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February 13, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball Stats You Should Know: LOB % Edition

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Cliff Lee, Starting Pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies

This isn’t the 90’s. This is 2012. Fantasy GM’s are expected to be aware of certain things. We need to be aware that some players used performance enhancing drugs. We need to be aware that the butterfly collars in Lenny Melnicks’ closet are not “retro.” We also need to be aware of luck.

Most, if not all, fantasy GM’s are familiar with what BABIP is and what it can mean. Well, you’re half way there. Fantasy GM’s need to be aware of what LOB %(aka strand rate) is and what it means if they want to have a better idea of how luck can impact a pitcher.

LOB percentage is another stat that can tell us how lucky or unlucky a pitcher may or may not be. Pitchers have little control over happens when they get on base. ERAs and FIPs go down when runners get stranded. ERAs and FIPs will go up if runners manage to score. Pitchers have little impact on balls in play and they have a similar amount of control over runners on base.

The only caveat is for pitchers with higher than average strike out rates. Pitchers capable of getting a strike out will have a better chance of stranding runners than pitchers who rely on getting outs by putting the ball in play. It’s common sense, really. Another exception is when a pitcher is unusually good or bad pitching from the stretch.

League average is usually around 70-72% depending on the season, but that’s not a rule that fantasy GM’s should live hard and fast by. LOB percentage, like BABIP, is better judged when a pitcher has a track record. Sample size is important for BABIP and it’s equally important for LOB %. It’s very hard to judge a pitcher without a track record.

Let’s say we have a pitcher coming off a successful rookie year. Was there a rookie like that in 2011? Ah! Jeremy Hellickson, come on down! Most sharps have pegged Hellickson as a pre-season bust. This writer has pegged Hellickson as a pre-season bust. His low K-rate (5.57 K/9) combined with his high strand rate (82.0%) certainly make it look like he was very, very lucky in 2011. The problem is that we don’t really have a track record on Hellickson to know for sure if he was just an awesome pitcher with runners on base or if he was just on the right side of luck.

Cliff Lee finished third behind Hellickson and Jered Weaver in LOB % in 2011 with an 81.4% strand rate. Looks pretty lucky, right? Well, Cliff owns a 73.0% career average and he posted an unlucky 67.9% rate in 2010. He’s already suffered an outlier and a regression back to the mean. Those numbers combined with his 7.25 K/9 make Cliffy a solid bet to have a 2012 right around his career average.

Brandon Morrow was one of the unluckier starting pitchers in 2011 with a 65.5% strand rate. Brandon is the proud owner of a 70.8% strand rate in over 500 career innings at the MLB level. Morrow has a sick 10.06 K/9 ratio. His strikeout numbers tell us that Morrow should have a much higher strand rate. It’s not like he forgets how to pitch with two strikes and a runner on first. Morrow has been unlucky and could be due for a monster year if his luck changes.

Fausto Carmona posted a 62.1% strand rate in 2011. That number was the lowest in baseball and it’s really a wonder that he didn’t post an even lower number. Carmona allows a lot of baserunners(1.40 WHIP in 2011) and doesn’t strike out very many(5.20 K/9 in 2011). He puts a lot of balls in play and a lot of those balls come with someone already on base. Fausto is a ratio-killing boogeyman that fantasy GMs should run, not walk, away from. Anyone who has a friend who says, “Hey! How about Carmona?” should punch them in the neck before they finish the final syllable of Carmona’s name.

Now that you’re aware of strand rate, you should have no problem fully understanding the factors that influence luck. Take this knowledge and draft well. Also, follow me on twitter. @MattDFP911

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