Studs and Duds Part Deux. The MadProf unleashes Higgs-Boson

Dude!  Have you Reddit?  The MadProf lets you in on THE ONE THING that will save your fantasy baseball season.

#freakingseriously.  (Thanks to my freaking editor for being a wuss.  I tried using honest profanity akin to #shoot or #darnseriously.  But, well, you know.  This is family entertainment and, as George Carlin said, “You can’t fool me.  Shoot is shit with two o’s”.)  Oh.  Sorry.  Well, goshdarnit…

Seems some Reddit readers were a little peeved last week that I provided macro-level observations without doing their homework for them.  It’s interesting to be dissed on a site where the icon looks like a freaking Teletubby.

OK. I promise to let you all in on the ONE THING that will guarantee your fantasy baseball success.  So, Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, Laa Laa and Po, hang on to your hood ornaments.  The secret to unbridled, easy fantasy success awaits.

I’m talking the effing Higgs-freaking-Boson particle of fantasy baseball.  The Viagra of Sabermetrics.  Seriously, this is the Reddit-or-not, “draft your team and go to sleep because mommy will take care of your pitcher streaming,” “Sweet mystery of life, I have found you” answer to the fundamental mysteries located in the restaurant at the end of the fantasy sports universe that will  guarantee DFS, weekly, h2h and regular season-long roto success for ANY fantasy league. GUARANTEED.

And, hey:  all that in about 2,000 words.  Can’t beat that with a stick. So, stay tuned.  The answer is located at the end of the piece.  No cheating.  You need to read the prefatory stuff before jumping ahead.

Now then.

To start:  Mad Bum is on the shelf.  Damn.   WTF. Is he really hurt—or is this simply MLB taking advantage of the new “10-Day, I got a bad haircut and don’t want to play DL” category?  What a bummer.  Anyone who throws at Puig and then invites him to the mound is simply a B. A. (Update: looks like Bum will be out 6-8 weeks)

Last year at about this time, I wrote a piece on lucky and unlucky pitchers.  All the credit goes to Michael Salfino who wrote the original piece to which I reacted and by which I was inspired.  He looked at the relationship between ((K-BB)/IP) and ERA.  He identified some SP who were just unlucky because they had solid (or, at least, above average) (K-BB)/IP and were getting hammered in ERA.  Similarly, there were some ham and eggers out there with below average ratios who had inappropriately low ERA.  I suggested that the measure was not so good because:

Problem is, (K-BB)/IP is a relative measure with limited value.  Theoretically, you can’t strike out more than 3 batters per inning (unless your butter-fingered catcher keeps dropping third strikes).  The number of walks you can issue is, theoretically, unlimited. So, the numerator of Salfino’s ratio could lead to some bizarre results.  Mathematically, the ratio should top out at 3K-0BB = 3.  The low end of this ratio is limited only by the manager’s hook.  So, theoretically, 0K-nBB = -∞.  My brain hurts!

So, I ran some alternative numbers using BABIP, LD% and ERA.  Essentially, I noted that you could be striking out the side and still serving up batting practice.  So, I took who was lucky and who was not per Salfino’s measure and checked them with regard to BABIP, LD, etc.  Let’s have another look.

League Averages through 18 Games (MLB.COM).

To start, I offer the following overall stats for MLB.

LEAGUE AVERAGES ERA SV IP ER R BB SO BAA
American League 3.80 5 156 66 71 56 142 0.238
National League 3.95 5 159 70 77 58 149 0.243
MLB 3.87 5 158 68 74 57 145 0.240

After 18 games, the league sports a less than overwhelming 1[45:57] K:BB ratio per team and a respectable 3.87 ERA.  I drew the following data from our friends at Fangraphs for all pitchers with at least 20 IP as of 7 PM Eastern time on Sunday, 23 April.  We’ll start with some overall data.  Currently, the top 25 SP in terms of WAR are:

