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Every single year, it happens without fail. For one reason or another, countless players have wildly different second-halves despite the only thing being different is the date. While second-half slumps are difficult to predict, there are some players that have a much higher chance of seeing their fantasy value plummet after the halfway point. Last week we took a look at the hitters that are most likely to drop off, let’s take a look at the most likely pitchers to see prolonged second-half struggles.
Patrick Corbin: 9-0, 2.28 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 74 K/23 BB, 5 HR
Corbin has been sensational in his first full Major League season and remains undefeated as June winds down. While it’s been great to watch the DBacks rotation come together, there’s something peculiar about a guy owning a 2.28 ERA and 1.01 WHIP after putting up a 4.91 ERA and 1.36 WHIP as a starter last season. Sure, guys improve on their rookie seasons all the time but Corbin was never a top 100 prospect and while he did have a 2.84 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 13 games last season before being called up, his minor league career ERA stands at 3.78 and WHIP at 1.27.
He’s never been this good, not even in the minors, so what gives?
We don’t know much about Corbin since he’s only been around for 200 innings or so but we know he pitches to contact. Last season he allowed 9.8 H/9 and over his minor league career he allowed 9.1 H/9. This season he is giving up just 6.9 H/9 while all of his other numbers have stayed virtually identical. If anything else had changed, I would write it off on a change in style but with his home run, walks, and strikeouts almost the same, this tells me the H/9 are going to level out. Once they do, the WHIP will return to around 1.25-1.30 where it’s been his entire career and once that happens his ERA will return to 3.00+. I’m not saying he will pull a full Ubaldo Jimenez but don’t expect this pace to last.
Fearless Prediction: 16-6, 3.20 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 160 K
Travis Wood: 5-6, 2.74 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 64 K/28 BB, 6 HR
We may not know much about Corbin but after 75 starts in the bigs and 136 starts in the minors, we know plenty about Wood. A sub-3.00 ERA pitcher he isn’t. Coming into this season, Wood’s career ERA was 4.22 and career WHIP was 1.25. Over his minor league career, he owns a career 3.55 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. So what’s different this season?
His H/9 is down from a very solid 7.7 to a ridiculous 6.3. His HR/9 is down from an unsustainable 1.4 last season to 0.6 this year. Let’s assume the hits don’t level out too much, he’s still at just six homers through 92 IP after allowing 25 over 156 IP last season. Over his last two seasons in Triple-A, he owned a 1.1 HR/9 which is who I think he is, somewhere in between this season and last season. I think he can still end the year with solid looking numbers but they’ll be a far cry from what he’s doing now.
Fearless Prediction: 10-14, 3.78 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 145 K
Ervin Santana: 5-5, 2.64 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 77 K/15 BB, 14 HR
I definitely expected Ervin to bounce back this season and he certainly has put up the best numbers of his career. What he hasn’t done is improve his ability to keep the ball in the park and once he levels out and starts allowing his more typical amount of baserunners, those homers are going to hurt a lot more.
His H/9 has fallen from 8.3 to 7.5 while his BB/9 has fallen from 3.1 to a stunning 1.4. While the HR/9 is considerably better than his league-leading 2.0/9 last season, it’s still higher than it was in previous seasons. We know Ervin isn’t a command pitcher. His owns a 2.8 BB/9 over his career and falls in that range regularly. Even if the new ballpark is helping him avoid some hits, his walk total will most definitely spike which is going to make his 14 homers and counting bring home a lot more runners. His WHIP is currently at 0.98. Pitchers with 1.28 career WHIPs don’t suddenly turn into Adam Wainwright.
Fearless Prediction: 11-11, 3.70 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 156 K
Jeff Locke: 6-1, 2.01 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 63 K/39 BB, 5 HR
After putting up a 5.82 ERA and 1.53 WHIP over his first 51 innings in the Majors, Locke has come out strong this year and has taken everyone by surprise. Guys that take the league by surprise are rarely long-term investments.
