Results tagged ‘ Eno Sarris ’

Melky Cabrera… Next Year

by Eno Sarris //

The former Yankee outfielder has quite a year in the powder blues. Melky Cabrera was drafted 260th, on average. He ended the season ranked 122nd by B-Rank. Where should he be drafted next year?

Luck on batted balls is always the first place to check. Cabrera had a .332 BABIP this year, tops in his career and much better than his career .299 number. But he’s a reasonably fleet-of-foot outfielder (if, perhaps, in the Bobby Abreu mode) and he hits more ground ball than fly balls. He can expect a better BABIP than most. Lo and behold, his xBABIP this year was .330, and his career xBABIP is .319. This could have been regression toward what should have been his career mean.

Power is the second outlier in his statistical profile. His .174 ISO this year is a career high, more than fifty points higher than his .123 career ISO. He was more aggressive at the plate this year — his walk rate hit a career-low and his strikeout rate was a career-high — but it seems to have worked. Can a guy with a career 1.52 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio put up close to 20 home runs again next year?

Probably. Other players with similar profiles — Adam Jones (1.52 GB/FB over the last three years), Michael Young (1.51), and Brandon Phillips (1.44) — have done so fairly consistently. And if you look at fly-ball distance, as Jeff Zimmermann did here, you’ll see that all the Melkman did this year was recover his old fly-ball distance. He hit balls an average of 278 feet in 2009, 263 feet last year, and 274 feet again this year. Maybe something just went wrong last year.

There is a caveat. The 27-year-old outfielder did steal 20 bases this year, but his career high before was 13. He was also only successful on 67% of his attempts, which is exactly break-even for the steal to be a worthwhile thing. Maybe the Royals don’t care about that break-even point — they stole more bases than anyone in baseball — but they were successful on 73% of their attempts. So Cabrera was one of the less efficient base-stealers on the team.

Cabrera is an interesting case. He hit career highs in so many categories that it only seems natural that he will regress to his career norms. Then again, his career highs were only modest improvements when you look at the rate stats. He did manage 706 PAs this year (compared to an average of 531 over the past five seasons), so it’s only natural that his counting stats looked good.

If you walk Cabrera back in the power and speed departments and give him his career BABIP, he’s more likely to put up a .280 15/15 season than to approach .300 20/20 again. In most leagues, that’s still a good showing, but it’s more like a fourth fantasy outfielder. Treat him as such in drafts next year and in your keeper decisions.

For more fantasy outfielders, check out BloombergSports.com

Streaming Through the Final Weekend

by Eno Sarris //  

Every win could put you over the top right now, and if you’ve got innings left, or are in a hyper-competitive head-to-head matchup, it’s time to stream. For each day, I’ll identify a safer play for mixed leagues and a riskier start for deeper leagues. Good luck in your final week!

Thursday

Philip Humber against Cleveland is a decent start, but other than his control, the righty is just so average across the board. He has also been less than inspiring in the last month, so when taken in combination with his minor league performances, he’s just a “meh” option. Zach Britton is riskier, but he has an elite skill in his ground-ball rate. He’s coming off a good start against the Angels and is facing a Detroit team that has clinched for the post-season and has not been scoring a ton of runs. Deeper leaguers should look at Henderson Alvarez who draws the on-again off-again Angels offense. Alvarez has a similar repertoire as Britton, as he’s getting buckets of ground balls with his 94 MPH sinker.

Friday

In deep leagues, the Rockies’ young lefty Drew Pomeranz should be interesting to you. He draws the hapless Astros on Friday and has so far been a ground-ball machine. That has been his M.O. all along, but his fastball/curve/change pitching mix might eventually get a ton of strikeouts too. Still, it’s the Astros and you’re a beggar not a chooser in deep leagues. Shallow leaguers have a choice of two strong spot-starts that are available in about half the leagues out there: Josh Collmenter at home against the punchless Giants, and Matt Harrison taking his left arm against the Mariners at home. Neither is a great full-season option: Collmenter is surviving on a funky delivery and Harrison is another guy like Humber who is really just average across the board. But their matchups make them more exciting in the final week.

