by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Now that we’ve covered those who benefited and struggled in the BABIP department, let’s turn our attention to strand rate. While a pitcher arguably has a little bit more control over this, there’s still a lot of luck in play. Sooner or later you’d expect a pitcher who consistently benefits from an above average strand rate to have the luck catch up with him, though that’s not necessarily a given. Let’s take a look at the 10 “luckiest” pitchers from a year ago and try to reach a conclusion:
- Obviously no one is about to red flag Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber or Justin Verlander (though Verlander could be argued that there’s at least a little red flag, considering his history). For the most part these are elite starting pitchers and even a regression in the luck department isn’t going to impact that.
- On the flipside, does anyone believe that Jose Urena or Ervin Santana are going to hold much appeal? We all know that their ’17 performance was based off of luck, and when that regresses the numbers are going to plummet.
- Robbie Ray is viewed as one of the up-and-coming elite starters in the league. He’s developed into a strikeout machine, posting a 12.11 K/9 courtesy of a 14.2% SwStr%. The addition of his curveball was the key, but with a regression in luck coming the question is going to be if he can discover his control (3.94 BB/9) and keep the ball in the ballpark (1.28 HR/9, 40.3% groundball rate). He showed signs of his control (3.05 BB/9 in the second half), though his home run rate at home is going to remain an issue (1.56 HR/9). The upside remains tremendous, even with the luck, just know that there is still risk.
- One of the more divisive players of 2017 was Gio Gonzalez. When you look at the numbers he appeared like one of the elite starters, though the skillset tells a different story. Nothing that we look for particularly stood out, with an 8.42 K/9, 3.54 BB/9 and 45.8% groundball rate. His history also tells us that both his strand rate (73.7% for his career) or BABIP (.258 in ’17, .293 for his career) are not repeatable. He posted a 5.47 ERA in September, and while he’s not that bad it could easily be a sign of things to come (66.1% strand rate, .314 BABIP).
- Drew Pomeranz has now posted a strand rate north of 80% in three of the past four seasons, so maybe it’s possible that it’s a true skill that can’t be overlooked? That’s one way to think, but you also have to wonder if it means that sooner or later the luck is going to catch up with him. Consider his mediocre control (3.58 BB/9 in ’17), and the extra base runners that leads to, and if the luck turns the results could get ugly.
- Lance Lynn was a great story, after missing all of 2016, but there’s no doubt that luck led to much of his success. He lacked strikeouts (7.39 K/9), control (3.77 BB/9) and groundballs (44.0%), and if it wasn’t for the strand rate and .244 BABIP his ERA likely would’ve been north of 4.50. Maybe another year of health will help, but don’t bank on it.
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Projections: