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

Potential K/9 Decliners

On Saturday, I looked at the top five pitchers whose K% suggested their K/9 rates should be higher. Given the different denominators between the two metrics, it came as no surprise that pitchers who have benefited from good fortune found themselves toward the top of the list as they had fewer opportunities to punch hitters out. Today I look at the other side of the coin, those pitchers whose K/9 marks are higher than their K% would suggest.

Ahhh the vagaries of the luck metrics. J.A. Happ is pitching very similarly to last year, yet his ERA has skyrocketed by 2.48 runs. His amazing ability to limit hits on balls in play and strand such a high percentage of runners was not going to last. This year, his luck has simply reverted to near the league average, with the exception of his LOB%, which has dropped to just 63.8%. That has afforded him many more opportunities to strike hitters out and pump up his K/9. Once he begins to strand more runners, his K/9 will decline, and he will almost certainly watch his ERA decline a bit from its current 5.88 mark. But really, this is not a very good pitcher. His great luck in past years has fooled many into thinking he was a solid young pitcher.

I have always been a big Javier Vazquez fan and cannot tell you how many times I have owned him in my fantasy leagues. Unfortunately, I have no idea what happened to him any more so than the next guy. His velocity has declined…yes, but why? His BABIP is still a smidge inflated, while his LOB% is near Happ levels. There is no guarantee his BABIP improves, but his LOB% should definitely. Though his strikeout rate on the year is 6.9, it has been 8.4 and 8.5 in June and July, respectively, which has corresponded to an increase in velocity. Continued bad luck, or simply Vazquez-syndrome, has hidden some strong skills these last two months, so he could make an excellent trade target, despite appearing on this above list.

Matt Garza appears on this list due to his .313 BABIP and 66.6% LOB%, which are somewhat offset by his 7.5% HR/FB ratio. Given the Cubs awful defense though, the BABIP may stick, making it a little more difficult to strand a higher percentage of runners. This would be a positive for his strikeout rate, but of course, not his ERA or WHIP. What will be interesting to monitor is whether he is able to sustain this new found ground ball inducing ability. It would help limit the damage once his HR/FB ratio increases.

Excluding yesterday’s start, Yovani Gallardo has seen his strikeout rate drop nearly two batters per nine. This is not too surprising to me though, as I had called him a surprise bust candidate back in early April due to a higher strikeout rate than his SwStk% suggested in 2010. Though he has not been dramatically unlucky, his HR/FB ratio and BABIP are a bit above the league average, which has inflated his K/9. His SwStk% has dropped for a second straight season and now surprisingly sits below the league average, which makes it difficult to be optimistic about his performance over the rest of the year.

Chad Billingsley also pitched yesterday (along with Garza discussed above) and he had suffered from some poor BABIP luck with the highest mark of his career. After yesterday’s performance, his K/9 has jumped back up to about what he posted last year, but his SwStk% remains well below his previous marks, and the league average. I would say his K/9 is not too out of whack here and if it does drop, it will only be slightly. He is pitching nearly identically to how he has the last two seasons, but last year he benefited from a 4.5% HR/FB ratio which won’t happen again, so an ERA in the high 3.00s is what should be expected.