Notes on NL Starting Pitchers

With the All-Star break upon us, there isn’t really any news about NL starters to analyze, so here are a few notes to get you ready for the return of baseball that actually means something.

– It’s been talked about before, but sweet sassy molassy, Zack Greinke cannot catch a break. Over the past month, Greinke has the best strikeout rate among NL starters and a top-five K/BB rate, yet his ERA was above 6.00. “How did this happen,” you ask? Greinke allowed a homer and a half for every nine innings pitched, despite a ground ball rate north of 48%. But wait, there’s more! Opponents’ batting average on balls in play against Greinke was over the .340 mark, and over half the runners that reached based against the right-hander scored. When it rains it pours, apparently, so if you have the chance to buy low on Greinke, you should probably do it.

– Cliff Lee got pulled in the fourth inning of yesterday’s All-Star Game by NL manager Bruce Bochy. The last time Lee got pulled in the fourth inning of a game? His second start of this season, when he gave up ten hits to the Atlanta Braves. Was I expecting that stat to be much more impressive and lead me to the promised land? You bet your butt I did.

– Livan Hernandez struck out over seven batters for every nine innings pitched over the past thirty days. Livan struck out nine White Sox in under seven innings of work a couple of weeks ago, and he also struck out six batters during his complete game shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals. Don’t worry, America, Livan isn’t going to win some lucky owner their league anytime soon, as his SwStr% was it’s usual low self.

– You know who doesn’t get enough credit for being a solid yet unspectacular starter (at least in real life)? Chris Volstad of the Florida Marlins, that’s who. Volstad stands at 6’8”, and he throws a sinker that sits around 91 mph. I don’t know about you, but having to face him would scare me. If Volstad could put a little more time in working on his breaking pitches, he could be absolutely nasty. Keep an eye on this righty’s progress.

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

7 Responses to “Notes on NL Starting Pitchers”

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  1. Nik says:

    Only reason Lee was pulled is because his PC was getting into mid-20s. I think Polanco or Victorino would have headbutted Bochy if he left him in there any longer.

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  2. Jeffrey Gross says:


    I keep pointing this out to no avail, but Chris Volstad is not a sleeper. Fangraphs xFIP system with HR/FB includes IFFB, so pitchers with atypical IFFB skills do not fit the mold. Volstad has an incredibly low IFFB% for career (half the league rate), and is doing the same this year. Hence, he gives up more outfield flies per total flyballs. An infield fly can never be a home run, so calculating his HR/FB gives a different picture than looking at his HR/OFFB rate, a substantially less volatile stat.

    Volstad’s eFIP (batted ball normalized, HR/OFFB-tabulated “xFIP”) is 4.10, almost half a run higher than his HR/FB rated xFIP. Furthermore, his xWHIP is over 1.40.

    No sub-6 pitcher/7% SwStr rate guy with a mere 50% groundball rate with just “decent” control (career BB/9 is lg average, 2.70 rate in 2011 is good, improved, but not in the top echelons by any means) and poor WHIP prospects is not going to be fantasy-useful — at least not with a lot of ERA/WHIP luck.

    You can find eFIP/xWHIP Calc. here:

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