Posts tagged ‘Justin Verlander’

Tuesday: 04.30.2013

A New Pitching Podcast – Pilot Episode

From the gentlemen who brought you the 2013 Starting Pitching Guide comes a brand new podcast dedicated to… wait for it … pitching!!! We started discussing the notion of this podcast all the way back in the winter when we first linked up to discuss the guide. Then after the success of the SP Guide and just how well we got along, it was a no-brainer to follow through with that original idea and thus a pilot episode is born. For those of you who like long-form podcasts, you’re going to be drooling over this one.

That said I think I’ve come up with a way for it to appeal to even those who don’t like long-form. If you want to stretch the podcast out throughout your work week, I have labeled all of our segments by timestamp so you can pick & choose what you want to listen to as it fits your available time. We don’t yet have a name for the show, but I think we’ve decided one and once it’s set in stone, we’ll be in iTunes. We will also be setting up the obligatory email, Facebook page, and Twitter accounts, too. Until then, we would love your emails at thespguide@gmail.com for questions you would like answered on the show.

This is entirely a starting pitcher episode, but it’s a pitching podcast at large so if you have questions about relievers, that works. We do inject a little fantasy baseball talk into the show, but we’re not fielding any “should I trade for pitcher x or cut pitcher z?” questions. My other show, The Towers of Power Fantasy Hours, is fantasy-related and that would be the avenue for those types of questions. We also encourage you to watch our Game of the Week discussed starting at the 2:55:05 mark so you can follow along as we discuss it on next week’s episode.

Without further ado, our pilot episode:

Download the file here. (right click, save as)

  • 0:00 – 19:30 Intro
  • 19:31 – 31:57 Jarrod Parker
  • 31:58 – 38:11 Brett Anderson
  • 38:12 – 47:18 Jeremy Hellickson
  • 47:19 – 54:42 Matt Harvey
  • 54:43 – 1:08:07 Yu Darvish
  • 1:08:08 – 1:16:32 Clay Buchholz
  • 1:16:33 – 1:26:15 Jon Lester
  • 1:26:16 – 1:37:44 Alex Cobb
  • 1:37:45 – 1:49:03 Declining Velo in April (Verlander, Sabathia, Price)
  • 1:49:02 – 1:59:11 Strasburg & the Nats
  • 1:59:12 – 2:17:20 Samardzija v. Latos
  • 2:17:21 – 2:55:04 Our Game of the Week: Lincecum v. Cashner
  • 2:55:05 – 3:07:36 Picking Next Week’s GotW
  • 3:07:37 – 3:14:42 Close

Show Notes:

Tuesday: 01.22.2013

Top 10 SP – Review

On Friday night, MLB Network unleashed their Top 10 Starting Pitchers Right Now along with input from host Brian Kenny, co-host John Smoltz, and special guest to the series Bill James. The results were interesting and perhaps unsurprisingly, I had more gripes with this list than I have any of the previous ones.

Here are all four lists from MLB Network-related folks and then I’ll address them separately:

top10SPListsThe Shredder

Let’s start with the list that comes from their objective machine they call “The Shredder”. Kenny suggests that it is cold and calculated in its evaluation relying heavily on the most recent season, but also not forgetting track record. I have to call heaping amounts of BS on it. It just doesn’t add up. First off, it you’re focusing on “RIGHT NOW”, then how does Roy Halladay still finish fourth? There has to be a lot of subjectivity used to get him there. But that’s far from the most egregious infraction.

If this is supposed to be the most objective tool relying on data only for projection analysis, how does Chris Sale not only make the list, but finish ahead of Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, and reigning Cy Young winner David Price? It had to rely heavily on track record (or pure subjectivity) to get Halladay that high, so then track record would send Hamels and Price rocketing past Sale. Meanwhile, Sale wasn’t better than them last year, either.

Strasburg is probably skewed because he threw just 160 innings, but he was so stellar in that allotted time that it is still a surprise to see him so low. Plus, since I think they had to finagle things to get Halladay that high, surely they could’ve just done the same to get Strasburg into a more reasonable slot. Whatever the case is, I’m done believing that The Shredder is purely objective on any level. And if it is coming to these conclusions based on the data it is being fed, it’s broken and Master Splinter does in fact need to take over.

