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“The Mad Professor” SP 2018: Who’s Hot, Who’s Not and why it’s probably too early to tell…

The early returns are in.  Folks are proclaiming the breakout of Patrick Corbin, worrying about Kenley Jansen, Ken Giles and Brad Hand.  Meanwhile, Molly Ringwald is whining about the fact that 1980s humor does not resonate in 2018 (but is she returning any of her ill-gotten gains?  I think not.)  Lance McCullers is laying waste (but will he endure?).  Jamison Taillon is looking good. Hulka-Manaea is running wild in Oakland

And we still don’t have to pay our taxes for another week.  Life is good.  Spring is here.  Speculation is rampant.  Trade offers are a-floating as your otherwise loving, trustworthy colleagues and comrades look to sell high, steal low while hoping that they’ve mastered the Jedi mind trick or that you accidentally accept a poor offer in either an under-caffeinated or over-Jägermeistered state (Btw–Is “Jägermeister”  the German word for “mouthwash”?)

Moving right along…

I’m sticking to my guns and offering some additional data on pitching efficiency.  I’m drawing upon Fangraphs and making inferences where I can.  But, I do disclaim:  not much to infer until a month has passed.  Stay tuned.

Pitching Efficiency 2017 and 2018 (so far)

Last year, 274 pitchers threw 60 or more innings.  They averaged 16.5 PIP with a standard deviation of 0.9 PIP.  As I noted earlier in the year, Ivan Nova (14.3 PIP), Kershaw (14.4), Kluber (14.5) and Josh Tomlin and Alex Wood (14.8) led MLB SP in this department.  Also, I expressed concerns about Chris Sale who threw an extra NINE games’ worth of pitches last year.

In the first month of 2017, (Fangraphs has a March/April combined split), the average PIP—for everyone who pitched an inning or more—was 19.1.  Unfortunately, that includes some disastrous relief appearances with ERAs of infinity.  So, making a completely ad hoc decision, I made a cut at nine IP (that cut off allows us to include most quality closers).  This cut gets us a more useful 16.6 PIP with a standard deviation of 1.9 over the course of about 27 games+/-.  By the end of April, top SP had thrown around 40 IP +/-.

How are we looking so far in 2018?

Despite snow, we are about seven or nine games into the season right now.  By comparison, Manaea and Kluber have thrown 15 IP, Severino and Bauer have thrown 13, Kershaw has thrown 12 and Sale, mercifully, has thrown 11.1.  Rest easy Sox fans and Sale owners…  So, for government work, we are 25% of the way through the first month of games.

That’s still a puny amount of data and the PIP count is all over the map because some relievers have come in to pitch batting practice and have PIP ratios approaching I’ll make a cut of 3 IP or more (to prorate the data accordingly).  396 pitchers have stepped to the mound so far.  A three IP cutoff lets us look at 319.  That’s ok and gives us an average PIP of 17.3 with a standard deviation of 3.1 (meaning that this still includes some pitchers who could not get out of the gate).

Instead of trying to torture insufficient data and pretending to draw meaningful conclusions, I’ll look at a few pitchers who have been keeping the blogs and twitter accounts busy.

Sean Manaea (OAK).  So far, he is living up to the breakout hype.  He’s essentially matching Corey Kluber in IP (15), PIP (12.4), TBF, LD%, GB%, FB%, etc.  He pitched 160 innings the last two years.  He has the experience and the workload.  He’s a strong buy if he is still, somehow available.

Patrick Corbin (ARI).  Is it the humidor?  He has a PIP of 14.7, 20 K and a GB% of 60.  Those are ridiculous numbers. The league average GB% last year was 44.  For March/April 2017, it was 44.5.  GB outs are a beautiful thing.  But, he won’t keep this pace up.  When the line drives kick in, he is likely to see his PIP increase.  Still, he’s doing something right.  But, I think we have a sell-high candidate here.  I do like Corbin for 2018.  I don’t think he’s this good.  So, if you can sell him, reap the profits.

Jamison Taillon (PIT) threw 92 pitches in 5.1 innings.  That’s not even a QS.  Don’t bite or jump ship yet.

Max Scherzer (WAS).  Scherzer is a man among cherubs.  But, is something up?  He has thrown 210 pitches in 11 IP for a PIP of 19.  In 2017, he threw 525 over  33.2 IP for a PIP of  15.8.  Again, it’s early.  But he’s throwing a lot of pitches and a lot are going up.  His FB% right now is 60.7.   For 2017, it was 46.6 and in March/April last year, it was 53.8.  He would not be the first SP to need warm weather to keep going.  But, monitor this situation.  This might be the year to unload.

Chris Sale (BOS).  What the H-E double hockey sticks?  Last year, he threw 534 pitches in 33 IP through April for a PIP of 14.35.  He ended the season with 3,428 and a PIP of 16 over 214 IP. Through 11 IP, he’s thrown 185 pitches for a PIP of 16.8. I’m guessing that Sale, like Scherzer still needs time to hit his stride.  Another situation to watch.

Lance McCullers (HOU).    Uh…he looks unreal.  So does Corbin.  Through 10.1 IP, he has a PIP of 18 and a GB% of 70. Through 29 IP last April, he had a PIP of 16.3 and a 55 GB%.  He is in his own ballpark and showing the dominance that he has displayed throughout his career.  But, will he make it to 150 IP?

For those of you watching the Tampa Bay not-so-Satanic-Rays, there is good news and bad news.  So far, Chris Archer is keeping on pace to match last year’s PIP of 16.  But, the younger SP—Snell and Faria—are up at 19 and 30, respectively.  This is no big deal for a couple of young kids who need to get a first groove established.  You can’t get into your groove until you know what it is.  But, watch to see if they settle down by month’s end.  This is a talented young staff.  Nevertheless, it could be a bumpy early season for impatient owners.  Possible buy-low candidates here. They have only 14 IP between them.  So, you might take advantage of a panicky owner.

Through March/April 2017, the 47 SP with 30 or more IP averaged a PIP of 15.5 with a standard deviation of 1.3.  It’s only 9 April and we have three weeks to get to a meaningful point of comparison. Still, keep an eye on these trends and watch the SP who seem to be struggling with pitch counts and control.

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Major League Fantasy Football 2018 League Openings

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and John Gozzi live on Sunday April 8th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #113 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.

Our guest this week is Bryan Luhrs. Bryan is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com and is also the owner of Real Deal Dynasty Sports. Bryan’s articles publish every Thursday morning at 7am EST.

Unrepentant Red Sox fan and all things Boston. Deflategate was a joke. Boston Latin School is awesome. Harvard and Johns Hopkins alma maters... Besides that... Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law at Washington and Lee University. Wrote for Ron Shandler's Shandler Park for two summers and have been on board with MLFS since 2011. Been at Washington and Lee since 1990 with a brief hiatus (2010-2013) in the Middle East. Currently developing that last word in Fantasy Baseball analysis. Married to Flor, Dad to William and Alex, and adopted daughter Reem. Soon to be father and law to Meaghann. Alpha male to the world's super-pup, Humphrey. Life is not bad.

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