Clayton Kershaw Is Back, Cheap Vets And Twin Killings
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Is the real Clayton Kershaw here to stay? How are Andrew Cashner and Noah Syndergaard alike and setting records? We're going to find out the answers and more this week. We also examine two veteran pitchers who have turned into matchup plays and can be had for nothing. Then we finish things off with a pair of "twins" that you need to sell high on… as in, yesterday!
Recap: A little background on SOBB (StrikeOut percentage minus Base on Balls percentage) to start. You may have seen it on FanGraphs as K-BB%, as they added it last year, even without the catchy name. The reason they added it is the same reason I started and have been using it for three years: SOBB is a terrific predictor of future pitcher success or decline.
Using strikeout percentage is already a great start in evaluating pitchers, but taking it a step further to SOBB helps identify pitchers who are dominating hitters… or being dominated by them. SOBB helped predict the success of Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom last year, while also pointing to Brandon McCarthy eventually turning things around. It's not perfect - no stat is - but it's dang near close, and it's why I will be highlighting notable SOBBs from around the league each week. For reference, see the chart below for SOBB levels.
Clayton Kershaw - So he's back, huh? Owners, fans, Dodgers' management, you name it… everyone was panicking as Kershaw posted a 2-3 record with a 4.32 ERA through May 21. In his last two starts, Kershaw looks like himself with a 2-0 record, 1.29 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 14.0 IP. Is Kershaw truly back? Can you feel confident again? Truth is, Kershaw was never "gone". He simply had some brutal bad luck. Even with a more normal BABIP and high LOB% over the past two games, Kershaw's to-date BABIP and LOB% are still unlucky at .324 and 68.7. With an impressive 24.8 SOBB still under his belt (fourth best), Kershaw will continue to dominate teams again and the ERA will continue to drop, as it's still 1.54 runs above his xFIP of 2.19.
Andrew Cashner - Funny how we talk about Noah Syndergaard last week, and then both he and Cashner make MLB history in back-to-back games. Syndergaard is still trustworthy even after the blowup (he's just human), as his BABIP and LOB% are unlucky while carrying a terrific 22.0 SOBB. Nevertheless, Cashner and Thor became the first two pitchers to allow 10-plus hits while striking out 10-plus batters and not making it into the fifth inning. Crazy huh? With Cashner, his SOBB isn't quite as good as Syndergaard's, but it's still great at 19.7. In addition, tough luck has bitten him with a .347 BABIP and 68.4 LOB%. Cashner won't get into the sub-3.00 ERA range, but he's better than we've seen so far, so buy low where you can.
Anibal Sanchez - You might be able to get Sanchez for a Bugs Bunny Pez dispenser at this point… an empty one at that! Sanchez has put up some brutal outings, but he too has seen some bad luck with a 62.7 LOB%. His SOBB is good (not great) at 14.6, and both of those stats are behind his xFIP being 1.80 runs under his 5.69 ERA. I wouldn't roll out Sanchez every start (avoid the tough offenses, especially at home for some reason), but you could get him for nothing and use him as a matchup play in deep leagues.
CC Sabathia - Here's another vet you could get for nothing. In fact, you can probably snatch Sabathia off the wire. Like Sanchez, Sabathia is a matchup play… to an even greater degree. Sabathia has been brutalized with bad luck lately. Over his last three starts, Sabathia's BABIP is .449, coupled with a 59.5 LOB%. As mentioned, you'll want to play the matchups with Sabathia, and even a few of those can burn you. However, he does have a good 15.0 SOBB and a xFIP 1.92 runs under his 5.45 ERA. Sabathis is also much better on the road: 3.91 ERA to 11.77 at home! Whoa. Sabathia screams matchup exploitation, even as a potential DFS play.
Twin Twins - Who? What? I know. Bad pun, but it's true. Both Mike Pelfrey and Kyle Gibson are pitchers to run away from. I've already warned about Gibson, but given his "success," it's worth repeating. Wouldn't you know it? But Pelfrey and Gibson are back-to-back in the SOBB standings. Pelfrey has an awful 3.7 SOBB and Gibson's is 3.5. That's a recipe for disaster, and both of their xFIPs are trying to warn you. Pelfrey's is 4.61, or 2.02 above his ERA and Gibson's is 4.58/1.97. Both also have low BABIPs of .272/.270 and fortunate LOB% marks of 80.5/83.1. Sell them now. You'll thank me later.
Photo Credit: Bryan Green
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