In our continuing series on player recommendations, today we take a look at the pitchers who are deviating from their projected production. The past has shown us that pitchers have a more difficult time reverting to their historical mean. Especially top tier pitchers (reason unknown, apparently if something within a pitcher's makeup is off, it's much harder to perform at the elite level than at a mediocre level). While approximately 80% of hitters will revert to the typical production ranges, only 65% of pitchers will find their normal ranges. Thus trading for an under-producing pitcher has more risk than trading for an under-producing hitter. Similarly trading away a over-producing pitcher has a higher possibility of working out against you (vs trading an over producing hitter). The recommendations/rankings are a combination of both Regression to the Mean and of the underlying SaberMetric fundamentals. Squarely put, it's a numbers game: ~65% of these recommendations will be spot on, 35% will be awry. I wish the percentages were higher, but it's the nature of the beast.
Balls Hit into Play Success % (BHIP or BABIP) There have been numerous studies (namely Voros McCracken's article) and rebuttals on the theory that "all balls put into play stand an equal chance based the law of percentages"....in other words, all pitchers stand the same chance of recording an out verses the batter reaching base on balls hit into play based on the average ratio of hits/outs. Overall, or internal analysis agrees with this observation however when you only consider the top echelon of hurlers, there is a significant correlation which indicates that some pitchers, particularly successful ones, do have influence over balls hit into play. The difference between having a .200 and .300 BHIP% against can mean 3 to 4 extra hits allowed per game. Which could play havoc on the WHIP, ERA, and Win categories. The average BHIP% given up by pitchers is .288 (given up by the top 130 starters). Listed in the analysis will be each pitchers current BHIP% and their 4 year average (if available). Using this single indicator we can determine which pitchers have been "lucky" or "unlucky" to date.
Pitchers who have been extremely fortunate on balls placed into play (less than a .235 BHIP%) are : Hammel,J. (.138), Paxton,J., McHugh,C., Cueto,J., Beckett,J., Harrison,M., Cumpton,B., Feldman,S., Richards,G., Gee,D., Simon,A., Martinez,N., Wainwright,A., Cobb,A., Young,C., Hudson,T., Teheran,J., Koehler,T., Sale,C., Leake,M., Cosart,J., Rienzo,A., Skaggs,T., Shields,J., Volquez,E., Miller,S. (.234).
As mentioned above, a regression to the MLB average (.288) or their 4 year average could mean a significant rise in all of the undesirable categories including ERA and WHIP. On the flip side, Pitchers who have been extremely unfortunate in balls placed into play (more than a .330 BHIP%) include: Bailey,H. (.410), Strasburg,S., Lincecum,T., Lee,C., Bumgarner,M., Hamels,C., Salazar,D., Chen,W., Bolsinger,M., Buchholz,C., Nuno,V., Kluber,C., Cahill,T., Nolasco,R., Wheeler,Z., Hughes,P., Zimmermann,J., Johnson,E., Oberholtzer,B., Lester,J., Archer,C., Erlin,R., Quintana,J., Jackson,E., Nicasio,J., Carrasco,C., Bedard,E., Arroyo,B., Hutchison,D. (.330).
Not a coincidence is that many of these pitchers are also pitchers who do not have a high Strikeout ratio, which has increased their susceptibility to poor luck on balls hit into play. One of the key indicators to pitching success in the majors is Strikeouts Per Innings Pitched (K/IP). Very few pitchers are successful with a K/I ratio below .68. The simple logic behind this ratio threshold is that balls put into play stand the chance to create runs while strikeouts obviously do not. High K/I ratios typically indicate that the pitcher has over powering stuff (usually a very good fastball), or in a few cases has masterful command of the strike zone with some type of movement (ala vintage Greg Maddux). You'll see that some of the under performing pitchers are considerably off in their ratios this early season...which could be an indication that something is wrong...it might just be a dead arm period...or a small sample size of only 5 or 6 starts...regardless it is a concern.
Here are a few pitchers whose K/Inning ratio is significantly less than typical so far this year (greater than .15 difference): Anderson,B., Milone,T., Ramos,C., Feldman,S., Volquez,E., Nolasco,R., Verlander,J., Teheran,J., Burnett,A., Skaggs,T., McGowan,D., Bedard,E., Samardzija,J.,Collmenter,J., Niese,J., Norris,B., Jimenez,U., Cobb,A., Vargas,J., Hamels,C., Lyles,J., Arroyo,B., Gallardo,Y., Stults,E., Young,C., Morales,F., Cole,G., Slowey,K., Gibson,K., Miller,S.
HR/FB% (Home Run / Fly Ball rate) gives us the rate of fly balls that leave the yard. This indicator is largely controllable by the hitter, but on average the typical HR/FB rate is ~11.5%. Pitcher who have been unlucky with a +15 HR/FB rate include: McCarthy,B., Hernandez,R., Sabathia,C., Chatwood,T., Bailey,H., Nuno,V., Miller,S., Tanaka,M., Greinke,Z., Cosart,J., Miley,W., Lincecum,T., Stults,E., Cole,G., Salazar,D., Morales,F., de la Rosa,J., Kendrick,K., Leake,M., Peralta,W., Mejia,J., Keuchel,D., Price,D., Straily,D., Estrada,M., Arroyo,B.
Another indicator included in this year's analysis is xFIP vs Actual ERA. xFIP approximates the deserved ERA using a series of stats and ratios. Top 100 Pitchers who are showing an overly inflated ERA (+1.00) in relation to their actual production include: Bailey,H. 2.88, McCarthy,B. 2.62, Lincecum,T. 2.60, Salazar,D. 2.49, Buchholz,C. 2.45, Hernandez,R. 2.40, Sabathia,C. 2.32, Price,D. 2.17, Jimenez,U. 2.16, Nolasco,R. 2.06, Strasburg,S. 2.00, Hamels,C. 1.95, Miley,W. 1.57, Kuroda,H. 1.48, Masterson,J. 1.44, de la Rosa,J. 1.25, Cosart,J. 1.24, Garza,M. 1.08, Straily,D. 1.03
Pitchers who are showing an a better ERA then deserved include (ERA is under represented): Feldman,S. 3.40, Young,C. 3.20, Simon,A. 2.67, Teheran,J. 2.64, Pineda,M. 2.38, McHugh,C. 2.26, Hale,D. 2.07, Ramos,C. 2.06, Wainwright,A. 2.03, Danks,J. 1.98, Buehrle,M. 1.97, Gallardo,Y. 1.95, Cobb,A. 1.93, Ventura,Y. 1.92, Verlander,J. 1.90, Burnett,A. 1.83, Vargas,J. 1.79, Miller,S. 1.73, Samardzija,J. 1.72, Peavy,J. 1.72, Cueto,J. 1.64, Koehler,T. 1.60, Gray,S. 1.50, Hammel,J. 1.46, Shields,J. 1.44, Gee,D. 1.39, Niese,J. 1.33, Roark,T. 1.26, Richards,G. 1.18, Kazmir,S. 1.11, Lyles,J. 1.10, Darvish,Y. 1.08, Beckett,J. 1.03, Alvarez,H. 1.02
Please refer to the Batters article for an explanation of the terms used such as FPI (FPI^ = FPI change over our preseason projection used to access the over or under production year to date), and the use of the Fantistics Advanced Stats Database.
Lots to chew on, I know....but now is the time to go after pitching talent that hasn't performed as expected. Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg, David Price, Madison Bumgarner, Gerrit Cole, Jordan Zimmerman, and Homer Bailey owners...I'm sending you an offer today!