Strikeouts are one of the easiest categories to do well in and one of the easiest categories to blow off without even realizing it. Paying attention to K/9 numbers is the best way to avoid missing out on strikeouts. Itâ€™s entirely possible to build a staff around Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmerman and Jon Niese….and then realize that youâ€™re probably going to end up at the bottom of your league in strikeouts. All three are fine pitchers to have on a fantasy staff (Cueto has quite a few fans at FP911), but none of them will post strikeout numbers that will help you win your league. Fantasy GMs that end up with pitchers like Cueto, Zimmerman and Niese didnâ€™t read this column. They didnâ€™t pay attention to K/9. Please, donâ€™t be that guy.
To calculate simply multiply the number of strikeouts a pitcher has by nine and then divide by the number of innings pitched. Itâ€™s not necessarily a better stat than strikeout %, but it might be a more accessible stat. Itâ€™s simply easier to say, â€œHe strikes out about nine batters per nine,â€ than it is to say â€œHe strikes out 29% of the batters he faces!â€ People hear nine in nine and realize thatâ€™s a strikeout per inning.
Fantasy GMs that play in leagues with innings caps need to pay special attention this week. Leagues with innings caps have a set amount of innings in which fantasy GMs can accumulate stats. That means you have to squeeze as many Kâ€™s as possible out of those innings. Targeting pitchers with higher than average K/9 ratios is probably the best way to dominate the strikeouts category in your league.
Craig Kimbrel has more value in a league with an innings cap than in a NFBC league without. Kimbrel tossed only 62 2/3 innings in 2012, but he posted a 16.66 K/9. That works out to 116 Kâ€™s. Thatâ€™s almost two Kâ€™s per inning and he will barely scratch your innings cap. Fantasy GMs who play in leagues with innings cap might want to bump up some of the relievers with higher than average K/9 numbers. Some of the pitchers to target include Kimbrel, Greg Holland, Kenley Jansen and David Hernandez.
Cueto will be off the board in the five to seven round range in most leagues and for good reason.. Heâ€™s posted sub-3.00 ERAs and sub-1.20 WHIPs for the past two seasons. The problem with Cueto is that he hasnâ€™t posted a K/9 over 8.00 since his rookie season. In the early rounds, itâ€™s important to get that base of pitching stats including strikeouts. Cueto simply hasnâ€™t proven capable of providing the strikeout totals that fantasy GMs expect from a player taken in that range. Itâ€™s a good idea to pair Cueto with a pitcher with a higher than average K/9. A pairing of Cueto and Matt Moore or Jeff Samardzija would be a good idea.
Lance Lynn posted a 9.20 K/9. That number was good enough for fifth among all starting pitchers, but heâ€™s being virtually ignored by most fantasy GMs. Kris Medlen will probably be drafted 50-70 spots ahead of Lynn, but he only managed a 7.83 K/9 last year and most of those Kâ€™s came during a hot two months at the end of the season. Lynn never posted a K/9 below 8.00 in any month in 2012. Lance Lynn is capable of posting elite strikeout totals and doesnâ€™t deserve the cold shoulder that heâ€™s received from fantasy GMs so far. Lynn has a clear path to a job thanks to the health issues of the Cardinalsâ€™ rotation and should be in line for another solid season.
Jered Weaver is a pitcher whose K/9 indicates that he might be a stay away for the 2013 season. In 2010, Weaver posted a career high 9.35 K/9. Heâ€™s never come anywhere near that number at the major league level. People bought into him and overdrafted him in 2011. He regressed to 7.56 K/9 in 2012. 7.56 is almost exactly where his career average is. Last year? His K/9 dropped off even further to 6.77. His velocity has also been in decline since 2010 and heâ€™s entering his age 31 season. Jered Weaver is being drafted like an ace, but heâ€™s unlikely to produce the Kâ€™s that fantasy GMs would need from an ace.
Fantasy GMs need to pay attention to K/9 if your goal is to win your league. It is possible to get by with pitchers who post lower than average K/9 numbers, but they need to be paired with a couple high K/9 guys. It is completely reasonable to draft guys like Ivan Nova (8.08 K/9 last year and Patrick smiles when he sees his name) and Felix Doubront (9.34 K/9 last year) insanely late in drafts to pump up K totals. Spending high picks on relievers is much more acceptable in leagues with innings caps if said relievers post really high K totals. An extra 50 Kâ€™s from Kimbrel or Jansen will help a lot more than guys like Jim Johnson or Brandon League. Kâ€™s matter in fantasy baseball and K/9 is a tool smart fantasy GMs will use to maximize their strikeout totals.