Daily Notes: Most Improved Pitchers So Far, Per Steamer by Carson Cistulli May 15, 2013 Table of Contents Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of the Daily Notes. 1. Most Improved Pitchers So Far, Per Steamer 2. Today’s Notable Games (Including MLB.TV Free Game) 3. Today’s Complete Schedule Most Improved Pitchers So Far, Per Steamer As the reader will know, we carry a tidy collection of projection systems here at the site — of which two now, Steamer and ZiPS, are updated daily with constantly changing rest-of-season and overall total projections. Together, the two systems provide important data for our new Standings tool. Another use is to see which players’ season performances to date have most altered their rest-of-season projections. This week, in the Notes, we’re considering those hitters and pitchers whose projections have most improved. On Monday and Tuesday, we looked at the most improved hitters according to Steamer and ZiPS, respectively. Below are the most improved pitchers according to Steamer — where “most improved” is defined as “greatest decrease in projected ERA.” Note: pitchers who (a) are projected to make starts in fewer than 50% of their remaining appearances or (b) are absent currently from a major-league roster have been omitted from consideration. 5. Anibal Sanchez, RHP, Detroit Steamer (Pre): 179.0 IP, 7.05 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, 1.00 HR/9, 4.05 ERA Steamer (RoS): 138.0 IP, 7.96 K/9, 2.51 BB/9, 0.94 HR/9, 3.71 ERA Notes: Part of a rotation which entered the season with the entirely formidable Justin Verlander and ever more brilliant Max Scherzer, it’s Sanchez who has posted the highest WAR so far (2.6) among major-league pitchers. It’s not entirely clear what Sanchez has done to improve upon his already above-average repertoire, but he’s somehow managed to increase the swinging-strike rate on all three of his main pitches (four-seam fastball, slider, changeup). 4. Matt Harvey, RHP, New York NL Steamer (Pre): 147.0 IP, 9.03 K/9, 3.99 BB/9, 0.88 HR/9, 3.91 ERA Steamer (RoS): 114.0 IP, 9.65 K/9, 3.66 BB/9, 0.86 HR/9, 3.57 ERA Notes: Harvey has now pitched 56.1 innings in 2013 — roughly equal to the 59.1 he threw following a July promotion last season. So far, he’s recorded a better strikeout rate (30.1% this season, 28.6% last), walk rate (6.8% vs. 10.6%), and ground-ball rate (44.5% vs. 38.1%) than last year. In related news, Harvey’s line reveals this minor anomaly: despite the increased strikeout rate per batter faced, Harvey’s strikeout rate per nine innings has actually decreased — from 10.62 in 2012 to his current mark of 9.91 — because his dramatically lower walk rate has allowed him to face fewer batters per inning overall. 3. Nick Tepesch, RHP, Texas Steamer (Pre): 49.0 IP, 5.63 K/9, 3.41 BB/9, 1.13 HR/9, 4.82 ERA Steamer (RoS): 50.0 IP, 5.93 K/9, 3.08 BB/9, 0.91 HR/9, 4.44 ERA Notes: Largely anonymous and also absent from most notable prospect lists entering the season, the rookie Tepesch has been effective in a rotation that has lacked key starters Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis. Tepesch has posted strikeout and walk rates of 18.8% and 6.3%, respectively — both of which figures signify slight improvements over his line with Frisco last season in the Double-A Texas League, where he recorded strikeout and walk rates of 17.8% and 6.8%, respectively, in 90.1 innings. 