Alexi Ogando may have been the luckiest Pitcher in baseball during March/April
Photo Cred: Mike LaChance
Only four Starting Pitchers posted a Batting Average of Balls In Play of .250 or better during the 2010 baseball season. Those four were Trevor Cahill, Bronson Arroyo, Ted Lilly and Tim Hudson and all four limited Line Drive damage (BABIP and LD% usually go hand-in-hand). The BABIP numbers they put up in 2010 represented career bests so I wouldn't expect them to repeat those performances. Through the first month of 2011, we had 23 Starting Pitchers who registered a BABIP of .250 or better. We can pretty much say all these Pitchers have experienced some luck in one form or another, but some have enjoyed more luck than others. Let's take a look at this group of potential Sell High candidates.
There are basically two kinds of luck going on here. One group of Pitchers are those who limited Line Drives and deserve a below average BABIP. The other group of Pitchers were abused by the opposition, but were blessed by the baseball gods (the only gods worthy of praise). Both groups should expect regression, but the latter group should expect implosions of fantastic results: Charlie Sheen-type implosions. Let's take a quick look at both camps and everyone in between.
Full disclosure: I wanted to write this when May rolled around, but times were busy and then I went on vacation. Also, I consider a 20% LD% allowed to be average. Anything below 20% is splendid and anything above 20% is shameful. There's a fine line between love and hate and Line Drive percentage is no different.
Alexi Ogando, Tex (.165 BABIP) Ogando had the league's best BABIP during March/April and it came with a 21.5% LD%. The baseball gods surely own Ogando on multiple teams, there is no other explanation for this kind of luck. I would bet on his BABIP being closer to .365 than .165 with that LD%. Someone has been trying to sucker me into buying Ogando from him in the Million Dollar Challenge league, but it will never happen. I suggest you try doing the same, but don't pull the move on someone who is a renowned fantasy baseball wizard (if I may steal that line from Donny). Starbonell actually flat out dropped Alexi in Blog Wars, despite his Y! rank of 58. We'll have to ask him if he tried to wheel 'n deal, because Ted Lilly was just traded for Kyle Farnsworth. If Ogando sported a BABIP of, say, .306 instead of .165 his WHIP would have been 1.24 rather than 0.86. Ogando doesn't have much of a track record as a Starting Pitcher so it's difficult to say what we should expect from him in terms of future LD% and BABIP.
Josh Johnson, Fla (.173 BABIP) Johnson's sparkling BABIP came courtesy of a 13.3% LD%. He won't maintain these numbers (career average for BABIP is .295 and LD% is 19.6%) and he is prone to injury so even though he is a great Pitcher, I'd still try to sell high. If you believe he can stay healthy, just hang onto Double J and enjoy the fine season.
Josh Tomlin, Cle (.179 BABIP) Not only has Tomlin been extremely lucky in terms of BABIP (his 22.2% LD% was ghastly), but he has had the easiest schedule of any Pitcher in baseball. He matched up with Boston when they couldn't hit anything and then he got Seattle, Baltimore and Kansas City twice. Selling on Tomlin is tough, even in AL-Only leagues. I can't get rid of him for nothing and we have a 1500 IP cap. Tomlin is owned in 58% of Y! leagues, if you're one of the lucky few do what you can to move him before the inevitable happens.
Josh Beckett, Bos (.200 BABIP) Beckett did limit Line Drive damage (17.4% LD%), but he didn't earn the BABIP. If he was able to maintain that 17.4% LD% (career 19.9% LD%), I'd expect a BABIP slightly above .280. He's not the Pitcher he used to be, but he's solid nonetheless. It's likely that he'll outproduce my preseason projection (1.30 WHIP, 4.00 ERA). It was difficult for me to give him credit for a solid BABIP when his average number between 2007 and 2010 was .309. There is still plenty of time for things to go wrong, but for now Beckett looks like a solid SP4.
Kyle Lohse, StL (.202 BABIP) I know Dave Duncan is a good Pitching Coach, but he doesn't teach Pitchers how to get lucky. Lohse posted a fugly 21.5% LD% in March/April and the baseball gods rewarded him for his misdeeds. If you can find a Dave Duncan/Cardinals homer in your league, maybe you can sell high on Lohse and his soon-to-explode forearm. I recently dropped him for a Middle Reliever (roto league that counts holds) so I practice what I preach. I didn't even bother with the sell route. We're talking about Kyle Lohse.
Those were our Top Five Masters of Avoiding Disaster; the league leaders for BABIP in the months of March and April. I don't want to discuss Phil Humber or Armando Galarraga so let's just cover the Pitchers of interest until we hit that aforementioned .250 BABIP.