Maybe I got too caught up in Jered Weaver’s peripherals when leaving him out because I didn’t even give him an honorable mention. I recognize the fact that he is a damn fine pitcher, but I am a strikeout whore and looking over the numbers again I think I focused too much on the plummeting strikeout rate and not enough on his incredible ability to keep runners off the bases, specifically by preventing hits. I still think six is a little high, but I can see how he would fit nicely at 10 bumping the NL version of him (Matt Cain) up to nine and Gio Gonzalez getting moved to an honorable mention.

My inclusions they didn’t list: Cain, Gonzalez, and R.A. Dickey

Bill James

Without treading over well-worn ground too much again, I just can’t see how on a “RIGHT NOW” list James saw fit to put teammates Cliff Lee and Hamels so far below Halladay who is 36 and coming off of an injury-marred season. Plus there’s the fact that he and the Phillies were going to start discussing an extension, but worries about his shoulder scared them off a bit. I still love Halladay as an undervalued fantasy commodity, but as the #4 pitcher right now, I’m a bit more skeptical.

James was the only one to list C.C. Sabathia which I think says more about the depth at the top of the pitching heap than anything else. I certainly don’t fault James for including him nor would I have faulted any of the other participants. He was basically tied with Adam Wainwright on my list at that 13/14 spot, but I gave Waino the mention because I honestly thought CC would appear on most of the lists and didn’t need the extra love.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Cain, Gonzalez, and Dickey

John Smoltz

Smoltzie’s list was close to being my favorite list but including Sale at the expense of Lee was just too much to overlook. Frankly, it doesn’t even matter if Lee wasn’t 11th, just the inclusion of Sale over many more deserving (at least in my estimation) candidates is tough for me. I’m not anti-Sale overall, just when it comes to ranking him this high among the best pitchers right now. Another big season in 2013 could elevate him onto my list next winter, but he hasn’t done enough to pass enough all of these guys just yet.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Gonzalez, Dickey, and Lee

Brian Kenny

I guess by sheer virtue of the fact that we had the most matches (eight), Kenny’s list should be my favorite, but it boggles my mind how he could wind up with Price at nine. Apart from that, our lists are pretty close on the matches we had usually off by just a spot, maybe two, and we had three direct matches (JV, Strasburg, and Hamels). He was adamant about getting Dickey on his list and was the only one to do so which obviously I support, but I just kept coming back to the Price thing. If you go off of mostly last year, then Price has to go above Weaver (and obviously Halladay) and even when you factor in track record, it’s not like Price is without one. You’d have to weigh track record pretty heavily to Halladay above Price which I thought went against the conceit of these lists.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Cain and Gonzalez

All in all, I know these lists are still just fun and filled with opinion (yes, even yours Shredder), but I can’t make sense of it sometimes when arguments supporting guys contradict where you rated them or others.

I’ve still got my reliever review upcoming and then the LF and RF lists are due this week before Friday night’s airings.

Friday: 01.18.2013

Top 10 Starting Pitchers Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall”. They will air both the relief and starting pitcher shows on Friday evening. I always enjoy this series and generally look forward to it after the New Year since I eat up just about any fresh baseball content I can as we wait for pitchers & catchers to report. Instead of putting up my lists after they air their selections, I’ll post mine ahead of time and then compare notes after the shows air.

This is not a fantasy list!!

(Ed. note: I swore my DVR said the reliever episode was first which is why I posted that list first. Sorry about that!)

This list was even harder than the relievers one as I just want to include so many guys. To spare you, the reader, I’m only going to include a few of honorable mentions.

Roy Halladay (PHI) – Since it is “right now”, I couldn’t justify his inclusion coming off of an injury-marred season that was easily his worst since 2004. From a fantasy angle (which isn’t entirely relevant in this NON FANTASY list) I still think he’s being criminally underrated early on in mock drafts and rankings I’ve seen, but he’s not a top 10 guy right now.

C.C. Sabathia (NYY) – This has a lot more to do with how deep the top of the starting pitcher pool is than anything Sabathia hasn’t done. There are no obviously flaws in his games, he’s absolutely amazing, but there are only 10 spots, so he’s on the outside.

