Welcome back to Week Three of the GPS Location Report. My in-depth dive into location-based analysis for pitchers. In the first edition, we looked into Dylan Bundy and he promptly went out a threw a gem. The two starts after have not been as dominating but Bundy has still taken a step forward and is someone who is a must-start in fantasy leagues.

Last week I looked into the struggles of Jose Berrios, mainly due to the poor results of his fastball. The bad numbers were mostly deserved based on location and he seemed to take a different approach this time out. The right-hander used more breaking balls than fastballs and had his best outing of the season. Hopefully, this week my dive into a budding Marlins’ ace leads to a similarly dominant performance.

 

Pablo Lopez

 

Making his debut back in 2018, Pablo Lopez looked like he was talented enough to be a serviceable back end of the rotation type of pitcher. He didn’t dominate with strikeouts and had some homer issues but he was able to limit walks enough to be somewhat successful. 2019 looked the same on the surface but a poor LOB% rate led to an ERA over five. His peripherals seemed to view him as the same pitcher as he was in 2018. However, my StuffERA metric seemed to be more of a fan of him than FIP was. The main thing that it saw was a pitcher who had a small ability to suppress wOBA.

This year, Lopez has taken a massive step forward. The two biggest changes with respect to his underlying numbers are a big jump in Ks and a big jump in GB rate. Both of these are significant improvements and take Lopez into special air. Among the 19 pitchers with over 50% GB rates (Lopez is at 60), he is one of six pitchers with a K/9 over 9. The first question to ask is what has changed.

 

chart (1)

 

As we can see from the chart above the changes are pretty jarring. Lopez is throwing a ton more change-ups and has traded some fastballs for sinkers. That last point likely helps to explain the big jump in GB%. However, not much seems to explain the change in strikeouts. Typically, the first thing I like to look at when it comes to big changes in K rate is changes in expected whiffs according to my model. However, Lopez does not appear to be any different here. Typically, Lopez posts an expected swinging strike rate of around 10% and this has not changed at all. Yet his actual observed swinging strike rate is 14%.

Typically, changes this massive are not normal however, I think the pitch mix change helps to explain this. Sinker ballers grade poorly in the expected whiff model due to the location of sinkers. Fastballs up in the zone tend to lead to more whiffs and down in the zone lower expected whiff numbers. Sinkers by nature are thrown down. Lopez is also throwing a ton more change-ups though. As you can see from the chart below he has been elite with his locations.

 

lopez

 

Almost every single one of his change-ups thrown has been in the red zones, which are high whiff locations. Among the over 100 pitchers who have thrown at least 50 offspeed pitches, Lopez has the 19th highest expected swinging strike rate on those pitches. However, the actual swinging strike rate on the pitch is the 5th highest in the same sample. So this leads me to believe that the pitch itself is elite for Lopez. The increased usage of the pitch can be the explanation for the massive jump in the actual observed swinging strike rate compared to the expected results. This jump coupled with the likely drop in expected rate due to the increased sinker usage may have led to his expected swinging strike rates appearing identical to previous seasons.

As long as Lopez continues to throw his change-up in all counts and can continue to generate ground balls through the use of his sinker I think he may be a guy that we are considering as an SP3 next offseason. This is a truly legit improvement backed up by impressive underlying numbers.

 

Stuff ERA Leaders

 

All stats are updated as of Sunday, August 22nd. 

Stuff-ERA Leaders
Min 250 Pitches
Pitcher Stuff-ERA
Shane Bieber 2.4524
Dylan Bundy 2.8199
Jacob deGrom 2.8410
Yu Darvish 2.9191
Zac Gallen 2.9434
Dinelson Lamet 3.0473
Aaron Nola 3.0594
Corbin Burnes 3.1108
Kenta Maeda 3.1200
Max Fried 3.1951
Trevor Bauer 3.1998
Frankie Montas 3.2833
Taylor Widener 3.3389
Lance Lynn 3.3468
Walker Buehler 3.3788
Gerrit Cole 3.3961
Jalen Beeks 3.4155
Zach Plesac 3.4163
Carlos Carrasco 3.4458
Zack Greinke 3.4718
Clayton Kershaw 3.5060
Sonny Gray 3.5365
Max Scherzer 3.5376
Zach Davies 3.5403
Jesus Luzardo 3.5447
Tyler Anderson 3.6170
Brandon Bielak 3.6182
Kyle Hendricks 3.6233
Dallas Keuchel 3.6420
Ryan Yarbrough 3.6493
Pablo Lopez 3.6510
Antonio Senzatela 3.6512
Spencer Turnbull 3.6952
Alex Cobb 3.7023
Cal Quantrill 3.7059
Julio Urias 3.7096
Lance McCullers Jr. 3.7139
Chad Kuhl 3.7212
Yusei Kikuchi 3.7221
Jose Berrios 3.7302
Blake Snell 3.7378
Touki Toussaint 3.7584
Hyun Jin Ryu 3.7708
Kevin Gausman 3.7818
Zack Wheeler 3.7848
Josh Lindblom 3.7936
Elieser Hernandez 3.8068
David Peterson 3.8304
Dustin May 3.8451
Kyle Wright 3.8516
Randy Dobnak 3.8517
Merrill Kelly 3.8849
Zack Godley 3.8861
German Marquez 3.8946
Lucas Giolito 3.8951
Luis Castillo 3.9032
Framber Valdez 3.9093
Mike Clevinger 3.9377
Justus Sheffield 3.9506
Grant Dayton 3.9627
Tanner Roark 3.9680
Andrew Heaney 4.0012
Brady Singer 4.0016
Colten Brewer 4.0165
Martin Perez 4.0284
Aaron Civale 4.0410
Wade LeBlanc 4.0452
Logan Webb 4.0475
Matt Shoemaker 4.0592
Joe Musgrove 4.0634
Patrick Corbin 4.0877
Brandon Woodruff 4.0901
Garrett Richards 4.1035
Jordan Montgomery 4.1063
Alec Mills 4.1133
Chris Bassitt 4.1136
Kyle Freeland 4.1174
Tommy Milone 4.1222
Marco Gonzales 4.1427
Tyler Glasnow 4.1446
Danny Duffy 4.1614
Robbie Ray 4.1668
Taijuan Walker 4.1729
Johnny Cueto 4.1894
Griffin Canning 4.2158
James Paxton 4.2224
Erick Fedde 4.2252
Jon Gray 4.2261
Alex Young 4.2295
Asher Wojciechowski 4.2327
Trevor Williams 4.2334
Cristian Javier 4.2400
Ivan Nova 4.2539
Nick Margevicius 4.2597
Patrick Sandoval 4.2674
Dylan Cease 4.2736
Adrian Houser 4.2855
Charlie Morton 4.2924
Trevor Richards 4.2974
Kyle Gibson 4.3017