There is no baseball player on the planet who wouldn’t take a strong start to a season. While gaining positive momentum is a wonderful thing, every ballplayer also knows that what appears to be a solid campaign can be soured in an instant by struggling as they cross the finish line. Starting pitchers are the most important factor when determining who will win a ball game. Online sports books like Novibet taking the starting pitcher into account when they set the wagering lines for each game.
Just as things can turn on a dime for hitters, the same can be said for pitchers. All of a sudden, opposing hitters aren’t swinging and missing as often and those softly-hit balls become hard-hit liners. Even those bloopers that were getting caught consistently are starting to fall in. It’s confusing and frustrating for any hurler, especially when it feels like the hitter can anticipate whatever is coming.
Unfortunately for the following six pitchers, a solid first half didn’t carry over into the second half. They’re not only headed into the offseason with a sour taste in their mouth, but they are also hoping these struggles don’t follow them into the 2019 season.
Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles
As one of the few Orioles players that will likely stick around with the organization throughout their upcoming rebuild, Dylan Bundy has to pick up lots of pieces from a disappointing year. Although his 4.35 ERA and .331 wOBA against in 103.1 first-half innings doesn’t seem fantastic, it sure does after seeing what he did following the All-Star break (7.11 ERA, .408 wOBA against in 68.1 innings).
Home runs were a huge problem in 2018 for the young right-hander. Not only did he lead the league by allowing 41 dingers, but it nearly matched what he did in each of the last two seasons (44 homers allowed). His 2.15 homers per nine innings was also the worst among qualified starters, with Jakob Junis coming in a distant second with a 1.63 mark.
It’s not like he can blame Camden Yards that much, either — he only allowed three more homers at home than he did on the road despite throwing 21.2 more innings in Baltimore.
Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks
Although he didn’t have a bad overall year, Archie Bradley’s 2018 was effectively ruined by a rough second half.
His 1.97 ERA prior to the All-Star break was practically identical to what he did the prior season (1.73 ERA in ’17), and he followed that with a 6.58 ERA and .366 wOBA allowed over his final 26.0 innings. Bradley’s strikeout rate actually improved as the season wore on (23.9% in the first half, 27.5% in the second half), but it was his batted-ball profile that likely did him in.
The right-hander’s hard-hit rate allowed was consistently around the 40.0% mark, but it was also accompanied by a significant drop in ground-ball rate (53.7% to 41.9%), along with subsequent increases in line-drive rate (15.7% to 20.3%) and fly-ball rate (30.6% to 37.8%).
It is worth noting that Bradley’s overall 3.22 SIERA barely changed compared to his successful 2017 campaign (3.19).
Tyler Anderson, Colorado Rockies
Yes, every Rockies pitcher is at a disadvantage because they call Coors Field home. That wasn’t a huge deal for Anderson this year, though, as his home ERA (4.15) was nearly a full run better than his road ERA (5.02).
The 28-year-old was on his way to a career-best season off the strength of a 3.72 ERA and .305 wOBA in 113.1 first-half innings. Unfortunately, a career year became more of a meh year due to the 6.06 ERA and .357 wOBA allowed he posted after the midsummer classic.
Part of this can be blamed on the deterioration of his cutter throughout the year. During that string of solid production, Anderson threw his cutter at a 27.0% clip and owned a 1.54 pitch value on a per-100-pitch basis. He threw it more often in the second half (31.4% usage rate), but the value of the offering dropped to -1.57.
Marco Gonzales, Seattle Mariners
Gonzales’ 4.7% season-long walk rate marks the fourth consecutive year he’s decreased that number, but his improved control didn’t prevent a second-half slide from happening. When looking at his production on a monthly basis, though, it was basically just August that crushed his numbers.
In July and September, the young southpaw managed to post sub-2.00 ERAs. But in August, he slogged through 20 innings with a 10.35 ERA. His 4.26 SIERA tells us he deserved a little better fortune, but that’s how baseball goes sometimes.
Overall, Gonzales was also much stingier at Safeco Field when it comes to limiting hard contact — he posted a 22.3% hard-hit rate at home, but a 43.3% rate as a visiting player.
Hector Rondon, Houston Astros
Rondon finished his first year in Houston with a very respectable 3.20 ERA and 26.8% strikeout rate through 59 innings, but as you might’ve guessed, his second half wasn’t great.
This is likely a huge reason why he as left off the ALDS roster this past week. It’ll be hard for manager A.J. Hinch to trust a pitcher that owns a 5.47 ERA over his most recent 24.2 innings of work. It didn’t help that September was his worst month of all (9.72 ERA, .481 wOBA allowed in 8.1 innings), either.
On an overall basis, though, 2018 was a step in the right direction for Rondon after underwhelming for the Cubs during the past couple years. His 1.3 fWAR is more than the last two years combined (0.9) and after seeing his homers per nine innings rate stay above 1.40 in 2016 and 2017, it decreased to 0.61 this past year.
Zach Eflin, Philadelphia Phillies
Following a couple lackluster cups of coffee in the big leagues, Philadelphia got some legitimate production out of Eflin this past year. As a metaphor for the Phillies’ season, though, he fell off considerably in the second half.
The 24-year-old right-hander looked great through his first 68.2 innings, posting a 3.15 ERA, .281 wOBA allowed, 24.0% strikeout rate, and 5.0% walk rate. All of those numbers got worse after the midsummer classic, with his 5.76 ERA being the most notable of all.
Eflin’s batted-ball profile displays where some of the issues took place, as his pull rate (32.7% to 40.7%), soft-hit rate (23.0% to 18.0%), and hard-hit rate (26.0% to 32.3%) all went in the wrong direction. Although his walk rate also worsened, his 6.8% season-long rate is right around his current career norms, while his 22.5% strikeout rate is a huge improvement (11.4% in ’16, 12.5% in ’17).