Potential Starting Pitcher Walk Rate Improvers

Last week, I used my expected strikeout rate equation to identify the starting pitchers whose actual strikeout rates are most below their expected marks. Today, I’ll look at the other primary skill metric — a pitcher’s walk rate. I developed an expected walk rate equation as well and still use essentially the same one now, unlike the xK% formula which I had since tweaked. The walk rate equation isn’t as good as the strikeout rate one, but it’s the best I have seen out there.

This is not a straight list of the starters with xBB% marks most below their actual BB% marks, but only those who really have a chance to be fantasy relevant, or haven’t only started one or two games.

Name BB% xBB% Diff
Brad Peacock 17.5% 11.7% 5.8%
Jenrry Mejia 12.2% 7.7% 4.5%
Henderson Alvarez 7.1% 3.3% 3.8%
Shelby Miller 14.9% 11.8% 3.1%
Erik Bedard 14.0% 11.2% 2.8%
Andrew Cashner 6.6% 3.8% 2.8%

It took a couple of weeks, but Brad Peacock has his chance now to contribute as a member of the Astros rotation. His control has been beyond atrocious though, but his xBB% suggests that things shouldn’t have been that terrible. Of course, even an 11.7% mark is too high, but it’s much more palatable than the nearly 18% mark he has posted. Throughout his minor league career, his walk rates have been all over the map, so it’s hard to get a read on his true talent level. His slider has been fantastic again though, which is good news. So the strikeouts should continue to be there and if he could get his walk rate back under control, hopefully he can eke out some AL-Only value (for my Tout Wars team’s sake!).

Jenrry Mejia appeared on last week’s potential strikeout rate surgers list as well and I said not to worry about the inflated walk rate given his strong Str%. His SIERA sits at a respectable 3.66 mark even with the inflated walk rate, so he has a legit chance to post a low 3.00 ERA given the quality of his stuff and strikeout potential along with all those ground balls.

With such a low strikeout rate, Henderson Alvarez needs to show pinpoint control to really earn any sort of fantasy value. While his walk rate has been pretty good, and even better over his entire career, his xBB% suggests it should be even lower. If he could ever improve any of his secondary pitches enough to make it a legitimate strikeout pitch, he could enjoy a major breakout. But the time hasn’t yet arrived and it may never. He’s better in real life than fantasy.

Shelby Miller‘s strikeout rate, SwStk% and IFFB% is down, walk and line drive rates up and SIERA has rocketed up to 4.82. So, everything has moved in the wrong direction. Yet, his ERA sits below 3.00. That’s even crazier to consider when you look at his HR/FB rate at 18.5%. He could thank the strand rate Gods for that, as he’s stranded an amazing 94% of base runners. Luckily, his xBB% suggests better control numbers are on the way, but I would be very concerned if I were an owner.

I thought Erik Bedard could earn some AL-Only value in a good pitching environment in Tampa Bay, but so far he has been brutal. He’s not inducing swings and misses, throwing strikes, or generating ground balls. His batted ball distribution is hilarious as well, as he’s allowed a ridiculously 28.6% LD% and 0 pop-ups. It’s only been 9.2 innings though and his skills have been better in the past.

I thought there was little chance that Andrew Cashner posted another sub-7% walk rate, but he now sits ninth among all starting pitchers in strike percentage. Of course, his walk rate hasn’t budged and is nearly identical to last year. I don’t expect him to sustain this rate of strike throwing, but it does suggest that maybe last year wasn’t a fluke. With a bit of a rebound in strikeout rate and all those grounders, naturally now Cashner performs how I hoped last year, but backed up this time by his peripherals.




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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.


4 Responses to “Potential Starting Pitcher Walk Rate Improvers”

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  1. Noah Baron says:

    How good is Jenrry Mejia really? With a xK% of more than 26% and an xBB% of less than 8%, we could be talking about one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Don’t rule out a Harvey-like breakout.

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  2. Noah Baron says:

    I’m more worried about the Mets making him a reliever than his one bad start against Colorado, which consisted of an inning prolonged by a botched double play and bloop hit after bloop hit.

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