4 Pitchers Ready to Bounce Back After the All-Star Break
Baseball can be a funky game. Pitchers we expected to be studs aren't performing as well, and some are wildly surpassing our expectations.
The great thing is that it's a long season, and between second-chance leagues post All-Star break, or just making up ground in your current leagues, you aren't dead in the water. Yet.
Let's examine four pitchers who could be primed for a bounce-back second half that you can steal away via trade or waiver wire acquisition.
Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
It's been a quirky season for Sale -- he struggled early on, recording a 6.30 ERA in the first month of the season. But ever since then, he's been flat-out disgusting, and his 34.5% strikeout rate ranks third-best in all of baseball. He also ranks third in K-BB% (28.6%), as well, and he's been hampered by a career-worst 1.35 home runs per nine innings (HR/9).
As long as Sale can potentially revert back to his career norms, he could be in line for a monster second half.
Zack Wheeler, New York Mets
After an absolutely dominant second half of 2018, Zack Wheeler rocketed up draft boards this off-season. Unfortunately, the first half of 2019 has not followed Wheeler's gorgeous second-half performance.
Wheeler owns the largest ERA - FIP differential among qualified starters, meaning that his 4.69 ERA could be far better.
Like Sale, Wheeler's undoing is rooted in his HR/9 -- it sits at 1.21, or nearly double his 2018 mark of 0.69. And the rest of his metrics are at or better than his 2018 marks. His strikeout rate has improved (24.1% to 25.6%), his walk rate -- long a bugaboo for Wheeler -- has declined (7.4% to 6.7%), and his fly-ball rate has marginally improved, as well.
Wheeler's velocity on his fastball is up a tick at 97.1 MPH, so assuming he can sort out the home run issues, he could be stellar in the second half, too.
Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays
While he doesn't qualify among starting pitchers due to a bit of missed time, Blake Snell stans will point to the southpaw's inflated 4.70 ERA this season spanning 90 innings and scream that regression was inevitable.
Savvy fantasy players, however, will recognize that while regression was inevitable, it's violently swung too far in the other direction. Snell's 2019 numbers compare pretty favorably to his 2018 marks, including an increase in strikeout rate (31.6% to 32.8%), a decrease in fly-ball rate (36.4% to 33.3%), and a huge leap in swinging-strike rate (15.1% to 17.8%).
Home runs that have also bitten Snell -- he currently sits at 1.30 HR/9, which is a career worst.
Snell has been a bit unlucky in terms of strand rate (68.0%), so banking on a big second half from the lefty is certainly not a bad premise.
Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers
Wait, why are we analyzing a pitcher who has far outperformed his ADP this season? The scary part to consider for NL Central teams is that Brandon Woodruff of the Milwaukee Brewers likely has the ability to be even better down the stretch.
Woodruff's season can be easily defined in two chunks. In his first five starts of the year, he faced what used to be a good St. Louis Cardinals offense (twice), along with the Los Angeles Angels (eighth in team wOBA), the Chicago Cubs (seventh), and the Los Angeles Dodgers (fifth). The result was he was blasted for a 5.81 ERA over 26 1/3 innings pitched.
But in his last 13 starts, Woodruff has posted a sparkling 2.98 ERA, 29.5% strikeout rate, 5.0% walk rate, and only a 30.7% fly-ball rate -- all while pitching home games in the band box known as Miller Park.
So while his 3.67 ERA may not be as good as you could hope for, his 2.91 FIP and 3.52 skill-interactive ERA (SIERA) show he's been even better than what he's offered fantasy owners thus far. He could easily finish as a top-10 starting pitcher in 2019.