Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Looking At The 10 “Luckiest” Pitcher BABIP From ’17 (Gio Gonzalez, Jose Urena & More)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We all know that many times there is at least a little bit of “luck” behind any strong performance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the performance isn’t for real.  Even with reduced luck an elite pitcher is an elite pitcher, and you are going to find a few of those among the 10 lowest BABIP from ’17.  The question is, what do we make of the other pitchers?  How do we value someone like Gio Gonzalez or Jose Urena or Andrew Cashner, all of whom appeared usable last season though the underlying numbers may tell a different tale.  Let’s take a look:

1) Lance Lynn – .244
2t) Ervin Santana – .245
2t) Max Scherzer – .245
4) Jeremy Hellickson – .246
5) Jose Urena – .249
6) Gio Gonzalez – .258
7) Andrew Cashner – .266
8t) Clayton Kershaw – .267
8t) Corey Kluber – .267
8t) Robbie Ray – .267

Notes:

  • Obviously, regardless of “luck”, we aren’t going to be concerned about the performance of any elite starting pitchers who find themselves on this list.  Are you really going to downgrade Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw or Corey Kluber because they benefited from some luck?  Robbie Ray is obviously not quite that level of pitcher, but with his strikeout stuff and a BABIP that’s not completely unreasonable you aren’t going to have concern with him as well.
  • At this point no one should believe in Ervin Santana, Jeremy Hellickson or Andrew Cashner.  They shouldn’t cost you more than a spot at the back for your rotation, and they aren’t worth more than that, so it’s not worth digging too deeply into them right now.
  • Gio Gonzalez – There’s no questioning that it was a tremendous season for Gonzalez, but it also shouldn’t come as a surprise that things started to go south as the season dragged on.  His BABIP was .283 in August and .314 in September, and while August was still a great month (2.23 ERA) he owned a bloated 5.47 ERA in September.  Of course he was also benefiting from an unrepeatable strand rate (81.6%, compared to a 73.7% career mark) and it all comes together for an overdraft in waiting.  We’ll really dig into him later on this offseason, but he’s an early hands off option for ’18.
  • Jose Urena – He’s often viewed as a player with upside, and his 3.82 ERA helps to support the hype.  Of course there was a lot of luck behind that, and he also struggled to show strikeouts (5.99 K/9), control (3.39 BB/9) and groundballs (43.1%).  Where exactly is the carrying tool?  He owned just an 8.2% SwStr% and 29.2% O-Swing%, while he was also hurt by home runs (1.38 HR/9).  He may not be able to stick in the Marlins rotation, let alone be a viable fantasy option in ’18.
  • Lance Lynn – After missing all of ’16 Lynn was obviously a nice story in ’17, throwing 186.1 innings and posting a 3.43 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.  However his BABIP and 79.0% strand rate obviously shows that he did it with a bit of mirrors and magic wands, as he struggled with home runs (1.30 HR/9), has never shown the biggest upside in his strikeout rate (9.0% SwStr%, 27.2% O-Swing% in ’17) and there’s little chance that he maintains his BABIP (19.8% line drive rate).  Like Gonzalez he’s more name than appeal, and don’t make the mistake of targeting him.

Source – Fangraphs

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