Saturday

If you don’t mind risk, there isn’t a higher-risk higher-reward start out there than Matt Moore versus the Blue Jays on Saturday. It will be the first start of his career, but scouts love him, his minor league numbers are incredible, and his stuff has looked great so far. But yeah, it’s the Blue Jays and their power bats, so that’s the risk. At least they are in Tampa. Aaron Harang at home against the Dodgers is about as safe as you can get on the other end of the spectrum. Somewhere in between is deep league option Jerome Williams taking on the Athletics in Los Angeles. Williams has shown better velocity this year, and a slightly different pitching mix, and they’ve both been working so far. Oh and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that one of the most boring pitchers in the majors, Joe Saunders, does have a nice matchup at home against the Giants. Put him next to Harang on this risk/reward continuum.

Sunday

Sunday’s best spot starter might be Mike Minor against the Nationals. Minor has been a little up-and-down — that’s why he’s available in about three-quarters of the leagues out there — but he has strikeout-per-inning upside, decent control, and has deserved better results this year. Since August began, Minor has either been lights-out or okay, which is pretty much ideal for a spot-starter. If he was any better, he’d be owned by everyone. Oh and the Nationals have been worse against lefties than righties this year, so there’s that. Deep Leaguers might be looking at Homer Bailey again, who will take on the Buccos in Pittsburgh. He’s been decent, and Pittsburgh’s park suppresses offense slightly, but he’s also only owned a little bit less than Minor. If you’re in a deeper league, you might have to go with Kevin Millwood against the Astros. Yeah he’s unexciting, but he’s been painting the corners in the National League, and it’s the Astros.

You’ll be living on the edge all weekend, but hopefully this guide will help you find the best spot-starts quicker. Good luck!

Javier Vazquez’s Redemption Song

by Eno Sarris //  

He was done. Finished. His fastball lost two miles per hour in one year and he lost the plate at the same time. Even the fact that he was in the American League East only slightly mitigated the fact that the 35-year-old Javier Vazquez looked like burnt toast.

Maybe we labeled him too soon.

Of course, early this year it looked like he was still done. In the first month of the season, Vazquez was still averaging under 90 MPH on his fastball, and he even dipped as low as 87 MPH in his third start of the year. He had a 6.39 ERA in April, and a 5.67 ERA in May. After another ERA over five in June, his fantasy ownership sagged to a career low.

And then.. a day after he gave up seven runs in three and 2/3 innings… something happened. Take a look at his velocity chart for the year:

Would you look at that. His velocity is back to pre-2010 levels even. He’s been averaging 91.8 MPH since his 13th start. Look at what it did for his results:

First 13 starts: 7.09 ERA in 66 innings, with 45 strikeouts and 31 walks. 

Since: 2.35 ERA in 95 2/3 innings, with 86 strikeouts and 16 walks. 

That’s pretty stark. He’s been vintage Vazquez since June 11, and his velocity is a big part of this.

It’s not all poops and whistles, though. In the last three months, he’s allowed line drive rates over 24%, and 19% is average. That’s a lot of squared-up balls, and yet his BABIP for that time period was only .276. He’s also stranded more runners than the league average in those three months. Luck swung back with him once he had the gas again.

He still has his old flaws, too. As a pitcher that gets his whiffs high in the zone, he’s a fly-ball guy that has been prone to bouts of gopheritis. Only once since 2002 has he managed to allow less than one home run per nine innings. Florida suppresses home runs, but only a little — StatCorner.com has it as 1% below average for home runs by left-handed batters and 5% below for righty batters.

It’s best to still be careful with Vazquez. Even with his old velocity back, his old flaws can make him a bad start in homer-happy ballparks. Considering his recent cryptic remarks about retirement, he’s not a good keeper in any fantasy format, either. But it’s clear that he’s got his gas back and can be a useful role player for any fantasy team down the stretch.

For more on Javier Vazquez and other possible free agents, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.

Giants’ Giant Moves and the Fantasy Implications

by Eno Sarris //  

The San Francisco Giants finally admitted some of their mistakes today when they designated both Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada for assignment. Looking back at why they should have known better can help us for fantasy purposes, and looking forward to the final month might uncover a fantasy sleeper or two. Perspective is important.

Call Aaron Rowand the more obscene mistake of the two. In 2008, Brian Sabean signed the outfielder to a five-year, $60 million contract after Rowand made some high-profile catches for the Phillies the year before. Sabean was no doubt excited about Rowand’s career-high power surger in 2007, too. Unfortunately, it was fairly obviously an outlier season. Even at that point in his career, Rowand had two seasons with an isolated slugging percentage over .200… and five seasons where it was under .166. He’s always hit more ground balls then fly balls, and he’s never walked at a league average rate. Rowand was sure to be a strong defender in center field, but he wasn’t sure to add much power or patience, and his swinging strike rates suggested he’d always be an average whiffer or worse.

