Right-hander Jarrod Parker was one of my biggest sleepers coming into the season. He quietly compiled a 3.47 ERA with a 3.43 FIP last year, and I predicted the strikeout rate would jump in 2013, resulting in even higher value for fantasy owners.
After a 7.36 ERA in the month of April, though, many owners quickly jumped off the bandwagon and dumped Parker on the waiver wire. His numbers were ugly across the board. The strikeouts were down, the walks were up and home runs were a legitimate problem. Opposing batters were hitting .350 off the 24-year-old starter, and he had allowed a staggering 43 hits in only 29.1 innings.
However, in recent starts, Parker has turned it around in a big way.
Since the calendar flipped to May, the right-hander has compiled a stellar 2.85 ERA in his last eight starts. His strikeout rate has enjoyed a modest bump, but the most significant improvement lies in his walk rate. He’s no longer doling out 4.91 walks per nine innings, as he did in April. Instead, his walk rate in May and June has dropped to 2.68 BB/9 — and his opponent batting average has plummeted to .199 over the same stretch.
It’s important to note Parker has greatly benefited from a .200 BABIP in his last eight starts, which is certainly a contributing factor to his turn-around. Fantasy owners shouldn’t expect a sub-3.00 ERA from him the remainder of the season. But if the walks stay down and the strikeout numbers (at least) hover around his career-average, he should continue to be very effective.
The real question remains, though. Will Jarrod Parker’s strikeout rate increase to match his swinging-strike rate?
His 9.9% swinging-strike rate currently ranks 25th in all of baseball, among qualified starters. That’s better than James Shields, Shelby Miller, Chris Sale and Clay Buchholz. Yet his strikeout rate continues to underperform. He compiled a 6.95 K/9 strikeout rate a year ago with a 9.9% swinging-strike rate, and with an identical swinging-strike rate this season, his K-rate is only 6.18 K/9.
It makes sense to think his strikeout rate would increase, based on those numbers. He gets guys to chase out of the strike zone and misses plenty of bats. He even had solid strikeout numbers in the minors. At this point, though, it’s becoming a trend for Parker. Perhaps he’s just going to be a guy whose strikeout rate never matches his peripheral numbers — much like right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda has a career 9.9% SwStr%, yet owns a career 6.71 K/9 strikeout rate.
I’m not sure what to make of the large differential, but it is clear that Parker can be effective without the gaudy strikeout numbers. He showed that last year and has shown it in his last eight starts. If his home-run rate comes back down to earth — and it should, pitching in Oakland — he should be a solid fantasy starter throughout the remainder of the season.
And Jarrod Parker remains criminally underowned, despite his recent string of success on the mound. He’s only owned in 65.7% of leagues, meaning he could be a lovely waiver-wire pickup for many owners looking to bolster their pitching staff.