Name Team IP WAR
Chris Sale Red Sox 29.2 1.5
Noah Syndergaard Mets 26 1.4
James Paxton Mariners 25.1 1.3
Dylan Bundy Orioles 26.1 1.2
Jason Vargas Royals 20.2 1.1
Stephen Strasburg Nationals 28 1
Chris Archer Rays 25.1 1
Ervin Santana Twins 28 0.8
Mike Leake Cardinals 21.1 0.8
Chase Anderson Brewers 24 0.8
Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 28.1 0.8
Madison Bumgarner Giants 27 0.8
Jacob deGrom Mets 24.2 0.7
Dallas Keuchel Astros 28 0.6
Antonio Senzatela Rockies 26 0.6
Jon Lester Cubs 23.2 0.6
Zack Greinke Diamondbacks 24.2 0.6
Gio Gonzalez Nationals 26.2 0.5
Carlos Carrasco Indians 27.1 0.5
Ivan Nova Pirates 20 0.5
Luis Severino Yankees 20 0.5
Taijuan Walker Diamondbacks 21.2 0.5
Danny Duffy Royals 27.1 0.4
Jeremy Hellickson Phillies 24 0.4
Ian Kennedy Royals 26 0.4

Go Figure.  But, Taijuan Walker is in there….???  Well, Higgs my Boson and do my homework for me.

Chris Sale continues to disprove the “New Lefties Suffer in Fenway Park” theorem (for those of you on Reddit looking for fundamental principles of the universe, that’s only a hypothesis with a rather pudgy error term).  So, breathe…in, breathe out…out of the door, a line on the left, one cross each…  Thor is Thor.  Bumgarner and deGrom are about to leave the list for a bit.  Dylan Bundy seems to be in a breakout season….

But, ok.  Let’s look at some indicators for investment and sell high, buy low purposes.  Among the 72 MLB pitchers with at least 20 IP as of Sunday afternoon, 23 April, here are some leading average indicators:

Stat Mean
IP 23.72
BABIP 0.270
LD% 0.195
Pitches 371
Hard% 0.32
K/9 7.84
BB/9 2.67
K/BB 4.40
ERA 3.34

In this article, I pick up where I left off a year ago and plot the relationship between LD% and BABIP.  It comes as no surprise that as the former goes up, so does the latter. More specifically, for roughly every 10% increase in line drive percentage, a pitcher’s BABIP goes up 0.04.  The average BABIP among these pitchers is 0.270.  The average LD% is 19.5%.  That intersection is marked by the crosshairs in the graph below.

So, in reality, “lucky” pitchers are the ones with higher than average LD% and lower than average BABIP.  Similarly, “unlucky” pitchers are those with lower than average LD% and higher than average BABIP.  Everyone else is, uh, normal.  So, who’s really lucky and unlucky?

Twenty of the 72 pitchers fall into the unlucky category.  These guys are being let down by their defense.

