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Pitching by the Numbers: K/BB in focus

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

Fantasy players would do best to just ignore the ratio stats and focus instead on K/BB rates, expecting that ratio will follow.

Fortunately for those that do not, K/BB and ratio are well correlated. But when the two do not seem to mesh, I put a lot more stock in K/BB. And I also believe that a pitcher's unexpectedly good WHIP is real when it's accompanied by a sudden surge in K/BB. Really, that goes for all unexpectedly good pitching performances. When the K/BB is at an elite level – approaching 3/1 or better – the category windfalls are much more likely to be lasting.

This year, the top 25 pitchers in K/BB ratio have an average WHIP of 1.15. That range is Brandon Morrow's(notes) 3.16 to Roy Halladay's(notes) sick 7.41. And if you take all the pitchers who qualify for an ERA title and have a K/BB under 2/1, the average WHIP is 1.44 (that's the average of all the WHIPs not the average of all the stats).

First, the charts. Then we'll on the outliers.

Best K/BB:

Name Team IP H H/9 BR WHIP K BB K/BB
Roy Halladay Phi 175.2 162 8.30 186 1.06 163 22 7.41
Dan Haren(notes) LAA 176.1 147 7.50 176 1.00 143 26 5.50
Cliff Lee(notes) Phi 172 153 8.01 190 1.10 177 34 5.21
Cole Hamels(notes) Phi 167 129 6.95 164 0.98 150 31 4.84
Justin Verlander(notes) Det 195 129 5.95 173 0.89 196 41 4.78
Jordan Zimmermann(notes) Was 145 137 8.50 167 1.15 113 26 4.35
Josh Tomlin(notes) Cle 147.2 136 8.29 158 1.07 79 19 4.16
Clayton Kershaw(notes) LAD 167.2 129 6.92 176 1.05 184 45 4.09
Madison Bumgarner(notes) SF 145.1 149 9.23 185 1.27 134 33 4.06
David Price(notes) TB 159.2 144 8.12 190 1.19 154 38 4.05
Jered Weaver(notes) LAA 176.2 127 6.47 167 0.95 150 39 3.85
Scott Baker(notes) Min 131.2 125 8.54 161 1.23 120 32 3.75
CC Sabathia(notes) NYY 182.2 162 7.98 213 1.17 168 46 3.65
Anibal Sanchez(notes) Fla 146.1 148 9.10 195 1.33 153 42 3.64
Daniel Hudson(notes) Ari 157.1 165 9.44 206 1.31 121 34 3.56
Ted Lilly(notes) LAD 137.2 141 9.22 178 1.30 106 30 3.53
James Shields(notes) TB 176.2 139 7.08 192 1.09 167 48 3.48
Jaime Garcia(notes) StL 147.2 153 9.33 192 1.30 125 38 3.29
Ian Kennedy(notes) Ari 163.1 138 7.60 187 1.15 137 42 3.26
Josh Beckett(notes) Bos 145 97 6.02 143 0.99 127 39 3.26
Bartolo Colon(notes) NYY 119.2 116 8.72 150 1.26 103 32 3.22
Jeff Karstens(notes) Pit 136 130 8.60 158 1.16 80 25 3.20
Ervin Santana(notes) LAA 165.1 147 8.00 194 1.18 137 43 3.19
Felix Hernandez(notes) Sea 179.1 156 7.83 217 1.21 174 55 3.16
Brandon Morrow Tor 119.2 108 8.12 158 1.33 139 44 3.16

Morrow, Garcia, Lilly, Hudson and Sanchez are really lagging in ratio. They should all be 1.15 or so, not 1.30-plus. This is huge when hundredths or even thousandths of a point in team WHIP can mean the difference in a standings point or two that determines whether you are an also-ran or a champion.

Of course, some such as Jordan Zimmermann have been very unlucky in translating that level of dominance to wins. But that's why your league should move from wins to quality starts, as we've noted in this space previously.

Sanchez has six wins plus a 4.00 ERA and is really looking like a fungible guy in the categories but I strongly caution against you viewing him that way in 2012 or even for the remainder of 2011. When something doesn't make sense, I do not expect it to correct the next season. I expect it to correct today.

Colon is obviously a risk given his age and the mysteries involving whatever voodoo was done to his arm during his year off. There's risk for him even this year, more than would be the case for a pitcher with that type of K/BB normally. I can't quantify why, precisely. But I feel it's prudent to tread carefully as the 2011 innings start piling up.

I'd draft Hudson as a No. 3 starter next year, for sure. Kennedy, too. Not that you'll have to. Ditto for Sanchez, of course. Can you see a K/BB-based "punt pitching early" strategy emerging even in leagues with innings caps?

Karstens seems completely random this year but look at that K/BB. There's not enough Ks to be useful in a standard Yahoo! format. But deep leaguers should always find a place for a National Leaguer in a pitcher's park who has walked 25 in 136 frames.

Here's the bad news, the lucky guys with bad K/BB. Really only two notables here:

Name Team IP H H/9 BR WHIP K BB K/BB
Jeremy Hellickson(notes) TB 130 100 6.92 150 1.15 86 48 1.79
Jhoulys Chacin(notes) Col 154 116 6.78 189 1.23 127 69 1.84
Dustin Moseley(notes) SD 120 117 8.78 155 1.29 64 36 1.78

All three rank between 87-93 in K/BB. But look at those WHIPs. They're anywhere from .15 to .30 better than they should be. Hellickson and probably Chacin will be drafted before Sanchez for sure. But not by me.

Michael Salfino writes and edits the SNYWhyGuys blog that projects player and team performance for New Yorkers. He's also a quantative sports analyst whose writing regularly appears in the Wall Street Journal.

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League type:
Free Yahoo League
League size:
10 players
Draft time:
Aug 28 9:00 am
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