Lester have killed me more than Flaherty. And you know what I kept saying … "this is the start he turns it around."  What he turned around was his head, watching balls that were blistered.

Flaherty was a victim of the COVID-19 Cardinals shut down. He never did get untracked after sitting around with nothing to do. It had a huge impact on his command and his total arsenal.

Flaherty lost only one mile per hour on his fastball this year, going from 95 to 94. He has increased his four-seam fastball percentage and reduced the number of sinkers he has thrown, just like every pitcher in baseball. Every aspect of his repertoire remains the same as the past. I can't figure out what has gone wrong.

He is 3-2 with a 5.52 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. That's not the pitcher I took early and often in drafts.

Next year? I still believe in Jack Flaherty. I will target him and I will hope to draft him. He'll be only 24 entering next season. I want my shares of him. He'll come back. Tell me he will, please.

Matthew Boyd, Tigers, LHP

At one point, most baseball analysts were very bullish on Matthew Boyd. I can't say I was among them. There is something about the left-hander that never sat right with me. Ah yes, it was his command and control. Or lack thereof.

Not unlike Robbie Ray, Boyd has never mastered the art of pounding the strike zone. This season he has walked 19 in 49.1 innings, putting stress on himself to make pitches that are too good for professional hitters.

Boyd is 2-6 this season with a 6.75 ERA and 1.54 WHIP. All those numbers are just way too high to help a fantasy roster.

Boyd has allowed 13 home runs. Last year he gave up a whopping 39 long balls. That, my friends, is a problem.

If Boyd pitched for a contending team, it might help by putting some pressure on him. But the Tigers are still behind both the Twins and now the White Sox in the AL Central. 

Next year? Boyd is no longer a youngster who we are waiting to develop. He will pitch at age 30. The Tigers should trade him this offseason to a club that might be able to tolerate him more as a back-end of the rotation starter. As for me? No thanks. I'll pass, regardless of where he's pitching in 2021.

Jon Lester, Cubs, LHP 

Jon Lester is 36. His arm is tired. He has thrown baseballs at the major league level since 2006. Enough. And he's probably not going to be with the Cubs next year, as his salary is $20M. 

The Cubs are paying that money for a guy who is 2-2 this year in his 10 starts. He rarely gets out of the fifth inning. His ERA is 4.91 and his WHIP is 1.30. Lester is very, very hittable. And he won't throw over to first base to keep a runner close.

There are spurts when his breaking balls fool hitters. But there are spurts when he and his defense have to duck for cover.

Lester's velocity is down two miles per hour, which leaves him sitting at 90 for his four-seam fastball.  That is not enough for a guy who gets too many pitches up in the zone.  His two-seamer is at 88 miles per hour. He does, however, rely on a cutter, which may be his best pitch. But that cutter has to be sharp, which it isn't most of the time.

Next year? I've had my share of the guy with two first names. I'm done with Jon Lester. And it really could be possible that MLB is done with Lester as well. I don't know what team will pay him close to $20M to turn in mediocre starts. It certainly won't be my fantasy teams.

Daniel Hudson, Nationals, RHP

Truth be told, I am a huge Daniel Hudson fan. He has overcome so many arm, elbow, shoulder and confidence problems that I find myself rooting for him. And putting him on my fantasy teams.

He still throws 97 miles and hour. He still has a solid fastball/slider combination that works. Most of the time. But. But Daniel Hudson has blown five saves. The only salvation is that he has poached some wins after blowing saves. That is a real flaw in baseball statistics. Blow a save and get a win. I really can't stand that. 

Anyway, Daniel Hudson has a 7.13 ERA. Um, I don't think that's too good. He also carries a WHIP of 1.19, which isn't horrible. He has walked seven with 24 strikeouts in his 17.2 innings pitched. He has yielded 14 hits, with six being home runs. Not good. Imagine, half the hits you give up leave the park. Nightmares.

Opponents are hitting only .209 against Hudson, but it is how hard and how are they are hitting the ball that matters. They hit it hard. They hit it far.

Aha. We found the problem. The long ball. In 18 games he has yielded six homers. Last year he gave up three home runs in 24 games.

Next year? The Nationals will look for a new closer. So will I. There are plenty of young, healthy arms out there that can throw 98 and keep the ball in the park. I think I'll look for those arms and let someone else pick up Daniel Hudson. But I do like his tenacity.

Brandon Workman, Phillies, RHP

I never liked that Workman was named the closer in Boston. But then again, they really didn't have an alternative when the season began. They traded Workman to Philadelphia where he has had his shot to close games. I'll take Hector Neris over Workman in that role any day.

Workman throws a fastball at 92 miles an hour. That's not enough to blow away big-league hitters in the ninth inning. He uses a fastball, curve and cutter to try to fool and deceive hitters. In reality, he uses his fastball as his third pitch, not his primary offering. That doesn't cut it for me. I want a guy to come in and blow away the opposition in high-leverage situations. I don't want cute.

Workman is 32. He has a composite 5.89 ERA this season with a 2.34 WHIP. You read that right. He has walked 13 in 18.1 innings pitched. He has struck out 21. The opposition is hitting a hefty .393 against him. And he has yielded three home runs.

Next year? Adios.

HEADING HOME

One thing to watch very carefully is pitching in the postseason. If you are in a playoff fantasy league, be sure you load up on quality pitching. There are no days off. Teams that have starting pitching depth will have an advantage.

Relievers will be called upon early and often in the postseason, just like in this short sprint. Only the stakes will be higher. If a starter is struggling, the manager may get him out early to preserve him for his next start, which may come sooner than the norm.

I like that there are no off days in the playoffs. We'll have constant baseball. But again, pitching will be king.

In the World Series, the DH will be used by both teams in all games.

The runner on second to start an extra inning is not going to be used in the playoffs. Teams will have to score without the benefit of starting an inning with a runner already in scoring position. 

But of course, MLB may flip on that issue in a whim. Who knows? At least that's the rule now.

Here's my question. If it was good enough for the short season, why change the rule for the postseason?

By the way — I do know there are metrics that readers may like more than ERA and WHIP, but for me, those stats are very telling. They work for me.

Stay safe and healthy out there. And thanks for following me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff and for reading my articles at forbes.com.
 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bernie Pleskoff
Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
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