- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports13 hrs ago
We’re in the home stretch and need to do something that seems on the surface very unsabermetric-like: look at the hot pitchers. Big numbers beating small numbers is a general rule. And chopping up samples within a season tends to be ill-advised. However, I do believe in the hot pitcher given that there are so many little things that, when set right, can generate big results. So the guys who have found their stride since the All-Star break only need to keep that muscle memory going for us for five or six more weeks. But I will focus more on the best of our foundational stats, (Strikeouts-Walks) divided by Innings Pitched. You will see in the list below that our category stats (ERA and WHIP) track very neatly with it and Ks are a part of it. Wins? I don’t bother thinking about them and you should not either. We want ERA and WHIP to track closely with our foundational stat because then we can more reasonable speculate cheaply on the pitcher who is good in the key stat but unlucky in run prevention. Alternatively, we can also find guys who may be freely available because their full-season stats are masking their second-half turnaround. The minimums here are 35 innings pitched since the All-Star break with five starts, giving us 84 qualifiers. Here are the top 40 in (K-BB)/IP:
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports13 hrs ago
Let’s break down wide receivers like last year, using the same method of generally breaking ties in tiers and rounds in favor of the taller receiver. But first, a word about last week’s column and Johnny Manziel. It’s always good to get the first swing and a miss out of the way with something that doesn’t really matter. While I still do think Manziel will rank inside the top 12 at the QB position on a per-game basis, he was never a player who needed to be drafted in one-QB leagues. Clearly, the modern model is that these rookies should start right away. I don’t understand what the Browns are gaining here by benching him to start the season. So slide back that ETA to Week 5 after the Cleveland bye. Remember, Nick Foles didn’t start last year until Week 6. It’s a long season. Hoyer is a journeyman who sure seems like a total waste of time. He’s not a serious threat for extended playing time. And Cleveland should have released him when they signed Rex Grossman since Hoyer is a big distraction from what clearly is their future, one THEY chose I remind you. Why even sign Grossman, a total waste of a third QB spot, unless you were going to jettison Hoyer for a seventh-rounder? With that housekeeping out of the way, I again remind you that last year around this time, we noted the point probability of tall wide receivers is significantly higher than short wide receivers, even in PPR formats. It turned out that Wes Welker somehow became a red zone weapon (though an inefficient one on the Manning-scale, leading the team in targets and touchdowns but having the team’s lowest conversion rate). And I stipulate that, of course, Antonio Brown also was great. But the point about touchdowns remains. There were 10 receivers last year 5-foot-10 and under who started at least eight games and they totaled a TD every 13.4 receptions. Even Brown was 13.8. Kendall Wright, who I don’t understand drafting remotely at his ADP, had two TDs on 94 catches. Meanwhile Justin Hunter (6-foot-4, 4.44 40), who even with the summer breakout is going later, had four TDs last year on 18 catches. Conversely, there were 22 receivers 6-foot-3 or taller who started at least 8 games and they averaged a TD every 9.9 catches. Yes, this seems so obvious. But few seem to emphasize it and use height as a basis for ADP. PPR is not going to be much help either, as the taller group averaged five more catches than the smaller group. Taller receivers tend to carry higher ADPs and that’s obviously a factor in rostering players. I’m not saying to NEVER roster a small receiver. What I am saying is that when two receivers are in the same tier or carry an ADP that’s about the same round, always take the taller guy. So Alshon Jeffrey over Antonio Brown. Keenan Allen over Randall Cobb. Eric Decker
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports7 days ago
If there’s one thing I’d like all my readers to do, it’s stop focusing on BABIP. It’s not a very meaningful metric in our game, as I will happily illustrate again by focusing on the much more meaningful isolated slugging allowed (ISO, slugging average minus batting average). In other words, it's not the hit but the hit quality that matters. Think about it: BABIP focuses mostly on singles, the least important hits. Those are the ones that have the highest BABIP variance, meaning that they can be chalked up more to luck than skill. But singles don’t really hurt us (by hurting our pitchers) that badly. The bigger hits do and BABIP doesn’t even factor in homers. The pushback I’ve gotten on this has been fierce since I introduced the idea of using it in 2012 to explain why Johnny Cueto is so good at preventing runs regardless of how his BABIP varied. One of the arguments is that this is some sort of tautology. Yet the preseason focus with Cueto that year was that his BABIP would surely correct so forget that great 2011 ERA. Then it did but his ERA was still great and that’s where I came in. The other argument is from the hard-core stats guys who say that ISO takes so long to normalize and is thus impossible to predict. In other words, it merely describes good pitching but what comes tomorrow for pitchers who haven’t had YEARS to prove that they are great at ISO, who knows. And even if they have proven it, their ISO can still vary widely. I’m not writing a white paper here. Whether ISO correlation meets some quant standard is not important to me. It’s binary: is a pitcher good at it or bad at it? In other words, can we expect him to be above or below average — catch the ISO tailwind with ERA or have to pitch into its headwind? One of the arguments I counter with is that if ISO takes 600 innings to become reliable (or whatever the number is purported to be) than why are relievers predictably good or bad at it every year with only a fraction of those innings? Mariano Rivera’s excellent ISO was bettable, for example. How excellent Rivera’s ISO would be may have varied significantly, but it was never going to be bad. Let’s look at this year’s leaders in ISO allowed before continuing this defense:
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports15 days ago
Let’s kick off our Fantasy Football by the Numbers column by looking at the quarterback position. My working assumption here is that efficiency in generating fantasy points is more projectable than volume. That’s the bonus. So if you have the efficient scorer, he doesn't need a lot of volume. However, if he gets it, look out. Conversely, the inefficient scorers like Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck are very volume reliant, so what if they happen to play this year on better defensive teams? Our stat here of fantasy points per play counts pass attempts, sacks and rushing attempts as plays. And for points it uses standard scoring (point every 20 yards passing, every 10 yards rushing, 4 points per TD pass, 6 points per TD run and minus 2 points for every pick). This is nothing new. The numbers guys are all over this stat. But I have always used yards per pass attempt as a proxy for this scoring efficiency and have found it doesn’t matter even if the quarterback generates a lot of points via his running. YPA is more handy for us as a proxy for efficiency. But to test it, let’s lay that stat over the ranking of the efficient scorers at QB and see if I’m correct that YPA is the key to unlocking efficiency not just with yards but also with all facets of QB scoring, regardless of QB running volume.
