Starting Pitcher Strategy: Five Second Half K/9 Decliners

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Ray discusses five starting pitchers who saw their strikeout rate, or K/9, decline in the second half of last season. What should you do in drafts in 2014?

Yesterday, I published a piece on some starting pitchers who saw their K/9 rate rise in the second half of the 2013 season. On the flip side, there were also some very good pitchers who saw their K/9 drop in the second half last season, and we will discuss them today.

The decline in strikeout rate may mean nothing, or it could represent a change in the pitchers' pitch selections, pitch sequencing or possibly a sign of a pitcher pitching through an injury. But, any way you cut it, 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 fifteen starting pitchers, and there are some big names here, including Mat Latos, Shelby Miller, Matt Cain and Mike Minor, as well as Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer.

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

Second Half

First Half

Name

K/9

Name

K/9

Increase/Decrease

Mat Latos

5.96

Mat Latos

9.53

-3.57

Felix Doubront

6.39

Felix Doubront

8.55

-2.16

Shelby Miller

7.47

Shelby Miller

9.63

-2.16

Tim Lincecum

7.52

Tim Lincecum

9.67

-2.15

Edwin Jackson

5.76

Edwin Jackson

7.80

-2.04

Dillon Gee

5.38

Dillon Gee

7.26

-1.88

Wade Miley

6.49

Wade Davis

8.27

-1.78

Anibal Sanchez

9.10

Anibal Sanchez

10.86

-1.76

Corey Kluber

7.22

Corey Kluber

8.90

-1.68

Derek Holland

7.01

Derek Holland

8.67

-1.66

John Lackey

6.88

John Lackey

8.34

-1.46

Matt Cain

6.84

Matt Cain

8.28

-1.44

Jeremy Hellickson

6.00

Jeremy Hellickson

7.42

-1.42

Mike Minor

7.19

Mike Minor

8.48

-1.29

Max Scherzer

9.35

Max Scherzer

10.55

-1.20

Mat Latos, CIN

Latos saw his K/9 plummet in the second half by 3.5 K/9, which is an absolutely huge drop in strikeout rate. So what was the impact on his season K/9? Zilch. His K/9 in 2012 was 7.95 K/9, last year it was 7.99 and his ERA actually dropped from 3.48 to 3.16 last season, and surprisingly, his second half ERA (2.68) was almost a run lower than his first half ERA (3.53), do don't let the drop in strikeouts scare you in 2014. He did have offseason surgery to remove bone chips in his right elbow, but he should be fine for spring training. Invest.

Shelby Miller, STL

We all know that Miller was basically shut down had a tremendous rookie season, but he also suffered a bad second half, where his strikeout rate drop by more than two strikeouts per nine innings, yet his ERA remained in the low 3 range. He did not pitch in the playoffs and recently admitted that he was dealing with some shoulder soreness in early September, so that explains why he didn't pitch in the postseason. I would watch how he pitches in spring training as a precaution, just to make sure there is nothing more serious going on with his shoulder.

Corey Kluber, CLE

Kluber had a bit of a breakout last season for the Indians, winning 11 of his 24 starts, with a 3.85 ERA, 3.30 FIP and a K/9 over 8.0. He mixes that with a low walk rate and a solid ground ball rate, so he has more to offer to fantasy owners in 2014. On the downside, he saw his strikeout rate drop from 8.90 K/9 to 7.22 K/9 in the second half, yet his ERA was slightly lower in the second half than the first half. I think we could see another solid performance from Kluber in 2014 and fantasy owners should target him in the later rounds of drafts in a few months.

Matt Cain, SFG

Cain suffered through his worst year in the big leagues last season, winning just eight game with a 4.00 ERA, where he saw his season K/9 rate drop slightly, but his second half K/9 dropped by almost 1.5 strikeouts per nine innings. One would think that Cain's ERA was higher in the second half, but that was not the case, as he struggled through a rough first half with a 5.06 ERA, and was back to his old self in the second half as his ERA dipped to 2.36. I wouldn't put much into the drop in K/9 for Cain,, as he had a nice second half and returned to the old Matt Cain.

Mike Minor, ATL

Minor had a breakout season in 2013, winning 13 games and saw his stats improve across the board. His season K/9 improved from 7.28 K/9 to 7.96 K/9, while his walk rate dropped by almost a walk per nine and his HR/9 dropped as well. His second half K/9 dropped from almost 8.5 K/9 to just over 7.0 K/9, and his August and September ERAs were the worst of the season as a result. I still like Minor heading into 2014 fantasy drafts, but will watch to see if there are any warning signs during spring training.

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