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April 27, 2013 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

Lies, Damn Lies and Advanced Metrics: Week Four Edition

Lies, Damn Lies and Advanced Metrics: Week Four Edition
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Some men tell lies (looking at you, Hawk Harrelson), others tell damn lies (looking your way, Ed Sherman) and others still use advanced metrics.

Hawk Harrelson really isn’t an awful guy. He’s passionate about baseball and equally passionate about the Chicago White Sox. He genuinely wants the White Sox to win every game they play and is genuinely hurt when they don’t. He’s responded to certain situations the same way most die-hard fans would (the words “WHAT ARE YOU DOIN’, WEGNER” can still be heard whenever someone makes a mistake around this White Sox fan).

He’s also completely misguided when it comes to modern analytics. Not understanding them is one problem. Choosing to embrace ignorance for the sake of something as stupid and unquantifiable as TWTW (the will to win for those who aren’t in the know) is another completely different problem.

WSCR’s Dan Bernstein put it best when he said, “Why would a manager not want to have MORE information?” The same is true for fantasy GMs. Modern analytics don’t have all the answers, but they can help fantasy GMs to find players with skills that can be useful in fantasy baseball.

With the idea of having more information in mind, we give you this week’s pitching-centric edition of Lies, Damn Lies and Advanced Metrics…

Max Scherzer’s BABIP is back above .400 again, but he’s not nearly as gross as he was last April. He’s still reasonably gross. No one drafted him with a 4.13 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in mind. The problem is that his current numbers are still really, really weird. Scherzer has allowed lefties to post a .794 OPS against for his career. This April? Only .670. His line drive % is only 16.7%. Scherzer had exactly one month last year under 20%.

His ground ball rate is at 48.1% and the Tigers are still woefully inept in the infield. Scherzer is still a victim of the whims of BABIP. He’s posting a 2.08 xFIP, so fantasy GMs should expect Scherzer’s season to improve. There is absolutely zero reason to deal Scherzer for anything less than a “Godfather” offer at this point. It’s time to remember the creed of the intergalactic hitchhiker, “DON’T PANIC.”

David Price has struggled through April. No one drafting Price was expecting an ERA in the mid-5’s with a 1.42 WHIP in his first five starts of the season. His velocity is down (average fastball velocity of 95.5 MPH last year vs. 93.5 in five starts this year), but that’s not really the issue. It’s not important because he’s throwing his four-seam fastball a lot less and his sinker a lot more. His sinker probably should come in a few ticks slower than his four-seam and FanGraphs doesn’t differentiate. It’s not where fantasy GMs should be looking.

The problem Price is having is his sinker. According to BrooksBaseball.net, Price’s sinker has been hit for a line drive 27.50% of the time it’s been put in play. The problem is that he’s used his sinker in 213 different situations. His sinker has been put in play 45.45% of the time it’s been used.

The good news is that this is one of two possible issues and both should be correctable. The first option is that Price is fine and this is merely the result of a small sample size. Price owns a .278 BABIP for his career. His current .344 would be an extreme outlier that should correct itself before the end of the season.

The second option is that it’s still early and he’s trying to develop a better feel for his sinker in the early part of the season. There also appears to be a plan to limit Price’s walks (currently 2.05 BB/9, a career low) and using his sinker is part of that plan. It’s still early, Price is still healthy and his issues should be correctable. There is no need to try to deal Price and there probably won’t be.

Fantasy GMs who should worry are Yovani Gallardo owners. Gallardo’s velocity is down across the board (average fastball velocity is only 90.7 MPH) and his K/9 has plunged to an anemic 5.52 K/9. He posted a 9.00 K/9 last season.

Gallardo does own a .363 BABIP right now (.298 career average), but he’s allowing a career high 27.2% line drive %. His sinker has been thumped to the tune of a .719 SLG with a .250 ISO. According to his heat charts at Brooks Baseball, Gallardo’s sinker and slider haven’t had the same movement in year’s past. They’ve been a straighter and higher in the zone.

Gallardo’s 6.0% swinging strike percentage and his 53.4% first pitch strike percentage would both be career lows by a wide, wide margin. He’s not fooling anyone this year and the hitters are letting him know about it. There could be a hidden injury or a mechanical issue, either way, it’s probably a good idea to try to get 50 cents on the dollar for Gallardo at this point. He’s just not the same guy.

We’ll wrap this up with Tim Lincecum. Lincecum has been about as divisive in fantasy baseball circles as any pitcher ever. There are differing opinions on Lincecum and his value in just about every fantasy league in the country.

Lincecum is essentially the same guy as he was last year. The velocity will never be back up to the 94ish MPH-range it was in 2007/08, but he hasn’t gotten any worse. The difference is that Lincecum’s BABIP is only .260 so far this year. Lincecum posted a .309 for the season last year and a .342 in the month of April. He’s giving up line drives at a 28.9% clip whenever balls are hit in play. His HR:FB ratio is exactly 1.0% less than last year, but higher than the 8.7% he posted last April.

One stat that could prove to be an issue with Lincecum is his line drive percentage. He gives up a line drive 28.9% of the time one of his pitches is in play. This could spell trouble for his BABIP if it continues for the rest of the year, but that 28.9% would be a career high by a wide, wide margin. It’s likely an outlier and safe to ignore…for now.

The good news is that he doesn’t have any red flags in his swing data. His swinging strike and first pitch strike percentages are both in line with his career average. His 23.2% O-swing % would be a career low. It remains to be seen if that indicates an issue or if it’s a function of the small sample size. Lincecum still requires investigation, but he’s essentially the guy you drafted. If you believed in him in March, you should probably stick with him in April. He hasn’t let you down…yet.

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