Starting Pitcher Draft Strategy: Target Ground Ball Pitchers, Part 2

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, I took a look at how starting pitchers with a high ground ball rate fared over the last three seasons. Today, I look at how this strategy worked in 2013, and who you should target in 2014.

Yesterday, I looked at how starting pitchers who keep the ball on the ground at a 45% rate fared over the last three seasons. They fared well. I then took a closer look at these ground ball pitchers to see how a draft strategy of targeting ground ball pitchers who strike out seven batters or more, and walk less than three batters, per nine innings fared over the last three seasons (2011 - 2013). and we saw they performed very well.

Today, I analyze how this strategy worked in 2013, and who you should target in 2014.

In 2013, there were 80 starting pitchers who pitched a minimum of 100 innings, with a ground ball rate of 45% or higher. The average ERA of these 80 starters was 3.71 and a 53% winning percentage (wins/(wins + losses). That is good, but not great. Actually, if you mix several of these starters with 2-4 middle relievers and closers on draft day, your year end ERA would be lower, I imagine. I won't list the 80 starters here, but will list the starters who meet the second requirement: striking out seven batters or more every nine innings.

Here is that list:

Name

W

L

IP

K/9

BB/9

GB%

ERA

Anibal Sanchez

14

8

182.0

10.0

2.7

45.40%

2.57

A.J. Burnett

10

11

191.0

9.9

3.2

56.50%

3.30

Jose Fernandez

12

6

172.2

9.8

3.0

45.10%

2.19

Matt Harvey

9

5

178.1

9.6

1.6

47.70%

2.27

Felix Hernandez

12

10

204.1

9.5

2.0

51.40%

3.04

Chris Sale

11

14

214.1

9.5

1.9

46.60%

3.07

Stephen Strasburg

8

9

183.0

9.4

2.8

51.50%

3.00

Francisco Liriano

16

8

161.0

9.1

3.5

50.50%

3.02

Justin Masterson

14

10

193.0

9.1

3.5

58.00%

3.45

Jeff Samardzija

8

13

213.2

9.0

3.3

48.20%

4.34

Madison Bumgarner

13

9

201.1

8.9

2.8

46.80%

2.77

Clayton Kershaw

16

9

236.0

8.9

2.0

46.00%

1.83

Tim Lincecum

10

14

197.2

8.8

3.5

45.30%

4.37

Tyson Ross

3

8

125.0

8.6

3.2

54.90%

3.17

Homer Bailey

11

12

209.0

8.6

2.3

46.10%

3.49

Alex Cobb

11

3

143.1

8.4

2.8

55.80%

2.76

Corey Kluber

11

5

147.1

8.3

2.0

45.50%

3.85

Adam Wainwright

19

9

241.2

8.2

1.3

49.10%

2.94

Mat Latos

14

7

210.2

8.0

2.5

45.10%

3.16

Clay Buchholz

12

1

108.1

8.0

3.0

47.70%

1.74

Felix Doubront

11

6

162.1

7.7

3.9

45.60%

4.32

Patrick Corbin

14

8

208.1

7.7

2.3

46.70%

3.41

Gerrit Cole

10

7

117.1

7.7

2.2

49.10%

3.22

John Lackey

10

13

189.1

7.7

1.9

46.80%

3.52

Hisashi Iwakuma

14

6

219.2

7.6

1.7

48.70%

2.66

Edinson Volquez

9

12

170.1

7.5

4.1

47.60%

5.71

Zack Greinke

15

4

177.2

7.5

2.3

45.60%

2.63

Ivan Nova

9

6

139.1

7.5

2.8

53.50%

3.10

Jon Lester

15

8

213.1

7.5

2.8

45.00%

3.75

CC Sabathia

14

13

211.0

7.5

2.8

44.70%

4.78

David Price

10

8

186.2

7.3

1.3

44.90%

3.33

Rick Porcello

13

8

177.0

7.2

2.1

55.30%

4.32

Hyun-Jin Ryu

14

8

192.0

7.2

2.3

50.60%

3.00

Dallas Keuchel

6

10

153.2

7.2

3.1

55.80%

5.15

Yovani Gallardo

12

10

180.2

7.2

3.3

49.20%

4.18

Kris Medlen

15

12

197.0

7.2

2.2

45.30%

3.11

Chris Archer

9

7

128.2

7.1

2.7

46.80%

3.22

This filter resulted in a group of 37 starters, yielding an average ERA of 3.35 and a 58% winning percentage in 2013. That is a terrific ERA.