Unlucky Pitchers

Name Team BABIP LD% SO BB K/9 BB/9 K/BB ERA
Jon Lester Cubs 0.328 0.134 21 7 7.99 2.66 3 2.66
Noah Syndergaard Mets 0.319 0.155 30 0 10.38 0 30 1.73
Matt Moore Giants 0.325 0.159 17 6 6.65 2.35 2.83 5.87
Rick Porcello Red Sox 0.342 0.160 23 5 8.75 1.9 4.6 5.32
Masahiro Tanaka Yankees 0.344 0.167 19 10 8.14 4.29 1.9 6.00
Michael Pineda Yankees 0.291 0.169 29 3 11.19 1.16 9.67 3.86
Clayton Richard Padres 0.304 0.171 18 7 6.08 2.36 2.57 3.04
Jacob deGrom Mets 0.316 0.172 32 10 11.68 3.65 3.2 2.55
Jose Quintana White Sox 0.292 0.174 20 12 7.71 4.63 1.67 6.17
Ricky Nolasco Angels 0.299 0.178 17 3 6.75 1.19 5.67 4.76
Madison Bumgarner Giants 0.299 0.179 28 4 9.33 1.33 7 3.00
Stephen Strasburg Nationals 0.284 0.187 29 7 9.32 2.25 4.14 2.89
Patrick Corbin Diamondbacks 0.311 0.187 15 7 6.14 2.86 2.14 3.27
Ariel Miranda Mariners 0.295 0.188 17 5 7.4 2.18 3.4 4.35
Zack Greinke Diamondbacks 0.301 0.189 20 6 7.3 2.19 3.33 3.28
Jhoulys Chacin Padres 0.282 0.192 15 8 5.87 3.13 1.88 4.70
Chase Anderson Brewers 0.273 0.194 22 6 8.25 2.25 3.67 1.13
Wily Peralta Brewers 0.290 0.194 13 9 5.57 3.86 1.44 4.71
Gerrit Cole Pirates 0.314 0.194 19 6 7.43 2.35 3.17 4.70
Taijuan Walker Diamondbacks 0.323 0.194 22 7 9.14 2.91 3.14 4.57

As a group, they don’t deviate from the league averages much.  They average 376 pitches thrown so far, 8.0 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and an ERA of 3.93.  But, their BABIP is 0.306 despite a LD% of 0.177.  So, they are striking out more than the league average, walking fewer than the league average and still giving up more ER than their stat line would predict.

When you remove folks like Thor, you find good buy low candidates here such as Porcello and Tanaka (apologies for my earlier dismissals).  Have faith in Cole, maybe try to use the Jedi Mind Trick and acquire Greinke and consider picking up Taijuan Walker. (But handle with care.  He’s left a trail of death, destruction, and burnt fingers.)  In general, if these guys continue pitching the way they’ve been pitching, their numbers should improve.  That is an asymptotic projection, though.  Folks like Thor can’t get much better.

So, who’s lucky?  Hmmm…

Lucky Pitchers

Name Team BABIP LD% Pitches SO BB K/9 BB/9 K/BB ERA
Tyler Chatwood Rockies 0.247 0.208 393 18 8 6.15 2.73 2.25 4.10
Tanner Roark Nationals 0.250 0.213 404 17 5 6.2 1.82 3.4 3.65
Corey Kluber Indians 0.261 0.216 416 27 8 8.89 2.63 3.38 4.28
Chris Sale Red Sox 0.237 0.217 425 42 6 12.7 1.82 7 0.91
Jaime Garcia Braves 0.257 0.221 341 14 8 5.4 3.09 1.75 4.24
Antonio Senzatela Rockies 0.216 0.227 371 17 4 5.88 1.38 4.25 2.08
Ivan Nova Pirates 0.261 0.227 253 8 0 3.6 0 8 2.25
Carlos Carrasco Indians 0.194 0.234 381 27 7 8.89 2.3 3.86 1.65
James Paxton Mariners 0.270 0.242 409 30 5 10.7 1.78 6 1.78
CC Sabathia Yankees 0.229 0.257 357 14 9 5.4 3.47 1.56 2.70
Yu Darvish Rangers 0.230 0.286 380 23 12 8.39 4.38 1.92 3.28

These 11 pitchers are defying the odds a bit.  They average a 0.232 LD% and a 0.240 BABIP.  On average, they don’t look so awful.  They have thrown 375 pitchers, average 7.5 K and 2.3 BB per 9 IP and their ERA is, uh, 2.81.  So, their counting stats are a tick below their unlucky counterparts.  (Granted, if you are Chris Sale, more than luck is at stake because you are striking out nearly 13 batters per 9 IP.)

