Earlier this year I posted my 2017 BABIP All-Star team for hitters to identify hitters whose stats were boosted by better luck on balls in play. As a reminder, BABIP is essentially the players batting average on balls they put in play, excluding home runs. Today, I’ll share the same story, but from the pitchers side. Basically let’s dive in and see who in the baseball was a bit unlucky out of qualified pitchers in 2017. #WhatTheBaseball
#1. Clayton Richard, SP San Diego Padres
Clayton Richard certainly is not a highly sought after pitcher, but he is one of only 19 pitchers to throw 190 innings (he threw 197.1) last season. It’s crazy how few pitchers can be counted on to throw 200 innings. Richards is one of those guys and he isn’t going to kill you for fantasy baseball purposes. His strikeout rate was flat out miserable, which has always been the case for him, but he keeps his walks low and has pitched to a pretty good FIP over the past two seasons. He also suffered from the highest BABIP, at .351, of all qualified starting pitchers in 2017, making me believe he could easily improve upon his 4.79 ERA. Let’s face it, he’s a streamer at best, and that may even be a stretch, but if you need to pile up innings he’s someone to keep in mind.
#2. Jimmy Nelson, SP Milwaukee Brewers
Ok, now here is someone we can get excited about! Nelson had the breakout season many of us were waiting for, posting strong numbers across the board.
Those are some impressive numbers, led by a nice 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings. What’s even crazier is he did all of this with the second highest BABIP among qualified starters at .340. This paired with a nice 3.05 FIP tells me that Nelson has the potential to get even better if the ball bounces his way. The one challenge Nelson may still face is poor defense behind him. According to ESPN the Brewers had the third worst fielding percentage and I am not sure how much that will improve.
Unfortunately an injury cut his fantastic season short, and will carry over into the 2018 season. It’s possible the injury could hold him back, but Nelson is someone well worth the risk.
#3. Trevor Bauer, SP Cleveland Indians
Trevor Bauer is another guy who enjoyed a nice breakout season while dealing with some bad luck on balls in play. Bauer held a .337 BABIP in 2017 while posting strong numbers across the board. Unlike Nelson, Bauer was on one of the best defensive teams in all of baseball so we have strong reason to believe his BABIP should be lower in 2018. He needs to keep his control under wraps to avoid walks, but I feel pretty confident Bauer can repeat his nice 2017 season. And, on one of the best teams in baseball wins should not be hard to come by.
#4 Kevin Gausman, SP Baltimore Orioles
Kevin Gausman has been the tale of two halves for two seasons in a row now. Here are his splits over the past two seasons:
First half ERA 2016: 4.15
Second half ERA 2016: 3.10
First half ERA 2017: 5.85
Second half ERA 2017: 3.41
There is a lot of discussion on the reason for these splits, with the consensus being a conscious change in pitch selection. Looking at his second half there is reason to believe Gausman could still grow into an ace for the Orioles. One of the stats to look at is his high BABIP at .336, by far the highest of his career. Baltimore is a middle of the pack defensive team and he was one of only two pitchers to start 34 games last year. Gausman is a great value with a ton of upside whose BABIP should be lowered.
#5. Brandon Maurer, RP Kansas City Royals
I decided to end this with a closer, or at least a relief pitcher who had 20+ saves in 2017. Maurer had an interesting season that was highlighted with a disastrous 6.52 ERA and .361 BABIP, both the highest among all qualified relievers. It was a bad year… Most of his saves actually came in the first half of the season with the Padres with only 2 coming with the Royals. He has to pitch better, there is no question about that, but his .361 BABIP is to high to happen again and this alone could have a big impact. There is no guarantee he gets a chance to close, but he is a good strikeout pitcher who doesn’t issue a ton of walks. His FIP was a reasonable 3.93, much lower than his ERA, which shows he may have been a victim of bad luck. Maurer could be in for a bounce back year should he get the chance.