Yu Darvish (TEX) – I couldn’t just play favorites and put Darvish in ahead of more deserving candidates. He took a while to get his feet under him last year and while I think he will show his top 10 worthiness this year, this list is about right now as opposed to projection. So it is with great pain that I leave Darvish out.

Also: Adam Wainwright (he was great coming off of TJ, but not great enough to include just yet.)

MLBNtopSP

THE LIST

10. Matt Cain (SF) – See what I mean? Leaving Cain off would’ve felt silly yet that’s what I would have to do to get Darvish included. Track record doesn’t weigh heavily on a “right now” list, but even just the 2012 track record favors Cain in terms of pure results. He’s awesome and he’s getting better each year. He doesn’t post the gaudy strikeout totals I drool over, but he’s proven you can be great with just a solid 20ish percent rate.

9. Gio Gonzalez (WAS) – If you think this rating is crazy, you haven’t watched him pitch enough. He keeps adding to his strikeout rate going from 20 percent in 2010 to an NL-best 25 percent last year. Meanwhile he made his first real dent in his walk rate last year dropping it a full percentage point to nine, which isn’t great, but easier to overlook when a quarter of the guys you face are walking back to the dugout after three strikes.

8. R.A. Dickey (TOR) – Absurd. Just completely absurd. His 2012 season was so freaking incredible. Seemingly out of nowhere, he ups his strikeout rate from 15.3 to 24.8 percent while actually incrementally improving his walk rate from 6.2 to 5.8 percent. Just bananas. He deservingly won the NL Cy Young and now gets to peddle his wares in the AL East with Toronto. I basically had Dickey and the next two guys neck and neck so I used track record as the tiebreaker. I’d still take these next two over him in a one-game situation.

7. Cole Hamels (PH) – When you factor out how much I’m responsible for myself, Hamels just doesn’t get enough love as an ace-level pitcher. Part of it is that he’s obscured by his rotation mates, but part of it is just that I think some fail to recognize how great he’s been the last three years. He had the 8th-best strikeout rate (24.9 percent) in the majors last year among qualified starters and only Dickey bested his 6.0 percent walk rate among those eight and it was by 0.1 percent.

6. Cliff Lee (PHI) – How did he win six games and fan 207 batters last year? I know wins and strikeouts don’t exactly go together, but the point is that he was just too good to be saddled with such a lame record (6-9). He walked a laughable 28 guys in all last year, too. His 3.3 percent walk rate was baseball’s best by nearly a full percent over Bronson Arroyo and Joe Blanton (4.2) and then of course there is the fact that he was also light years better than them in every other skill-based metric.

5. Felix Hernandez (SEA) – The top five were pretty easy for me in terms of who belonged in it. You can quibble over the order, but the group should be pretty consistent among anyone making such a list. Listing Felix fifth just doesn’t feel right, but I don’t see how I could get him any higher even as he continues to dominate. A career-best six percent walk rate accompanied fifth straight spike in strikeout rate, though just a small bit from 23 percent in 2011 to 23.8 last year. Oh, and he threw a perfect game.

4. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) – There is little doubt in my mind that he could’ve gone well past his innings limit without issue, but the Nats painted themselves into a corner. In the 159 innings he did throw, he was simply amazing. If he had qualified (requires 162 innings), his 30.2 percent strikeout rate would’ve topped Max Scherzer’s gaudy 29.4 mark for baseball’s best. He has three excellent pitches that he uses to devastate hitters. His changeup might be the best of the bunch generating a ridiculous 29 percent swing-and-miss rate. It was accountable 53 percent of his 197 strikeouts, too.

3. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – As I mentioned earlier, I thought Dickey was a deserving Cy Young winner, but he wasn’t the only deserving candidate. Kershaw was right there and you can probably argue that wins and a great story are the only things that cost Kershaw a repeat. He led baseball in ERA for a second straight season, posted the same 6.7 H/9 mark which not only led the NL like it did in 2011, but all of baseball this time, and he led the NL in WHIP for the second straight season 1.02. His 14-9 record plus not being a knuckleball journeyman likely did him in.

