BABIP Files: On the Lookout for Pitching Sleepers
Pitching sleepers may be the most sought after commodity in Fantasy Baseball. With offense in such short supply many Fantasy owners are grabbing one or two quality starting pitchers and then stockpiling offense through the first 12 to 15 rounds. That inevitably means they must battle it out in trying to determine which lower ranked pitchers can return solid value. The question is, where do we start in trying to find starting pitchers that we can feel good about?
Well, just like when I was trying to identify sleepers and busts for hitters, BABIP Differential is a good starting point. As I mentioned in my previous post about possible pitching busts, BABIP Differential is not quite as cut and dried for pitchers as it can be for hitters. There are many other factors in play in the final numbers a pitcher puts up. But we’ll use it as what it is, a starting point.
The table below includes data for pitchers with over 100 innings pitched in 2014, and a BABIP Differential of .030 or more. It’s a somewhat arbitrary number, but seemed to be where some sort of conclusion could be drawn. Below the table I’ve went into more depth on some of the pitchers that could play important roles on a lot of Fantasy teams this season.
Bad Luck or Just a Bad Pitcher?
- Yordano Ventura – Before the big differential gets you all excited, please realize Ventura’s “5-year” BABIP is really just 15 innings in 2013. A .288 BABIP is right in line with what we’d expect to see. While I like Ventura to to take a step foward, it’s not because of his BABIP. It’s more about seeing plenty of room for improvement in his modest 7.82 K/9.
- Trevor Bauer – It’s hard not to get drawn in by Trevor Bauer. His stuff is electric and a .312 BABIP allowed does seem a bit high. I’m taking some shots on him this year. Just a small step foward with his command and Bauer could quickly become a pretty valuable pitcher.
- Travis Wood – Maybe we finally have a bit of a sleeper? Wood’s control fell apart, but he was also hurt by that .320 BABIP allowed and a 66.5 LOB%. I’m not suggesting you go inserting Wood into your mixed league rotation, but he might have some NL-only value if he can nail down the No. 5 starter job in Chicago… or somewhere else.
- Yu Darvish – A bloated 3.06 ERA? That’s what it looks like. All the numbers looked fine for Darvish (except IP) in 2014. In fact in many ways (2.84 FIP) 2014 was his best season… until the injury at least. It will still take quite an investment to roster Darvish, but if he’s healthy there’s value to be had.
- Danny Salazar – Most of the BABIP damage against Salazar was done in the first half when he was having issues with reduced velocity and triceps pain. Salazar may never have the control to pitch deep into games, but he will not allow a BABIP of .343 again. I like Salazar and his high-K upside anytime after the 15th round in mixed leagues.
- Mike Minor – There are a lot of numbers wrong about Minor’s 2014 season besides that BABIP. Career worsts in HR/FB% and LD% don’t offer a lot of encouragement that it was just bad luck. One key though is that Minor may have never been fully healthy in 2014. He started the season late and never really seemed to get in any kind of groove. Early reviews for 2015 are positive (aren’t they always). I’m not rostering Minor until the late rounds, but he does make a nice grab late in drafts with his proven upside.
- Phil Hughes – The record breaking K/BB and pretty much every other peripheral stat in existence says Hughes 3.52 ERA was artificially bloated. It’s just my gut, but I don’t trust those numbers in this case. I see regression in store and that Twins team won’t be winning too many games. People don’t seem to be overreacting to his 2014 season though, so feel free to grab him as a No. 5 type starter on your Fantasy team.
- Justin Verlander – I’m a sucker. I’m already buying into the talk that Verlander failed in 2014 because of his core muscle injury issues. I have visions of the old Verlander dancing in my head. While I fight the urge to grab him in the 10th round, you remind yourself that he really wan’t any good in 2013 either. Sometimes the BABIP is bad just because hitters are teeing off.
- Brandon McCarthy – McCarthy is a trendy sleeper pick right now, but I’m not sure the hype is doing him justice. His K/BB wasn’t quite Hughes-esque, but it wasn’t too far off. That 4.05 ERA is countered by a 2.87 xFIP. He pitched in Chase Field and Yankee Stadium in 2014. He gets Dodger Stadium in 2015. While he still represents a health risk, there is a lot of room for profit here.