Results tagged ‘ Starting Pitchers ’

Is Wade Davis Worth Waiting Out?

By R.J. Anderson //

 

In a past life, Wade Davis attempted to woo Lady Luck. Instead, he clearly offended her, leaving himself hexed for this one. At least, that’s how Davis must feel given his schedule of opponents this season. He started with consecutive games against the Yankees and Red Sox, and has since faced them both twice, along with Texas, the White Sox twice, and the Blue Jays.

 

Davis endured through a May 19 start against the Yankees, wielding an impressive 3.35 ERA at that point. His ERA now sits at 4.94. His cumulative statistics in those five starts in between:

 

25.1 IP

36 H

17 SO

6 BB

6 HR

22 ER

 

That works out to an ERA of 7.89. Simply put: that’s bad. His seasonal numbers suggest that he’s not quite as good as that 3.35 ERA reflected, but he’s far superior to the 7.89 figure. With top prospect Jeremy Hellickson tearing up Triple-A, the question might not be whether Davis is rosterable in fantasy leagues, but rather if the Rays will even keep him on the 25-man major league roster, let alone in the starting rotation.

 

Lately it seems Davis is on the right path. He’s struggled with his command at times, yet his June strikeout-to-walk ratio is an impressive 15:1. That includes two starts where Davis didn’t walk anyone. The home run bug he’s encountered could be tied partially to bad luck, but also to his predictability in pitching. Here is his fastball usage by count:

 

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Adding to the confusion is that Davis possesses what most scouting reports describe as plus breaking pitches. Yet, if one were simply to look at his usage patterns, it would seem he’s either uncomfortable throwing those pitches or simply doesn’t want to. Either way, it’s a problem. Part of pitching is having the upper hand when it comes to game theory. If the batter knows what’s coming, he better not know where it’s going, and if the batter doesn’t know what’s coming or where it’s going, then he’s probably not going to hit you well.

 

Expect a league average or slightly worse performance from Davis heading forward. In standard 12-team mixed leagues, that makes him a fringe starter at best.

 

For more on Wade Davis, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools

Selling Zack Greinke’s 2009 in 2010

By Tommy Rancel //

Going into the 2010 season, B-Rank (Bloomberg Sports’ proprietary ranking system), among many other rankings, tabbed Zack Greinke as a top-five starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. After his Cy Young season in 2009, it was easy to see why. Pitching for one of the worst teams in the majors, Greinke still won 16 games, and racked up 242 strikeouts in 229.1 innings. His 2.16 ERA was nearly identical to his 2.33 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) which suggests that he put up these numbers without much luck, and was dominant all year long.

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Thus far this season, Greinke hasn’t been anywhere near the top-five pitcher that many had hoped. For starters, he is just 1-8 through 13 starts in 2010. His ERA is nearly two runs higher than his 2009 mark. As was the case last season, his FIP (3.91) is comparable – as is his 4.18 xFIP (similar to FIP, but also strips out aberrant home run rates). While Greinke’s ERA and FIP are elevated, they remain better than average. But for most fantasy players, that is not enough. What they might fail to notice is this: Greinke’s 2009 season looks like the outlier. His 2010 performance looks very similar to what he’s done throughout the rest of his career.

One of the biggest reasons behind Grienke’s 2009 success was his strikeouts. His strikeouts per nine innings rate (K/9) in 2009 was a career-best 9.50. This year, Greinke has 66 strikeouts in 80 innings, which puts his K/9 at a strong but still significantly lower level of 7.43 – very close to his career 7.59 mark. Also down is his swing-strike percentage. Greinke induced a whiff nearly 10% of the time last season, but sits at just 5.8% this year. On the plus side, this is the only number that’s well below his career level (8.6%)

In terms of walks, Greinke’s BB/9 (walks per nine innings) of 2.03 this year is virtually identical to his 2.0 from a season ago, but still lower than his already impressive career 2.26 level.

Another major difference from last year to this year is home runs allowed. The rightly allowed just 11 home runs last year in nearly 230 innings of work; his HR/9 was a microscopic 0.43. This year he has allowed 10 long balls – nearly matching his total from a season ago in about one-third of the time. On the other hand, his HR/9 in 2010 of 1.13 is much closer to his career level of 0.97 than the number we saw last year.

Looking at his batted ball data – namely batting average on balls in play (BABIP) – Greinke has maintained a relatively normal BABIP in each of the past two years (~.318) when compared to his career number (.315). This further disqualifies luck from the equation.

