Should Owners Pick Up Tommy Hunter?

Fantasy owners are always scouring the waiver wire looking for pitchers for the back of their staff. One pitcher gaining a lot of buzz for his performance so far is Rangers RHP Tommy Hunter. In six starts with Texas this season, Hunter is 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA. He has gone at least five innings in each start this year and has yet to allow more than three runs in a game.

Hunter is not overpowering; he tops out in the low 90s with his fastball and averages 89.1 with his heater. But he still manages to get strikeouts with the pitch – he got two Ks on fastballs in his last outing – because of his varied repertoire. Hunter also has a curve ball and a change-up. And depending on which source you prefer, he also throws either a slider or a cutter. FanGraphs does not show him throwing a slider this year but has him throwing a cutter nearly 24 percent of the time. Dan Brooks’ wonderful PitchFX site shows Hunter striking out three in his last outing versus Detroit with a slider and throwing 26 of them overall, with no cutters.

It all seems very encouraging for Hunter but from a fantasy perspective owners should not be in a rush to go out and pick him up. He is thriving now thanks to the 1-2 combo of a low BABIP (.251) and a high strand rate (90%). Hunter checks in with a 1.75 K/BB ratio (which would rank in the lower third of MLB pitchers if he had enough innings to qualify) and his HR/FB rate of 6.5 percent is below average.

When we see numbers like that, the most likely explanation is an unsustainable hot start. Hunter’s FIP is 3.97 and the low HR rate indicates his xFIP would be even worse. We know with a large enough sample size that regression will push Hunter’s numbers worse in these categories. We just do not know when it will actually happen. With just two months left in the season, it is even possible that regression will not hit until 2010.

Hunter would not be the worst option for fantasy owners to pick up from the waiver wire. But at the same time one should acquire him with the knowledge that he is much more likely to post an ERA twice as high than the one he has recorded so far this season.

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According to Hunter, it’s a cutter that he just learned.