Timing is everything, especially for starting pitchers. For example, giving up a double with two outs and no one on base is much less significant than surrendering a seeing-eye single with a runner on third. The following hurlers have experienced terrible timing this year and own some of the worst strand rates in baseball. With better luck, they could find more success down the stretch.
Joe Musgrove (63.7 percent strand rate)
Musgrove has been incredibly unlucky from a timing perspective, which partially explains him owning a 4.59 ERA and a 3.99 FIP. His strikeout skills are nothing to write home about, which limits his ability to pick up whiffs in key situations. And his whiffs are coming at the wrong time, as he owns a 9.0 K/9 rate with the bases empty and a 6.8 mark with runners on board. He has also been burned by batted-ball luck, experiencing a .264 BABIP with no runners on base and a .343 BABIP once someone occupies a bag. Overall, there are definitely reasons not to give up on Musgrove.
Rick Porcello (65.2% strand rate)
Don’t get me started on Porcello, who seems to have all his bad seasons during the years I draft him. The right-hander has never been great with runners on base (career 69.8% strand rate), but his mark this year is still a lifetime low. His K:BB ratio has dropped significantly this year, which is a good indicator that Porcello isn’t on top of his game overall. He could be a little better down the stretch, but I don’t feel the need to invest.
Marco Gonzales (66.0% strand rate)
Gonzales has been a bit unlucky, allowing a .332 BABIP with runners on base in comparison to a .311 mark with the bags empty. But he has also authored some of those struggles by losing his solid control skills in key situations (3.9 BB/9 rate with runners in scoring position). But after logging a 72.0% strand rate across 29 starts last season, Gonzales clearly has room to fare better in key situations down the stretch.
Chris Sale (66.7% strand rate)
Sale is an easy call for this list, as his strand rate is incredibly low for an ace hurler. Poor timing is also a big reason that he currently has the biggest ERA-FIP gap of any qualified hurler. Sale is silencing the opposition with the bases empty (.197 average, .286 BABIP), but his luck is bad with runners on base (.347 BABIP) and atrocious with runners in scoring position (.426 BABIP). For the few gamers with an end-of-August trade deadline, Sale is among the best buy-low options.
Aaron Sanchez (67.4% strand rate)
Sanchez is hardly a surprising name on this list, as he is among the worst qualified hurlers in many 2019 categories. But the right-hander seems to be a new man in Houston, allowing seven runs in three starts. The Toronto version of Sanchez — one with terrible control skills and a high BABIP — could be a thing of the past. Despite Sanchez having a mediocre start last time out, it is time to get on board with potentially another Houston success story.
Walker Buehler (68.4% strand rate)
As someone who is posting ace-level numbers despite a poor strand rate, Buehler is a rarity on this list. The right-hander is slightly less dominating with runners in scoring position, but to be honest, there is little change in his situation-based skills or his luck. His strand rate was 10 percentage points higher last season, and it is fair to expect him to have better luck down the stretch.
Zack Wheeler (68.8% strand rate)
Wheeler is similar to Gonzales, showing outstanding control with the bases empty (1.6 BB/9 rate) but tailing off (3.2 BB/9 rate) once there is a runner on base. In fact, his 1.18 WHIP with the bags clear is a far cry from his 1.40 mark with at least one runner on. Wheeler hasn’t experienced bad luck in key situations, so he will have to clear up this problem on his own. His 2.25 ERA in August shows that he’s on the right track.
Noah Syndergaard (70.0% strand rate)
Syndergaard is a tough pitcher to figure out, and looking at his split stats doesn’t clear anything up. He has been bad with runners on base, but his skills don’t vary much by situation and neither does his batted-ball luck. Granted, the Mets are one of the worst defensive squads in baseball, but they hold the same level of incompetence in all situations. Overall, the career-long fantasy tease that is Noah Syndergaard remains in full effect.
Masahiro Tanaka (70.4% strand rate)
Tanaka gives up too many homers (1.5 HR/9 rate) and struggles with runners on base, which is a bad combination. The right-hander’s whiffs are way down this year (7.3 K/9 rate), and his trademark control skills are deserting him once there are men in scoring position. He is also giving up hard contact at a rate of 49.0% when runners are on base. Overall, there are too many red flags for me to recommend Tanaka in shallow leagues.