Michael Salfino

  • Pitching by the Numbers: Luckiest and unluckiest fantasy starters

    Michael Salfino at Special to Yahoo Sports 2 days ago

    We’re told that batting average allowed is largely luck, making so much bottom-line pitching performance (ERA and WHIP) largely random. This is depressing. But the solution isn’t to curse that our faults lie in the stars but rather to strive to better isolate luck by cross-checking batting average against contact type.

    We use well-hit data here from Inside Edge, where scouts review each batted ball for whether, to their eyes, it was well struck. Balls out of play — homers — are counted as they should be as well-hit. Grounders are assessed. Not all line drives are well hit. Strikeouts count because the stat is tethered to at bats. The MLB well-hit average this year is .134, meaning that pitchers allow batters to hit the ball well 13.4 percent of the time.

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  • Pitching by the Numbers: Fantasy Baseball's most dominant relievers

    Michael Salfino at Special to Yahoo Sports 9 days ago

    We’re going to focus on relievers this week in Pitching by the Numbers, using a combination of obvious run prevention and less obvious dominance and control — irrespective of saves.

    But first a statistical analysis of Matt Harvey focusing on the central question of whether the game’s most disappointing pitcher to date is a buy-low candidate. 

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    Let’s start with FIP, where his ERA now sits at an expected 3.66. His actual ERA of 5.77 is driven by an absurd .390 BABIP. While line-drive stats say this is earned given that clocks in at 34 percent, I’m not a fan of this stat. There are many soft line drives.

    Hector Rondon not having save opportunities is a fluke. He’s arguably the best closer after Aroldis Chapman, who is just the master of our surplus K stat. Craig Kimbrel is worth way more than the conventional metrics that so heavily weigh his completely non-predictive ERA. While Mychal Givens is looking very closer worthy, his path is blocked by the solid Zach Britton. 

  • Pitching by the Numbers: Judging starters by their fastball

    Michael Salfino at Special to Yahoo Sports 16 days ago

    The No. 1 criteria upon which to judge a starting pitcher is his No. 1 — the fastball. Is it a pitch that hitters can sit on since on average this year starters throw it about 55 percent of the time? Or can it vex them even when they guess right?

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    So this week let’s put fastball pitching performance under the microscope with our friends at Inside Edge. The criteria was that you had to throw 300 fastballs thus far, which would seemingly eliminate all non-starters. But Scott Feldman snuck onto the list even though he’s recently shifted into the bullpen. Carlos Torres is also a reliever so ignore him, too. The relievers remember are facing batters one time mostly and can just max out. Also note that the league averages are a .228 well-hit rate on fastballs and 15.9 percent miss rate on fastball swings. 

    Jon Lester has been incredible and I was not on board in March. I see no reason to be skeptical now. Who cares about holding on runners when no one runs anymore? 

  • Pitching by the Numbers: Luckiest and unluckiest starters

    Michael Salfino at Special to Yahoo Sports 22 days ago

    In this week’s edition, we’re looking at walks and strikeouts. The latter has already stabilized and as the former is about to, given you only need 170 batters faced for walk rate, according to Fangraphs.

    The formula I’ve been using here for years is slightly different because it came about before K%-BB%. Mine is (K-BB)/IP. I have no problem with the K%-BB% except that it’s harder to track in a game because we typically don’t know exactly how many batters a pitcher has faced. 

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    These stats are through Tuesday’s action. We’re going to make them through Wednesday starting next week. Make sure you check for subsequent starts before making any moves with the players referenced. Note that the MLB average in (K-BB)/IP is 0.56, meaning 0.56 more strikeouts than walks per inning for a typical starting pitcher. That’s the bar to clear.

  • Pitching by the Numbers: Examining dominance of fantasy starters

    Michael Salfino at Special to Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    Let’s take an early season look at dominance with the help of our friends at Inside Edge. These are the pitchers entering Wednesday’s action who had an A-minus or better overall grade based on three statistical categories: 1-2-3 innings as a percentage of complete innings, strikeouts in four pitches or less and swinging strike rate. All are graded based on the league averages. The numerical grade is based on a 100-point scale in the chart below.

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    Again the point here isn’t to go out and get these ungettable pitchers who everyone knows are great. Rather, note the lesser names who are keeping such elite company. And this is also a check against overreacting too much to highly volatile and statistically insignificant (at this point of the season) ERA. If your pitcher is bad in ERA but good in our dominance metric, you should just relax and hold him.

    Just ignore all Rockies pitchers, who pitch on the moon half the time. 

  • Pitching by the Numbers: Ross is boss of weak contact

    Michael Salfino at Special to Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    We’re transitioning to 2016 stats only this week in Pitching by the Numbers with a look at well-hit averages (of at bats) from our friends at Inside Edge. Small sample caveats obviously apply. But then how do we view these leaders in being toughest to hit thus far?