Next, I added the third requirement: walking three batters or fewer every nine innings:

Name

W

L

IP

K/9

BB/9

GB%

ERA

Adam Wainwright

19

9

241.2

8.16

1.3

49.10%

2.94

David Price

10

8

186.2

7.28

1.3

44.90%

3.33

Matt Harvey

9

5

178.1

9.64

1.56

47.70%

2.27

Hisashi Iwakuma

14

6

219.2

7.58

1.72

48.70%

2.66

John Lackey

10

13

189.1

7.65

1.9

46.80%

3.52

Chris Sale

11

14

214.1

9.49

1.93

46.60%

3.07

Clayton Kershaw

16

9

236

8.85

1.98

46.00%

1.83

Corey Kluber

11

5

147.1

8.31

2.02

45.50%

3.85

Felix Hernandez

12

10

204.1

9.51

2.03

51.40%

3.04

Rick Porcello

13

8

177

7.22

2.14

55.30%

4.32

Gerrit Cole

10

7

117.1

7.67

2.15

49.10%

3.22

Kris Medlen

15

12

197

7.17

2.15

45.30%

3.11

Hyun-Jin Ryu

14

8

192

7.22

2.3

50.60%

3

Homer Bailey

11

12

209

8.57

2.33

46.10%

3.49

Patrick Corbin

14

8

208.1

7.69

2.33

46.70%

3.41

Zack Greinke

15

4

177.2

7.5

2.33

45.60%

2.63

Mat Latos

14

7

210.2

7.99

2.48

45.10%

3.16

Chris Archer

9

7

128.2

7.06

2.66

46.80%

3.22

Anibal Sanchez

14

8

182

9.99

2.67

45.40%

2.57

Stephen Strasburg

8

9

183

9.39

2.75

51.50%

3

Madison Bumgarner

13

9

201.1

8.9

2.77

46.80%

2.77

CC Sabathia

14

13

211

7.46

2.77

44.70%

4.78

Alex Cobb

11

3

143.1

8.41

2.83

55.80%

2.76

Jon Lester

15

8

213.1

7.47

2.83

45.00%

3.75

Ivan Nova

9

6

139.1

7.49

2.84

53.50%

3.1

Clay Buchholz

12

1

108.1

7.98

2.99

47.70%

1.74

This filter yielded a group of 26 starting pitchers with an average ERA of 3.11 and a .600 winning percentage. Wow.

Who should you target in 2014 fantasy drafts? Well, the list from 2013 is an assortment of aces and mid-late round picks in most mixed league drafts, so this strategy can be used if you everything falls your way. I recommend grabbing an ace starter by the fourth or fifth round in every draft.

Other than the ace starters listed above, here are the mid-late round pitchers I would target:

John Lackey

He looked like the old John Lackey this year, didn't he? His K/9 and ground ball rate jumped and his walk rate dropped in 2013, resulting in his lowest ERA since 2007.

Rick Porcello

Porcello is an elite ground ball pitcher (55.3%), and his strikeouts per nine increased in from 5.46 K/9 to 7.22 K/9 this season, resulting in a drop in his ERA to the low 4s, but his 3.53 FIP and 3.19 xFIP tell us he was a better pitcher than his ERA reflected. He could have a breakout in 2014, and can be had in the later rounds of most drafts.

CC Sabathia

Either Sabathia has lost it, or he just had a very bad 2013 season. We will learn more in spring training and early in 2014. I am betting that he bounces back in 2014.

Gerrit Cole

Is he an ace already? I say he is, but you can get him in the lower half of the first 10-12 rounds in 2014 drafts, as most fantasy owners still see him as very young and want to see how he performs in a full season. That presents opportunity for Fake Teams readers. Take advantage.

Homer Bailey

Bailey is on the cusp of reaching the potential we saw in him as one of the top prospects in the game several seasons ago. His 3.31 FIP ranked 23rd amongst qualified starters this season, and I think he can take that next step to being an ace. I am surprised the Reds are pondering trading him this offseason.

Chris Archer

Archer showed us a glimpse of what we can expect from him in the future in 2013, winning 9 of his 23 starts, with a low 3.22 ERA. He limits the free pass and can take that next step if he can improve the strikeout rate in 2014.

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