'Oakland Athletics' photo (c) 2012, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ The Athletics win. You don't always know the names, and you probably couldn't pick any of their players out if they were walking down the street, but that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of players on that squad that aren't big time fantasy baseball options. One of those names, that will likely be fairly moderate in cost on draft day, is starting pitcher A.J. Griffin.

Griffin won 14 games in 2013. That's one more than Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish and James Shields.

Griffin had a 3.83 ERA. That's better than teammate Jarrod Parker (3.97). We'll talk more about that ERA in a bit.

Griffin had a 1.18 WHIP. That's better than Hyun-Jin Ryu (1.20), Mat Latos (1.21) and Shelby Miller (1.21). We'll talk more about that WHIP in a bit.

Not regarded as a big strikeout arm in many circles, it might surprise you to learn that Griffin has 171 Ks in 2012. That's two more than Shelby Miller, eight more than Francisco Liriano, 10 more than Ervin Santana and 13 more than Matt Cain.

Looking at the totality of his career Griffin is 21-11. Impressive.

Looking at the totality of his career Griffin has a 3.60 ERA in 282.1 innings.

Looking at the totality of his career Griffin has a 1.13 WHIP.

Looking at the totality of his career Griffin has a 7.49 K/9 mark.

Looking at the totality of his career Griffin has a 3.22 K/BB ratio.

Since the start of last season, among hurlers who have thrown at least 280 innings, here is where Griffin ranks.

Griffin's 3.60 ERA is tied for 35th best in the game.

Griffin has allowed 10.30 base runners per nine innings in that time, the 11th best mark in baseball.

Griffin's 7.49 K/9 mark is 46th in baseball.

Griffins 3.22 K/BB ratio is 33rd in baseball.

Maybe it's time we start to take Mr. Griffin more seriously in the fantasy game.

So Griffin is a winner, who has a solid ERA, a tremendous WHIP, a strong K/9 rate and an impressive K/BB ratio. So what's holding you back from ranking Griffin in a spot that he deserves to be based on the first 47 starts of his career? I bet I know what it is. It's the long ball.

Griffin allowed 36 home runs last season leading to an insanely high 1.62 HR/9 mark. That number pretty much added a half run to his ERA. And that's a huge issue. His HR/F rate was 12.5 percent, a bit above the 9-10 percent of the league average, but it's not a huge number by any means. The problem is that last season everything that was hit went into the air as his fly ball rate was sky-high at 49.5 percent. As a result two things happened. One was that he was pounded for homer after homer. Second, he didn't give up many hard hit balls or base hits on balls that didn't go out of the yard. In fact, his 18.4 percent line drive rate was better than the league average, and his .242 BABIP was way under the league average (some .050 points). This might surprise you. Griffin's career BABIP of .249 suggests that if he were able to cut his homer rate down, say to the level that he posted in 2012 (1.09 per nine), that he would be bound for success. And that's really the issue here – the large amount of fly balls and the batters ability to take the pitches that Griffin leaves up in the zone deep.

Griffin is a pitcher who is highly skilled and one that through two seasons has likely performed better than you thought. Still, the copious amount of taters that he allowed last season certainly leaves a sour taste in ones mouth and makes you worry about whether or not you can trust him. I can pretty confidently say this in an attempt to quell your fears. It's hard to think that he will allow more than 36 homers in 2014. Since 2000 there have only been 26 individual seasons, by every pitcher in baseball, in which someone permitted 36 homers. It's also fair to posit that his fly ball rate will come down just a bit, and that should also help to decrease the dingers a bit. As I noted above, his ratios are solid, as is his W-L record, and he strikes batters out without issuing too many free passes as well. Until/unless he gets the homers under control he could be a frustrating own, but I see a pitcher who is skilled enough that I would be more than willing to take a chance on him given that others will likely bypass his name until at least the middle of a draft.


By Ray Flowers


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About Ray Flowers

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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