June 24, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Leaders and Laggards Pitchers’ K:BB Ratio LEADERS Edition

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R.A. Dickey, SP, New York Mets

Strikeouts are good for fantasy baseball and walks are usually bad. Strikeouts help at least three pitching categories. The help you in strikeouts, obviously, but they also lower ERAs and WHIPs without the danger of putting a ball in play. The only stats they don’t really have an impact on are wins and saves, which are both BS stats to begin with. Walks are bad for fantasy purposes because they increase a pitcher’s WHIP. That’s bad. We need our WHIP to stay as low as possible to take us to fantasy baseball glory. So, if these are two tenets of fantasy baseball, why are pitchers like Carlos Zambrano and Barry Zito have ownerships over 0% in fantasy leagues? Are there people who actually try to lose at fantasy baseball? Can we find a way to get them into NFBC leagues?

Some men lead us to fantasy glory and some men lag behind while taking our fantasy teams with them. We’re going to look at pitchers who will help our ratios, keep our ERAs low and give us K’s by the bucketful in this week’s Leaders and Laggards: K:BB Leaders Edition.

1. Colby Lewis 7.00
2. Joe Blanton 6.17
3. Cliff Lee 5.50
4. Stephen Strasburg 5.00
5. Matt Cain 5.00
6. R.A. Dickey 4.90
7. Zack Greinke 4.71
8. Cole Hamels 4.50
9. Bronson Arroyo 4.29
10. Madison Bumgarner 4.11

Colby Lewis isn’t walking very many(1.13 BB/9) and striking out more than a few(7.88 K/9). Both of those are good for fantasy baseball purposes. Colby is posting a .259 BABIP, but he also owns a 0.74 GB:FB ratio with a 46.1% FB %. He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher and he should be fine as long as those fly balls find outfielders gloves. The bonus is that even if he gets tagged for a homer, he’s not exactly loading the bases before hand. Lewis is a solid option in every format.

Big, fat Joe Blanton is second on this list?!? Really? His K/9 is 7.32 and his BB/9 is only 1.19. Wow. Those are big league numbers. The problem is he’s getting clobbered on balls hit in the air. He’s rocking a 17.2% HR:FB ratio with 17 homers in 14 starts. Yikes. His career HR:FB ratio is only 10.2%. It’s likely luck getting the better of him. Blanton did announce that he doesn’t believe he’s tipping his pitches, so it’s not a mechanical issue. He’s right. It’s probably a bad luck issue. Blanton is actually a decent option in most leagues do to his K and BB numbers, but his 3.49 xFIP indicates good times could be ahead. You could do a lot worse if you need an extra starting pitcher.

Cliff Lee is on this list because he’s been on this list since 2008. He’s an elite option in all formats and his continued lack of wins only indicate how much of a BS stat wins are. He’s been slightly unlucky on balls hit in the air so far this year. Lee has a 13.2% HR:FB ratio this year, but a 8.4% for his career. His luck should normalize soon and a win is just around the corner.

Stephen Strasburg has officially made the leap from must watch TV to dominant starting pitcher. The Nationals still have him on a innings limit. It makes sense from a baseball perspective, but it’s frustrating from a fantasy perspective. He’s likely going to start getting extra days or shut down altogether at some point this year. It’s a shame. He could post a truly amazing year if he was given 210-220 innings to work with. Every advanced metric is claiming St. Rasburg is for real. So, he passes the sabr test and the eye test. It’s still very early, but we could be looking at the first pitcher off draft boards next year.

Some will point at Matt Cain’s .245 BABIP and scream, “LUUUUUUUCK!” Those of us who actually know something about baseball should take that moment to whip a running chainsaw into that person’s mouth. Cain is in the middle of a career year. He’s broken out. Officially. He was in a nice little rut of a 7.00ish K/9 and a 2.50-3.00ish BB/9. This year? 9.00 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9. Oh and that BABIP thing? That’s just Matt being Matt. Cain is an extreme fly ball pitcher(0.84 GB:FB ratio) who does this every year. His career BABIP is only .264! Has he been lucky for his entire career? No. He’s been successful for his entire career. He gets a lot of help from his outfield, but he’s also good at getting hitters to hit the ball in the air. It’s what he does.

R.A. Dickey owners need to enjoy the run. These novelty pitch guys don’t last more than one or two times around the league. There’s a chance that a 37-year old starter figured something out and will dominate the league until he retires, but there’s also a chance that we’re seeing one of the more unique statistical oddities in baseball. Dickey is posting a 9.36 K/9 with a 1.91 BB/9. He’s never done that well at any level in his career. He’s also posting a .246 BABIP. Throwing a pair of one-hitters will do that. He owns a .291 career BABIP and his GB:FB ratio is 1.82. He’s getting by thanks to a novelty pitch and some luck. Be very, very careful with Dickey from here on out.

Zack Greinke? In a sabrmetric article? No way! Greinke is elite, but you already knew that because you’ve seen it posted on every sabr website ever. Greinke is what happens when talent meets knowledge of advanced metrics.

Cole Hamels is doing his best to prove that the last few seasons weren’t a fluke. He’ll never be the Cole Hamels from the Cole Hamels facts page(Fact, even Cole Hamels is tired of Cole Hamels facts), but he can be a top ten starter in fantasy baseball. There’s really not much to analyze here. He strikes out bunches of batters and doesn’t walk very many. All of his “luck-based” stats are leaning towards neutral. He’s a must start in every format.

Bronson Arroyo is another surprise on this list. The surprise is that he’s somehow striking out 6.28 batters every nine innings. It’s been four years since Arroyo finished the year with a K/9 over 6.00. Arroyo is a fly ball pitcher(0.93 GB:FB ratio this year) who pitches in a band box and doesn’t strike out very many. What Arroyo is doing very well this year is that he has a 68.5% first pitch strike %. He’s getting ahead in the count early and that appears to be helping his BB/9(only 1.47). Arroyo is still basically a waiver wire guy, but you could do a lot worse if you absolutely needed a guy to give you innings.

Madison Bumgarner has been a sabrmetric enigma this year. He posted a K/9 over 8 last year, but that number has slipped to 7.34 this year. His walk rate is also down, which indicates that he’s working more in the strike zone this year, but his GB rate is up(46.0% last year and 51.4% this year) and his BABIP is down(only .268 this year). All that being said, his K/9 has improved with each month of the year and June is likely going to be his best month of the season to date. What’s all this mean? Bumgarner is a solid option and worthy of inclusion at the very top of your fantasy rotation. There is some concern over Bumgarner’s future. He’s throwing his slider(37.8%) almost as much as his fastball(43.2%). That’s dangerous for an arm as young as Bumgarner’s and could harm his long term viability.


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