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Eno Sarris’ fantasy baseball starting pitcher rankings for the rest of the season

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Ranking pitchers is hard. Our eyes can’t help but go to the surface-level results this season, but ERA isn’t predictive. I’d like to think that the process-level stats tell us everything, but even those statistics have some noise mixed in — and even if we think we understand the true talent of that man on the mound, pitchers fundamentally change throughout the season by altering their pitch mix or gaining/losing velocity. Throw in the difficulty of ranking quality injured pitchers with uncertain timelines, and you’ve got a real mess.

Most qualified starting pitchers are closing in on 1,000 pitches, which is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, that’s enough sample to start using command stats like Location+ and Pitching+. Pitchers like Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Luis Castillo, and Brandon Pfaadt all benefit greatly from their ability to place a pitch where they want.

But also, 1,000 makes two separate 500-pitch groups, and Stuff+ beats strikeouts-minus-walks (the other most powerful predictive pitching statistic) in samples smaller than 500 pitches. In other words, we can compare what’s happened recently to what happened at the beginning of the season to see whose stuff is improving.

Here are the 10 pitchers who have improved their Stuff+ the most over the past three weeks:

They’ve done this all in their own way. Ryan Weathers has improved the drop on his changeup. Dean Kremer has been throwing his four-seamer more often recently. Michael King has improved the ride on his four-seam. Zach Wheeler is just throwing harder — good old-fashioned gas.

On the flip side, those who have seen their stuff regress also have many reasons. Jordan Hicks was sick (he literally threw up before his last outing) but his fastball velocity is generally falling over the course of the season, Casey Mize lost extension and ride on his fastball, Hunter Greene’s slider lost some drop, and Erick Fedde lost some movement on his sinker and changeup. So it goes. It’s a bigger deal for some than others.

This sort of analysis is going on under the hood on the rankings below, but for those who want to see the recent change in Stuff+ for every pitcher, there’s always the Google doc, which also has a full projection set (thanks to Jordan Rosenblum!) and other assorted goodies like minor-league pitch-by-pitch statistics. Otherwise, included in the rankings are current rank, last rank, Stuff+, Location+, Pitching+, strikeout-minus-walk rate (K-BB%), Stuff+ projected ERA (ppERA) and strikeout rate (ppK%), as well as a full-season projected innings total and health grade (which are only spot-checked during the season).

A word about how to use these rankings to fit your league: My bias is toward 15-team leagues where most teams have eight to nine starting pitchers, of which a couple can be injured. That may seem specific but it describes most of my leagues, so you’ll see pockets that make sense in this regard. Why is there a group of injured, rehabbing or minor-league pitchers ranked around 100? Because I think those guys are worth rostering in my kinds of leagues, as one of my last couple of arms. After that grouping, you’ll find some pitchers who are streamable in most of my leagues, and their immediate schedule should become a deciding factor for most of you. The shallower your league, the more you should downgrade the injured players — and probably also the steady, unspectacular innings sources who are more important in deeper leagues. There are probably good options on your waiver wire. The deeper your league, the more you’ll want to favor the projections and full-season value of a pitcher over immediate use.

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We have a new number one! The top three seem a to be a cut above the rest, but the Phillies will give a ton of wins to Wheeler, whose stuff is trending up. In his last start, the Phillies ace averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball, and he’s been trending north of 95 ever since he started out the season with some up and down numbers on the radar gun. Sure, there are others with gaudier strike-minus-walk numbers, and those with better stuff ratings. But Wheeler has a great team situation and is putting up length, going six or more innings in seven of his ten starts so far this season. Those wins are harder and harder to get and nudge him to the top of the heap.

We have a new number one! The top three seem a to be a cut above the rest, but the Phillies will give a ton of wins to Wheeler, whose stuff is trending up. In his last start, the Phillies ace averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball, and he’s been trending north of 95 ever since he started out the season with some up and down numbers on the radar gun. Sure, there are others with gaudier strike-minus-walk numbers, and those with better stuff ratings. But Wheeler has a great team situation and is putting up length, going six or more innings in seven of his ten starts so far this season. Those wins are harder and harder to get and nudge him to the top of the heap.

