About a month ago my Rotographs colleague, the excellent Mike Podhorzer, wrote a piece that wondered if Scott Baker was having the second breakout season of his career. Mike sang Baker’s praises…and apparently not many people listened.
At the time of that publication Baker had 4.12 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Typical for him. As I type this Baker has improved on those numbers tremendously, now sporting a 3.24 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Over his last five starts he’s allowed a total of eight runs and only four walks. The last two starts have been masterful. Baker spun a complete game, one run gem on June 11th and followed that up with a 10K, eight inning performance June 18th. Despite that run of success – he’s actually won three starts in a row to push his record past .500 – Baker is owned in just 57% of leagues. Here is a list of starters who have a higher ownership percentage:
Yes, Liriano, he of the 4.59 ERA and 1.30 WHIP is owned in 30% more leagues than his superior teammate. Personally, I think Baker gets overlooked by most every season because he’s boring. That’s not a knock against him. He just doesn’t do anything flashy. He doesn’t have a cool name. He doesn’t have memorable facial hair. He doesn’t pump his fist or smash Gatorade coolers in the dugout in frustration. He’s just Scott Baker, and he’s trying his best to make you notice this season.
As Mike pointed out, his K/9 is at a career high. It was a bit higher when Mike penned his piece, but at 8.64 it still ranks fourth in the American League. I don’t have the Pitch f/x wizardry to tell you if he’s spotting his pitches better this season, but his fastball does have more movement this season according to texasleaguers.com. That could account for the higher rate of strikeouts despite Baker throwing his 91mph fastball more often than last season. His success this season hasn’t been lucky either, as his FIP and xFIP are each under 4.00 to go along with the 3.24 ERA.
To me Baker has always been very similar to James Shields. Both were above average, but not great pitchers the past 3-4 seasons but seem to have taken a leap this year. Every team can’t have aces in every starting pitching position. Guys like Scott Baker provide real value to your team. Add him, won’t you?
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