At this point, while sample sizes are still somewhat small, we can at least start to see who has been incredibly lucky over the first few weeks of the season. Are these players worth selling? Let’s take a look at the pitchers with the best strand rates (through Monday) and try to decide who should be sold and who should be held:
1) Johnny Cueto – Cincinnati Reds – 91.5%
He’s opened the year by posting a 1.12 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. Of course, a lot of that has to do with a lot of luck (.253 BABIP on top of the inflated strand rate). Considering that opponents are teeing off at a 22.9% line drive rate, does anyone really believe that he can maintain anything close to this type of production? Throw in a decline in velocity (91.9 mph vs. 93.4 mph in ’11) and little upside in the strikeout department (5.77 K/9 in ’12) and he is a prime sell high candidate. Hopefully it’s not too late, as he allowed 6 runs (5 earned) over 4.0 innings to the Braves yesterday.
2) Colby Lewis – Texas Rangers – 90.7%
Lewis has pitched to elite control (1.17 BB/9), and, while he is good in that regard, it’s not a number that he would’ve been able to maintain. While that’s that causes concern, as does the strand rate, Lewis’ ERA is still elevated thanks to a significant number of home runs allowed (11 HR in 46.1 IP). He has proven to be homer prone before (1.57 HR/9 in ’11), but this is a little out of line. Assuming he can reduce the home runs allowed, a regression in the strand rate isn’t going to have a major impact. With a 3.69 ERA currently, you probably can’t sell high on him anyways. He should keep his value consistent.
3) Vance Worley – Philadelphia Phillies – 89.6%
Here is a pitcher that gives me serious concern, outside of just the strand rate. Granted, he’s posted a below average BABIP (.325), but I’m not sure he can maintain his current strikeout rate (9.20 K/9). Keep in mind that, over his minor league career, he posted a 6.89 K/9. Could he be a late bloomer? Absolutely, and his career 8.40 over 188.2 IP would make you believe that. Still, it’s hard for me to consider it a given. A regression in strikeouts, coupled with a regression in strand rate, would lead to things getting ugly. Unfortunately, with him landing on the DL today, the window to move him has likely come and gone. There is no word to the extent of the injury, though there appears to be some concern he could be out for an extended period of time.
4) Drew Smyly – Detroit Tigers – 89.2%
The rookie has lived up to the hype, though there’s obviously some luck that has aided him. Still, he has strikeout potential (he’s currently sporting an 8.77 K/9), good control (2.54 BB/9) and has not benefited from a tremendously lucky BABIP (.267). Is he going to be able to maintain his 2.31 ERA? Not likely, as a regression in strand rate is going to come. Is he going to be a useful option the rest of the way? It would look like he would be. In yearly leagues I’d obviously be a little more apt to trade him than in keeper formats.
5) Chris Capuano – Los Angeles Dodgers – 89.1%
He’s been unbelievable thus far, going 5-0 with a 2.06 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. Do I believe that he can maintain it? Absolutely not. In over 1,000 innings he has a career 4.29 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. On top of the strand rate he’s carrying a .224 BABIP and 7.4% HR/FB (career mark of 11.6%). Enjoy him while you can, but the numbers are likely going to tumble before long.
6) Henderson Alvarez – Toronto Blue Jays – 88.8%
He was a sleeper for many heading into the season and, while he’s pitched well (2.61 ERA, 1.10 WHIP), it is all going to come crashing down. He pitches in a tough division. He’s benefitted from a lot of luck (.212 BABIP). He hasn’t been able to strike anyone out (2.61 K/9). While the last point should improve, it’s not like he’s ever going to be a major strikeout option (6.50 K/9 for his minor league career). Granted, he does offer elite control, but it’s far from enough. If you can cut bait, I would.
7) Jeremy Hellickson – Tampa Bay Rays – 88.5%
I had my concerns regarding Hellickson’s luck heading into the year, yet he’s been even luckier this season. The strand rate is even better than his 2011 mark (82.0% in ’11) and his BABIP is nearly the same (.228 vs. .223 in ’11). Do we really believe that he’s this good, or do we attribute it to a lot of luck? I have to go with the latter, as he continues to struggle generating huge strikeout numbers (6.12 K/9). He has name value and, when people look at his 2011 and start to 2012, you should definitely be able to cash in for a big return. I’d do it as quickly as you can.
8 ) Lance Lynn – St. Louis Cardinals – 87.0%
He’s coming off his worst start of the season (3 ER in 6.0 IP), but it could be the beginning of a trend. Does anyone believe that he can maintain the strand rate as well as a .219 BABIP? Yes, he offers a solid strikeout rate with good control, but the numbers are not going to be able to be maintained. Enjoy him while you can.
9) Carlos Zambrano – Florida Marlins – 86.1%
Big Z has enjoyed a great renaissance in 2012, with a 1.88 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. That said, his career strand rate is 74.4% and BABIP is .276 (he’s currently sporting a .242 mark). Throw in a good chance that his control regresses as well (currently at a 3.19 BB/9 vs. a career mark of 4.03) and you have to know that his numbers are going to fall.
10) Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals – 84.6%
The luck numbers don’t matter when it comes to Strasburg, does it? We all know that he’s one of the elite pitchers in the game and should be valued as such regardless.
What are your thoughts of these pitchers? Who would you sell? Who would you hang onto?