We’re getting closer to spring training, but there are still a few players from the 2019 Cincinnati Reds that we’re going to be looking back at. Today we’ll be looking back at starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani.
The Preseason Projection
After missing all of the 2017 season, Anthony DeSclafani put up his worst season since his rookie year. He had posted a 4.93 ERA in 21 starts for the Reds in his return. The big issue was that he was incredibly home run prone, giving up 24 of them in just 115.0 innings. Here’s what Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for the 2019 season had to say for the Cincinnati Reds right-handed starter:
The 2019 Season
The year started out well for Anthony DeSclafani as he allowed one run in his first start while racking up eight strikeouts in 5.0 innings. But he struggled the next two times out, giving up 10 runs in just 8.1 combined innings. April would end on a high note, though, giving up just one run in the last two starts of the month that spanned 12.0 innings.
May started out with 5.2 shutout innings against the Mets. But then things went south, and went south for a while. In the remaining five starts of the month he posted a 6.94 ERA in 23.1 innings as he allowed nine home runs. June was basically the exact opposite of the month before it. DeSclafani made five starts and three of them had just one earned run, and another one of them was a shutout over 6.0 innings. But on June 23rd he did allow six earned – twice as many runs as he allowed in the rest of the month.
The first half of the year was inconsistent, but solid as he posted a 4.26 ERA in 17 starts. May was a real clunker of a month and drug down the rest of the half. In the second half the right-handed pitcher was a bit more consistent. July would be his best month, though he only made four starts due to the All-Star break. But in those four starts he posted a 2.78 ERA across 22.2 innings. August saw a 2-start stretch of struggle on the 6th and 12th, but DeSclafani allowed just two runs in the final three starts of the month. Over the final month of the season he made another five starts with a 3.19 ERA. In the second half his ERA dropped to 3.49 over his 14 starts and 80.0 innings.
The home run issues in April and May caused problems early in the year. Anthony DeSclafani gave up 14 home runs in just 54.1 innings in that span and his ERA was 4.97 when May came to an end. But he flipped things around the rest of the season, giving up 15 home runs the rest of the way in 112.1 innings and posting a 3.36 ERA as a result of keeping the ball in the yard at a much better rate.
He posted a career best 24% strikeout rate – a rate that has improved every single year of his Major League career. His WHIP was also the best of his career, coming in at an impressive 1.20 on the season. The 167 strikeouts he recorded were also a career best. The 2.9 WAR (Baseball-Reference) matched a career best (2016), too.
What’s to come?
What’s to come in 2020 is a big question for everyone, and for the same reason: We have no idea what the baseball that will be used will play like in the upcoming season. We all know that in 2019 it flew further than in the past and it led to home run rates spiking in a big way, both in the Major Leagues and in Triple-A where it was used for the first time ever.
With someone who has historically struggled to keep the baseball in the ballpark, that could be doubly important. A normal baseball, combined with perhaps a slightly different approach to attacking hitters in his post-May time (he threw fewer 4-seamers and added in a few more sinkers, sliders, and change ups) could bring about a big difference.
For his career, he’s always limited the amount of walks he’s given up. And as noted, his strikeout rate has increased every season of his career. Those are all good signs. Given that we’re close to the start of the season, we’ve got projections to look at here. ZiPS doesn’t buy into the improvement much, projecting big home run rates and a 4.54 ERA in 2020. The Marcels Projection believes a little more, but not much – projecting a 4.35 ERA for the righty in 2020.