And that’s how it turned out. Rowand never saw even his career-average power in San Francisco (.163 average, .158 Giants-best), he struck out more, never walked, and became a defense-only center fielder pretty quickly. Now all of the center field at-bats will go to Andres Torres and Cody Ross, even if neither provides much offense either. With Torres’ strikeout rate, the best his owners can hope for is a mini power resurgence  (three home runs over the final month?) and a .250 batting average, with maybe five steals to boot.

Ross will be the outfield utility player, more likely to play against lefties as his line against them (.918 OPS vs LHP, .718 vs RHP) is much better. Perhaps it will turn into a straight platoon in left field, actually. Baby Giraffe Brandon Belt bats lefty and is the only non-Carlos-Beltran player on the field right now with elite offensive upside. It might be hard to see it right now with his .219 batting average and slightly-better-than-league-average power (.156 ISO), but Belt does have that sort of long-term upside. Right now, he’s striking out 26.2% of the time, which is out of wack with his swinging strike rate (9.7%, only a little worse than 8.5% league average) and his minor league record (22.2% strikeout rate in Triple-A this year). Once he strikes out less and shows more of that power (.218 minor league low in ISO, at Triple-A), he’ll show more of that .280/.375/.500 type of ability that he has. If you are desperate for offense in a deeper league, now is a good time to pick up Belt. Keeper leaguers should be trying to buy low too if their deadline has not passed.

Let’s not forget Miguel Tejada just because his one-year, $6.5 million contract was a smaller mistake. His short stint as the Padres shortstop shouldn’t have erased the fact that two teams had already moved him to third base. Once a player has been moved off of shortstop, it’s very rare for him to return and find any prolonged success. And Tejada’s power has been in a tailspin since his last decent year in Baltimore in 2007. He doesn’t walk, doesn’t have power, doesn’t have a shortstop’s glove any more, has failing health, refused to lay down a bunt when his third base coach called for it, hits way too many ground balls and doesn’t have the speed to take advantage of those grounders any more. Need anyone say more?

His absence will create more opportunities for Mike Fontenot at shortstop. The lefty cajun might enter into a straight platoon with righty Orlando Cabrera there, even. Cabrera has been about as bad as he was in Cleveland for the Giants, and he’s been better against lefties in his career (.739 OPS vs lefties, .697 versus righties). Neither shortstop is very exciting, and in a platoon role they are even less so. Still, deeper-leaguers might want Fontenot since there are more right-handed pitchers in the league.

The Giants tried to erase a couple mistakes, but the players behind them are not incredibly interesting. Only Brandon Belt even approaches mixed league consideration. But with a month left and five games between them and the Diamondbacks, the Giants felt they had to do something. Maybe the biggest thing we can learn from them in fantasy is that this is the time to feel some urgency. Go out there and do something for each of your teams today.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com.

Not Shooting (Kyle) Blanks

by Eno Sarris // 

Kyle Blanks is a big man. Predictable headlines aside, this large human being (6′ 6″, 270 pounds at least) might be able to power your fantasy team to a late season push. Let’s take a look at his strengths (!) and weaknesses.

His obvious strength is his strength. The hoss bent-armed an inside fastball from Matt Cain into the seats Tuesday night, and he’ll break some distance records when he gets ahold of a pitch with his arms extended. The Big Nasty has a .260 ISO (isolated slugging percentage, or SLG-batting average) this year, which lines up very well with his .264 rookie ISO. Sure, last year, he didn’t show power like that, but he was hurt. Now on the correct side of Tommy John surgery, and coming off a minor league season in which he ISO’ed over .360, he looks to have his power stroke back. And the league ISO right now is .141, so a .260 number is impressive. It would be fourth in the league since 2008 among qualified batters.

How much should fantasy owners worry about his home park, though? Not as much as you might expect. As a right-handed batter, PetCo only suppresses his home run power by 5%. That’s it. Sure, he might lose some doubles (right-handed double power is suppressed by 28%), but Blanks has legit home-run power and will be able to muscle balls out of his home park.

Losing those doubles really only speaks to his major weakness anyway. As a guy who hits half his balls in the air (and should, given his power), Blanks is already at a batting average disadvantage. Add in the fact that he is striking out in 29.6% of his at-bats, and he’s virtually assured of having a mediocre batting average. Since 2008, only four batters have qualified for the batting title while also striking out more than 27% of the time: Adam Dunn, Jack Cust, Mark Reynolds and Carlos Pena. The best batting average of that crew is Cust’s .240. So, yeah, he’s not likely to have a nice batting average.