We have a new number one! The top three seem a to be a cut above the rest, but the Phillies will give a ton of wins to Wheeler, whose stuff is trending up. In his last start, the Phillies ace averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball, and he’s been trending north of 95 ever since he started out the season with some up and down numbers on the radar gun. Sure, there are others with gaudier strike-minus-walk numbers, and those with better stuff ratings. But Wheeler has a great team situation and is putting up length, going six or more innings in seven of his ten starts so far this season. Those wins are harder and harder to get and nudge him to the top of the heap.

There isn’t really anything negative to say about Skubal, but if you’re not going to rank him first, you have to pick the nits. The sligthly concerning injury history is one thing, and though he’s won six of his nine starts, the offense behind him isn’t of the quality of the other three contenders for the best pitcher in baseball going forward. That’s it! The velocity on the fastball is going in the right direction, he’s morphing into a true five-pitch guy with command, and if the Tigers stay in it, they’ll be tempted to get as many innings out of their young starter as they can.

There isn’t really anything negative to say about Skubal, but if you’re not going to rank him first, you have to pick the nits. The sligthly concerning injury history is one thing, and though he’s won six of his nine starts, the offense behind him isn’t of the quality of the other three contenders for the best pitcher in baseball going forward. That’s it! The velocity on the fastball is going in the right direction, he’s morphing into a true five-pitch guy with command, and if the Tigers stay in it, they’ll be tempted to get as many innings out of their young starter as they can.

There isn’t really anything negative to say about Skubal, but if you’re not going to rank him first, you have to pick the nits. The sligthly concerning injury history is one thing, and though he’s won six of his nine starts, the offense behind him isn’t of the quality of the other three contenders for the best pitcher in baseball going forward. That’s it! The velocity on the fastball is going in the right direction, he’s morphing into a true five-pitch guy with command, and if the Tigers stay in it, they’ll be tempted to get as many innings out of their young starter as they can.

Because he doesn’t quite have the strikeout-minus-walk excellence of the other three starters atop the heap, Burnes moves down from his throne. His stuff should turn into more strikeouts as we move forward, as you can see from his last start: an 11 strikeout, one walk masterpiece against the Mariners. If that happens, moving him off the top will have been the wrong move, because his team situation and health grade combo seems as good as anyone’s.

Because he doesn’t quite have the strikeout-minus-walk excellence of the other three starters atop the heap, Burnes moves down from his throne. His stuff should turn into more strikeouts as we move forward, as you can see from his last start: an 11 strikeout, one walk masterpiece against the Mariners. If that happens, moving him off the top will have been the wrong move, because his team situation and health grade combo seems as good as anyone’s.

Because he doesn’t quite have the strikeout-minus-walk excellence of the other three starters atop the heap, Burnes moves down from his throne. His stuff should turn into more strikeouts as we move forward, as you can see from his last start: an 11 strikeout, one walk masterpiece against the Mariners. If that happens, moving him off the top will have been the wrong move, because his team situation and health grade combo seems as good as anyone’s.

Pound for pound, Glasnow might be the best starting pitcher in baseball. A new sinker might be helping him avoid homers more often this season, he’s still got the gas and all the strikeouts of an ace and his team situation is very conducive to wins. It’s hard to judge how many pounds of Glasnow you’ll get, though, and how to assess one of the bigger injury risks in baseball while he’s still healthy.

Pound for pound, Glasnow might be the best starting pitcher in baseball. A new sinker might be helping him avoid homers more often this season, he’s still got the gas and all the strikeouts of an ace and his team situation is very conducive to wins. It’s hard to judge how many pounds of Glasnow you’ll get, though, and how to assess one of the bigger injury risks in baseball while he’s still healthy.

Pound for pound, Glasnow might be the best starting pitcher in baseball. A new sinker might be helping him avoid homers more often this season, he’s still got the gas and all the strikeouts of an ace and his team situation is very conducive to wins. It’s hard to judge how many pounds of Glasnow you’ll get, though, and how to assess one of the bigger injury risks in baseball while he’s still healthy.

You could maybe copy the Glasnow blurb and put it here. We see the excellence Sale is putting out there and it’s easy to forget that he put up 150 innings over the past three seasons combined. It may seem like that’s not fair — he did throw 102 2/3 innings last season — but other indicators are a little worrisome for Sale as well. The difference between his maximum velocity and sitting number is the second-smallest it’s been in his career, and at 2.5 mph, it’s less than the recommended three ticks that should sit between a pitcher’s max and sitting velos. This sort of thing has been linked to pitcher injury in the past.

