Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Fantasy Football Today Blog
Gameday Inactives
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Scores
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
Fantasy Baseball Today Blog
2015 Draft Prep Guide
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

By the Numbers: The tide will turn for these starters

  •  

If we could write the history of the 2011 season after five-plus weeks, there would be several unexpected storylines, especially concerning pitchers. Josh Tomlin on a 20-win pace and leading the majors in WHIP ... Ted Lilly near the bottom of the WHIP rankings ... Alexi Ogando leading the way in the Rangers' rotation ... who saw any of this coming?

Every year, the pitching leaderboards have their share of wacky rankings early on, and this year is no exception. Still, some of the stats that look out of place now might seem perfectly normal come September. The question for Fantasy owners is: Which of the surprising early season stats can I trust?

One way to determine whether pitchers have trustworthy stats is to look at their BABIP rates. Any rate over .330 or under .250 should raise suspicion. However, a few of the pitchers with high BABIPs are truly busts, while some with tiny rates may be able to sustain their success. A method for seeing which of the extreme BABIPs might be sustainable is to look at a pitcher's line drive and popup rates. Since line drives become hits more than 70 percent of the time and popups are practically sure outs, these rates are good indicators of whether a pitcher's BABIP is due to change. For example, Travis Wood's .381 BABIP makes it appear as if his high ERA and WHIP are flukes, but a 25 percent line drive rate tells us that there is a legitimate reason why he is giving up so many base hits on balls in play. Until he starts allowing fewer liners, we shouldn't look for Wood to improve.

Pitchers who appear in or near both of the "likely lucky" and "likely unlucky" boxes in the graph below are the most probable candidates to see their ERAs and WHIPs regress. For example, Josh Johnson's relatively unfavorable line drive and popup rates place him in both "likely lucky" boxes. Of course, it's not particularly interesting or relevant to note that Johnson's ERA is likely to slide above 2.00, but most of the other pitchers included in these zones are probably due for a change that will have a real Fantasy impact.

We'll focus in on a few of the more notable good and bad luck cases below. In addition, we will shed some light on a few pitchers who look like flukes right now, but could actually continue on their current paths.

Stats are for all games played through Monday, May 9.

Who has probably been lucky?

James Shields, Tampa Bay: So far, Shields has avoided the long balls that ruined his 2010 season, but should he really be putting up Cy Young-worthy numbers? His very average line drive and popup rates don't bode well for him sustaining a BABIP much under .280, so his current rate of .239 shouldn't last for long. While this supercharged version of Shields is just a mirage, there's nothing wrong with the version owners had a few years back, and he can be that good again.

Jhoulys Chacin, Colorado: To look at Chacin's 2.68 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, it appears that the 23-year-old has progressed since his rookie season. He is striking out two fewer batters per nine innings, so that's not really the case. While a low BABIP has papered over his diminished K rate, Chacin may not be due for all that much of a correction. All four mainstays of the Rockies' rotation -- Chacin, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa and Jason Hammel -- have held opposing batters to extremely low batting averages on ground balls. Troy Tulowitzki is a Gold Glove and Fielding Bible Award winner, and Jonathan Herrera is a pretty slick fielder as well. They may be giving Chacin enough of an assist that he can keep his ERA from soaring above the low-3.00s.

Kyle Lohse, St. Louis: Lohse has been an improved pitcher this season, but as he has allowed more contact over his last three starts, a low BABIP has prevented him from paying the cost. His worst start so far has been against the Marlins, but that's been the toughest lineup he has faced to date. Between the impending rise in opponents' batting average against him and a slate of tougher opponents ahead, Lohse's moment of being a Fantasy darling is likely to end soon.

Josh Tomlin, Cleveland: Tomlin is good enough that he should have been rostered in far more than three percent of our leagues to start the season. However, his popularity has since mushroomed to an 82 percent ownership rate. Much of his newfound respect and admiration stems from a .158 BABIP that is extremely low for any pitcher, and wholly undeserved for someone with subpar line drive and popup rates. Pretty soon, there is going to be a lot of unhappy Tomlin owners.

Who has probably been unlucky?

Ted Lilly, L.A. Dodgers: The lefty is doing his usual fine job of throwing strikes, popping batters up and limiting line drives, yet his WHIP is an unsightly 1.46. After allowing five runs in a pair of recent starts against the Cubs, it may be hard for owners to trust Lilly, but they can expect him to produce better results in his future starts.

Brandon McCarthy, Oakland: I wouldn't be surprised if a few readers do a double-take right now to make sure they are really in the "likely unlucky" section. We're not used to seeing McCarthy with a 3.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, so he must be lucky, right? (Actually, we're not used to seeing McCarthy off the DL for this long, but that's another story.) With the way he is commanding his two-seamer, curveball and new cutter, McCarthy isn't issuing many free passes, and he's not allowing much hard contact either. With a .338 BABIP that should only get lower, McCarthy is not a sell-high candidate. In fact, he's someone you might want to try to pick up in just about any format.

