by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
When we talk about “luck” and starting pitchers there are often two numbers we look at, the BABIP and the strand rate. Obviously above average numbers aren’t always due to pure luck, but in certain cases it’s easy to point to. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the ten best strand rates among starting pitchers from 2016:
1. Jon Lester – 84.9%
2. Ian Kennedy – 83.1%
3. Max Scherzer – 81.7%
4. Kyle Hendricks – 81.5%
5t. Kevin Gausman – 81.2%
5t. Dan Straily – 81.2%
7. Danny Duffy – 80.9%
8. Drew Pomeranz – 80.1%
9. Justin Verlander – 79.9%
10. J.A. Happ – 79.9%
It was a tremendous season for Kyle Hendricks, as he posted a 2.13 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. An impressive control pitcher (2.08 BB/9), how much of his success was luck given the strand rate and .250 BABIP? Obviously the Cubs’ defense plays a role, especially with Jon Lester also on this list, but it’s hard to fully buy into his success. He’s a solid groundball pitcher (48.4%), but not elite and it’s easy to imagine a few more home runs (0.71 HR/9). Throw in a general luck regression (20.2% line drive rate) and it’s easy to point towards him as a sell high candidate. We’ll dig deeper into him later on this offseason.
We all know the Drew Pomeranz story, as he was traded from San Diego to Boston midseason along with a potential injury being hidden. That said, his regression moving from the NL West to the AL East should not have been surprising though it wasn’t that his strand rate fell off significantly after the trade:
Instead it was his BABIP (.240 to .306) and home runs (0.71 HR/9 to 1.83) that were the big culprits. Considering the potential regression in strand rate as well, that makes the overall outlook a bit muddy moving forward.
Kevin Gausman continues to struggle with home runs (1.40 HR/9), which is a problem. Even if he improves there, there’s a good chance his strand rate regresses and helps to offset any potential improvement. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to like, it just means he could continue to be more of a 3.60 ERA pitcher than be able to improve upon it.
The question facing Danny Duffy is more focused on his control (2.10 BB/9) as opposed to being able to maintain the luck marks. Maybe that’s a bit misguided, but he has strikeout stuff so if he can continue getting swings and misses the upside is going to remain, regardless of if his strand rate falls off a bit. We’ll definitely dive deeper into his numbers, but at this point it’s fair to consider him an intriguing pitcher to own.
Source – Fangraphs