Pitchers Trending in the Wrong Direction: Marco Estrada, Trevor Cahill, Yu Darvish, Chris Sale, and Reynaldo Lopez

1. Marco Estrada

RHP Marco Estrada of the Oakland Athletics is off to a good start, so it seems. After taking a closer look, however, it became clear that “smoke and mirrors” are probably at play. His 2.45 ERA and 0.82 WHIP (in 2 GS / 11 IP) are undoubtedly attractive, but other ERA indicators give off the opposite impression…

  • FIP (all stats per FanGraphs): 5.48
  • xFIP: 7.45
  • SIERA: 7.44

Estrada’s walk rate remains strong (1.64 BB/9), but he’s fooling nobody with his pitches (3.27 K/9; his changeup has remained effective though [19.2 SwStr%]) and has generated ground balls at a minuscule rate (13.9%), while also conceding 2 HRs.

The two opponents he faced were the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels (pretty shallow lineup aside from the best player in the game — Mike Trout).

Not to mention his avg. fastball velocity has dropped 1.2 MPH (88.5 to 87.3) dating from last year.

His Hard Hit % (per baseball savant) ranks in the 20th percentile and his xBA (estimated batting average per baseball savant) ranks in the 45th percentile.

2. Trevor Cahill

The Los Angeles Angels signed RHP Trevor Cahill as FA this offseason. He was coming off a solid season (last year) in which he put up a 3.76 ERA in over 100 innings as a member of the Athletics’ rotation. Cahill disappointed in his Angels debut though, surrendering 4 ERs in 6 IP against his former team (the A’s). His GB rate was only 19.0% (last year, he coaxed GBs at an impressive 53.4% frequency), and he gave up 2 long balls.

Photo: AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

What is most concerning is the fact that his avg. FB velocity was down big time (lost 1.3 MPH from last year — 92.4 to 91.1). It is important to note that Cahill only threw 10 FBs (got 3 swings and misses).

Cahill’s off-speed pitches were also lacking (2019 curveball SwStr%: 4.2 vs 2018 curveball SwStr%: 13.6; 2019 changeup SwStr%: 11.8 vs 2018 SwStr%: 21.4) in lethality.

3. Yu Darvish

The Chicago Cubs are bound to find themselves in a tight division race (Brewers and Christian Yelich are looking to bring home another NL Central title, and the Cardinals have a good team in their own right [the Reds and Pirates are decent as well]). Darvish’s 1st start of 2019 couldn’t have gone any worse. He lasted just 2 innings, and he allowed 3 earned runs and a HR against the Texas Rangers.

Darvish walked a whopping 7 batters, and his FB velocity wasn’t there (2018 avg. FB velocity: 94.8 mph vs 2019 avg. FB velocity: 92.6). There is a chance that his injuries (tendinitis in his right triceps) from last year are still influencing his performance on the mound.

4. Chris Sale

Red Sox ace starting pitcher Chris Sale had an awful start on opening day…

  • IP: 3
  • H: 6
  • ER: 7
  • HR: 3
  • BB: 2
  • K: 4

and to add insult to injury, his avg. FB velocity was very low (92.8 mph vs 95.7 mph last year). Last year, when he made regular starts from 3/29 – 7/27, his avg. FB velocity was 96.0 mph. Due to left shoulder inflammation, the Red Sox placed him on the 10-day-DL. In his first start back, (8/12), his avg. FB velocity was 98.4 mph. He pitched remarkably; the Orioles managed 1 hit in 5 innings (Sale kept them scoreless and fanned 12 batters!). Nonetheless, Sale was put on the 10-day-DL (once again for left shoulder inflammation). When he returned in September, that’s when things started to fall apart (3.75 ERA in 4 appearances)…

1st start back: avg. FB velocity – 96.4 mph

2nd: 94.4 (-2.0)

3rd: 93.3 (-1.1)

4th: 90.1 (-3.2)

Photo: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

This is something to really keep an eye on, as the effectiveness of Sale’s FB is entirely contingent on its velocity (as it is with the vast majority of pitchers)…

92 MPH fastball: 8.7 SwStr% (per Jeff Zimmerman of RotoGraphs)

95 MPH fastball: 13.8 SwStr%

5. Reynaldo Lopez

Chicago White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez pitched very poorly in his first start of the year versus the Royals. He conceded 4 ERs and walked 4 batters in just 4 IP, striking out only a pair. Reynaldo Lopez generates GBs infrequently (2018 GB rate: 33.0% and 1st start of 2019: 26.7%) as well.

His four-seam FB (which didn’t get very many whiffs last year: 6.8% SwStr) lost 3.2 mph (95.6 to 92.4). The results on his four-seam FB from this weekend were not pretty — 1.7% SwStr — yet Lopez still threw it 2/3 of the time.

Thanks for reading.

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