One slight change in batted ball data is the type of balls being hit. Greinke allowed 40% groundballs last year; that’s down slightly to around 38% in 2010. Conversely, his flyball rate is up nearly 4% year-over-year. With his HR/9 regressing towards a career norm, and more flyballs in general, it’s not surprising to see that his home run-to-flyball ratio (HR/FB%) jump from 4.5% last year to 9.0% this year. Again, the 9.0% is much closer to his career HR/FB% of 8.7%.

When looking at pitch selection, Greinke is throwing more fastballs and change-ups while throwing fewer breaking balls than a year ago. This could be a part of the difference in the two seasons, but we’re talking a relatively minor 3-5% difference on most pitches.

While the 1-8 record is not a true indication of Greinke’s talent level, his 2010 peripheral stats seem to be just that. Greinke appears to be a very good but not quite elite pitcher who enjoyed a career year in 2009. If you can use his name value to acquire a pitcher with similar peripheral stats and a greater chance at more wins (Tommy Hanson?) plus possibly an additional player, you could successfully upgrade your team. 


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For more on Zack Greinke and other high-profile starting pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits

What Will We Witness from Washington’s Wunderkind?

By R.J. Anderson //

With all due respect to Brad Lincoln and Michael Stanton, the big debut of the week comes tonight in the form of Stephen Strasburg. His availability in most leagues is non-existent thanks to the hype and attention paid to his college and minor league performances alike over the last 12 plus months, yet it’s suffice to say most people who own 21-year-old have no idea what to expect from him except some variation of “good”. Let’s take a closer look through a pair of historical lenses at just what could be in store for Washington’s new ace.

21-year-old starting pitchers

Since 1947 – the beginning of the expansion era – 97 21-year-old pitchers have thrown at least 100 innings while starting 80% of their appearances. Of them, Vida Blue is the only one to finish with an ERA below 2.00. 18 more finished with an ERA below 3.00; 47 finished with an ERA between 3.01 and 4.00; and five more finished with an ERA over 5.00. The average ERA is 3.62, which is pretty good, all things considered, but when we modernize the sample and make 1990 the furthest year back, that average ERA raises to a touch below 4.00 (with the best case scenario being Clayton Kershaw’s 2.79 ERA and the worst being Zack Grienke’s 5.8 ERA).

Top college arms

Strasburg was qualified enough as a collegiate pitcher to go first overall, so it makes sense to compare him to his peers who were also good enough to go within the top five picks. Going back to 1985 and selecting only pitchers who were chosen in the top five out of the NCAA, we can create the following list to examine (Note: the statistics and age are from their first 100+ inning season):

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Stripping away the guys who simply never made it or were relievers for most of their early career gives us a group of 20 arms. 15 of which either posted ERA above 5 or below 4; or in other words: these guys are usually either above or below average. The average ERA is above 4 with the high water mark being just shy of 5.6 and the low being in the 2.3′s. If we slice the pool smaller, and focus on the really hyped top arms similar to Strasburg – like Prior, McDonald, Benes, Price, and Benson – then the average ERA hovers around 3.5.

Using all of that information, we still have an incomplete picture from which to draw conclusions. One could argue that Strasburg is just another class of pitcher. One with more velocity, better control, a more polished feel for the game, and an enhanced sense of observation; you know, a lot of things that aren’t entirely quantifiable but sound good and intensifies the myth of Strasburg. Betting that Strasburg will be average or better is one thing; however do not fall into the trap of expecting a legendary performance from him. History simply isn’t on his side.

For more attempts to profit off the prophets like Stephen Strasburg, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.

Analyzing Ben Sheets in Oakland

By Tommy Rancel //

Some were surprised when Ben Sheets signed a lucrative one-year deal with the Oakland Athletics. Sheets missed the entire 2009 season with an elbow injury. And the A’s generally don’t hand out $10 million dollar contracts. So far, the results have not been what either party was hoping for.

Sheets is just 2-3 after 10 starts. He is averaging less than six innings per outing and his ERA sits at 5.04. According to FIP (fielding independent pitching) and xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching), metrics that quantify factors a pitcher can control (including walks, strikeouts, and to some extent, home runs) there is nothing to suggest he has been outrageously unlucky. His 4.66 FIP and 4.69 xFIP are only slightly lower than his ERA.

In terms of strikeouts and home runs allowed, Sheets is near career norms. His strikeouts per nine innings rate (K/9) of 7.32 is near his career number of 7.59. His home runs per nine (HR/9) is up slightly to 1.14, but not too far from his career 1.01 HR/9.

