2014 Fantasy Baseball: Crack That WHIP
It’s hard to do, but I try to avoid looking at the detailed scoring breakdowns of my fantasy baseball leagues early in the season. In most cases, I want to trust my draft season valuations and give ‘my guys’ a chance to perform. Getting caught up in the daily plus or minus game, or the slower than expected start of any player is a dangerous way to play. It doesn’t mean I sit on the sidelines and avoid making moves, but I am reluctant to diagnose any stat as a deficiency until we’re in late May or June. This is especially true with ratio stats, like batting average, ERA, and WHIP. Unlike counting stats like home runs or strikeouts, it takes longer for ratio stats to stabilize, and it’s difficult to look at your team in April and see a need for WHIP help. It’s much easier to notice that you need to add a slugger to your lineup because you lost Prince Fielder or went all in on Jedd Gyorko this season.
WHIP in particular, is difficult because it’s factoring in two separate entities, walks and hits. Walk rates stabilize fairly early in the season, meaning we can derive noteworthy improvements or regression when projecting a player’s skill set for the remainder of the season. Essentially, how a pitcher has performed here so far is probably what we should expect moving forward, with room for small fluctuations on either side of the line. The other factor is hits allowed, and that’s a bit trickier to forecast. The one stat that can help here is BABIP, batting average on balls in play. We can use BABIP-against to help understand if, in some cases, a pitcher has been lucky or unlucky.
Today, I want to use walk rates (BB%) and BABIP-against to help identify starting pitchers that are pitching above their heads in regards to WHIP and also find a few arms for you to target if you’re in need of a boost in this category. The first group of players have both a higher than league average walk rate (8.1%) and a below average BABIP-against (.294).
|R.A. Dickey||Blue Jays||10.30%||.285||1.42|
|Jorge de la Rosa||Rockies||9.50%||.235||1.20|
|John Danks||White Sox||9.30%||.270||1.33|
Let’s talk about a few of these players. Jarred Cosart is young and could have a promising future, but that walk rate makes him hard to stream, never mind own. Chris Young’s extreme fly-ball tendencies keep his BABIP low, but his this is a player to ignore in fantasy. Tom Koehler’s ownership has been on the rise, but this shows us he’s avoidable. His below average K-rate makes it hard to forecast a better than league average BABIP-against. Shelby Miller sure looked good against the Blue Jays this weekend, but I think I’d use the opportunity to sell high. R.A. Dickey is owned in too many leagues. He’s a mid-four ERA guy that doesn’t strike enough guys out. Rockies starter that’s been incredible lucky to date? No thanks. I’m not buying Jorge de la Rosa. Garrett Richards is barely over both of these thresholds, but it’s worth noting. He’s probably due for a bit of regression here, but not a lot. I’m surprised to see Sonny Gray here, but he’s less of a concern because of his ability to miss bats. If you were on the fence about the resurgence of Josh Beckett, I hope this solidifies your opinion.
The next list of players has a walk rate that’s below the league average rate of 8.1%, along with a BABIP-against that’s higher than the league average of .294.
|John Lackey||Red Sox||4.80%||0.321||1.24|
It doesn’t take a baseball expert to figure out that if you’re in and around the zone a lot, you’re going to give up a fair share of hits. It’s worth mentioning though, that ten of the 15 players in this group have an above average strikeout rate. These are some of the games best, and in some cases, they have room to get better. I wrote about David Price a little while back, and nothing has changed. Phil Hughes has been a great surprise, and it’s been lead by his ability to throw strikes. He has also dusted off his cutter, and it’s inducing the highest swing% of his career. Brandon McCarthy is another player I’ve highlighted in the past, and again I think that holds up. He’s a cheap addition and a smart one for anyone looking for pitching help. His velocity is up and he’s attacking the zone with it early and often. The strikeouts are going in the right direction here as well. Stephen Strasburg is still carrying a BABIP-against that’s 58 points higher than his career mark. I still think he’s a great arm to target. Corey Kluber is must-watch television at this point. As good as he’s been, he could be even better in the second half. Context is important so I want to mention that with such a low walk rate, Kluber usually carries a higher than average BABIP-against. In this case, his .336 against isn’t much off of his career numbers, but the increase in strikeouts leads me to think we’ll see this number dip as well. His off speed stuff induces such weak contact, that I think his ground ball rate will continue to climb, and that WHIP will continue to drop.