2. David Price (TB) – Price showed flashes of greatness in 2010, though his 2.72 ERA was probably a bit more favorable than his numbers seemed to “deserve”. Then in 2011, he went the other way improving his underlying numbers and likely should’ve ended up with a result better than his 3.49 ERA. He finally found the right potion in 2012 repeating his 2011 base skills (24% Ks, 7% BBs) while adding a crapton of groundballs (moving 44 to 53% groundball rate) and sharpening up with runners on (moving from 73 to 81%, second to only Jeremy Hellickson at 83%) to turn in a Cy Young performance. His curveball was the driving force yielding a meager 368 OPS and generating 44 percent of his 205 strikeouts.

1. Justin Verlander (DET) – Verlander had an amazing follow up campaign to his Cy Young/MVP season in 2011 and like Kershaw, he had a very strong case for a repeat at Cy Young, but it wasn’t to be for him. He lost out by four points (whereas Dickey inexplicably crushed Kershaw, whose repeat case was probably stronger than JV’s). He again paced the entire league in innings and total strikeouts, but dropped seven wins off that flashy 24 count from last year dropping below the famed 20-mark.

By the way, Verlander is an instructive case for why I’m referencing strikeout percentage a lot more these days. He had an 8.96 K/9 in 2011 and 9.03 K/9 last year so there’ll be plenty of analysis stating that “he even raised his strikeouts!!!”, but he didn’t actually do that. He fanned 25.8 percent of batters in his dream season of 2011, compared to a flat 25 percent last year. Small difference, but important nonetheless.

Despite not winning any end of season awards, I doubt you will get much argument on Verlander as the best pitcher in the game, though the latest chic thing to do is to project a 2013 injury for him based on these recent workloads. It’s the most risk-less “bold” prediction you can make, so don’t fall into the trap of doing so to appear ballsy. Predicting any pitcher to get hurt is like guessing that Lindsay Lohan will be arrested soon. Both are ticking time bombs. Always.

Monday: 06.27.2011

Sunday Twidbits: June 26th

Here are this week’s MLB Sunday Twidbits which is something I’ll be doing every Sunday throughout the baseball season.  It’s an exercise whereby I tour the league giving a statistical tidbit per team on Twitter feed (@sporer).  Sometimes a team or two will get more than one if I have more than one nugget I really want to share, but every team will be represented at least once.  Check the sidebar on the right for previous editions of Twidbits.

Ari – David Hernandez was crushed for 5 ER w/out recording an out on 6/7. Since: 8.7 scoreless IP w/9 K, 1 H, 3 BB. Nice MR option w/10 K/9. (Ed. note: The Tigers bombed him shortly after I wrote this up.  He is prone to the occasional implosion, but the numbers from implosion-to-implosion are really good at least.)

Det – Justin Verlander is 6-0 in 49.7 IP (8+/start) w/0.72 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 8.5 K/BB over his last 6 starts. He is the AL’s best.

Det2 – Al Alburquerque has stifled 21 of 22 inherited runners. A great pickup if you’re high on IP: 2.05 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 15 (!) K/9.

Col – Ubaldo Jimenez has a 3.31 ERA/1.29 WHIP since 5-17; even better 2.43/1.20 in June w/7.8 K/9 & 4.1 K/BB

Col2 – Ty Wigginton hitting .298 w/7 HR, 16 RBI & 14 R in June. Scarcely owned depsite 1B-2B-3B elig: C 63%, Y! 41%, E 62%. Must-own.

Col3 – Wiggy (cont.) He’s a fantasy Swiss Army Knife & has had 20+ HR in 4 of last 5 yrs and now in Col. How wasn’t he drafted more?

NYY – CC Sabathia was winless in his 1st 4 starts despite a healthy 2.52 ERA; on Sat. he became 1st SP to 10 W going 10-3 w/3.43 in last 13.

Oak – Hiccup or problem? Trevor Cahill was rocked in 4 straight, but has a 1.15 ERA in 16 IP w/13 K in his last 2. Just beating up the NL?

Phi – Saturday was 35th time Cole Hamels has gone 8+ IP in his career. The Phillies offense has averaged 3.3 runs per game in those starts.

