Some keys to success for any big league hurler follow. Be left-handed. Be durable. Pitch in a good ballpark that favors arms over bats. Come on down Eric Stults of the Padres who had one solid season for the club from southern California in 2013. Just how good was he? Let's take a look.
Stults threw 203.2 innings. That mark tied him with Mark Buehrle for the 11th most of any left-hander in baseball in 2013.
Stults wasn't all that bad last year. In fact, when he pitched at home at Petco Park he looked like the second coming of a healthy Ted Lilly.
Home: 3.06 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 4.17 K/BB ratio, .233 BAA
Of course, those impressive numbers meant he was a stinker on the road channeling his best Joe Saunders.
Away: 4.77 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 2.55 K/BB, .311 BAA
Clearly the smart money is on streaming Stilts when he pitches at home. If you do that you might just find yourself one solid arm on the cheap on draft day, especially when you consider how downright effective he has been the last two seasons. Over his last 302.2 innings, no matter where he has pitched, Stults is sporting a 3.60 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, a 2.78 K/BB ratio an a 19-16 record. Not bad at all.
So what kind of skills does Stults possesses? Prior to last season pretty boring ones. Honestly, they weren't that much better in '13 if truth be told, and you know me, I always tell the truth (sometimes to my own detriment it seems).
For each of the last four years Stults has failed to strike out even six batters per nine innings, and his career mark is 5.70. That's plain, old fashioned, terrible. When a guy can't strike anyone out I always turn to his walk rate next. In that area we've seen marked improvement from Stults. Here are his BB/9 marks the past four seasons: 4.68, 3.00, 2.45 and 1.77 (that 1.77 mark was the 11th best in the game last season). It's pretty hard to think that Stults will be able to replicate that mark in 2014, but it's not like he wore down last season as he walked only three batters in five September starts so there might be a wee bit o' hope with this measure coming close to being repeated in '14.
Unfortunately for Stults, the rest of his pitching line his league average. The following numbers are all within about a tenth of a point of the big league average.
1.03 GB/FB 20.5 line drive rate .302 BABIP 0.80 HR/9 69.6 left on base percentage
Pretty amazing really how all of that was league average. Add in the dismal K-rate, and the fact that he was only successful pitching at home, and you've got a guy that might be able to help you in mixed leagues if you use him as a spot starter. If your plan is to draft him, stick him in your lineup and not worry about him, you would be making a mistake.
A few other things to note.
Though he had a career best 35.2 percent mark inducing batters to swing at pitches outside the strike zone (35 percent), he also threw five year low percentage of pitches inside the strike zone (41 percent). More often than not it seems like he was getting batters to swing at his pitch in 2013. When they didn't do that batters had the upper hand.
Stults is a solid option in NL only leagues because he isn't likely to cost you much. He's also a nice target late in mixed leagues if you plan to spot start him when pitching at home. Still, with ratios that are league average, an a K rate that led to a mere 131 strikeouts even though he threw more than 200 innings, Stults isn't a very exciting name to call out on draft day. Come to think of it, his outlook is very Buehrle-like as we come full circle returning to the name I mentioned at the top of the piece.
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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