MLB: Three Starting Pitchers Who Need to Rebound in 2020

Spring Training is getting closer, but for those in the Majors who underperformed in 2019, it can’t come soon enough. Today we’re going to take a look at three starters who are looking to rebound after a tough 2019.

Alex Wood

We actually wrote about Wood a couple of days ago, so if you misses that, click this link. One of the newest (or longest-tenured, depending on how you look at the situation) Dodgers, Wood had a season to forget in 2019. A back injury sidelined the lefty until July, and his back problems ended his season in late August. The North Carolina native managed to make seven starts in 2019, but was nowhere near what baseball fans normally expect out of the crafty left-hander.


Wood had a 5.80 ERA during his limited time with the Reds last season, while his GB% rate went down considerably, quite the problem for the sinkerballer who relies on generating weak contact. Wood’s rough season also came at a bad time, as the lefty entered free agency for the first time this fall. The University of Georgia product took a one-year deal with the Dodgers this month, as the lefty looks to rebound after a rather brutal and injury-filled 2019.

Kyle Freeland

Two seasons ago, the Colorado Rockies made the NLDS and Kyle Freeland was one of the best pitchers in the National League. Last season, the roof caved in on the lefty. Freeland in 2019 had a 6.73 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP in 2019, a far cry from the 2.85 ERA and 1.25 WHIP he had two seasons ago.

When looking at the advanced analytics, Freeland’s season was even worse. Freeland’s opposing Hard Hit% in 2019 was 39.8%, over 10 points higher than in 2018 (was 29.1% in 2018), while opposing exit velocity numbers went up by three percentage points. Freeland’s HR/9 rate also skyrocketed as well, as the lefty was surrendering dingers at a rate of 2.2 HR/9 in 2019, a significant increase from the .8 HR/9 rate he had in 2018. That’s not really a recipe for success in Coors Field.


The Colorado native’s season in 2019 was challenging to say the least. A year after finishing fourth in the NL Cy Young voting, Freeland struggles in 2019 were so bad that he was sent down to the Minors for a bit, quite the turnaround for the lefty. The Rockies have a talented lineup, but in order to compete for a playoff spot in 2020, they’ll need the former first-round pick to rebound. He’ll look to do so with a tweaked delivery, as the lefty has cut out the pause that used to be in his delivery, and go with a more fluid delivery in 2020. Freeland will also reportedly look to use his curveball more in 2020 (the lefty used it just 6.2% in 2019).

Chris Sale

The decade of the 2010’s was a dominant one for Chris Sale. After seven All-Star appearances, 109 wins and a World Series ring, you’d expect greatness every year from someone like Sale. However, Sale last season was just average. The lefty’s ERA jumped up to 4.40 last season (compared to 2.11 in 2018), while allowing more hits and home runs than usual.


Like with Freeland, the advanced analytics were not kind to Sale either. Exit velocities off of balls put in play against Sale were up on average by over three percentage points. Sale’s four-seam fastball also saw a dip in velocity, which may have been a reason as to why opposing hitters were batting about 40 points higher off of it in 2019 than in 2018. Typically sitting at around 95 to 96 MPH, Sale’s average speed on his four-seamer was 93.4 MPH in 2019, not exactly what the Red Sox want to see from their ace.

The good news on Sale was that he was still getting hitters to whiff off of his stuff. The Florida native’s slider was still dominant (.197 opponent AVG, 36.0% Whiff%) last season, and the chase rates on Sale’s pitches were stable. Because of that, there’s reason to believe he can be better in 2020 than he was last season. The Sox just need to hope he can avoid the IL this upcoming season, as the lefty dealt with elbow inflammation in 2019. Boston will need him to stay healthy in order to compete in 2020, which could be the last season that Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez suit up for the Red Sox.

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