One pitcher trait which is consistently desired through all the various fantasy formats is health. While hitters get hurt also, pitcher injuries can really put a damper on a fantasy team because pitchers are lost for longer periods of time. By knowing which pitchers are more at risk can help a fantasy owner make better decisions on draft/auction day.
A couple of years ago, I created a formula to predict the chance a player will go on the DL. On average, a starting pitcher who has thrown at least 120 innings the previous season will have a 39% chance of going on the disabled list (DL) at some point during the next season.
After its first season being put to the test, the predictions held up. Before last season, I put the formula again to the test and the results were just as encouraging. Of the 20 pitchers least likely to go on the DL, only 5 (or 25%) of them did. The model predicted 6.1 would head to the DL. On the other hand, of the 20 most likely to go on the DL, the model predicted 10.2 to go to the DL with 10 of the injury risk pitchers making the trip. The model stood up pretty good.
I have run the model again. Here are the top five most and least likely pitchers to see the DL In 2013:
Besides the general DL chances, I found 2 groups of pitchers who are more likely to be injury prone. The first is pitchers who throw a large percentage of breaking balls. I found pitchers who threw sliders 30% of the time ended up on the DL 46% of the time. For pitchers who threw curve balls 25% of the time, they end up on the DL 51% of the time. Any pitcher who reached the thresholds were added to the spreadsheet.
Second, I found pitchers who had problems throwing strikes were also injury risks. Here are the 3 thresholds:
Stat, Threshold, DL%
Strike%, <60%, 45%
Zone% (Pitchf/x), <47%, 49%
NIBB%, >10%, 49%
Again, I have designated the pitchers who reached the injury threshold in the spreadsheet.
Fantasy owners shy away from spending too many resources on pitchers because of their health. With a little knowledge, pitchers can be drafted who have less injury risk.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.