A few weeks ago, we took a look at some of the hitters from each league that stepped up their production big-time after the All-Star break. It’s important to note these performances, because often when a player finishes strong, it can catapult them into the following season, especially when it comes to younger players.
Let’s now examine a handful of pitchers that saw their stats trending in the right direction in the second half:
Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Giants
1st Half: 3.87 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 92/27 K/BB ratio in 104 2/3 IP
2nd Half: 2.52 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 99/19 K/BB ratio in 100 IP
Bumgarner kicked off his season in a rough way, as he posted a 6.17 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in April. But, aside from a massive one-game blowup against the Twins in June, he was really fantastic after that. Following the All-Star break, only six pitchers had more strikeouts than Bumgarner, and those pitchers were named Sabathia, Verlander, Gallardo, Greinke, Lee and Kershaw. Of that group, only Gallardo and Lee walked fewer hitters than the young lefty.
Given that Bumgarner turned just 22 in August, it’s not hard to get excited about what he could bring to the table going forward. We’re talking Kershaw-like upside.
Derek Holland, LHP, Rangers
1st Half: 4.68 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 82/41 K/BB ratio in 109 2/3 IP
2nd Half: 3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 80/26 K/BB ratio in 88 1/3 IP
You need to only look at the four shutouts Holland posted this year (a number bested only by Cliff Lee) to know about how good he can be when he’s on. During the second half, he had much fewer ups and downs than he did prior to the All-Star break. He also carried that over into a nice showing in the playoffs, highlighted by a breathtaking performance in Game 4 of the World Series where he tossed 8 1/3 scoreless innings.
If Holland’s second half and playoff performance is any indication of what can be expected from the 25-year-old southpaw going forward, then we are in for a treat. His home ballpark won’t do him any favors, but Holland is good enough to overcome that factor to become a top-shelf fantasy hurler.
Mike Leake, RHP, Reds
1st Half: 4.28 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 69/24 K/BB ratio in 94 2/3 IP
2nd Half: 3.33 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 49/14 K/BB ratio in 73 IP
Leake’s rough start to the season got him booted from the Reds’ rotation and eventually optioned to Triple-A Louisville. He really settled in upon his return, though, and was a fixture in an otherwise up-and-down Reds’ starting five for the remainder of the year. It’s especially encouraging that Leake thrived down the stretch, as he struggled with fatigue issues in his rookie season and eventually had to be shut down.
Given his modest strikeout rate and the fact that he pitches in a hitter-friendly ballpark, Leake’s upside isn’t great. But, if he can keep pitching like he did from June on this past season, there will be plenty of fantasy value here.
Luke Hochevar, RHP, Royals
1st Half: 5.46 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 60/38 K/BB ratio in 118 2/3 IP
2nd Half: 3.52 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 68/24 K/BB ratio in 79 1/3 IP
At 28 and essentially with four years of major league starting experience under his belt, it’s fair to say that Hochevar will never live up to the billing of a former No. 1 overall pick. But, he pitched well enough in the second half this season that it’s reasonable to hope he can take a step forward over a full year in 2012. You could do worse with a late-round gamble in your fantasy league.
Kenley Jansen, RHP, Dodgers
1st Half: 4.40 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 48/20 K/BB ratio in 30 2/3 IP
2nd Half: 0.78 ERA, 0.61 WHIP, 48/6 K/BB ratio in 23 IP
A former catcher, Jansen moved to the mound full-time just last season. Two things he’s shown since becoming a pitcher is that he doesn’t have much control (4.6 BB/9 rate), but when he does get the ball near the plate, the odds are pretty good that it won’t be hit (15.3 K/9 rate). The 24-year-old got off to a slow start and earned a demotion in early May, and he was shut down for a while in the second half due to an irregular heartbeat. But, he was absolutely filthy in September, sporting a nearly unfathomable 32/3 K/BB ratio over 13 2/3 innings.
Javy Guerra should have first dibs on the Dodgers’ closer gig next season given his solid work in the role this year, but Jansen is waiting in the wings and is a better bet for the ninth inning over the long haul.
Jason Motte, RHP, Cardinals
1st Half: 2.55 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 35/10 K/BB ratio in 35 1/3 IP
2nd Half: 1.93 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 28/6 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 IP
As you can see from the numbers above, Motte was quite good in the first half, as well, but he proved to be virtually unhittable down the stretch, holding opposing batters to a .152 BAA, as opposed to a .244 mark before the All-Star break. He was so good, in fact, that he wound up taking the closer role from Fernando Salas even though Salas didn’t really do anything to lose the job. Motte was also brilliant in the playoffs, as well, posting a 2.19 ERA, 0.49 WHIP and 8/1 K/BB ratio over 12 1/3 innings while coverting all five save chances.
Assuming the Cardinals don’t bring in a free agent, which isn’t expected, Motte will enter the 2012 season as the closer. If he can continue to improve his cutter to go with that high-90s fastball, there’s no reason to think he can’t become one of the better stoppers in the NL.
Rex Brothers, LHP, Rockies
1st Half: 3.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 16/11 K/BB ratio in 12 IP
2nd Half: 2.83 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 43/9 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 IP
Brothers dominated at Triple-A Colorado Springs for two months before the Rockies finally brought him up in early June. Although he went through an adjustment period, you can see from the numbers above that Brothers reined in the walks and really settled in after the All-Star break. He was particularly dominant in September with a 1.04 ERA and 14.5 K/9 rate.
Even if the Rockies end up trading Huston Street, Rafael Betancourt would be next in line for the closer role (he might actually be ahead of Street in the pecking order). But, Brothers is the team’s closer of the future and is worth a late-round fantasy pick even if he’s setting up.