The Saber's Edge: By the Numbers

The Saber's Edge: By the Numbers

This article is part of our The Saber's Edge series.

One of my favorite ways to find interesting players to pick up off the waiver wire or target for trades is to search the leader boards for player who stick out. Just looking through the leaderboards, players can be spotted who may be having a good season who may not be getting the recognition they deserve. Additionally, the best players should not be looked at. A person should look for players on the unproductive end of the spectrum. These players may be getting a little more love than they currently deserve.

K% - BB% (for pitchers) - I love looking at K% - BB%. It is the heart of pitching…striking out as many batters as possible while limiting the number of walks.

Danny Salazar (24% K%-BB%, 6th best among qualified starters) - Salazar was a sleeper coming into 2014, but he really struggled especially in the season's first half. His ERA ballooned to 5.53 and his K%-BB% was down to 16%. He was sent to the minors and eventually brought back up as a starter and posted 3.50 ERA and 19% K%-BB% in the season's second half. This season, he returned as a starter and he looks to be back to his 2013 level of production. Here are stats from the past three seasons.

Stat: K%, SwgStr%, FB Velo, BB%, HR/9
2013: 31%, 15%, 96.3 mph, 7%, 1.2
2014: 25%, 11%, 94.6 mph, 7%, 1.1
2015: 31%, 13%, 95.5 mph, 7%, 1.3

First, it looks like Salazar's walk rate is going to be 7%. Just a hunch. Using the rule "2 x SwgStr% = K%", it shows his 2015 K% may be a bit inflated especially since his velocity is not back up to his 2013 levels. Finally, the data shows Salazar may be home run prone. His ERA and FIP will likely be higher than his xFIP over his career.

Jason Hammel (23% K%-BB%, 8th highest)
The 32-year-old right-hander may be having a career season. In his career, he has never posted as high a strikeout rate (26%) or as low of a walk rate (3%). It is not like he is throwing harder since he is posting a 92.2 mph fastball with a career mark at 92.6 mph.

Going to the basics, he is throwing his four-seam fastball more (+6% points), his two-seam less (-10% points) and his slider more (+6% points). His two-seamer, which should generate a ton of groundballs, was below average in generating groundballs, so decreasing its usage was a nice move. The slider and four-seam get good swinging strike rates, so the transition make sense.

The one ticking time bomb for Hammels is the summer, especially the hot days at Wrigley with the wind blowing out. He has been home run prone in the past (1.1 career mark), and throwing more four-seamers isn't going to help to limit home runs.It will be interesting to see if he can keep up this level of production as the season goes on.

Aaron Sanchez (1% K%-BB%, dead last)
I have not figured out why is still in the big leagues or not in the bullpen. No starter has ever been successful with their K% and BB% almost identical. His 3.88 ERA is the only thing keeping him in the rotation right now. Something will change soon.

Kyle Gibson (3% K%-BB%, 4th worst)
An 11.5 K% and 8.1% BB% is not going to cut it over the long haul. He put up better strikeout and walk numbers in 2014 and posted a 4.47 ERA, not the 2.61 he posting so far this season. His 83% LOB% is the reason for the good production since his career value is 70%. I would sell any share I have to get any value possible.

wOBA (for hitters) - If there was a perfect stat in baseball, it may be wOBA. It shows a hitter's total hitting value.

Stephen Vogt (.420, 9th among qualified hitters)
I liked Vogt coming into the season as a nice sleeper pick at catcher. I had no idea he would do what he has so far this season. Looking over his stat line, two items really stick out, his BB% and ISO.

Last year his walk rate was 6% and now it is 14%. It has more than double. One item I immediately look for is a player's intentional walks. Vogt may be more feared as a hitter and the intentional walks jumped. So far this season, he has only been intentionally walked twice. After removing the two walks, his BB% drops to 13% which is still a major jump up from 6%. The jump in the walk rate is because pitchers aren't throwing him strikes. The number of pitches in the strike zone has gone from 48% to 45%. I could see his walk rate dip a bit as teams may start throwing a few more strikes to him.

His ISO has nearly doubled from around .150 in 2013 and 2014 to .281 this season. Here are the rest of his power numbers over the past two seasons.

Stat: 2014, 2015
HR/FB: 8%, 21%
Hard Hit%: 33%, 34%
HR&FB Dist: 277ft,279ft

He is hitting the ball just as hard, but the results have been quite a bit better. The big change for him has been pulling the ball more into the shorter left field porches. His Pull% in 2014 was 39% and it has jumped to 47% this season. Vogt has sold out to pull the ball and it is working for the 30-year-old. His production could really fall off if his power drops even a little bit.

Lucas Duda (.400 wOBA, 13th highest)
The 29-year-old lefty probably had his breakout season last year, but this season he is doing even better. The only number behind the change is a .293 AVG because of a .349 BABIP. He has never had a horrible BABIP (.298 career), but the BABIP, along with his power, has made him a good productive 1B.

I usually write off players with high BABIPs as being unlucky, but Duda is a heavily shifted hitter. In 2014, he was shifted the sixth most. This season he is third most shifted player. He has made a fewmechanical adjustments and is covering more of the field instead of just pulling the ball.

Batted ball direction: 2014, 2015
Pull%: 44%, 36%
Center%: 35%, 40%
Oppo%: 21%, 24%

These changes has helped to raise his BABIP against the shift from .253 to .273. I don't 100% believe in Duda increase in AVG, but he does look like he is making some gains against the shift.

Billy Hamilton (.257 wOBA, 8th lowest)
I don't get what Hamilton is doing at the plate. He is a speedster with who is trying to be a line drive hitter. His best asset is to put the ball in play and use his legs. Instead he is putting over a third of his batted balls into the air for a 1.2 GB/FB ratio. Dee Gordon, another speedster, is having his best season with a 4.4 GB/FB ration. In 2013, Gordon had a 1.6 GB/FB ration and struggled with a .273 wOBA. Besides not putting the ball on the ground, Hamilton doesn't have enough power to turn those flyballs in to home runs. For Hamilton's value to jump, he needs see the GB/FB ratio increase to 3 or higher.

Matt Kemp (.265 wOBA, 13th lowest)
The 30-year-old is having a huge power outage. Here is a look at a few power related stats:

Stat: 2014 value, 2015 value
ISO: .220, .081
HR/FB: 20%, 2%
Hard Hit%: 40%, 35%
HR&FB Dist: 301 ft, 263 ft

I wonder if one his 74 past injuries is keeping his production down. I expect news of an injury any day.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Zimmerman
Zimmerman writes analytics-focused baseball and football articles for RotoWire. He is a three-time FSWA award winner, including the Football Writer of the Year and Best Football Print Article awards in 2016. The 2017 Tout Wars Mixed Auction champion and 2016 Tout Wars Head-to-Head champ, Zimmerman also contributes to FanGraphs.com, BaseballHQ and Baseball America.
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