You could maybe copy the Glasnow blurb and put it here. We see the excellence Sale is putting out there and it’s easy to forget that he put up 150 innings over the past three seasons combined. It may seem like that’s not fair — he did throw 102 2/3 innings last season — but other indicators are a little worrisome for Sale as well. The difference between his maximum velocity and sitting number is the second-smallest it’s been in his career, and at 2.5 mph, it’s less than the recommended three ticks that should sit between a pitcher’s max and sitting velos. This sort of thing has been linked to pitcher injury in the past.

You could maybe copy the Glasnow blurb and put it here. We see the excellence Sale is putting out there and it’s easy to forget that he put up 150 innings over the past three seasons combined. It may seem like that’s not fair — he did throw 102 2/3 innings last season — but other indicators are a little worrisome for Sale as well. The difference between his maximum velocity and sitting number is the second-smallest it’s been in his career, and at 2.5 mph, it’s less than the recommended three ticks that should sit between a pitcher’s max and sitting velos. This sort of thing has been linked to pitcher injury in the past.

Peralta has absolutely picked up where he left off last season, at least when it comes to stuff and strikeouts-minus-walks. The results haven’t been exactly as expected because that nagging flaw of his — inconsistent command — has reared its head a couple of times this season and hurt him. Really, though, that’s two games where he lost the plate. Remove those and he has a 3.40 ERA and is humming right along.

Peralta has absolutely picked up where he left off last season, at least when it comes to stuff and strikeouts-minus-walks. The results haven’t been exactly as expected because that nagging flaw of his — inconsistent command — has reared its head a couple of times this season and hurt him. Really, though, that’s two games where he lost the plate. Remove those and he has a 3.40 ERA and is humming right along.

Peralta has absolutely picked up where he left off last season, at least when it comes to stuff and strikeouts-minus-walks. The results haven’t been exactly as expected because that nagging flaw of his — inconsistent command — has reared its head a couple of times this season and hurt him. Really, though, that’s two games where he lost the plate. Remove those and he has a 3.40 ERA and is humming right along.

Tinkerer or savant? You can see all the new stuff Kirby is doing this year — the new splitter, the new cutter, the occasional knuckleball — and think that he’s searching for something. His results have been up and down, so the criticism is fair. Another way of seeing it, though, is that he’s building and improving. His Stuff+ is up over the past two weeks, as he’s been showing five above-average pitches by that metric. And he’s always had the elite command.

Tinkerer or savant? You can see all the new stuff Kirby is doing this year — the new splitter, the new cutter, the occasional knuckleball — and think that he’s searching for something. His results have been up and down, so the criticism is fair. Another way of seeing it, though, is that he’s building and improving. His Stuff+ is up over the past two weeks, as he’s been showing five above-average pitches by that metric. And he’s always had the elite command.

Tinkerer or savant? You can see all the new stuff Kirby is doing this year — the new splitter, the new cutter, the occasional knuckleball — and think that he’s searching for something. His results have been up and down, so the criticism is fair. Another way of seeing it, though, is that he’s building and improving. His Stuff+ is up over the past two weeks, as he’s been showing five above-average pitches by that metric. And he’s always had the elite command.

He started with elite extension and what was supposed to be a plus-plus curveball. A couple of years later, he’s still releasing the ball closer to the plate than anyone, but he’s finally put together an arsenal around that fastball that’s working really well. The curve is now almost 8 mph harder, with less drop, the slider has gotten harder, and the split-finger is a real weapon. Batters are hitting .205 off his newest pitch, the cutter, and Gilbert looks like he’s coming into his own.

He started with elite extension and what was supposed to be a plus-plus curveball. A couple of years later, he’s still releasing the ball closer to the plate than anyone, but he’s finally put together an arsenal around that fastball that’s working really well. The curve is now almost 8 mph harder, with less drop, the slider has gotten harder, and the split-finger is a real weapon. Batters are hitting .205 off his newest pitch, the cutter, and Gilbert looks like he’s coming into his own.

He started with elite extension and what was supposed to be a plus-plus curveball. A couple of years later, he’s still releasing the ball closer to the plate than anyone, but he’s finally put together an arsenal around that fastball that’s working really well. The curve is now almost 8 mph harder, with less drop, the slider has gotten harder, and the split-finger is a real weapon. Batters are hitting .205 off his newest pitch, the cutter, and Gilbert looks like he’s coming into his own.

