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Pitching by the Numbers: A calendar year in review

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:

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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.

The takeaways are that Kluber is elite. So is Kazmir. Yes, the Teheran people can bash me now but the numbers I care about are now supporting a good ERA. So he no longer is a sell-high, but a hold. But if you sold him when I told you to, you got great value anyway because Teheran was good last year and highly regarded by everyone. So I don’t see any harm in this mistake. Teheran had an ADP of 100 in the preseason and was out-performing it when I said to sell. Hitters in the 90-100 range were Jose Altuve, Anthony Rizzo, Jose Abreu, Jonathan Lucroy, Desmond Jennings, Kyle Seager and Brandon Phillips. Why ever trade a pitcher straight up for another pitcher? That’s so transparently a macho/challenge trade. Try to be more subtle and at least make the deal a two-for-two.

Everyone should have an ERA of about 3.00 but the ones who are really high are Kennedy and Hughes. Of course, their circumstances are much better in 2014 than in 2013. Both are likely to be solid options in mixed leagues. I’d give deference to Kennedy because he’s pitching in the NL in San Diego but he’s also likely to soon be traded and his park/league obviously can’t get better.

Tyson Ross is the guy to own over Andrew Cashner even when both are healthy, clearly. And Ross is unlikely to be going anywhere. Cashner, I’m not so sure.

Here’s the bottom 25:

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Alvarez and Gee have great ERAs but I can’t see anyone reading this column at this point playing them in mixers given those K rates.

In deeper formats or in leagues with no innings caps, sure. Of course, Gee has to get healthy. I’m not going to discount that there is skill involved in their success. For example, Gee’s change up is a great pitch and could limit the degree of contact to the point where BABIP is likely to continue to be relatively low. But can you afford such a bad K profile? And low projectable BABIP certainly doesn’t mean as low as it’s been.

You know not to own these other guys. Maybe Buehrle is tempting since he’s been so valuable but we know what Buehrle is and he’s a middle-of-the-road AL-only starter, not a mixed-league asset. He’s fringe mixed at best.

Here are some other notables and their ranking in this stat: Tim Lincecum (33, a spot below Jeff Samardzija), Bartolo Colon (39, but not enough Ks), Garrett Richards (48, between Jonathon Niese and Jeff Weaver), Cashner (55), Doug Fister (56), my preseason favorite Justin Masterson (58) and Justin Verlander (60).

I have to sidebar Verlander here. Some astute players are still betting on him as a buy-low. But you know I am not one of them and was probably lower than anyone in the industry on Verlander heading into the season (19th/2nd-tier and I wish I was lower), based purely on this stat. (And of course there are a lot of misses in there with the hits because there is nothing harder in our game than projecting pitchers.)

“Verlander is controversial. He’s a first-tier guy pretty much for everyone. I’m not going to argue with you if you put him there and draft him more highly. He’s a Hall of Fame talent. But he’s lost some velocity and is getting right at the age (31) where most of the big-time power pitchers have to start transitioning a little into being more finesse-y. That walk total may be the first sign of the transition. He also had an injury-plagued offseason. I want to rank Verlander just low enough not to get him, though I do respect that he can still beat me.”

Today, I no longer respect that he can beat me. And I will argue with you if you think he can still be great. Again, as daring as this seemed at the time, it turned out to be WAY too optimistic. But it did accomplish the mission of avoiding Verlander.

There are very few power pitchers who remained dominant even through their early-30s. Bottom line, the market value on Verlander still seems to me to be higher than his expected stat value for the balance of 2014. That means that while you think you’re selling low, you’re not.

In the upcoming weeks, we’re going to move away from (K-BB)/IP and look at some other stats, I promise. But we’ll keep revisiting this as warranted because it is the best tool in the toolbox right now.

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