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“The Mad Professor” The Top 20 SP—Mother’s Day 2018

OK, campers.  We have now played FORTY GAMES.  Twenty five percent of 2018 is in the books.  How are those preseasons rankings stacking up and who has broken into (and maybe remained) in the top 20?  These rankings are drawn from Yahoo! Preseason and current rankings overall.  They comprise the top 20 SP as of 12 May.  In this analysis I show the actual overall rankings (that include batters) to give you a sense of these players’ overall as well as relative values.  The actual pitching data come from Fangraphs.

In Yahoo!’s preseason rankings, the following were the top 20 Starters:

Name Team pre current diff WAR
Kershaw LAD 5 111 -106 0.7
Scherzer WSH 9 9 0 2.6
Sale BOS 11 19 -8 1.9
Kluber CLE 14 27 -13 0.9
Syndergaard NYM 23 136 -113 1.2
Strasburg WSH 25 71 -46 1.1
deGrom NYM 30 55 -25 1.7
Verlander HOU 32 4 28 2.3
Carrasco CLE 37 120 -83 1.2
Severino NYY 39 31 8 2.1
Nola PHI 42 43 -1 1.7
Ray ARI 44 535 -491 0.9
Darvish CHC 45 739 -694 0
Martinez STL 47 51 -4 1
Quintana CWS 60 614 -554 0.3
Archer TAM 61 777 -716 0.6
Greinke ARI 62 175 -113 1.1
Keuchel HOU 66 244 -178 0.4
McCullers HOU 71 271 -200 1
Paxton SEA 73 106 -33 1.3

With regard to draft day (remember that?), there were no real surprises here. I include the difference in rankings and the current WAR just to give a compass to the discussion.  The current top 20 SP are:

Name Team Preseason Current Diff WAR
Verlander Hou 32 4 28 2.3
Cole HOU 79 6 73 2.8
Scherzer WAS 9 9 0 2.6
Sale BOS 11 19 -8 1.9
Kluber CLE 14 27 -13 0.9
Corbin ARI 215 28 187 1.3
Manaea OAK 260 29 231 1.1
Severino NYY 31 31 0 2.1
Morton HOU 195 38 157 1
Cueto SFO 139 42 97 0.9
Nola PHI 42 43 -1 1.7
Martinez STL 47 51 -4 1
Snell TAM 164 52 112 1.1
deGrom NYM 30 55 -25 1.7
Porcello BOS 255 64 191 1.8
Strasburg WAS 25 71 -46 1.1
Mikolas STL 287 84 203 0.8
Ryu LAD 361 87 274 0.6
Clevinger CLE 207 97 110 1.6
Roark WAS 252 101 151 0.5
Paxton SEA 73 106 -33 1.3

 

Clearly there are a few surprises here.  In some cases, they are not earthshaking.  Manaea, Clevinger and Corbin were preseason breakout candidates and are living up to their billing. Snell has solid stuff.  Mikolas was a bit of an unknown.  But, savvy folks said he had displayed the skills while in Japan.  To clear the air (and shorten the article), let’s get rid of the guys who were and still are the top SP.  They are:

Name WAR K/9 BB/9 BABIP HR/FB LD% GB% FB% PIP PBF Hard%
Scherzer 2.6 13.96 1.99 0.272 6.80% 16.50% 32.20% 51.30% 16.1 4.2 33.90%
Verlander 2.3 11.61 1.96 0.206 5.50% 14.80% 28.10% 57.00% 15.1 4.0 24.60%
Severino 2.1 10.7 2.04 0.258 4.90% 17.50% 50.00% 32.50% 14.9 3.9 26.20%
Sale 1.9 12.1 1.71 0.273 11.80% 18.80% 42.90% 38.30% 15.4 3.9 26.90%
deGrom 1.7 11.22 2.28 0.297 6.90% 26.00% 45.00% 29.00% 14.9 3.8 24.30%
Nola 1.7 8.03 1.88 0.250 5.30% 20.90% 50.70% 28.40% 14.5 3.8 22.50%
Paxton 1.3 12.65 3.59 0.286 10.20% 22.20% 32.40% 45.40% 17.2 4.1 32.70%
Strasburg 1.1 10.14 1.94 0.275 16.70% 23.60% 45.90% 30.60% 15.2 3.8 29.90%
Martinez 1 8.46 3.96 0.237 2.60% 18.00% 52.30% 29.70% 15.3 3.6 31.80%
Kluber 0.9 8.79 1.54 0.193 20.80% 20.90% 46.60% 32.40% 13.8 3.7 33.30%

