Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Is A Regression Inevitable, Or Can These Surging Pitchers Continue To Carry You?

by Connor Henry

As the fantasy playoffs approach it’s becoming even more important to trust the pitchers you are starting week in and week out. An important part of determining who is worth a gamble involves looking into their BABIP against over the last month. In order to determine which pitchers may be due for regression while your fantasy playoffs are in full swing, we’ll look at:

 

  1. Inducing Soft Contact – League Average 18%
  2. Limiting Hard Contact – League Average 35%
  3. Generating Infield Fly Balls (IFFBs) – League Average 11%

These next two pitchers we’re going to take a look at are benefitting from a BABIP much lower than league average (.297). In addition to looking at the aforementioned batted ball data, I’m also going to be referencing pitchers with comparable batted ball data to provide possible regression scenarios.

 

Rich Hill – Los Angeles Dodgers
A former reliever, the 38-year old journeyman reinvented himself in his mid-30s to become a viable major league starter. Known for his sweeping curveball, Hill has dominated batters over the past month to the tune of a 2.23 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. Should we be concerned that his BABIP over that time period is a lowly.225? The data below is from his past six starts:

  1. Soft Contact %: 23
  2. Hard Contact %: 45
  3. IFFB %: 15

He is inducing plenty of soft contact. With league average sitting closer to 18%, his mark of 23% speaks to his ability to make batters uncomfortable and keep them off balance. His 15% infield popup rate also speaks to that same ability, however there are instances where batters square up Hill’s pitches and take advantage of his mistakes. His 45% hard contact rate shows those instances and makes me a bit wary of his ability to maintain a low BABIP. Let’s draw a batted ball comparison to Mike Clevinger for a bit more clarity.

  LD% GB% FB% IFFB% Soft% Hard% BABIP
Rich Hill 19 37 45 15 23 45 0.225
Mike Clevinger 20 33 46 16 19 39 0.284

Over the past month Clevinger and Hill are inducing a lot of similar contact. Both are relatively fly ball heavy pitchers who unfortunately give up too much hard contact and can therefore be susceptible to home runs. On a positive note, they both induce a lot of soft infield popups which are automatic outs and can contribute to a sustainable low BABIP.

Verdict: Hill is an interesting case when it comes to trustable starting pitchers. His lack of ability to stay healthy will always be a concern, but when he’s pitching I see no reason to keep him out of your lineup. His 2.23 ERA over the past 30 days is extremely impressive and while I do expect some regression in his .225 BABIP, I don’t expect him to become an unusable pitcher. He may give up some home runs from time to time but he induces enough weak contact and popups to maintain a BABIP below league average.

 

Tanner Roark – Washington Nationals
After a disappointing start to his 2018 season, in which he accrued a 4.55 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, the 31-year old innings-eater has completely turned his season around with a sub-2.00 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over the past month. One of the main reasons is easily found within his BABIP. Roark’s BABIP over the first 4 months of the season sat above .300 but since then has stabilized around 0.250. Can he sustain this recent success?

  1. Soft Contact %: 17
  2. Hard Contact %: 23
  3. IFFB %: 11

He has never had a flashy profile. He doesn’t miss many bats and he’s never been considered an impressive groundball pitcher, but when he is at his best Roark limits hard contact with the best of them. Over the past month he has the 7th lowest hard contact rate in the league surrounded by names such as Aaron Nola and Jacob Degrom. While I’m not amazed by his soft contact rate or his infield popup rate, they are around league average which will not end up hurting him in the long run. Let’s compare his batted ball data to Carlos Rodon over the last month.

  LD% GB% FB% IFFB% Soft% Hard% BABIP
Tanner Roark 18 39 44 11 17 23 0.250
Carlos Rodon 20 35 46 14 20 25 0.196

Of the pitchers with similar batted ball data over the past month, just about all of them are sporting very low BABIPs. In a previous article I dove into determining which batted ball tendencies are linked to the biggest change in BABIP and fly balls, let alone weakly hit fly balls, caused some the biggest drops in BABIP among batters. Roark, along with Rodon, is limiting hard contact so well while inducing fly balls and popups at high rates making it very easy to see why so many of the balls hit against him are being caught. If Roark can keep this trend up, I see no reason for his BABIP to change drastically.

Verdict: Roark has been on fire as of late. While he may have been on the waiver wire over a month ago, he could now have been carrying your pitching staff. While I struggle to call him a consistent must-start option, I believe Roark is limiting hard contact enough over the past month to be considered a starting option against almost any lineup. Due to his lack of strikeout upside I am always going to be concerned about the possibility of blow-up starts, but heading in the playoffs Roark deserves a green light in almost all formats.

Source: Fangraphs

3 comments

  1. Suave says:

    Rank Hill/Roark/Godley/German Marquez for ROS?

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