Line Drive to the Dome

I’m fairly certain that kid owns a few shares of Chris Carpenter. With a blank stare on his goofy face, he ignored our warnings of drafting an expensive, injury prone pitcher who has a below average K/9. I yelled “heads up!” during the draft season, but the blank stare continued while he pulled the trigger on Carp and took a Line Drive to the dome. Owners of the BABIP-riddled pitcher are now holding their heads, helplessly wandering around. Not even the world’s largest ice pack can cure the woes of a .338 BABIP. Most people should know LD% is directly tied to BABIP, which in turn is directly tied to WHIP and ERA. A low LD% is more important than a high GB%. LD% is overlooked by many, I’m hoping to change that. Let’s take a look at a few pitchers who have been beat up by opposing batters through the first seven weeks of the season.

Matt Garza [23.4% LD% – .367 BABIP] Garza’s 10.99 K/9 and 3.23 BB/9 look great. These numbers combined with his unsustainable 2.4% HR/FB% fuel his fraudulent 1.83 FIP. Those who back Garza may be disappointed when all is said and done. Garza posted a .271 BABIP during the past three seasons, but he was due for regression as he left behind one of the best defenses in the league for the Chubbies. Chicago has the 7th worst team UZR this season (TB is No. 1). The poor defense and extremely high LD% combine to give Garza an awful batting average of balls in play. His mdsFIP is 3.07. If his HR/FB% was closer to his career average his mdsFIP would be 3.72, which is exactly what his ERA is right now. Of course I do not expect his rest-of-season BABIP to be .367, but as long as his LD% is high we shouldn’t expect Garza to live up to his FIP expectations. Will the LD% improve? I don’t know. I do know his fastball, slider and curveball are lacking movement. I would expect his ERA to settle in around 3.40.

Chris Carpenter [24.0 LD% – .338 BABIP] Carp is flopping around the floors of sinking boats that are the teams who drafted him. His 1.48 WHIP and 4.88 ERA emit the smell of dead fish. Carp’s fastballs are missing a little horizontal movement and the results have been bad. It’s been eight years since his fastball had a negative value. Not only does the fastball have a negative value, it’s absolutely atrocious at -7.2. Carp’s FIP sits at a reasonable 3.97, but his mdsFIP is 4.74. Carp has posted poor line drive percentages in the past, but never in a season in which he pitched more than 75 IP. There is a chance Dave Duncan gets Carp back on track, but that’s not a sure bet. If I did own the aging vet, I’d try to find a Dave Duncan/Cardinals homer and try to get something that would help the team.

Edwin Jackson [23.5% LD% – .346 BABIP] High BABIP numbers are the norm for Jackson. This is why his ERA rarely lives up to the expectations created by FIP. Pitching for the White Sox doesn’t help matters either, they haven’t put a good defense on the field since 2005. Jackson’s K/9 and BB/9 are better than his career averages, but that LD% is brutal. Despite his fastball sitting at 94 mph, it’s never been a positively valued pitch and it’s not showing the same movement this season. His changeup isn’t showing the usual movement either. Both are poorly valued. Don Cooper could get Jackson back on track, but this is not a safe bet. As of now, his mdsFIP is 4.40.

Cliff Lee [23.5% LD% – .337 BABIP] Bruce Leroy’s 10.53 K/9 and 2.03 BB/9 are spectacular, but he has been hit hard this season. Lee has posted poor LD% and BABIP numbers in the past so while these numbers are a bit extreme, he’s been here before. His Line Drive Percentages have been all over the map during his career so there really shouldn’t be any expectations here. He’s posted numbers from 15% to 23.9%, Lee is a wild one. His FIP is 2.51, but his mdsFIP is 3.11. If we used his career average for BABIP, his mdsFIP would be 2.70. I’ve tried to buy low on Lee, but I couldn’t pull it off. I like Lee despite the awful LD% and BABIP, a 10.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 is extremely difficult to find.

CC Sabathia [22.1 LD% – .314 BABIP] Sabathia is on the decline. The velocity is down, the K/9 is trending downward and the BB/9 are trending upward. This season he’s getting beat up by opposing batters. His slider has a negative value for the first time because it’s lost a lot of horizontal movement. The guy has averaged over 240 IP the past four seasons, he’s racking up the mileage. His FIP sits at 2.96, but his mdsFIP sits at 3.33. Sabathia is still a solid pitcher, but he’s no longer the SP1 teams can rely on as their staff ace.

Other LD% – BABIP bummers: Tim Stauffer, Travis Wood, Derek Holland, Ryan Dempster, John Lannan, Joe Saunders, John Danks, Carlos Carrasco, Jeff Francis, Clayton Richard and to a lesser extent Kyle Drabrek and Chris Narveson.

Disclosure: My FIP numbers used this formula. I noticed Fangraphs numbers were more favorable, I wonder if they use a different number than the 3.20 I used. My mdsFIP numbers calculate the number of Earned Runs allowed from the FIP, then add the Earned Runs accrued from an above average BABIP. The average BABIP being .285 this season.