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SP observations through 21 April 2018 from the MadProf.

Hi sports fans.  I’m back from a brief hiatus in the auld sod where I did some good work and had a proper Guinness in a proper pub.  As your gentle scribe scribbles, he notes that we are now just past the 10% point of the season.  Teams have played about 20 games.  The weather is feeling more like baseball weather.  Not too soon to hang those Christmas lights!

And let’s all pause a minute to note the passing of Bruno Sammartino at 82.


Next week we’ll be able to look at a whole month’s worth of data.  Today, I look at some of the more notable performances (good and bad) thus far and offer some thoughts.   This table offers league averages (as of 21 April) and standard deviations for: Total Batters Faced, Pitches thrown, Pitches per IP, Pitches per Batter Faced, and percentages for LD, GB, FB and Swinging Strikes.  These are all defense independent and are good indicators of how a pitcher is controlling his own destiny.  They include all 207 pitchers who have thrown at least 10 IP and therefore are a little broad because they include stud closers as well as dud SP. (All data from our friends at Fangraphs).


League Pitching Stats as of 21 April 2018

  TBF Pitches PIP PBF LD% GB% FB% SwK%
AVG 75.1 293.1 16.8 3.9 20.1% 44.1% 35.7% 10.4%
SD 24.4 93.8 1.9 0.3 7.1% 10.4% 10.6% 3.1%

 Some additional background data:  the MLB BABIP is 0.291 (for this sample of 207 pitchers, BABIP is 0.229 with a standard deviation of 0.07).  Overall the ratio of SP IP to RP IP is just about [60:40] (30[31:20]41).  For what it’s worth, that manifests the continuing downward trend in the percentage of IP thrown by SP.  I noted this in my last couple of columns.


Downward trend in SP IP

Season SP IP%
2014 0.67
2015 0.65
2016 0.63
2017 0.62
2018 0.60

Moving right along, what have I noticed 10% of the way through 2018?

Patrick Corbin may be for real.  He continues to be off the charts.  This is breakout stuff unless he falls back to earth.  Several of the MLFS pegged Corbin as a breakout candidate.  Not to pat ourselves on the back:  we also had Charlie Morton pegged as ballast.  Oops.  Numbers for both so far:

Name IP K/9 BB/9 BABIP TBF Pitches PIP PBF LD% GB% FB% SwStr%
Patrick Corbin 27.1 12.18 1.65 0.214 100 380 14.0 3.8 15.80% 56.10% 28.10% 17.90%
Charlie Morton 25 11.88 2.16 0.250 99 384 15.4 3.9 15.50% 60.30% 24.10% 15.90%


Note a couple of things.   First, we must give credit where credit is due.  These guys are dealing.  They were also probably drafted pretty late or cheap.  But, the GB and SwK percentages are not sustainable unless these guys are the new X-men.  They are way over the league averages of 44.1 and 10.4, respectively.  In case you are wondering, both stats are pretty much bell-shaped.  Both are essentially two standard deviations above the league average for SwK.  Granted, someone has to be up there.  But, these are astronomical numbers.  Plan for a regression—especially for Corbin.  His BABIP is ridiculously low.  Granted, it corresponds with his high GB%.  But, still…


Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer  have very comparable lines so far.  What’s up?

Name IP K/9 BB/9 BABIP TBF Pitches PIP PBF LD% GB% FB% SwStr%
Dylan Bundy 31.2 11.37 2.56 0.321 129 489 15.7 3.8 19.20% 38.50% 42.30% 17.40%
Chris Archer 27.1 9.55 3.29 0.333 120 451 16.6 3.8 20.00% 46.30% 33.80% 14.00%


Archer’s K and BB rates are not as good as Bundy’s.  But, Archer’s putting more balls on the ground.  Both are solidly above the league average in SwK and BABIP.  Accordingly, I think we can expect both of these guys to improve a bit.  Their LD/GB/FB rates are essentially league average.  So we can infer that both are suffering from weak defenses.  So, Bundy is off to a hot start and Archer should be better.  See if you can buy him at a low price (see also the Wizard of Goz’s commentary on this).

For an interesting comparison, look no further than McCullers and Ohtani.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 BABIP TBF Pitches PIP PBF LD% GB% FB% SwStr%
Lance McCullers Jr. 21 14.57 4.71 0.372 91 379 18.0 4.2 17.40% 65.20% 17.40% 14.50%
Shohei Ohtani 15 11.4 2.4 0.188 57 249 16.6 4.4 26.50% 35.30% 38.20% 18.10%


McCullers is dealing despite a BABIP well above the league average—despite a correspondingly ridiculous GB%.   He’s for real this year.  But, he’s throwing a lot of pitches (not helped by his BB/9).  Let’s hope he avoids the injury bug.  Meanwhile, the Ohtani show is benefitting form a ridiculous BABIP of 0.188.  Kudos to the Angels’ defense.  But, this will normalize.  Granted, he’s missing bats at tremendous clip (Only Hader, Scherzer and Doolittle are ahead of him and he’s just ahead of Corbin).  So, his stuff is working.  He may benefit from the relatively reduced pitching load he is carrying.  Still, no one escapes the law of physics or the law of averages for long.  Sell him high.


In case you missed it or don’t live in Minnesota, Jose Berrios is for real.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 BABIP TBF Pitches PIP PBF LD% GB% FB% SwStr%
Jose Berrios 27.2 9.43 0.33 0.209 99 367 13.5 3.7 22.70% 42.40% 34.80% 10.60%
Kenta Maeda 14.1 15.07 3.14 0.513 69 279 19.8 4.0 30.80% 46.20% 23.10% 15.10%
Bud Norris 10.1 14.81 1.74 0.476 42 175 17.3 4.2 42.90% 23.80% 33.30% 15.40%


His line is essentially league average.  BUT HE IS NOT WALKING ANYONE.  He is benefitting from a low BABIP.  But, this skill set is undeniable.  Meanwhile, Maeda and Norris are getting batters to miss balls at outstanding clips—despite ridiculously high BABIPs.  They are doing it on their own.  When their defense shows up, they’ll be better.


On this note, Boston’s Rick Porcello is back into Cy Young form.  He’s walking no one (BB/9: 0.35) and he is not exactly dominating batters (SwK%: 8.09).  One thing to bear in mind:  Porcello dominated two years ago when he had tremendous run support.  The Bosox are currently airing it out.  If he can win a few tight contests, we’ll conclude that he’s for real.

That’s it for this week.  Next time I write I’ll be halfway through cataract surgery.  Till then…

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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