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Pitching by the Numbers: Eliminating April

It’s very dangerous to break up seasons into smaller samples. It’s also unfair to break careers into smaller seasons. But this time of year I think it’s very useful to eliminate April from the calculations to give the pitchers and the stats that matter to us a fresh look.

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Mike Leake requires a leap of faith. (USAT)

April makes such an impression on us because we wait so long for the season to start. When our players get out of the box really slow (or really quick), it alters our view of them so dramatically that we need a June reset.

I’m not looking to erase full season stats – those generally should still be weighted more heavily because they are the bigger sample. But pitchers have a greater ability than hitters to transform, I believe, due to refining a pitch, sequencing pitches, pitching inside, having some kind of mental or mechanical breakthrough…. So with them, looking at smaller, more recent samples of data can highlight hurlers who have made unexpected gains. Of course, all of those things that can go right can go wrong, too, witness Tim Lincecum.

You had to pitch at least 33 innings since May 1 to qualify. We’re sorting by ERA but the other fantasy stats for starting pitchers are duly noted.

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Leake is a surprise. He was an elite college hurler with limited upside according to scouts. He did progress to the majors very quickly. The ERA is the big selling point with him and the WHIP doesn’t seem to support it. At 3.30/1.20 or so, will the K/9 play in mixed leagues? Marginally, I guess. But I see this as Leake's 90th percentile performance going forward in 2013.

Teheran was on our list last week of pitchers who had a much better swinging strike rate than K rate and then he goes out and fans 11. He’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher. But he has great outfield defense. That doesn’t help when the ball leaves the yard though.

Locke and Leake are the poor man’s Zimmermann. Teheran has far more upside in Ks, as we just witnessed. Cobb is 86% owned now but that should be 100%. We should take Feldman more seriously (49% owned) and that K rate will play, too. He’s at least in there with Locke and Leake and Zimmy. Holland’s WHIP is scary, but the K/9 is good. Of course, some of this is a function of facing more hitters, which is not good. I signed off on a trade this week from a follower on Twitter (@michaelsalfino) of Elvis Andrus for Holland.

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Look at all these sparkling ERAs. Remember back in the day when teams could hit? I miss those days. I hear it had something to do with magic pills.

Parker is back in the circle of trust. Last week, I traded Pedro Alvarez for him in a 20-team dynasty league (with 45 man rosters that drop to 28 every January). This year, you have to steeply discount all pitchers who can’t maintain a K/9 of at least 7.00, unless you are playing in a very deep league. Harvey has crashed back to earth with that 2.74/1.01/9.1 line. I guess the naysayers were right. Medlen, coming off a great start, is borderline now. Maybe he’s saving it up for August and September again.

Lackey is only 40% owned and that’s a crime. He had Tommy John surgery, which is not remotely a career killer. He actually may be better now (cue “Six Million Dollar Man” theme).

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Sanchez’s Ks are holding up ridiculously. Do we buy into Nolasco again? I’ll pass. Porcello should be owned. I liked him in March and then went on an apology tour in April and now it looks like I’m going to end up being wrong twice. He’s junked his slider for real this time, it seems. Remember, Porcello is only three months older than Harvey.

Andrew Cashner’s K rate is a big disappointment to me. But I continue to believe his stuff is so good that this will climb. He seems to be focusing more on his control (four walks in last 33 innings). In that Parker trade I made, I refused Santana to the point I walked away from the deal. And it wasn’t just dynasty concerns because I’m in first place. Santana to me is just a guy.

Jimenez? He’s 24% owned because of April and the last couple of years. I will forgive a lot of things for a 10.3 K/9 though, in innings-cap leagues especially. So, yeah, pick him up for nothing for sure. If you’re winning now or think you will, it’s too risky a move. But there is obviously great upside here if you’re in comeback mode.

Here’s the rest of the list through the top 100 ERA qualifiers:

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If the WHIP is okay, I don’t worry much about the ERA. So Bumgarner, Cain, Hamels and Bailey are okay, especially given their K/9. Hughes, though, gives up way too many homers to own anywhere. And put me down as concerned about Latos.
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