LAA – Jered Weaver fell off the radar a bit after his insane April; he’s on fire again: 3-0, 1.35 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 7.1 K/9 & 3.1 K/BB in last 47 IP

LAA2 – Dan Haren gets 4.3 R/G of support, 4th-lowest in AL. One of those 3 “ahead” of him? Teammate Jered Weaver: 3.9. #neverchasewins

LAD – Dodgers haven’t scored 2+ R in an innings for 2 wks. So why did Dan Haren give their only 2 guys (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier) anything?

LAD2 – LAD (cont.) He still won, but those two went 5-for-6 against Haren scoring all 3 of the runs he gave up. C’mon, Dan. Just face Loney.

Cin – Maybe Dusty Baker is using Chris Heisey best by rarely starting him. Starter: .225/.299/.382 in 279 PA; Sub: .356/.402/.644 in 102 PA. Odd.

Bal – Don’t confuse Jake Arrieta‘s 9-4 rec. w/success. His 1.2 HR/9 & 1.7 K/BB scream caution, his rec. is built by MLB-best 9.4 R/G of support.

Was – Roger Bernadina is worth owning (E 41%, Y! 14%, C 26%) as a pwr/spd mix. Hitting .400/.426/.644 w/3 HR & 2 SB in last 11; .333 for June.

CWS – At some point, Ozzie Guillen has to be held accountable for playing Adam Dunn v. LHP. He’s now 1-52 (.019) w/24 Ks. Let Lillibridge DH. (Ed. note: Or as reader Paul Bourdett suggested, call up Dayan Viciedo and let him take the hacks at DH against southpaws.  He is killing it in AAA.)

CWS2 – Dunn (cont.) Yes, it’s a small sample overall, but as much as Dunn is struggling, he needs some time off v. southpaws.

Bos – Andrew Miller isn’t an insta-pickup just bc he’s on Boston. He put on 10 baserunners against SD in 5.7 IP. The 6 Ks were nice, but…

Bos2 – Miller (cont.) He has done nothing to earn our trust at the MLB level. Facing Pitt today, then @HOU & v. BAL, proceed w/EXTREME caution

Pit – Jose Tabata was carted off w/an inj. on Sunday & AAA OF Alex Presley was pulled out of his gm shortly thereafter. NL-Onlys take note.

Pit2 – Presley (cont.) He could be in line for some of Tabata’s PT. The 25 y/o is hitting .336/.389/.500 w/8 HR & 18 SB.

Pit3 – Pirates (cont.) But I’d bet on Xavier Paul (speed) & Garrett Jones (power) seeing legitimate increases in their PT first.

Atl – Jason Heyward hitting .297/.381/.405 in 10 G since return from DL. Overall #s miiiight offer buying opp., espec. in non-keeper lgs.

SD – Chase Headley is still widely available & might be worth platooning on the road. Hitting .474 on latest rd trip; .304 AVG/.806 OPS career.

TB – James Shields bumps Verlander to co-best. Last 3: 27 IP (yes, 3 CGs) w/0.33 ERA, 0.59 WHIP, 8 K/9, 6 K/BB & of course 3-0. AL ASG starter?

TB2 – Nice wknd for BJ Upton in Hou: 4-11, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB. Hitting .297 in last 9; prob just means a 1-20 upcoming. He hates batting avg.

Hou – Matt Downs .272/.381/.556 w/5 HR in 97 PA. Rakes RHP & at home; so sit him for Clint Barmes at home v. righty. You wonder why you suck Hou?

Min – Ben Revere is the likely benefactor from Delmon Young inj. Revere hitting .284 w/11 R, 4 SB in June. Serves specific purpose & comes cheap.

Mil – Nyjer Morgan at .309/329/.471 in June, but just 1 SB. Perhaps it’s all of his XBH: 7 2B, 3 3B & 2 HR! A slightly better NL ver. of Revere.

CHC – Reed Johnson picked up where he left returning from the DL w/a .933 OPS w/2 HR & 4 RBI in 10 gm. No shallow mixed appeal, but deep & NL-Only

KC – Joakim Soria is back. His June: 12 IP, 12 K, 6 SV, 6 K/BB, 4 H. I hope you pounced on him as soon as he was cut on Memorial Day. Saw it in 3 lgs.

Tor – Edwin Encarnacion is hitting .283/.353/.522 in June w/2 HR, 3 RBI, 5 BB. Hardly overwhelming, but he quals at DH for lgs that requie true DH.

