StrategyJuly 25, 2006

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Top 10 Candidates for a Reversal of Ratio Fortunes

By Bob Hoyng

It is useful from time to time to take a look at which pitchers have been unlucky. Sometimes the bloop hits fall in, the runners don’t get stranded as often as they should, or the hits all come in the same inning leading to a pounding. Identifying unlucky pitchers can present you with excellent buy-low candidates.

To filter out this luck we’ll use the Defense Independent Component ERA (DICE for short) formula to project ERA and the pWhip formula to project WHIP. My sample group for this process was all pitchers that have thrown over 90 innings through July 19, 2006. In addition, I limited our results to only pitchers with a sub-4.30 DICE and a sub-1.260 pWHIP. Otherwise you get some pitchers that while they’ve been unlucky, still aren’t projected to be useful.

10. Chris Capuano – Capuano is in the midst of his second straight outstanding season. That he makes it on to this list shows just how good this young lefty could be. A BABIP against in the neighborhood of .320 seems to be the culprit and will most likely drop back down in the .290-.300 range.

9. C.C. Sabathia – Sabathia had a very tough June but has turned it around in July. He’s had some rough outings – four games with a 7.50 era or higher and one with a disastrous nine earned runs in just 2.1IP – but those blow-ups simply make him a slightly more affordable target than he’d otherwise be.

8. Aaron Harang – Harang’s a guy that seems to break the rules for the ERA and WHIP projections. He’s posted a .316 BABIP against over his career and doesn’t seem to show bad luck in doing so. Something about the way Harang pitches simply makes him slightly more hittable than other pitchers while at the same time still allowing him to have a fair amount of success. He even strikes out a lot of batters. I wouldn’t count on an improvement in the ratios here but I left him on the list just to show that you can’t always trust the DICE/pWHIP numbers alone in projecting a turn-around.

7. Dave Bush – As you can see from the projections, Bush’s WHIP is right in line with expectations – it’s only the ERA that’s out of whack. A fairly low 67.3% strand rate is to blame here and once that turns around you can expect a very healthy correction to his ERA.

6. Jeremy Bonderman – Bonderman has the same problem as Sabathia – a few bad outings. Two of his appearances saw him not make it past the fourth inning and give up seven earned runs in each. The buy-low window has probably closed on Bonderman since those starts, but if you can get him at even a slight discount then you should definitely pull the trigger – especially in a keeper league.

5. Felix Hernandez – I would put King Felix into the same category as Harang. He’s a guy for whom the DICE/pWHIP don’t necessarily indicate a coming improvement. Hernandez has had issues ranging from the supposed tipping of pitches to poor pitch selection to stepping in the wrong direction on his follow-through. Keep in mind though that Felix isn’t even old enough to drink yet. He could figure things out at any point and the K/9 and BB/9 have been outstanding this year. If he lowers the number of mistake pitches that he throws up there, his high ground ball rate will support a very low HR/9, and could lead to some extremely impressive numbers. Whether he takes that step this year or not though is a risky proposition. However, given that the Mariners are starting to score some more runs, and that they have an excellent bullpen, I would give serious thought to trying to acquire the King. Even if he doesn’t improve he should give you decent wins and very good strikeout numbers.

4. Greg Maddux – Maddux has been downright awful after his great 5-0 start. However, he’s still the same pitcher he’s been over the last few years. His K/9, BB/9 and HR/9 are all in line with what you’d expect from the aging future Hall of Famer. Maddux has been victimized by a terrible 64.1% strand rate so far this year and that’s caused his ERA to bloat to over a full point higher than it should be.

3. Kevin Millwood – A .335 BABIP against paired with a 68.2% strand rate are a lethal combination. Millwood would be a solid number three starter in most fantasy formats and maybe even a number two. Instead his ERA and WHIP have knocked him down in value quite a bit. Millwood is an outstanding guy to go out and get right now. Even if he only returns to his career 3.83 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, you’d still be getting a bargain if you paid for what he’s produced so far this year.

2. Jake Peavy – Proceed with caution here. Peavy is the ultimate in high risk/high reward at the moment. His shoulder tendinitis is a very real concern and could cause him to end up on the disabled list at some point this year. A slightly bad 69.3% strand rate as well as a slightly higher-than-it-should-be 13.7% HR/F% indicate that Peavy should have some improvement. He’s also had more bad outings (six) than either Sabathia or Bonderman. Those blow-ups which come to a total of 38 earned runs in 30 innings pitched (11.40 era) hide the fact that Peavy has only given up 22 earned runs in his other 75 innings pitched (2.64 era). Which Peavy will show up from here on out? If you can get him cheaply enough at this point I would take the chance that it will be the 2.64 ERA version which would be in line with his 2004 and 2005 numbers. It all boils down to how cranky his right shoulder gets with him.

1. Javier Vazquez – Vazquez sports a .330 BABIP against and a very bad 65.0% strand rate. His game on July 19 was a microcosm of his entire season. Vazquez cruised through five scoreless innings giving up two hits, one walk and hitting one batter while striking out five. After an infield single by Placido Polanco, Vazquez gave up three more singles in a row before getting a force out at home for the first out. Just when a double play ball would get him out of the inning with a single run given up, Craig Monroe took him deep for a grand slam. His final line on the night – 6IP 7hits 1BB 1HBP 5k – looks like a very good night. But because of the grand slam he gives up five runs on a night where he looked great outside of that single inning. Can Vazquez turn things around, avoid the big inning and be the pitcher that he projects to be? It definitely remains to be seen. I’d be willing to take a chance on him now that his owners have probably lost their patience with him.



The Loveable Losers (known as Bob in the parlance of those not addicted to fantasy sports) is a computer programmer and numbers junky from New Carlisle, Ohio.
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