(Dave Andersen published a similar post for hitters in our Community section last week. Check it out here.)
I want to say something inspiring such as “it’s never too late to make a move,” but that’s patently untrue. In two of my leagues, it’s too late. Very, very too late. That kind of statement only applies to contenders.
Interpret it in a different context, however, and it carries some weight. If you play in a dynasty league, you can, and should, always make moves.
Major League Baseball has a bounty of young, electric pitching talent. A lot of that talent remains largely unowned, too, while other pitchers retain lofty ownership numbers because of their name recognition.
Below I listed three pitchers who are owned in fewer than 60, 40 and 20 percent of leagues. I did something like this before, but throughout it I also ridiculed Justin Verlander, who promptly began to pitch well thereafter. I will also compare each pitcher to another well-owned pitcher but strip their names from their stat lines.
Ownership percentages are pulled from Yahoo! leagues.
Hint: they’re both 25 or younger.
Both pitchers induce their fair share of ground balls, with Player 1 slightly more proficient at it than Player 2. Player 1 has the better ERA, but given his inflated 1.41 WHIP, he’s lucky it’s not quite a bit higher.
Player 2, on the other hand, strikes out far more hitters and has the excellent peripherals to back it up. His swinging strike rate (SwStr%), contact rate (Contact%) and chase rate (O-Swing%) rank 13th, 9th and 12th, respectively, of all starting pitchers who have thrown at least 80 innings. In other words, he ranks among the elite.
Eno Sarris highlighted Player 2’s slider here. Kiley McDaniel grades out the pitch as average with plus potential, but that potential may already be realized. McDaniel thinks the pitcher is already a starter of mid-rotation caliber.
Player 2 could very well be his team’s Opening Day starter for 2016. That doesn’t say much, given how gutted his team’s rotation is. But he could reasonably be a No.-2 for some other teams, too, if he keeps pitching this effectively.
Hint: they’re teammates.
They both excel at inducing ground balls and limiting hard contact, but Player 2 has notably better strikeout and walk rates. Yes, yes, there is a 77-point margin between their batting averages on balls in play (BABIPs).
Still, Player 2’s peripherals look excellent. His chase, swinging strike and contact rates ranks 2nd, 8th and 12th, respectively, among all starters with at least 60 innings. He shares company with Iglesias and, as we already know, Iglesias shares good company himself.
Meanwhile, it boggles my mind that Player 1 is still 87-percent owned. (Then again, I feel that way about all the Player 1’s discussed here.) He has probably experienced bad luck on balls in play, but his 3.67 xFIP doesn’t reflect any kind of special talent — and with the way young arms displaced the old lately, there’s no reason to believe he’ll sustain his relevance in standard mixed leagues.
As with Iglesias above, this Player 2 deserves universal ownership until the season’s end.
Unfortunately, I have to write these things at least the night before, as we start publishing content fairly early West Coast time. And last night Ross delivered an absolute clunker of a performance versus the Cardinals. I expected some struggles versus a few talented lefty hitters but not a complete loss of motor skills.
After walking only 11 batters through his first 11 starts, he walked six in fewer than three innings last night. His walk rate climbed to 6.1 percent, but, somewhat ironically, his peripherals stayed mostly the same because all he did was walk people.
My strong Joe Ross man crush remains intact. All pitchers have bad starts. This was an especially bad start, but most pitchers have those, too. I would still recommend him over guys like Phil Hughes (56 percent), Yovani Gallardo (51 percent) or Nathan Eovaldi (50 percent) any day. Same goes for Iglesias and, depending on the matchup, mystery man #3 below.
Hint: they’re both former top-40 prospects (on multiple occasions) born within a month of each other.
I can’t tell you definitively that one pitcher is better than the other. The table demonstrates how well they compare to each other. The table does not, however, depict rates of home runs allowed: 1.34 HR/9 for Player 1, 1.35 HR/9 for Player 2.
Alas, these pitchers, both of whom struggle with the long ball, are not ideal candidates to maintain low ERAs. Nor do they rank among the elite in limiting baserunners.
Player 2 does induce more ground balls and allow less hard contact than Player 1, though, which may help explain, in part, why Player 2’s BABIP remains suppressed. Moreover, Player 2 walks fewer hitters — a great sign for someone whose calling card in the Minor Leagues was control.
At this point, I would recommend Player 2 over Player 1, but realistically, they barely differ from each other. Their ownership rates are inexplicably different, though, and that’s the fundamental point: if you think Player 1 is worth owning, then Player 2 is worth owning, too.