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Saturday, April 13, 2019

BtBS: Pitching to contact in a strikeout market

Why contact pitchers will continue to wait for MLB jobs [...] If MLB wants to speed up the game, why are they putting a premium on strikeouts which create more inactivity? This is a question that Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Jackson and James Shields are asking themselves each passing day.

bobm Posted: April 13, 2019 at 07:02 AM | 2 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: contact, free agents

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: April 13, 2019 at 08:29 PM (#5831623)
Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Jackson and James Shields

One of these is not like the others.

If there's anything here I suspect it's more about the aging patterns of contact pitchers. High-K guys tend to age well and, even if they lose stuff, then they can somteims transition into reasonably effective contact pitchers (e.g. CC the last couple of years). Aging contact pitchers however always seem like hand grenades waiting to go off and you're rather not be the one holding it when it does. So short-term gambles hoping this isn't the year they explode are fine, longer-term deals not so much. They're kinda the equivalent of "old-man skills" hitters -- if in your youth, the good barely outweighs the bad, there's little room for a decline.

"High" contact or not, Keuchel has a career 3.72 FIP which is right in line with his career 3.66 ERA. As with most successful pitchers of this type, that's thank to low BB and HR rates. Last season was almost perfectly in line with his career numbers so there's no performance evidence of decline yet. Contact pitchers also tend to give up more UER but that hasn't really benn an issue for Keuchel.

Keuchel is an excellent example of peripherals vs outcomes. For the last 3 seasons, his FIP has been quite steady -- 3.87, 3.79, 3.69 -- but his ERAs and ERA+s have been highly variable -- 4.55/86, 2.90/141, 3.74/108. As noted, he can't even claim to be a guy who has out-pitched his FIP for his career. His FIP+ projection probably looks something like 105, 100, 95, 90, 85 over the next 5 years and that's just average overall, with nobody wanting to be on the hook for year 5. His upside is probably JA Happ (114 ERA+, 15.6 WAR ages 31-35) but Happ K's more in his 20s and has maintined that K-rate.

Long way of saying I don't think teams are shying away from "low" K starters per se, they are shying away from handing out 5-year contracts to them and want to pay based on peripherals.
   2. stevegamer Posted: April 14, 2019 at 02:51 AM (#5831681)
I really can't see why Keuchel isn't signed yet, unless he's been unwilling to take a shorter deal or something with mutual options.

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