The bulk of Sheets’ early-season struggles have come in the form of bases on balls. Throughout his big league career, Sheets has kept his walks to a minimum. His career walks per nine innings (BB/9) is a wonderful 2.07. In fact, from 2003 to 2006, his BB/9 was just 1.35 over 720.1 innings, a truly elite level.

In 2010, he has lost control. As it stands, his 2010 BB/9 is a career high 4.55. Here are some numbers to consider. In 2004, he walked 32 batters in 237 innings. In 2005, he walked 25 in 156.2 innings. He has walked 28 batters in 55 innings already this season.

Overall, Sheets has been disappointing, however, there are some signs of improvement. His May ERA of 5.08 is higher than his April ERA of 5.00, but his FIP and xFIP for the month of May have dropped to 4.25 and 4.05 respectively. Walks remain a problem (4.45 BB/9 in May), but his strikeouts have increased.

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After striking out 14 batters in 27 innings in April (4.67 K/9), Sheets has struck out 31 batters in 28 May innings (9.85 K/9). Looking at pitch selection data, it seems Sheets improved K rates come with a change in pitches thrown.

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Sheets is throwing more change-ups now, and generating a lot more whiffs on his curveball. There was some talk of Sheets tipping his curve earlier this season, but it looks like he is back to fooling batters with it.

Even though his strikeouts are rising, the walks are still a concern. In addition to the free passes, his average fastball in 2010 of 91.3 miles per hour is about a mile and a half slower than his career average of 92.6 MPH.

If the A’s are not in playoff position come July 31st, Sheets will be a primary trade target for American League and National League teams alike. If you own Sheets in an AL-only league, consider floating his name in trades now – saving yourself the worries of the what-if’s later.

For more on Ben Sheets and possible trade candidates check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

Has Anything Changed with Jeff Niemann?

by Eno Sarris //

Sometimes, you just like a guy. In the case of Jeff Niemann, there are things to like. He’s got a great nickname, for one. “The Big Nyquil” is big – six-foot nine – and owns a skillset capable of lulling a fan to sleep. His 16 pitches per inning in his rookie year, and his Trachsel-like pace on the mound, inspired the nickname, popularized by Rays blog DRaysBay.com.

NiemannGrab.jpgAs a fan of undervalued players, that’s good enough reason for this fan to follow Niemann, and even enough reason to draft him. Look how Niemann stacks up against the top 10 pitchers in baseball this year, in the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools spider graph to the right. With his great start (and only 14 pitches per inning), is he worth more attention?

First, the role of luck in Niemann’s career should be charted. Take a look at his underlying statistics and the difference in ERA below. Pretty interesting that a pitcher could be so similar in two years and yet have such different ERAs, isn’t it? The fact that the two xFIPs (a number that strips out batted-ball luck and normalizes home-run rates, then produces a number on the ERA scale) are exactly the same gives you a clearer picture of Niemann’s true ability level.

NiemannStats.jpgThis table seems to suggest that Niemann’s underlying game hasn’t changed much, so we should probably expect something more like last year’s surface stats in the future. In fact, with his strikeout rates declining, could we expect worse?

It’s not all bad with Niemann. He has increased his groundball percentage (from 40.5% to 45.6%). Unfortunately, thanks to work by Harry Pavlidis that published just last week, we can see that Niemann’s new groundball percentage is pretty close to the average groundball rate on all pitches in baseball so far this year (44%). So he improved… to average.

What about swing rates? Take a look at the table on the right, with statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com. Almost every single swing rate is either the same or marginally worse thisNiemannStats2.jpg year. Batters are reaching at pitches about the same, seeing about as many pitches inside and outside the zone, and making contact just a little bit more this year. That last number is swinging strike percentage (or whiff %), and it’s below-average (8.5%). That’s why Niemann doesn’t rack up the strikeouts.

It’s fine to like a pitcher, whether for his quirks on the mound or aspects of his game. But when you are playing fantasy baseball, and you have a player that has secondary statistics that have remained static while their ERA has fluctuated, it’s best to trust the underlying numbers. As you can see in this case in particular, those secondary statistics remain more stable.

In the case of Niemann, they paint the picture of a mid-rotation major league starter, and a low-end option in most mixed leagues. If Niemann’s perceived value is that of a more elite pitcher, take advantage and sell high.

