2012′s Luckiest Pitcher

Posted on 06 February 2013 by Will Emerson

I should start by saying, I cannot definitely label this pitcher the luckiest pitcher in baseball, per se. I may be just a bit too hyperbolic, but this pitcher was darned lucky on the bump in 2012 and it looks like his luckiness may be tough to beat. I  have not gone through every pitcher’s numbers from 2012 though so I can’t say with absolute certainty. Really, I haven’t! Anyways, let’s start with one of my, and I am sure your, favorite things in the whole wide world, a blind player comparison! Yay!

JeredWeaver2blur

Player A: 9.35 K/9, 3.06 FIP, 3.32 xFIP

Player B: 6.77 K/9, 3.75 FIP, 4.18 xFIP

So which pitcher would you rather have? Choose your answer wisely, grasshopper. Of course you would most likely choose Player A, but, as you are probably guessing, as with most blind player comparisons, there is a bit of a twist. So before the big reveal let’s look at a couple of, what I like to call, superficial numbers for the same two players:

Player A: 13-12,  3.01 ERA

Player B: 20-5, 2.81 ERA

So the ERAs are not monstrously far apart, but I would guess Player B would have received more Cy Young votes wouldn’t you? So who are these two pitchers? Well, here’s the big twist moment for ya….Player A is Jered Weaver in 2010 and Player B is, well, Jered Weaver….in 2013. Yes, that’s right folks, Jered Weaver had to be one of, if not the, luckiest pitchers in baseball last season.

Come on, you have to admit it is hard to argue the luck here for Jered Weaver. 20-5? 2o and frickin’ 5! With an FIP of 3.75 and a K/9 under seven you would hardly expect a sub three ERA and 20 wins. I’ve been over this before, but it bears reiterating (I think?), strikeouts per nine innings, as much as I love ‘em, are not the end all be all. However, pitchers with a low K/9 are generally crafty pitchers who keep the ball on the ground and such. Jered Weaver on the other hand? Well, he is not. Jered was inducing worm burners about 36% of the time, which is kind of low for a pitcher that is not striking guys out.  In fact, in looking even deeper into his numbers, almost 75% of batters that faced Weaver last year put the ball in play and of those balls in play close(ish) to twice as many were in the air. Generally not great percentages, so naturally Weaver would need a wee bit of luck.

Los Angeles Angles pitcher Jered  Weaver throws against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, May 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

In 2012 Weaver had a BABIP of .241, which is pretty darned low. Just for a quick comparison, the league average in 2012 was .293.  Weaver was over 50 points below the league average, in case you are not quick with the arithmetic. That number right there points to a great deal of luck on Weaver’s side. Obviously BABIP can be subjective and will not always be extremely telling, but generally you would expect a pitcher to, at some point, come back to the mean, right? Well, if anything, Weaver is getting luckier by the season, believe it or not. Weaver’s BABIP has gone down in each of the last five seasons. Take a look for your self:

2007: .312

2008: .298

2009: .278

2010: .276

2011: .250

2012: .241

Quite a unique trend Weaver has going on here. Along with the lower BABIP, his FIP has gone up each of the past two seasons as well. So is regression, in fact on the way for Weaver in 2013? It’s almost tough to say. Really, he should have a fairly large regression, but he has avoided it thus far with that 2010 ERA of 3.01 being the highest in the last three seasons, so who knows? The big question though, is what does all this mean for Weaver’s fantasy value in 2013?

The regression just has to be coming, right? It makes no worldly sense if it doesn’t, right? What I can say for sure is that I am steering clear of Jered Weaver come draft day. The  thinking being that the ERA will float closer to his FIP or xFIP in 2013, due to that BABIP coming closer to the league average. Even if it doesn’t, the high probability of this happening should be enough to scare some people away from Weaver, especially at the price you will more than likely have to pay for his fantasy services.  Fantasy services? Okay, that sounded bad, but you know what I mean. RotoChamp, for instance, has him ranked as the number nine starting pitcher (39th overall) for fantasy. It is early but, barring injury or some sort of Spring Training meltdown, I would wager that is about where he will be drafted in most leagues. I just don’t like that kind of risk, for a guy that will more or less be the de facto ace of whatever fantasy squad he is on. Then again, the luck has been with Weaver consistently and it’s not like most, or probably any, leagues have BABIP or FIP as categories. But is there more to be concerned about with Mr. Lucky than just those advanced statistics with the giant blinking arrow pointing towards regression?

Well, one thing that does count in just about every fantasy baseball league is strikeouts, where Weaver has seen a major decline over the last two seasons. While the three season sample size here could be a fluke, there are some red flags within Weaver’s numbers that lead me to think otherwise. First of all, Weaver’s swinging strike percentage has gone down each season since 2010, from 11.2% to 9.1 % to 8.5%. This could be due in part to him just not fooling hitters as much and or the second red flag…his velocity. Weaver has also been slowly losing miles per hour on his fastballs since 2010. Weaver’s average  four-seamer and cut fastball have both lost about two miles per hour from 2011 to 2012.  What’s also interesting is that his average change-up is up in velocity about a full mile per hour since 2010. So, in reality he has lost three miles per hour difference in velocity between the two pitches over the past few seasons, not a trend you like to see in a pitcher. So, what are we to make of the 2013 Jered Weaver?

Luck, good or bad, can definitely play a huge factor for many, if not all, players and the luck has certainly been on the good side for Jered Weaver. Even with the disconcerting advanced stats, he is still a viable fantasy option though, because the bottom line is he, inexplicably, posts good numbers. Somehow he is getting the job done. Maybe it has something to do with the Danny Glover/ Tony Danza vehicle Angels in the Outfield, I dunno? What I do know, is I just can’t warrant drafting him as high as he will be going this year, especially if I can wait a little longer and land a Max Scherzer or Matt Garza. I know it sounds weird to be down on a guy who finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting last season, but I just don’t have faith in Jered Weaver. There is an implosion on the way and I want to be far, far away when it happens. Now, I think I want to go watch Angels in the Outfield.

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