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Potential K/9 Surgers

First, another fist pump for David Appelman’s addition of K% to the site. No longer do I have to surf on over to an enemy site to get this information. As was noted in some of the comments on the announcement post, K/9 will be lower than it should be if the pitcher has benefited from some good fortune that allowed him to face fewer batters than expected. So, assuming the pitcher’s luck does in fact regress, he should see his strikeout rate rise. Here are the five pitchers with the largest difference between their ranking in K% and K9.

Josh Beckett easily leads all starting pitchers with a .214 BABIP. His previous career low was .262, which interestingly came in 2006 when he posted a 5.01 ERA. That BABIP will absolutely increase the rest of the way and given that his SwStk% is at its highest mark since 2005, there is little doubt that his strikeout rate will jump. One concern though is that his fly ball rate is above 40% for the first time in his career, and it is well above that level at 45.2%. If you could somehow manage to sell him as a top five starter, I would not hesitate to do so.

Jered Weaver saw his strikeout rate surge nearly two batters per nine last year, and predictably that mark has come right back down to where it had always sat previously. However, a .249 BABIP and 2.5% HR/FB ratio are keeping his K/9 down, so it is possible he ends up striking out at least 8.0 per nine the rest of the way. As an extreme fly ball pitcher who also induces a lot of popups, he should continue to maintain a below league average BABIP. Weaver right now is third in LOB% and first in HR/FB ratio, so he has really enjoyed some excellent luck so far. If he finishes the season with an ERA in the low 2.00s, he could be quite overvalued next year, similar to what happened with Zach Greinke heading into 2010.

Dan Haren is mainly benefiting from a 6.1% HR/FB ratio, while his .274 BABIP is the second best mark of his career. His SwStk5 is generally the same as it has been over the last couple of years. However, this is the first season he will have pitched the entire year in the American League since 2007, so it would be foolish to expect his strikeout rate to jump back up to his Diamondback days. Still, when his luck takes a hit, he should see his K/9 rise a bit, but overall shouldn’t have too much of an effect on his ERA as the changes should offset each other. He is the first on this list who I would not consider a sell high candidate.

Just when I thought the clock had struck midnight after Alexi Ogando posted a 4.26 ERA in June, he goes out and puts up a 2.08 mark in July. In fact, his July xFIP was the best of any month so far. On the whole though, he has enjoyed a .237 BABIP, which should rise, along with his 7.2% HR/FB ratio. His SwStk% is only league average, so even though the K% suggests a K/9 due to increase, it should not get much above 7.0 the rest of the way. His luck may very well last all year, but at some point his ERA will catch up to his only slightly above average skill set. He will either break owner’s hearts in August and September, or next season in 2012.

Really, Jeff Karstens? After posting a 4.92 ERA last year and 5.42 mark in 2009, it is safe to say that Karstens’ 2.28 ERA right now is quite the surprise. With a neutral batted ball profile and a terrible strikeout rate, one wonders why he even keeps getting a chance to stick in a rotation to begin with. His K% is actually about identical to last year when he posted a 5.3 K/9, while his SwStk% has jumped. This suggests that he should post a K/9 above 5.0 the rest of the way. That still won’t be enough though as he cannot possibly continue to strand 86.6% of runners. As crazy as this may sound, I would not even be comfortable starting him in an NL-Only league, as the downside is just too large. Trade him for anything, seriously.