FBR: The Special K Edition

J Ellet LambieCorrespondent IMay 26, 2009

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 22:  Zack Greinke #23 of the Kansas City Royals poses during photo day at Surprise Stadium on February 22, 2009 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Originally published 4/30/2009 at www.jelletlambie.wordpress.com

The FBR, or Fantasy Baseball Ramblings segment, appears regularly like flies on you know what . Think of it as a friend who comes into your home and spews obscure stats and bold predictions while drinking all your beer. Enjoy.

Behold the power of cheese.

Coming into his start against the Astros yesterday Edinson Volquezhad been battling the demons of control. With pitching and real estate alike a critical variable is location. As I mentioned in the previous FBR Volquez had struck out 22 in 20 and 1/3 innings, but had allowed 20 walks. I’m not sure if a pre-game exercism took place, perhaps Astros hitters swing at anything and everything (kinda did last night), maybe Volquez got a good nights sleep on Tuesday night and had sweet dreams of candy and sunshine. Regardless of the why, the what was spectacular. Edinson tossed 8 innings of shutout ball, allowing 1 hit and only 1 walk while striking out 6 for his 3rd win of the season. His fastball showed tremendous late downward movement while his off-speed repertoire kept Houston hitters guessing. It seemed every pitch he threw was at or below the knees. Here’s hoping this is a harbinger of things to come and not the shiny anomaly that makes suckers out of us all.

Yovani Gallardois a name you should know. If you don’t, check the wires or spend a few minutes in front of SportsCenter and you’ll be treated to highlights and tales of his mythical performance yesterday. Like Volquez he tossed 8 scoreless innings allowing 2 hits and 1 walk. Strikeout total? This one goes to 11. His tailing fastball and slider had ungodly movement, not just fanning Pirates but making them look downright silly in the process. To cap off the night Gallardoprovided the lone run for the Brewers with a 7thinning home run. This was a glorified game of 1 vs. 9 with Yovani doing it all himself.

Zack Greinke fanned 8 in 7 innings to pick up his 5th win and expand his AL leading K total to 44. Below is a quick table from ESPN.com showing the top 10 current strikeout pitchers in MLB with associated stats, you’re welcome.


Sortable Pitching
1Johan SantanaNYM5532.2226494431001.10
 Zack GreinkeKAN5536.0243284450000.50
3Tim LincecumSFO5531.1301111104321003.16
4Javier VazquezATL5532.031131284222003.38
5Dan HarenARI5535.0216653623001.54
 Felix HernandezSEA5534.02799103640002.38
7Rich HardenCHC4421.015109103521003.86
8Justin VerlanderDET5528.034242193412006.75
 Chad BillingsleyLAD5533.22298123440002.14
 Yovani GallardoMIL5534.221111193431002.86


One troubling thing noted above, Justin Verlander is tied for 8th with 34 K’s in 28 innings pitched while holding a 6.75 ERA. Yikes. This is the same Verlander who was filthy in his last start, tossing 7 scoreless innings with 9 K’s against 0 walks against the Yankees. If that version of Verlander can keep trotting out to the hill every 5 days both Tigers fans and his fantasy owners alike will be dancing a jig all summer.

If you have any combination of the above 1o hurlers on your current fantasy roster now is your chance to sit back in your chair and curl your mustache while laughing an evil laugh. Go ahead.

If you have reservations about using strikeouts as a key tool in drafting starting pitchers examine the following statistics:

The 10 pitchers above havea combined record of 28-11 with a 2.63 ERA anda 1.06 WHIP.

You can argue with numbers, but you’ll lose.

The K is king when evaluating starting pitchers for fantasy purposes. Aside from the fact that strikeouts are a category for pitchers in every fantasy league I’ve ever seen, the side effects of high K guys are typically impressive win/loss totals, low ERA and WHIP splits, league championships and sometimes male pattern baldness. Just threw that in there. Making sure you’re paying attention.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule. Look at David Purcey, Clayton Kershaw, Mike Hampton and Adam Eaton. Combined these 4 pitchers have 95 K’s in 91 and1/3 innings pitched thus far, while posting a collective2-8 record witha group ERA/WHIP split of 6.53/1.57.

How could this be? That guy just said K’s are King, the King is dead, THE KING IS DEAD!


Strikeouts are the key indicator I’m examining for this particular study but not the only factor which should come into play when you assemble your staff. Purcey, Kershaw, Hampton and Eaton do collectively havemore K’s than innings pitched but not a single one of them has a career ERA under 4 or a career WHIP under 1.43. K’s are the starting point, from there look to the peripheral numbers like baserunnersallowed, HR allowed, ERA, WHIP and more. From there you should have more than enough data to draw a conclusion from your sample group.

All this math is giving me a headache.

I’ll bet David Wright has a headache too. While the strikeout is a potent aphrodesiacfor the fantasy pitching hunter it is a powerful laxative on the hitting side of the equation. Through 82 at-bats Wright has been wrong 27 times, the most K’s in the NLthis year to date. That’s a strikeout in 32.9% of his at-bats. Only Chris Davis (Shelton) of the Rangers has more K’s with 33. Davis (Shelton) has amassed these 33 whiffs in only 67 at-bats, good for a fanning in 49.3% of his at-bats. If he gets to 50% I think everyone in Texas should get a free window air conditioner – talk about marketing!

 Here’s another quick list of the worst 10 offenders in the strikeout category:

Sortable Batting
1Chris DavisTEX671113105900433.194.260.433.693
2David WrightNYM8215234118321227.280.372.390.763
 Fred LewisSFO6711205101111127.299.420.403.823
4Carlos PenaTAM82132031924011025.244.326.634.960
 Jhonny PeraltaCLE76916500600825.
6Prince FielderMIL7471851316001624.243.389.459.849
 Cameron MaybinFLA63712311210524.190.261.317.578
 Josh FieldsCHW74111922110011124.257.360.378.739
 Mark ReynoldsARI7210203151221824.278.350.556.906
10Grady SizemoreCLE92162250618431423.239.340.489.829


It’s a little tougher to draw a straight line here between K’s and production, Carlos Pena has 9 bombs and 24 RBI’s, good for 1st and 2nd in the majors respectively. Grady Sizemore has 16 runs scored and18 RBI’s, bothpositives for your squad. On the flip-side, Jhonny Peralta is exhibiting signs of struggle across the stat line with a .211 average and 0 home runs while Cameron Maybin is faltering to the tune of .190, 1 home run, 2 RBI’s.

Keep an eye on these players and these numbers. Wright, Sizemore and Fielder are perennial fantasy studs who should help you in many ways this season, so I think it’s safe in some cases to avoid panic. John Kruk broke down David Wright and his swing on yesterdays baseball tonight, it’s worth a look if you feel up to searching for the footage, I couldn’t find it in a quick search of the website but I’m sure it’s out there somewhere. If he can get upright like he was last year and restore his old leg kick he might be able to Wright the ship, pun intended.

A strikeout can be a game changing play with both positive and negative connotations depending on which players are involved and whether you own them. Do a litte investigating here and there, ongoing research is key to a successful fantasy season.


If you have comments, questions, swarmy outbursts or ideas for a future FBR segment your comments are welcome below. If you prefer the more traditional electronic mail route you can drop me a line at jelletlambie@gmail.com



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