The last outing wasn’t great, and sometimes his command will lead to blowups, but the top-end stuff coming from the arm of Cease is enough to sneak him into the top 10 anyway. He could use a third pitch that he can command, but he’s only throwing about a cutter (and five or six curves and sweepers) per game. Usually a top-five finisher in strikeout rate based on how elite his fastball and slider are, his team situation is better this year, and the combination of wins and Ks should keep him in the top 10 among fantasy starting pitchers.

The last outing wasn’t great, and sometimes his command will lead to blowups, but the top-end stuff coming from the arm of Cease is enough to sneak him into the top 10 anyway. He could use a third pitch that he can command, but he’s only throwing about a cutter (and five or six curves and sweepers) per game. Usually a top-five finisher in strikeout rate based on how elite his fastball and slider are, his team situation is better this year, and the combination of wins and Ks should keep him in the top 10 among fantasy starting pitchers.

The last outing wasn’t great, and sometimes his command will lead to blowups, but the top-end stuff coming from the arm of Cease is enough to sneak him into the top 10 anyway. He could use a third pitch that he can command, but he’s only throwing about a cutter (and five or six curves and sweepers) per game. Usually a top-five finisher in strikeout rate based on how elite his fastball and slider are, his team situation is better this year, and the combination of wins and Ks should keep him in the top 10 among fantasy starting pitchers.

The shorter outings in the World Baseball Classic may have caused Yamamoto’s fastball to look better than they should’ve. That pitch is now more adequate than dominant. The good news is that the command looks plus, and the curve and splitter are as good as they looked in that competition, and that he’s working to add a hard slider and new sinker to complete his repetoire. The bad news is that stuff-based projections don’t quite believe in his current strikeout rate.

The shorter outings in the World Baseball Classic may have caused Yamamoto’s fastball to look better than they should’ve. That pitch is now more adequate than dominant. The good news is that the command looks plus, and the curve and splitter are as good as they looked in that competition, and that he’s working to add a hard slider and new sinker to complete his repetoire. The bad news is that stuff-based projections don’t quite believe in his current strikeout rate.

The shorter outings in the World Baseball Classic may have caused Yamamoto’s fastball to look better than they should’ve. That pitch is now more adequate than dominant. The good news is that the command looks plus, and the curve and splitter are as good as they looked in that competition, and that he’s working to add a hard slider and new sinker to complete his repetoire. The bad news is that stuff-based projections don’t quite believe in his current strikeout rate.

The strikeouts and walks are trending in an absolutely elite direction for Lopez. He’s struck out a whopping 34 batters in his last 28 2/3 innings against only three walks. That’s normally how you put zeroes on the board: strikeout-minus-walk rate is one of the most powerful predictive stats we have in pitching. Why has he had the blowups? It’s possible he’s just trying to land on the mix that will work for him this year. Batters are slugging over .500 on his sinker and slider, so it might be time to return to his traditional strengths in the four-seam and changeup.

The strikeouts and walks are trending in an absolutely elite direction for Lopez. He’s struck out a whopping 34 batters in his last 28 2/3 innings against only three walks. That’s normally how you put zeroes on the board: strikeout-minus-walk rate is one of the most powerful predictive stats we have in pitching. Why has he had the blowups? It’s possible he’s just trying to land on the mix that will work for him this year. Batters are slugging over .500 on his sinker and slider, so it might be time to return to his traditional strengths in the four-seam and changeup.

The strikeouts and walks are trending in an absolutely elite direction for Lopez. He’s struck out a whopping 34 batters in his last 28 2/3 innings against only three walks. That’s normally how you put zeroes on the board: strikeout-minus-walk rate is one of the most powerful predictive stats we have in pitching. Why has he had the blowups? It’s possible he’s just trying to land on the mix that will work for him this year. Batters are slugging over .500 on his sinker and slider, so it might be time to return to his traditional strengths in the four-seam and changeup.

Rodriguez owns five elite pitches by Stuff+. He commands three of them (the four-seamer, slider, and curve) at above-average rates. He’s also 35th in strikeout rate among the 150 starters with at least 20 innings without any sort of obvious trend in the right direction. For now, he’s got the ERA of an elite starter and the WHIP of a mediocre one. The advanced metrics say the ERA is more real, but it is fair to wonder how close to his ceiling Rodriguez finds himself currently.

