After many years of struggles and underwhelming numbers in Baltimore, right-hander Kevin Gausman needed, and got, a change of scenery. He was solid in Atlanta in 2018, but the wheels came off in 2019. Then, he went to Cincinnati, which is helping and has helped pitchers left and right, as he was excellent as a reliever for the team. He parlayed that success into a deal with the San Francisco Giants, where he was excellent in 2020. He posted a 3.62 ERA (3.09 FIP) with a 1.11 WHIP and a 32.2 percent strikeout rate. His walk rate remained solid and Gausman was a delight for fantasy baseball managers.

His trend continues by using his fastball less, as the usage for that pitch has decreased each of the past three years, with 2020 being a low point for his career. He’s letting his slider and changeup work, as well as his splitter.

Dropping his fastball usage allowed it to be more effective, as its whiff rate in 2020 was a career high. Furthermore, his other pitches remained elevated, for the most part, and his splitter also posted a career best whiff rate.

Correlation doesn’t always mean causation, but it is worth pointing out that his fastball is gaining a little bit of zip little by little each season. In 2017, his fastball sat around 95mph, but he failed to top 94mph in either 2018 or 2019. In 2020, that mark jumped to 95.1 miles per hour, which would have been his highest mark since 2015 (95.3 mph).

Using Baseball Savant’s pitch highlighter, we can see how his fastball has fared in recent years with the slight upticks in velocity.


Avg. Velo



94.9 mph



93.6 mph



93.9 mph



95.1 mph


Courtesy of Baseball Savant

If we dive further into some other metrics, you’ll see that Gausman’s 2020 season was really, really good. Despite inducing less swings out of the zone, he enjoyed a massive drop in contact outside of the zone. While his overall contact rate only dropped about two percentage points, his swinging strike rate jumped up to 15.8 percent, and marks the fourth straight season that this mark has increased. Additionally, if you’re a CSW% fan, Gausman’s mark in this department has increased each of the last two years and topped out at 31 percent in 2020. That was not only a career high, but the first time in his career that he’s been above 30 percent!

The veteran right-hander had a slow start to the 2020 season, but he was strong at the end of the year. In fact, his month of September was excellent for many reasons, notably more ground balls and far fewer barrels.






Barrel Rate













Courtesy of FanGraphs

If you find yourself struggling to trust Gausman, giving his inability to display prolonged success and many, many years of subpar production in Baltimore, I totally understand that. He hasn’t been great to start spring training, but he’s firmly entrenched in the San Francisco rotation.

Most of his metrics from the 2020 season as a whole aren’t a fluke, and there’s no reason he can’t replicate that in 2021. I do have some doubts about Gausman, but the biggest reason I’m not drafting him much in 2021 is just his price point. Currently, he’s pick number 136 off the board, per NFBC data, which puts him around the ninth or tenth round in 15-team formats. Some of the arms going around him, mainly Miami’s Sandy Alcantara are far more attractive to me, and Gausman more or less falls in this realm of never being my preferred target compared to names around him.

While his FIP was lower than his ERA in 2020, I do think his ERA pushes closer to 4.00 this year, and while his strikeout numbers should remain decent, he’s not going to be a guy that posts an ERA in the low-to-mid three’s. It’s just not going to happen.


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