For more on Jeff “The Big Nyquil” Niemann and other surging pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

This Bud (Norris) is for You (and Your Fantasy Team)

by Eno Sarris //

Sometimes deep league managers have a hard time reading fantasy advice columns. “But he’s already owned” is the refrain of many a frustrated dude (or dudette). Jeff Zimmerman at FanGraphs did a little piece about ownership cutoff rates in fantasy leagues and what the definition of a ‘waiver wire guy’ is depending on the size of your league. The upshot is that players who are owned in 11% of Yahoo fantasy leagues or fewer are on the waiver wire if your league rosters 350 players. That number drops to 6% if your league rosters 400. So, in other words, if you are in a 14-team league with 25-man rosters, your waiver wire should be full of guys that have about an 11% ownership level.

With that in mind, let’s look at two very different pitchers who are owned in 9% of Yahoo leagues. They are both interesting pitchers, but it will be up to your personal preference whether you take Bud Norris or Chris Volstad in the end. Apples and oranges here, but we’ll cover Norris today and Volstad in a subsequent post.

Norris’ overall 78.2% contact rate this year puts him between Adam Wainwright and Ubaldo Jimenez in that category — elite company. He was top-five in contact rate outside the zone last year, so it’s no fluke. He has a 9.5% swinging strike percentage in 2010 – which is above average (around 8.5% across baseball). So Norris brings legitimate stuff to the table.

NorrisGrab.jpgSome of his other peripheral stats are nearly off the charts.  His 12.08 strikeouts per nine  innings would be very impressive if he wasn’t allowing a correspondingly terrible 6.39 walks per nine innings. It’s a rare combo. Take a look at this chart from the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools — those other three dots with huge strikeout rates are Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren and Jonathon Broxton. To approach that group’s overall performance, Norris will have to maintain his elite strikeout rate while also improving his command significantly. Is there a chance he develops his abilities further this year?

Let’s take a look at the locations of his pitches this year (click image for full size version). You may notice something about theNorrisLocation.gif red squares. Yeah, he’s all over the place with his fastball. Looks like rearing back for that gas really hurts his command of the pitch – only about 55% of those fastballs find the zone. Norris’ other pitches find the zone more than 60% of the time.

A look at the spin and movement graph of Norris’ pitches shows that he only really has two pitches this year. He’s a fastball/slider guy, and that’s why whispers of future reliever duty have followed him up the ranks. Satchel Price at Beyond the Box Score recently had a post that outlined the reasons to move a pitcher to the bullpen (Insider link), and inconsistent command of a smaller repertoire was one such condition.

NorrisMovement09.gifBut if we look at last year’s spin and movement chart to get a larger sample size, the change-up actually looks like a legitimate pitch (see how distinct the purple squares are on the left). Since he can command it better than his fastball and it has shown a distinctly different movement and spin in the past, the change-up might be Norris’ path to fewer walks in the future. This year, the change is getting the best whiff rate of his three pitches (19.4%); it has the potential to be a strong third pitch for Norris.

If you are interested in strikeouts no matter what the damage to your WHIP, Norris is already a play for your mixed league team. If you’re looking for further development from Norris, watch his fastball command and change-up usage. If they trend up in future games, we may yet see solid, more consistent starting pitching from Norris. He can certainly miss bats.

For more on Bud Norris and other flame-throwing starters, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.    

Jake Peavy’s Struggles


By R.J. Anderson //

Four starts into his 2010 season, Jake Peavy continues to experience some issues. He’s lasted beyond the fifth inning just once in four starts, and his usually solid K/BB ratio is down to a morbid 1:1. For perspective, Peavy’s previous career low in that statistic was 1.90 and that came in his first full season in the majors. Peavy is only striking out six batters per nine (also walking six) and he’s allowed three homers already; he allowed eight in 101.2 innings last season.

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One of the problems has been Peavy’s inability to miss bats. FanGraphs has batters whiffing at Peavy’s pitches 10% to 12% of the time throughout his career. His swinging strike rate this season is a disconcerting 6.4%. Why is that important? Because swinging strikes correlate extremely well with strikeouts. Which makes sense on a basic level — i.e. the better the stuff, the more swings and misses, and the higher likelihood of at-bats ending in strikeouts. Despite a static velocity reading on his fastball and a presumably healthy elbow, Peavy’s results — in a small sample of four starts, anyway — suggest his stuff has been subpar and extremely hittable.

peavy3.pngIt should be noted that Peavy’s increased gopherball tendencies are expected. As with any pitcher who moves from the National League to the American League, Peavy’s numbers are going to look rougher. Combine the improved level of competition as well as facing the designated hitter instead of a pitcher and you’ve got a recipe for a rising ERA. Peavy’s numbers are going to experience a double whammy though, since he’s moving from perhaps the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball in Petco Park to a the homer haven that is U.S. Cellular Field. About 10% of Peavy’s flyballs are going for home runs; the reality is that number is closer to the projected total than his previous seasons in Petco suggest.

