Two-Face: A Jose Urquidy Deep Dive
Small Sample Sizes
Small sample sizes are the worst things on this planet. I’m more so talking about food, for instance, why would I want to eat tapas/hors d’oeuvres? No, I don’t want a tiny piece of pizza or a mini hotdog, I want the whole normal-sized thing. I want a full bun and full-sized hotdog in my hand, side note: a hotdog is not a sandwich.
As for baseball I still hate small sample sizes, it is way too hard to tell what is real or not. When I started this deep dive I didn’t realize how complex Urquidy’s two months of pitching were. Two completely different months and the matter of the fact is it might be too small of a sample for me to form an official opinion. Let’s see why that is.
In 2019 Urquidy pitched in nine games while starting seven of them and produced a respectable 3.95 ERA, 3.68 FIP, and 4.03 SIERA. He also had a decent K-BB% of 19.8 that came with a 12.0 SwStr%. Primed to have a spot in the Houston Astros starting rotation a lot of people are excited, especially since he had two starts with over nine strikeouts. Everything on the surface looks good for 41 innings of work but of course, we know there needs to be further digging.
Urquidy was called up in July for a start in Colorado (really?), and he lasted 3.2 innings with two earned runs. In July he posted a 5.87 ERA in 23 innings, but it came with a 3.91 FIP, 64.4 LOB%, and .343 BABIP. Looks like a lot of bad luck happened here, although this still looks like a mid four ERA to me. He mostly featured a four-seam fastball (46%), changeup (26%), curveball (14%), and slider (13%). The four-seam fastball he left in the middle of the zone often and right-handed hitters (RHH) killed his curveball hitting a whopping .500 average against. While the LOB and BABIP showed misfortune his pitches still left more to be desired.
After being sent down Urquidy got the call once again, except this time he excited a lot of fantasy owners. He put out an insane stat line of a 1.50 ERA with a 3.38 FIP all while raising his K% (although his BB% rose with it). Here is the caveat: it came with a 98.0 LOB% and .182 BABIP! There is no chance that is sustainable but then again neither is a 1.50 ERA and you could see a mid three ERA here. What Urquidy did was change his pitch mix to throwing his four-seam fastball and slider more while barely throwing that horrible curveball. He replaced using a curveball versus RHH who hit .500 against it with a slider which RHH only hit .167 against. He also started to throw the fastball up in the zone while the slider he placed at the bottom of the zone. Switching to the slider and putting the fastball up in the zone transformed his four-seam into a viable pitch. Compared to July, in September the fastball’s batting average against went from .429 to .094 and its ISO from .314 to .125. Basically the opposite of July, a lot of good luck but his pitches seemed to suffice.
Control and Command
His control and command are something we have to question. As stated above his fastball command was bad in July but great in September. His BB% in AAA was at 5.5% while in the majors it was 3.9% in July and 4.6% in September. According to Alex Chamberlain’s xBB% stat, his BB% should have really been 8.9%, which is really bad. If he gets more walks in 2020 I really cannot see a sub-four ERA which I think fantasy owners are hoping for.
If we decide not to nitpick and look at his pitches overall in those two months this is what we get. Please keep in mind these pitches were all thrown under 330 times which isn’t a very big sample and why Urquidy is hard to fully analyze.
While the fastball worked at times we have to expect overall regression. It produced a .269 batting average against but came with an expect .292 average. The .220 ISO shows command could be better, but he has solid control (61.6 Zone%). If he can consistently put this pitch high and tight and a little less in the zone, we can see this pitch take another step forward.
This changeup was pretty consistent throughout 2019 and is a pretty decent breaking pitch. It put up a 33.7 O-Swing%, 46.0 Zone%, and 13.6 SwStr%, which leaves little to complain about. He uses it well as he loves to place it at the bottom of the zone and it provided a decent 3.3 pVAL.
The slider is his best pitch and it somehow provided a .000 ISO (how?). While hitters don’t chase it a lot (25.4 O-Swing%) you can’t help but ignore the 21.7 SwStr%. He does place it in the bottom of the zone and seems to have a lot of control over it. I expect this to be his strikeout pitch and when he is throwing it with confidence he could be unstoppable in some starts.
Urquidy really lowered his curveball usage and while it gave off a .412 average against, it did have an expected average against of .208. But it still produced a bad 150 wRC+ and .471 SLG which means hitters really got a hold of it. Although it might be an unlucky pitch it makes sense as to why he went away from it. I have to say I do see room for growth here with this pitch.
Jose Urquidy is Two-Face
This is a tale of two months, not even halves! I know I threw a lot of information at you but it is so hard to tell which pitcher he really is (damn you small sample!). One month he was formidable and another month he was great. It really is a matter of which pitcher do you believe? Or maybe he is just the pitcher in between, a low four ERA pitcher who could have a few great starts a year. If you want to look at it in a vacuum he is a pitcher with a great slider and a decent fastball and changeup. The curveball might have potential and there is definitely room for growth. He should get you about a strikeout per inning and can struggle at times with command while he also could have dominant starts. My prediction? 160 innings, 4.10 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9.