Using Sabermetrics to Find Waiver Wire Pickups
This weekly column will examine some good starting pitchers you should look to add over the next month. The quality of the pitchers will range between thin and deep leagues in order to reach the largest spectrum of fantasy owners. Each pitcher will be examined from a sabermetrics perspective to see his true value and determine whether a hot streak is likely to continue or not. With that in mind, let’s get into the Week 7 edition of the starting pitcher waiver wire column.
NOTE: Stats that will be used include: GB/FB (How many ground balls to fly balls are hit), ERA- (ERA adjusted by park) xFIP (Fielding independent ERA), Swinging Strike %, HR/FB% (how many times a fly ball hit against him is a Homerun), O- Contact % (percentage of times batters swing at pitches outside the K Zone) BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play,) and K/BB.
Jon Niese – NYM
In six starts so far this season, Jon Niese has a 2-2 record with a 1.82 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and a 36/10 K/BB in 45 IP. Niese has never been a big strikeout pitcher, and his 19.4 K % is right around his 18.9% career mark. However, at 41% owned in Yahoo leagues, he should be looked at solely for his ability to get batters out. While his velocity is right around the same as his career speeds, his location is the key to his 2014 effectiveness. Niese's O-Contact% is at 75.9%, a career high and over 6% higher than his 2013 number - what this means is hitters are making contact with his pitches outside the zone, which usually results in poorly hit balls. Also, with a HR/FB rate of just 8.6%, down 2% from his career average, fewer home runs leads to better overall numbers. He is without a doubt a mixed-league option, and considering he is currently ranked as the 24th-best SP this season, I would add him in any league you can.
Jordan Lyles – COL
A big part of why the Colorado Rockies are off to such a hot start this year, Jordan Lyles has not lost yet this year at 5-0. While his standard numbers are not as strong as Niese’s, (2.66 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 32 K in 50 IP), not only are they still great for a SP owned in only 24% of leagues, his sabermetric stats are even better. The 24-year-old in his first year in Colorado has not increased his fastball velocity, but his selection of the pitch. Lyles had used his two- and four-seamers a total of 59.2% in 2013, and increased it to 66.5% so far this season, decreasing his curveball usage from 17.8% to 14.1% while raising that pitch’s velocity from 79.6 to 81.1 MPH. Lyles also has a awesome groundball rate at 55.4%, which has helped him to a career-low HR/9 at .53. Since he doesn't strike out too many hitters, Lyles will have some rough outings, but his quality control, refined pitch mix, and elite ground ball rate should keep him valuable in deep 12 team leagues. In the ever-competitive NL Central, Lyles has stood out, and looks to be sticking around for a while.
Scott Feldman –HOU
As has been my idea the past two weeks of this column, my third pitcher will be one who might be worth adding, but only for a short while. Astro’s ace Scott Feldman, even after missing a few weeks with an arm injury, has actually been quite solid with 2 W, a 1.93 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 15 K over five starts. With a team like Houston in the competitive AL West it’s not an ideal situation, but in deeper leagues, you can’t get much better at just 21% owned, and he has 3 great pitchers parks to throw in when he's not home or in Arlington. He's actually lost a few miles per hour on his fastball velocity from last year, down to 87.9 MPH, but he's been more effective than his 2013 with the Cubs and Orioles. Feldman has a 2.24 GB/FB rate. While his FIP, xFIP and SIERA don’t look too promising, I would look past that for now until Feldman inevitably comes back down to earth, which he eventually will.
While none of the stats I used in this column are stats for your fantasy league, they still relevant in determining whom to add. Sabermetric numbers are the equivalent give you the context you need to make the right decisions. When looking for help on the waiver wire, examining players' sabermetrics could show you the right answer when the main stats leave you stumped.
Make sure to follow Justin on Twitter @JustBerglund and @RotoBaller for all your fantasy baseball insights.