Rodriguez owns five elite pitches by Stuff+. He commands three of them (the four-seamer, slider, and curve) at above-average rates. He’s also 35th in strikeout rate among the 150 starters with at least 20 innings without any sort of obvious trend in the right direction. For now, he’s got the ERA of an elite starter and the WHIP of a mediocre one. The advanced metrics say the ERA is more real, but it is fair to wonder how close to his ceiling Rodriguez finds himself currently.

Rodriguez owns five elite pitches by Stuff+. He commands three of them (the four-seamer, slider, and curve) at above-average rates. He’s also 35th in strikeout rate among the 150 starters with at least 20 innings without any sort of obvious trend in the right direction. For now, he’s got the ERA of an elite starter and the WHIP of a mediocre one. The advanced metrics say the ERA is more real, but it is fair to wonder how close to his ceiling Rodriguez finds himself currently.

As he does, Castillo is once again showing the same slow increase in fastball velocity as the weather warms. He usually rewards those that believe that his stuff just improves over the course of a season. What’s weird about this year’s version is that it’s not the fastball that’s suffering in the early going — it’s the slider. It’s gone from having more movement than average to being below average in that regard, and even if the changes are small when it comes to raw inches lost, they’ve caused the Stuff+ on the pitch to tank. Batters aren’t hitting the pitch well, though, so it could just be another weird blip in the story of Castillo’s stuff.

As he does, Castillo is once again showing the same slow increase in fastball velocity as the weather warms. He usually rewards those that believe that his stuff just improves over the course of a season. What’s weird about this year’s version is that it’s not the fastball that’s suffering in the early going — it’s the slider. It’s gone from having more movement than average to being below average in that regard, and even if the changes are small when it comes to raw inches lost, they’ve caused the Stuff+ on the pitch to tank. Batters aren’t hitting the pitch well, though, so it could just be another weird blip in the story of Castillo’s stuff.

As he does, Castillo is once again showing the same slow increase in fastball velocity as the weather warms. He usually rewards those that believe that his stuff just improves over the course of a season. What’s weird about this year’s version is that it’s not the fastball that’s suffering in the early going — it’s the slider. It’s gone from having more movement than average to being below average in that regard, and even if the changes are small when it comes to raw inches lost, they’ve caused the Stuff+ on the pitch to tank. Batters aren’t hitting the pitch well, though, so it could just be another weird blip in the story of Castillo’s stuff.

Webb’s vaunted changeup is … changing. In the past few starts, it’s become more horizontal than vertical. That can happen from time to time on a feel pitch like this, but when it’s paired with the worst seasonal slugging percentage against the pitch, it becomes a little worrisome. Then you look a little harder at the poor strikeout-minus-walk numbers and wonder a little more how safe he is away from home. He’ll probably get the changeup back working again, though.

Webb’s vaunted changeup is … changing. In the past few starts, it’s become more horizontal than vertical. That can happen from time to time on a feel pitch like this, but when it’s paired with the worst seasonal slugging percentage against the pitch, it becomes a little worrisome. Then you look a little harder at the poor strikeout-minus-walk numbers and wonder a little more how safe he is away from home. He’ll probably get the changeup back working again, though.

Webb’s vaunted changeup is … changing. In the past few starts, it’s become more horizontal than vertical. That can happen from time to time on a feel pitch like this, but when it’s paired with the worst seasonal slugging percentage against the pitch, it becomes a little worrisome. Then you look a little harder at the poor strikeout-minus-walk numbers and wonder a little more how safe he is away from home. He’ll probably get the changeup back working again, though.

Fastball go brrrrrrr. After some bellyaching about the shape of Skenes’ fastball, he had a great two-start debut that featured good command of a super-hard two-seamer that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Stuff+ loves it (113, top 25 among starters) and the release point, spin and movement all mimic the fastball thrown by Sale (allbeit from the right side). Another movement- and velocity-based comparison is Jhoan Duran, except as a starting pitcher. Skenes probably only has another 90 innings left in his season, but here’s betting they’re elite.

Fastball go brrrrrrr. After some bellyaching about the shape of Skenes’ fastball, he had a great two-start debut that featured good command of a super-hard two-seamer that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Stuff+ loves it (113, top 25 among starters) and the release point, spin and movement all mimic the fastball thrown by Sale (allbeit from the right side). Another movement- and velocity-based comparison is Jhoan Duran, except as a starting pitcher. Skenes probably only has another 90 innings left in his season, but here’s betting they’re elite.