To get a sense of where these guys are, here are the corresponding league stats:

K/9 BB/9 BABIP HR/FB LD% GB% FB% PIP PBF Hard%
9.8 3.28 0.266 10.80% 18.90% 44.70% 36.40% 16.6 4.1 31.80%

All these guys are outperforming league averages by significant margins.  Italicized stats indicate this (with the exception of FB and GB percentages because, frankly, the jury is out on how to measure them).  So, these guys are paying the dividends you expected.

 

Risers and Suprisers

Name Pre Now Diff WAR K/9 BB/9 BABIP LD% GB% FB% PIP PBF Hard%
Ryu 361 87 274 0.6 10.92 3.03 0.200 11.90% 56.70% 31.30% 15.96 4.05 35.30%
Manaea 260 29 231 1.1 7.32 1.14 0.186 21.10% 42.20% 36.70% 13.32 3.55 35.10%
Mikolas 287 84 203 0.8 6.75 0.58 0.257 22.90% 53.50% 23.60% 14.2 3.55 34.30%
Porcello 255 64 191 1.8 8.54 1.39 0.273 18.10% 49.30% 32.60% 15.41 3.85 30.30%
Corbin 215 28 187 1.3 11.82 2.29 0.217 21.60% 48.60% 29.70% 14.76 3.88 37.50%
Morton 195 38 157 1 11.47 3.14 0.231 17.40% 57.80% 24.80% 15.52 3.9 25.50%
Roark 252 101 151 0.5 7.89 2.81 0.220 20.10% 43.20% 36.70% 16.13 4.06 29.50%
Snell 164 52 112 1.1 9.25 2.59 0.229 19.80% 36.40% 43.80% 16.31 4.2 31.70%
Clevinger 207 97 110 1.6 7.43 2.36 0.277 17.70% 47.60% 34.70% 15.44 3.94 28.70%
Cueto 139 42 97 0.9 7.31 1.69 0.185 17.50% 45.00% 37.50% 14.91 4.08 25.60%
Cole 79 6 73 2.8 13.66 1.91 0.257 24.50% 30.20% 45.30% 14.52 3.92 34.30%

 

I’ve discussed Manaea and Corbin extensively.  Keep an eye on them and maybe sell high.  Those BABIPs are otherworldly.  Voros McCracken created the stat and will tell you that gravity and probability are tough taskmasters.  One thing to note is that both of these studs have higher than average hard hit percentages, along with higher than average LD%.  Corbin’s GB% is now regressing towards the mean.  But, he is still worth watching and maybe moving (ditto Manaea) before reality sets in.

Mikolas and Porcello continue to walk no one and are efficient in terms of PIP and PBF.  They aren’t wasting pitches or giving up free passes. What’s impressive is that Clevinger, Cueto, Morton and Roark have very low HH%.  They are clearly keeping batters off balance.  If any of these guys is still available, snap them up.

Duds…?

OK—When the likes of Clayton Kershaw are underperforming, we do need to take a closer look.  When you are #1, there is no place to go but down.  Still… The SP who have fallen farthest out of the preseason top 20 are:

