Tim Stauffer & Carlos Carrasco: Fringe Fantasy Starters

By Eno Sarris //

We’re all searching for strikeouts. We know that the batting average on a strikeout is zero. We know that a pitcher with a high strikeout rate is likely to help in pitching categories across the board. We all love the strikeout.

But a couple pitchers showed us last night that there is value in pitchers that don’t rack up the Ks.

Well, Tim Stauffer did actually manage eight strikeouts in eight innings of shutout ball against the Rockies Tuesday night, but that’s not his norm. For the year, he has a strikeout rate that’s just above average (7.27 K/9, 6.97 is average this year). This mediocre rate is supported by a below-average swinging strike rate (7.6%, 8.4% is average), so it’s not likely to change much going forward. It’s also tempting to say that he’s a creation of his home park, but he has a 1.35 WHIP at home, and a 1.26 WHIP on the road. He’s been solid at home or away.

What does prop up his production is his walk rate and his groundball rate. Stauffer is only walking 2.31 batters per nine this year. He only walked 2.61 per nine last year, and has a 3.12 rate for his career. All of those numbers are comfortably above average (this year, 3.22 BB/9 is average). Stauffer also keeps the ball on the ground. The last couple of years, 44% of all contact has gathered dirt – and Stauffer has shown a 53.4% groundball rate. Among pitchers with more than 150 innings pitched since the beginning of 2009, that rate places 13th. He’s a worm-burner with great control that deserves to be on most mixed-league rosters even if he won’t rack up the strikeouts.

Most of the same things can be said about Carlos Carrasco in Cleveland, but to a lesser extent. The paradox is that this makes him more likely to be available in your leagues, and also more of a risk.

Carrasco pitched well last night, but not as well as Stauffer. He got six strikeouts in eight and a third innings to Stauffer’s eight. He did hold a team scoreless, but it was the punchless Twins. Carrasco also fails to rack up the strikeouts, but his rate is more poor (5.21 K/9) than mediocre. Carrasco also has shown good control (2.60 BB/9 this year), but his groundball rate (49%) is not as strong. Call him Stauffer-lite – even his home park helps suppress the home run to a lesser extent (3% fewer home runs to lefties, 12% fewer to righties).

There is one note of upside left in Carrasco’s profile. While Stauffer has a below-average swinging strike rate, Carrasco’s is barely above average (8.5%). By using his strong curveball and changeup, he actually managed a strikeout rate above eight per nine ever since he hit Double-A in the Phillies’ organization. His strikeout rates have been better than Stauffer’s at every minor league level.

So there’s your wrinkle. Neither Carrasco nor Stauffer will headline your staff because they are unlikely to be strong plusses in the strikeout category. But by limiting the walks and keeping the ball on the ground, both will be useful this year. Consider picking them up in your leagues if you are looking for good ratios.

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