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When Command Isn't Enough

Strikeout to walk ratio is often touted as the #1 stat by which to judge a pitcher.  However, we find examples every year of high K/BB guys whose fantasy stats don't quite measure up.  18 pitchers have K/BB ratios over 2.5 but ERAs over 4.00 this year:

NAME K/BB ERA WHIP MPH
Kevin Slowey 4.75 4.21 1.10 89.8
Josh Beckett 4.62 4.08 1.20 94.4
Randy Johnson 3.93 4.24 1.29 90.8
Andy Sonnanstine 3.58 4.40 1.31 86.8
Roy Oswalt 3.29 4.56 1.41 92.4
Javier Vazquez 3.20 4.74 1.37 91.4
Aaron Harang 3.18 4.76 1.40 89.8
Derek Lowe 3.15 4.10 1.25 88.8
Jesse Litsch 3.11 4.46 1.33 89.1
Andy Pettitte 2.97 4.34 1.35 88.6
Jason Bergmann 2.89 4.13 1.30 89.8
Greg Maddux 2.88 4.17 1.25 83.5
Dave Bush 2.79 4.50 1.13 88.5
Jered Weaver 2.59 4.37 1.30 89.9
Ted Lilly 2.58 4.35 1.34 87.0
Bronson Arroyo 2.57 5.55 1.51 88.2
Carlos Silva 2.55 5.92 1.50 90.0
Johnny Cueto 2.50 5.00 1.36 93.3

These 18 underachievers averaged 89.6 mph on their heaters this year.  26 pitchers had K/BB's of 2.5 or better and a sub-4.00 ERA.  The average fastball velocity of that group: over a full mile per hour higher at 90.7.  Is this meaningful?  Beats me.  But it sure is interesting.  Makes you think Beckett, Oswalt, and Cueto could post sub-4.00 ERAs next year.  It also makes you skeptical of Justin Duchscherer, Jorge Campillo, Mike Mussina, and Shaun Marcum, none of whom average even 87 mph. 

If you are trying to distinguish between strong K/BB guys, fastball velocity is a useful point of data.  I get it from FanGraphs.  I search for the pitcher and then scroll down to Pitch Type.  The average fastball velocity is in parentheses under FB.

HR rate is another huge differentiator between the two groups.  The sub-4.00 group averages a 0.58 HR/9.  The above-4.00 group averages 1.24 HR/9.

I've also created one more group, those with a K/BB ratio under 2.5 but at least 2.0.  They also have a HR/9 below 1.0.  Most of these pitchers are already having great seasons.  Matt Cain stands out as one pitcher who is slightly unappreciated in fantasy leagues.  He has almost put it all together: tough to hit, plenty of Ks, low HR rate, average fastball velo of 92.5.  If Cain's control improves, he'll be elite.  It may have already - his BB/9 was just 2.72 from May to July.


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