Where would we be without them? In Fantasy baseball, as well as life, we need the truth. Sure, our game is based on teams that don’t actually exist and give us “ownership” of players that don’t know our names, but that changes nothing; facts make the world go ‘round.
But not all facts are created equal. Some things are perfect just the way they are, while others require you to reevaluate your preconceived notions and react to the new development. Either way, the more facts you have at your disposal, the better decisions you can make. I’d recommend using this train of thought in minor decisions like career path or spousal choice, but especially when it comes to Fantasy Baseball. Arm yourself with more knowledge than the rest of your league and you’ve put yourself in a great spot. But in this age of availability, how can you gain such an edge?
Well, you could start by skipping the first section of this article, looking at the 78 facts, and making (or not making) moves based on what you’ve learned. These 78 facts are current through 7/8 and will properly prepare you for the rest of the season.
Chris Sale has been outstanding this season, and maybe this statistic will help boost his stock and get him a much deserved All Star bid. If you subtract his worst inning from every start this season, the lanky lefty owns a 0.24 ERA and a 0.61 WHIP in 75.1 innings pitched.
There are 13 pitchers in the big league that currently have: 108 innings pitched, more strikeouts than hits, a walk total that does not exceed their run total, and a sub-3.00 ERA. Four of them pitch for the Oakland Athletics.
Oakland made the news for adding two quality pitchers this before the All Star break, but what about their current ace? Scott Kazmir has lost just three of his 18 starts this year and holds a sub-4.00 ERA for the first time since 2008. Furthermore, if you subtract those three losses, the 30-year-old’s ERA checks in at a cool 1.62 this season (94.1 innings pitched).
There are rumors that Jesse Chavez could be the odd man out of the Athletics rotation. He has as many starts with two or fewer earned runs allowed as Masahiro Tanaka and 25 percent more than Yu Darvish.
John Danks has recorded a “quality start” in 68 percent of his starts this season, but his “bad” is really bad. His 4.15 ERA is higher than that of Josh Collmenter (3.98), the pitcher who ranks dead last among qualified pitchers in QS percentage.
Even with an impressive start on Monday, James Shields owns a 4.52 ERA (42 earned in 76.2 innings) and is allowing opponents to hit .305 since the first day of May.
That being said, he hasn’t gotten a lot of help from his defense. Shields leads the league with 12 unearned runs against (19 percent of the total runs scored against him this season).
Among qualified pitchers (minimum 60 innings pitched), Stephen Strasburg ranks third to last in RHB batting average against.
Strasburg has made three home starts against Top 10 offenses this year and has looked like the elite Fantasy option that he truly is. In those starts, he owns a 2.05 ERA while striking out 9.41 batters per nine innings.
More Strasburg: his BABIP currently sits at .341, 40 points above his career average. If you believe in regression to the mean, that would make him a strong candidate to record a sub-.270 BABIP over the second half of the season. Pitchers in the last five years that have a BABIP under .270 and strike out at least 27 percent of batters (Strasburg’s 27.8 K% is actually lower than his career average) have averaged a 2.55 ERA and gone by the names of Clayton Kershaw (twice), Max Scherzer, and Yu Darvish.
Corey Kluber has at least as many strikeouts as base runners allowed in eight of his last 15 starts: Darvish has done it eight times in 16 starts and Zack Grienke eight times in 18 starts.
On the road this season, Wade Miley has a lower ERA than David Price, a lower WHIP than Jon Lester, and a higher K% than Strasburg.
Henderson Alvarez has the second best home ERA in the big leagues.
Garrett Richards has given up 38 fewer hits while pitching 1.1 more innings that Alvarez this season, yet his ERA is 19.4 percent higher.
Wily Peralta has given up fewer non-home run hits this season than Garrett Richards.
Over the last three seasons, we’ve only had one instance (Clayton Kershaw 2013) in which a starting pitcher ranked in the Top 10 in ERA in the first and second half of the season.
The Phillies duo of A.J. Burnett and Roberto Hernandez has combined to allow opponents to steal 34 bases (on 40 attempts), which is more than four entire teams have allowed all season long.
Tim Hudson ranks in the Top 10 in strikeout-to-walk ratio despite fanning just 5.86 batters per nine innings. No other pitcher among the Top 30 strikes out less than 6.30 per nine.
Think he knows how to pitch? With runners on base, Masahiro Tanaka tops the league in ERA while ranking among the Top 10 pitchers in strikeouts per nine, K:BB ratio, and GB:FB ratio.
Tanaka has also recorded 32 outs with runners in scoring position and two outs, 22 of which have been by way of K.
Jake Odorizzi possess a 0.85 ERA and is averaging 1.54 strikeouts per base runner allowed during his first trip through a lineup in his 18 starts this season. For reference, only Felix Hernandez has a lower ERA (minimum 40 innings pitched), but even the King has two fewer punch outs in 4.2 more innings pitched.
While Odorizzi’s stuff has the potential to dominate, it also has a tendency to be predictable. Of starters with at least 15 starts this season, only Brandon McCarthy (7.08) has a higher ERA on his second trip through the lineup than the Rays youngster (6.82).
Hitting a baseball is hard to do, which is why the Top 10 pitchers in swing percentage against have an average ERA of 3.24 and why McCarthy (11th in swing percentage but owner of an ugly 5.01 ERA and 10 losses) is poised to be Fantasy relevant should he earn a spot in the Yankees rotation.
Of the 110 pitchers that have tossed at least 80 innings this season, Phil Hughes has the tenth highest line drive percentage but the 17th lowest HR/FB ratio. He was giving up line drives 12.7 percent less often in 2012, a season in which gave up the second most homers in the big leagues (35).
Don’t read too far into Rick Porcello’s disappointing effort over the weekend against the Rays (5.2 innings pitched and seven earned runs). In his previous seven starts in which he induced more ground balls than fly balls this season, Porcello allowed just seven earned runs in 50.1 innings.
Despite playing on a team that ranks 29th in OBP, Travis Wood ranks inside the Top 10 in run support per nine innings.
Josh Beckett is leaving 86 percent of runners on base this season, something we’ve seen done only twice (minimum 150 innings pitched) in Beckett’s lifetime (1985 Dwight Gooden and 2000 Pedro Martinez).
In 2000, Pedro Martinez had the lowest single season ERA of the millennium (1.74), yet Justin Masterson (5.51 ERA this season) is allowing considerably fewer home runs per nine innings (22 percent less).
Opponents are batting 20 points higher this season against Mark Buehrle (2.60 ERA) than Jorge De La Rosa (4.75 ERA).
Need speed? Base runners have successfully swiped 15 of 16 bags this season against John Lackey and are now 84 for 95 since 2011 against the righty.
The ratios are there for Atlanta’s Julio Teheran and the strikeouts may not be far behind. He ranks in the Top 10 in swing and miss percentage, yet Ubaldo Jimenez, who ranks among the 10 worst pitchers in terms of swing and miss percentage, is striking out more batters per nine innings.
Dellin Betances has more strikeouts than Gerrit Cole and more wins than Cole Hamels or Jeff Samardzija.
The Mariners Chris Young (3.08 ERA) ranks inside the Top 10 in terms of most homers allowed per nine innings. The rest of the Top (bottom?) 10 have an average ERA of 4.68. Regression is a solid bet, but for his home run rate or for his ERA? His current home run rate is 14.3 percent above his career average.
Zack Wheeler’s ERA against teams hitting at least .240 that rank in the top half of the league in number of fly balls hit is 6.63. His ERA against all other opponents is 2.77.
Groundballs and strikeouts are of great importance when deciding whether a pitcher can maintain a hot start, as offenses will struggle to score consistently if they’re whiffing and/or pounding the ball into the ground. Among pitchers with a GB% north of 50 percent, only Felix Hernandez and Johnny Cueto have a higher K% than Tyson Ross.
Jason Vargas has fewer walks, the same WHIP, and a better ERA than Madison Bumgarner while averaging more innings per start.
Streamers delight: Wily Peralta is holding right-handed hitters to a lower batting average than Clayton Kershaw. Within Peralta’s division, the Cubs/Reds rely heavily on lefties while the Cardinals/Pirates prefer to fill their lineup with righties.
Matt Garza has had a reasonably productive Fantasy season up to this point, but is he a pitcher you should trust regardless of matchup? He has a league-worst .357 batting average against in “high-leverage” situations, indicating that patient offenses are a major issue. He owns a 7.11 ERA when walking three or more batters this season and a 2.86 ERA when he issues two or fewer free passes.
Anibal Sanchez is pitching better than his ERA may suggest. He ranks in the Top 10 with a 1.03 WHIP, yet his earned run average is 34.2 percent higher than the average of the other nine pitchers.
The Athletics catching combination of John Jaso and Derek Norris have a combined for 58 runs, 15 homers, 64 RBI, and a .289 batting average. Their 449 at-bat pace (65-17-72-.289) is very similar to Wilin Rosario’s 2013 (63-21-79-.293), a season in which he finished as the second highest ranked catcher in Fantasy.
Norris is slashing .363/.453/.613 and leads the league with 24 RBI (or 0.83 RBI per hit) against left-handed pitching this season.
The slash for Rickie Weeks at home (.361/.418/.528) nearly mirrors that of Carlos Gonzalez (.354/.386/.573) at Coors.
Casey “Hits” McGehee has 10 more hits with runners on base than any other player in the majors, and 20 more than David Ortiz, a player that most consider the greatest “clutch” hitter of his generation.
Since May 12th, Brett Gardner has seven home runs, the same number as Brian Dozier and Freddie Freeman.
Also since May 12th, Billy Hamilton has as many long balls as Charlie Blackmon (four).
Albert Pujols leads the league with 107 at-bats with RISP this season, but his five extra base hits in such situations rank him tied for 129th behind the likes of Reed Johnson (117 total at-bats this season).