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports15 days ago
After tackling wins prior to taking a vacation break last week , let me explain my season-long avoidance of the save category. Here’s the key takaway/complaint: through Sunday, the 59-win Braves have generated 15 more saves than the 67-win A’s. That’s why for all his WHIP and K/9 brilliance, Sean Doolittle owners are feeling a little ripped off. Since it’s human nature to think we can predict anything, we tend to seek in drafts and in in-season trades the closers on the teams that are most successful/likely to continue winning. But clearly win totals don’t correlate that well to save totals. It’s not just the A’s who are laggards. The 47-win Astros have only 18 saves. That’s 12 less than the Diamondbacks, who have won just two more games. I’ve charted up team wins per save. The league average is 1.90. But the range is 1.49 to 2.79.Fri, Aug 224:10 PM PDTAtlanta at CincinnatiPreview Game
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports28 days ago
Wins are fantasy baseball's most frustrating statistic. “Quality starts” is no solution. But finding some other benchmark isn't much better and seems downright arbitrary. Wins defenders argue that the answer is to pick pitchers on good teams and, if you don't, that's your fault. It's a clever rationalization, but the correlation between the quality of the team and the degree to which a pitcher gets screwed out of wins is weak. Also weak is the degree to which we can reasonably assess which teams are going to be good in March. Plus, when your ERA is 4.00 or less, you should win the majority of games given the league average in runs scored. Here are the pitchers with ERAs under 4.00 with at least 10 no-decisions plus losses. Thanks to the Baseball-Reference's indispensable play index for the stats (stats through Monday).
At the unofficial and annoyingly untrue “halfway mark” of the season (we’re not even close, fellas), let’s look at the top-rated fantasy dollar values of pitchers in 12-team, mixed leagues with $260 budgets. Thanks to LetsPlay2 for the calculations.
But before we list them, I note that I, of course, strive to project post-all-star break value with the help of the best tool in our stat toolbox: (K-BB)/IP. We’re interested in seeing which elite performers (the 37 pitchers who have thus far earned $11 or more) do not have foundational strikeout and walk dominance in line with their dollar values. But, of course, many surprising performers are structurally sound and therefore good bets to continue performing well.
Let me also note my general annoyance with analysis that says that a pitcher is a fluke just because he was projected to perform much worse. I need a reason why. “Fluke” can’t be the end of the sentence. And we know that most elite performers are going to regress whether we expected them to be good or not. So this is really non-analysis.
Generating swings and misses is a very important skill for pitchers, but clearly not the only important part of pitching. Some finesse guys consistently get away with having deficit when it comes to “stuff” and some dominators like Francisco Liriano struggle even when, like this year, they are actually the most unhittable pitcher in the majors by this measure.
When you combine raw stuff with elite control, you are Clayton Kershaw or Felix Hernandez or Masahiro Tanaka — one of the game’s true aces.
What we’re trying to do here is identify upside, meaning finding the pitchers who have dominating stuff — arguably the most important attribute. The ones who are generating empty swings without a commensurate ERA or WHIP are the pitchers who are capable of making sudden dramatic surges in value when they even temporarily (like Liriano in 2013) fix their other flaws (e.g., control).
We think of the all-star game separating the first and second half of the season but that line was basically drawn this past Sunday. So what better time to look at full calendar year stats to see which players have been consistent, one way or another, but just not over a time frame we typically measure.
Here are the June 29, 2013 to June 29, 2014 leaders in (K-BB)/IP with the ERA noted, too:
Here is the entire chart.
This is out of 87 pitchers who threw at least 162 innings in the period. All of these pitchers should, by their performance in strikeouts and walks, sport winning ERAs. But you can see the wide variance that seems to have no rhyme or reason.