April Breakouts are Breaking Down: The Rosin Bag (6/7)

In this week's mailbag we take a look at April breakout players and a huge dynasty hypothetical. Gabe Zammit takes a look at these questions as well as a few others.

Welcome back to The Rosin Bag, our weekly Pitcher List mailbag!

The big news for most baseball fans from this past week was the MLB Draft. This year, there really didn’t seem to be a marquee pitcher to get excited about coming out of the draft. Last year, we saw Casey Mize go first overall to the Tigers, and the year before that, there was a whole slew of really exciting pitchers, which included guys such as Hunter Greene and Mackenzie Gore. I know that pitching prospects are a very dicey investment anyways, but this draft was seemed to be especially loaded with bats over arms, at least at first glance.

The other news from the week, which may have gotten lost in the excitement of the draft, was the signings of Craig Kimbrel (Cubs) and Dallas Keuchel (Braves). Finally! These guys have been hanging around with so many rumors about potential landing spots. If for some reason they are available in a league you are in, go get them! Of course, the question remains: When will they play and will they be effective?

Most pitchers take a few weeks of a throwing program to be at the point where they can pitch in a game situation, and this is why spring training is so important. These two guys have clearly missed out on that spring training window. This means that it is possible we won’t be seeing either Kimbrel or Keuchel until close to July. Even then, will it take them each another week or so to settle into a groove? I really can’t say. So here I am telling you to pick them up … so long as it costs you nothing or close to nothing. I would also say if you have been stashing them or have acquired them on the super cheap and another owner shows interest in trading for one of these guys, why not sell? Depending on your team makeup, this could be a better avenue for you than to continue to sit tight.

With that, let’s get to this week’s batch of questions!

All questions are either submitted via our Discord channel or through email to pitcherlistmailbag@gmail.com.

From Scott Chu: How do you deal with guys who were April breakouts who are slowing down? Examples include Christian Walker and Domingo Santana.

I am to my own benefit and sometime my own detriment an end of the roster churner. In redraft leagues, I love picking up players on hot streaks and riding the streak. When a guy goes cold for a couple of weeks, I move on to the next guy. This has greatly aided my team and also been the bane of my fantasy existence at times. I feel so good when I drop a player who has cooled off and see someone else use his waiver priority or blow a bunch of FAAB on him and then watch that player burn a hole in the roster and torpedo stats. Conversely, I can’t help but bang my head against the wall when I rage drop someone who goes 0-4 with three strikeouts and then either have to pony up my own FAAB to reacquire him because he hit two homers the next night or I watch him lead my opponent’s team to glory.

To help combat my impulsive tendencies, I have tried to become better over the past few seasons at looking beyond the surface statistics. Walker is a great example, as I owned and ultimately dropped him in two redraft leagues this year. The 28-year-old was one of my first pickups of the year, and I thoroughly enjoyed having him as a part of my team through April. He hit .307/.381/.614 with seven homers and chipped in three steals! I had to pinch myself. Did I draft Paul Goldschmidt 2.0!? His BABIP was crazy high, and he was striking out in almost 30% of his at bats, but my heart kept trying to convince my brain that I unearthed a gem.

We know how this story has played out the rest of the way. Since May 1, Walker’s slash line is .207/.270/.379, with four home runs, no steals, and just nine RBI. I have since dropped him in both leagues in which I owned him (12-team roto redraft) and have seen him picked up and dropped more than once. Walker is actually still hitting the ball hard and has shown some signs of life lately, but he does appear to be a streaky player because of the high strikeout rate.

Not all players are created equal. There are some great stories of players who have a career breakout seemingly out of nowhere, but there are many more of guys who have a few hot weeks of play and then disappear into nothingness. A tempered approach is how I try to proceed with these guys, and that would be my advice. If a guy looks like a breakout, ask yourself what has changed to cause this, and better yet, ask yourself if it is sustainable given his circumstances. Is this the first time he’s gotten a full-time gig? Did he add a new pitch to his repertoire? Did he alter his launch angle to add more pop? Are his BABIP or HR/FB rate at an unsustainable level? These are some of the things I look at first when trying to determine why someone’s performance has changed.

From Knucklebear: What’s up with Treinen?

First, let’s take a look at Blake Treinen’s stellar 2018. He pitched 80.1 innings, collected 38 saves, struck out batters at an 11.2 K/9, and had a 0.78 ERA! Just let those numbers sink in. They are otherworldly, and they were from a guy who was an afterthought in a lot of drafts.

Fast forward to his numbers through just over a third of this season. He has pitched 30.1 innings, gotten 12 saves, his K/9 is 9.2, and his ERA is sitting at 3.26. His on-pace numbers would still make him a fine reliever but nowhere near his 2018 season, which was probably unrealistic anyway.

