Can Bud Norris Be A Sleeper in 2011?

by Kyle Johansen

Strikeouts are most likely the one statistic that fantasy owners look for out of their pitchers more than any other.  It’s a reliable stat from year to year, gets pitchers out of jams and those who pile them up carry an air of dominance.  With this in mind, take a look at Bud Norris who put up a 9.3 K/9 in his first full season as a starter for the Astros in 2010.  Although the rest of Norris’ numbers weren’t quite as thrilling, he had a respectable debut as a full time starter:

 27 GS
153 IP
158 K
4.92 ERA
4.17 FIP
1.48 WHIP
2.05 K/BB

The disparity between his ERA and FIP is due to his unfortunate 67.1% strand rate last year.  Balls in play were reasonable at .314 as was his HR/FB at 10.8%.  For 2011, his strand rate could increase by as much as 10 points given his high strikeout rate, which will lower his ERA.

Here are his K/9 numbers coming up from the minor leagues:

  K/9
2006: A- 10.89
2007: A 10.89
2008: AA 9.45
2009: AAA 8.40
2010: MLB 9.25

 

After struggling to put away hitters in Triple-A with the same consistency as in the lower minors, Norris’ ability to go back to a 9+ K/9 in a full season in the majors last year confirms his elite strikeout potential. 

Norris does his damage with the slider, throwing the pitch at a rate of 33.1% last year as his primary out pitch.  The slider clocks in at 87.4 MPH, with his fastball averaging 93.6 MPH.  Norris also mixes in a hard change at 86 MPH.

For Norris to be valuable to fantasy owners he will need to lower his walk rate this season.  If he repeats the 4.51 BB/9 from last year, his WHIP will continue to be ugly, and if he can’t manage to strand the batters he walks, his ERA will follow suit.

In the minors Norris was able to limit his walks to below 4 per 9 at every stop, his high of 3.98 coming at Triple-A in 2009.  That year Norris also put up a 2.63 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 120 IP.  That WHIP probably represents the best-case scenario for Norris, and while his ERA that year was luck driven, he should be capable of a mid 3’s ERA in 2011.

Bud Norris isn’t going to be great, but with strikeouts leading the way he could put together a usable season in mixed leagues this year.  Fantasy owners likely don’t even need to waste a draft pick on Norris, but as a matchups guy off the waiver wire, he may be a nice play.

8 comments

  1. GT says:

    He’s a stud as long as he’s pitching against the Cardinals.

  2. Herb Urban says:

    I feel like much of what was said above could have applied to any number of very useful fantasy SP from 2010: Jonathan Sanchez, Brandon Morrow, Gio Gonzalez, Jorge De La Rosa and Ricky Romero to name a few.

    Norris did lower is BB/9 rate as the season went on. Considering this was his first full season in the majors, there should be room for improvement. With a lower BB rate, pretty stand rate and a solid GB to FB ratio, I can see him posting 3.75 ERA 1.33 WHIP 190 K seasons for the next couple of years. Not a fantasy stud, but a very solid back end of the rotation mixed league asset.

  3. Nick Tenaglia says:

    I see “Jorge De La Rosa version 2.0”

  4. Frank Kim says:

    Does it worry you that he relies so much on the slider? Seems like pitchers who do that tend to be injury prone.

  5. Kyle Johansen says:

    I think Sanchez, Morrow and Romero are more well known and are being picked much higher than Norris. I love Morrow at MDP pick #199 this year, and would draft him earlier, but Gio at pick #136, or Sanchez at pick #145 seem pretty early when Norris isn’t even among the top 300 picks. I do like Romero at pick #157.

  6. Kyle Johansen says:

    As far as the slider usage, Ryan Dempster has consistently thrown his slider close to 35% every year and he has been a durable, reliable starter. Hiroki Kuroda also threw his slider at 31% last year after throwing it 25% in 2009. Others in the top five though, are Ervin Santana at 37%, Liriano at 34%, and Jeremy Bonderman at 31% all who have seen their share of injuries, so there may be some reason for concern.

  7. ddc201 says:

    Yeah guys with higher slider usage are a huge concern. Brett Anderson to name a recent victim

  8. ClayHenry says:

    BaseballHQ talked about Bud Norris on every podcast last year. This tells me he has the peripherals of a Hall of Famer, but the potential of a AAAA hack.

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