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The Fall's Gonna Kill You

I borrowed my title from a West Wing episode from Season 2, but I think it's appropriate.

I have a few ideas for things to do here as things start to pick up, but one of the things I'll probably be doing a lot of is posting some interesting stats and players worth watching.

Today fits in with that.

I'm looking for pitchers who have greatly exceeded their peripherals or who have faced relatively light hitters. Prospectus tracks the second one of those and Excel does the rest.

So here's five guys who are vastly outperforming / outpacing their peripherals and such. It's more of a watchlist or exploration into more "three-true outcomes" stuff than original analysis.

I would expect some drop-offs soon from these guys. So if this were fantasy baseball, I'd be selling:

1. Mike Hampton: Hampton's been on a roll since last year, putting up a 3.13 ERA after the All-Star break and a 1.67 ERA this year. But the joy won't last for Mike. His unthinkably low K/9 rests at 3.34, and the vast majority of his success has come from his .237 BABIP (this type of figure will be consistent for all of the overachievers).

Additionally, the "quality of batters" from Hampton have only OPSed .703, which is well-below the league's average. So he'll be seeing better hitters, and more of those balls will probably be falling in.

Bottom line - Hampton won't keep this up, but his success right now is coming from a general limiting of baserunners (his walks are very low, too, at 2.39 BB/9). The other thing is that the Braves are 5-1 in games that Mike starts...he's been real important so far. Not a good sign for Atlanta.

2. Smokin' Joe Blanton: I've mentioned Blanton on Marc's old site because of his impeccable minor league control, where he posted BB/9 figures under 2. The young Moneyballin' pick is still limiting those walks, but the strikeouts just not have arrived. In 30.3 innings, Blanton has fanned 10 guys. This is not a ratio for success. He's another BABIP beneficiary at .222, and his ERA has been a very nice 2.67. Nice, but flukish.

Bottom line - Blanton's not inducing too many groundballs (1.235 G/F), and he's not striking anyone out. I like Smokin' Joe, but the other shoe's going to drop soon.

(As an aside, Jon Leiber's doing pretty much the same thing in Philly, just with tougher competition, and a tougher ballpark. Keep an eye on him, too.)

3. Jose Contreras: That .194/.319/.316 line looks fairly good until you realize that it comes with a .216 BABIP. What do we have with Contreras?

  • Lots of walks.
  • Lots of balls being hit into outs.
If an offensive player were hitting .194/.319/.316, you'd have to be pretty annoyed with him. But raise that batting average 50 points, and all of a sudden, the opponent's getting on 37% of the time, which is a bit too much to be comfortable.

If Contreras keeps the opponents away frm the extra base hit, he can survive, but you can't walk 5.06 per 9 and be too successful.

With Contreras's control, his only hope is to strike out more batters to compensate. 7 per 9 isn't quite enough.

Bottom line - His 3.03 ERA, much like the White Sox winning all of their games, is merely a tease.

4. Jarrod Washburn: That 2.7 K/BB isn't bad, but the homers and extra base hits are scary in the early going: half of the hits off of the Wash have been going for extra bases. This leads to an opponents' line of .291/.341/.462. There's more, though: out of the 147 pitchers on my list (those with 3 or more starts), Washburn's opponents rank as the 18th worst with their .244/.312/.378 line.

His BABIP is higher than it should be at .325, though. There might be hope.

Bottom line - The homers scare me. Homers v. BABIP? Take your pick.

5. C.C. Sabathia: He's got the league's easiest opponents so far, with their .233/.292/.355. And I'll take a strong wager that he won't have a .91 ERA at the end of the year.

Bottom line - If Sabathia keeps his BB/9 at 1.8 (he's usually a bit above 3), scratch this.

Again, thesse are just 5 guys whose stats aren't quite adding up in some sense, enough to make me question their potential to see some significant downturns as the season wears on.

It's still early, either way, so any and all stats are subject to the obvious "sample size" concern.

The other part of my post:

I want to try a poll question and I had this idea for a poll-type question. Plus I'm curious as to the amount of traffic we're getting in the early going. So here's a poll that I derived from a game I was listening to via MLB Gameday last night:

You're the manager of an average ballclub. You have an average bullpen, an average bench, and an average lineup. You just tied the score at 2 in the top of the 7th inning. Your starter's thrown a great game since giving up a 2-run homer in the first, and he's been economical, too. His pitch count rests at 81.

The lead runner's on second, but the pitcher's spot is due up in the order, and there are two outs. Your opponent's starter has been very good and has only given up 2 bloop hits and a double, but he's running a high pitch count and is due up 2nd next inning. You've got a pitcher ready in the pen.

Recapping: you're tied with 2 outs in the 7th, go-ahead runner's on second, pitcher's slot up. What do you do?

If you have any assumptions that you feel need clarifying, please post them in the comments section. Assume that everything is fairly average across the board, except for the opposing pitcher. [edit]: Click "Entry Link" to vote.


Make the call. What do you do?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    Pinch hit for the pitcher
    (7 votes)
  • 36%
    Let the pitcher hit
    (4 votes)
11 votes total Vote Now