Chris Capuano, N.Y. Mets: In deeper leagues, there is a world of difference between a pitcher with an ERA approaching 5.00 as opposed to one closer to 4.00. xFIP estimates that Capuano's ERA should be exactly 4.00, yet it currently stands at 4.93. As a pitcher who consistently gets batters to pop up infield flies at an above-average rate, there is little reason to think that Capuano's BABIP, ERA and WHIP won't all tumble over his next several starts.

Jo-Jo Reyes, Toronto: Reyes belongs on the list of starting pitchers, along with Charlie Morton, Aaron Harang and Jason Marquis, who gave owners every reason to think they would be terrible and yet have been surprisingly effective. For a change, Reyes has not succumbed to wildness or gopheritis, but he is still saddled with a high ERA and WHIP. With his stats to date, he is barely useable in AL-only leagues, but owners in those formats should stick by him.

Who has been neither lucky nor unlucky (based on current batted ball rates)?

Alexi Ogando, Texas: In this week's Pitching Planner, I wrote that Ogando's sub-.200 BABIP was "not made to last," but at least so far, it does reflect his achievements on the mound. Ogando leads all major league starters, including pop-up artist Jered Weaver, in infield fly rate, and it's not a close contest. It is still questionable whether the converted reliever can continue to induce popups on more than one out of every five hit balls, but it's certainly a trend worth tracking.

Follow us on ...
Get the latest news and analysis from the most informed Fantasy staff in the industry by following us on Twitter and Facebook.
@cbsfantasynews
facebook.com/cbssportsfantasy

Tom Gorzelanny, Washington: His strikeouts are down and his homers are up, yet Gorzelanny has managed to be one of this spring's unexpected producers. The Nats' fifth starter has an improved walk rate and an even more improved BABIP to thank. It's not clear for how long either trend will continue, but after his first six starts, Gorzelanny has the favorable line drive and popup rates to back up his .168 BABIP.

Edwin Jackson, Chicago White Sox: Among major league starters, only Javier Vazquez has a higher line drive rate than Jackson. Given how ineffective Vazquez has been, that's not exactly company Jackson is eager to keep. However, until he improves both his line drive and popup rates, the inconsistent hurler will be vulnerable to meltdowns like the ones he recently had against the Tigers and Yankees. Fortunately, Jackson's track record suggests that he should be able to reverse these trends.

Doug Fister, Seattle: The one area that Fantasy owners could have rightfully expected Fister to help was with WHIP, but with a 1.46 mark, he's been a disappointment. Fister is still stingy with walks, but he has been getting hit around on balls in play due in part to a low infield fly rate. The good news is that Fister is actually helping with ERA, and with a 13 percent ownership rate, he is still underappreciated. Still, until his WHIP shrinks, he won't have much to contribute for owners in most mixed leagues.

Glossary
xFIP: Also known as Expected Fielding Independent Pitching. It is an estimate of what a pitcher's ERA would be if it were based on factors that a pitcher can control, such as strikeouts, walks and flyballs. xFIP is a derivative of FIP, which was developed by Tom Tango.
Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC/27) -- An estimate of how many runs a lineup would produce per 27 outs if a particular player occupied each spot in the order; ex. the RC/27 for Miguel Cabrera would predict the productivity of a lineup where Cabrera (or his statistical equal) batted in all nine spots; created by Bill James
Component ERA (ERC) -- An estimate of a what a pitcher's ERA would be if it were based solely on actual pitching performance; created by Bill James
GO/AO -- Ground out-fly out ratio
GB/FB -- Ground ball-fly ball ratio
Batting Average per Balls in Play (BABIP) -- The percentage of balls in play (at bats minus strikeouts and home runs) that are base hits; research by Voros McCracken and others has established that this rate is largely random and has a norm of approximately 30%
Isolated Power -- The difference between slugging percentage and batting average; created by Branch Rickey and Allan Roth
Walk Rate -- Walks / (at bats + walks)
Whiff Rate -- Strikeouts / at bats

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put By the Numbers in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Cardinals' Rosenthal considering abandoning the windup
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:01 am ET) Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal is considering ditching the windup this season, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Rosenthal had trouble against the first batter he faced last season, and believes he may be able to get around that by pitching from the stretch. The idea has been discussed, but it's unclear if Rosenthal will follow through with it. 

He did stress that getting ahead of batters is his main goal this season. "Working ahead (in the count). Making quality pitches early in the count. These are the big goals for this year," he said. 

The 24-year-old posted a 3.20 ERA over 70 1/3 innings last season.


Blue Jays' Martin: Pirates 'were going to do everything they could'
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin says the Pirates did everything they could to try and re-sign him, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Martin signed a five-year, $82 million deal with Toronto, but said the Pirates really pushed to keep him around. "They were going to do everything they could," Martin said. "They were pretty vocal about that. But then it comes to a point where, as an organization, if you're thinking business-wise, you can't stack all your chips and then leave yourself vulnerable for later."

Martin also admitted that the opportunity to be a role model in Canada was a big reason he signed in Toronto. "The opportunity to play in Canada, for my family to be able to watch me play, to be a role model for younger Canadians and be that guy, it's a better fit for me overall for that reason," he explained.

