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Pitching by the Numbers: Audit, 2013

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

Let’s audit the 2013 Pitching by the Numbers in our last column until 2014. This will be The Good, the Bad and the Ugly when it comes to Touts from March through May. Grade me yourself in the comments. And expect this ratio of hits to misses if you follow my statistical-based pitching advice here or on Twitter (@michaelsalfino).

The Good

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Buying into Matt Harvey's small sample size leading into '13 paid off for fantasy owners. (USAT)

“I also drafted Matt Harvey (132nd) where some might say he was a reach but where my model says he could be the steal of the draft. Of course, we have to discount for the small sample, but it’s the only sample we have. Harvey averaged 94.7 on his fastball and has one of the most devastating changeups in baseball.” (March 15)

“Look where Matt Moore is versus Harvey (top 20) and note that Moore goes 60 or 70 picks earlier. I do agree that there is a good chance Moore will improve but people are paying like it’s a guarantee.” (March 25)

“Why does everyone love Dan Haren to bounce back, especially considering he’s throwing in the mid-80s this spring.” (March 25)

“Dillon Gee, I have to say, makes so many of my lists in positive ways. I know he was hammered, as usual, by the Phillies in his last start. But you can at least stream his home starts plus starts against weaker hitting teams. So much data says really loudly that Gee should be widely owned.” (April 12)

“And we can also see why you can’t assume that Madison Bumgarner’s BABIP will regress toward the typical .300 mark (though BABIP league-wide was down in 2012).” (April 6)

“Phil Hughes was off my lists even when he was healthy...” (March 25)

“For A.J. Burnett, you should be buoyed by his ability to limit liners but chastened by his sloppiness. That’s precisely why he’s such a tease.” (April 6)

“(Yovani Gallardo’s) walk rate is always the thing that holds him back from becoming elite. Maybe here we have the reason why that will never permanently change. When you can’t get hitters to swing and miss at non-strikes, you have to expand the zone even more – which makes the hitters even less likely to swing and more likely to walk.” (April 12)

Justin Verlander’s K/9 is down and his walks are up. Couple that with the extreme decline in velocity and you have to at least be wary. I’m not saying to trade Verlander. But he’s not holding it back for the big moments in games. His peak velocity this year is lower than ever, too.” (April 18)

“The problem is figuring out when his loss of velocity reaches a tipping point that fundamentally alters his statistical profile. I believe we’re getting perilously close to that. Thus, for me, CC Sabathia is a strong sell.” (April 18)

“On the plus side, we have James Shields, who I thought was going to be a big, fat bust this year removed from the Rays defensive-positioning, BABIP magic. Whoops! His 20 Ks against only three walks through April 17 suggests his ERA should be in the low 3.00s or better. And his spike in velocity suggests this level of excellence is sustainable given his outstanding changeup. Buy Shields.” (April 18)

“Bartolo Colon is only 22 percent owned and that should be much higher despite the low K/9. His ERA and WHIP are likely to help you.” (April 26)

“I didn’t believe as fully as I should in Mike Minor’s second-half surge. He’s a legit mixed-league foundation starter now, I believe, though ideally he’d strike out about a half batter more per nine innings.” (April 26)

“Kris Medlen is 64th overall and 91st in K/9. We have to wonder if his 2012 was a fluke. His velocity isn’t much different but was never good and his secondary offerings are now being pounded. I don’t like curveball-dominant pitchers because umps don’t call them strikes as much as they should (they call them high).” (April 26)

The Bad

“Josh Johnson’s velocity is way down (about two MPH from peak) and he’s coming off a disappointing season. So there is risk here and thus a need to not draft his model ranking, but Johnson is still a value near his current ADP of 120.” (March 15)

“You want to move him up if you believe his knuckler was evidence of long-practiced mastery – as I do – and not some fluke. I confidently would draft R.A. Dickey top 10 among starting pitchers.” (March 15)

“Shields gets over-drafted almost everywhere. I don’t trust pitchers when they leave the Rays and that BABIP magic due to defensive positioning. Expect Shields’s ERA in KC to be 4.00ish.” (March 25)

“Tom Wilhelmsen is a closer I don’t trust on the surface because his strikeouts are so low. But his velocity is stable (96.3 mph) and his swinging strike rate hasn’t cratered. Okay, I’ve talked myself out of it. Hold Wilhelmsen.” (May 24)

"A.J. Griffin and Erasmo Ramirez are two more small-sample-size guys. I love them both, but prefer Ramirez who I guarantee will be a mixed-league asset this year with his low-to-mid 90s fastball and one of the best changeups in baseball." (March 15)

The Ugly

“Andy Pettitte isn’t going to pitch more than 150 innings, but he should be on a roster for all of them in all formats.” (March 15)

“I get questions all the time about Jarrod Parker, who I once really liked. But he’s 105th out of 112 qualifiers. He can’t be active now in mixed leagues.” (April 26)

“Max Scherzer is a fly-ball pitcher who is hurt worse than average on the hits he does allow. So even if the BABIP normalizes from .337 to about .300, his ERA will not correct commensurate to that BABIP drop because the improvement is going to come mostly in the least harmful hits - singles.” (March 15)

“Brandon Morrow should not be going about 30 spots after Scherzer, as is the case generally.” (March 15)

“That ERA and K/BB knocks Francisco Liriano out of consideration for me.” (March 15)
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