Starting Pitcher Strategy: Five K/9 Second Half Surgers

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Ray discusses five starting pitchers who saw their strikeout rate, or K/9, surge in the second half of last season. Should you invest in 2014?

My focus on starting pitchers this offseason continues today, as I take a look at some starting pitchers who saw their strikeout rate, or K/9, increase in the second half of the 2013 season. The increase in strikeout rate may mean nothing, or it could represent a change in the pitchers' pitch selections, pitch sequencing or just improved velocity. But, any way you cut, one should sit back and take notice and decide whether they want to invest money/draft pick in said pitcher on draft day.

Below you will find a table showing the first half and second half K/9 rates for sixteen starting pitchers. Some are established aces, and you don't need me to tell you how good they are. Others on this list, like the guy at the very top, are not aces, but have enough stuff and talent to help fantasy owners in 2014.

Let's take a look at the starters who saw the biggest increase in their K/9 rate in the second half of 2013, and whether you should invest on draft day.

Second Half 2013

First Half 2013

Name

K/9

Name

K/9

Increase/Decrease

Bud Norris

9.30

Bud Norris

6.39

2.91

Mike Pelfrey

7.20

Mike Pelfrey

4.90

2.30

Cliff Lee

10.39

Cliff Lee

8.11

2.28

Jose Fernandez

11.12

Jose Fernandez

8.86

2.26

Ubaldo Jimenez

10.71

Ubaldo Jimenez

8.57

2.14

Jeff Locke

8.16

Jeff Locke

6.03

2.13

Wily Peralta

7.59

Wily Peralta

5.56

2.03

A.J. Griffin

8.92

A.J. Griffin

6.92

2.00

Julio Teheran

9.41

Julio Teheran

7.49

1.92

Jon Niese

7.64

Jon Niese

5.73

1.91

Scott Kazmir

10.25

Scott Kazmir

8.37

1.88

Juan Nicasio

7.79

Juan Nicasio

6.01

1.78

Bartolo Colon

6.64

Bartolo Colon

4.97

1.67

R.A. Dickey

7.97

R.A. Dickey

6.44

1.53

Andrew Cashner

7.26

Andrew Cashner

5.80

1.46

Chris Tillman

8.56

Chris Tillman

7.17

1.39

Bud Norris, BAL

Norris saw his K/9 skyrocket in the second half, from a 6.39 K/9 in 114 first half innings to 9.30 K/9 in 62.2 second half innings. His season K/9 was 7.49, which represents a drop in his K/9 for the second time in the last three seasons. The problem with Norris is that he is too hittable, as batters hit .280 against him last season, and he walks around 3.5 hitters per nine, so he is a WHIP category killer. Could that change? Sure, but let it happen on another owners' team in 2014.

A.J. Griffin, OAK

Griffin's K/9 rate improved by two strikeouts per nine innings in the second half last season, and he ended the season with a 7.70 K/9 and a low 2.43 BB/9. The problem with Griffin is he gives up way too many home runs, as he served up 36 taters in 200 innings last season. One has to think that he can bring his 1.62 HR/9 rate down in 2014, so he is a decent pick in mixed and AL-only leagues.

Julio Teheran, ATL

Teheran increased his K/9 from 7.49 K/9 to 9.41 K/9 in the second half last season, ending the year with a 8.24 K/9 to go along with his stingy 2.18 walks per nine. He also improved his ground ball rate to the 38% range. He is a solid #2 in NL only leagues and a #2-3 in mixed leagues, with a chance to be more than that in 2015 if he can limit the long ball and maintain his solid peripherals. He is a top 35-40 starter in 2014, and I think I have ranked him too low in my Top 100 Starting Pitcher rankings.

Andrew Cashner, SD

I think you know how much I like Cashner at this point. Cashner had an unbelievable second half of 2013, where he improved his strikeout rate from 5.80 K/9 to a more respectable 7.46 K/9, with an ERA of 2.14 in his 75.2 innings of work. He put up quality start after quality start, and I see him continuing to pitch well in 2014. Invest accordingly, as he was massively under-owned last season. I ranked him as my #29 starting pitcher in my Top 100 rankings a few weeks ago.

Chris Tillman, BAL

Tillman saw his improve from just over 7 K/9 to just over 8.5 K/9 in the second half last season, ending the season with a K/9 of 7.81. He limited the free pass to 2.97 BB/9, and improved his ground ball rate to 39% as well. Tillman gets hurt by the long ball, as he gave up 33 home runs (1.44 HR/9) in his 206.1 innings last season, resulting in a bump in his ERA by almost a run. Tillman should be drafted in most mixed and AL only leagues, and there is a chance we see another step up in his peripherals, and ERA, in 2014.

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