June 9, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Leaders and Laggards Pitchers’ BABIP LAGGARDS Edition

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Zack Greinke, SP, Milwaukee Brewers

If pitchers who outperform their BABIP numbers are on one side of the coin, guys who under-perform their BABIP numbers should be on the other side. There’s a time when fantasy GMs should want guys on both sides. For the first few months of the year fantasy GMs should want their pitchers posting BABIP numbers in the microscopic range. Why? To pump up their value so they can be dealt for pitchers who are might have better skills, say a guy capable of striking out over ten batters per nine innings, but have been battered on balls in play and own a BABIP that is much, much higher than their career average.

It’s time to start acquiring guys for the stretch run. You can’t win a league with a draft, but you can lose one. You can lose a league with a trade, but you can absolutely win a league with a few trades that swing the league in your favor. We’re going to discuss a few buy-low guys in this weeks Laggards version of FP911’s Leaders and Laggards.

1. Max Scherzer .378
2. Juan Nicasio .376
3. Josh Johnson .370
4. Luke Hochevar .364
5. Zack Greinke .357
6. Jaime Garcia .357
7. Ivan Nova .341
8. Rick Porcello .333
9. Bud Norris .332
10. Randy Wolf .329

Max Scherzer is a fantastic buy low guy. Yes, his numbers are gross this year and yes, his eyes are different colors, but those aren’t reasons to stay away from him. Scherzer owns a BABIP that is over 60 points higher than his .313 career average. He’s striking out over 11 batters per nine innings, but he’s getting killed whenever the ball is put in play. Both his BABIP and his 18.1% HR:FB ratio are well above his career averages. He’s a talented pitcher who is due for a correction. That correction could come with a monster second half. Guys who drafted Scherzer are likely frustrated with the crappy ratios. Offer up someone like Brandon Beachy or Brandon Morrow and see if they take the bait.

Juan Nicasio isn’t nearly as bad as his numbers suggest. He owns a +5.00 ERA, but that’s due to his sky high BABIP and not his actual pitching. He’s capable of putting up solid K numbers(8.38 K/9) without walking a lot of batters(3.41 BB/9). Nicasio is a capable pitcher who looks like he’s due for a correction. Be there when that correction happens.

Josh Johnson is a buy low guy with an asterisk. That asterisk isn’t a Barry Bonds, PED asterisk or a Roger Maris, complete nonsense asterisk. It’s a health asterisk. Josh Johnson is not a pitcher for the meek. He’s a pitcher for a fantasy GM who is capable of assuming some risk for his rewards. Johnson isn’t exactly the pitcher he was before he got hurt. His velocity is down from last year(93.8 MPH average fastball last year compared to a 92.9 MPH average fastball this year) and his K/9 is down(7.48 would be a career low), but he’s had bad luck on balls in play and his xFIP indicates that he’s been betrayed by his defense. His BABIP is almost 70 points over his career average and his 3.41 xFIP indicates that his 4.56 actual ERA isn’t entirely his fault. He’s at least worth sending out a few feelers on.

Luke Hochevar has never done anything to indicate he’s more than a league average starter even if his BABIP is ridiculously high. His 57.5%(63.0% for his career) strand rate indicates that he struggles pitching from the stretch. Stay away.

A lot of e-ink has been spilled on the walking statistical anomaly that is Zack Greinke. Watch out for some ridiculous stat lines if he can ever get lucky on balls in play. His xFIP is only 2.37 which tells us that his respectable 3.13 actual ERA would be a little lower if he got any help from his defense. He provides value even when he’s posting a ridiculously high BABIP due to his +10 K/9. Zack is elite.

It’s probably for the best that Jaime Garcia was shut down with a shoulder issue. He’s a ground ball pitcher(1.91 GB:FB ratio this year) who doesn’t strike out batters in bunches(6.92 K/9). He puts a lot of balls in play on the ground. That’s a recipe for a guy who falls victim to the whims of the Great Magnet. He’s perfectly capable of posting a BABIP that can kill his value and that’s what he’s going through. It’s also what makes what’s happening to Max Scherzer all the more unusual.

Ivan Nova is posting a K/9 over 8.00!?! That’s amazing! Get him on your fantasy team immediately. Oh wait. He’s getting slaughtered on balls in play(BABIP 43 points over his career average) and balls in the air(HR:FB ratio of 17.3%).  No thank you. Lucas Apostoleris of the Hardball Times did a great study on what happens with Nova’s fastball. The short version? Bad things happen when he leaves it up in the zone.

Rick Porcello is still only 24 years old. It seems like he’s been around forever and fantasy GMs have waited for a break out forever. It’s time to stop waiting. No, he’s not going to break out. It’s time to accept who he is. Porcello is  a league average pitcher who was rushed to the major leagues because the Tigers needed a fifth starter. He’s a ground ball pitcher who also gives up line drives 22.1% of the time. That’s a recipe for a high BABIP and bad ratios. It gets even worse when his 5.16 K/9 enters the picture. Stay away unless he’s pitching in Oakland or Seattle. You could start just about anyone in Oakland or Seattle…except Kevin Correia. Don’t use him anywhere.

The problem for Bud Norris doesn’t stem from his K numbers(9.82 K/9) or GB:FB ratio(1.09). His problems stem from his high LD %. Norris is giving up liners 22.1% of the time a ball is put in play against him. His BABIP is due to fall closer to his .309 career average and his 3.58 xFIP indicates he’s thrown better than his 4.65 xFIP would lead you to believe. He’s a buy low guy if you really need help in strikeouts.

Randy Wolf is essentially a league average starter. Wait. He’s been a league average starter for a while. Correction. He’s essentially a league average starter with a BABIP that’s almost 40 points higher than his career average. There really isn’t much upside here even if his BABIP falls. He’s a waiver wire guy at this point in his career and not much else.


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