Fastball go brrrrrrr. After some bellyaching about the shape of Skenes’ fastball, he had a great two-start debut that featured good command of a super-hard two-seamer that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Stuff+ loves it (113, top 25 among starters) and the release point, spin and movement all mimic the fastball thrown by Sale (allbeit from the right side). Another movement- and velocity-based comparison is Jhoan Duran, except as a starting pitcher. Skenes probably only has another 90 innings left in his season, but here’s betting they’re elite.

How much should we worry about things that haven’t mattered yet? Specifically, should we focus on the fact that Imanaga is largely a two-pitch guy and batters are hitting over .300 against the rest of his offerings? Should we worry that his homer-prone ways in Japan haven’t ported over to MLB yet? The projection systems that haven’t budged much on projected home run rates say Imanaga’s ERA will be over four the rest of the way — everyone else thinks that’s crazy.

How much should we worry about things that haven’t mattered yet? Specifically, should we focus on the fact that Imanaga is largely a two-pitch guy and batters are hitting over .300 against the rest of his offerings? Should we worry that his homer-prone ways in Japan haven’t ported over to MLB yet? The projection systems that haven’t budged much on projected home run rates say Imanaga’s ERA will be over four the rest of the way — everyone else thinks that’s crazy.

How much should we worry about things that haven’t mattered yet? Specifically, should we focus on the fact that Imanaga is largely a two-pitch guy and batters are hitting over .300 against the rest of his offerings? Should we worry that his homer-prone ways in Japan haven’t ported over to MLB yet? The projection systems that haven’t budged much on projected home run rates say Imanaga’s ERA will be over four the rest of the way — everyone else thinks that’s crazy.

The ERA is sparkling, but there are some weird things going on under the hood for Nola this season. For one, his current walk and strikeout rates would be the worst of the past four seasons. He’s also lost ride on all three of his fastballs, and a little drop on his curve. After three years of seeing his ERA live a half run above his estimators, maybe Nola will just have a strange season in the other direction that evens the balance. He’ll always give you bulk and wins at the very least.

The ERA is sparkling, but there are some weird things going on under the hood for Nola this season. For one, his current walk and strikeout rates would be the worst of the past four seasons. He’s also lost ride on all three of his fastballs, and a little drop on his curve. After three years of seeing his ERA live a half run above his estimators, maybe Nola will just have a strange season in the other direction that evens the balance. He’ll always give you bulk and wins at the very least.

The ERA is sparkling, but there are some weird things going on under the hood for Nola this season. For one, his current walk and strikeout rates would be the worst of the past four seasons. He’s also lost ride on all three of his fastballs, and a little drop on his curve. After three years of seeing his ERA live a half run above his estimators, maybe Nola will just have a strange season in the other direction that evens the balance. He’ll always give you bulk and wins at the very least.

Slowly, Gallen has added his missing velocity back on the four-seamer. He’s also dialed the usage back recently and leaned heavily on the curve, which Stuff+ says is his best pitch. Over the past couple of weeks, his stuff looks largely back to normal, with above-average numbers on his fastballs and breaking balls. At this point, his long track record and decent strikeout-minus-walk rate mean more than any of this, though. Just keeps on ticking.

Slowly, Gallen has added his missing velocity back on the four-seamer. He’s also dialed the usage back recently and leaned heavily on the curve, which Stuff+ says is his best pitch. Over the past couple of weeks, his stuff looks largely back to normal, with above-average numbers on his fastballs and breaking balls. At this point, his long track record and decent strikeout-minus-walk rate mean more than any of this, though. Just keeps on ticking.

Slowly, Gallen has added his missing velocity back on the four-seamer. He’s also dialed the usage back recently and leaned heavily on the curve, which Stuff+ says is his best pitch. Over the past couple of weeks, his stuff looks largely back to normal, with above-average numbers on his fastballs and breaking balls. At this point, his long track record and decent strikeout-minus-walk rate mean more than any of this, though. Just keeps on ticking.

Among all starting pitchers with 30 innings so far this season, Jones has the best Stuff+ in baseball. That’s softened a bit as he’s settled into the season — his velocity is down a little off his near-triple-digit peak, and he’s experiment a little with his other pitches start to start — but he’s still got a nasty foundation in that fastball and slider that elicit Spencer Strider comparisons. The only real question is if his command will hold, especially as he starts to throw his changeup and curve more to keep people from sitting on any one pitch and location.

