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There is no better way to get rid of stereotypes, pre-established thoughts and beliefs about pitchers than to get rid of the pitchers. Well, the pitchers' names that is.
Stripping out the names and looking solely at the numbers reveals quite a bit, both about ability and value.
Did you know that Felipe Paulino and Matt Cain have essentially the same Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)? How about Clay Buchholz and Brett Myers? Even if you did, it's a safe bet you still perceive those pairs at vastly different values, and that's mostly because of their names.
Another illustration: Brandon Morrow has more strikeouts, fewer walks and a FIP rate just 0.34 higher than Clayton Kershaw. In most fantasy circles, Kershaw is a rising fantasy star, while Morrow is a pitcher with potential, but also a crippling control problem.
Names and hype skew things. Here are a few statistics listed, names withheld, and some notes about what the comparisons say about value.
Numbers listed in order: Strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB), strikeouts per nine innings (K/9), home runs allowed per nine innings (HR/9), walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP) and FIP.
Numbers test 1
Pitcher 1 -- 3.62, 9.41, 0.25, 1.27, 2.28Pitcher 2 -- 3.86, 8.69, 0.41, 0.94, 2.61Pitcher 3 -- 3.21, 9.00, 0.38, 1.08, 2.66Pitcher 4 -- 3.40, 8.78, 0.52, 1.09, 2.76Pitcher 5 -- 2.78, 10.18, 0.57, 1.18, 2.93Pitcher 6 -- 2.61, 9.07, 0.42, 1.20, 2.93
These are the only pitchers with a FIP below 3.00 and a K/9 above 8.50. Pitchers two, three and four stand out the most because of the low WHIPs. So those are traditional stars, like Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez or Felix Hernandez, right? No dice. It's Adam Wainwright, Josh Johnson and Phil Hughes. Jimenez has had plenty of publicity so far, but it's time we start looking at all three as fully elite options. Hughes does carry some concern since he's never topped 86 innings in the majors and he's already at 63.2 this season.
Pitcher 1 is Francisco Liriano, who is second in the league in FIP despite a 3.10 ERA. Liriano has the highest difference between FIP and ERA among the Top 30 leaders in FIP.
Pitcher 5 is Tim Lincecum. His recent control problems have depressed his K/BB numbers to among the worst in this group. Ricky Romero, Pitcher 6, is a big surprise among these names.
The 25-year-old is better than last season in almost every aspect and his .296 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) doesn't look like a fluke at all. It will be interesting to see if Romero can maintain his high K/9 since he had a 7.13 K/9 in 178 innings last season.
Numbers test 2
Pitcher 1 -- 2.80, 8.96, 0.77, 1.29, 3.54Pitcher 2 -- 2.55, 8.33, 0.79, 1.33, 3.55Pitcher 3 -- 2.11, 10.41, 0.70, 1.48, 3.68Pitcher 4 -- 2.75, 8.37, 0.89, 1.34, 3.67
Here, with Tommy Hanson (Pitcher 1), Felix Hernandez (Pitcher 2) and Chad Billingsley (Pitcher 4), are a few of baseball's up-and-comers. The surprise is Pitcher 3, who has clearly struggled with walks, but has the other three beat handily in strikeouts. Who is it? None other than Seattle castoff Brandon Morrow.
Morrow has gone under the radar because of his 5.48 ERA, but his 1.80 difference between ERA and FIP is the second biggest in baseball. Morrow's 4.92 BB/9 is the one downside.
His contact% (percentage of pitches batters make contact with) is 73.7, much closer to his 2008 total of 72.7, rather than last year's 77.8. Not coincidentally, his 10.41 K/9 is almost exactly the same as his 2008 figure (10.44) and well up from last season (8.14).
The walks may hamper Morrow all season long, but he has flashed the ability to be dominant a few times already this season.
Numbers test 3
Pitcher 1 -- 2.38, 6.55, 0.69, 1.15, 3.56Pitcher 2 -- 3.13, 6.75, 0.81, 1.41, 3.54
It's hard to look at these numbers and think Pitcher 1 has been much better than Pitcher 2. That's shocking considering Pitcher 2 (Johan Santana) was a fantasy ace for much of the past decade and Pitcher 1 is Randy Wells.
In fact, if not for the BABIP difference (Wells: plus .041 career, Santana: minus .018) the two would probably be a lot closer in WHIP.
There are two lessons here: Wells can help fantasy teams, and Santana might be done as a fantasy ace.
Wells gets almost no respect despite the fact that he's just 27 and had a 3.88 FIP (3.05 ERA) in 165.1 innings in 2009. This year his FIP, K/9 and BB/9 skills all look better. His ERA will drop closer to his FIP as the season wears on.
Santana has his lowest K/9 since '01. Sure, his 2.76 ERA looks good, but that's deceiving. Luck has kept fly balls in the park and his 5.5 HR/FB is well under his career 9.3 rate. Look for that ERA to shoot up if Santana can't improve his pitching.
Felipe Paulino -- Touted in last week's Tipping Pitches, Paulino produced another quality outing last time out. He went eight innings, gave up one run and walked just two. His 4.81 BB/9 is scary and that 0.27 HR/9 is bound to rise, but is there a more affordable 8.15-K/9, 3.42-FIP pitcher out there?
Mike Pelfrey -- Pelfrey has been nearly untouchable his last four times out (0.90 ERA). He's showing a lot of confidence in his splitter by throwing it 18.7 percent of the time and it's paying off. The pitch is rated 4.1 runs above average.
0.58:Cliff Lee's BB/9 through 61.2 innings this season. That's an amazing four walks through eight starts. Lee has always had good control, but this is ridiculous. Along with his career-high strikeout pace (8.32 K/9), he has a stunning 14.25 K/BB.
Jonathan Niese -- Niese is just 23 and so far he's relying on his cutter (he's throwing it 26 percent of the time). That's a good thing, since the pitch is his only offering currently rated above average. Niese got 11 ground ball outs in his June 5 start and has a 50.6 GB% this season.
Ervin Santana --Santana has been great his last three outings, though his June 5 start only featured two strikeouts. He has serious skills (see: '08) so any forward progress should get fantasy owners excited.
Johnny Cueto -- After his worst start of the season June 1 (five innings, eight runs, no strikeouts), Cueto didn't bounce back strong the next time (six innings, four runs). He can go on prolonged runs of both good and bad so benching him next time out is the safe move.
Wade Davis -- The sheen is officially off of Davis at the moment. With a 5.73 FIP and 1.34 K/BB, David might get bounced from the rotation for hot prospect Jeremy Hellickson any day. Don't forget about Davis in keeper leagues, or even later this season once he gets straightened out.
* Statistics are current through June 8.
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