Almost everyone who plays fantasy baseball follows some numbers in the game. Common statistics that most fantasy baseball owners follow are HR, R, RBI, SB, batting average, W, SV, WHIP, ERA and strikeouts. Winning in fantasy baseball is about finding an edge or information to utilize that your other league members aren’t. This is where next level statistics come into play. These are commonly referred to as sabermetric statistics. Going forward this is what my “Follow The Numbers” posts will be about. Exposing a statistic that says something about the current production (or lack thereof) of a player. All statistics are courtesy of fangraphs.com.
Cool Under Pressure:
Today we will be looking at starting pitchers that have been cool under pressure. These are guys with high left on base percentages but low ERA numbers. Here is the definition of LOB% straight from fangraphs.com: “Left on Base Percentage measures the percentage of base runners that a pitcher strands on base over the course of a season.”
If you don’t know much about LOB% there is a nice article about it: http://www.fangraphs.com/library/pitching/lob/
Ervin Santana: 98% LOB%:
We’ve recently discussed Mr. Santana, and one of the keys to his early season success (if we can somehow get ourselves to forget about his disastrous most recent outing) has been his coolness under pressure and consistently getting out of innings with men on base. Another reason is that BABIP of .132. That’s amazingly low! Since I’ve already covered him recently in another article we will move onto other starting pitchers that have been cool under pressure.
Dallas Keuchel: 93.1% LOB%
Well, until his May 5th start, Mr. Keuchel had only given up 6 earned runs over his first 6 starts. Then May 5th happened and he allowed 5 earned runs over 8 innings pitched. What’s his secret for being able to do this you ask? Well, his lucky and low .195 BABIP certainly has aided him. This has all helped him to a 1.88 ERA. However, we must recognize the luck (or just good fortune) factor here and not overlook his significantly higher 3.72 FIP.
Gio Gonzalez: 92.2% LOB% (prior to the May 8th start)
Well, prior to May 8th, when he gave up 6 earned runs over 6 innings pitched, Mr. Gonzalez had an ERA of 1.64 and a FIP of 4.07. Well, his LOB% obviously is going to come down some and those ERA and FIP numbers will be rising after his disaster of a May 8th start. His FIP prior to May 8th showed that going forward we were likely to see some bad performances…and that’s just what happened.
Wade Miley: 90.2 LOB%
Mr. Miley has been yet another arm that has been cool under pressure. His huge jump in K% to 28.8% (it was 19.3% in 2016) has greatly aided him, especially since his BB% is 14.4%, way up from the 6.9% in 2016. I can’t be certain, because I haven’t been able to watch him pitch, but both of these numbers have been so different than his major league career norms that I’m wondering if he’s just been effectively wild and just cool enough under pressure to have achieved a 2.27 ERA with a 3.72 FIP. It’s only been 31.2 innings pitched for him this season, so it will be interesting to watch and see how this all plays out for him as the season marches on. Stay tuned.
Carlos Carrasco: 89.3 LOB%
Yet another starting pitcher with a lower than typical BABIP with a high LOB%, but we still give Mr. Carrasco credit for maintaining a coolness under pressure. His 3.34 FIP tells us in his upcoming starts it’s more likely that he has an ERA closer to that than his 2.18 ERA as of Tuesday morning.
Lance Lynn: 87.9% LOB%
Mr. Lynn has been the beneficiary of a lower than normal BABIP, and has pitched well with men on base. That said, his 4.07 FIP should not be overlooked. It’s much less attractive than his 2.04 ERA is. Expect his ERA to grow as the season goes on, at least that is what the FIP statistic tells us.
Jason Vargas: 87.4% LOB%
Mr. Vargas has pitched quite well in 2017. In 2014 (187 major league innings pitched with a .299 BABIP) and 2015 (43 major league innings pitched with a .297 BABIP) Mr. Vargas did have a higher BABIP than he has this season thus far (.282), but not by much. Although BABIP can vary from year to year, I still think it is something to pay attention to. The bottom line is fantasy baseball owners would be happy with a 2.12 or 1.19 ERA from him. The 2.12 is his FIP currently, and of course the 1.19 is his ERA. In the early goings of 2017, while he has pitched effectively and been cool under pressure, he still has been lucky, which is what his FIP shows us.
Ariel Miranda: 85.9% LOB%
Mr. Miranda has been solid for the Seattle Mariners in the early part of 2017, but even though he has been relatively cool under pressure, he still has a 4.42 FIP hanging over his 3.55 ERA. His FIP tells us that eventually his good luck most likely will run out, a or at least dwindle.
Clayton Kershaw: 85.2% LOB%
We all know that Mr. Kershaw is a great starting pitcher. He also is one with multiple major league seasons with a LOB% at or above 80%, but never higher than 81.6%. Mr. Kershaw is certainly cool under pressure. It’s only been 48.2 innings this season, but his FIP is currently at 3.12. It hasn’t been that high since 2010. From 2014 through 2016 Mr. Kershaw had swinging strike percentages of 14.2% to 15.9%. Those are beyond excellent. Right now he’s at 11.3% SwStr%, which is similar to what he posted between 2011 and 2013. Now no one overreact. Mr. Kershaw still is a great pitcher.
Jeremy Hellickson: 85.2% LOB%
Mr. Hellickson may be 4-1 with a 3.49 ERA and he may have been cool under pressure so far this season, but his 5.33 FIP is quite worrisome. He’s been fortunate with a low .218 BABIP, so that has helped. His strikeout numbers have evaporated a lot this season and that is a concern. In short, I would be seeing what I could get for him on the trade market right now before his ERA takes a really bad hit.