Could he improve his strikeout rate? His minor league K rates oscillated between about 20% and 25%, so maybe. But only maybe. His 15% swinging strike rate, which has held steady throughout his 400 major league plate appearances. That would be the third-worst swinging strike rate in baseball since 2008 among qualified batters. The only silver lining is that he’d be in a virtual tie with Ryan Howard, who has struck out about 26% of the time in the same time frame. Howard had a .265 batting average over the past three years.

A .260 batting average will play if he has 30+ homer power, that much we’ve learned from Mike Stanton. With offense (and, in particular, power) down around the league, Kyle Blanks towers above the fray both literally and figuratively. If power, and power alone, is your main goal. it’s time to go get some Blanks for your gun. And by gun, we mean fantasy team, of course.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com.

Derek Holland, Jeff Niemann and Spot Starting

by Eno Sarris //  

The tale of two starters owned in about half of all fantasy leagues ends with a discussion on strategy. Derek Holland and Jeff Niemann may not be very similar in terms of their physical stature or the quality of their stuff, but the two pitchers have similar statistical profiles. Putting them in a position to succeed is very important to getting the best results from these two young starters.

Neither Holland nor Niemann have great swing-and-miss stuff right now. The average swinging strike rate in the major leagues is 8.6% this year, and Holland (7.2%) and Niemann (8.1%) fall short of that number. Their strikeout rates (6.84 K/9 and 7.14 K/9 respectively) reflect this reality. In the future, Holland has more upside, perhaps, as his 94 MPH fastball is three ticks faster than Niemann’s, and his four-pitch mix has gotten better whiffs in the past. But, right now, both of these guys lack the strikeout punch of an elite pitcher.

None of the rest of their rates are elite either. Holland has average control (3.07 BB/9, 3.11 BB/9 is average), gets groundballs at a slightly above-average rate (47.3% GBs, 44% is average), and has had slightly below-average luck (.310 BABIP, 70.3% LOB, averages are .292 and 72.4% this year). For the most part, Niemann’s story is the same. He has an average ground-ball rate (44.1%), and slightly above-average luck (.277 BABIP, 76.7% LOB). Right now, he’s showing an elite walk rate (2.11 BB/9), but he’s been limited to 98 1/3 innings this year and his career rate is much closer to average (2.90 BB/9).

If their luck stats regress towards the mean like they should, both of these pitchers are mid-to-high threes ERA pitchers. Even if one is 6′ 9″ and is nicknamed the Big Nyquil because of his slow pace and sleepy stuff, and the other is 6′ 2″ and has a suprising 94 MPH fastball coming from his left hand, there are similarities here.

By all accounts, if a 3.6+ ERA is above-average in real-life baseball, it is average in your regular mixed fantasy league. So you have two pitchers that have the upside to give you average production and the downside to actually hurt your ERA. How do you best use two dudes like this?

By putting them on your bench and using them in good matchups.

Holland has been a better pitcher on the road, showing better control and better results. Avoid Arlington, where he has a 5.32 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP, and he’s suddenly a much better pitcher. Niemann doesn’t have much of a home/road split, but he does face juggernaut offenses in Boston, Toronto and New York. Avoiding those teams would be the safe way to go. You mitigate your risk, and you improve the downside portion of the ledger.

If you have the flexibility to use a starter half of the time, you’ll get half of an above-average starter out of each of these two dudes by picking your starts well. Many fantasy teams make the mistake of holding too many bench position players. These players only contribute one or two starts a week to your team. Instead, your bench should be made up of pitchers like Holland and Niemann: pitchers that can easily be put in a position to succeed.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com.

Has Hideki Matsui Gone Godzilla Again?

by Eno Sarris // 

Since the All-Star game, the 37-year-old Hideki Matsui has gone Godzilla on the American League. His .430/.474/.686 line since the break has been as awesome as his .209/.290/.327 work before the break was poor. He has five home runs in 22 games since the break, and had six home runs in 76 games to start the year. Has he found the fountain of youth?

Arbitrary end points are rough. They emphasize a player’s production in a small sample over a random period of time. But obviously Matsui is playing better recently. How could we separate a luck-baced swing from a true resurgence that showed a real change in approach? Mostly, we’ll have to diagnose what was going wrong in the first half compared to the larger sample of his entire career, and then we can see if he’s corrected those things since the break.

