Part 1. Matt Garza and Other Pitchers Whose ERA/FIP Makes No Sense
I received a tweet last week asking me to address Matt Garza and other pitchers with ERA/FIP (E/F) differentials that appear, for lack of a better technical term, out of whack. Since, one, I love to honor requests and, two, I love to write about FIP/xFIP, here is a look at this week’s E/F differential leaders, both positive and negative (through Wednesday’s games):
I included a few other statistics to put the E/F differential into some context, as we are working with extraordinarily small sample sizes: 2010 E/F differential, K/9, K/BB, BABIP, LD% and Swinging Strikes.
FIP is really intuitive when you think about it, and, for the most part, the other statistics I put up support the conclusion that these pitchers are incredibly lucky or incredibly unlucky. I will not go through each pitcher individually, but there are a couple of things that jump out at me in the event any of these players are available in your league or you are thinking of trading for or trading away one of them.
Clay Buchholz. Buchholz was an FIP target during the off-season, with dire warnings of regression. Well, he’s doing it again, though this time with a 5.31 ERA. I think the most disturbing thing here is the two m/p/h loss of velocity on Buchholz’ fastball and the utter loss of control Buchholz has exhibited, both in and out of the strike zone. If you dig down, players are swinging at pitches outside the zone a lot less often, and are punishing pitches inside the zone. There is a lot of reason to be concerned about Buchholz.
Alexi Ogando. You do not need me to tell you that Ogando’s numbers are not sustainable. In fact, you really do not need E/F to tell you that either. A .130 BABIP with a 24.6% line-drive rate will not last. Ogando has the stuff to be a good starter for awhile in this league, but he is due to get knocked around soon.
Matt Garza. If you just look at the K/9 and K/BB, you would never guess that Garza is sporting a 4.74 ERA. This is particularly impressive since he has not yet given up a homerun! Essentially, when Garza misses his spots (which appears to be mostly in the strikezone), the pitches are being punished, as the LD% supports (at least in part) the outrageous BABIP. I have a hunch Garza is a good buy low candidate.
Jake Westbrook. Well, Jake looks like toast. Here is the problem – the numbers tell me that he is pretty unlucky, and if it was not for the fact that he cannot throw a pitch in the strike-zone, his numbers would look a lot better. His LOB% is 51%. Essentially, he walking a lot of guys, is giving up a lot of seeing-eye singles (61% ground ball rate), and cannot get anyone out with men on base. Who said letting Brendan Ryan would not make a difference on that infield defense. I cannot believe I am about to say this, but I have a hunch that Jake is another buy low candidate.
If you have any other specific questions about these pitchers, or others not on the list, just drop me a line.
Part 2. Impactful News
James Loney. Loney has been terrible. His walk rate is way down. His selectivity is way down. His line-drive percentage is way down. On the flip side, his BABIP is a whopping .197. Since the Dodgers get the Marlins and miss Josh Johnson, however, I do not want to tell you to sit him down. I think he will get enough time to work himself out, but continue to monitor this situation.
Jason Bay. Bay is back and, well, his owners hope better than ever. He showed a little pop in his minor league rehabilitation assignment, and his mere return should be a boost to the Mets. Bay is likely going to show a little rust to start, but by the transaction deadline, with a full week ahead, you should get him into your active line-up.
Logan Morrison. Apologies to Morrison owners – he was really making strides at the plate. He is out 2-4 weeks. I will take a wild guess and say that Emilio Bonifacio and Scott Cousins will be taking up most of his at-bats.
Brandon Belt. As I am sure you know by now, Belt has been sent down. He believes that the tweak to his swing he needs to make is minor, and should work itself out with regular at-bats in the minors. I expect he will be back at some point during the season.
Cody Ross. Ross is back from the disabled list and should be active in all formats. He will get regular at-bats, even after Andres Torres comes back.
Ian Stewart. Well, Stewart struggled mightily to start the season, and this is the logical result. Ty Wigginton and Jose Lopez will see playing time there. Stewart will be back in a month or so, and I have a hunch he will be fully recovered from his knee injury and his swing will be somewhat straightened out by then.
Part 3. Potential Free Agent Pick-Ups
Jeremy Hermida. Dusty Baker really must not like Chris Heisey. As soon as Heisey does something good, Baker says he wants to get Hermida into the line-up more. Hermida has rewarded that decision by going 0-7 so far this week. I would pass; that outfield is just too crowded, and the guys ahead of him are playing okay.
Laynce Nix. With Michael Morse struggling, Nix could begin to pick up some more at-bats. He has some decent pop in his bat still, and could be useful if you need to fill a hole (4 home runs and 16 RBI in 180 at-bats last year).
Jerry Sands. Just in case he is available in your league, you should be bidding on him. He is going to get regular playing time. Just temper your expectations…Sands strikes out a lot, and his pitch identification is still a work in progress. He will struggle some, but his power potential is very good.
Guillermo Mota. Mota is not going to steal saves from Brian Wilson, but we are now at the point where his 9.69 K/9 and 14 K/BB must get your attention. He is better than risky SP match-ups if you are trying to repair your ERA/WHIP. Just remember when it is time to cut bait.
Paul Maholm and Dustin Moseley. Apparently, some owners in my National League know about my free agent jinx. Maholm and Moseley are still available. The Padres play the Braves in Atlanta and the Dodgers in Los Angeles this week (still not sure about pitching matchups). The Pirates play the Giants at home and the Rockies in Colorado. Check your pitching matchups carefully.
Other notables (my K/BB favorites): Mota (see above); Brandon Kintzler; Edward Mujica.
As always, e-mail or Twitter with questions!