June 17, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball: LEADERS Pitchers’ HR:FB Ratio

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Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox

 HR:FB ratio helps fantasy GMs to figure out which pitchers are getting a little too lucky on fly balls. A fly ball to the cheap seats gets useful pitchers tossed to the abyss that is the waiver wire. A fly ball that gets caught at the warning track is forgotten almost instantly as the pitcher’s ERA goes down slightly.

It might be time to sell high on some of these guys who are out-performing their career averages. Pitchers tend to end up within a few standard deviations of the HR:FB ratio. It might be time to cash in your chips when a pitcher(cough, Gio, cough) is pitching over his head.

We’ll finish this week with those who have amazed us with their fantastic luck on balls hit in the air.

1. Gio Gonzalez 1.8%
2. Jaime Garcia 3.4%
3. Wade Miley 4.0%
4. James McDonald 4.6%
5. Kevin Milwood 4.8%
6. Josh Johnson 4.8%
7. Ryan Vogelsong 5.3%
8. Chris Sale 5.5%
9. Justin Verlander 6.1%
10. C.J. Wilson 6.2%

It might be time to sell high on Gio Gonzalez. He’s thrown out of his mind since Opening Day, but he’s been more than a little lucky. Gonzalez’ career HR:FB ratio sits at 9.5%. He’s way over his head with a 1.8% HR:FB ratio this year. He’s due to regress and his 2.03 actual ERA will likely go with it once it happens. He’s been a pleasant surprise, but its foolish to think Gonzalez can do this for a full season.

Jaime Garcia is another likely regression candidate, but that’s the least of his worries now. Garcia is out with a shoulder strain. He’s already seen Dr. Yocum and is scheduled to see Dr. Andrews this week. Those trips always go well.

Wade Miley has been on the right side of luck so far in 2012, but it would be nice to have a little more of a sample size to make a judgment. It would be a lot easier to have faith in Miley if his K/9 numbers were higher than 5.85 in 2012. His 3.95 xFIP sure gives the impression that his 2.39 actual ERA is a mirage. Miley is a sell high, but he probably won’t bring much in return at this point in his career.

The strikeout numbers were always there for James McDonald, but he was always a long fly ball away from disaster. McDonald is turning in a career year thanks lowering his walk numbers(2.66 BB/9 in 2012) and getting lucky on balls in the air. McDonald is a fly ball pitcher with a 0.90 GB:FB ratio, so he probably should have a lower than average HR:FB ratio. McDonald’s career average is 7.9%. He’ll likely regress closer to that number, but he should be safe to own for the 2012 season.

Kevin Millwood is in his-age 38 season and his HR:FB ratio is about half of his 9.6% career average. He’s likely to regress, but pitching in Safeco for a full year will likely have an impact on his numbers. His last three home ballparks have been the Ballpark at Arlington, Coors Field and Camden Yards. None of those are a pitcher’s park. He’s not an obvious regression guy, but are you really rushing out to own Kevin Millwood in your fantasy league? He’s a stay away in anything except the deepest deep leagues or AL-only.

It would be easy to write that Josh Johnson’s lower HR:FB ratio is a function of pitching in the new ballpark in Miami, but it’s simply not true. He’s actually given up more homers at home(2) than he has on the road(1). Johnson’s career average is only 6.7%. Is a 4.8% really that ridiculous? Johnson is fine to start…as long as his right arm stays attached to his body.

There are two kinds of fantasy baseball pundits. There are those who think Ryan Vogelsong should be ignored in fantasy baseball and those that don’t. Listen to those who ignore Vogelsong. He’s really not that exciting of an option in fantasy baseball. His 5.3% HR:FB ratio isn’t that far off his 7.9% career average. Whatever. He walks too many(3.48 BB/9) and strikes out too few(6.31 K/9). His 4.57 xFIP indicates that his 2.29 actual ERA is a mirage.Oh, and he owns a .246 BABIP. Stay away. He’s basically Kevin Millwood on a better team with a little better luck.

Chris Sale is hard to figure out because he doesn’t have any kind of track record as a starter. The concern with Sale isn’t really his advanced metrics. The concern here is the amount of work he’ll be able to put in before he gets shut down. It’s going to be hard to sell high on a pitcher who might not pitch for a month or get skipped a few times. The advice here is sell high if you can get fair value for him. You’ll be better off keeping Sale otherwise.

Justin Verlander is elite. His career average HR:FB ratio is at 7.7%. He’s sitting at 6.2% this year. It’s not that big of a stretch. He’s one of the most reliable starters in all of fantasy baseball.

The concern with C.J. Wilson isn’t his 6.2% HR:FB ratio. That’s not that far off his 8.6% career average. The concern here is his .237 BABIP. That’s simply too low for a guy with a 1.86 GB:FB ratio this year. Wilson has been lucky on balls in play and he’s due to regress sooner rather than later. The 2.30 actual ERA probably won’t be there for long.


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