On Monday night, I sat right down to see a presumed pitchers duel featuring succe sful AL West startersGarrett Richards and Dallas Keuchel, that we suppose says something aboutboth the 2014 baseball season to this point and me as a person. Richards, whod entered the sport having a top-10 FIP in baseball, disappointed, needing 27 pitches to salomon Speedcross 3 Women obtain through a three-run first inning. He were able to avoid a tragedy and actually stuck around through seven innings, but allowed 12 base runners, five runs along with a mere lone strikeout, if whiffing Chris Carter even counts. Im sure theres a great starter in there, but being as this was the first time Id had the opportunity to really watch him this season, I havent seen it yet.
And Keuchel? Well, Im fairly certain this is actually the first time weve ever written about Keuchel around the main page of FanGraphs. He shut downthe Angels on two runs over 8.2 innings for what was very nearly his second career shutout,five days after shutting the Rangers forhis first career shutout. After entering the season with a 5.20 career ERA in 239 innings, hes now had a 2.92 ERA within the first 61.2 innings of his 2014 numbers emphatically backed up by a 2.81 FIP and a pair of.68 xFIP. That xFIP is No. 5 in baseball, tied withZack Greinke, just ahead of Johnny Cueto and Jon Lester; his swinging-strike percentage isn't any. 13, in between Madison Bumgarner and Corey Kluber.
You know what? I think were finally going to need to discu s Dallas Keuchel.
It ought to be noted, first, that although shut on the Angels on two runs over 8.2 innings and has a 2.92 ERA are both very impre sive statements, heres how close all of this found being even more impre sive:
Thats a really blurry Mike Trout running at full speed with two outs salomon Kids Running Shoes in the ninth inning of a 5-0 game to very closely outperform a Jose Altuve throw toJesus Guzman with what was otherwise a game-ending 4-3 putout. That hustle, and also the infield grounder to come to knock Keuchel from the game, and the triple that Josh Zeid then allowed to Howie Kendrick, prevented me from being able to say Dallas Keuchel just shut out the Angels and Rangers back-to-back, and it increased his ERA from 2.63 to 2.92. It prevented Keuchel from joining Cueto, Henderson Alvarez and Martin Perez because the only pitchers with multiple shutouts this year.
But obviously, Trout and also the failings of Zeid hardly take anything away from Keuchels performance, so we have to determine precisely where all of this came from and how hes which makes it work. Its not like he would be a highly-touted prospect, selected using the 221st pick in the 2009 draft like a junior from the University of Arkansas, rather than so far as I will tell appearing highly on any prospect lists. He never piled up any impre sive strikeout numbers in the minors, whiffing 323 in 493innings. Nor does he throw particularly hard, averaging 90 on his four-seam and his sinker and often touching 92.
So far, weve just mentioned what he isnt efficient at. Fortunately, Keuchel causes it to be pretty easy upon us to identify how hes finding the succe s hes having, partially by providing a master cla s in pitching on Monday night. Had you been to take a seat and construct the items an ideal pitcher would do, it might probably include items like mi ses bats, gets grounders, limits walks, and avoids homers. Against the Angels, effortle sly defined as among the finest offensive teams in baseball, heres what Keuchel did:
Generate 16swing-and-mi ses, highest of any pitcher on salomon Speedcross 3 Men Monday Created 18 grounders, tied for that third-most this season, and preserving his MLB-best 67.7 GB% Allowed three flies, none of which went outAllowed one walk, but induced two double plays
Its really that groundball percentage that stands out, because its not just the very best mark in baseball this year, it would be the very best mark we've from the starter in our database, that has batted ball data to 2002, topping out a lot of years from celebrated groundball artists Derek Lowe and Brandon Webb. Its not particularly hard to see how hes generating them, either: just look at his heat map:
Thats a man by having an almost pathological avoidance of the high strike the type that, say, a pitcher having a 90 mph fastball might find quickly leaving the park and in addition it goes to explain why his Zone number of 38.5 is the lowest in baseball among healthy pitchers. Theres a big difference between being wild (Francisco Liriano is nexton that list) and throwing a good-looking pitch that isnt a strike, hoping the batter will fish for it, and thats exactly what Keuchel has done his O-Swing percentage may be the third-best in baseball. Masahiro Tanaka, Jose Fernandez, Greinke, and Rick Porcello round out the top five. This really is beginning to seem sensible.