Name pre now diff WAR K/9 BB/9 BABIP LD% GB% FB% PIP PBF Hard%
Archer 61 777 -716 0.60 8.89 2.56 0.331 22.60% 41.50% 35.80% 16.4 3.7 41.30%
Darvish 45 739 -694 0.00 11.1 4.8 0.316 24.70% 38.30% 37.00% 19.5 4.2 29.40%
Quintana 60 614 -554 0.30 7.85 4.42 0.302 21.50% 46.70% 31.80% 17.8 4.0 40.00%
Ray 44 535 -491 0.90 7.31 1.69 0.185 17.50% 45.00% 37.50% 14.9 4.1 25.60%
McCullers 71 271 -200 1.00 10.2 3.72 0.319 13.80% 62.10% 24.10% 16.8 4.1 31.00%
Keuchel 66 244 -178 0.40 6.53 2.47 0.25 17.60% 56.60% 25.80% 15.7 3.8 28.10%
Syndergaard 23 136 -113 1.20 10.4 1.93 0.336 24.80% 46.50% 28.70% 16.4 3.9 24.80%
Greinke 62 175 -113 1.10 9.8 1.11 0.291 19.40% 43.30% 37.30% 15.2 3.8 41.80%
Kershaw 5 111 -106 0.70 9.82 2.05 0.284 25.00% 45.00% 30.00% 15.4 3.7 29.30%
Carrasco 37 120 -83 1.20 9.11 1.89 0.276 23.70% 39.60% 36.70% 14.4 3.7 29.30%

 

Are these guys the victims of bad luck?  In funk?  Something worse? (As a side note, don’t you want to be in Houston’s situation?  Three SP are over producing and two have fallen from grace but are still OK… #seriously…)  To put these guys in perspective, let’s look at their last three years:

 

Name WAR K/9 BB/9 BABIP LD% GB% FB% PIP PBF Hard%
Archer 13.5 10.61 2.81 0.308 20.10% 45.00% 34.90% 16.67 3.97 35.30%
Darvish 6.3 10.73 2.98 0.289 21.80% 40.40% 37.80% 16.46 3.95 31.80%
Quintana 13.6 8.4 2.43 0.307 21.70% 44.20% 34.10% 16.39 3.95 31.40%
Ray 8.7 10.98 3.81 0.316 21.30% 42.80% 35.90% 17.63 4.10 37.80%
McCullers 8.8 10.16 3.56 0.325 19.90% 55.40% 24.60% 16.81 3.96 28.10%
Keuchel 11.5 7.87 2.41 0.274 17.90% 61.00% 21.10% 15.36 3.80 25.30%
Syndergaard 12.1 10.33 1.91 0.315 21.20% 49.40% 29.40% 15.92 3.92 26.50%
Greinke 14.2 8.57 1.88 0.269 18.90% 46.70% 34.40% 15.25 3.85 31.60%
Kershaw 20.3 10.83 1.39 0.27 20.90% 48.80% 30.30% 14.42 3.77 27.00%
Carrasco 14 9.97 2.07 0.298 20.60% 47.40% 32.00% 15.18 3.79 30.60%

 

Archer’s K rate is down, BABIP is up and his HH% is up.  If he is not whiffing you, it’s BP time.  On the other hand, his BB/9 is down, he is not wasting pitches (PIP and PBF) and his LD% is down.  He’s fallen far.  But, his skill set is stable or better in many respects.  He’s worth picking up from nervous owners.

Darvish is throwing a lot of pitches and giving out too many free passes.  But, he is also striking guys out and his LB/FB/GB splits are not far from his past three years.  Same for his HH%.  This strikes me as leftover fatigues from the 2017 postseason.  I would not hurry to pick him up unless you can get him at a serious discount.  The skills are still there.  Still…

McCullers has essentially the same line this year as in the last three years.

Quintana’s game is off.  Too many pitches, too many walks and he is getting hit hard.

Ray is a mystery.  K are down, but so are walks.  HH is down, BABIP is ridiculously low.  Go figure…

Keuchel, Greinke, Syndergaard and Carrasco are showing the same lines as usual.  The only real difference is that Greinke’s getting hit significantly harder this year than over the prior three.  Have no fear with these guys.

So, overall, we see some strong risers, some duds like Archer and Darvish who are not surprising, and several studs who, so far, are victims of bad luck.  The more important stuff here lies in maybe cutting deals with skittish owners.  With luck you can sell some overachievers or pick up some underachievers that will turn your team around by the All-Star Break.

 

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Major League Fantasy Football 2018 League Openings

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday May 13th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #120 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 Kevin Bzdek. Kevin is a writer and editor with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles publish every Friday morning and his focus is on bullpens.

 

 

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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