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As we enter June, the season’s third month, the Astros and Twins are on top of the American League standings, just like no one predicted. In the National League, order is restored as the Cardinals and Dodgers lead the way.

Being wrong is fine, if you learn from it and get better the next time. That is called tuition. If you do not learn from your mistakes, then it is just a loss.

I recently recommended both Victor Martinez and Stephen Strasburg, both who have succumbed to potentially long disabled list stints. They both had injury scares, in other words, they had a lot of risk associated with them.

Risk has a price; therefore, the discount must be appropriate when considering picking up certain players.

We kick off this week’s Fantasy Lookout with a look at a few non-closing relievers who can help you out with your strikeouts and ratios. Then we will see if a slow starting Padre hurler can turn things around. We will move on to the Bay Area and analyze the transformation of a hitter and see if it has staying power. Finally, in this week’s deep dive, we will look at the attributes of the top 10 starting pitchers in various statistics and we will see if we can determine the best ones to follow going forward.

Non-Closing Relievers

Elite bullpen arms that are not closers can still help your Fantasy team, even in leagues that do not count holds. They can help you out in terms of ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. The possibility of saves is just a cherry on top. These relievers become even more valuable in leagues with an innings cap, since those leagues essentially become K/9 leagues. Let’s take a look at a few of these pitchers and their relevant statistics.

Name IP ERA WHIP K-BB% BABIP LD% GB/FB Hard% SwStr% Contact%
Dellin Betances 29.1 0.00 0.75 33.6% .204 20.4% 1.60 20.4% 15.4% 63.4%
Sergio Romo 17.2 3.57 1.08 29.6% .333 22.5% 1.58 25.0% 16.0% 64.7%
Evan Scribner 30.2 2.05 0.82 28.7% .270 27.0% 1.70 31.2% 14.0% 70.5%
Will Smith 18.2 1.93 1.02 26.9% .275 15.4% 0.83 30.0% 17.0% 64.7%
Carson Smith 23.0 1.17 0.74 26.4% .216 21.6% 3.00 25.0% 11.9% 72.8%

All of these pitchers have an elite strikeout vs walk ratio coupled with solid ratios.

Dellin Betances was supposed to open the year as the closer, but early season velocity and control issues relegated him to the setup role. Needless to say, he has turned things around, yet to allow an earned run all year.

Sergio Romo has consistently been an elite reliever, whether he has been in a setup role or as a closer. His ERA this year seems to be slightly inflated due to an LOB% of 62.5%. As the season progresses, I think this will normalize and the ERA will fall closer to his sub 2.00 FIP.

Evan Scribner seems to have finally transferred his minor league success over to the major leagues. He holds a career K-BB% in the minors of 24.7% over 156 innings.

Will Smith tends to have a little bit of a control issue, evidenced by his BB/9 of 3.86 this year and a career mark of 3.43. He should be fine as long as the strikeouts remain elite and his swinging strike rate implies they will.

Carson Smith, who we wrote about last week, keeps the ball on the ground while maintaining a solid K/BB profile.

For what it is worth, I believe that Betances, Romo, and Carson Smith are next in line for saves should their respective closers falter.

Tyson Ross, SP, San Diego Padres

Year ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 LOB% BABIP LD% GB/FB Hard% Contact% SwStr%
2013 3.17 1.15 8.57 3.17 71.5% .282 15.3% 1.85 32.6% 75.3% 11.2%
2014 2.81 1.21 8.97 3.31 75.1% .291 20.9% 2.58 27.7% 71.4% 12.7%
2015 3.76 1.50 9.88 4.45 74.1% .348 18.5% 3.53 25.4% 70.0% 13.1%

When you first glance at Tyson Ross’ ratios this year, it looks like he has taken a step back from last year’s solid campaign. However, when you look under the hood, there actually seems to be improvement in several categories, except for all those free passes. Ross has battled control issues over his career, and this year is no different. Luck has not been Ross’ friend this year given his .348 BABIP, which ranks as the 6th highest of all qualified starters. This figure is puzzling when you consider both his LD% and Hard% allowed. Also, take a look at the following ranks: GB% 2nd, Contact% 3rd, SwStr% 8th, and K/9 12th. Ross’ 2014 campaign ended early due to a flexor strain in his right forearm, so there is some injury risk to consider, especially when you look at his 45% slider usage. Given his velocity being unchanged from last year and his similar pitch usage, all things appear to be fine. Assuming his health holds up, I think Tyson Ross’ rest of season ratios will look quite similar to last year. Ross is a great target if you can get him at a discount given his 2014 injury and 2015 year to date performance.