Thats great, really. Thats a great way to flourish in the large leagues, but something interesting shows up whenever you look at the 28 pitcher seasons since 2002 having a GB% above 60 many of them dont really stack up strikeouts. They live and die on the grounder. From the 28, only four had a swinging-strike percentage above 10, and something of those was from Kevin Brown, who doesnt exactly fit the Lowe mold. Another is from Tim Hudson this year, unlikely (as, fairly, is Keuchel) to maintain each of those numbers all season long. Keuchel is one, by having an 11.6 SwStr%. He Salomon Speedcross 3 CS Women never really got strikeouts within the minors, but he absolutely is in the bigs in 2014.
First, a graph, helpfully created by Dave Cameron, showing how impre sive that combination is. This is a comparison of 2014 pitchers in K%-BB% against groundball rate. This is actually the guts of what goes into xFIP and its really quite simple to follow along with: the higher your K%-BB% is, the better, since you arent giving the hitters back what youve taken, and groundballs dont turn into home runs. You may spot the name all the way available on the right.
Thus far, weve established that maintaining your ball down, inducing grounders while collecting strikeouts and avoiding walks and homers, is a nice wonderful method to win baseball games, that we know is a groundbreaking discovery, but what we havent yet done is understand how it is that Keuchel were able to turn himself from the low-strikeout minor-league afterthought into, well, this how a guy who was terrible in 2012 (5.74 FIP) were able to become mediocre in 2013 (4.25) and beautiful in 2014 (2.81).
Theres some amount of even Trout didnt set the world burning in the first crack at the bigs in there, without doubt, but theres also a different pitcher. Take a look at his pitch usage in the bigs and see if anything stands Salomon Speedcross 3 CS Men out to you:
Its the red and orange lines you should be focusing on. Keuchel found the bigs with no slider, instead utilizing a curve to go with his fastball, sinker, change and cutter. And the curve was, to place it kindly, no longer working out. His swing percentage around the curve was 33.1; swinging-strike was 7.6. A great curve rarely applies to strikes, so he was giving hitters something they didnt care to swing at, and barely mi sed once they did. The slider gets offered at approximately half the time, and mi sed roughly one fourth of the time. Its not difficult to determine what one provides more value. (Eno Sarris investigated this in detail a month ago at RotoGraphs, noting the slider is also making Keuchels change look better, which is true. Were also calling it a slider, even though the Houston broadcasters argued about what it really was and what to it.)
Heres what that looked like on Monday, against Grant Green, offering little chance of succe s towards the hitter:
Whats difficult to parse, however, is this: groundballers in front of lousy defensive units can frequently struggle if their team doesnt support them. Go compare Justin Mastersons ERA to his FIP/xFIP for proof of that. Just by about every metric we have, the Houston defense is terrible. Theyre No. 28 in DRS. No. 30 in UZR/150. They leader in DRS is Keuchel himself, at 3. Matt Dominguez has a reputation as a very good third basemen, but hes graded out as mediocre. Altuve isnt highly thought of with regards to the numbers. Shortstops Jonathan Villar and Marwin Gonzalez arent, either. And yet what I saw last night was Altuve flying all over the place, making play after play (though his slow put on the Trout play arguably cost Keuchel the shutout). My sample size here's one game, so Im not taking my observation over the numbers, however, I do wonder how Keuchel may have done had the expected Houston defense turned up yesterday. He probably wouldnt have carried a shutout into the ninth; but mi sing bats, avoiding walks and homers Salomon Speedcross 4 Women i.e., the three true outcomes doesnt require the defense a sistance.
Maybe we ought to have seen this coming. Keuchel made clear improvements from 2012 to 2013, obscured perhaps by an ugly ERA and an atrocious and unwatchable team, improvements explained in his FIP/xFIP/SwStr progre sion. Then again, he got destroyed in three of his four September starts, so its not like it had been so obvious that people were foolish for mi sing it. Now hes explained improvements from 2013 to 2014, turning him from the guy fighting for a rotation spot to a man maybe fighting for an All-Star spot. Regardle s of what happens came from here,now you know the nameDallas Keuchel, and may a sociate him with some succe s. I dont imagine that was true for most of us just a month ago.
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