Another thing to keep in mind about Peavy’s performance is his Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). About 32% of the balls being put into play against him are turning into hits, which is high, but not absurdly so. Chicago’s so-so defense features iffy defenders like Carlos Quentin, so don’t expect Peavy’s BABIP to see much positive regression, barring a big streak of luck. That leaves Peavy as a pitcher who, right now, is throwing less than his best stuff and having it hammered around and out of the park. Not quite the pitcher who led the majors in strikeouts during the 2007 season.  

It might be too early to drop Peavy in standard mixed leagues, and he holds little trade value at this point. That means the best option could be placing him on the bench and waiting.

For more on Jake Peavy and other struggling starting pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.  

Should You Sit Your Starting Pitchers in Week 1?

By Eriq Gardner

A reader wrote in to ask whether or not the numbers support sitting a starter in the first week of the season.

I understand the reasoning behind the strategy: In the first week of the season, starters might be dangerous, as they haven’t built up the stamina to go long into games, may not have fully gotten control of their arsenal of pitches, and might be expected to be less likely to put up wins and more likely to damage a fantasy teams pitching ratios.

But let’s look at the numbers.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any “first week” splits anywhere, but we were able to gather together data for pitchers who made starts between April 5 and April 12 going back five years. We can call this set of data, “Starters in Early April,” which may be better anyway since what we’re talking about is a pitcher’s seasonal maturity at this early part of the year. We compared these data to how starters performed overall in the past five years.

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The results of the study were somewhat surprising.

Let’s start with endurance and the potential for wins. We’re shocked to learn there’s hardly any difference at all. Starters in early April average 5.8 innings per game started. Starters average the same 5.8 innings per game started throughout the season. In early April, starters win the games they start 34% of the time. Throughout the season, that only ticks up to 35%. In early April, starters are a little less likely to be on the hook for a loss and a little more likely to be given a no-decision, but unless your league counts those stats, that’s not very important.

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Let’s go to ERA and WHIP.

Here we find big differences, but in the complete opposite direction we expected. Starters in early April average a 3.92 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP. Over a full season, starters average a much worse 4.50 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. Is it because teams mostly have their best starters healthy at the onset of the season? Perhaps that’s one factor, but I think we can explain the difference better by jumping into the peripheral numbers.

First, we find no command issues. Both time frames yield an average of 3.1 walks per 9 IP.

Interestingly, despite the better surface ratios, pitchers at the beginning of the season strike out fewer batters. In early April, pitchers strike out 5.5 batters per 9 IP. Throughout the season, the number jumps to 6.3. If starters are whiffing fewer batters in early April, how are they managing to gain a better ERA?

We can put the mystery to bed by taking a look at the HR numbers. In early April, the HR/9 rate of a starter is only 0.94. Throughout the season, it’s 1.1. Clearly, the biggest advantage that a starter has at the start of the season is the colder weather. If you’ve ever swung a bat in frigid temperatures, you know it stings upon contact. Moreover, because warm air is less dense than cool air — ask your local meteorologist — balls travel further in those warm summer months.

So while it might seem a good idea to bench your starters early in the season, the numbers say you should do no such thing. 

For more on starting pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits

James Shields: Rays’ Quiet and Consistent Ace

By R.J. Anderson

Here’s a fun trivia question: Who has the fourth-most innings pitched over the past three seasons, behind only Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, and Dan Haren? Nope, not Cliff Lee or Felix Hernandez. Nor Justin Verlander.

It’s James Shields. The Tampa Bay Rays ace has made at least 31 starts in each of his three full major league seasons while completing at least 215 innings, and winning at least 11 games. Shields’ durability would be one thing, but when combined with solid performances — notably by advanced metrics, like Fielding Independent Pitching or even Adjusted Fielding Independent Pitching (both of which attempt to strip the luck aspect out of evaluating pitchers) — Shields becomes one of the better and more underappreciated talents in the league.