Josh Reddick, OF, Oakland Athletics

Year AVG BB% K% BABIP LD% GB/FB HR/FB Pull% Swing% Contact% SwStr%
2012 .242 8.2% 22.4% .269 21.2% 0.59 14.0% 38.5% 50.2% 80.5% 9.6%
2013 .226 10.4% 19.5% .255 20.1% 0.80 8.9% 41.4% 45.0% 81.0% 8.5%
2014 .264 7.1% 15.9% .289 17.6% 0.65 8.0% 39.9% 49.4% 82.6% 8.5%
2015 .302 11.1% 10.0% .308 25.3% 0.93 12.1% 36.0% 40.2% 85.3% 5.8%

Josh Reddick is a different hitter this year, a much better one than the old Josh Reddick. He has immensely improved his batting eye, posting a career low strikeout rate while achieving a career high walk rate. Further support comes from a career low swinging strike rate coupled with a career high contact rate. Patience seems to be the key, evidenced by his career low swing rate. It all seems to be paying off given his batted ball profile. He has traded in fly balls for line drives and he is pulling the ball at a career low rate. He still struggles against lefties and his May numbers are down slightly from April. That being said, it looks like the new, patient, and improved Josh Reddick is here to stay.

Deep Dive: Starting Pitching

Starting pitchers will be our position of topic for this week’s deep dive. Let’s see if we can shed light on what are the most relevant underlying statistics. The following chart contains data on what I believe are the most useful statistics to help justify and analyze a pitcher’s ERA and WHIP. I tend to think of the ERA and WHIP as the result of a variety of actions. I included data from 2015 and 2014 to ensure small sample size issues are minimized.

2015 ERA WHIP GB/FB LD% Contact% SwStr% K-BB% Hard%
ERA 1.79 1.01 1.69 19.6% 79.0% 9.9% 15.7% 26.5%
WHIP 2.18 0.93 1.75 19.7% 77.0% 11.0% 19.2% 26.1%
GB/FB 3.32 1.27 2.93 20.3% 80.7% 8.5% 10.7% 24.2%
LD% 3.13 1.15 1.78 15.3% 80.3% 8.8% 12.6% 26.4%
Contact% 3.24 1.12 1.65 21.1% 71.5% 13.8% 22.9% 28.4%
SwStr% 3.32 1.13 1.59 20.8% 71.6% 13.8% 22.3% 27.9%
K-BB% 3.19 1.07 1.47 21.4% 73.7% 13.1% 24.3% 30.4%
Hard% 3.35 1.22 2.34 20.4% 79.4% 9.0% 12.1% 21.1%

 

2014 ERA WHIP GB/FB LD% Contact% SwStr% K-BB% Hard%
ERA 2.31 1.02 1.53 20.1% 77.1% 10.9% 19.5% 25.3%
WHIP 2.49 1.01 1.56 20.0% 78.2% 10.5% 19.1% 25.4%
GB/FB 3.23 1.21 2.28 19.4% 79.5% 9.4% 12.7% 26.7%
LD% 3.10 1.15 1.72 17.6% 78.7% 9.7% 14.1% 27.0%
Contact% 2.71 1.10 1.68 20.6% 73.5% 12.4% 19.8% 26.2%
SwStr% 2.70 1.11 1.65 20.8% 73.5% 12.5% 19.8% 26.8%
K-BB% 2.73 1.06 1.37 20.7% 76.2% 11.7% 22.5% 27.4%
Hard% 2.86 1.11 1.80 19.4% 76.9% 10.8% 15.9% 23.2%

I calculated the average statistics of the top 10 starting pitchers sorted by each of the relevant statistics. The far left column is what the data is sorted by. For example, the bottom chart shows that in 2014, the average of the top 10 starters based on Hard%, had an ERA of 2.86 and a WHIP of 1.11.

A few things jump out at you. Not surprisingly, ERA and WHIP are the best predictors of a good ERA and WHIP. If you had to pick one statistic to predict ERA and WHIP success, it would be K-BB%. The next most relevant statistics would probably be swinging strike rates and contact rates. Being a heavy ground ball pitcher, on its own, does not guarantee having stud type ratios. Neither does a pitcher who specializes in limiting line dives or hard contact. It needs to be combined with something more, such as a strong strikeout to walk ratio.

An ideal pitcher probably does a little of everything. They would have plenty of strikeouts with few walks all while inducing both ground balls and weak contact.

Remember, risk is fine, as long as it is priced correctly. Previous injuries, slow starts, and diminished peripherals are all associated with risk. Targeting a player with any of these warnings is acceptable as long as a sufficient discount is applied to take account of the risk. Until next week’s Fantasy Lookout, enjoy the games!

Data courtesy of www.fangraphs.com and www.minorleaguecentral.com

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