SP Split Performances Analyzed — Part One

When looking at seasonal splits, you can’t go by surface stats. WHIP fluctuates for many reasons, and ERA is affected by even more factors. When you’re looking at second-half risers or faders, you need to look at players’ own histories (if they aren’t rookies), the common luck factors (BABIP, LOB%), and especially changes in skill values (K/9, BB/9). With that said, here’s a look at some pitchers who had decent variances in their surface stats from one half to the next.

Homer Bailey

Bailey had a solid year. He was pretty good in the first half, but he looked even better in the second half in ERA and WHIP. So why the change? As it turns out, Bailey’s skills were better in the first half, with better K/9, BB/9, and GB%. In the second half he faded just a bit, but his ERA improved by 0.77. This is primarily due to his luckier BABIP and LOB%. What’s nice is that even that lower second-half K/9 was better than the last two seasons. There’s a chance he could take another step forward in 2014 if he maintains his K/9 gains and is at least average in the luck factors.

Patrick Corbin

I’m not making any secret about my man-crush for Corbin. He had a stellar first half in terms of ERA and WHIP, and at first glance it looks like he fell apart in the second half. However, he was extremely lucky in BABIP and LOB% in the first half, and in the second half the tides turned toward unlucky. What bodes well for the future is his maintaining his solid BB/9 from 2012 and the first half, as well as his decent groundball rate of 47%. The reason I’m excited for 2014 is his huge jump in K/9 from 7.2 in 2012, to 7.0 in the first half of 2013, to 8.5 in the second half. His swinging strike rate also improved. He threw his slider more in 2013 than 2012, and he’s getting more batters to swing out of the zone as well. With stable luck factors, I expect final stats even better than his 2013 line.

Hisashi Iwakuma

Iwakuma’s 2013 season seemingly came out of nowhere. A lot of people aren’t betting on him to repeat, of course, and he’s not that young, so there’s a chance you can grab him at a reasonable price. His first-half WHIP was an insane 0.88, and the rise in the second half to (a still solid) 1.15 may show he was fading. However, the only major chance was in BABIP, which was very lucky in the first and more normal in the second. That’s something to consider: He had a BABIP near league-average in the second half, yet he still managed a 1.15 WHIP! This is due to the fact that he doesn’t walk batters: a 1.3 BB/9 in the first half rose to 2.2 in the second half, but it’s still far better than most SP. He lost a little on his strikeout rate as well, but it’s still very solid when combined with a great walk rate. I really like the fact that his groundball rate in the second half returned to 52%, which is what he had in 2012. Look at his second half in 2013, note that there isn’t much of a positive luck factor there, and realize that he could easily repeat that half for a full season. Buy now.

Next Time

I looked at just three pitchers here, and if you’d like to see a specific player analyzed for the next article, leave a comment. I’ll also look at players who show red flags for 2014.

Kevin Jebens

Written by 

Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.

15 thoughts on “SP Split Performances Analyzed — Part One”

  1. Nice article Kevin. I love Iwakuma and Bailey appears to be a pitcher on the rise as well.

    I am a little nervous about Corbin though. The improved K rate in the 2nd half could be a mirage. When a pitcher gives up more hits, they face more batters per inning. Is his K rate increase from the 2nd half due to seeing more hitters? Or have his skills actually improved?

    My bet is that the BABIP steadies a little and we see numbers in between the two halves for the duration of 2014. I am expecting a player with solid ratios as an SP 3 or4, but I don’t really see an ace on the rise here. Maybe I am wrong though.

    1. I wouldn’t call him a true ace, but a very, very solid #2 is believable. In the second half he actually faced FEWER batters per game (27.1 in 1st half, 26.7 in 2nd half), probably due to the bad luck that caused his ERA and WHIP to balloon. Also, like I said in the article, his Swinging Strike rate went up. The league average is 9%, and he went from 10% to 12% in the second half. That’s a good indicator he’s improved his game. FanGraphs doesn’t offer half-season info on their “Plate Discipline” or “Pitch Type” sections, but from 2012 he’s relying more on his slider, and it’s working for him. He has a higher swinging rate at pitches out of the zone than the MLB average, and his first-pitch strike is phenomenal at 70% (MLB avg. is 60%).

      1. Fair enough. Corbin may end up being a player that I regret not drafting in 2014. The swinging strike rate does lend credence to his skills possibly improving and his minor league K rate suggests a potential future increase here too.

        Corbin faced fewer hitters per game in the second half, but he also faced more hitters per inning because of the higher BABIP. That is why I suggested his K/9 might be somewhat of a mirage. Hopefully he can combine the higher K rate with the low BABIP next season. Then he could emerge as a true ace.

  2. I have been a big Iwakuma believer since he became a starter midway through 2012. I picked him up in my league and he rewarded me with a 8-4 record as a starter with a 2.65 ERA through those games. I see no reason to believe he can’t have another strong season, so I’ll definitely be targeting him in my draft. I’m not expecting a 1.00 WHIP and 2.5 ERA, but I don’t see a big regression. He’s been very solid over a season and a half worth of starts.

  3. Love your stuff overall and loved the post about SPs that might fly under the radar. I’m looking for more posts about these types of young SPs who can be drafted late or cheap in auction drafts. What are your 14 prospects for names like Sonny Gray, Danny Salazar, Alex Wood, Dan Duffy, Alex Cobb, etc?

  4. I had Bailey this past year but traded him down the stretch to a contender (my team was out of it), after deciding I wouldn’t keep him. His overall #’s do look good, and all the stat sites love his good ratios. My problem is it’s a weekly head to head league, and start to start he is all over the place. He had almost as many bad starts (4 ER+) as high quality starts (2 ER or less 7+ IP) – it was 11 bad, 12 really good. In a weekly league, he killed me several times when I needed a good start out of him. Some people (I think on Fangraphs) are saying he’s turning into an ace, but Kershaw (who I am keeping) only had 3 bad starts with 21 high quality ones. There’s no comparison.

    In a league where weekly performance is not as important, he’s probably more valuable.

    1. I would agree that consistency is an important factor for some leagues, Brian. Certainly the more QS a pitcher has, the most consistent he is.(even though QS is scoffed at by some hardcore stat-heads). Bailey wont be a true ace, but like the other SP in this article, I’m comfortable with him being a #2 with a step forward.

    1. When looking at “skill” changes do you look further at interior numbers like GB%, SWK%, Infield Fly%, and LD%? The last 2 seem to have more impact when weighed together with BABIP. Also, for Rookies and near Rookies I seem to remember that long ago Pizza Cutter did some calculations on when hitters’ interior numbers seem to stabilize after MLB PA or AB be a truer indicator of baselines for future performance. Are there similar MLB IP indicators for MLB hurlers just beginning their careers?

Comments are closed.