Giancarlo Stanton is homering once every 13.92 at-bats at home this season: Todd Frazier is homering once every 12.08 home at-bats.
Frazier leads all corner infielders with 30 home runs plus steals.
We haven’t had an outfielder lead the league in home runs and record double-digit stolen bases since Barry Bonds’ historic 73-homer season in 2001. Giancarlo Stanton already has eight steals and is tied for fourth with 21 home runs.
Two infielders have a HR-plus-SB total greater than 20, produced (runs + RBI) at least 110 runs, and a batting average north of .280: Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rendon.
Rendon has the very real opportunity to finish 2014 with a stat line that reads: 25 homers, 20 steals, 200 hits, 100 RBI, and 100 runs scored. We haven’t had a non-Yankee infielder do that since the great Alan Trammell during the 1987 season for the Tigers.
Mike Trout has 43 percent more home runs than any other outfielder with at least 10 steals.
In his last 613 summer (May-August) at-bats, Marlon Byrd has 36 home runs.
Through his first 75 games, Jose Abreu owned a .340 ISO, a plateau that the great Albert Pujols has never exceeded.
Abreu ranks fourth in percentage of pitches outside of the zone swung at and 135th in contact percentage on those pitches.
Freddie Freeman is on pace to match the career-high of Troy Tulowitzki by hitting at least .276 in 10 straight months (minimum 20 at-bats): a claim that Robinson Cano and Mike Trout cannot make.
Lucas Duda has hit 27 homers in his last 558 at-bats.
Andrew McCutchen and Troy Tulowitzki are the only two players in baseball (minimum 125 home at-bats) that are slashing better across the board at home than Kyle Seager.
There are 15 players not named Matt Adams (.331 batting average) that are swinging at a minimum of 52 percent of pitches thrown their way this season, and they have a combined batting average of .265.
Ian Desmond is slugging .617 on balls put in play this season, 35 points better than David Ortiz.
A higher percentage of George Springer’s at-bats have resulted in a home run or a strikeout than that of Adam Dunn.
In 44 of his 85 games this year, Michael Brantley has recorded either multiple hits and/or a RBI.
In theory, the best way to drive in runs is via the extra base hit. Matt Adams is averaging just 1.06 RBI per extra base knock, 42.9 percent less than Josh Donaldson.
Speaking of the Cardinals super-sized first baseman, his FB% and contact percentages are way up, while his ISO is reasonably close to what it was in 2013, a season in which he clobbered 17 homers in 319 at-bats (currently has 10 in 295 at-bats this season).
The only way to consistently steal bases is to actually be on base, and no player with at least 15 steals is getting on base at a higher clip than Coco Crisp.
Inversely, among players with at least 15 swipes, only the disappointing Jean Segura and B.J. Upton have a lower OBP than Billy Hamilton.
Jose Altuve ranks second in batting average but is seeing fewer pitches per at-bat than any other qualified hitter that ranks in the Top 80 in batting average. Is it possible that pitchers approach him differently in the second half?
Of players that swing at a minimum of 51 percent of pitches, no player has a greater BB% than Adrian Gonzalez.
In his first season in Baltimore, 34-year-old Nelson Cruz is averaging 1.28 runs produced (runs + RBI) per hit, an 11.3 percent increase over his career average that included a performance enhancing suspension. Advanced age and a substance-free routine is rarely a combination that lasts in long term improvement in power numbers.
Brian Dozier has failed to return any Fantasy value (a hit, run, RBI, or SB) in 24.1 percent of his games in which he recorded at least two at-bats.
In a much less “sexy” style, Scooter Gennett has been “useless” in just 16.2 percent of such games.
Jayson Werth is hitting .409 in July and has more extra base hits in 22 at-bats this month (seven) than he did in May (four in 102 at-bats) or June (six in 99 at-bats). He ranked among the Top 5 post All Star break hitters in home runs, RBI, OBP, and SLG last season.
His Fantasy numbers are essentially the same as last year, but Yasiel Puig is striking out less, walking more, and making more contact this season than he did in 2013.
Jarrod Dyson is on pace to set a career high in games played and OBP. He quietly has averaged one stolen base every 2.7 times on base throughout his career and has swiped 98 bags in 295 career games.
Among players that qualify at a middle infield position, only Tulowitzki and Dozier average more home runs per at-bat than Brett Lawrie.
Uncomfortable in a new city or just a player in decline? Brian McCann is hitting .239 since the beginning of the 2012 season after hitting .286 in his first seven professional seasons. His OPS has dipped below .800 in each of the past three seasons, something that hadn’t occurred once in the previous four campaigns.
Chris Carter leads the league (minimum 15 homers) with 76.5 percent of his long balls coming with no teammates on base.
Since the All Star Break last season, Brandon Moss has recorded 66 extra base hits, scored 74 runs, hit 33 homers and driven in 106 runs, while batting .279. Those numbers aren’t all that different from Edwin Encarnacion’s 2013 stat line of (66-90-36-104-.272) and came in 50 fewer at-bats.