Four Unlucky Pitchers

Four Unlucky Pitchers Looking For Success In 2024

Luck is a big part of baseball. The difference between a hit and an out could be as simple as a gust of wind or a bad bounce. Pitchers often allow rockets to the gap and get rewarded with an out or get a hitter to pop one up and get rewarded with a bloop single (or even double). While pitchers experience both good and bad fortune, in 2023 many pitchers had much more bad luck than good. Luckily these things tend to even out so here are four unlucky pitchers who may be better than you think in 2024.

Four Unlucky Pitchers Who Will Be Better Than You Think

Taj Bradley, RHP, TBR

Taj Bradley was one of the Tampa Bay Rays‘ top prospects before his debut in April but the 22-year-old struggled in his first big league season. He put up an abysmal 5.59 ERA over 21 starts and 104.2 innings but still flashed some of that potential. The former top-20 prospect showed his elite strikeout stuff, finishing ninth in K/9 and 15th in K% among all Major League pitchers with at least 100 innings.

Additionally, the quality of contact he allowed should have led to better results than he got. His 5.59 ERA is bad but 4.55 xERA is a much better place to start for a rookie. The former fifth-round pick was also better at managing the three true outcomes, putting up an FIP of 4.79 and a very impressive xFIP of 3.83. That figure is good for 41st in the league and is better than ace teammate Shane McClanahan. With a little luck on his side and the maturity that comes with a full season in the majors, Bradley could ride his elite fastball velocity and wicked curveball to genuine major-league success.

Hunter Brown, RHP, HOU

Speaking of rookies, Hunter Brown had an up-and-down season for the Houston Astros starting strong with a first-half ERA of 4.12 but struggling down the stretch with an 8.74 ERA in September for an overall ERA of 5.09 over 155.2 innings. The 25-year-old still pitched well enough to solidify a spot in the Astros’ rotation in 2024 with a 26.8% strikeout rate and the ninth-highest groundball rate in the big leagues. Unfortunately, he suffered from one of the most severe cases of bad luck of any pitcher in the game.

His expected numbers are actually not bad. He put up an xERA of 4.27 which is very solid for a back-of-the-rotation arm and an extremely impressive xFIP of 3.52, good for 14th in MLB. These numbers make more sense for Brown, whose combination of elite extension, high velocity, and a big curveball give him the tools to be a good if not great pitcher in this league for a long time. The main source of his bad luck last season was that he gave up a lot of hard contact especially on the ground, finishing in the 13th percentile in hard-hit rate. That number of hard ground balls is going to lead to some bad luck, if he can regain his stuff from the first half and get some luck on his side he could be a real difference-maker in the AL West race.

Hunter Greene, RHP, CIN

The baseball industry has always been very high on Cincinnati Reds flamethrower Hunter Greene but since he came to the big leagues in 2022 he hasn’t gotten the results that people expected. Though he’s shown flashes of brilliance, even leading the Reds in a combined no-hitter as a rookie, he put up an unimpressive 4.82 ERA over 112 innings before getting hurt last year. That being said, the former top prospect and second overall pick still has the remarkable swing-and-miss stuff that’s gotten him this far, ranking eighth in MLB in K% and 12th in whiff rate.

Even with that electric stuff though, Greene was still a victim of bad luck. His 3.82 xERA is a full run better than his actual ERA and despite having a below-average home run rate, he kept his FIP to 4.25 by posting the 14th-best K%-BB% in the game. That FIP is better than it looks, Greene was eight percent better than average by FIP- and his xFIP of 4.00 puts him ahead of Eduardo Rodriguez who signed a big contract this offseason. Despite a shaky start to his career, Hunter Greene looks like he will be the ace of the Reds’ staff and one of the game’s best.

Joe Ryan, RHP, MIN

Joe Ryan is a very interesting case. At one point in 2022, it looked like he could be the future Minnesota Twins ace but after some shaky stretches and a 2023 that was perceived as a disappointment the buzz around him has all but disappeared. In 2022 he put up a 3.55 ERA and 3.99 FIP over 147 innings, following that up with a 4.51 ERA and 4.13 FIP in 161.2 innings in 2023. Even though that seems like a massive drop-off, the two seasons are more similar than many realize.

While there is a full run difference in ERA between 2022 and 2023, his expected stats tell a much different story. His xERA improved slightly from 3.57 to 3.53 in 2023 as his xFIP improved dramatically, plummeting from 4.35 to 3.76. Additionally, his skill-independent ERA (or SIERA) fell from 3.98 to an exceptional 3.44. With just a little bit of luck he could have been an all-star last year, he ranked 13th in xERA and ninth in baseball in SIERA. His high home run rate held him to just 31st in xFIP. He can control the long ball and get a couple of breaks next year he could be at the top of what is already a very good rotation.

Pitching can be volatile, minor swings in luck and the occasional bad break can create completely different perceptions of pitchers’ performances. These four players are some of the most exciting young arms in the game and just because things didn’t necessarily break their way last year doesn’t mean they won’t come back strong in 2024. Look for these guys to make some noise across the big leagues.

Main Image: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

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