I have no doubt that Locke is a solid pitcher but when your Major League production is so much better than anything you did over 145 starts in the minors it raises some eyebrows. Pitchers with career 3.60 ERAs and 1.26 WHIPs in the minors rarely come to the Majors and become 2.00 ERA guys. Certainly Locke improved as he progressed through Triple-A but ultimately the hits will catch up to him and that WHIP will level out and send the ERA in a similar direction. His H/9 is currently at 6.2, unsustainable for most pitchers but especially so for pitchers who allowed 10.1 H/9 coming into this season and 8.9/9 over his seven-year minor league career.
Fearless Prediction: 13-8, 3.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 150 K
Mike Leake: 7-3, 2.64 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 62 K/19 BB, 7 HR
While Locke has spent most of his career in the minors, Leake went straight from the draft to the bigs and has only ever started one minor league game. He’s been a fairly consistent, solid pitcher so when his ERA drops from 4.58 last season to 2.64 this season it deserves a closer look.
Most of Leake’s numbers are actually pretty consistent with what he’s done. His 1.22 WHIP isn’t that much of a far cry from his career 1.31, his 9.0 H/9 is right there with his 9.5 H/9 over his career, and his 6.3 K/1.9 BB is almost identical to his 6.1 K/2.3 BB over his career.
There is one glaring difference though. Home runs. First, we know that Mike Leake loves to allow home runs, he allowed a 1.2 HR/9 in 2010, 1.2 HR/9 in 2011, and 1.3 HR/9 in 2012. We also know that even if he didn’t love to allow home runs, Cincinnati is one of the most notoriously hitter-friendly parks out there. That all tells me that Leake’s current 0.7 HR/9 pace is simply unsustainable. It was almost twice that last season and throughout his entire career. Balls don’t stay in the park in Cincinnati over 162 games and that number will undoubtedly level out.
Fearless Prediction: 13-8, 3.75 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 140 K
Bronson Arroyo: 6-5, 3.13 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 56 K/18 BB, 12 HR
No one on this list has a longer track record than Arroyo so you can’t help but chuckle at the idea that he might finish the year with a low-3.00 ERA. He’s only done it once and that was 2006. In his career, Arroyo owns a 4.18 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. Over his last four seasons, Arroyo owns a 4.12 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. That’s the pitcher he is and that’s the pitcher he almost always has been.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t have a statistical idea of what’s different this season because his numbers are almost identical to last year’s when he put up a 3.74 ERA. His H/9 is 8.9 (9.3 last season), his BB/9 is 1.6 (1.6 last season), and his HR/9 is 1.1 (1.2 last season). Those tiny percentage points seem to equal more than a half-run decline in ERA. This one is a bit more perplexing than most but there are few things I’m willing to bet on more than Arroyo’s ERA moving back toward the 4.00 mark over the second half.
Fearless Prediction: 13-10, 3.80 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 120 K
Scott Feldman: 6-6, 3.39 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 64 K/25 BB, 9 HR
Feldman isn’t as well recognized as Arroyo but he too has been around the league for nearly a decade. Coming into this season, he owned a 4.81 career ERA and 1.42 WHIP split between the rotation and the bullpen. His numbers weren’t much better as a starter as he owns a 4.66 ERA and 1.37 WHIP over 115 career starts. So what I’m saying is, take his and Travis Wood’s current numbers and toss them out the window because it’s not a reflection of who they are over a full 162 game season.
Feldman’s H/9 this season stands at 7.7, down from 10.1 last year and 9.4 over his career. Maybe Wrigley is helping him after he spent his entire career in Texas but it can’t be helping that much. He’s already begun his decline as he’s given up 11 runs over his last 18.1 IP and has allowed five runs in three of his last six starts. Anticipate it getting worse.
Fearless Prediction: 10-13, 4.08 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 152 K
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