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Digging Deep for Pitching Help: Brandon McCarthy

Searching for pitching on the waiver wire? You may not have to look much further. 


Today Jareds.Got.Moxy takes a closer look at Brandon McCarthy from a fantasy baseball perspective, and believes that he warrants consideration for significantly more ownership in deeper leagues. Follow him on Twitter @jaredsgotmoxy


Brandon McCarthy has been a pretty effective pitcher since making his debut back in 2005 with the White Sox. He has a career 4.19 ERA and 1.309 WHIP across 905 innings (140 of which were starts) – respectable numbers for a back of the rotation starter. He’s always exhibited a considerable amount of upside, but hasn’t fully reached his potential in the time he’s spent at the MLB level.

With he was with Oakland from 2011-2012, McCarthy had his best 2 years. Across both seasons he kept his ERA below 3.35 and his WHIP under 1.26 across a combined 281.2 innings. He moved over to Arizona in 2013 and struggled to the tune of a 5-11 record and a 4.53 ERA, carrying the struggles over to the first part of 2014 where he went 3-10 with a 5.01 ERA before being shipped off to the Yankees 2 weeks ago for Vidal Nuno.

Why is this relevant – and why should we care about a guy that had a 5+ ERA this year? Let’s look a little deeper.

Standing in at 6 foot 7 inches, he’s always had the unique ability to leverage his height to generate tremendous sinking action on his fastball – not to mention being fairly intimidating to opposing batters standing that tall and only 60 feet away. This alone is one of the reasons he was labeled a top prospect in the minor leagues before making his debut in 2005 at the tender age of 21. Now a grizzled veteran at 30 years old, he’s a much more experienced pitcher and has had a chance to mature considerably.

Why is this important? Simply put, his velocity has increased significantly over the years and he’s moved from a predominantly 4-seam fastball pitcher to now relying heavily on his sinker. So – he’s getting smarter with his repertoire and is focusing more on getting guys out with tougher pitches to square up. Check.

Now let’s look at a few eye-popping numbers from a velocity perspective.

Year4-seam fastball (mph)sinker (mph)
201089.690.8
201494.794.0

Source: brooksbaseball.net

A spike in velocity like what we’ve seen with McCarthy above is very rare for a pitcher. It certainly doesn’t happen very often, but it’s something to take note of. I can’t say exactly what has helped him bump this up, but it’s usually safe to say it’s a function of improved mechanics. We’ve seen similar velocity increases in pitchers the last couple years like J.A. Happ and Anibal Sanchez – but not as significant as that of McCarthy.

What’s even more important to look at from a “leading indicator” perspective is that McCarthy has exhibited the one of the biggest gaps in xFIP and ERA among starting pitchers in the majors:

  • 2014 xFIP: 2.87
  • 2014 ERA: 4.63
  • Gap: 1.76

That’s almost a 2 run difference – a function of an absurdly high BABIP against (.347) despite career-best K/9 (7.72), a rock solid BB/9 (1.54) and the highest HR/FB rate he’s ever experienced (18.9%).

Closing Thoughts

Added velocity of 3-5 mph on his 4-seam/sinker combo, a career high K-rate, unlucky BABIP and HR-rates and a move to a team in contention for the playoffs. Put all this together and we may have a significant second half sleeper on our hands. He’s owned in only 7% of Yahoo! leagues – so there’s a very good chance he’s available for you to scoop up if you’re in need of some pitching help.

With the news C.C. Sabathia is going to be out for the rest of 2014, Masahiro Tanaka out with arm issues, and the likes of Shane Greene, Chase Whitley and David Phelps manning 60% of the rotation at the moment – the Yankees have no choice but to trot McCarthy out there every 5th game as long as he stays healthy. While he’s had trouble staying on the mound over the course of his career, he’s in good shape right now and is on track to pitch more than 200 innings.

If you’re in 14 team mixed leagues or larger and in need of a starter, McCarthy is certainly someone to consider rolling the dice with. He’ll likely get another 12 or so starts down the stretch and could piece together something in the range of 6-7 wins, a sub-3.75 ERA, 7.5 K/9 and sub 1.28 WHIP. I prefer him to the likes of Carlos Martinez, Travis Wood, Ubaldo Jimenez, Nathan Eovaldi, Edinson Volquez and Jorge De La Rosa – all who are owned in more than 2x the number of leagues as McCarthy.

About Jared Kwart

Jared is the Co-Founder of Moxyball and is an avid fantasy sports competitor & author. Specializing in DFS Baseball, Football & Basketball, with thousands of dollars in career DFS earnings. Active player on FanDuel, DraftKings & FantasyDraft. Annual NFBC high stakes league participant. Loves his wife, his job, his dog, pizza, burgers, beer, sushi, baseball & golf.

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