We know that power is highly correlated with fly balls. You have to get them up to get them out, as the saying goes. In Matsuis’ three most powerful seasons, his ground ball to fly ball ratio was .997. In his three least powerful seasons, that ratio zoomed up to 1.64. This year, in one of his worst power seasons, he has hit 1.25 ground balls per fly ball. So we’ll want to look at that ratio to see if he’s hitting more fly balls this second half.

Matsui also has a .283 BABIP right now, compared to a career .302 BABIP. So we might have been seeing a BABIP regression since the break. We’ll check for that, but that sort of swing would be less exciting, as it would just mean that most of his recent work was more dinks and dunks falling in.

In the first three months of the season, Matsui averaged a .237 BABIP. Since then, he’s had about a .360 BABIP. In the first three months, he was hitting about 1.26 ground balls per fly ball. In the last month-plus, that ratio has been 1.33. So basically his last month-plus of torrid play has been majorly luck-aided, because he hasn’t changed his approach when it comes to hitting fly balls.

Godzilla is a year older and hitting more ground balls than he did last year. He’s also in a tougher home park. Look at his full-year stats right now and decide if they are interesting. Matsui is much more likely to give you numbers on that scale than the numbers he’s put up for the last month-plus. He’s no longer a city-slayer.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com.

Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick Have No Ks

by Eno Sarris // 

It’s always tempting to pick up the back-end starters on a juggernaut team. Their offense and bullpen should help them a little closer to wins than similar starters on bad teams. Even if you shouldn’t chase wins, these two facts are mostly unassailable. The problem is that if a starter doesn’t have real underlying skills, they won’t pitch well enough to get the win anyway.

Kyle Kendrick is getting starts for the Philadelphia Phillies and has a 3.14 ERA. Vance Worley looks like he’ll get starts for the Phillies all year and has a 2.33 ERA. Neither pitcher has the type of skills to continue that work.

Kendrick first, because he’s easiest. He’s only striking out 4.02 batters per nine, which is well below the 7.03 league average. In fact, it would be the third-worst in baseball if he qualified for the ERA title. If you’re living in that space, you need to have elite skills in other areas to make it work. Kendricks’ 2.78 walks per nine are good, but only a little better than the 3.13 league BB/9. Lastly, Kendrick has a slightly above-average ground-ball rate (47.9%, average is 44%). But recent research by Matt Swartz has shown that an elite ground ball rate (60%) is exponentially better than a good ground-ball rate (50%) and so on. So slightly above average is only slightly useful. Call Kendrick slightly useful at best.

Speaking ill of the Vanimal might release the hordes, but Worley is also a good story that might not last long. His strikeout rate (6.98 K/9) is closer to league average, but there’s a hidden flaw in using that stat. If you look at his swinging strike rate, which is more reliable 77 innings in than his per-at-bat results, he has a well-below average number (5.8%, average is 8.5%). To put this in focus, Kendrick has a 5.4% swSTR%. One strikes out four per nine, and one strikes out seven per nine. Expect those two numbers to move towards each other.

As Worley’s strikeout rate drops, the rest of his package will look a lot less interesting. His walk rate (3.14 BB/9) is league average and his ground-ball rate (40.5%) is below league average. Once the ball is put into the air, Worley has been lucky to allow so few home runs (4.8% home runs per fly ball, 10% is league average). His luck on balls in play is excellent right now, too (.242 BABIP). He’s even stranding more runners than average (78.6% LOB, 70% is league average). Most likely, he’ll start striking people out less as the league gets used to his repertoire. Once that happens, the added contact will help players get more dinks and dunks to raise the BABIP. Once more players get on base, they’ll score on those dinks and dunks and added home runs. All of this will inflate the ERA. Call him lucky if he puts up better than a four ERA going forward.

Use Worley and Kendrick in spot starts if you must. Just don’t count on their luck to continue. Trade either if someone offers you.. anything of value.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com.

Colby Rasmus Finds New Home & Fantasy Relevance

by Eno Sarris //

He’s a center fielder with power and speed. He’s young. He’s under team control until the end of 2014. Apparently all of these things were not good enough for manager Tony La Russa or the Cardinal’s General Manager, because Colby Rasmus has reportedly been shipped out of St. Louis. That’s fine for us, because all of those facets make him an immediate pickup in most fantasy leagues, and we know that fantasy baseball is the most important game of all.

The full trade looks like it will be the Cardinals shipping Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J. Walters to the Blue Jays for Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and Corey Patterson. The pitchers are immediately more interesting because they are moving to a pitchers’ league and park with a great ground-ball wizard of a pitching coach, but that’s for another time.

