These five pitchers are rolling with the season winding down. What does that mean for the season’s final weeks and how should you value them this offseason?
Am I including him here almost entirely as a reason to embed this video?
Also, Colon hasn’t given up a run in his last 25 innings, leaving him a mere 34 short of Orel Hershiser’s record. You may have heard that it’s presently difficult to decipher how the Mets’ rotation will shake out in September, but Colon should get two of his next three against the Braves. Atlanta has won two of their last 22 games while scoring 2.68 runs per contest in that span, so suffice it to say I like Colon’s chances to stay hot and, if you’re in to chasing wins, pick up a victory or two in the process. In between, he’ll face the Marlins, who he just blanked in the Mets’ first complete game shutout since last June. Next up looks like the Reds, against whom Colon will leg out a single on a gapper to the wall, successfully tag up first-to-third on an infield fly, catch Billy Hamilton in a rundown, triumphantly jiggle his belly, restore a fallen batting helmet by juggling it, soccer-style, back atop his melon, and clinch the historic streak by flipping a ball to home plate betwixt his legs on a squeeze attempt. The internet will break forever.
Add another chapter to the to-be-written tome chronicling Ray Searage’s magic. The Pirates picked up Happ at the deadline and he’s been among the best pitchers in the senior circuit since. In six starts as a Buc, Happ has registered a 1.57 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 32 strikeouts against seven walks (8.39 K/9, 1.83 BB/9). It’s the continued improvement in his walk rate that really stands out, a trend that began when he trimmed it from 10.8 percent (4.37 BB/9) to 7.6 percent (2.91 BB/9) from 2013 to 2014. Earlier this season, Wilson Karaman noted the benefits of a mechanical adjustment made by Happ and he’s continuing to hold most of those gains. His fastball velocity has backed up a little in 2015 but still stands well above his career average and it continues to run more than it has in the past. Perhaps the biggest change since the trade is a pitch redistribution away from his mostly ineffective changeup and toward the improved four-seamer. The upcoming schedule isn’t favorable, with two starts against the Cubs and one at Coors making Happ more of a bench/depth play for the balance of 2015. If he manages to get through those relatively unscathed, I’ll be intrigued enough to give Happ a boost in deeper leagues entering 2016, and doubly so if he returns to Searage’s cast.
Holland departed the Rangers’ home opener after one inning, having injured his shoulder, then missed the next four months. He returned on August 19 and has made four starts since, including a complete game shutout against the Orioles, wherein he allowed three baserunners and struck out 11. Holland also managed to limit the Blue Jays to four runs in six innings, which falls short of the textbook definition of “quality” but does qualify as an accomplishment for a southpaw in the latter half of 2015. Holland’s 2.6 percent walk rate betrays the fact that he’s not pounding the zone at his usually high rate and his .228 BABIP indicates coming regression, the effect of which should be mitigated by an expected decline in his HR:FB rate. There is some injury stigma attached to Holland now since he’s missed the majority of the past two seasons but his velocity is all the way back to 2013 levels after dipping last year. I like Holland as a mid-rotation ratio-stabilizer for any fantasy staff going forward both this year and next, especially if the reputation allows for a mild discount. Plus, the dude has a Ricky Vaughn ‘do.
If you, like me, thought Kennedy’s stellar 2014 campaign was a return to something resembling his 2011— season in which he rightfully finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting—you may be surprised to hear that a 94 cFIP portrays it more like a slightly above-average season. Where Kennedy’s 2014 did resemble 2011 was its temporary reprieve from a long-running inability to keep the ball in the yard. If you figured Petco was largely responsible and banked on a repeat, my apologies. Consider this: Kennedy has started 26 games this season and only six times has the opponent failed to homer. Two of those have come recently, among a five start stretch where he is piling up strikeouts. Small sample size and all that, but he’s gotten strike three 46 times in his last 31.1 innings (13.21 K/9). Thanks to A.J. Preller’s inaction, Kennedy gets to call Petco home for a few more starts and I’d ride the current streak out, excepting a scheduled start at Coors. That recommendation aside, I’m bearish about next year, where Kennedy is likely a fringe option in 12-teamers and worse if he winds up in an unfavorable home park. His 28 home runs allowed in 2015 are tied for third most in the league and he’s flirted with 30 twice previously. 2011 and 2014 look like exceptions.
Count Verlander among a group of deteriorated veterans I wanted nothing to do with in 2015. His 2014 was useless for our purposes, marred by an abdominal injury he likely never fully recovered from, another lost tick on his heater, and decreased whiff rates across his secondary arsenal. As if that weren’t enough to warrant avoidance, Verlander opened 2015 on the disabled list with a triceps strain and his first six starts after returning were an abomination; he racked up a 6.62 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, and 5.82 K/9 in that span. An August 4th dud notwithstanding, Verlander has experienced a remarkable turnaround since mid-July, pitching to a 1.78 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 7.81 K/9 over nine starts and 66 2/3 innings. If you look back at his 2014 through the lens of DRA, you’ll see he was something like a league-average pitcher, not bad if you accept the premise that he was learning how to pitch with diminished stuff at something less than full health. If you acknowledge the same was true for the first part of 2015, it follows that you’d expect some improvement, if not quite to this extreme. Verlander won’t be this good going forward, of course, and his 2016 price is likely to be inflated by name value but 2015’s second half at least restores some faith that Verlander can offer a couple of useful late-career seasons and not go the way of Big Time Timmy Jim.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now