The World of the Weird and Extreme — Through May 4, 2019 Pitchers, A Review

In Early May, I dove into the world of small sample size theater to discuss some of the statistical oddities that had occurred so far on the pitching side of the ledger. Let’s review how these pitchers performed the rest of the way in the metrics highlighted.

BABIPs Be Crazy

BABIP

Through May 4, Brandon Woodruff had the unfortunate position of being atop the BABIP leaderboard, and it wasn’t the low side of the leaders, it was the high side. His BABIP stood at an absurd .396, despite strong peripherals and lots of strikeouts. What happened since that date? A .285 BABIP. He’s yet another of many excellent examples of how much BABIP could fluctuate throughout the season. Obviously, no player goes from the worst in baseball at something and then wakes up one day and becomes better than average.

It’s very tempting to write off a guy like Woodruff as an unproven starter who simply might not be ready to succeed at the big league level. But when Max Scherzer‘s and Carlos Carrasco’s names also appear near the top of the high BABIP list, ranking third and fourth, respectively, you realize that maybe a high BABIP isn’t just reserved for bad pitchers or youngsters who remain throwers, rather than pitchers. Since the high early BABIP marks, Scherzer posted a .299 mark the rest of the way and Carrasco a .339. Carrasco, of course, should probably be given a full pass this year due to his health.

At the time, who sported the lowest BABIP in baseball? None other than Yonny Chirinos, of course. He was sitting on a .198 mark, which undoubtedly made him a popular pickup in shallow leagues. Surprisingly, he managed to maintain a strong BABIP over the rest of the season, as he only regressed to a .264 mark, despite a worse than average line drive rate allowed.

Remember when Shane Bieber’s debut in 2018 was all about him being “too hittable”, simply because his BABIP was high? He opened the year with a tiny .231 mark. Whatever magic he enjoyed during the period clearly ran out, as he posted a .310 mark the rest of the way. Just goes to show that over any relatively small period, any pitcher could look good in one of the so-called luck metrics.

To Induce Grounders or Not to Induce Grounders

GB%

Whether you agreed or not, I think one of the more surprising skill metric leaders was Cole Hamels, with his league-leading GB% through May 4. Given the fact he owned a career mark right around the league average at 44.9% and just once posted a mark above 50%, it was strange indeed. The rest of the way, he returned to normal, posting a more Hamelsesque 43.7% ground ball rate.

On the other side, Jake Odorizzi became a worm’s best friend, inducing a grounder just 26.2% of the time. He was much closer to league average the rest of the way, though, posting a 37.3% mark, though that still sat well below average. Given the escalating league HR/FB rate, allowing so many flies is extremely risky.

Homers Are Bad, mmmmmmkay?

HR/FB

Remember how badly Yu Darvish started the year? I bet many a fantasy owner regrets dropping him during his struggles, only to watch him go on an elite run to end the season. Darvish owned a crazy 33.3% HR/FB rate through May 4, the only starter above 30%. Amazingly, Darvish actually struggled with homers on flies all season long, though not nearly to the same degree as early on. The rest of the way, he posted a 20.7% mark, which resulted in a 22.8% season mark, the highest among qualified starters.

On the other hand, Marcus Stroman had yet to allow a homer during the period, the only qualified starter to do so. Obviously, his HR/FB rate at the time was 0%. But he didn’t just learn during the offseason the secret to preventing dingers on fly balls. The rest of the way, he posted a 16.1% HR/FB rate which was just a bit above the league average.

Line Drives Are Bad…or Maybe Not?

LD%

Who would have guessed that Andrew Cashner was the LD% rate during the period to open the season? He posted a sterling 11.3% mark, though it didn’t exactly help him prevent runs. The rest of the way, he was much closer to league average, allowing a 19.3% mark.

On the other side, Trevor Bauer had allowed a skyhigh 27.1% LD%, but somehow managed to post a sub-3.00 ERA. Over the rest of the season, we all know what happened to his ERA, but his LD% actually dropped to just 20.8%, which is marginally below the league average.

Caleb Smith was also oddly making a high line drive rate work, somehow managing a low BABIP, so something had to give. His LD% did ultimately drop down to just above 20%, but his BABIP remained suppressed, likely thanks to his extreme fly ball rate.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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