April 14, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball Leaders and Laggards: Spring Training Pitchers’ K:BB ratio Edition

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We’ve discussed how useless spring training numbers are and that’s true for most cases. They don’t count for anything in the grand scheme of things. Teams don’t hang banners for spring training championships and, more importantly, spring training stats don’t count for fantasy baseball.

Spring training numbers only mean something when we see players performing in ways we aren’t used to. If Roy Halladay was struggling to reach 90 on the radar gun and getting lit up left and right by scrubs, well, that might have an impact on his draft status. Fantasy owners would fall all over themselves to draft Jamey Wright if he showed up throwing 98 and making hitters wet themsleves. 

Either way, it’s important to see who is in shape and ready for baseball and who has spent the last five months eating chicken and drinking beer and not necessarily doing so in a baseball team’s clubhouse.

K:BB is one of the best way to evaluate pitchers because it’s not a stat that can be easily influenced by outside factors the way ERA and WHIP can. ERA is subject to the ballpark, the umpire, the official scorer, the defense, the batter and the baserunners. WHIP can be influenced greatly by team defense of lack thereof. 

1. Aaron Laffey 13.00
2. Dan Haren 12.50
3. Tom Milone 12.00
4. Felix Hernandez 11.50
5. Jon Niese 10.00
6. Wade LeBlanc 9.50
7. Roy Halladay 9.00
8. Justin Verlander 8.33
9. Scott Feldman 7.33
10. Brian Matusz 7.33

Aaron Laffey might have lead all of baseball in K:BB over the spring, but it didn’t help him earn a job with the Blue Jays. Laffey made his first start with the Blue Jays’ Triple-A team…and got absolutely lit up. Laffey faced 28 batters in 4 â…” innings of work. He struck out five and walked only one, but he gave up 11 hits and only eight of them stayed in the park. He won’t be up with the Jays any time soon.

Dan Haren is routinely among the league leaders in K:BB during the regular season, so it’s no surprise that he’s on this list. He’s a solid option in any format and should be treated as such.

Tom Milone is actually an intriguing option as a spot starter/streamer candidate. He posted solid strikeout totals in the minors, but he lacks the stuff to miss bats at the major league level. He’s a matchup play who should be able to help ratios, but won’t offer much in terms of K’s or wins.

Felix Hernandez owners actually have reason for concern. He posted solid numbers in the spring and his first few starts, but his fastball is only clocking in at around 91 MPH. That’s three MPH off his 94.4 career average. He’s still providing the numbers that fantasy GMs expect, but a drop in velocity should always be a concern. It’s something fantasy GMs will need to monitor.

Jon Niese shouldn’t be a surprise on this list. He posted a career high 7.89 K/9 in 2011 and a career low 2.52 BB/9. It’s too bad his efforts were wasted on the Mets. Mediocre defense behind Niese doomed him to a 4.40 ERA versus his 3.28 xFIP. He’s actually an interesting option who should be owned in most formats.

Wade LeBlanc’s solid spring wasn’t enough for him to crack the Marlins’ bullpen or rotation. LeBlanc has 12 K’s and only two walks in 12 Triple-A innings so far. He could actually see time in the MLB rotation if there’s an injury (We’re looking in your general direction, Josh Johnson).

Roy Halladay hasn’t produced the strikeout totals that fantasy GMs expect, but he’s delivered a his normally solid WHIP and ERA. Fantasy GMs need to be patient. The K’s will come.

There’s been a lot of e-ink spilled on Justin Verlander’s possible regression in 2012. He probably will end up closer to his 3.12 2011 xFIP numbers than his 2.40 actual ERA, but he’ll still produce K’s in bunches with a lower than average WHIP. He’s an elite-level option that should be among the very best in most formats even if he does suffer through a regression.

Scott Feldman won’t be able to crack the Rangers’ starting rotation, but he could be a competent reliever in a league that counts holds. He’s stuck at the back of the Rangers’ bullpen, but could work his way into a set up role. He’s added a split-finger fastball to his repertoire and it could prove to be useful.