Among all starting pitchers with 30 innings so far this season, Jones has the best Stuff+ in baseball. That’s softened a bit as he’s settled into the season — his velocity is down a little off his near-triple-digit peak, and he’s experiment a little with his other pitches start to start — but he’s still got a nasty foundation in that fastball and slider that elicit Spencer Strider comparisons. The only real question is if his command will hold, especially as he starts to throw his changeup and curve more to keep people from sitting on any one pitch and location.

Among all starting pitchers with 30 innings so far this season, Jones has the best Stuff+ in baseball. That’s softened a bit as he’s settled into the season — his velocity is down a little off his near-triple-digit peak, and he’s experiment a little with his other pitches start to start — but he’s still got a nasty foundation in that fastball and slider that elicit Spencer Strider comparisons. The only real question is if his command will hold, especially as he starts to throw his changeup and curve more to keep people from sitting on any one pitch and location.

With the 10th-best strikeout-minus-walk rate among starters, it’s easy to see why The BAT has Ryan projected as the ninth-best starter going forward. With the growth of his splitter and sliders into a usable full arsenal, it also makes sense from a pitchability standpoint. So why the reticence to rank him higher? He’s given up a full homer per nine innings more for his career than he has so far this season, and his overall Stuff+ is about average for a starter. As the weather warms, he may give up more round-trippers.

With the 10th-best strikeout-minus-walk rate among starters, it’s easy to see why The BAT has Ryan projected as the ninth-best starter going forward. With the growth of his splitter and sliders into a usable full arsenal, it also makes sense from a pitchability standpoint. So why the reticence to rank him higher? He’s given up a full homer per nine innings more for his career than he has so far this season, and his overall Stuff+ is about average for a starter. As the weather warms, he may give up more round-trippers.

With the 10th-best strikeout-minus-walk rate among starters, it’s easy to see why The BAT has Ryan projected as the ninth-best starter going forward. With the growth of his splitter and sliders into a usable full arsenal, it also makes sense from a pitchability standpoint. So why the reticence to rank him higher? He’s given up a full homer per nine innings more for his career than he has so far this season, and his overall Stuff+ is about average for a starter. As the weather warms, he may give up more round-trippers.

Remember the last young starter we all fell in love with? Is there anything wrong with him? I guess it’s a little weird that his velocity peaked around 97 this year and has since fallen off in three straight starts, one of which was a disasterpiece against a bad team in Anaheim. But, other than that blowup and once against the Orioles’ dastardly lineup, Ragans has been a steady producer so far. Strangely, despite good Stuff+, his projected numbers using the stat are worse than the consensus. The assumption here is he can pitch to a mid-threes ERA and that the velocity loss is just a blip.

Remember the last young starter we all fell in love with? Is there anything wrong with him? I guess it’s a little weird that his velocity peaked around 97 this year and has since fallen off in three straight starts, one of which was a disasterpiece against a bad team in Anaheim. But, other than that blowup and once against the Orioles’ dastardly lineup, Ragans has been a steady producer so far. Strangely, despite good Stuff+, his projected numbers using the stat are worse than the consensus. The assumption here is he can pitch to a mid-threes ERA and that the velocity loss is just a blip.

Remember the last young starter we all fell in love with? Is there anything wrong with him? I guess it’s a little weird that his velocity peaked around 97 this year and has since fallen off in three straight starts, one of which was a disasterpiece against a bad team in Anaheim. But, other than that blowup and once against the Orioles’ dastardly lineup, Ragans has been a steady producer so far. Strangely, despite good Stuff+, his projected numbers using the stat are worse than the consensus. The assumption here is he can pitch to a mid-threes ERA and that the velocity loss is just a blip.

It can both be true that Gausman is a good buy-low but also maybe not a top-10 or top-15 starter right now. His strikeout-minus-walk rate is above average, his fastball velocity is improving and he still has that awesome splitter. Why not rank him more in line with his projected rates? Maybe it’s just a little bit concerning that he’s a two-pitch pitcher with declining fastball velocity. The fewer pitches you have, the more pressure there is on each of them to be dominant.

