StrategyJune 30, 2011

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BABIP Outliers: Starting Pitchers - 4 comments

By Brandon Gray

This week, we take a look at the top 10 starting pitchers benefiting and suffering from BABIP. This article takes a similar approach to last week’s column on hitters, however I did not include 2008 statistics as many of the top pitchers this year did not pitch enough innings in 2008 to be relevant.

Below we will take a look at the comparison of the 2011 season and the 2009-2010 seasons, looking to identify any potential regression or opportunities in the second half of the year.

*Stats as of 6/28/2011

Getting Lucky

Josh Beckett0.2120.309-0.097
Justin Verlander0.2160.303-0.087
Paul Maholm0.2500.326-0.076
James Shields0.2500.324-0.074
A.J. Burnett0.2450.307-0.062
Jason Hammel0.2770.327-0.050
Ricky Romero0.2650.309-0.044
Tommy Hanson0.2430.282-0.039
Cole Hamels0.2680.303-0.035
Jered Weaver0.2440.277-0.033

We definitely have some Cy Young Award candidates on this list. Beckett and Verlander have been dominant, and I expect success to continue. Verlander is arguably the best pitcher in the game right now. Shields has been performing spectacular as well. He had an unusually high BABIP in 2010 (.341). His .250 pace this year may only marginally increase. If you can find a team to take A.J. Burnett off your hands, do it. His ratio stats are sure to inflate, while his K/9 is only 7.31 (8.18 career). Hamels could be the best pitcher in the NL, or the third best pitcher on his own team; either answer is fine as he is dealing this year. Jered Weaver has the lowest career BABIP of this group, and I doubt his .244 average this year is sustainable.

Finding the Holes

Edwin Jackson0.3470.2940.053
Chris Carpenter0.3230.2740.049
Matt Garza0.3180.2720.046
Ted Lilly0.3000.2540.046
Jake Westbrook0.3330.2880.045
Javier Vazquez0.3190.2770.042
Bronson Arroyo0.2910.2520.039
Chad Billingsley0.3340.2960.038
Ryan Dempster0.3340.2980.036
John Danks0.3030.2710.032

Are these the best buy low candidates right now? Lets take a look. Jackson is a little too erratic for my taste. While his 3.30 xFIP compares nicely to his 4.13 ERA, his 7.0% HR/FB ratio and 3.07 BB/9 are still too rich for me to make a pitch. Somebody likely owns him, so is he really worth buying? I’m a fan of Chris Carpenter and the likelihood he turns things around. If you play in a wins league, his ranking is probably suffering. Now is a good time to take advantage and offer a marginal hitter. Despite the major struggles this year, I still like Ryan Dempster. His ERA is currently 5.31 but he has a 3.40 xFIP. He is still striking people out at a very nice pace as well (8.42 K/9), but of course, the walks are high (3.39 BB/9). I’d still buy Ryan if I could for cheap. His HR/FB ratio is 14.9%, well above his 11.1% career. If he can stop the gopher balls, he will perform well in the second half.

Feel free to leave comments or column suggestions, and I will respond to any questions.

Brandon can be found at home being a dad and novice landscaper, in the corporate office being a hamster, on the diamond being a softball coach, or at Fenway Park enjoying a frank. You can follow Brandon on Twitter (@bginda2g).
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4 Responses to “BABIP Outliers: Starting Pitchers”

  1. User avatar neoforce says:

    I’m a bit confused. you said: “Beckett and Verlander have been dominant, and I expect success to continue. … If you can find a team to take A.J. Burnett off your hands, do it. His ratio stats are sure to inflate, while his K/9 is only 7.31 (8.18 career).”

    Certainly if I had no stats in front of me, and you asked me to judge AJ Burnett vs Beckett I would say Beckett is for real, and AJ is not. But how exactly do these stats justify that statement? These BABIP taken by themselves seem to say the opposite. That both are being pretty lucky right now. Or is it because of AJ’s K/9 decline? But wait… Beckett’s career K/9 is 8.4 while this year is 7.3!

    Just trying to understand how you are using the stats presented here to justify your suggesting that Becket will continue to have success with AJ is a sell high candidate.

  2. User avatar bginda2g says:

    Sorry, obviously the short blurbs don’t tell the whole story. I’m saying that if Burnett regresses in BABIP, and causes an ERA and WHIP inflation, he will not be useful. The ERA and WHIP are already too high for most fantasy owners. The thinking of Burnett as a strikeout pitcher isn’t as relevant this year to make up for the high ratios. While Beckett is sure to regress as well, his ERA and WHIP will still be a positive contribution to your team’s ratios.

  3. You definitely have to factor Ricky Nolasco in these talks. He’s been the biggest victim of an inflated BABIP and for the last three years hes been really unlucky. If he can get his slider under control more consistently and have a better defense around, it would defintely help him.

  4. User avatar bginda2g says:

    Nolasco’s BABIP for 2009-2010 was .316. In 2008, his best career year, it was .271. So far this year he is at .313 (.324 at the time of this article).

    I think the issues this year could be due to the increase in BB/9 and the decrease in K/9. His line drive percentage is much higher than usual but his HR/FB ratio is at a career low.


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