Pitching by the Numbers: Money makers

Jacob deGrom, a not-so-poor-man's Julio Teheran. (Getty)
Jacob deGrom, a not-so-poor-man's Julio Teheran. (Getty)

At the unofficial and annoyingly untrue “halfway mark” of the season (we’re not even close, fellas), let’s look at the top-rated fantasy dollar values of pitchers in 12-team, mixed leagues with $260 budgets. Thanks to LetsPlay2 for the calculations.

But before we list them, I note that I, of course, strive to project post-all-star break value with the help of the best tool in our stat toolbox: (K-BB)/IP. We’re interested in seeing which elite performers (the 37 pitchers who have thus far earned $11 or more) do not have foundational strikeout and walk dominance in line with their dollar values. But, of course, many surprising performers are structurally sound and therefore good bets to continue performing well.

Let me also note my general annoyance with analysis that says that a pitcher is a fluke just because he was projected to perform much worse. I need a reason why. “Fluke” can’t be the end of the sentence. And we know that most elite performers are going to regress whether we expected them to be good or not. So this is really non-analysis.

That brings us to Jacob deGrom, who’s come from nowhere to mixed-league relevance. He didn’t chart here, yet, so we’ll address him in a postscript.

Wins are a huge factor in the above calculations. And saves, too, but we know that wins are far less bettable. Eyeball these pitchers and separate those whose values are heavily win dominant. For example, Buehrle is helping you only in wins and ERA, two categories that are far more descriptive of past performance than predictive of future performance. (WHIP/walk rate and Ks fall into the latter category.) But while Scherzer’s wins at first glance seem to mask a ho-hum ERA and merely a decent WHIP, his (K-BB)/IP strongly indicate that both of those average categories should improve going forward in 2014. Simon does have a very helpful WHIP but I can’t bet on one that low given the subpar K rate and below average (K-BB)/IP.

I get that you don’t need me to tell you to fade Buehrle and Simon and to hold Scherzer. But how about this: I’d trade Simon in a second for Betances, who I predict will out-earn Simon after the break even with zero saves. Same for Alvarez and Buehrle, though I can’t imagine anyone being willing to trade Betances for Buehrle.

Sonny Gray has also been very win dependent with the ERA outpacing the WHIP and an okay but nothing great (K-BB)/IP of 0.52. I’d lock in those profits even in a challenge trade for another pitcher, like say Ross or Samardzija.

Wainwright should win a lot of games because his team is good when he’s pitching. But if you can get Richards and a better hitter for Wainwright and a weaker hitter, I’d do that in a second. Richards is not a fluke, clearly.

Hammel is another guy people fade. Look, I get regression. But, with foundational numbers like his, it’s more likely to happen to an extreme degree after the offseason reset rather than in-season when muscle memory is still working in the hurler’s favor.

I don’t get the sense that Kazmir is being slammed by most experts, who have taken to ignoring him as they are tired of being so radically wrong. Since no one is going to pay retail for those stats, hold Kazmir.

Look at Rodney, a deserving all-star. His ratio is too high, too. He was hated in March, though I did like him based on another stat, surplus Ks (Ks-IP).

The toughest call on this list is Beckett, who is very good but not elite in (K-BB)/IP. Basically, he’s Teheran. But of course, he’s old and has had injury issues. Doing nothing is doing something, remember. I’d trade Beckett if I had a believer. But I do not expect negative ERA and WHIP going forward (in the mixed-league context).

Let’s close with deGrom. Here’s my article in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal. When we put him through the grinder of this stat, he comes up at 0.60, about even with Teheran. I absolutely would trade Teheran for a hitter IF I could pick up deGrom for nothing first on the wire. I think deGrom has about a 35 percent chance to pitch as well or better than Teheran until he hits his reported innings cap of 185. Plus you get the hitter, of course. I’m not saying to cut Teheran or trade him for deGrom or even saying deGrom WILL be as good or better than Teheran. Do NOT put words in my mouth. And I know that I’ve been wrong on Teheran fading thus far (even though he was a sell when his category stats were great/valuable). But that WHIP is not supported by our stat. As for his ERA, think of it as the tail wagging the dog (which is WHIP). This is especially true given that Teheran is a fly-ball pitcher.

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