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Sport Five MLB pitchers who have taken a step backward in 2018

16:05  14 september  2018
16:05  14 september  2018 Source:

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Baseball is a wonderful game, but it also knows exactly how to humble just about every ballplayer at one time or another. That instance may be a singular moment in a game or span a number of games, but it always happens.

The following five pitchers all encountered certain levels of success in 2017 — whether it was overall or in particular situations. Some were more pronounced than others, but they now all have one thing in common — they’ve struggled in 2018.

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Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox

a baseball player is getting ready to hit the ball © Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Although Lucas Giolito’s first taste of big league action with the Chicago White Sox went well in 2017, his stats showed he was ripe for regression. And, boy, did regression ever hit.

The young right-hander posted a 2.38 ERA in 45.1 frames last season, but it was accompanied by a 4.49 SIERA. He didn’t strike out a ton of guys (19.0 percent rate), but cut down his walk rate to 6.7 percent, which was good. The unsustainable stats fell in other categories, like BABIP (.189) and strand rate (92.0 percent).

While Giolito’s homers allowed per nine innings rate is on pace to improve for the third consecutive year, nothing else has gone right. He’s posted a 5.76 ERA to go along with a 5.31 SIERA, 16.6 percent strikeout rate, 11.5 percent walk rate, .260 BABIP allowed, and a 66.0 percent strand rate in 159.1 innings.

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What once looked like one of the best free-agent classes in MLB history suddenly doesn’t look so alluring. Clayton Kershaw was unquestionably the best pitcher in baseball and looked as if he would be in Both have taken a step back but are still good enough to at least fill part-time starting roles.

He currently has the worst ERA and fWAR (-0.1) among qualified starters, and has once again struggled to throw first-pitch strikes (55.5 percent in ’16, 62.0 percent in ’17, 55.5 percent in ’18).

Zack Godley, Arizona Diamondbacks

a baseball player throwing a ball © Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight season, Zack Godley has been a significant contributor to the Diamondbacks’ playoff hopes. While his 14 wins are a single-season career high, he hasn’t been nearly as dominant as he was in 2017. It’s hard to say that a year in which he’s accumulated 2.9 fWAR is a step back, but that gets a bit easier when it’s accompanied by a 4.67 ERA and 38.2 percent hard-hit rate allowed.

The right-hander’s curveball continues to be a huge part of his arsenal — his usage of that pitch has increased in each of the last four seasons and is currently sitting at 40.6 percent. Despite his success with it, Godley’s ERA has actually gotten worse between the first half (4.61) to second half (4.78). His SIERA has dropped by a full run (4.42 to 3.42), though.

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Suddenly, “ five -and-dive” is the norm, rather than a badge of pitching dishonor. And the ace is more and more an endangered species. “I think those horses – and that stable is becoming smaller – that can withstand 200-plus innings, they’re invaluable,” says St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux.

Some of this improvement can be seen in his strikeout and walk rates. Before the midsummer classic, Godley owned a 22.8 percent strikeout rate and 11.2 percent walk rate, but those numbers have improved to 26.8 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively, since the middle of July. So while the overall numbers haven’t gotten better, Godley’s peripherals provide some hope.

Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals

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It’s been a tough first year of the Kansas City Royals’ rebuild. They’re currently occupying the American League Central basement and appear likely to lose 100 games for the first time since 2006. One of the few bright spots on this roster (i.e. potential trade chips) was supposed to be southpaw starter Danny Duffy, but that also hasn’t worked out very well.

A shoulder injury has already shut the hurler down for the remainder of 2018, and it was probably for the best. After posting a career-high 3.5 fWAR with a 3.81 ERA, 21.4 percent strikeout rate, and 6.7 percent walk rate last year, those numbers all worsened to 1.0, 4.88, 20.4 percent, and 10.1 percent, respectively, through 155 innings pitched.

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There was a noticeable shift in Duffy’s pitch mix, as well. Fresh off throwing his slider at a career-high 29.4 percent clip in 2017, that number dipped down to 16.3 percent. While he threw his fastball with more frequency, there was also a spike in curveball usage (0.5 percent in ’17 to 9.4 percent in ’18).

The lefty did see success with his curveball (49 wRC+), but the effectiveness of his slider has also decreased in the process (71 wRC+ in ’17, 150 wRC+ in ’18).

Luke Weaver, St. Louis Cardinals

a man in a baseball uniform throwing a ball © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals have surged toward the playoffs over the past month or so and have benefitted from their young starting rotation. Luke Weaver’s 2017 performance forced his way into that conversation at the start of this season, but he’s done the opposite during his sophomore campaign.

Weaver’s plate-discipline and contact rate stats haven’t changed much, but his zone percentage has dropped four percentage points compared to last year, and his hard-hit rate allowed has risen 10 percentage points.

He’s struggled greatly at home, which is actually nothing new. Since debuting in 2016, his ERA at Busch Stadium has never been below 4.72, and it’s currently up at 5.52 this season. The difference has been his performance on the road. After posting a 2.77 ERA in 26 innings as a visitor in 2017, that number has climbed to 4.25 through 72 innings this year.

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Tyler Chatwood, Chicago Cubs

a baseball player holding a bat © Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The only thing you really need to know about Tyler Chatwood is that just about anyone can draw a walk against him. How else can you explain a 17.5 percent strikeout rate and 19.6 percent walk rate through 103.2 innings?

Chicago pounced on him this past offseason in the free agent market, which looked like a smart move based on his home/road splits as a member of the Colorado Rockies, but things just haven’t panned out. Among pitchers with 100 innings of work, Chatwood owns the worst walk rate and the highest SIERA (6.28). It’s not particularly close, either.

What’s the biggest issue with his command? It seems as if the righty’s fastball is causing all kinds of problems. Opposing hitters have posted a 172 wRC+ against it, but just a .377 slugging percentage. Virtually all of the offensive value comes from the astronomical .539 on-base percentage, which has been boosted up by an equally astronomical 33.3 percent walk rate.

Related slideshow: 2018 MLB season (Provided by photo services) 

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