Quick-name the top 10 starting pitchers in fantasy baseball. Lincecum, Greinke, Sabathia, Haren, Santana and Halladay all come to mind. Tristan Cockroft penned a nice article over at ESPN yesterday discussing the value of Johan Santana and whether his name value carries more weight than his performance on the field for fantasy owners.
Cockroft talks about Santana's declining strikeout rate:
On the surface, Santana's 7.88 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio of 2009 might not seem so troubling, even though it does represent a drop from 7.91 in 2008 and 9.66 in 2007.
Cockroft fails to mention Santana's declining K/BB rate. Here are his K/BB rates for the past 5 years-5.29, 5.21, 4.52, 3.27, and 3.17. His BABIP has increased in each of the last five years, from .259 in 2004 to .296 in 2009. While his ERA was 3.13 in 2009, his FIP was 3.79. In fact, his FIP has increased in three of the last four seasons.
Cockroft goes on to talk about how hitters are starting to catch up to Santana:
But it's how Santana has come to his strikeout totals as a member of the Mets the past two seasons that is most disconcerting. One of the advantages of migrating to the National League following the 2007 season was that he'd get to face pitchers more often, as opposed to loaded lineups featuring the designated hitter. And sure enough, he did capitalize on facing those light-hitting pitchers; he whiffed 49 of them in 93 at-bats against him (an astonishing 52.6 percent) the past two seasons combined.
But extract those pitchers' statistics and here is how Santana's opposition fared:
Opposing non-pitchers' contact rate with Twins: 71.5 percent
Opposing non-pitchers' contact rate with Mets: 78.9 percent
2008-09 National League non-pitchers' contact rate: 80.5 percent
So, hitters are making contact in almost 79% of their at bats vs Santana, which supports the increasing BABIP over the last few years. So not only is he coming off elbow surgery, but Santana's trends are saying stay away.
Going into 2010 drafts, fantasy owners should pay attention to pitchers peripheral stats, and not just rely on name value, as Cockroft talks about in his article. Looking inside the numbers tell a different story, and owners who take the time to do just that, can walk away from guys like Santana, which can mean the difference between being in the money and looking up at the other fantasy owners in your league.