The superstitious fantasy baseball player knows one should never watch their own pitchers. How many times have we noticed one of our SP was through four scoreless innings and thought “Cool, I’ll watch the fifth inning”, only to see the following: infield single, walk, 3-run HR that scrapes the top of the wall? A good start and our good mood, ruined in minutes.
For starting pitchers, the difference between throwing a gem or an early trip to the showers so often stands upon the edge of a knife. If that wall-scraping dinger had sailed one foot less perhaps our pitcher’s scoreless outing could have survived. Instead, we have to hope the next man up in our rotation rights the wrongs done upon our ratios.
Not all fly balls are created equal though. Or rather, not all stadiums are created equal. One stadium’s home run could be 29 other stadiums’ harmless flyout. Here are four starting pitchers who have experienced good and bad fortune on some of their fly balls allowed:
Pitcher HR-xHR: The Good (Luck)
Zack Greinke SP KCR
Zack Greinke makes another appearance in xStats Weekly after first standing out in the xStat Overperformers article. Since then, he has allowed 9 R (7 ER) and a whopping 18 hits over 10.1 innings in starts against the Orioles and Rockies. The overall numbers are still palatable with a 3.52 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, but the trend, while predictable, is troubling. With zero wins and a paltry K/9 of 3.29, the window of opportunity to cash in on the veteran is swiftly closing. He can’t be trusted for ratios even against baseball’s weaker offenses and doesn’t contribute much in K’s or wins, so desperation streamer may prove Greinke’s best use in 2022.
Kevin Gausman SP TOR
Kevin Gausman has thus far rewarded the faithful who drafted him as their SP1/SP2 despite the move to the AL East from San Francisco’s friendly dimensions. Even with some moderate luck that no fly ball has yet left the yard, Gausman continues to build on 2021’s full-season breakout. Assuming health, we should expect Gausman will post another quality fantasy season, but there are at least a few warning signs that the final stats should end up higher than his current 2.40 ERA and 0.98 WHIP (and not least of all that those would be truly elite numbers).
First, Gausman has posted a historically low 1.1% walk rate (career 6.7%). Regression will come, as it always does, and the WHIP will climb as a result. Further, Gausman is so far allowing his worst hard-hit rate of 41.2%, and his chase rate is nearly 50% higher than his career mark. Cue another case for regression. His success so far can mostly be traced to elite performance from his devastating splitter. Splitters can be temperamental pitches though, and should Gausman lose the feel for the pitch for any length of time, another rough patch similar to last year’s 2nd half performance (4.42 ERA and 1.37 WHIP) could happen again. Enjoy the hot start but be ready to mix and match Gausman against tougher offenses should he enter a period of struggles.
Pitcher HR-xHR: The Bad (Luck)
Sean Manaea SP SDP
Sean Manaea surprised fantasy players in 2021 not by pitching effectively (which he had done throughout his career), but rather by staying healthy enough to throw a career-high 179.1 innings. After an offseason trade to San Diego brightened his fantasy outlook further, Manaea has thus far backed up his 2021 (3.91 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 9.74 K/9) with an even better start to 2022 (3.77 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 10.47 K/9).
The xStats and skill metrics support his current level of production, so as long as the health and K rate sustain, Manaea should be a consistent SP3/4 for the duration of this season; valuable across all types of leagues. There may be some hiccups and gems along the way but expect Manaea’s numbers not to stray far from their current levels.
Alex Wood SP SFG
Like Manaea above, Alex Wood has typically been effective when healthy, it’s the staying healthy part that has been the problem. To date in 2022 Wood has managed a serviceable 3.93 ERA though it has come with a bloated 1.40 WHIP. Under the hood, Wood sports his typically excellent ground ball rate (50.5%) and has generally limited hard contact well enough (87.5 MPH average EV, 36.3% hard hit), so the elevated BABIP of .347 and HR/FB rate of 19% (career 11.7%) should smooth out over time.
It’s likelier than not better days are ahead for Wood, but since he doesn’t pitch deep enough into games (season-high 5.1 IP) he’ll probably struggle to rack up a high win total and would be even less reliable in QS leagues. As a result, he’s better for his ratios in roto leagues and should be used as a quality streamer in H2H and points leagues, though he remains a solid option to buoy the bottom of a fantasy rotation regardless. In 12-team and shallower leagues don’t be afraid to cut him loose for higher-upside options should the need arise, except when home starts against the Rockies and Diamondbacks are forthcoming.
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)