Since Tuesday is Patrick’s day to post, I thought it might also be a good day to start posting a weekly column that looks at the luckiest and unluckiest starting pitchers, that way you get a post about strategy and one that deals almost entirely with numbers. David Gassko posted last week on this topic, and I thought it would be a good idea to make this a weekly thing. We’ll see how it goes.
Left on Base Percentage
Of the four stats we’ll look at, LOB% — or Strand rate — has the least amount of luck involved. Good pitchers can have better than average LOB%, but too far one way or the other is a sign that luck is at play.
We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with LOB% lower than 67% for the Unluckiest pitchers.
Name LOB% Kip Wells 57.5% Jose Contreras 61.2% David Bush 62.7% Bronson Arroyo 65.1% Roy Halladay 65.4% Matt Belisle 65.7% Zach Duke 65.8% Aaron Cook 66.9%
We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with LOB% higher than 78% for the Luckiest pitchers.
Name LOB% Johan Santana 83.3% John Maine 82.5% Brad Penny 81.5% Chuck James 81.5% Rich Hill 80.6% Tom Gorzelanny 79.4% Dan Haren 79.1% Jeremy Guthrie 79.0% Roy Oswalt 79.0% Jake Peavy 78.9% John Smoltz 78.7% Ian Snell 78.6% Cole Hamels 78.3% John Danks 78.3% Ben Sheets 78.2% Jeff Francis 78.1%
Batting Average on Balls in Play
Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), like LOB%, isn’t completely luck influenced. BABIP can stray a bit from the mean, but again, too far and luck is probably the reason.
We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with BABIP higher than .330 for the Unluckiest pitchers.
Name BABIP Zach Duke .363 Paul Byrd .353 Doug Davis .348 Boof Bonser .345 Scott Kazmir .342 Randy Wolf .338 Scott Olsen .334 Miguel Batista .333 David Bush .333 Curt Schilling .332 Jorge de la Rosa .331 Bronson Arroyo .330
We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with BABIP lower than .270 for the Luckiest pitchers.
Name BABIP Jeremy Guthrie .209 Dan Haren .243 Rich Hill .247 Jason Marquis .248 John Maine .253 Oliver Perez .254 Jon Garland .258 Jason Hirsh .263 Matt Cain .264 Justin Verlander .264 Chris Young .265 Tim Wakefield .266 Steve Trachsel .267 Ted Lilly .268 Mark Buehrle .268
Line Drive Rate
Pitchers tend to have very little control over their Line Drive rates. Ground ball pitchers and extreme fly ball pitchers can limit them a little, but they are much more luck-influenced than LOB% or BABIP.
We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with LD% higher than 22% for the Unluckiest pitchers.
Name LD% Kyle Lohse 23.7% Jon Garland 23.1% Scott Olsen 22.9% David Bush 22.7% Braden Looper 22.4% Livan Hernandez 22.3% Tim Wakefield 22.1%
We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with LD% lower than 16% for the Luckiest pitchers.
Name LD% Paul Maholm 13.5% Fausto Carmona 13.9% Joe Kennedy 13.9% Daniel Cabrera 14.2% Josh Beckett 14.8% James Shields 15.0% A.J. Burnett 15.0% Roy Oswalt 15.2% Mark Buehrle 15.4% Dan Haren 15.4% Ian Snell 15.5% Jeremy Bonderman 15.6% Jeremy Guthrie 15.6% Kelvim Escobar 15.6% Chris Sampson 15.7% Adam Wainwright 15.7%
Home Run per Fly ball Rate
Pitchers don’t have too much power over how many of their fly balls turn into home runs. HR/FB measures how often this happens. Those with low rate should start to give up more HRs and should see their ERAs increase accordingly, and visa-versa.
We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with HR/FB higher than 13% for the Unluckiest pitchers.
Name HR/FB A.J. Burnett 18.8% Mike Maroth 15.7% Cole Hamels 14.7% Paul Maholm 14.3% Rich Hill 13.9% Erik Bedard 13.2% James Shields 13.2% Kip Wells 13.2% Ervin Santana 13.0% Carlos Zambrano 13.0% Fausto Carmona 13.0% Dontrelle Willis 13.0%
We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with HR/FB lower than 7% for the Luckiest pitchers.
Name HR/FB Jake Peavy 1.9% Brad Penny 2.1% Chris Young 2.3% Matt Morris 5.0% Matt Cain 5.1% Tim Hudson 5.2% Chad Gaudin 5.4% Jarrod Washburn 5.4% Kelvim Escobar 5.5% Jose Contreras 5.6% Jon Garland 5.6% Tom Gorzelanny 5.6% Noah Lowry 5.7% Bronson Arroyo 5.8% Carlos Silva 5.9% Greg Maddux 5.9% Josh Beckett 6.1% Ian Snell 6.5% Dan Haren 6.8% Aaron Harang 6.8%
Who to Trade
I’ll go over a few guys quickly from these lists that would make good Sell High candidates.
Dan Haren appears on all four lists. He is a good pitcher, but not nearly as good as his surface stats indicates. His strikeout rate is above average and his walk rate is very good, but he is not an elite pitcher. If you can trade him for one, do it.
I’ve talked about Chris Young a few times before, but he is on two of these lists and barely missed the cut on the other two. He gets Ks and keeps his walks at a decent rate, but he gives up lots of fly balls. His HR/FB adjustment will be especially painful for him.
Rich Hill was talked about a few weeks ago, so I won’t bother again. Similar to Young but with less BBs and more GBs. Trade him.
Some say Brad Penny is a better first half pitcher than second. Not true. He’s getting lucky in several categories, not pitching better. Don’t wait around for his fall.
Tim Hudson‘s getting a little lucky. Trade him to an owner with visions of the “A’s Tim Hudson.”
While guys like Johan Santana and Jake Peavy are getting lucky in some categories, their peripherals are so good that trading them makes little sense. Just hang onto them. Peavy won’t continue to post a 2.09 ERA, but what he and Santana put up from here on out should still be very good and most likely better than whatever you would get for them in a trade.
Who to Target
Here are the Buy Low candidates based on these numbers.
Dave Bush is on three lists and probably on your Waiver Wire. His peripherals are good, although his surface numbers will need to show up to hold off Yovani Gallardo, who is lurking in the Milwaukee bullpen.
Boof Bonser is another guy who might be on your Waiver Wire. He strikes a lot of guys out and is better than his 4.76 ERA indicates.
Cole Hamels is on one of each list, but his 4.00 K/BB is amazing. Probably a Top 10 SP.
Zach Duke is on two lists, but his peripherals aren’t that good. Only look at him in very deep leagues as he won’t finish with a 6.00 ERA.
Bronson Arroyo. Getting a bit unlucky, but his peripherals aren’t great. Only target in deep mixed and NL-only leagues.
Feel free to post any feedback. This could become a weekly feature, although I’m not sure if the numbers will change enough to warrant it. We’ll see. Also, if I can get my database in order this week, I’ll probably post a player’s K/9, BB/9, K/BB, and GB% in the lists for easy reference.