April American League Overachievers
With a month of the season underway there is enough pitching data to draw some early conclusions and the marketplace will start to adjust to the current season numbers more than history and reputation. In a four-start sample, several starters have had fortunate results however and here are four AL starters that could see adjustments in their upcoming outings.
Michael Wacha – Boston Red Sox:
An instant star early in his career with the Cardinals, posting
several great starts in the 2013 postseason before St. Louis lost to Boston in
the World Series, Wacha was an upper tier NL starter for several seasons.
Things have fallen apart for Wacha now with his fourth team in four seasons.
Wacha graded as one of the least successful starters in MLB from 2019-2021
including posting just three wins over 23 starts with a 5.05 ERA with Tampa Bay
Wacha is only 30 years old as it makes sense for teams to continue
to take a chance on him as Boston did with a one-year contract. So far, the
results have been promising with a 1.77 ERA in four starts and a 2-0 record in
decisions. Wacha has just a 7.5 K/9 however and a 4.0 BB/9 that would be the
highest of his career. He has stranded nearly 93 percent of his base runners
and has a .154 BABIP so far this season compared to a .300 career average. As
his 4.00 FIP suggests, the current pace for Wacha is unsustainable.
Jordan Montgomery – New York Yankees:
The Yankees lead the AL East with a 13-6 start and the pitching
staff has excelled with some of the better numbers in MLB through the first
month of the season. Montgomery has been an important piece of that success
with a 2.70 ERA in 20 innings of work, even though he is winless. Montgomery
has benefitted from facing Baltimore in two of his starts while also posting a
strong outing vs. a light hitting Tigers lineup.
Montgomery had average results last season for New York in over
157 innings and a season line like last season is likely the ceiling for the
left-hander at age 29. The April success for Montgomery has come with the worst
K/9 of his career at 6.8 while his xFIP of 4.16 looks much more realistic than
his current 2.70 ERA. The Yankees should not count on Montgomery being a
mainstay in the rotation all season if they want to stay on top of the AL East
and the opportunity to fade New York at an elevated price may be there when
Montgomery’s takes his turns in the rotation in May. New York has a pair of series
each with Toronto and Chicago in May, both teams that hit left-handers
Zack Greinke - Kansas City Royals:
A closing stop in Kansas City should be a nice way to end a
remarkable career for Greinke; a storybook 2022 season is however not likely to
continue for Greinke who has had some great early season fortune. Greinke has
never been reliant on elite strikeout rates, but his current K/9 is 2.5
compared to his career average of 8.1. Greinke has pitched exclusively in the
AL Central in his four starts this season as there will be tougher matchups
waiting as the schedule moves on for the Royals.
Greinke has a 4.75 xFIP next to his 2.86 ERA and he has so far
allowed only one home run in 22 innings, after he allowed 30 home runs in 171
innings last season pitching for Houston. Greinke has had his lowest ground
ball rate this season since 2007 as more home runs are likely to happen in his
future starts and unless Greinke can start to generate a few more strikeouts,
it will be difficult for the Royals to count on Greinke to be a leader in the
rotation. The pricing to fade the Royals won’t often be appealing but Greinke
starts may be worth an ‘over’ look, particularly in a May schedule for Kansas
City that features several formidable offenses.
Cal Quantrill – Cleveland Guardians:
Quantrill pitched well over his head last season in nearly 150
innings for Cleveland going 8-3 with a 2.89 ERA. That was with a mediocre K/9
of 7.3 and his xFIP of 4.43 was almost exactly his career average despite the
big improvement over his career ERA. This season Quantrill has a 5.15 xFIP
against a 3.27 ERA as he again is overachieving. His groundball rate has been
just 37 percent so far this season for by far a career low and his CSW% is just
over 23 percent, among the worst of any AL starter at this point in the season.
was a 1st round pick in 2016 but he doesn’t have a first-round secondary pitches
and his current BABIP of .221 will be hard to sustain. Quantrill has only 10
strikeouts this season in 22 innings while also walking 10 batters. Despite a
strong 3.27 ERA at this point in the season Quantrill has allowed at least two
runs in all four of his starts as he has not had a dominant outing and he has
had great fortune to only surrender one home run at this point in the season.
With the Cleveland offense off to a decent start, the ‘over’ may be worth a
look in upcoming Quantrill outings.