July 8, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Leaders and Laggards Pitchers’ LOB % Leaders Edition

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Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

Left on base percentage(A.K.A. strand rate) is one of the three luck stats. It teams with BABIP and HR:FB ratio to form a triumvirate of chance that helps us figure out what might be causing some of the results we’re seeing and where those numbers might be headed compared to a pitcher’s career average. 

Some guys get lucky and get outs when runners on base. Others give up hits or walks that get them in more trouble. Others still give up homers and bloat ERAs. This edition will focus on those guys who make us wipe the sweat from our collective brow every time they get out of a jam unscathed. This is the leaders edition of Leaders and Laggards: Pitchers’ LOB %.

1. Ryan Vogelsong 84.5%
2. Jeremy Hellickson 83.0%
3. Jordan Zimmerman 81.6%
4. Chris Capuano 81.4%
5. David Price 81.3%
6. Tommy Hanson 81.0%
7. Jon Niese 80.7%
8. Johnny Cueto 80.2%
9. Chris Sale 79.6%
10. R.A. Dickey 79.5%

What Ryan Vogelsong as one of the leaders in a luck category in 2012? No way! The low LOB % is a function of his .245 BABIP. His BABIP is over 40 points lower than his career average and his LOB % is over 13 under his career average. Vogelsong owners could be in for some pain in the second half if Ryan regresses. His 6.25 K/9 simply isn’t good enough to keep his ERA under 3.00 when his numbers normalize. Be very careful with Vogelsong in the second half.

Vogelsong and Jeremy Hellickson? The surprises just keep on coming. Hellickson also owns a .255 BABIP. These issues aren’t new to Hellickson. Pundits have been predicting Hellickson’s regression for over a year. The second half of 2012 is no different. Hellickson strikes out too few(5.79 K/9) and walks too many(3.62). He does put a lot of balls in the air(0.95 GB:FB ratio) and that should keep his BABIP lower than average. However, Hellickson puts a ton of balls in play and it’s going to catch up to him at some point…right?

What’s weird about Jordan Zimmerman is that he’s throwing harder now than he did when he was a hot shot rookie putting up a K/9 over 7.00. Zimmerman has turned into more of a ground ball pitcher(1.70 GB:FB ratio now, 1.28 in 2010) and lowered his walk rate(4.7% this year, 7.4% in 2010 and 2009). He’s been slightly lucky with a .276 BABIP(.294 career average) and a 81.6% LOB rate(74.1% career average). He is a regression candidate, but he’ll still provide solid innings as long as you’re careful with how he’s used.

Chris Capuano is in the “pitch ‘til it falls off” stage of his career. This is his age 34 season and he’s turning in a lightning in a bottle campaign. His LOB % is eight points over his career average and his BABIP is almost 40 points under his career average. Cappy was actually a little unlucky last year(.311 BABIP, 72.0% LOB %), so he was due for a bit of luck. He’ll likely regress, but he’s putting up enough strikeouts(8.04 K/9) to be worthy of a roster spot.

David Price is an elite option. This is earth shattering fantasy analysis. He strikes out a lot of batters(8.46 K/9) gets a lot of ground balls(2.10 GB:FB ratio). His LOB % is below his 75.4% career average, but he’s proven himself as a guy that most fantasy GMs put in their lineup on Opening Day and never, ever consider removing. Worrying about David Price’s LOB % shouldn’t be anywhere near a concern.

Tommy Hanson has gone from future fantasy ace to, well, present fantasy question mark. His LOB % is over his 76.2% career average, but that’s not the scary part. His average fastball velocity has dipped under 90 MPH this year and he’s throwing his slider over 30% of the time. This is arm that was already shut down for part of last year with an injury. It’s a bad idea to be stressing it again with that many sliders. It might be a good idea to sell Hanson in any keeper leagues. He’s not a good long term investment.

Jon Niese couldn’t keep runners from scoring at all last year. His LOB % was 67.0% in 2011. This year? Baserunners can’t find home plate with a treasure map. It’s funny how this game evens out. His K/9 is a manly 8.19 and his BB/9 is just under three. Niese is a solid fantasy option, especially when pitching at Metco.

Johnny Cueto has matured as a pitcher. He’s stopped trying to strike everyone out and learned how to actually pitch. His K numbers will never be like they were when he was a 22-year old phenom posting a 8.17 K/9, but he’s also cut his BB/9 down to 1.96. Johnny Cueto. Posting a BB/9 under 2.00. Cueto’s LOB % might be a little high, but so is his .295 BABIP(career average .285). Cueto is actually fine to own. The only stat that looks like a red flag is his 4.9% HR:FB ratio. His career average is at 9.6%, but that number is inflated by the first two seasons of his career. He’s a different pitcher now.

The problem with evaluating Chris Sale is that we don’t have any kind of sample size at the major league level. The concern with Sale is that he’s likely going to either skip starts or hit his innings cap. It’s also going to be interesting to see how he handles going from 71 innings last year to 170 this year. That’s a huge innings bump and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him wear down. This is supposed to be a sabrmetrics driven column, but there’s simply not much worth evaluating until we have a reasonable sample size.

R.A. Dickey’s LOB % isn’t that ridiculous, but his .258 BABIP is. It looks like striking out a batter every inning is helpful. His first half was completely out of nowhere, so who’s to say he won’t keep it up. He’s a knuckleball pitcher who can still throw an 84 MPH fastball. Oh, and his knuckleball? It’s angry.


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