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Fantasy Baseball: Five Pitchers To Cut Bait With

Recently, we analyzed five hitters you should cut bait with before it is too late. Today, it is time to turn our attention to the pitching side of things. With some leagues holding innings/games started limits, deciphering which pitchers you can trust to start for your pitching staff from those who cannot be trusted is critical in the push for first place. In my opinion, these five pitchers fall into the latter group; feel free to cut bait with them. Why do I feel this way? Let us take a closer look!

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5 Pitchers You Can Safely Drop

SP Patrick Corbin, Washington Nationals

  • Current Statistics: 116 IP, 5.74 ERA, 5.47 FIP, 17.8% K, 7.5% BB

Heading into the season, the Nationals were spending a combined $88 million on Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin. Well, Scherzer now pitches for the Dodgers, the first three years of Strasburg’s new contract will essentially be wiped out due to injuries, and Corbin has struggled mightily. I guess that explains their downfall this season?

To be honest, I’m surprised Corbin is still rostered in over 40% of fantasy leagues. On the bright side, his average fastball velocity (92.1 MPH) is about two ticks higher than it was last season. Considering that this was the main concern with him coming into the season, all is fixed, right? Nope, because baseball is weird. This is the second straight season in which his slider whiff rate is below 40%, which is significant for someone who relies on it so much. To compensate, he’s throwing slightly more fastballs (57.5% 2021, 52.1% 2020), but they have gotten hit (.403 wOBA) extremely hard.

In simple terms, Corbin was a one-trick pony, yet because that trick (his slider) was so fantastic, he got away with it. Without that pitch, he has continued to perform at a suboptimal level. At this point, it’s hard to see a solution for his woes this season. Could he get back to having a dominant slider or retool his pitch mix in the offseason? Certainly. Just don’t bank on it this season.

SP Kyle Gibson, Philadelphia Phillies

  • 125.2 IP, 2.79 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 19.9% K, 9.2% BB

Baseball is a crazy sport; players go on hot stretches at the most random times, and if they put enough together at the optimal time, it might even lead to an All-Star appearance. You’d expect Joey Gallo to represent the Rangers in the All-Star Game, but the same could be said about Adolis Garcia and Kyle Gibson. We’ve already covered why the former can be cut loose, and it might be time to do the same with the latter in shallower leagues.

As you can see, Gibson’s strikeout and walk numbers do not line up with someone who should currently have a 2.79 ERA. It’s great that he’s gotten to this point, and got an All-Star game appearance out of it, but moving forward, you simply could not expect him to sustain that type of success. With a 6.26 ERA and 14.2% walk rate in his final four starts as a Ranger, regression appeared to be hitting him. That didn’t stop the Phillies from acquiring him via trade to bolster their rotation, and, so far, he’s been fantastic for them.

On the other hand, I don’t anticipate this continuing. Just for perspective, Gibson walked (4) more batters than he struck out (3) in his Friday start against the Mets, yet managed to only allow one run in six innings. It is true that he’s allowed just a 3.5% barrel rate this year, but batted-ball numbers can be very volatile, and his track record doesn’t suggest someone who has the ability to limit barrels at this rate. Even if he does, his .263 batting average on balls in play allowed (BABIP) and 8.8% home run/fly ball rate won’t remain in tack. With the trade from the Rangers to the Phillies, he’ll go from pitching behind a defense that ranks 10th in defensive runs saved (DRS) to a defense that ranks 28th.

Furthermore, instead of pitching in one of the more favorable ballparks for pitchers, he’ll now pitch his home games at the seventh-most friendly stadium for home runs, per Baseball Savant. Gibson was a clear candidate to experience regression prior to the trade, but now, we have to be concerned that regression could mean him underperforming his deserved ERA, as opposed to simply meeting it. If you want to take the chance on him eating innings for Philadelphia, go ahead, but it is a clear risk.

SP Rich Hill, New York Mets

  • Current Statistics: 110.1 IP, 3.92 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 22% K, 8% BB

Hey, Rich Hill is still going about his business as usual! It really is quite the career arc for the 41-year-old, who went from pitching 195 innings in 2007 to not pitching 100 innings in a year again until his age-36 season in 2016. Just for that, how can you not root for him. With a 3.32 ERA and 26.4% strikeout rate through the first two months of the season, he seemed to be on his way to continuing to defy father time.

