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With less than three weeks to go in the 2015 Fantasy baseball season, every decision takes on a greater importance for those vying for a championship.

Playoff time means every start and every at-bat could be the difference between advancing or planning for next year. Those in season long roto leagues must take immense care in understanding their positioning in each statistical category.

In last week’s Fantasy Lookout we talked about three hitters to fade over the final months of the season given their inflated BABIP. We also discussed three hitters to fade next year given a few alarming warning signs.

This week, starting pitchers take center stage. We will touch on a couple of hurlers who have posted second half numbers that seem to be aided by Lady Luck. We will then take a look at three pitchers who will be hard pressed to replicate their 2015 performance next year.

Without further ado, let’s get to it!

The Fantasy Lookout

Too God to be True

Starting pitchers should have sustainable success if they have a solid strikeout to walk ratio coupled with an impressive batted ball profile. Luck can play a role too, especially in small sample sizes; however, it is unwise to assume the presence of luck on a sustained basis.

In the chart below, we show second half data on two starters along with the league average, over a variety of statistics. These pitchers have posted an ERA and WHIP that are not in line with their other peripherals.

ERA WHIP K-BB% LOB% BABIP LD% GB/FB HR/FB Soft% Hard% SwStr%
League average 4.36 1.32 12.2% 71.7% .300 21.1% 1.32 12.5% 18.0% 29.2% 9.2%
Marco Estrada 3.03 0.98 9.4% 87.0% .185 13.4% 0.50 10.3% 22.3% 29.8% 9.0%
Mike Leake 3.03 0.99 10.5% 77.5% .236 21.7% 1.61 11.1% 16.1% 34.4% 6.4%

 

Marco Estrada, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

Marco Estrada has been a good story so far this year, especially when you consider that he didn’t even begin the year in the starting rotation. Since the All-Star Break, Estrada has been extremely lucky. His ERA and WHIP have been temporarily suppressed by a sub .200 BABIP which ranks lowest among qualified starters and a near 90% LOB% which ranks as the third highest. His league low line drive rate combined with his 10th ranked soft hit rate explains a portion of his minuscule BABIP. In the past, he has been able to post a solid K-BB% given his career rate is just shy of 15%; however, he is posting a rate under 10% since the Midsummer’s Classic. Estrada’s good fortune should not be expected to continue and a blowup or two could be on the horizon.

Mike Leake, SP San Francisco Giants

Since the All-Star Game, Mike Leake has been worse than the league average pitcher aside from his ERA and WHIP. He has allowed a higher hard hit, higher line drive rate, and a lower soft hit rate. The batted ball profile makes his .236 BABIP even more puzzling. Leake also does not miss many bats; he has the fifth lowest swinging strike rate among qualified starters in the second half. I would avoid Leake over the remainder of the season and I struggle to see how he will help a Fantasy owner.

Marco Estrada and Mike Leake have caught all the breaks in the second half. Their numbers seem too good to be true. Their peripherals seem more consistent with an ERA above 4.00 and a WHIP greater than 1.25, which is a far cry from what they have posted so far.

 

Pitchers to Fade in 2016

It is never too early to start thinking about next year, especially if you are on the outside looking in when it comes to your Fantasy playoffs.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, certain things just fall into place for a player over a given season. This could be due to skill, training, and even luck. The likelihood of repeating these successes can be determined by analyzing the supporting statistics.

For the following three players, the analysis suggests that 2016 will not be as pretty as 2015. Each of these three starting pitchers ranks within the Top 35 among all starters according to Yahoo. Next year, they will probably all be outside of the Top 60.

Hector Santiago, SP, Los Angeles Angels

ERA WHIP K/9 K-BB% LOB% BABIP LD% GB/FB HR/FB Soft% Hard% SwStr%
2015 3.21 1.22 8.06 12.3% 82.7% .251 17.2% 0.58 9.6% 15.1% 32.6% 8.4%
Career 3.43 1.31 8.25 11.1% 79.1% .271 18.9% 0.70 9.4% 16.5% 30.2% 8.0%

 

Hector Santiago, on the surface, had an impressive year so far. When you look under the hood, a few red flags pop out. He has posted the fourth lowest BABIP among all qualified starting pitchers. His league leading fly ball rate and fifth lowest line drive rate partially explain the BABIP. However, since Santiago has the sixth highest hard hit rate and third lowest soft hit rate, a repeat of his BABIP seems unlikely next year. Also, Santiago lays claim to the league’s second highest LOB%, thanks to his fourth best batting average allowed with runners in scoring position of .174. As his BABIP and LOB% normalize next year, Santiago’s ERA and WHIP will look a whole lot less attractive.

John Lackey, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

ERA WHIP K/9 K-BB% LOB% BABIP LD% GB/FB HR/FB Soft% Hard% SwStr%
2015 2.89 1.23 6.95 12.5% 81.1% .294 20.3% 1.30 9.0% 17.9% 30.7% 9.4%
Career 3.94 1.32 7.10 11.8% 72.7% .305 20.7% 1.23 9.6% 15.3% 27.5% 8.9%

 

John Lackey has been one of the best bargains in 2015 since his salary is a shade over $500,000 thanks to a clause in his previous contract. For the most part, Lackey’s peripherals in 2015 look similar to his career numbers, except when it comes to his LOB%. His career high strand rate is the main reason his ERA is under 3.00. This has been aided by his .210 batting average allowed with runners in scoring position, which seems unsustainable given his career mark of .253. Lackey’s ERA and to some extent his WHIP should head north toward his career averages next year as his prowess with runners in scoring position wanes and his LOB% regresses.

Jaime Garcia, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

ERA WHIP K/9 K-BB% LOB% BABIP LD% GB/FB HR/FB Soft% Hard% SwStr%
2015 2.33 1.01 6.47 12.3% 77.2% .254 16.4% 2.97 6.3% 20.5% 25.7% 8.3%
Career 3.32 1.26 7.09 12.1% 71.4% .300 18.3% 2.23 9.6% 19.4% 26.6% 10.3%

 

This year, Jamie Garcia, who has been plagued by injuries over his career, has thrown over 100 innings in a season for the first time since 2012. He has been stellar in 2015, posting a quality start in 13 of his 16 starts this year. Garcia has upped his worm burner ways and has also continued to produce a solid batted ball profile, with his figures in 2015 even more remarkable than his great career numbers.

Things are not all rainbows and unicorns as Garcia’s career low swinging strike rate has produced a career low K/9 mark. More importantly, Garcia has appeared to be quite lucky given that he has recorded the sixth lowest BABIP among starters with at least 100 innings. His unsustainable .254 BABIP this year happens to be nearly 50 points lower than his career average of .300. As more batted balls find holes in 2016, Garcia’s ERA and WHIP will head higher.

Sometimes things may be too good to be true and proper analysis will help determine the sustainability of certain trends. Look at the bigger picture and do not fall into the recency bias and rely on these three starting pitchers in 2016. Until next week’s Fantasy Lookout, enjoy the games!

Data courtesy of www.espn.com and www.fangraphs.com

 

 

 

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