A few weeks ago I wrote a draft prep article about starting pitchers that were lucky or unlucky in 2017 based on stats like ERA-xFIP, BABIP, LOB%, GB% and HR/FB. In that article I gave you two unlucky pitchers who could bounce back and two lucky pitchers that you should handle with care in 2018 because their luck could run out this season.
If you haven’t read the article please do so now… I’ll wait.
Good stuff, right? Well, this week I want to give you a handful of hurlers that probably made you hurl at the thought of drafting them but I feel can be useful if used properly. These are guys who were unlucky last season but could turn things around and serve as competent streaming options during the season.
A quick reminder, to determine lucky vs. unlucky I came up with these guidelines. Anything in-between was considered “normal”.
|ERA-xFIP||< -0.5||> 0.5|
|BABIP||< .289||> .309|
|LOB%||> 73.1%||< 71.1%|
|GB%||> 45.0%||< 43.0%|
|HR/FB||< 12.2%||> 16.2%|
Clayton Richard, SD
6% owned in Yahoo and 9% owned in ESPN
Okay, there is a reason “the other Clayton” was the 139th drafted starting pitcher. No one wants a low strikeout stiff with a 4.79 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. I’m not going to say that you should’ve drafted him, either. What I am going to tell you is that he’s someone to keep on your radar as a streaming option when pitching at home and against a non-threatening offense.
Last season he was just flat out awful but, his BABIP was the 4th unluckiest and his HR/FB was the 7th unluckiest of the 134 starting pitchers in 2017. When he wasn’t giving up dingers he was enticing batters into groundballs, the pitcher’s best friend.
What I like is that his 2018 GB% looks lucky (5th highest) if you don’t also look at his previous seasons. He’s a groundball pitcher in a pitcher’s park (tied for lowest park factor over last 5 years). Take those nuggets and sprinkle in the fact that his K/9 has increased each season and you have a recipe for a guy that can help you when used properly.
Opening Day against the Brewers Richard went 7 innings and only gave up 1 earned run on 6 hits, 1 walk and 4 strikeouts. Like an umbrella on a rainy day, that is something you can use.
Kyle Gibson, MIN
7% owned in Yahoo and 8% owned in ESPN
Gibson is very much like Richard in that his BABIP and HR/FB were very unlucky while his GB% was very lucky, but also like Richard you can see that his 2017 GB% is right in line with his previous seasons. Where he differs from Richard is that his home ballpark is not a pitcher’s park (tied for 5th highest park factor over the last 5 years) so you have to be even more careful on when you use him.
On Saturday he got his first win and pitched 6 no-hit, scoreless innings with 6 strikeouts and 5 walks. He appears to be picking up right where he left off last season where he closed out his last 8 starts with a 6-0 record, 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 46 strikeouts in 49.1 innings. I’m keeping tabs on Gibson and if he keeps putting up outings like this then he might be more than a streaming option.
Jordan Zimmermann, DET
5% owned in Yahoo and 6% owned in ESPN
You know what the extra “n” at the end of Zimmermann stands for? Not Justin Verlander (or David Price). Verlander has been the Opening Day starter for my Detroit Tigers 9 out of the last 10 years with Price being the exception in 2015. But I’m here to talk to you about Zimmermann and how he can be useful.
In 2017 his BABIP (14th), LOB% (15th) and GB% (5th) all ranked in the Top 15 unluckiest of 134 starting pitchers. If he can avoid black cats and walking under ladders and get those metrics back to “normal” I feel we could see a stat line more like 2015 and those are numbers you can surely use, albeit sparingly.
Opening Day Zimmermann was solid with the exception of the 4th inning. He gave up 4 earned runs on 6 hits and a walk in 6 innings but did tally 8 punch outs. That is a promising debut in 2018. Just like all of the other chumps in this article, I’m going to tell you to pick your spots with Zimmermann. That extra “n” stands for Not for everyone.
Josh Tomlin, CLE
4% owned in Yahoo and 2% owned in ESPN
If you didn’t draft Clayton Richard you most certainly didn’t draft Tomlin (151st SP) and for good reason. His ERA & WHIP are trending the wrong way since 2015. But like Richard, you can use Tomlin here and there to your advantage.
His BABIP was 17th highest, LOB% was 26th lowest and GB% was 36th lowest of the 134 starting pitchers in 2017. Those all fall on the “very” unlucky end of the spectrum in my eyes and have me looking at him like a jelly doughnut. Good every now and then but a steady diet will kill ya. This spring his 19.2 innings were both good (18 strikeouts and only 3 walks) and bad (11 earned runs and 21 hits).
Oof. No sooner had I written this and Tomlin does his best to prove me wrong. Tuesday night he was lit up to the tune of 8 earned runs on 8 hits, 1 walk and only 1 strikeout in 3 painful innings. Four of those hits were of the “touch’em all” variety. I guess we can safely say that we shouldn’t use him on the road, against the Angels, in April and on Tuesdays.
Seriously though, let Tomlin be a lesson that we’re playing with fire with any of these guys. Their ceiling is good, not great while their floor is dear lord, what have I done? You can’t be risk averse and roll these guys out there.