Brian Matusz’ hot spring didn’t carry over into his first start. To be fair, it’s a lot different pitching against the real Yankees lineup than pitching against lineups filled with guys who will be riding on buses for most of the year. Matusz still looks like a decent matchup player against some of the weaker AL offenses and during inter-league play, but that’s probably his ceiling.

1. Carlos Zambrano 1.00
2. Wandy Rodriguez 1.00
3. Chris Narveson 1.00
4. James McDonald 1.00
5. Ubaldo Jiminez 1.00
6. John Danks 1.11
7. Daniel Bard 1.13
8. Josh Beckett 1.25
9. Jeremy Guthrie 1.29
10. Mike Minor

It doesn’t make much sense for Carlos Zambrano to be on this list. He had a 2.03 spring ERA. Oh, wait. That was his WHIP. Yikes. Years of piling up pitches an innings on Carlos’ shoulder has started to take its toll. He’s a stay away in everything but the deepest of NL only leagues and even then he’s not a good bet for future success.

Wandy Rodriguez suffered through a bad spring and he’s been competent in his first two starts. Everything about Wandy’s first few starts indicate that he’s the same guy he’s always been.

Chris Narveson’s control issues will keep him as a border-line fifth starter on a mediocre to good team. There’s really not much to see here except a guy who gives up too many walks. He’s about as league average as it gets with little to no upside.

James McDonald is a borderline fifth starter on a bad to mediocre team with upside. He posted a 3.93 ERA with a 1.37 WHIP and 7.9 K/9 in the second half last year. Sadly, he had a rough spring and a mediocre start to the season. McDonald has really struggled with command since he posted a breakthrough season in 2008 in the minors. He’s a matchup play in deep leagues or NL-only leagues at best for now.

Ubaldo Jiminez had a bad spring. It’s a good thing everyone starts the year with a clean slate. Ubaldo owners should be concerned over Ubaldo’s drop in velocity, but Ubaldo had a weird spring training and might not have been where he needed to be to start the season and look like the Ubaldo fantasy GMs are used to seeing. He gave up a ton of fly balls and his stuff didn’t look nearly as explosive as it was last year. That’s unusual for Ubaldo and could point to a bigger problem or it could just be a small sample size. We need more 2012 data before rushing to judgment.

John Danks looked like he put his spring training issues behind him in his first start against the Texas Rangers. Danks threw six innings of three-run baseball, but he struck out six and didn’t walk anyone. Danks earned the W against the Indians in his second start, but only struck out three and walked five in 5 ⅔ innings. Danks is fine to round out a pitching staff, but it would be a really good idea to leave him on the bench for some of his more difficult starts.

The good news on Daniel Bard is that he struck out 18 in 24 ⅔ innings this spring. The bad news is that he walked 16 batters. He struck out six in his five innings against the Blue Jays, but he was knocked around for five runs. This could very well be a “bad BABIP start” rather than a “Daniel Bard sucks” start. Bard gave up eight hits, but didn’t give up any homers and he only walked one. The ERA might look ugly, but it looks like Bard was on the wrong side of BABIP in this one.

Josh Beckett only walked eight batters in his 19 spring innings. The problem is he only struck out 10. That’s not the kind of numbers fantasy GMs should want to see out of Beckett, even if he did post a sub 1.00 spring ERA. These numbers have bled into the regular season. In 12 ⅔ 2012 innings, Beckett has four K’s and two walks. Oh, and his velocity is down from last year. He could be in for a rough season if this continues.

Jeremy Guthrie will probably be a punching bag until the Rockies remove him from the rotation. He has given up twice as many homers(4) as strikeouts(2). He’s a stay away in all formats.

Mike Minor got really lucky on balls in play(.175 batting average against) while walking 14 batters in 24 spring innings. He won the third starter job in Atlanta, but the odds are against him keeping it. He still gives up a ton of walks and should regress from his spring training numbers. He was tagged for six runs by the Mets in his first start. The struggles could continue for Minor.


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