You can scan the data from many directions.  I’m not suggesting these guys are destined to falter.  But, Kluber, Roark, Sale and Paxton have thrown nearly 10% more pitches than the league average.  Kluber, Sale and Paxton also have very high K/9.  But, if they keep throwing pitches at this rate, one wonders if they might not lose a tick and miss fewer bats.  Lots of games to go.  No rash decisions.  Just keep an eye…

Who’s earning his money? Top Performers

Name Team BABIP LD% Pitches SO BB K/9 BB/9 K/BB ERA
Jerad Eickhoff Phillies 0.238 0.091 366 25 8 9.12 2.92 3.13 2.55
Dallas Keuchel Astros 0.194 0.100 377 22 6 7.07 1.93 3.67 0.96
Ian Kennedy Royals 0.200 0.104 400 22 12 7.62 4.15 1.83 2.08
Marco Estrada Blue Jays 0.258 0.111 403 24 9 9 3.38 2.67 2.63
Sean Manaea Athletics 0.231 0.115 372 26 12 10.48 4.84 2.17 4.43
Matt Shoemaker Angels 0.204 0.119 376 19 9 7.89 3.74 2.11 4.98
Hector Santiago Twins 0.247 0.122 366 17 4 6.2 1.46 4.25 2.19
Danny Duffy Royals 0.232 0.141 390 22 10 7.24 3.29 2.2 1.32
Dan Straily Marlins 0.217 0.149 336 24 9 10.45 3.92 2.67 3.92
Jeremy Hellickson Phillies 0.164 0.151 325 10 3 3.75 1.13 3.33 1.88
Lance Lynn Cardinals 0.210 0.154 390 20 8 7.71 3.09 2.5 2.7
Ervin Santana Twins 0.114 0.157 398 20 8 6.43 2.57 2.5 0.64
Hisashi Iwakuma Mariners 0.211 0.159 306 9 10 3.98 4.43 0.9 5.31
Cole Hamels Rangers 0.203 0.171 394 14 9 4.85 3.12 1.56 2.77
Luis Severino Yankees 0.233 0.174 300 27 2 12.15 0.9 13.5 4.05
Bartolo Colon Braves 0.261 0.174 341 18 5 6.75 1.88 3.6 4.5
Mike Leake Cardinals 0.266 0.175 291 14 1 5.91 0.42 14 0.84
Jered Weaver Padres 0.182 0.178 305 13 4 5.09 1.57 3.25 3.91
Blake Snell Rays 0.200 0.180 369 15 15 6.33 6.33 1 3.38
Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 0.221 0.183 381 32 2 10.16 0.64 16 2.54
Jake Arrieta Cubs 0.254 0.188 387 29 5 10.58 1.82 5.8 3.65
Gio Gonzalez Nationals 0.243 0.192 405 21 7 7.09 2.36 3 1.35
Matt Harvey Mets 0.203 0.194 369 17 5 6.04 1.78 3.4 2.84

These 23 pitchers are pitching consistently well.  They average a 0.151 LD% and a 0.217 BABIP along with 7.5 K and 2.7 BB per 9 IP with a 2.84 ERA.  Overall, though, they are averaging 363 pitches thrown thus far. That’s only 8 pitches below the league average.  But, perhaps we are seeing a measure of efficiency here. Only Gio Gonzalez and Marco Estrada have thrown over 400 in this group.  Five of these guys (Kershaw, Arrieta, Severino, Straily and Manaea) average more than 10 K/9.  So, these guys are throwing fewer pitches and missing bats when they do.

Troubling Signs

On the other hand, we seem to have some headaches in the making at the other end of the spectrum.  These 19 pitchers have higher than average LD% and BABIP.  If they’ve been successful, you might have a look and see whether they are likely to fall back to earth.  They are averaging a 0.250 LD% and a 0.310 BABIP.  When these guys fail to miss bats, they duck.

Overall, they do not seem to be doing so badly.  This group includes Lance McCullers (a preseason stud prediction) and Carlos Martinez (ditto). Both average 12 K/9 so far.  But Martinez has cooled after a solid start.