    I would view it exactly like I would view anyone who at this point has great fantasy pitching stats. It means they are healthy and sharp. It’s bullish for their prospects going forward. If the pitchers in question have good fantasy stats, this is solid support that these stats are real. And if they are struggling to any degree in our fantasy averages (ERA and WHIP), this POSSIBLY supports the notion that a turnaround is bettable.

    As is going to be the case here every week, the chart is a couple of days behind the writing of this piece but I will update as needed.

    Joe Ross was our Pitching by the Numbers poster boy this draft season, I’m currently proud to say and has moved up to the top spot entering Friday. But he’s still tightly grouped with Jaime Garcia and Vincent Velasquez.

  • Pitching by the Numbers: Method for finding undervalued starters

    Michael Salfino at Special to Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    Strikeouts are a pitcher’s best friend. They leave little to chance. But the next best attribute a pitcher can have in run prevention is a high ground-ball rate. So in our last column that focuses primarily on last year’s stats (though 2016 stats are also included), let’s combine the two rates into one number and see who the leaders are in K percentage plus GB percentage.

    We’re doing things a little different, something not unusual in this space. These numbers have been combined before with a threshold of 75 percent or so being elite. However, the K percentage is based on batters faced while the GB percentage commonly is based on ground balls as a percentage of balls in play. In other words, apples and oranges.

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    So when you see Tyson Ross at 87 percent by that metric, you instinctively think that 87 percent of the batters Ross faces either strikeout or hit a ground ball. But that is false. That 87 percent doesn’t mean anything besides adding up two percentages that have no common denominator.

  • Pitching by the Numbers: Examining dominance of starters

    Michael Salfino at Special to Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    I get accused fairly all the time in this space of being strikeout obsessed. And if you’re going to be obsessed about anything in pitching, it definitely should be that. But this week as we still wait for 2016 numbers to have any weight, let’s look more broadly at dominance with the help of our friends at Major League Baseball stat provider Inside Edge.

    They track three stats relative to league average in their “dominance” category in their individual pitching report cards. Dominance then as a whole receives a numerical grade on a scale of 1-to-100. The stats are: 1) percentage of outs that are strikeouts on four pitches or less, 2) 1-2-3 innings as a percentage of completed innings, 3) swing and miss percentage of strikes.

    So let’s pull all starting pitches who threw at least 800 pitches last year and who in these stats pulled an overall dominance grade of at least 88 — meaning they were B-plus or better in dominance. Note there are only 19 pitchers who made the grade, led by four who scored exactly 94 cumulatively: Jacob deGrom, Corey Kluber, Jake Arrieta and Joe Ross.

    Travis Wood should not be on this list given how many of those pitches were as a reliever. Ignore him.

  • Pitching by the Numbers: Score draft deals by focusing on velocity

    Michael Salfino at Special to Yahoo Sports 2 mths ago

    Pitchers are throwing harder than ever. And though there are many exceptions to the rule that velocity really matters, with some flamethrowers consistently disappointing while select soft tossers manage to flummox hitters with the subtleties of their craft, that doesn’t disprove anything.

    Bottom line, last year, starting pitchers whose fastballs averaged over 94 miles per hour in starts allowed a .683 OPS while all of those under 94 mph on average allowed hitters to rake to the tune of .741 — an 8.5 percent increase.

    Based on historical data across both leagues, a .683 OPS allowed by the flamethrowers typically translates into a 3.50 ERA while the .741 allowed by everyone else works out to about 4.12. Oh, and don’t forget strikeouts — 23.3 percent for the high velocity and 18.8 for all others. (Note that these numbers are for the pitchers on all pitches, not just fastballs.)

    So let’s whittle this down. Verlander and Colon are the best examples of this approach and Colon originally popped in 1998 at age 25. Verlander was even younger in 2007.

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  • Strikeouts key to finding closer value

    Michael Salfino at Special to Yahoo Sports 2 mths ago

    We rank our closers incorrectly. Projecting saves for guys who have the job is a fool’s errand because there is a poor correlation between team wins and team saves.

    Consider that last year, the AL East champion Blue Jays, winner of 93 games, ranked 27th with 40 wins of three runs or less. The Phillies who led the majors in losses with 99 had 42 of these wins that broadly met the save criteria.

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    By looking only at the projected strikeouts that exceed the innings pitched, the goal is to transform as many innings for my starters as possible; for every K over IP, you earn a boost of a K/9 for nine innings. This adds up fast. And if done correctly, it can turn a fantasy staff near average in strikeout efficiency to one that’s good.