StL – The Cardinals sans Albert Pujols have not had a good week: 1-5 record, .240/.292/.373, 4.57 ERA, 1.33 WHIP

StL2 – In ’10 Jon Jay hit .383/.433/.583 in 115 AB over 49 G (2.4 AB/G); Aug-Sep as a reg. (42 GS), he hit .244/.309/.314 in 172 AB over 56 G (3.3)

StL3 – Jay (cont.) Same in ’11 w/reg PT: .349/.408/.514 thru May (54 G/22 starts); .239/.276/.324 in June (22/17). Sell now while #s still high.

NYM – Daniel Murphy‘s June .318/.355/.386, overall .296/.343/.408; mostly AVG, but 2B/1B elig w/10 G at 3B, too. He’s a playing time glue guy.

Tex – Nelson Cruz is coming out of his funk: .364/.389/.818 w/6 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI & 1 SB in his last 8. Overall #s might offer small discount. Buy.

Cle – Cle is 8-16 in June bc despite success of Masterson & Carrasco, other 3 SP have 5.32 (Talbot), 6.60 (Tomlin) & 7.62 (Carmona) ERAs.

SF – Ryan Vogelsong does not care that he is Ryan Vogelsong, still has allowed more than 2 ER just once in 13 starts. Skills remain strong, too.

SF2 – Vogel (cont.) Doesn’t mean he isn’t some to sell. 13 starts convinces ppl he’s legit, but 86% LOB% & 5.1% HR/FB = SOME regression on 1.86 ERA

SF3 – Vogel (cont.) Let’s say he ends yr w/a 3.00 ERA. He’d be 3.83 ROtW. Oddly enough, that’d be a sub-100 ERA+. 3.10+ = 4.00+ ERA

SF4 – Vogel (cont.) You’re not going to rip someone off for a 33 yr old journeyman, but any upgrade to your tm would be worth moving him. Sell.

Sea – I shy away from low-K SPs, but Doug Fister is criminally under-owned (high of 31% @ CBS): 3.13 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2.9 K/BB + Safeco & great D

Flo – Mike Dunn has K’d at least 1 batter in all of his last 13 outings, but otherwise been terrible: 6.60 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 4 HR, 18 K… ouch.

Flo2 – That’s why you never spend a lot on middle RPs, you have to be able to cut bait at a moment’s notice. Aroldis Chapman stung ppl this yr.

Friday: 03.4.2011

Donation Jersey Contest Update

I got a couple of emails the last day or two asking about the Donation Jersey Contest related to the Starting Pitcher Guide.  Instead of charging, I wanted to give users of the SP Guide the option to donate to the Guide if they saw fit.  In exchange for the donation, you not only get the Guide of course, but you also get entered into a drawing for a Tim Lincecum or Justin Verlander jersey.  I will do the drawing shortly after Opening Day (which is March 31st).  This gives everyone a legitimate chance to read through the Guide and truly decide if they want to donate and enter the contest.

I wanted to sincerely thank all of you who have already donated.  I am truly grateful that you deemed the project worthy of your hard-earned money.  It’s a really cool feeling when people make that kind of commentary on your work by choosing to give their money for the product.  So all of you who have donated, thank you very much and also sit tight as you are entered into the drawing.  Anyone still interested, there is time and there is no threshold donation to get you in.  If you donate, you’re in.  I will probably record the drawing on my FlipCam and throw it up on YouTube.  Like I said, that will be in early April sometime so enjoy the book and good luck in your drafts & auctions that are coming up.

Upcoming on the site there will be:

  • Podcast Recommendation List
  • Top Pitching Prospect List
  • Sleepers List
  • Positional Tiers List
  • Hitter Capsules (provided by BaseballGuys.com‘s Ray Flowers)
  • Middle Reliever Methodology
  • Some stuff on Closers
  • More 3 Questions entries
  • Bold Predictions column
  • and of course Daily Doses
Friday: 05.15.2009

K/BB as an ERA Indicator Addendum

Over at Owner’s Edge by Fanball.com, I wrote a piece about strikeout-to-walk ratios and how they relate to a pitcher’s ERA. I looked at the past two seasons to see how strong a correlation there was between K/BB ratio and ERA. If a strong enough relation existed, I wanted to use that information to see which pitchers stood out as buy-low or sell-high targets based on their K/BB and ERA thus far.

