Jon Lester is a star again. Or is he? Martin Perez was a star and now he's not? There's an AL pitcher who wasn't drafted in the overwhelming majority of mixed leagues who's been pitching pretty darn well. Can you follow the clues to guess who he is? Finally, Kyle Gibson did his thing again Monday night. Can you trust him?
JON LESTER – SUPERSTAR
Seven starts into the season Jon Lester is king. His record is poor at 3-4, but there's not much he could have done about that. As for his own work, get excited.
2.59 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 10.73 K/9, 1.85 BB/9, 5.80 K/BB
Nothing there is anything other than elite. Kudos to the lefty.
The problem? They are many.
Remember, this is his 9th year in the league.
The last time he struck out a batter per inning was 2010. The last two years he didn't even reach 7.50 per nine.
The last time he was under two batters per nine in the walk column was... never. He's never been under 2.80 in a season in fact. Recall that he's a full batter below that right now.
You could double his career K/BB ratio of 2.55 and still not reach his current 5.80 mark. He's only had one season in his career with a mark over 2.75. Double that and you're still below his current level.
His career GB/FB ratio is 1.41. Right now, despite the success, the mark would be a a 7-year low – substantially so (his six year low is 1.27 and the current mark is 1.00).
His 20 percent line drive rate is actually slightly above his 19 percent career mark.
His 6.3 percent HR/F ratio would be a career best. His career mark is 9.7. The result is a mark of 0.55 in the HR/9 column, obviously is would be a career best, an a bit off his 0.83 career mark.
His current xFIP is 2.62. His career mark is 3.62.
His current SIERA is 2.57. His career mark is 3.78.
His fastball velocity is a seven year low (down about two thirds of a mph). His cutter velocity is down about a mph.
Batters are making contact on 90.5 percent of swings they take inside the strike zone, the second highest mark of his career and his contact rate of 79.7 is a dead on match for his career number.
Can a pitcher have their best season in year nine? Sure they can. Does it frequently happen? No. Does it frequently happen after a pitcher witnesses a two year drop in effectiveness? No. Odds are very long against Lester keeping up a pace that he has never sustained before, especially with so much “normal” going on with his pitching line.
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HOW QUICKLY THINGS CHANGE
Martin Perez was coming off a stretch of 26 straight scoreless inning over three starts and his ERA stood at 1.42 (he nearly had three shutouts in a row – his first outing in the stretch was “only” eight innings). Flash forward past his last two starts and now his ERA is 3.59 and people are panicking (he's allowed 13 runs over his last 9.2 innings). My response? You should have seen this coming. Here's why.
The law of averages is a powerful thing (could also substitute the term regression to the mean).
(1) Pitchers don't post a 1.42 ERA.
(2) Perez had a 3.62 ERA in 2013.
(3) He's only striking out 5.85 batters per nine innings.
(4) His walk rate of 2.83 leaves him with a below average 2.07 K/BB ratio.
(5) Even with the two beatings on the books his BABIP is .287. It was .292 last year.
(6) He posted a strong 48 percent ground ball rate over his first two seasons. Not that he couldn't keep up his 57 percent career mark, but that's a huge number.
I'm not suggesting Martin Perez can't pitch, he certainly can. What I am telling you is that you should have known, based on his skill set, that it was exceedingly unlikely that he would be able to sustain his hot start. Am I surprised at how quickly it all disappeared? Yes, but again it was always going to happen. He' basically a 6th starter in mixed leagues of 12 teams, and in 10 team leagues he's barely rosterable.
I pitch for the Indians.
No I'm not Corey Kluber.
(Kluber is even better).
I'm Zach McAllister.
Raise your hand if you drafted McA in an 10/12 team mixed league? Hell, did you draft him in 15 teamers? The answer is likely no, as it should have been. He had a 3.75 ERA last season, but that's just slightly better than league average at this point. His WHIP was inflated at 1.36, the same exact mark he posted in 2012, he struck out less than 6.8 batters per nine innings, his K/BB was barely 2.00, his BABIP was .295 and his GB/FB was 0.90. Nothing to see here. Right?
So what has changed? Well the most obvious sign is that he's jacked up his K/9 rate to 8.2. It's unlikely he will sustain that. The career mark is 7.41 in the bigs and his career minor league number is 7.1. But other than that change, honestly, it's all the same. Check it.
2014: 2.95 BB/9, .293 BABIP, 20.2 GB-rate, 1.08 GB/FB, 68.7 LOB%
Career: 3.04 BB/9, .305 BABIP, 20.8 GB-rate, 0.98 GB/FB, 67.7 LOB%
Make no bones about it either. That is a very average level of pitching across the board.
What about swing rates?
The percentage of pitches batters are swinging at outside the strike is a career low. Batters aren't chasing. He has seen a three percent rise in swing and misses on strikes, but that could easily just be a sample size thing and I wouldn't considering three percentage points to be significant regardless.
And finally, though it happens, a guy who takes eight years in the minors to reach the big leagues who then has impressive success in the major rarely happens. This guy pitched in Triple-A in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Injuries played a part, but still.
You can add him cause he's pitching well, but do not expect him to be a waiver-wire savor in 2014.
DON'T BELIEVE IT
Kyle Gibson starts this season.
1 ER, 1 ER, 0 ER, 7 ER, 5ER, 0 ER
Good luck trying to figure that out. I'll say this. Sixteen strikeouts in 36 innings is awful. What's worse? How about 17 walks. I'm not trusting him, even in AL-only leagues at the moment.
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