Buy Low, Sell High Report – Starting Pitchers
Timing can be everything in fantasy baseball. Knowing when to buy and sell players at the right time can really help you beat your competition and win your league. Let’s get right down to business and talk about a couple starting pitchers to buy and a couple to sell.
2 Starting Pitchers to Buy Immediately
1) Homer Bailey
If you were like me and drafted Homer Bailey coming into the year as a guy to hold down your SP2 or SP3 slot, you’re likely very disappointed with his results to date. Coming off a 2013 season where he featured a 3.49 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with 199 Ks, a 4.68 ERA and 1.43 WHIP are not indicative of the stats you expected him to be putting up in 2014. If we look a little deeper, we can see luck has not been on his side, and he’s actually been pitching pretty well to this point. His K/9 in 2013 was 8.6, and he’s still striking guys out at a good rate (8.1 K/9) this year. He’s also getting lots of ground balls, which is a great thing to see (53.1% GB rate). What isn’t helping him is his HR/FB rate of 16.7% and opponent BABIP of .327 – key factors that drive his xFIP of 3.49 despite his ERA that is more than a run higher. I expect these numbers to normalize as the season rolls along, and with his great arsenal, the stats will come to owners who are able to acquire him in a deal.
2) David Price
It’s tough to mention a pitcher like Price who has been amongst the elite starters for a few years now. But there’s some upside over the balance of the year if you’re able to take advantage of an owner who may be growing impatient with his performance. Much like Homer Bailey, Price hasn’t had much luck thus far in 2014. He’s started to turn it around recently, but his ERA of 3.93 is not indicative of his xFIP of 2.59 (a 1.34 difference), which is one of the biggest gaps among starting pitchers this year. His K rate is strong (10.11 K/9 – the best of his career) and he’s walking an incredibly low 0.84 batters per 9 innings pitched. His BABIP against of .323 and strand rate of 68% are highly indicative of the positive regression back to the mean that we can expect to see from Price from here on out. He could easily be a 3.00 ERA, K/IP+ guy moving forward – certainly someone you’d love to have on your staff. See if you can get the guy who drafted Price in your league to bite, perhaps by offering a trade that includes one of the sell-high players below… and laugh your way to the bank.
2 Starting Pitchers to Sell Immediately
Miller had a great rookie season in 2013, winning 15 games, striking out 169 batters, and pitching to the tune of a 3.06 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. On the surface, he’s been pretty solid once again this year… but if you look a bit deeper, he has a few significant red flags. His walk rate has increased from 3.0 to 4.1 BB/9 and his K rate has dropped drastically from 8.8 to 6.4 K/9. He’s increased his fastball usage this year and is throwing his cutter twice as often as he did in his successful 2013 season. He’s also gotten away from throwing his curve and changeup like he did last year. It’s evident that this new approach is not helping him get ahead of hitters and strike them out as he was able to last season.
He’s been able to keep his ERA at a respectable 3.42 through his 14 starts, but his WHIP sits at 1.30, and it could easily be a lot worse. His BABIP against is well below league average at .254 – and coupled with a low ground ball rate of 42%, these stats tell us that his numbers could in fact take a hit moving forward if his peripherals keep up. His FIP of 4.63 and xFIP of 4.56 tell us that his ERA (a full run better) has been fortunate thus far, and we could be looking at some negative regression in the near future. Decreased K rate, increased walk rate, low ground ball rate, fortunate BABIP are all significant red flags. Sell high, my friends. Sell high.
2) Scott Kazmir
One of the better feel-good stories in the baseball world, Scott Kazmir has burst his way back onto the MLB scene after effectively disappearing for 2 years (2011-2012). Last year he was very solid for Cleveland, leading to a nice fat contract with Oakland this past offseason for 2 years and $22 million. Last year he had a 4.04 ERA against a FIP of 3.51 – with a very nice K/9 rate of 9.2. This year, he’s done even better, pitching to a 2.05 ERA with a FIP of 3.01 and xFIP of 3.54 and sub-1 WHIP of 0.98 – ace-caliber metrics. He’s lowered his walk rate this year, but he’s also seen his strikeouts decrease. He’s been benefitting from a BABIP of .251, which is well below his career norm of .301. He’s stranding runners at a nice 81.9%, which is also well above his career level of 73.6%. Pitching in a nice pitcher’s park has helped keep his HR/FB rate to 5.8%, which is exactly half of what he had in this department last year (11.6%). With one of the largest discrepancies between his actual ERA and xFIP, and the fortunate bounces he’s received that have led to a career-low BABIP against and high strand rate, he’s not a safe bet to keep his production at their current levels. He’s not going to regress back into obscurity, but it’s realistic to expect him to be more of a 3.5 ERA, 1.25 WHIP guy the rest of the way. If you can find someone who will buy into his 2.05 ERA and sub-1 WHIP, see if you can land a guy like Homer Bailey who has been less fortunate.
Sources: Brooksbaseball.net, Fangraphs.com, Baseballreference.com