As fantasy players, we shouldn’t really care about the quality of team our players come from. While most of us don’t, we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think that players from perpetually struggling teams don’t get ignored. When said players are pitchers and the perpetually struggling team plays in a notorious hitter’s park, ignoring them is even easier.
Now, Keuchel wasn’t exactly a hot sleeper coming into the year, but so what? Danny Salazar was, and he’s back riding buses in Triple-A. You have to adjust your preconceived notions when they don’t add up and right now, Keuchel is pitching way better than a fantasy afterthought.
Dallas Keuchel, 2014
As good as the total numbers are, the more recent ones are even better.
Dallas Keuchel, Last Three Starts
|5/8 @ Detroit||7.2||6||0||2||7||W||2.35||0.78|
|5/13 vs. Texas||9||7||0||0||7||W||0.00||0.78|
|5/19 @ LA Angels||8.2||5||1||2||8||W||2.08||0.69|
Actually, they’re staggering when you consider the opponents. Each of those lineups has at least one fringe (or better) future Hall of Fame player, and that doesn’t even count Mike Trout. Pitching that well against those three offenses goes a long way in validating a hot streak, doesn’t it?
So, what’s going right with Dallas Keuchel this year?
Well, Fangraphs answers a lot of those questions, so let’s see what we can figure out from there.
- He’s allowing line drives only 12.6% of the time, down from 21% in 2013 and 17.4% in 2012. So, hitters aren’t making good contact against him.
- His ground ball rate is a phenomenal 67.7%. That’s up from 55.8% in 2013 and 52.1% in 2012. When you’re pitching in a great park for homers, it’s essential that you keep the ball down. Keuchel’s doing that.
- Only 12.1% of Keuchel’s fly balls leave the park. In 2013, that number was 17.4% and in 2012, it was 15.9%.
- The use of a slider goes a long way in explaining such monumental leaps. He’s throwing the slider 24.2% of the time in 2014, up from 18.3% in 2013 and 0.2% in 2014.
That all goes a long way in explaining how a pitcher that doesn’t even average 90 MPH on his fastball can have a K/9 of 8.0 through nine starts, which isn’t exactly a minuscule sample size.
But if you haven’t added Keuchel yet, the previous starts really do you no good. What can you expect going forward?
Well, if he stays at his current pace all year, you can expect some Cy Young votes, and I don’t know that I’m quite willing to go that far. But the thing about starting high is that even with some regression built in, you can finish very well, and I do expect that.
Too much is going right to be coincidental. In addition to everything we went over above, Keuchel is also walking fewer than two hitters per nine innings, and that’s not accidental. Control is something that I think can be maintained, and that’s a big plus for him.
At the very least, Keuchel is a guy that you want to add until the hot streak stops. There’s no sense in letting a few more good starts from a hot pitcher stay in your free agent pool. Now is the time to change your preconceived notions and adjust to what’s actually happening. Dallas Keuchel has been one of baseball’s best surprises in 2014 — that’s actually happening. He should be on your fantasy team until he flattens out, if he ever does.