Starting Pitcher Observations from July

by Team Del Genio

What started as a hot month for TDG in baseball carried through until the final few days of July where we have gotten stuck behind some teams that hit below our expectations. Bad days at the plate will happen. If we continue to identify starting pitchers of value opposing starting pitchers with red flags, we should see good results.

Our July Game of the Month was on Saturday, the 31st, on the Milwaukee Brewers. Brandon Woodruff had only allowed one run through five innings before getting in trouble in the top of the sixth with Atlanta scoring two more runs. Yet it was the Brewers' offense that was the bigger disappointment as they managed to score only once against Braves’ rookie starting pitcher Kyle Muller. The Milwaukee bullpen then gave up another five runs in an 8-1 loss. Woodruff will remain on our radar despite the setback. 

Woodruff entered the game with a 7-5 record with a sparkling 2.14 era and a 0.84 whip. The right-hander was striking out 30.4% of the batters has faced due to a nasty combination of a curveball and changeup that keeps batters chasing. In his previous start against the White Sox last Sunday, he induced 22 swinging strikes with 45% of his pitches resulting in a called-strike or a swinging strike. He combines his elite strikeout skills with a ground ball rate of the balls he allows into play of 45.6% before the start against the Braves. Woodruff’s hard-hit rate of the balls allowed into play of 25% is a career-best. Woodruff had been even better when pitching on the road where he has a 1.96 era and a 0.72 whip in ten starts. Milwaukee had won eleven of their last twelve games when Woodruff is pitching in a game where the oddsmakers install the over/under at 9 or 9.5. He should be fine. 

We will monitor Eduardo Rodriguez closely after getting burned with him in our American League Total of the Month on Thursday. With hindsight, perhaps Rodriguez was rusty after only pitching one inning in his previous start due to a migraine headache. Reports coming out of Boston is that he felt fine. Yet he struggled in the opening frame against Toronto before leaving that game on Thursday, July 29th, after allowing six runs in 3 1/3 innings. We thought the 5.23 era and 1.38 whip he had at the time was sending the wrong message to bettors. The left-hander did not pitch last year due to COVID, and he started slowly in spring training. Yet he was striking out 27.4% of the batters he faces while walking just 5.8% of the batters he had faced before that final start of the month. The hard-hit rate of the balls he was allowing into play of 27.8% is the second-lowest in his career. In his four previous starts, Rodriguez had a 2.15 era and a 1.08 whip as he appeared to have found his stride. Opponents were hitting just .209 against him this month. He had struck out 20 batters and walked five in his 17 2/3 innings in July. If his start against the Blue Jays was just one of those things after not pitching much, there could be quite a bit of value with him in the next two months (and playoffs).

We looked poised to win our FS1 Game of the Month on Saturday, July 24th, in part because of the value we identified in Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. He allowed only two runs in 7 2/3 innings of work. Yet the Boston bullpen allowed four runs in the eighth inning and failed to rally in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 4-3 loss. 

Eovaldi began the game with a 9-5 record with a 3.57 era and a 1.20 whip in 19 starts this year. The right-hander had a 2.55 era and a 1.01 whip in his previous four starts which did not include the scoreless inning he pitched against the National League in the All-Star game. Over those 24 2/3 innings, he had struck out 28 batters and walked just two. He is combining his elite strikeout-to-walk ratios with a hard-hit rate of the balls he is allowing into play of 26.3% which is the lowest mark in his last nine seasons. 

Some tough luck results. Yet we begin August on a 39 of 51 (76%) MLB run. 

Good luck - TDG.

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