Luck leaders

Since Tuesday is Patrick’s day to post, I thought it might also be a good day to start posting a weekly column that looks at the luckiest and unluckiest starting pitchers, that way you get a post about strategy and one that deals almost entirely with numbers. David Gassko posted last week on this topic, and I thought it would be a good idea to make this a weekly thing. We’ll see how it goes.

Left on Base Percentage

Of the four stats we’ll look at, LOB% — or Strand rate — has the least amount of luck involved. Good pitchers can have better than average LOB%, but too far one way or the other is a sign that luck is at play.

We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with LOB% lower than 67% for the Unluckiest pitchers.


Name		LOB% 
Kip Wells	57.5%
Jose Contreras	61.2%
David Bush	62.7%
Bronson Arroyo	65.1%
Roy Halladay	65.4%
Matt Belisle	65.7%
Zach Duke	65.8%
Aaron Cook	66.9%

We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with LOB% higher than 78% for the Luckiest pitchers.


Name		LOB% 
Johan Santana	83.3%
John Maine	82.5%
Brad Penny	81.5%
Chuck James	81.5%
Rich Hill	80.6%
Tom Gorzelanny	79.4%
Dan Haren	79.1%
Jeremy Guthrie	79.0%
Roy Oswalt	79.0%
Jake Peavy	78.9%
John Smoltz	78.7%
Ian Snell	78.6%
Cole Hamels	78.3%
John Danks	78.3%
Ben Sheets	78.2%
Jeff Francis	78.1%

Batting Average on Balls in Play

Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), like LOB%, isn’t completely luck influenced. BABIP can stray a bit from the mean, but again, too far and luck is probably the reason.

We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with BABIP higher than .330 for the Unluckiest pitchers.


Name			BABIP 
Zach Duke		.363
Paul Byrd		.353
Doug Davis		.348
Boof Bonser		.345
Scott Kazmir		.342
Randy Wolf		.338
Scott Olsen		.334
Miguel Batista		.333
David Bush		.333
Curt Schilling		.332
Jorge de la Rosa	.331
Bronson Arroyo		.330

We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with BABIP lower than .270 for the Luckiest pitchers.


Name			BABIP 
Jeremy Guthrie		.209
Dan Haren		.243
Rich Hill		.247
Jason Marquis		.248
John Maine		.253
Oliver Perez		.254
Jon Garland		.258
Jason Hirsh		.263
Matt Cain		.264
Justin Verlander	.264
Chris Young		.265
Tim Wakefield		.266
Steve Trachsel		.267
Ted Lilly		.268
Mark Buehrle		.268

Line Drive Rate

Pitchers tend to have very little control over their Line Drive rates. Ground ball pitchers and extreme fly ball pitchers can limit them a little, but they are much more luck-influenced than LOB% or BABIP.

We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with LD% higher than 22% for the Unluckiest pitchers.


Mental Health and the CBA
A particular bit of language in the latest CBA could have negative consequences for some players.
Name			LD% 
Kyle Lohse		23.7%
Jon Garland		23.1%
Scott Olsen		22.9%
David Bush		22.7%
Braden Looper		22.4%
Livan Hernandez		22.3%
Tim Wakefield		22.1%

We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with LD% lower than 16% for the Luckiest pitchers.


Name			LD% 
Paul Maholm		13.5%
Fausto Carmona		13.9%
Joe Kennedy		13.9%
Daniel Cabrera		14.2%
Josh Beckett		14.8%
James Shields		15.0%
A.J. Burnett		15.0%
Roy Oswalt		15.2%
Mark Buehrle		15.4%
Dan Haren		15.4%
Ian Snell		15.5%
Jeremy Bonderman	15.6%
Jeremy Guthrie		15.6%
Kelvim Escobar		15.6%
Chris Sampson		15.7%
Adam Wainwright		15.7%

Home Run per Fly ball Rate

Pitchers don’t have too much power over how many of their fly balls turn into home runs. HR/FB measures how often this happens. Those with low rate should start to give up more HRs and should see their ERAs increase accordingly, and visa-versa.

We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with HR/FB higher than 13% for the Unluckiest pitchers.


Name			HR/FB 
A.J. Burnett		18.8%
Mike Maroth		15.7%
Cole Hamels		14.7%
Paul Maholm		14.3%
Rich Hill		13.9%
Erik Bedard		13.2%
James Shields		13.2%
Kip Wells		13.2%
Ervin Santana		13.0%
Carlos Zambrano		13.0%
Fausto Carmona		13.0%
Dontrelle Willis	13.0%

We’ll look at all qualified pitchers with HR/FB lower than 7% for the Luckiest pitchers.


Name			HR/FB 
Jake Peavy		1.9%
Brad Penny		2.1%
Chris Young		2.3%
Matt Morris		5.0%
Matt Cain		5.1%
Tim Hudson		5.2%
Chad Gaudin		5.4%
Jarrod Washburn		5.4%
Kelvim Escobar		5.5%
Jose Contreras		5.6%
Jon Garland		5.6%
Tom Gorzelanny		5.6%
Noah Lowry		5.7%
Bronson Arroyo		5.8%
Carlos Silva		5.9%
Greg Maddux		5.9%
Josh Beckett		6.1%
Ian Snell		6.5%
Dan Haren		6.8%
Aaron Harang		6.8%

Who to Trade

I’ll go over a few guys quickly from these lists that would make good Sell High candidates.

Dan Haren appears on all four lists. He is a good pitcher, but not nearly as good as his surface stats indicates. His strikeout rate is above average and his walk rate is very good, but he is not an elite pitcher. If you can trade him for one, do it.

I’ve talked about Chris Young a few times before, but he is on two of these lists and barely missed the cut on the other two. He gets Ks and keeps his walks at a decent rate, but he gives up lots of fly balls. His HR/FB adjustment will be especially painful for him.

Rich Hill was talked about a few weeks ago, so I won’t bother again. Similar to Young but with less BBs and more GBs. Trade him.

Some say Brad Penny is a better first half pitcher than second. Not true. He’s getting lucky in several categories, not pitching better. Don’t wait around for his fall.

Tim Hudson‘s getting a little lucky. Trade him to an owner with visions of the “A’s Tim Hudson.”

While guys like Johan Santana and Jake Peavy are getting lucky in some categories, their peripherals are so good that trading them makes little sense. Just hang onto them. Peavy won’t continue to post a 2.09 ERA, but what he and Santana put up from here on out should still be very good and most likely better than whatever you would get for them in a trade.

Who to Target

Here are the Buy Low candidates based on these numbers.

Dave Bush is on three lists and probably on your Waiver Wire. His peripherals are good, although his surface numbers will need to show up to hold off Yovani Gallardo, who is lurking in the Milwaukee bullpen.

Boof Bonser is another guy who might be on your Waiver Wire. He strikes a lot of guys out and is better than his 4.76 ERA indicates.

Cole Hamels is on one of each list, but his 4.00 K/BB is amazing. Probably a Top 10 SP.

Zach Duke is on two lists, but his peripherals aren’t that good. Only look at him in very deep leagues as he won’t finish with a 6.00 ERA.

Bronson Arroyo. Getting a bit unlucky, but his peripherals aren’t great. Only target in deep mixed and NL-only leagues.


Feel free to post any feedback. This could become a weekly feature, although I’m not sure if the numbers will change enough to warrant it. We’ll see. Also, if I can get my database in order this week, I’ll probably post a player’s K/9, BB/9, K/BB, and GB% in the lists for easy reference.

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