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Here's why you trade for these 7 starters

@_dadler
July 15, 2019

Teams are always looking for starting pitching. They only have a few weeks left to go get it. The July 31 Trade Deadline is fast approaching. Here are seven of the top starting pitchers whose names you're going to hear plenty in the rumor mill -- and one key stat

Teams are always looking for starting pitching. They only have a few weeks left to go get it.

The July 31 Trade Deadline is fast approaching. Here are seven of the top starting pitchers whose names you're going to hear plenty in the rumor mill -- and one key stat for all of them to explain why teams might want to snap them up.

Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays: 57.9% ground-ball rate

With home runs flying, Stroman is one of the best at keeping the ball on the ground, largely thanks to a sinker that gets +3.5 inches of drop above average. Stroman's 57.9% ground-ball rate is the highest among AL starters and third-highest in the Majors. That skill could appeal to a team like the Yankees, who've been linked to Stroman and just saw him in person -- the Blue Jays righty pitched at fly-ball friendly Yankee Stadium on Sunday and turned in a quality start.

"I feel like I'm a good fit in this era," he said afterwards. "As far as launch angle and guys putting the ball in the air, my sinker plays incredibly well to keeping the ball on the ground and limiting homers."

Madison Bumgarner, Giants: +327 rpm of new spin

That's the amount of spin rate, on average, that Bumgarner has added to the three chief pitches in his repertoire: his four-seamer, his cutter and his curveball.

Bumgarner's spin rate increase, 2018-19
4-seamer: 2,082 to 2,390 rpm ... +308 rpm (MLB avg.: 2,285)
Cutter: 2,129 to 2,473 rpm ... +344 rpm (MLB avg.: 2,354)
Curveball: 2,297 to 2,625 rpm ... +328 rpm (MLB avg.: 2,524)

The Giants veteran has gone from below-average to above-average spin on each pitch type. His spin rate on all three pitches is his highest of any season under Statcast tracking. And his swing-and-miss rate has jumped on all three pitch types from last year to this year: 12.8% to 21.4% on his four-seamer, 24.9% to 27.4% on his cutter and 27.4% to 33.9% on his curve.

He's throwing all three pitches harder this year, too -- Bumgarner's 91.6 mph four-seam velocity is his highest since 2015, his 87.1 mph cutter velocity is his highest since he started throwing the pitch a few years ago, and his 78.1 mph curveball velocity is the highest of his career.

Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard, Mets: 93+ mph arsenal velocity

The trademark of the Mets' big starting pitching trio -- Wheeler, Syndergaard and ace Jacob deGrom -- is no secret: overpowering velocity across their entire arsenals. For Wheeler and Syndergaard, the two who might be on the trade market, their big velocity should entice plenty of teams.

Think about this: The average velocity of a pitch thrown by Syndergaard this season is 93.5 mph; for Wheeler, it's 93.1 mph. That's across all pitch types -- fastballs, breaking and offspeed. They have the second- and third-fastest overall arsenals among starting pitchers (deGrom is No. 1).

Syndergaard and Wheeler both rank in the top five in average fastball velocity among starters. They both rank in the top 10 in slider velocity. And they both rank in the top five in offspeed velocity.

Trevor Bauer, Indians: 8+ inches of breaking-ball movement above average

Bauer throws six different pitches, and they're all good. But his best ones this season have been his curveball and slider. Bauer, maybe the most inventive pitcher when it comes to pitch design, has developed a breaking-ball tandem that produces elite movement in two different directions.

Bauer's curveball gets +8.9 inches of drop more than average -- the most vertical movement of any curveball in MLB. His slider gets +8.6 inches of horizontal break above average -- sixth-most of any slider. That specific directional break is by design.

In plate appearances decided on Bauer's breaking balls this season, hitters are batting .177 with 82 strikeouts. Only five pitchers have more K's on breaking pitches.

Matthew Boyd, Tigers: 32.1% strikeout rate

Boyd is striking out almost a third of the batters he faces. His strikeout rate is nearly 10% higher than it was a year ago (22.4%). That's a huge increase -- in fact, it's the second biggest from 2018-19 behind Lucas Giolito's 14% bump. Boyd's in the top five in baseball in strikeout rate. The quartet in front of him? Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Blake Snell.

The key is Boyd's four-seam fastball/slider combination. Boyd has increased the use of both pitches this season. He's throwing his four-seamer 49.1% of the time, up from 34.2% in 2018, while adding velocity and spin and all but scrapping his sinker. He's throwing his slider 36.0% of the time, up from 30.8% in '18. Boyd has 70 strikeouts on both pitch types. His 140 K's are third-most of any four-seam/slider pitcher, behind only Sale and Cole.

Mike Minor, Rangers: 2,649 rpm 4-seam spin rate

Minor had top-tier fastball spin even before this year. But his 2019 average, 2,649 rpm, is his highest yet. It's the highest among regular starters this season.

But he's also not relying on his four-seamer as heavily as he did last season, throwing it about 5% less and increasing his changeup and curveball usage. As he's spread around his pitch usage, he's gotten better results on his fastball. Right now, he's allowing a .217 batting average on his four-seamer, and a .354 slugging percentage. Both of those rank in the top 10 for starters.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.