2. Burch Smith, RHP, San Diego Steamer (Pre): 50.0 IP, 6.84 K/9, 2.84 BB/9, 0.84 HR/9, 4.00 ERA Steamer (RoS): 50.0 IP, 8.51 K/9, 2.96 BB/9, 0.76 HR/9, 3.53 ERA Notes: Smith’s major-league debut this past Saturday was not what anyone would call a “brilliant” one or “only a little bit disastrous” one, even. Starting in place of the injured Clayton Richard, Smith conceded six runs (all earned) in just a single inning of work against Tampa Bay (box). Even after accounting for that, however, Smith’s rest-of-season projection is the second-most improved among the pitchers being considered for this list. Certainly informing that is the 37:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio Smith posted in his six Double-A Texas League starts (31.1 innings). Given his control and velocity (he sat at 93 mph even while conceding all those runs), improvement is likely for Smith. 1. Scott Kazmir, LHP, Cleveland Steamer (Pre): 89.0 IP, 5.94 K/9, 4.32 BB/9, 1.19 HR/9, 5.20 ERA Steamer (RoS): 68.0 IP, 7.91 K/9, 3.89 BB/9, 1.09 HR/9, 4.38 ERA Notes: Cases like Kazmir’s reveal why including velocity in a pitcher’s projection (as does Steamer) can be important. I asked one of Steamer’s creators, Jared Cross, about the big leap for Kazmir’s ERA projection relative to the beginning of the season. Replied Cross (before Kazmir’s start on Tuesday, it should be said): “His velocity projection has definitely changed: from 85.8 mph pre-season to 91.7 mph now. For a guy who hasn’t thrown many innings in the last couple of seasons (not that much results data to go on), that’s making a big difference.” Today’s Notable Games (Including MLB.TV Free Game) Chicago AL at Minnesota | 13:10 ET ***MLB.TV Free Game*** “Nothing to see here” is what a policeman will frequently say after arriving upon a crime scene around which have gathered Curious Interlopers. That same comment might be relevant to this professional baseball game, as well, however. Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Minnesota Radio. Washington at Los Angeles NL | 22:10 ET Originally expected to miss eight weeks from the collarbone injury he suffered while engaging in fisticuffs with San Diego’s Carlos Quentin in April, right-hander Zack Greinke makes his return just about four weeks later. He made a rehab start at High-A Rancho Cucamonga on May 10th, posting a 4:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 4.1 innings. Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Los Angeles NL Television. Today’s Complete Schedule Here’s the complete schedule for all of today’s games, with our very proprietary watchability (NERD) scores for each one. Pitching probables and game times aggregated from MLB.com and RotoWire. The average NERD Game Score for today is 5.0. Note: the following table is entirely sortable. Away SP Tm. Gm. Tm. SP Home Time Jason Marquis SD 1 5 3 7 3 BAL Freddy Garcia* 12:35 Corey Kluber* CLE 7 9 6 1 5 PHI Cole Hamels 13:05 Dallas Keuchel* HOU 3 5 7 8 10 DET Max Scherzer 13:08 Dylan Axelrod CHA 1 0 1 3 0 MIN Mike Pelfrey 13:10 Alexi Ogando TEX 4 4 6 6 9 OAK Dan Straily 15:35 Tim Hudson ATL 6 8 5 4 2 AZ Ian Kennedy 15:40 Yovani Gallardo MIL 3 7 4 7 4 PIT Wa. Rodriguez 19:05 Hisashi Iwakuma SEA 8 5 7 5 6 NYA Phil Hughes 19:05 Ryan Vogelsong SF 3 6 3 4 1 TOR Ramon Ortiz* 19:07 Jon Lester BOS 6 9 7 7 8 TB David Price 19:10 Mike Leake CIN 5 4 3 0 1 MIA Alex Sanabia 19:10 Jon Garland COL 3 7 6 4 9 CHN Jeff Samardzija 20:05 Shaun Marcum* NYN 2 7 6 2 10 STL Shelby Miller 20:15 Wade Davis KC 4 7 4 5 3 LAA Barry Enright* 22:05 Ross Detwiler WAS 5 2 7 2 11 LAN Zack Greinke* 22:10 To learn how Pitcher and Team NERD Scores are calculated, click here. To learn how Game NERD Scores are calculated, click here. * = Fewer than 20 IP, NERD at discretion of very handsome author.