Let’s take a look at the unluckiest pitchers in the league (through Friday’s games) by Batting Average On Balls In Play (BABIP). Who has a chance to turn things around? Who should we simply ignore?
Matt Garza – Chicago Cubs – .471
He was supposed to be a dominating figure moving from the AL East to the NL Central, but poor luck has made it impossible. However, don’t look for a change in luck to completely solve his problems. It is unlikely that he maintains his current 12.41 K/9 (his previous career best was 8.38 and he has a career mark of 7.27). He also has not yet allowed a home run, despite HR/9 of 1.11 and 1.23 the previous two seasons. Pitching in Wrigley once the wind starts blowing out, that certainly will become an issue. While he certainly is better than his 4.74 ERA and 1.66 WHIP, don’t look at him like he is a no-brainer buy low candidate. There are a few reasons to expect some continued struggles (just not as severe as what we’ve seen thus far).
Kyle Davies – Kansas City Royals – .420
Yes, he’s had some bad luck, but does anyone really care? He has a career ERA of 5.54 and WHIP of 1.61, so even if he improves on his current 7.20 and 1.90 marks, what exactly are we going to get? His time in the Royals rotation is likely being counted down considering the talent they have in the minor leagues, so don’t even bother considering.
Jo-Jo Reyes – Toronto Blue Jays – .397
His time in the Blue Jays rotation is not likely long-term, so it’s not worth going too in-depth here. He has suffered from poor luck (he also has a strand rate of 61.2%), but he has a career ERA of 6.38 and WHIP of 1.68. Was anyone really expecting him to post usable numbers?
Nelson Figueroa – Houston Astros – .377
He does have some potential as a fifth start, especially in NL-only formats, but the luck has been unbelievably bad this season. Forget about the BABIP, he also is sporting a 44.5% strand rate. Could he be struggling as an exclusive starter, as opposed to working in the bullpen? It’s possible, but the Astros will hopefully give him a chance to get things back on track. Of course, if he doesn’t start striking people out (three batters or fewer in three of his first four starts), it’s not really going to matter. I’d watch him from a distance, but there is a chance that he gets on a bit of a hot streak before long.
Rick Porcello – Detroit Tigers – .364
The strikeouts are actually up this year, with a K/9 of 6.35, so that’s a step in the right direction, huh? It actually does help give a bit of hope, having posted less than five per nine innings in his first two seasons. With the increased strikeouts, if the luck was there he actually would be a usable fantasy option. Granted, he has faced the A’s and Mariners his last two starts (2 ER over 12.2 IP), and those starts are the ones giving a sense of hope. Off days have allowed the Tigers to push Porcello back, but he should be on fantasy radars right now. We’ll just have to wait and see if he can finally live up to the potential, but as the competition grows tougher I would be skeptical (he allowed 10 ER to the Orioles and Royals in 10 innings in his first two starts).
Max Scherzer – Detroit Tigers – .358
The strikeouts help to offset some of the bad luck, but he also has benefitted from a 87.9% strand rate. That means the higher than expected BABIP has not had as big of an impact on his ERA (4.30). As he gets luckier with the BABIP, he will likely get unluckier with the strand rate. What exactly does that mean? Don’t expect a huge improvement in the numbers. He’s a usable option regardless, thanks to being one of the elite strikeout pitchers in the game.
Anibal Sanchez – Florida Marlins – .357
Just consider that this inflated BABIP comes after a near no-hitter, allowing 1 hit and striking out 9 in a complete game victory over the Rockies. It’s hard to imagine him continuing his current 9.24 K/9, though after injuries cost him significant time over the past few seasons it is possible that he is rediscovering his minor league form (10.12 K/9). His strand rate is realistic (76.0%) and his fastball is being thrown as hard as ever (91.3 mph vs. 90.9 mph for his career). Could this actually be the emergence that we’ve been waiting for since he burst onto the scene in 2006 (10-3, 2.83 ERA)? It certainly seems possible, with the strikeouts there, good enough control (3.55 BB/9) and a good groundball rate (50.7%). The scary thing is, if the BABIP gets down to the proper levels, things could actually get better. I wouldn’t mortgage the farm, but right now it certainly appears appealing.
Mike Pelfrey – New York Mets – .356
There always seems to be something that stops Pelfrey, but he is significantly better than the 7.23 ERA he has posted thus far. Maybe he finally started to turn things around on Friday night, stymying the Diamondbacks. He allowed 1 ER on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 4, over 7.0 innings to earn his first victory of the season. The fact that he’s better than what he’s shown doesn’t necessarily make him a great option, because it has become evident that he may never become a good strikeout option (4.94 K/9 in ’11 and 5.11 for his career). Still, so far this season he’s generated a groundball rate of 40.4% (career mark of 49.0%) and a strand rate of 58.8%. If you can look past the strikeout problems you can see that there are much better days ahead.
Wandy Rodriguez – Houston Astros – .355
We know the type of pitcher he is, so there’s no reason to get worked up over his early season struggles. Over the past three seasons he has posted ERAs of 3.54, 3.02 and 3.60. Over that same period he has posted K/9 of 8.58, 8.45 and 8.22. So, is anyone really worried about his 5.48 ERA and 7.04 K/9 in his first four starts? The numbers will improve across the board (he showed it in his last start, allowing 1 ER and striking out 7 in 7.0 innings against the Mets), so if someone is willing to sell low I would certainly be listening. Of course, we all know about the history of problems away from home, but that’s an issue for another day.
Jeff Niemann – Tampa Bay Rays – .348
He has been incredibly unlucky this season. Besides the BABIP he is also sporting a 55.9% strand rate. Part of the problem is that he isn’t generating the groundballs that he normally does, with a 32.9% rate (over his career he is at 41.9%). If he can solve that problem, the other numbers should fall in line. He’s not going to be an elite option, but he should be usable going forward. Don’t give up hope quite yet.
What are your thoughts on these pitchers? Who has the best chance to things around? Who isn’t worth monitoring?
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