August 27, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Leaders and Laggards Pitchers’ HR:FB Ratio Revisited Leaders Edition

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Gio Gonzalez, SP, Washington Nationals

It’s never too early to figure out who you want on your roster for next year. Some guys get sworn off forever. Fantasy GMs cry, “I’ll never have that guy on my roster again!” or “I can’t wait to draft him next year!” Well, for those of us that fell out of the championship race a long time ago, that time is now. It’s time to get a head start on the lucky SOBs who are still challenging for a league title or if you are one of the lucky SOBs challenging for a league title you might want to steer clear from a few of these guys during the stretch run. Things could get a little bumpy for some of them when you need to  maintain your ratios the most.

Some men lead, while others lag. These are those few bold few who have chosen to break away from the pack and get really lucky on balls hit in the air in this week’s edition of Leaders and Laggards:Leaders edtion.

1. Jarrod Parker 5.9%
2. Johnny Cueto 6.1%
3. Gio Gonzalez 6.7%
4. Wade Miley 6.7%
5. Felix Hernandez 7.1%
6. Ross Detwiler 7.3%
7. Kevin Millwood 7.3%
8. Chad Billingsley 7.4%
9. Ryan Vogelsong 7.5%
10. Kyle Lohse 7.5%

It looks like Jarrod Parker is a little lucky with his 5.9% HR:FB, but its hard to evaluate him because we don’t have much of a sample size. We simply don’t have a lot of work with, but 5.9% is the lowest HR:FB ratio among qualifying starters. His xFIP is half a point higher than his actual ERA. Parker owners could be in for some pain next year.

Johnny Cueto is getting with skill and good luck. His HR:FB ratio has been under 7% for the past two seasons and he pitches half his games at GAB. He’s also posting a LOB% that’s almost five percent higher than his career average. When he does put runners on base, they don’t score on homers and they tend to get left on base. His actual ERA is more than a full point lower than his xFIP. Cueto owners could be in for some pain next year.

Gio Gonzalez is striking out a ton of batters(9.49 K/9) and basically pitching to his career average peripheral stats. Not much to see here other than an elite starter being elite.

Wade Miley was one of the luckiest starters in the first half of the year and his numbers have normalized to around league average. Dude simply isn’t that special. He’s an average pitcher with average stuff who had above average luck. He’s a guy to stay away from next year even if we don’t have enough of a sample size to make a solid judgment.

Felix Hernandez has posted a sub 10% HR:FB ratio for each of the last five years. That’s a trend and King Felix is elite. Moving on…

Ross Detwiler is getting by on smoke and mirrors. The issue isn’t his HR:FB ratio. He’s compiled a 7.8% career HR:FB ratio in about 300 innings. That’s not an ideal sample size, but it’s all we have. He’s posting a lower than his career average .266 BABIP with a 1.68 GB:FB ratio. He’s giving up a bunch of ground balls, but they’re finding gloves. The problem comes in that if his luck normalizes, he doesn’t strike out enough batters to compensate(5.58 K/9). Detwiler will likely be pegged as a sleeper by someone in your league next year. Let that dude make the mistake of adding Detwiler to his roster.

It’s unclear what fantasy GMs should be more surprised about; that Kevin Millwood is on this list or that Kevin Millwood is still in the league. Millwood is a competent starter in a super deep AL-only league. He won’t help in any areas, but he won’t hurt either. His career average HR:FB ratio is 9.7% and a 7.3% isn’t ridiculous when he pitches half his games in Safeco.

What’s remarkable about Chad Billingsley’s 2013 season isn’t that his HR:FB ratio is almost exactly his career average(7.5% and he posted a 7.3% last year), but it’s that he’s cut down on the walks(career low 2.71 BB/9) and he’s actually posting a competent fantasy year. Good news! It’s mostly legit…as long as that BB/9 stays under 3.00.

Ryan Vogelsong is basically league average in most of his peripherals and actuals, but for some reason, he’s capable of posting sub 3.00 ERAs. He’s been lucky with BABIP for the past two seasons(.280 last year and .267 this year) while maintaining GB:FB ratios over 1.00(1.34 last year and 1.12 this year). He’s also able to keep the ball in the ballpark(8.2% HR:FB ratio). So, his BABIP makes sense based on the GB:FB ratios and he’s right at his career average HR:FB ratio. Why does everyone think he’s so lucky again?

We end this list with Mr. Smoke and Mirrors himself, Kyle Lohse. Lohse’ HR:FB ratio has been under 10% since 2006. The problem is that for the last two years his BABIP has been insanely low for a guy with a career GB % of 41.8%. His current BABIP is almost 50 points lower than his career average and his xFIP is a full run and a half higher than his actual ERA. Regression is looming for Mr. Lohse and it’s going to look really ugly when it comes for him. Lohse hasn’t posted a K/9 over 6.00 since 2006. 


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