The fact that Rasmus is moving in the opposite direction should perk up your ears. The 25-year-old lefty will receive a power boost most definitely. The park factor for home runs by left-handed batters in St. Louis is 84, meaning they are suppressed by 16%. In Toronto, home runs by lefties are encouraged by 16%. Rasmus will also go from playing in Pittsburgh (-27%) and Houston (+7%) to New York (+43%) and Baltimore (+18%). To be fair, Milwaukee and Cincinatti are fine power parks, but the change in home address will be a boost.

There’s a chance, also, that the team philosophy in Toronto will play into his strengths. One of Tony La Russa’s complaints about the young center fielder was that he struck out too much. This year, Rasmus cut down on the Ks and lost his power. Strikeouts are also correlated with power across baseball, so this is not some small sample size thing. The Blue Jays? Their grip-it-and-rip-it philosophy is well known. They are ninth in strikeout rate in the American League and fourth in isolated slugging percentage. They won’t care about his strikeouts if he’s tearing the cover off the ball.

The Jays also like to run. They are fifth in the American League in stolen bases, while the Cardinals have the fewest steals in baseball. When Aaron Hill has 13 stolen bases, you know that the team is okay with giving the green light if you can be successful at least 66% of the time. Rasmus has been successful 65% of the time. Let’s give him a steals boost anyway. He certainly has speed.

Rasmus doesn’t profile as a player that will put up a good batting average. He hits more balls in the air than on the ground and strikes out a little too much to be a .300-hitting center fielder. But if you look past his flaws — something that his former manager couldn’t manage — you can see the power, speed and fantasy value that he represents. Enjoy Colby Rasmus, Blue Jay.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com.

Why You Should Buy, Not Sell, Jeremy Hellickson

by Eno Sarris //

We can get a little smart for our britches sometimes. We’ll take a pitcher, look at his peripherals and declare him over-rated. Then that pitcher goes and improves his peripherals and retains his ERA and WHIP and we look silly. This explains much of Trevor Cahill‘s last two years. Are we seeing it again this year in Tampa?

Take a look at Jeremy Hellickson‘s underlying statistics and he seems like a perfect sell-high. Despite a sweet ERA (3.17 ERA), he’s not striking out a ton of batters (6.1 K/9), is walking batters at about an average rate (3.25 BB/9, average is 3.14 BB/9), and is getting ground balls at a below-average rate (33.9% GB, 44% is average). To recap: that’s below average, average and below average. He’s managing the ERA mostly on the back of a lucky batting average on balls in play (.224 BABIP) and a lucky strand rate (79% left on base, 70% is league average).

Put it all together and you get a 4.27 FIP, or fielding independent pitching, a number on the ERA scale that strips out batted ball luck. An average FIP this year is 3.84. He’s been below average, which is a strange thing to say about a guy with a low-threes ERA and nine wins.

But here’s something even stranger to say: He could be just as good going forward, and maybe even fundamentally better. Well, that’s not really that strange, but given his rate stats, you might frown for a moment.

The reasoning behind the statement is simple. Like Trevor Cahill before him, Hellickson is a young pitcher. He has fewer than 150 innings pitched at the major league level. We can’t really assume that the strikeout and walk rates that we currently see are his true talent rates. In 2010, Cahill showed a 5.4 K/9 and the book was that he couldn’t sustain his results with that level of strikeouts. But Cahill had also had a 9.9 K/9 in the minor leagues. He just needed to figure it out on the major league level, and lo and behold, he now has a 6.65 K/9 and has bettered his FIP a quarter of a run.

Hellickson? He had a 9.8 K/9 in the minor leagues. He was a control artist, with a 2.1 BB/9 on the farm and no season where he walked more than three per nine. He never got a ton of ground balls, but he did get much closer to 40%. These numbers were accrued against inferior talent, but they are also relevant. We can’t just assume that Hellickson will continue to strike out six per nine and say he’s over-rated. Small sample sizes are the bane of the saber-friendly analyst, but in his last three starts, Hellickson has 18 strikeouts against three walks in 20 1/3 innings. That’s the sort of work he did in the minor leagues.

Particularly when we evaluate young pitchers, we cannot forget their minor league work. Baseball is a game of adjustments, and a young pitcher is an adjustment away from improving his underlying rates and ‘deserving’ his good fortune. Even in baseball’s toughest division, Hell Boy has great stuff, dominant control, and the ability to continue putting up an ERA in the low threes.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

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