Brandon Beachy and the 5 Most Surprising Pitchers in the MLB so Far This Season

Foster Lander@@FosterLanderContributor IIIMay 10, 2012

Brandon Beachy and the 5 Most Surprising Pitchers in the MLB so Far This Season

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    While Brandon Beachy's start to the 2012 season may not be a total revelation (after all, he struck out 169 batters in just 141.2 IP last season), it was impossible to expect a 1.62 ERA through 39 IP so far this year.

    The saying 'You Can't Predict Baseball' holds true when looking at pitchers who've been among the most valuable in the league thus far.

    Small sample size and sheer luck contributes to the unrealistic success some have enjoyed, but it's still worth looking at some of the players who've helped their teams to first place (or kept them out of the cellar).

Brandon Beachy

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    Beachy's average velocity is down slightly on each of his pitches, and according to FanGraphs' Pitch Value metric, his fastball is only half as effective as it was during the 2011 season.

    That said, the 26-year-old righty made marked improvements to his curveball and changeup. Beachy is striking out fewer batters per nine innings (down from 10.74 K/9 in 2011 to 6.23 in 2012).

    A diminished strikeout rate, especially that large of a drop, should raise a red flag.

    Beachy's .226 BABIP against also suggests that he's due for regression.

    However, that doesn't mean Beachy will forget how to pitch; it just means he won't pitch to a 1.62 ERA for long.

Jake Peavy

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    Jake Peavy's start to the 2012 season makes for a feel-good story, to be sure, but let's not hold out too much hope that he'll continue to dominate at this level.

    For a little background on Peavy, he last threw more than 112 innings in a season in 2008 (173.2 for San Diego). He throws five pitches (Fastball, Cutter, Slider, Curveball, Changeup) and has always had elite or near-elite stuff, but has rarely remained healthy enough to flash his ace potential.

    In 2012, that ace potential appears to be manifesting itself: a solid 7.57 K/9 and a Maddux-like 1.20 BB/9, complete with a WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of just 0.80.

    Looking closer, though, reveals Peavy's exceedingly good luck this season: a .234 BABIP (career .284) and a 79.6 LOB%, meaning opposing hitters should start seeing some of their outs turned into hits and should start stranding fewer base runners.

Jason Hammel

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    The Baltimore Orioles are 19-11 and half a game out of first place in the American League East, and Jason Hammel is a major reason why.

    Read that sentence again. And no, you're not hallucinating. Really, you're not.

    Will Hammel continue to serve as Baltimore's ace throughout the season? I wouldn't be so sure.

    After coming over from Colorado in the Jeremy Guthrie deal this offseason, Hammel's pitched out of his mind, to the tune of an 8.84 K/9 rate and a 2.09 ERA.

    In reality, not much has changed velocity-wise, though Hammel's fastball has seen marked improvement.

    Like Peavy, though, Hammel's been on Lady Luck's good side; his BABIP against (.255) sits far below his career average of .312, and he's stranding a ridiculous 82.2% of hitters who reach base against him (career 68.8%).

    So, like Peavy, Hammel's immense success is not likely to continue.

Jeff Samardzija

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    It seems as if the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija has finally figured out how to pitch.

    The 6-5, 225-pound righty throws hard, and always has, but he's using his four-seam fastball and slider less than ever this year while utilizing a 91 mph cutter and an 85-86 mph splitter to keep hitters on both sides of the plate off balance.

    Samardzija's K/9 rate sits above 9.0 for the first time in his career and his BB/9 is down to just 2.79 (career 4.84 BB/9). He's inducing more ground balls, and his .305 BABIP against even suggests he's been getting unlucky.

    All told, there's little reason to believe Samardzija can't pitch to a sub-3.50 ERA this season, though wear-and-tear may be of concern for the converted reliever.

Ryan Dempster

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    Yes, another pitcher from the NL Central cellar-dwelling Cubs.

    Unlike Jeff Samardzija, though, Dempster will regress to the No.3 or No. 4-type starter that he is.

    That's not a slight against Dempster. He ate more than 200 innings in every season from 2008-2011 while providing 15.1 wins (WAR) during that stretch. That's valuable.

    Every peripheral suggests that his start to 2012 (1.02 ERA) is completely and utterly unsustainable.

    For his career, Dempster owns peripheral rates of 7.80 K/9, 4.11 BB/9 (yuck), .302 BABIP against, and 71.9 LOB%.

    For 2012, Dempster boasts rates of 9.17 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, .218 BABIP against, and 83.9 LOB%.

    Translation: he's striking out more batters and walking far fewer than ever, he's getting lucky on balls put in play against him, and he's leaving runners on base at a rate that won't hold.

    Fantasy owners: sell Dempster while the going's good.