When looking at pitchers splits are very important, reason being is if a player has a really good or bad half of baseball it gives you a reason to dive in. Below you will see pitchers who had better second halves in the 2019 season and how a pitch mix change could be the reason why. This is a really good exercise for everyone to do because it can prove legitimacy to a pitcher potentially breaking out.
Eduardo Rodriguez had a first half to forget as he posted a 4.65 ERA, .321 wOBA, and 4.10 FIP. But he seemed to turn it around in the second half with a 2.95 ERA, .292 wOBA, and 3.62 FIP. Eduardo Rodriguez made a key pitch mix change and it really justifies his really good second half.
Eduardo Rodriguez reduced his cutter in favor of his two-seam fastball in the second half. If you take a look at the overall numbers in these two pitches you can see why this was an obvious move for him to make. His cutter produced a .287 batting average against, .139 ISO, and 113 wRC+. While his two-seam produced a .205 batting average against, .046 ISO, and a 65 wRC+. All around his two-seam is a much better pitch and you can see how well this worked as his xwOBacon, Barrel%, and HR/FB all dipped significantly. Something else to notice here is his rise in GB% as it went from 45.0% to 53.9%. 53.9% is an elite level GB% which is what you want to see with a pitcher who provides an average SwStr%. If Rodriguez can keep the same pitch mix and lower that cutter usage you could see him having a great 2020 season and providing a lot of draft day value.
Steven Matz without a doubt has trouble staying healthy for an entire season. While the injury woes are frustrating, he certainly has the talent and he did make some key changes in the second half of 2019. His stats in the first half were a 4.89 ERA to go with a .353 wOBA, 5.40 FIP, and 13.5 K-BB%. In the second he looked much better posting a 3.52 ERA, .294 wOBA, 3.78 FIP, and 15.8 K-BB%. Matz is going late in drafts and with some changes in pitch mix, we could be looking at a value pick here, let’s take a look.
As you can see from the chart Matz went to his slider more while decreasing his sinker usage. The reason you should love this change is that Matz is a weak contact pitcher and look at how much better his numbers were in that aspect. His Barrel% dipped from 11.4% to 5.6% and his xwOBacon dipped from .418 to .362. While his slider doesn’t provide a lot of strikeouts, hitters struggle to make solid contact and that is why his numbers look so much better in the second half. If you look at Steven Matz’s best month in 2019 it was easily July. In July Matz posted a 1.80 ERA, .247 batting average against, and a 2.66 FIP. Guess what he did in that month, his sinker was at its lowest usage at 39.5% while his slider was at its highest usage at 21.0%. For 2020 look for Matz to throw his slider more and if he does you could be in for a happy season!
Is there such a thing as an SP Streamer article that doesn’t include Max Fried? My favorite value target is on my radar for a reason and that is his pitch mix change in the second half of 2019. To start let’s look at his basic half splits, in the first half he had a 4.29 ERA, .283 batting average against, and 3.93 FIP. Based on FIP alone it looked like Fried would see improvement, which he did as he finished the second half with a 3.63 ERA, .251 batting average against, and 3.39 FIP.
Fried’s awesome second half clearly comes from the usage of his slider. By lowering his four-seam fastball usage and throwing more sliders it really caused Fried to excel. While the underlining numbers look to be the same in the chart above you need to really look at his last two months. August and September were the two months where he used his slider the most and his SwStr% went up to 12.7% and 13.7%. While the Barrel% did go up in August and September his Weak% went up and his deserved ERA (created by Alex Chamberlain) was 3.61 and 3.53. With Max Fried’s serviceable changeup, awesome curveball, and up and coming slider we could really see a breakout.
Sandy Alcantara has been a popular sleeper pick for 2020, deservedly so as he finished the year with a sub-four ERA. His ERA splits from the first half to the second half were 3.82 and 3.94, but much like Max Fried, I want to focus on the last two months of baseball.
While the above image does show how he changed his sinker usage for the second half, let us look at his usage through that half by month. In July he had an 11% usage, in August a 36% usage, and in September a 45% usage rate on his sinker. Clearly a massive increase in the last two months, so what was his ERA? In August his ERA was 3.03 and in September his ERA was 2.59 and those came with a 3.64 FIP and 3.81 FIP. While the FIP’s are higher they still support how great Alcantara was in those last two months. His sinker is a lethal pitch, it is a power sinker that he throws 95.6 MPH and in the last two months, it allowed a .196 batting average against as well as a .080 ISO. That is insanely good and if he pumps out his sinker a lot in 2020 he could provide you a lot of value.