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Bogfella's Notebook: Hochevar Out of Synch

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

For more than 25 years, pitching guru Brad "Bogfella" Johnson has provided insightful evaluation and analysis of pitchers to a wide variety of fantasy baseball websites, webcasts and radio broadcasts. He joined RotoWire in 2011 with his popular Bogfella's Notebook.


A note to readers of Bogfella's Notebook: This weekly Notebook is YOUR forum for discussion and analysis of all things pitching. That's right, FORUM. I check several times daily for comments and questions, whether it's a pitcher you are considering adding or a trade you might offer; bring it up in the Comments section, and the other readers and I will weigh in. Your questions and comments will always get a response. Additionally, as a service to my readers, I post regular UPDATES in the Comments to make sure you are always aware of the latest developments on the mound, so check back all week. I want to thank all of my regular readers, and I want to encourage everyone to post their comments and questions. That interaction is what makes the Notebook both fun and informative! Now let's get started with this week's edition by taking a look at a few recent performances; some good, and some bad:

Some Arms Who Have Made Us Take Notice:

Ross Detwiler (WAS) - I have been touting Detwiler as a comer for years, and it would appear he has finally arrived. He is a part of an amazingly productive Nationals rotation. He has developed very good command of his full arsenal, especially a knee-buckling curveball which has become perhaps his most reliable weapon, and he has the velocity on his fastball to make everything off-speed all that much better. He generates a few swinging strikes, and that curveball results in a high percentage of groundballs leading to a fair WHIP and respectable strikeout total. So what can hold him back? There's the fantasy concern. Chien-Ming Wang will be back from rehab soon and the rotation in Washington will be crowded. Detwiler has experience pitching in relief, and strange as it might seem, they might actually ask him to go back to the bullpen. It would be a poor choice given his long term upside, but it could happen. Recommendation: Personally, I find it hard to believe the Nationals would make such a move given his success, and more importantly his higher potential for contributing far into the future, but there is that risk. Strasburg's looming innings limit and the ever-possible injuries should keep him in or close to the rotation. He's worth the risk, especially in keeper leagues where he should be a fixture for a long time.

Jake Arrieta (BAL) - Baltimore is generally a tough place to pitch - especially when the dangerous lineups of the AL East parade through Camden Yards. Earlier this spring, I predicted Arrieta would be the Orioles best starting pitcher in 2012, and I based that on some very favorable signs I saw last year before elbow tenderness first darkened his statistical line, and then prematurely ended his season. He uses a 4-seam fastball, and a 2-seam fastball with sink. In addition he has a respectable slider and curve to go with a still improving change. His velocity and speed variation is strong with his 4-seamer in the mid 90s and the curve as low as the high 70s, although a bit bigger gap between his change and fastball could be helpful. That said, tell me if you've heard this before. With his repertoire it all comes down to command and that is developing nicely. When he can keep that fastball spotted, and throw the change with a little more frequency as he becomes more confident in the outcome, he is capable of taking the next step up on the developmental ladder. Until then there will be some rough stretches - it's still the AL East - and shorter outings due to higher pitch counts, but he deserves a rotation spot even in most mixed leagues. Recommendation: There is progress being made here, and the Orioles are convincing themselves that they can win. He will have off nights, but he can help teams in deeper leagues, and is a solid keeper target.

Kyle Drabek (TOR) - Drabek is one of the pitchers I have been asked about most often so far this season. It's understandable, he has made such a dramatic turnaround from the disaster that was 2011. People want to know which is the "real" Drabek. Getting right to the point, I won't promise he will have the same results he has enjoyed for the first month of 2012, but I do think he is quite capable of being a solid starter, now and going forward. He is a prime example of why advanced metrics - the name often given to combining various statistics to create formulas that will help predict results - don't always tell the truth. Drabek's stats in 2011 would suggest a career in the minor leagues would be his ceiling. Unfortunately, while they can pretty well demonstrate the past, they don't tell you what will happen in 2012 if some things are altered - things like a smoother delivery, and even more importantly mix and sequencing. For example, Drabek has renewed composure, and that has had a positive impact on his overall command. He has increased the use of his fastball, and significantly reduced his use of a cutter, a pitch he often missed with last year. Recommendation: This guy was the centerpiece of the deal that sent Roy Halladay to Philadelphia. There was a very good reason the Phillies turned down many offers where he was included prior to that. He was probably a bit overhyped, as I see his ceiling being a #2 rather than an ace, but he might even exceed that. If he maintains the composure, he'll be effective.