Dan Haren, LAA (.212 BABIP) Haren wasn't giving up much for solid contact in the early goings, batters managed a meager 13.7% LD% off him in March/April. The move back to the American League hasn't phased Haren. His K/9 was at 7.77, the BB/9 was superb at 1.43 and he allowed only one HR in 44 IP. While he deserves a lot of credit for what he's done thus far, the numbers will prove too good to be true. I'd test the trade market just to see what Haren could fetch. If people low ball you (which are the only offers I get these days), just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Jered Weaver, LAA (.220 BABIP) You didn't think Weaver's No.3 rank at Y! was all skill did you? Jered is a fine Pitcher, but he's benefited from some luck. His 20.9% LD% from March/April wasn't endearing and the HR/FB% (3%) also doesn't pass the smell test. If his BABIP was more in line with his career average (.281) his WHIP would have been 0.94 instead of 0.79. If the 20.9% LD% sticks over the course of the season, I would expect a BABIP near .294. If we used this number rather than a .284 BABIP, his WHIP would have been 0.96. He's still a stud no matter how you slice it.
Jorge De La Rosa, Col (.224 BABIP) DLR had me quoting all kinds of Val Halen songs before the season started and he's rewarded me with great numbers thus far. Unfortunately not all these numbers are sustainable. While DLR did manage to keep opposing batters off balance (17.3% LD%), we'd be crazy to expect the .224 BABIP to carry over throughout the season. My preseason projection called for a .285 BABIP so I do believe he is better than his career mark (.307). I'm not selling on Jorge, I just expect his 1.12 WHIP to end up closer to 1.25. Just remember this: Jason Hammel likes to party, Jorge De La Rosa is the party.
Justin Verlander, Det (.226 BABIP) Verlander is a great Pitcher and he was solid in the Line Drive department (15.5%), but no one, no matter how great they may be, can maintain a .226 BABIP. He has a .292 career BABIP, but if we plugged in my preseason projection (.285 or .283 for mathematical purposes) Verlander would have posted a 1.19 WHIP rather than the 1.02 WHIP we witnessed in March/April. You can expect great things from Verlander, but don't fully expect career bests in WHIP/ERA.
Colby Lewis, Tex (.233 BABIP) Colby may have seen a drop in his velocity and strikeouts, but at least he was limiting Line Drive damage (11.5% LD%). I don't know how long he can keep this up if the Fastball continues to sit under 89 mph. I have a few shares of Colby so I'm going to send out some offers and see if I can find a taker at the price I paid during draft season. I'm not holding my breath, but I am crossing my fingers.
Brandon Beachy, Atl (.237 BABIP) While it's criminally offensive that Beachy is owned in only 54% of Y! leagues, his 0.99 WHIP from March/April does have a small asterisk attached to it. However, Beachy posted a 8.92 K/9 and 2.48 BB/9 in the first month of baseball so he's a legit stud. I've been offered a few trades that involved my Beachy and I didn't pay them much attention. Brandon isn't going anywhere, I'm not sharing. His 19.1% LD% was good, but I'm expecting a BABIP around the league average (low .290s) when all is said and done. With the strikeout and walk rates he's posting, he'll easily trump my preseason projection of a 1.26 WHIP and 3.60 ERA.
Roy Oswalt, Phi (.247 BABIP) It took Roy ten years to post a BABIP under .283, but he went to town in 2010 with a mark of .253 (17.6% LD%). This March/April was no different as he posted a magnificent numbers (18.2% LD%). Has Roy benefited from mucho luck during the past seven months of baseball or did he figure something out when he teamed up with Roy Halladay? His Changeup was much improved during this stretch and he is using it more than ever these days so he may be onto something. Will Oswalt repeat his line from 2010 (1.03 WHIP, 2.76 ERA)? I doubt it, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.
Zack Britton, Bal (.250 BABIP) Britton was the flavor of the month despite his bland strikeout and walk rates. This was largely in part due to a lot of prospect hype and a favorable BABIP. We should recognize the fact that Britton did limit Line Drive damage (14.6% LD%), but his minor league BABIP numbers were nowhere near as good. I don't know where to find his minor league LD% numbers so I can't comment on that. Britton is a better real life Pitcher than a fantasy Pitcher. The groundball rate is great, but I can't hang with a 5.00 K/9. I wouldn't roster Britton in a 12-team, public, roto league. Put on your polyester sport coat and bust out your inner used car salesman.
Shaun Marcum, Mil (.250 BABIP) Marcum is no stranger to low BABIP numbers. His career average is .272 so it's no surprise to see him doing well in the National League after leaving the AL East. He's always limited Line Drive damage, he has a career 17.9% LD% and it's never reached 18.5% in any of his three full seasons. He may be losing velocity on his Fastball, but the Changeup is still deadly and he's using it more than ever. I'd be more worried about his history of injuries than the low BABIP.
Other BABIP Benefiters Who Bored Me
Phil Humber, ChW (.202 BABIP) 15.6% LD%
Armando Galarraga, Ari (.213 BABIP) 13.3 LD%
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Bos (.219 BABIP) 15.8% LD%
Kevin Correia, Pit (.238 BABIP) 11.5% LD%
Matt Harrison, Tex (.242 BABIP) 15.2% LD%
Dustin Moseley, SD (.243 BABIP) 16.0% LD%
Luke Hochevar, KC (.244 BABIP) 16.5% LD%
Carl Pavano, Min (.245 BABIP) 14.3% LD%
Charlie Morton, Pit (.250 BABIP) 14% LD%