I was happy with the results in terms of the players identified, but some of my statistical conclusions left me a little uneasy, so I went back to the drawing board a bit. This time around, I went five years back and grabbed every qualifying ERA. This data set presented 393 samples with ERAs ranging from 2.27 to 6.47 and K/BB ratios from 8.3 to 1.1. I was comfortable with the depth of this set. In the original piece I used a 2.0 K/BB threshold, but given that 2.0 is the baseline that we generally look for in the fantasy baseball world, I thought it was a bit low for the purposes of what I’m looking to get out of the data.

I bumped it up to 2.5. At 2.0, it’s essentially a coinflip which isn’t surprising considering that it is hardly an elite mark. In fact there were 248 data points of 2.0 or better and it was a 60%/40% split of ERAs +/- 4.00. The worst ERA in the entire study, Eric Milton‘s disgusting 6.47 offering from 2005, actually topped the 2.0 threshold thanks to his sparkling 2.5 BB/9 rate. Moving to 2.5 cuts out the bottom 31 ERAs in the study and 46 of the bottom 50.

Here are the results with the deeper data pool and higher K/BB threshold:
k-bb ratio

4.00+ ERA

The above charts show that a 2.5+ K/BB ratio is three times more likely to yield a sub-4.00 ERA than not. Within a given season, there will be a group of pitchers whose skills should have netted them a better ERA, but poor defense or simply bad luck plagued them and left their skills unrewarded. The average was eight such starters per season. Given that recent trends have between 80 and 90 ERA qualifiers, it is about 9-10% of starting pitchers that get the short of the stick regardless of skills.

Here are some of the best buy-low opportunities who are also at risk of being part of this year’s batch of unlucky pitchers:

buy low

I don’t think you can really buy low on Justin Verlander given how unbelievably hot he has been lately striking out 9, 11, 11 and 13 in his past four starts. However all four of his AL Central counterparts on the list should come at legitimate discounts. I’d target Minnesota’s Kevin Slowey above all. His 0.9 BB/9 is amazing and while it might not hold 100%, he maintained a 1.3 in 160 IP last year so it’s unlikely to jump up too much. Rich Harden, Jon Lester and Jake Peavy won’t be bargain bin pick ups because of their gaudy strikeout totals (and because Harden and Peavy don’t have outrageous ERAs), but if you can get them at any discount, I’d recommend doing so immediately.

The at-risk group has it’s fair share of star power on it, too:

sell high

Three-fifths of the New York Yankees rotation is overachieving so far while the remaining two are getting obliterated (A.J. Burnett-5.36, Phil Hughes-7.56). And that over achievement has earned a record just one game above .500. Any regression could be very damaging and quickly push the Yankees to fourth in their division. But I actually expect Sabathia and Chamberlain to get better as we close out May and head into June. Sabathia will up his K-rate while Chamberlain will trim his BB-rate and continue to strikeout a batter per innings.

Jair Jurrjens and Brian Bannister are major red flags. We know what the bottom looks like for Bannister (1.9 K/BB in 183 IP last year led to 5.76 ERA), but Jurrjens flirted with the 2.0 threshold last year and ended up having a pretty successful year. Of course he did go for a sub-3.00 ERA in the first half and then regress heavily with a 4.49 in the second half. At least in 2008 he was straddling the limit with a 1.9 first half and 2.1 second half. I’d sell him instantly. And I’d have never bought Bannister so if you do have him, cash in that lottery ticket as soon as you can because it has an expiration date.

The names on this list that I’m least worried about are: Chad Billingsley, Max Scherzer and Matt Garza because of their strong K-rates of 9.3, 8.4 and 7.9, respectively. Yes Mitchell Boggs is toting an 8.1 K/9, but the last time he reached a mark that high was his final year at the University of Georgia in 2005 so I’m not buying it in the least with just 22 innings of work. As I mentioned earlier, I do think Chamberlain will turn it around, but there is still some risk because he has a nearly 10.0 H/9 rate to go with the gaudy BB-rate. There are concerns that he is trying to save himself to go six or seven innings and it’s causing him to be very hittable in the rare instances that he is actually in zone.

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