August 19, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

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

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Jon Lester, SP, Boston Red Sox

It’s always a good idea to take a look back and see exactly how some of us got into the messes we wound up in. There’s a good chance that luck was a factor for those of us who have ratios that are toast and are stuck near the bottom in most pitching categories. The guys on this least have screwed over those who were foolish enough to have them on their roster. These are the guys that have roasted WHIPs, inflated ERAs and not delivered the strikeout numbers that we all desire. 

The men on this list are the enemy. They are the bane of the lives of fantasy GMs. These men…are the laggards in this week’s edition of Leaders and Laggards.

1. Max Scherzer .355
2. Rick Porcello .345
3. Randy Wolf .338
4. Ivan Nova .334
5. Vance Worley .332
6. Derek Lowe .330
7. Zack Greinke .329
8. Tim Lincecum .326
9. Anibal Sanchez .325
10. Jon Lester .323

Max Scherzer is going to be on a lot of sleeper lists next year and for good reason. Scherzer is leading all starters in K/9(11.34), has a sky-high BABIP and he’s posting a GB:FB ratio of 0.92. The only stats that really matters is his 3.68 FIP and his 14.4 HR:FB ratio. The 3.68 indicates that his 4.41 actual ERA is a product of some poor defense. Detroit is among the bottom five in just about every team defense metric we have. They simply can’t catch the ball. Scherzer has also been unlucky on balls hit in the air with a 14.4% HR:FB ratio. His career average is 11.6%, but he’s posting a FB % at 40.1%. That would be a career high for Scherzer if the season ended today. Detroit simply needs to improve its team defense to help Scherzer become an elite starter. Until that happens Scherzer will likely continue to frustrate fantasy owners.

Rick Porcello? Another Detroit starter on this list? Shocking. You would almost think that this is the beginning of a trend. Rick Porcello is currently posting a 2.35 GB:FB ratio with a 53.5% GB %. He only strikes out 5.15 batters per nine, so he’s putting a ton of balls in play. The Detroit defense isn’t helping and that explains his 3.72 FIP compared to his 4.68 actual ERA. Porcello could be a competent innings eater, but, again, Detroit can’t catch the baseball and his BABIP will stay sky high until that gets addressed.

Randy Wolf actually looks like a decent sleeper for 2013. His current BABIP is 50 points over his career average and it’s not like the Wolfman has broken down. His velocity is basically the same as its been for the past decade. The only difference has been a sharp rise in his ground ball %. Wolf is currently posting a 1.30 GB:FB ratio with a 43.9% GB %. Those numbers are both well over his career averages. He’s giving up more ground balls and more are squeezing through for base hits. He actually should have a higher than average BABIP, but a .338 is high even for a guy giving up bunches of ground balls. His 4.74 FIP is almost a full point lower than his 5.65 actual ERA. He’s been mediocre, but he’s also been a victim of poor defense.

Ivan Nova has become Patrick Dicaprio’s cuddle buddy for good reason. He’s not just a fifth starter on the Yankees. Dude is actually a competent starter. He’s posting a 8.09 K/9 with a 2.85 BB/9. He’s posting a 1.42 GB:FB ratio with a 46.4% GB %. Both of those numbers are actually lower than his career averages. His career BABIP is only .305, so his current .334 is, well, really unlucky. He’s allowing fewer ground balls, but more are bleeding through for base hits. His 15.2% HR:FB ratio is also well above his 11.5% career average. Nova has been unlucky and Patrick is 100% right to view him as a legit option in fantasy baseball.

Vance Worley was a popular pre-season sleeper. The problem was that he carried a 3.01 actual ERA with a .283 BABIP. Worley has regressed to a .332 BABIP with a 4.11 actual ERA. Worley is giving up a lot more ground balls this year(47.3% GB % in 2012 compared to 39.3% in 2011) and more of them are bleeding through for base hits. He’s also posting a 24.2% LD % this year. That’s a lot of hard hit balls that are hard to catch. Worley’s actual ERA and FIP numbers aren’t that far off. He’s not as lucky as he was in 2011 and it’s showing in his statline.

The Human Ground Ball Machine, Derek Lowe, is on this list? Amazing. Lowe hasn’t posted a BABIP under .300 since 2008. It’s no surprise to see him on this list considering his 2.81 GB:FB ratio.

Zack Greinke has been a victim of his defense for the past few years. Greinke is rocking a sick 2.91 FIP, but is saddled with a 3.81 actual ERA. He’s posting a career high 2.14 GB:FB ratio. So, he’s pitching like a guy determined not to let homers burn him the way they did last year. The only problem is that he’s been a victim of his defense this year. What’s concerning about Greinke isn’t his BABIP. It’s his K:BB numbers for August. Greinke is posting a 5.68 K/9 and 3.79 BB/9 in August. He’s walking more than a few guys and not striking out very many. It might actually be a good idea to bench Greinke until he looks like himself again.

We’ve got more than a few months of data on the 2012 version of Tim Lincecum and the results aren’t good. Lincecum’s velocity is down about 2 MPH on average. He doesn’t have the same stuff and the batters are letting him know about it. His higher than average BABIP is driven in part by his 25.4% LD %. His career high 4.17 BB/9 also indicates a lack of command. The fly in the ointment is his 9.43 K/9. The problem here is that it’s obvious he’s struggling with command and getting hit harder, but he’s also posting a higher K/9 than last year. Lincecum’s 3.84 FIP and 3.77 xFIP numbers indicate that he’s he’s a victim of poor defense. It’s hard to trust those numbers when he’s posting a career high LD %. Lincecum isn’t the same guy he was, but he’s still capable of striking batters out at a high rate. He might actually be a decent sleeper next year…assuming he’s healthy.

Anibal Sanchez? Another Detroit pitcher on this list? Sanchez is posting a .455 BABIP in August. Welcome to Detroit! Anibal is rocking a 3.00 K:BB ratio with a 3.87 FIP vs. a 4.52 actual. He’s pitched better than his actual numbers and is a solid sleeper for 2013.

Jon Lester’s career high 5.20 actual ERA has more to do with his career low 63.6% LOB % and his career high .323 BABIP. Lester hasn’t lost any velocity and his GB:FB ratio is still in-line with his career numbers. He’s just been unlucky and should be sleeper candidate for 2013.



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