Risers & Fallers: the Jack Flaherty renaissance, Royce Lewis is healthy and more

  • For this week’s edition of risers and fallers, we’ve got a six pack of players – three rising, three falling. We have the Jack Flaherty renaissance, Royce Lewis’ return to good health and the Jurickson Profar breakout in San Diego on the risers side of things. For the fallers, we have is-this-it with I-turn-35-in-September, Mr. George Springer, “Is it just bad luck?” Pablo Lopez and the infield duo if Mookie Betts and Marcus Semien.

    RISERS

    Before the season started, if you had told me that Jack Flaherty would be one of the best arms in baseball and form quite possibly the best starting pitching duo with Tarik Skubal, I’d have called you crazy. Mr. 6.75 ERA in 34.2 innings for the Orioles from August until the end of the season? Mr. One-Year-Fourteen-Million-Prove-It-To-Me-Deal, that Jack Flaherty? And oh, look how foolish I would have seemed in hindsight. Flaherty has been but elite for the Tigers. The long time Cardinal starter is currently sporting a career high strikeout rate (11.64 K/9) and a career low walk rate (1.24 BB/9). The strikeout rate is supported by an elite swinging strike rate (14.7%, fourth amongst all qualified starters), a great chase rate (32.3%), elite whiff rate (34.9%) and first-pitch strike rate (62.3%). He doesn’t have much, if any, luck baked in from his strand rate (74.5%) or BABIP (0.309), though he has been a little unlucky with the home runs (17.3% HR/FB, 1.11 HR/9). But, since he limits base runners, the home runs haven’t hurt him at all. He’s gone from a six-pitch to a five-pitch arsenal, completing dropping his ineffective cutter and leaning heavily on his fastball-slider combo, with an extremely effective knuckle-curve as his third pitch, while rarely throwing his change up and sinker. It’s tough to believe that a 28 year old pitcher in the midst of a career year will maintain the pace the entire season, but Flaherty has limited hard hits, does not allow a ton of barrels, has an above average ground ball rate and the ERA estimators all believe he’s actually been a bit UNLUCKY and that his true ERA should be around 2.60 or lower. It’s going to be awfully tough for the Tigers to re-sign him this offseason, when he may end up being the youngest top arm available in free agency.

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