Bullish or Bearish: Jimmy Nelson
With a 13:2 K:BB ratio in his first two starts, Jimmy Nelson piqued my interest early this year. I held off writing about him after he got blown up in Chicago for 7 runs, as I wanted to make sure he could continue putting up clean stat lines. Then he walked 6 in his fourth outing of 2017, looking like the same erratic, unproductive Jimmy Nelson we saw in 2016. Unsure exactly of what to make of him after that, I decided to wait and see. However, 2 months into the season, things have evened up and it’s clear this is a different Jimmy Nelson than the trainwreck of his 2016 and even from his respectable, promising albeit modest numbers of the previous two years.
Something has changed with Jimmy Nelson
Nelson had serious pedigree coming up, flashing a 95mph fastball and a wicked slider. However, lacking a third pitch, the massive platoon splits that arise from a pitcher with only one offspeed pitch began to weigh down his potential into a low end reality. After establishing a downward xFIP trend, going from 3.92 in 2014, to 4.06, then 4.91 in xFIP, clearly something has changed. 12 starts into 2017, Nelson has a K/9 of 8.9, and a BB/9 of 2.25, both well above average to elite. His xFIP of 3.47 validates his 3.45 ERA prior to Tuesday’s game.
More pitches, better numbers
Nelson has tied previous career highs of 63% first strike rate, only his second year above league average, and a swinging strike rate of 10.4%. Looking at his pitch type numbers, Nelson has decreased the usage of his sinking fastball by 16%, increasing the use of his two-seamer by 12%, which has thrown hitters off as the sinker went from well below average in prior years, to a plus plus pitch in 2017. His results have also improved for his two-seamer likely from mixing his pitches better. Further, he has been working on a curveball for the last two years and this year it is starting to register as an above average pitch, meaning he can finally combat left handed hitters (LHH) and the results shows in his numbers. Prior to 2017, Nelson was giving up an ugly .353 wOBA against LHH, compared to a manageable .306 wOBA against RHH. This year, lefties have a paltry .278 wOBA against him.
Jimmy Nelson has arrived, folks
He probably isn’t an ace, but he is easily a solid number 2 type pitcher in just about any rotation in the MLB. Fan Duel priced him at $8,900 on Tuesday night against the Cardinals. Anyone who follows team versus pitcher or BvP stats may know that the Card historically give Nelson a tough time (7.8 ERA vs STL coming into that start), so obviously don’t play him against St Louis.
I’m Bullish on Jimmy Nelson. Look to play him against bad lineups or in good pitchers parks for $9,500 (FD) or less.
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