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Oddly enough, Shields is actually being drafted well ahead of his 133 B-Rank; his ADP is currently 110. His 2010 Bloomberg Sports projection calls for 217 innings, a 3.89 ERA, 13 wins, and a 1.23 WHIP. That line places him smack in the middle of strong three-star pitchers such as A.J. Burnett, Brett Anderson, and Rays teammate Matt Garza.

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Shields has the luxury of pitching in front of one of the best defensive teams in baseball, which should help his rate stats. One thing Shields does, perhaps better than anyone else in the division, is mix his pitches. When he came into the league, he was extremely reliant upon a plus change-up. Talk to a handful of scouts during that period and his change-up was right up there with Johan Santana’s for the honor of best in baseball. Since then, though, Shields has continued to add pitches and tweak his arsenal. He throws a cutter now and has a plus curve to go with it. He locates all of those pitches well.

The only real flaws in Shields’ game is the lack of run support (presumably something that should even out over time), and home runs allowed. Shields’ run support was just 4.42 runs per game last season, despite the Rays’ offense setting numerous
franchise records for offensive production; t
hat was the fourth-lowest total among AL starters. Meanwhile, Shields has allowed at least one home run per
nine innings in each of his big league seasons. Last year’s 1.19 HR/9 IP was a
career high in seasons where he threw more than 150 innings, so expect
a little regression there.

Still, the positives far outweigh the negatives. The Rays’ franchise single-season record for wins by a pitcher is 14. With a little help, Shields could break that record this season, and could do so as a strong number-two or number-three option on your pitching staff.

For more on James Shields and other starting pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.

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Is Tommy Hanson the Next Great Atlanta Braves Pitcher?

By Tommy Rancel

Stephen Strasburg is the top pitching prospect in baseball, but he may not even be the most important young pitcher in his own division. Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves is not only a major league starter right now; he’s also poised to become one of the National League’s best starting pitchers.
 
Even in his own backyard, Hanson plays second fiddle. Braves outfielder Jason Heyward is generally regarded as the top prospect in baseball. In addition to the top ranking, Heyward has been the most talked about player this March, highlighted by a windshield-shattering home run display.
 
Strasburg and Heyward have the hype, but Hanson is the only one with major league experience, and major league success.

In 2009, the 23-year-old right-hander won 11 games in his first 21 major league starts. According to baseball-reference.com, only 22 players (classified as first-year players, not necessarily rookies) other than Hanson won 11 games in their first 21 starts with a sub-2.90 ERA since 1901. Hanson posted a 2.89 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 127.2 innings.

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Despite his young age, Hanson showed control usually found in a veteran starter. He struck out nearly a batter per inning (8.18 K/9) while keeping his walks at a manageable 3.24 per nine innings (BB/9). Hanson excelled at missing bats, with a swinging strike percentage near 10% (9.9%) and a contact rate (percentage of swings against that are put in play, including foul balls) of 77.2%.
 
Hanson has a good fastball that runs around 92 miles per hour. His secondary pitches–curve ball and slider–are even better. He induced 18.1% whiffs on his slider and 15.6% on his curveball. The major league average for a right-handed pitcher’s slider is around 13%, and 11% on a curveball.
 
While Hanson tossed just 127.2 innings at the major league level, he threw 194 cumulative innings in 2009. That increases the likelihood that he’ll be good for 30-plus starters this season. Bloomberg Sports’ projects him for exactly 30 starts and just over 180 innings. If that projection holds, Hanson could pass 15 wins in 2010, with some strong supporting numbers too.

3-25-2010 8-56-39 am.png One knock on Hanson would be his home run rate. As a neutral pitcher with a 40% flyball rate, Hanson allowed just 0.72 home runs per nine innings. This was due to a lower than normal home run-to-fly ball rate of 6.9%; a starting pitcher is usually around 10% to 12%. Hanson should give up a few more long balls in 2010, but his ability to keep men off base could limit some to solo shots.
 
When looking for other young pitchers with similar starts to Hanson, Clayton Kershaw comes to mind. In 2008, Kershaw made 21 starts, going 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA. He then made 30 starts last season, posting a sparkling 2.79 ERA over 171 innings. Hanson’s stuff rivals Kershaw’s, as does his upside in terms of strikeouts and swing-and-miss ability.
 
Hanson is getting a lot of respect in drafts this year. He is the 25th-rated starting pitcher and places 95th overall in B-Rank. His average draft position (ADP) is 67.8. The ADP looks a bit high, but Hanson is worthy of a seventh-round draft pick is shallow leagues. Don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on him in your draft.

For more on Tommy Hanson and other potential young aces, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.

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