- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

He Went To Jered

Terrible TV commercials aside, it is hard to argue that “going to Jered”  has been anything but a good thing. For the second straight year Jered Weaver has ranked in the top 10 in terms of qualified starting pitchers ERA. Sure, ERA isn’t the most reliable evaluation metric, but for fantasy purposes it clearly suits us quite well. Considering that it has been almost 650 innings since Weaver last posted a seasonal ERA above 3.02, it’s safe to say that Weaver is an elite pitcher.

Despite his strikeouts taking a step back from his outstanding 2010 numbers, Weaver still misses enough bats to get by. That being said, this past season was the first time 2007 that his K% dipped below league average. One year blip or cause for concern?

We have seen a three year decline in Weaver’s SwStr% and his corresponding K%. Again using 2010 as his peak, here are his plate discipline stats for the past three seasons:

Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr% K%
2010 75.4% 47.0% 62.4% 11.2% 25.8%
2011 79.5% 44.8% 64.7% 9.1% 21.4%
2012 80.5% 42.6% 61.7% 8.5% 19.2%

Not a single favorable trend there. Another way of looking at things is 90.1, 89.2, and 88.0. Those happen to be his average fastball readings for the 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons. If those numbers fail to grab your attention, perhaps this chart will. This shows Weaver’s average fastball velocity for every game from the 2010-2012 seasons.

Weaver’s extreme fly ball tendencies — 33.5% GB% for his career — mesh very well with having an alien named Mike Trout cover center field as well has playing half of his games in a park that suppresses home runs as well as road starts at Safeco Field and O.Co, both of which are well known for sapping power. None of this is Weaver’s fault, but to continually assume him that he will keep fly balls in the yard with an 88 mile per hour heater is a tough pill to swallow.

Weaver did miss three weeks fighting back pain — that missed time is represented by a brief gap in the 2012 data above — and when he came back he was clearly as effective as ever, despite the declining velocity. My primary concern is that he seemed to be relying on smoke and mirrors. Towards the end of the season, Weaver himself noted how tired he was and how he was yanked from his last start with “general fatigue.” All of these symptoms make me a very nervous Weaver owner. One shouldn’t be especially surprised to see that a freshly turned 30-year old pitcher to lost a couple of ticks on his fastball, but at what point should fantasy owners be alarmed by it?

Weaver’s reputation to generate strikeouts has been snapped back by quite a bit by more recent seasons. He still limits the walks and is able to induce enough weak contact to consistently enough post excellent BABIP marks. However, even with an excellent outfield defense behind him and a spacious home park, one must wonder how much longer Weaver will be elite. If you’re on the fence about trading him, I would move him now. I can’t imagine him to be a long term keeper at this rate.