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Pitching by the Numbers: Recent risers

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

Let’s look again at hot pitchers whose stats in the last month of games are very good and who are generally available on the waiver wire.

We go back this time to June 20th to account for the All-Star break.

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Scott Kazmir has maintained control over the past month. (Getty)

I never would care about what hitters are doing the last month. But I care with pitchers. The reason is that small or fast changes can have a lasting impact on pitching performance. Developing a pitch, pitch sequencing, pitch frequency, mechanical adjustments, health, committing to pitching inside (which comes with confidence), velocity changes and even pitching from a different part of the rubber – all can have huge impacts. But, of course, as with hitters, a stretch of performance that’s much better than expected can merely be random (and often is). We take note of them, though, because they are more likely than hitters to sustain their upward trend at least through the end of the season. In the offseason, muscle memory can vanish once the regular routine of pitching is abandoned. Then, all bets are off.

I’ve sorted pitchers with at least one inning per team game from June 20th through July 25th by WHIP. But I note their other fantasy stats, too. I like WHIP because it’s more of a leading indicator of ERA and general performance. You just need to discount the connection between ERA and WHIP slightly for extreme fly ballers (add about a third of a run from what you’d expect from their ERA) or extreme ground ballers (subtract about that much). All have ownership rates under 50 percent (meaning they are available on the waiver wire in a majority of leagues). The ranking is where they rank among all pitchers, regardless of ownership rates, since June 20th in WHIP.

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I was a complete non-believer in Kazmir early in 2013 and then felt satisfied for a while when it appeared that I was right. But he’s hot again and it’s hard not to respect that level of excellence over 45 straight innings. His strikeout rate is not great, but won’t hurt you in any format. The question is whether the WHIP is remotely bettable (meaning likely to at least be better than mixed-league average for the balance of 2013). Ideally, you want a low ratio to be driven by a low walk rate because control gains are more lasting/less fluky than success in limiting hits. Kazmir hasn’t exactly turned into Cliff Lee. But his walk rate for those 45 innings is just 2.4/9 – quite good. Get him. I just dropped Erasmo Ramirez for him in a yearly league because Ramirez has been poor for about a month now, including the minors, and I fear arm woes may be to blame (especially for his uncharacteristic wildness).

Control is also the shocking thing about Archer. We figured high Ks and a lot of wildness with him. But he’s walked just 11 in those 39 innings. Tip your cap to Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey and get Archer if you still can. Yes, his K rate is low but he has a solid strikeout history as a prospect. Plus, the team is good.

Our preseason model touted Peralta. I said control would be the key for him, given his big fastball. His 15 walks in those 41-plus innings give me pause. So I’d go Archer over Peralta right now.

The K rate really stands out for Quintana. It’s much better than last year, but we expect 24-year-old pitchers to improve. When the K/9 is useful, a K/BB rate of 3/1 means an automatic add for me. It’s not quite there for the season but is, barely, in the more recent, smaller sample. I see an enticing developmental pattern here.

Moving over to the Red Sox, Doubront is also walking too many guys of late – 16 free passes in that smallish sample. I’ve written many times that the back-of-the-napkin assumption is an ERA in line with walk rate. In Doubront’s case, that’s 3.79, not terrible but you can do better on this list.

I pushed Santiago strongly back on Memorial Day, and continue to believe now. Innings are going to be an issue with him, but the White Sox do not seem to care too much about that. I think Santiago should be rostered now in all formats, given that very helpful K/9 and his dominating, left-handed stuff.

I’m more lukewarm on Turner, Chacin and Miley, who all are actually more widely owned. Turner and Chacin are too far below the mark we need for K/9. Miley is the best of those three and I can’t argue with you too much if you prefer him over Kazmir. But, remember, Miley is owned in three times as many leagues.

Here’s how I rank the group: Kazmir (short leash)/Miley, Santiago (I don’t worry too much about wins), Archer, Quintana (White Sox proving that pitching is a lot less than 75 percent of baseball), Doubront, Peralta, Turner (okay, I worry a little about wins) and Chacin.
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