Left on base % has become forgotten about over the past few seasons. Fantasy pundits like to pontificate on HR:FB ratio and BABIP, but LOB % (aka, strand rate) rarely gets mentioned these days. LOB % shouldnâ€™t be as ignored as it seems to be.
Itâ€™s important to look at the whole picture that the advanced metrics provide. Focusing only on BABIP or HR:FB ratio or swinging strike percentage isnâ€™t a winning strategy. These numbers work together to provide a clearer image of statistical variance and LOB % needs to be a part of that image.
LOB % is one of the easier calculations to make, but thereâ€™s really no need to try to compute it in your head. Itâ€™s simply all of the baserunners allowed (hits, walks and HBP) subtracted by runs. Then, take that number and divide by all the baserunners allowed subtracted by HR*1.4. Not the most complicated formula (looking your way, xFIP), but not one fantasy GMs can calculate on the fly without all ten fingers and toes.
Simply put, itâ€™s the measure of runners that donâ€™t score against a pitcher. It calculates the percentage of runners left on base. There are two caveats that need to be taken into consideration. Pitchers with higher than average strikeout rates will be capable of carrying a higher than average LOB %. It makes sense that a pitcher capable of striking out more batters than average will be able to keep runners on base instead of scoring.
White Sox ace Chris Sale is a great example of a pitcher with a high K % maintaining a higher than average LOB %. Sale has been able to strand runners 81.1 percent of the time in 286 1/3 major league innings. Itâ€™s not an ideal sample size, but he owns a 26.3% K % with a 9.52 career K/9. Sale does a great job of making hitters make the walk of shame back to the dugout and he should have no problem maintaining a higher than average LOB %…as long as heâ€™s healthy.
Also, pitchers who profile as fly ball pitchers will also be able to maintain a higher than average LOB %. Itâ€™s harder to advance on a fly ball than a line drive or a ground ball, even if it isnâ€™t caught.
Jeremy Hellickson owns a 41.9% fly ball rate for his career and a 0.91 GB:FB ratio. He also owns a career LOB % of 82.2%. There are a lot of reasons to expect Hellickson to regress in 2013, but his LOB% isnâ€™t really one of them. He posts a competent 16.5% K % for his career and managed to strike out 6.31 batter per nine, but he also gets a lot of fly balls. Hellickson will and forever be a regression candidate due to a lot of factors (BABIP, HR:FB ratio, xFIP), but his LOB % really isnâ€™t one of them.
Speaking of a guy that fantasy GMs should be worried about…Matt Harrison, ladies and gentlemen! Harrison is coming off a season that saw him post a 78.6% LOB % last year. The problem is that he owns a 72.5% career average. He doesnâ€™t really strike batters out in large numbers (5.41 K/9 last year) and he actually gets a lot of ground balls (49.0% GB % last year). Harrison appears primed for a regression to his career average. Fantasy GMs that choose to invest heavily in Matt Harrison and his 18 wins in 2012 could be in for some pain in 2013.
Joe Blanton is by no means a sexy name in fantasy baseball. Heâ€™s been around the block the better part of the last decade. Everyone has either had him or released him or both. Joe Blanton is actually a decent sleeper for 2013. Heâ€™s coming off a season that saw him post a career low 67.9% LOB %. His career average is 70.7%. Thatâ€™s not a fantastic number, but there is room for improvement. This came in a season that saw Fightinâ€™ Joe post a career high 7.82 K/9. He owns a 1.24 GB:FB ratio for his career. Heâ€™s not an extreme ground ball pitcher and could actually benefit from playing in Los Angeles with two of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. Blanton looks like a decent buy low candidate to round out a fantasy staff and he is being ignored in almost every draft. Donâ€™t sleep on Blanton…even though everyone else is.
LOB % isnâ€™t the end all, be all of advanced metrics, but itâ€™s another tool that fantasy GMs need in the olâ€™ statistical tool belt to evaluate players. Keep LOB % in mind on draft day. It will keep you away from potential regression candidates like Matt Harrison and push you towards guys who could be useful like Joe Blanton.