It can both be true that Gausman is a good buy-low but also maybe not a top-10 or top-15 starter right now. His strikeout-minus-walk rate is above average, his fastball velocity is improving and he still has that awesome splitter. Why not rank him more in line with his projected rates? Maybe it’s just a little bit concerning that he’s a two-pitch pitcher with declining fastball velocity. The fewer pitches you have, the more pressure there is on each of them to be dominant.

It can both be true that Gausman is a good buy-low but also maybe not a top-10 or top-15 starter right now. His strikeout-minus-walk rate is above average, his fastball velocity is improving and he still has that awesome splitter. Why not rank him more in line with his projected rates? Maybe it’s just a little bit concerning that he’s a two-pitch pitcher with declining fastball velocity. The fewer pitches you have, the more pressure there is on each of them to be dominant.

The past two starts haven’t been good for Gray, but there’s no underlying change that points to a problem. He’s got three average-ish fastballs and three elite breaking balls, and he’s turned that into the fifth-best strikeout rate and the sixth-best strikeout-minus-walk rate so far. This can produce a top-25 starter, for sure.

The past two starts haven’t been good for Gray, but there’s no underlying change that points to a problem. He’s got three average-ish fastballs and three elite breaking balls, and he’s turned that into the fifth-best strikeout rate and the sixth-best strikeout-minus-walk rate so far. This can produce a top-25 starter, for sure.

The past two starts haven’t been good for Gray, but there’s no underlying change that points to a problem. He’s got three average-ish fastballs and three elite breaking balls, and he’s turned that into the fifth-best strikeout rate and the sixth-best strikeout-minus-walk rate so far. This can produce a top-25 starter, for sure.

Crochet stopped throwing back-foot sliders to righties and replaced them with cutters, and he’s been lights out since. His fastball provides a huge foundation, the slider is still deadly against lefties, and the cutter and change do enough to say with confidence that he can get righties out. It’s a power changeup with less movement than you might want, but hittters are slugging .154 off the pitch, so it’s possible they’re telling us more about its quality than the stuff grades. Good young pitcher — no idea how many more innings he’ll give us.

Crochet stopped throwing back-foot sliders to righties and replaced them with cutters, and he’s been lights out since. His fastball provides a huge foundation, the slider is still deadly against lefties, and the cutter and change do enough to say with confidence that he can get righties out. It’s a power changeup with less movement than you might want, but hittters are slugging .154 off the pitch, so it’s possible they’re telling us more about its quality than the stuff grades. Good young pitcher — no idea how many more innings he’ll give us.

Crochet stopped throwing back-foot sliders to righties and replaced them with cutters, and he’s been lights out since. His fastball provides a huge foundation, the slider is still deadly against lefties, and the cutter and change do enough to say with confidence that he can get righties out. It’s a power changeup with less movement than you might want, but hittters are slugging .154 off the pitch, so it’s possible they’re telling us more about its quality than the stuff grades. Good young pitcher — no idea how many more innings he’ll give us.

There was some worry when, coming off an injured list stint, Valdez came back and allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Mariners. His sinker wasn’t at its best that game, and for some reason he didn’t throw his slider or changeup much at all. He’s been up and down since his return, with some good news as the sinker has approached the same stuff grades as before the injury, and the changeup usage has returned to normal. The hard slider or cutter, though, the one that led to the best strikeout rate of his career last year? He doesn’t throw it much, so reduce your K-rate expectations.

There was some worry when, coming off an injured list stint, Valdez came back and allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Mariners. His sinker wasn’t at its best that game, and for some reason he didn’t throw his slider or changeup much at all. He’s been up and down since his return, with some good news as the sinker has approached the same stuff grades as before the injury, and the changeup usage has returned to normal. The hard slider or cutter, though, the one that led to the best strikeout rate of his career last year? He doesn’t throw it much, so reduce your K-rate expectations.

There was some worry when, coming off an injured list stint, Valdez came back and allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Mariners. His sinker wasn’t at its best that game, and for some reason he didn’t throw his slider or changeup much at all. He’s been up and down since his return, with some good news as the sinker has approached the same stuff grades as before the injury, and the changeup usage has returned to normal. The hard slider or cutter, though, the one that led to the best strikeout rate of his career last year? He doesn’t throw it much, so reduce your K-rate expectations.

(Illustration by Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic; Photo of Shota Imanaga: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images; Photo of Paul Skenes:
Nuccio DiNuzzo / Getty Images; Photo of Chris Sale: Matthew Grimes Jr. / Atlanta Braves / Getty Images)

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