Luke Hochevar (KC) - Sometimes things go south very quickly, and so it has been with Hochevar. He really looked sharp during the second half of last year, and heading into spring there was renewed optimism for the former # 1 overall pick. So, what happened? After watching him this past week, he is no longer commanding his pitches, no finish, shortened stride, little or no life, and everything is flat. It's purely speculation on my part, but I have seen it happen many times before - this could be lingering effects of the bruised ankle he suffered a couple of weeks ago. And, it may not even hurt any more. Pitching mechanics are incredibly sensitive. The slightest alteration can have a devastating impact (or can result in an equally dramatic improvement if the change has a purpose), and compensating for an injury is one of the most common causes of a pitcher "losing it" which is one reason pitchers are often shut down with even minor aches and pains. A few days off is far preferable tho being forced to break newly acquired bad habits. This may or may not be a contributing factor, but Hochevar is officially a mess just now. Recommendation: Is the ankle injury causing this meltdown? It's difficult for anyone to say other than Hochevar, and perhaps the Royals pitching coach and trainers. From a fantasy perspective, the bottom line is he is completely out of synch now, and he should be out of your rotation until he shows he's back.

A.J. Burnett (PIT) People understandably often have a hard time forgetting the best performances of a well-know pitcher. Unfortunately, that can sometimes be a fantasy nightmare. Burnett is an excellent example of a once formidable power pitcher who is having a very difficult time adjusting to pitching without his power arsenal. If they hang around long enough, every power pitcher faces this transition at some point. Some handle it very well, gradually adjusting as their power wanes. With others, it happens more suddenly, and trying to come up with a formula that works when the blazing fastball isn't there can be elusive. Burnett had a couple of solid outings this year, and then a meltdown. He won't be as bad as that one, but he is unlikely to be what he was. Recommendation: There will be good days, but I am doubtful they will be common enough to make Burnett a reliable fantasy starter. The transition could still happen, and he could become a reliable guy once more, but it has been a long time coming, and it's not really any closer to being a reality. Pass on him.

Endgame Odyssey:

It was yet another turbulent week in the closer community. In Miami, Heath Bell has lost his job for the time being, and Steve Cishek will probably be the primary replacement with Edward Mujica also a candidate. The White Sox through everyone a curve with the naming of former starter Chris Sale as closer while Hector Santiago moves to middle relief (and loses any and all fantasy value). The inevitable has finally happened with the Dodgers as they have named Kenley Jansen to replace Jay Guerra as the team's primary closer. Huston Street also joined the disabled list, hopefully for only a couple of weeks, and the Padres will probably try Andrew Cashner in the end game while he's out. Luke Gregerson and even Dale Thayer are possible alternatives if Cashner can't find the strike zone. In Tampa Bay, so far Fernando Rodney is making it look easy but don't be surprised if he still struggles at some point, and lefty Jacob McGee sneaks into the picture. While lefty Scott Downs has done an acceptable job since stepping in for Jordan Walden in Anaheim, he limped off the mound Sunday. The Angels just acquired Ernesto Frieri who has more of a closer's profile than Downs, so he just might end up getting a few save chances - perhaps even long term.

Kid Watch:

Checking in on promising young arms is one of my favorite pastimes, so be sure to check this Kid Watch feature of the Notebook to keep tabs on kids on their way up. With the season now into its second month, teams are more likely to start considering kids to replace early season mistakes in their rotations. It might seem like this is becoming a Trevor Bauer watch, and maybe it should be. He is overmatching the competition at Double-A, at least other than a disturbingly high walk rate. If Pat Corbin struggles in his next start or two, there will be more calls for Bauer to get promoted. As mentioned last week, the Mets Chris Schwinden isn't the answer, but Zack Wheeler is currently on the DL and they say they won't rush Matt Harvey. If they change their minds, Harvey could be an interesting fantasy proposition. The Royals Jake Odorizzi has had an up and down season so far but he struck out 11 for the second time in 2012 last weekend. Kansas City has some talented young arms, but I would put him at the top of the list. Speaking of overmatching, Jameson Taillon has to be close to a ticket to Double-A. The Pirates are now allowing him to stretch out a bit as he has gone six innings in each of his last two outings. Both Taillon and 2011 #1 overall pick Gerrit Cole are at High-A Bradenton which has to be a real treat for their opponents.

Again, is there a pitcher you would like to see analyzed in an upcoming Notebook? Throw the name out and I'll see what I can do. In fact, I would like to remind readers to check back often as each week's Notebook will feature updates in the comments section on evolving mound situations. And, as always, keep in mind this is an interactive forum, so your comments are always appreciated. I will respond to any comments or questions as soon as possible. Thanks!

For up to the minute updates on all things pitching, be sure to follow @bogfella on Twitter! Get your pitching questions answered, and my take on all the mound related happenings!