I’ve flown cross-country to Sin City many times since my initial trek out west for the NFBC at the Stardust Hotel and Casino back in the spring of 2006. I’ve visited numerous hotels up and down the strip. I never stayed at the Mirage, but I’ve seen countless of them each and every fantasy season. We are one month into the NFBC. It’s easy to panic and overreact to something based on a small sample size. Take me for example, dropping both David Robertson and Edward Mujica recently to plug perceived holes elsewhere. I gave away two probable closers all to fix roto problems that might in the end turn out to be merely illusions. Let’s take a look at some xFIP and ERA discrepancies to see if we can identify some of these.
These hurlers are not pitching as well as their ERA might indicate. There’s no way Barry Zito , Ted Lilly or Derek Lowe can keep this up with such poor K/BB ratios. Not to mention that Barry’s .186 BABIP is unsustainable. The one exception might be Jeremy Hellickson (though I’m not crazy about his K/BB ratio). With Tampa Bay’s great fielders and continual defensive shifts, we should not be surprised when some of their starters outperform their xFIP. Last year Jeremy Hellickson posted a similar line (2.95 ERA/4.72 xFIP).
Zack Greinke is an interesting case. Zack has a career BABIP of .310 but this year that number has risen to .368. Gravity will pull that number back down to earth, but will he ever live up to his xFIP? Last year the former Cy Young award winner posted a 3.83 ERA but had a 2.56 xFIP. That discrepancy of 1.27 roughly matches this year’s gap. He also had a 3.13 ERA at home and a 4.70 line on the road. Those road struggles have continued this year with a 7.20 ERA whilst traveling but a dazzling 1.80 ERA in Milwaukee. This home/road split has manifested most years during his career. It’s just a guess, but I have to wonder if his road struggles might be at least partially attributed to differences in the pitching mounds. I’m a believer that subtle variations in height, slope, and firmness can have a significant impact. I discussed this briefly a couple of years ago with former Major League pitcher Nate Robertson. According to former Tiger there’s definitely a difference, and there were certain ballparks he liked to pitch in more than others because of the mound. The slightest difference could alter the action of the plant foot, affecting the release point and ultimately the ability to command pitches effectively.
Josh Johnson .439 BABIP tells me something is not right. I don’t think ‘bad luck ‘ can explain it. His line drive rate of 29.8% is double last year’s 14.8% and his career 20.1%. In my opinion his shoulder is not fully healthy after an off-season of rehab without surgery. His average fastball velocity of 92.7 mph is down a tick from last year and down a couple ticks from the 95 mph he threw in 2009-2010. Tommy John recoveree Adam Wainwright also makes the list. Interestingly his fastball velocity is also down 1.4 mph from last year. However, Wainwright’s vastly superior K/BB ratio portends of better things on the immediate horizon for the Cardinal ace. His line drive rate is right in line with career norms at 17.9%. His home run per fly ball rate of 28% should regress to career norms (8.2%) in short order.