Then, the ‘sticky stuff crackdown’ happened. Since the start of June, Hill’s strikeout rate has decreased to 17.4%, while he has posted a 5.47 FIP in that span; not ideal, to say the least. Not only is his fastball velocity down 1 MPH since the start of the season, but his spin rates have dipped significantly as well, more than anticipated even with the velocity drop. Even if his overall numbers still look fine, you have to wonder what they’ll look like should this trend continue. With such a low velocity, his margin for error is very slim, especially as someone who relies on his fastball and curveball a combined 85.3% of the time.

Plus, Hill has failed to go past five innings in each of his past six starts. It’s nice to see him with the Mets, who have a pitcher-friendly ballpark and are No. 1 in team DRS. At the same time, this is not a pitcher you should feel comfortable starting unless the circumstances are perfect. Without much upside, why take the chance? Hopefully, he can continue his career renaissance with a strong end to the season, but I’m sadly a skeptic at the moment.

RP James Karinchak, Cleveland

  • Current Statistics: 47.2 IP, 3.59 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 36.3% K, 13.9% BB

After setting the baseball world on fire with a 48.6% strikeout rate in his rookie season in 2020, James Karinchak was expected to continue to be a proverbial rock for Cleveland at the back-end of their bullpen. Earlier on, he certainly was just that! In his first 24.2 innings (April and May), the 25-year-old posted a 43.6% strikeout rate and 2.49 SIERA. Then, the “sticky stuff crackdown” came into effect.

Since the start of June, Karinchak has posted a 5.09 ERA, in addition to a 26.4% strikeout rate and 15.2% walk rate. What does this correlate with? An over 200 RPM decrease in his fastball spin rate. That would explain the newly-found issues missing bats, in addition to extremely shaky command. With a 10.3% barrel rate allowed this season, he’s the type of vertical power pitcher who is going to allow a lot of hard contact, so if he isn’t going to produce strong numbers with his K-BB numbers, the results are going to not be as pretty.

As a result, Karinchak appears to have lost the closer role to Emmanuel Clase, who has been fantastic this season with a 1.81 ERA. I don’t expect him to win that job back anytime soon, so unless your league also values holds, you’re in a tough position.

Even then, can he be trusted until he shows the ability to adapt to the lost spin rate? In my opinion, not right now. He’s still rostered in nearly 90% of leagues, but, at the moment, they are a lot of less-rostered relievers with more opportunities for saves and less overall volatility who might be better fits for your roster.

SP Casey Mize, Detroit Tigers

  • Current Statistics: 116 IP, 3.57 ERA, 4.80 FIP, 19.2% K, 6.6% BB

If you drafted Casey Mize this year, you did so hoping that his prospect pedigree (first overall pick in 2018) would lead to him emerging into a reliable starting pitcher for the Tigers. To that end, you would be justified based on his current ERA. With being just 24-years-old, all signs are pointing up, right?

For fantasy purposes this season, perhaps not. The ERA is in good shape, but it’s unclear why it is what it is. Mize’s strikeout numbers aren’t great, he isn’t limiting barrels (10.5%), nor does he induce pop-ups (4.4%). Considering he is playing behind the second-worst defense based on DRS, why is BABIP-allowed sitting at .254? It is very difficult to explain, which is the issue- there’s nothing to suggest the gap in ERA and FIP is anything other than batted-ball luck, pointing to future regression.

Plus, Mize’s margin for error is also slimmer based on his workload. The Tigers have openly stated that they’ll limit the amount of innings he pitches this year, yet they aren’t doing so in the conventional sense; they’ll allow him to go deep in some games, but not in others. This is incredibly frustrating when deciding when to have him in your starting lineup or not. For a pitcher like Trevor Rogers or Freddy Peralta, who accumulate a lot of strikeouts, the frustration is worth the potential payout. For Mize, that wouldn’t appear the case.


Although we’d love to only spotlight players on the rise, roster spots need to be available to acquire players of that mold. Thus, looking for pitchers likely subject to future regression is important. I could just provide you with a simple analysis such as “this player’s ERA estimators are higher than his ERA, so regression is inevitable,” but that would be doing a disservice on my part.

Instead, understanding what’s going on with a pitcher’s arsenal, the circumstances in which he is pitching in, and what they’ll be moving forward presents a significantly better story that will help us make the most informed decision possible. Hopefully, this exercise accomplished just that! While we’d love for the good times to continue to roll, sometimes it’s in everyone’s best interest to go their separate ways. Sadly, that is the case with these five pitchers.

Thanks for checking out this week’s article. Be sure to check out Eric Cross’s updated Top Fantasy Baseball Prospects.

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