In the end, the money and a fifth year led Martin to the Blue Jays. "[The Pirates] were pretty vocal, and I think that they definitely wanted me back. It was just a feeling that Toronto wanted me a little bit more," he said.

The 32-year-old hit .290/.402/.430 over 379 at-bats last season.


Rockies' Wilin Rosario receives positive reviews at first base
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario received positive reviews after playing first base on Tuesday, according to MLB.com.

Rosario showed off his athleticism, saving two possible errors during the appearance. The club is trying to work Rosario in at the position after signing Nick Hundley in the offseason. Rosario has been taking extra fielding practice at first during camp. Rosario is expected to see equal time at first and behind the plate this spring.

The 26-year-old hit .267/.305/.435 over 382 at-bats last year.


D-backs' Yasmany Tomas does well in spring training debut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Diamondbacks third baseman Yasmany Tomas went 1-for-2 in his spring training debut against Arizona State. The Cuban born player thought he did just okay for his first game.

"Everybody knows it was my first day," Tomas said. "It was a good day. I put in the hard work to see it happen, and it felt like overall a good day."

Tomas played in five innings on the day. Manager Chip Hale said he thinks Tomas is right where he expected him to be offensively.

"With the bat, I thought this was how he would look," Hale said. "He looked very comfortable. He looked very relaxed."


Diamondbacks' Goldschmidt not concerned about hand this year
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is not concerned about his hand this year, according to MLB.com.

Goldschmidt saw his first game action since last season on Tuesday, singling in his first at-bat since August 1. Goldschmidt missed the final two months of 2014 due to a broken hand, but said the injury has not been an issue during camp. 

"It was the last thing on my mind," Goldschmidt said. "It's not the first time I've gotten hit. It's not the first time I've gotten injured. Hopefully it doesn't happen again, but chances are something is going to happen in the future."

Goldschmidt has been wearing a small pad in his batting glove in order to prevent the injury should he get hit in the same spot. He's used the pad during batting practices, and said he doesn't even feel it. 

The 27-year-old hit .300/.396/.542 over 406 at-bats last season. 


Athletics' Craig Gentry hoping for a fast start in 2015
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Athletics outfielder Craig Gentry is hoping for a fast start in 2015, according to the Bay Area News Group.

Gentry missed time early last year with a back injury, but feels refreshed this season. "Last year was definitely frustrating, because you want to be here with your new team, and I wasn’t healthy," Gentry said. "Now I feel great and I’m really excited about this season."

Gentry stressed that he's working on stealing bases this spring, as he plans to be aggressive once the regular season begins. "I want to be aggressive and practice is what does it. I need to work on getting jumps, trying to read the pitcher and all of that."

Gentry, 31, hit .254/.319/.289 over 232 at-bats last season. 


Phillies' Chad Billingsley expected to be out until late April
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Phillies pitcher Chad Billingsley is not expected to be ready until late April, according to MLB.com.

Billingsley is coming off two elbow surgeries, and is behind to start camp. Billingsley was expected to compete for a spot in the team's rotation if healthy. The 30-year-old owns a career 3.65 ERA over 1,175 1/3 innings.  


Diamondbacks' Ender Inciarte fighting for a spot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Diamondbacks outfielder Ender Inciarte is hoping to prove he deserves a spot, according to azcentral.com.

Inciarte flashed potential during the second half of the season in 2014, but is on the fringes of the 25-man roster this spring. For right now, he's open to any role the team will give him.

"There's a lot of competition here, but you only control what you can control," Inciarte said. "I know I can play defense. I know I can run. And I know I can hit. I've just got to do my job. I want to have a chance to play, but I'm ready to take any opportunity they give me or any role."

Manager Chip Hale praised Inciarte's versatility, saying Inciarte is "the type of player you like to have because he can do so many different things."

Inciarte knows the odds are against him, but knows whatever decision the team makes will be for the best. "I know whatever happens is going to be the best thing for me," he said. "I know if I go to Triple-A, I'm going to do my best and find my way back."

The 24-year-old hit .278/.318/.359 over 418 at-bats last year. 


Phillies' Chase Utley able to workout on Tuesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Phillies second baseman Chase Utley was able to work out on Tuesday, according to MLB.com.

Utley did not participate in workouts on Monday due to a sore ankle. He's expected to miss a few spring games due to the injury, but the fact that he was able to put in work on Tuesday should be seen as an encouraging sign.

The 36-year-old hit .270/.339/.407 over 589 at-bats last season. 


Giants' Tim Lincecum encouraged after first appearance
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum is encouraged after making his first spring appearance, according to MLB.com.

Lincecum can on in relief on Tuesday, giving up one run in one inning of work. He struck out two batters, and generally felt good about the outing. "I felt pretty good out there," Lincecum said. "My fastball had some life and my changeup was good at times."

Manager Bruce Bochy seemed to agree, saying he believed Lincecum had good command of his fastball. 

Lincecum is expected to open the season in the team's rotation. He posted a 4.74 ERA over 155 2/3 innings last year. 


 
 
 
Rankings