It’s hard to find starting Pitcher breakouts. Easier than finding position player breakouts, but still remarkably difficult. It is even more difficult to find breakouts when attempting to utilize spring training data – similar to projecting a person’s future intelligence based on a half completed knockoff IQ test given in a Happy Meal.
However, there are a couple of ways we can try to see if a pitcher has made real changes that will stick. The first is a velocity increase; whether this is a pitcher going to a new level, or finding old velocity. Velocity is one thing a pitcher can’t fake, it’s just there and it’s huge. Velocity increase is easily the most important statistic we can take from Spring and it is why we can be extremely positive regarding players like Cody Anderson, Doug Fister, and Alex Wood, among others. Unfortunately, for you the reader, what I will not be discussing here is velocity. What I will be discussing is two possible starting pitcher breakouts based on their strikeout and walk rates; pitchers who are also kind of hidden because of their elevated ERA figures. Since strikeouts and walks stabilize relatively quickly, there has been some work to suggest that spring training numbers in these areas have some predictive value. When I say some, I mean almost none, but it is beneficial to take this data into our outlooks. So, let’s do it.
The first pitcher I’ve identified is Taijuan Walker. Walker has tantalized onlookers for a long time with his raw stuff but hasn’t been able to put it all together as of yet. His 4.56 ERA, and 4.07 FIP, last season were not what many people expected from the young hurler. However, his much lower 3.69 SIERA (skills interactive ERA) may indicate that a breakout is coming. Furthermore, as you know from the first 307 words of this article, Walker has had an impressive spring. In 22 innings Walker has produced a K/9 of 9.4 and a BB/9 of 1.6. Excellent, those. Many people have glossed over this because Walker has a 6.55 ERA on the spring, but fear not! Spring ERA is entirely useless, while spring strikeout and walk rates are only mostly useless! Taijuan has really had an excellent spring and it’s just another point in favor of the young pitcher’s potential breakout.
The second hidden pitcher I identified is Anthony
DeScelfanie deScalfani DeScalfani DeSclafani. Anthony DeSclafani was quite good as a rookie last season as he spun a 3.67 FIP in 184.2 innings with Cincinnati. He was even more impressive as the year went on; as he produced xFIP figures of 3.05 and 2.92 in August, and September, respectively. DeSclafani has a spring ERA of 8.38; so he’s stayed out of the public consciousness. But really, he has had a very encouraging spring. In 19.1 innings he has struck out 9.4 batters per nine, and walked 1.4 per nine. This gives slightly more credence to the idea that he can extend his second half prowess.
So, what these two pitchers have been able to accomplish during the spring makes me a little more confident in their seasons to come. Also, both these pitchers are young; which, while also a positive for their own vitality, is another mark in favor of their breakout potential. Luckily, with the regular season on the way, we won’t have to wait too much longer for the answers to our questions.
All statistics found at fangraphs and mlb.com
Photo courtesy of Charles Sollars and can be found here.
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