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.
This article will cover major league starting pitchers.
What is F-Strike% you ask? Well, take this definition straight from fangraphs.com: F-Strike% “The percentage of plate appearances (for batters) or batters faced (for pitchers) that the first pitch was a strike. This includes anytime that the count after the first pitch was 0-1, or anytime the ball was put into play on the first pitch of a plate appearance.”
It probably seems obvious to you, but I’ll say it anyways, When a pitcher gets ahead of a batter on the first pitch, the batter’s chances of success go down. So, the more often a pitcher can do this, the better. Here are the current major league leading F-Strike% starting pitchers as listed at fangraphs.com. The players listed have to have “Qualified” listed for minimum innings pitched to be mentioned in this article.
Michael Pineda: 71.7% F-Strike%
Having this high of a F-Strike% is not the norm for Mr. Pineda. His current full season major league career high is 67.3%, which was last year. So, this is a bit of a surprise. One really nice thing with Mr. Pineda to take notice of is that his K% has increased each year from 2014 on by 3% to 4% each season. It’s also nice to see after posting a 7% BB% in 2016 that it’s only 3.6% so far this season. The home run has hurt him a lot this year as his HR/9 is at 1.82. However, he still has a respectable 3.68 FIP despite that. I liked Mr. Pineda entering the season and, overall, I continue to like what I see. It sometimes feels like he’s been around forever. However, he happens to just be 28-years-old.
John Lackey: 70.9% F-Strike%
The 38-year-old Mr. Lackey produced an almost identical F-Strike% to this over the course of a full season, and he did that recently…in 2015. It was 70.8% in 218 innings pitched. However, his 3.57 FIP that season was much better than his current 4.15 FIP. The big thing that’s hurting him this season is his 1.71 HR/9.
Gerrit Cole: 69.8% F-Strike%
Through 43 innings pitched in 2017 it’s really encouraging to see Mr. Cole with such a F-Strike% early in the season, and if he can maintain it for the remainder of the season then all the better! His major league career average F-Strike% is 62.5% and from his debut season through last year it had consistently been shrinking. After a noticeable dip last year, it’s also nice to see his K% return to 2014 and 2015 levels. He needs to get his 1.47 HR/9 in check and we must realize that with a 3.14 ERA currently he has been lucky, as his 3.80 FIP shows us. That said, I like what I see in the numbers early on from Mr. Cole.
Chris Sale: 68.6% F-Strike%
In 2014 and 2015 Mr. Sale had F-Strike% numbers of 67% and 67.3%. Then last year it dipped to 62.2%. Well, it’s back up to where it was…and then some. We’re also seeing his major league best swinging strike percentage (SwStr%)…if, of course, he can keep it up for a full season. That 16.5% SwStr% is great to see. What’s been awesome to see in 2017 is only a 0.35 HR/9 from him. His major league career average is 0.89 HR/9. These things we have been talking about here certainly have majorly helped him to his 1.92 ERA and 1.44 FIP. What a year it’s been so far for Mr. Sale and I’m certain his owners are cheering for his 37.6% K% to stick around for the remainder of the season!
Clayton Kershaw: 67.7% F-Strike%
Since we just recently discussed Mr. Kershaw we won’t go in-depth here. We will just acknowledge that his F-Strike% is 2% lower than it was last season and 0.5% lower than 2015.
Bartolo Colon: 67.5% F-Strike%
These numbers for Mr. Colon are prior to his disaster of a start on Wednesday. It’s not a surprise seeing him at a F-Strike% like this as he has produced similar numbers recently in his major league career. Prior to the disaster of an outing on Wednesday the soon-to-be 44-year-old starting pitcher wasn’t exactly having a successful 38.2 innings pitched this season. Prior to giving up 3 home runs in 5.2 innings pitched on Wednesday Mr. Colon already had a 1.86 HR/9. Well…it’s safe to say that will display higher on fangraphs.com on Thursday. His 55.8% LOB% prior to yesterday was already less than ideal, to say the least, and his 7.22 ERA and 5.13 FIP (yes, he had actually been unlucky on the pitcher’s mound until yesterday) were beyond awful. We may be finally seeing the end of his career unfold right now.
Ivan Nova: 67.4% F-Strike%
Back in 2014 Mr. Nova had a 64.6% F-Strike% while with the New York Yankees, but that was a small sample size as well at 20.2 innings pitched. He’s thrown 48.1 innings this year. His major league career average is a 59% F-Strike%. What’s great to see is his HR/9 is way down so far this year and he has great ERA (2.23) and FIP (2.87) numbers as well.
Alex Cobb: 66.9% F-Strike%
In any large number of major league innings of any season over his career Mr. Cobb has never been at this level, so time will tell whether or not he can keep up what he’s done in his first 43 innings pitched of 2017. His 3.56 ERA is nice to see, until you realize that he also has a 4.45 FIP.
Vince Velasquez: 66.4% F-Strike%
So far this is by far Mr. Velasquez’s best F-Strike% as a major league pitcher. The big problem is the walks and home runs. Of course, those are pretty common problems for many young pitchers. Those 5.94 ERA and 5.62 FIP numbers aren’t going to get any better until those free passes and home runs lessen considerably.