The key for Treinen could be in his ability to limit walks and the effectiveness of his sinker. Looking at his pitch mix and effectiveness, I’m noticing that he is throwing his sinker almost 11% less than last year, but it’s also just not as effective of a pitch for him. His walk rate has doubled on that pitch alone. Treinen’s velocity looks to be on par across the board, and I’m optimistic about him figuring it out. He also has the benefit of probably a longer leash than people might think because Lou Trivino hasn’t been setting the world on fire this year either.

So my advice would be to hold steady and keep an eye on those walks. The hope is he gets the feel back for his sinker and starts to utilize it a little more to reinforce the rest of his pitch mix.

From brandex007: What are the best indicators you look for when evaluating a pitcher who had lost velocity during a transition from reliever to starting pitcher? Does velocity sometimes come with time? If so, how do you distinguish when to wait it out versus panic and drop?

Great question, and a tough one to answer because of how complex pitching is. We have to keep in mind that pitching is one of the hardest and most violent things an athlete can do to his body. This is why proper technique, maintenance, and consistent pitch numbers and innings can be so impactful. There are definitely some guys who can touch the upper 90s for an inning or two and then tail off dramatically as they become fatigued while there are other pitchers who can maintain their velocity deep into games.

A pitcher who is used to throwing gas for just one inning who then transitions to having to pitch for five-plus innings will probably experience some fluctuation in his velocity initially. However, the guys who see a sustained velocity dip over maybe a month or more would make me concerned. My first thought would be to wonder if they are hurt, and then, of course, I’d wonder if they couldn’t handle that type of workload. This all hinges on their results too. Velocity is not always predictive of success. Some pitchers have successful navigated losing a couple ticks off their stuff in order to last deeper into a game, and they do it by utilizing their stuff more effectively.

So I guess I would say if you have someone you are legitimately panicked about, my advice would be to read up on them and do some research. Are they still getting stretched out, are they hurt, can they not handle the extra innings? There are some really great resources out there, but our site here at Pitcher List in particular does a great job of taking some deep dives on some of these guys when they struggle.

From Austin Bristow II: Hypothetical time:

You’re the commissioner of a dynasty league. You get a notification of a trade on your phone. You look, do a double-take, then check a third time to make sure you are seeing things correctly.

The two teams have agreed to swap 35 players from one team, for all 35 players on the other. Essentially the two managers have decided to swap teams.

The two teams are essentially the same level, each around .500. The trade is, for the most part, fair or equal value.

Do you allow this trade? Why or why not?

THIS IS AMAZING! I have never seen something like this in a league, but now I kind of want to.

As a commissioner, whenever a trade comes through that may cause me to question things, the first thing I do is go to the owners individually and ask them to explain their thinking behind the trade. My personal philosophy is to not veto a trade unless it ruins the integrity of the league, but that is so subjective.

Given the context here, if both owners came back and told me they felt like they wanted to shake things up and felt they could manage the other person’s team more effectively to win, I don’t see a reason to not push this trade through. It is very unorthodox, but I would much rather see a trade like this than one where a manager just dumps good players onto an already good team or the trade where a less experienced manager is totally taken advantage of.

My official ruling: Push the trade through. If I could award bonus points somehow for creativity, I would.

Another week and another mailbag in the books! If I didn’t get to your question, feel free to hit me up on twitter: @gabezammit

Don’t forget to send in questions via our Discord channel for next week’s mailbag. You can also submit questions by sending an email to: pitcherlistmailbag@gmail.com.

Good luck in your fantasy leagues, and I’ll see you back here next week!

Gabe Zammit

Gabe Zammit has been writing about baseball since 2017. He is a contributor on Pitcher List in addition to Friends with Fantasy Benefits. Outside of the baseball world, Gabe is a music director and producer and loves to chat about anything and everything music.

2 responses to “April Breakouts are Breaking Down: The Rosin Bag (6/7)”

  1. Chris says:

    Team A is in 2nd and team B is in 10th and playing for next year. Is the following trade “fair”? (Player and next year salary)

    Team A gives:
    Soroka $6
    Alfaro $7
    Minter $6
    Gallen $6
    Votto $43

    Team B gives:

    Garver $6
    Hand $35
    Ramirez $63

    • Gabe Zammit says:

      Hey Chris,
      I’m always of the mindset that unless a trade is going to destroy the integrity of a league, you let it go through. In other words, unless there is collusion (which is very hard to prove) or unless someone really got hosed because they just don’t know what the crap they are doing, I would not veto it. This particular trade definitely looks better for Team A right now as they got a top flight closer and also I’m assuming Jose Ramirez who was seen universally as a top pick this year. Depending on the depth of the league, the only good player Team B received was Soroka. But really, who knows? So much can change so quickly in this game. Jose Ramirez could look more like a solid top 50 player instead of a top 10 player, Brad Hand could get traded to a team with an established closer, Soroka could continue to grow and solidify himself as a top 20 SP or higher, and maybe Alfaro, Gallen or Minter return some profit as well.
      If I’m the Ramirez owner, I would have shopped him around and tried for a better return or just held him, but I think you have to let people make their own mistakes sometimes and hopefully learn from them.

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