Name Team BABIP LD% Pitches SO BB Pitches K/9 BB/9 K/BB ERA
Martin Perez Rangers 0.377 0.339 365 16 12 365 7.2 5.4 1.33 3.60
Dylan Bundy Orioles 0.297 0.288 412 20 4 412 6.8 1.37 5 1.37
Marcus Stroman Blue Jays 0.359 0.281 283 13 4 283 5.9 1.8 3.25 4.05
Julio Teheran Braves 0.308 0.277 381 18 11 381 7 4.3 1.64 3.52
Chris Archer Rays 0.352 0.271 428 27 8 428 9.6 2.84 3.38 3.20
Robbie Ray Diamondbacks 0.296 0.268 411 30 14 411 11 5.32 2.14 3.42
Scott Feldman Reds 0.271 0.262 390 19 8 390 7.5 3.18 2.38 2.38
Jharel Cotton Athletics 0.286 0.246 372 15 11 372 6 4.37 1.36 4.76
Tyler Skaggs Angels 0.313 0.246 371 23 9 371 8.5 3.33 2.56 4.44
Felix Hernandez Mariners 0.368 0.244 353 20 1 353 7.3 0.36 20 3.65
Johnny Cueto Giants 0.278 0.243 389 19 8 389 7.1 3 2.38 5.25
Charlie Morton Astros 0.353 0.239 360 19 8 360 8.1 3.43 2.38 4.29
Justin Verlander Tigers 0.317 0.227 407 22 11 407 8.9 4.43 2 6.04
Jameson Taillon Pirates 0.271 0.225 374 20 10 374 7.1 3.55 2 2.13
Carlos Martinez Cardinals 0.351 0.220 392 31 11 392 12 4.37 2.82 4.76
Alex Cobb Rays 0.329 0.213 389 18 4 389 6.8 1.5 4.5 4.88
Jason Vargas Royals 0.286 0.204 283 23 2 283 10 0.87 11.5 0.44
Lance McCullers Astros 0.310 0.203 384 31 6 384 12 2.25 5.17 3.38

Jason Vargas is not walking anyone.  Can he continue at this level of performance?  Probably not.  He is not Thor yet.  King Felix, however, is King Felix. Maybe he’s figured out what ailed him last year.

Four of these guys have already thrown more than 400 pitches.  So, one wonders if Bundy, Archer, Ray and Verlander will not show some fatigue as the season moves along.  If you recall, Archer was doing this last year at this time.  He delivered Ks and got better as the year went on.  But, he will cost you some hair.

There is a lot to try to glean from data points such as those I discussed.  After 18 games, the data still suffers from the variance that will occur at the beginning of any season.  But, some key takeaways for now:

  • Watch those pitch counts.  You can’t throw 10% more pitches than the league average and NOT run out of gas.
  • Keep an eye on the so-called “unlucky” pitchers.  Their LD% indicates that they should improve.  Similarly, those lucky guys might be good people to consider selling high.

There is lots to pick from this data.  I’ve skimmed the surface in this column.  More work awaits.

And now, Redditors, your Higgs-Boson moment.  Quick: Get your Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring and head for the bathroom: When you are done with this, read a bunch of other stuff, do your own freaking homework and draw your own conclusions.  Don’t like this piece?  Read Shandler, Salfino or any of my MLFS colleagues.  Compare, contrast, distil ponder, think and make your own decision.

Yup.  That’s it.  The secret of the universe. Don’t tell…

More to come.  Best wishes.

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

 

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 23rd, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #84 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guests this week are Andy Macuga and Ron Shandler. Andy is the head football and baseball coach for Borrego Springs H.S. in southern California. Ron is a FSTA Hall of Famer and a fantasy baseball pioneer.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join guest host Andrea Lamont, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 30th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #85 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guest this week is Joe Iannone. Joe is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com, a 5 year veteran in MLFB leagues, and a really handsome guy. His articles publish every Sunday. He helps “Pick Your Spots” for the coming week.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”



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