Last year around this time, I ran analysis inspired by Yahoo!’s Mike Salfino. I was already working on this year’s version when Mike did his own update here. So, again, I’m indebted to and in respectful disagreement with, Mike.
He ran an analysis here of ERA and ((K-BB)/IP). Essentially, there should be an inverse relationship: as the latter gets higher (a sign of dominance), the former should get lower (because better pitchers should give up fewer runs). Based on this, Mike identified several pitchers to be held and several to be sold as high as possible as soon as possible because they were clearly overperforming.
I’m still not sold on this particular measure. My principal basis for doubt is that it overlooks other important measures of pitching performance that we fantasy folks tend to overlook because we don’t include them in our league stats (for the most part). These include:
- # of pitches thrown
- Total batters faced
We do take BABIP and LD% into consideration when looking to explain over and underperformance. But, we don’t factor it in when using a stat such as (K-BB)/IP.
Overview: What do the numbers say?
As of Sunday morning 28 May, MLB stats for pitching are:
Let’s see how this looks with regard to the 145 pitchers with at least 30 IP so far (data are courtesy of Fangraphs). It will surprise no one that Chris Sale shows up on top of the (K-BB)/IP chart.
|Chris Sale||Red Sox||73||1.19||2.34|
|Marco Estrada||Blue Jays||68.2||0.89||3.15|
|Drew Pomeranz||Red Sox||44||0.89||4.70|
According to these numbers, though, you should be looking to scoop up Samardzija, Pomeranz, Arrieta, Karns, Salazar and Bauer if they are available or if you can get them at a good price. Their (K-BB)/IP ratio is well above the league average, yet their ERA is also well above. So, they are victims of bad luck or the gods’ anger. If they keep pitching at these levels of K and BB efficiency, their ERA should regress towards the mean and their overall value should improve. Hold that thought…
Similarly, sell-high candidates can be found where pitchers have very low ERA but are not performing with regard to (K-BB)/IP. Here are the top 20 pitchers in terms of ERA (and at least 30 IP).
|Chris Sale||Red Sox||1.19||2.34|
|Derek Holland||White Sox||0.47||2.37|
|Eduardo Rodriguez||Red Sox||0.69||2.77|
Based on this, you might want to consider selling Leake, Godley, Montgomery, Holland, Triggs and Nova while you still can. Their ERAs are much too low relative to their (K-BB)/IP. Well, yeah. I guess. But last week, I said that Leake should be owned in all leagues. I’m not ready to recant based on this data.
The Statistics Don’t Lie…
The problem with this stat is that it does not take into account pitchers who induce outs without throwing a lot of K. A good groundball pitcher who induces swings and outs will not show up on this radar. Also, keep in mind that in today’s era of pitch counts strikeouts are expensive because they eat into pitch counts. So, let’s look at a few additional stats.
MLB Averages 28 May 2017
Here, I look at league stats for Pitches per IP (PIP), Batters faced per IP (BFIP) and a couple of additional important stats that demo pitching prowess: BABIP, HR/FB, etc.
Sell-High Candidates in terms of (K-BB)/IP and ERA
|Chris Sale||Red Sox||14.77||3.77||1.19||2.34||0.26||0.08||0.20||0.39||0.42|
|Derek Holland||White Sox||16.46||4.22||0.47||2.37||0.26||0.11||0.20||0.38||0.43|
|Eduardo Rodriguez||Red Sox||16.84||4.03||0.69||2.77||0.27||0.08||0.22||0.34||0.44|
Hmmm…those sell high candidates don’t look so bad now. With the exception of Holland, these guys are inducing GB at a very high rate. With the exception of Montgomery and Holland, they are all throwing fewer PIP and facing fewer batters than the league average. Leake and Godley are throwing 2 fewer PIP than the league average. They are efficient. They won’t rack up your K counts, but they are good bets for W, QS and ratio stats going forward. (As a side note, do look at Sale’s line. This is filthy stuff. He is striking guys out like a god and throwing nearly 2 fewer PIP than the league average.)
Looking back at those leaders in terms of (K-BB)/IP, who might we want to be wary of?
|Chris Sale||Red Sox||14.77||3.77||1.19||2.34||0.261||0.08||0.20||0.39||0.42|
|Marco Estrada||Blue Jays||16.47||4.11||0.89||3.15||0.286||0.11||0.17||0.36||0.47|
|Drew Pomeranz||Red Sox||18.64||4.36||0.89||4.70||0.324||0.18||0.23||0.39||0.39|
Pomeranz, Arrieta, Salazar, Karns, Cahill and Bauer are throwing a lot of PIP. They are more or less league average in terms of BFIP. So, they are taking longer to get batters out. They are getting hurt because their BABIPs are all significantly higher than the league average.
Some things to note:
Karns is putting a lot of balls on the ground. He is, correspondingly, not suffering with regard to BABIP. With the exception of Cahill (with an extraordinary .60 GB rate), these guys are way above average in terms of HR/FB and generally above average in terms of FB%. So, when balls do leave bats with these guys, they tend to come equipped with a flight crew.
Arrieta is just having a weird year. Nothing outstanding in his ratios. Yet his BABIP is at coach-pitch heights and he’s throwing a lot of pitches. This is an act waiting to get back together.
Salfino likes Karns, Arrieta, Samardzija, Lackey, Porcello, Severino and Morton as buy low candidates. Let’s have a look:
|Rick Porcello||Red Sox||19.02||4.32||0.81||4.35||0.354||0.13||0.21||0.39||0.40|
With the exception of Severino, these guys are all suffering high BABIP so you have to figure they will improve with regard to ERA. But take a look: Porcello, Morton, and Lackey are throwing 2.5 more PIP than the league average while facing a league average 4.3 batters per inning. Morton is putting a lot of balls on the ground (51%) so that BABIP should come down. Still, there is more here than simply looking at the K/BB ratio
Selfino is down on Santana, Gonzalez, Bundy and Holland. What do we know?
|Derek Holland||White Sox||19.02||4.32||0.47||2.37||0.257||0.11||0.20||0.38||0.43|
There is much more to agree with here. These guys are all throwing a lot of PIP (19.02). So they are not helping themselves. Santana is benefiting from a ridiculous 0.136 BABIP. He’s giving up a lot of FB but has an equally ridiculous 0.09 HR/FB ratio. He would seem to be a good candidate for gravity to punish. Dylan Bundy is in essentially the same boat. The gods of probability suggest that their ERAs should rise as their HR/FB (and Santana’s BABIP) normalize.
So, keep an eye on the data that we don’t tend to track in our fantasy standings. Some of those sell-high candidates are keepers. Some of these guys are time bombs. Let’s be careful out there.
Happy Memorial Day!
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