Buck the Trend: The Oakland A’s pitching staff

Buck the trends. You don’t need to add a player just because everyone else adds (or already owns) a player. Using the Oakland Athletics’ pitching staff, I will demonstrate why fantasy owners just don’t make any darn sense sometimes. 

Player A: 19 GS, 6-6 record, 3.95 ERA, 1.193 WHIP, 6.1 K/9
Player B: 20 GS, 8-7 record, 3.82 ERA, 1.131 WHIP, 6.9 K/9
Player C: 15 GS, 6-3 record, 4.14 ERA, 1.126 WHIP, 7.2 K/9

Of these three players, which would you rather own? It’s a tough decision. All of their ERAs are pretty inflated, so I would whittle it down using WHIP and K/9 (which are better indicators of actual performance anyway). Using this method, I would pick Player C.

Now let’s reveal who’s behind the curtain..

Player A = Jarrod Parker (66.2% ESPN ownership)
Player B = AJ Griffin (44.5% ESPN ownership)
Player C = Dan Straily (9.8% ESPN ownership)

Yes, it’s not fair to Straily that his ownership is so low because he was recently sent down to AAA. However, one can argue that Straily has pitched the best of the three players mentioned. He has improved his BB% and K% and cut down on home runs big time (although it’ll probably regress, pushing his ERA up a little). His main problem now is keeping runners on base from scoring: nearly one in three do score, compared to the MLB average of about one in four.

The bad strand rate could be a result of inexperience or it could simply be bad luck. If it is a matter of experience, though, one would assume it’s a problem that will correct itself over time.

So Straily’s high ERA (and on again, off again love affair with AAA) prevents him from being owned in more leagues. But he’s only three spots behind Jarrod Parker on the ESPN player rater for starting pitchers — and he has started five fewer games.

Meanwhile, AJ Griffin is 34th and 35th on the ESPN and CBS player raters, yet he is owned in fewer than half of leagues. Just to clarify, most leagues operate using nine pitching slots, most of which commonly use six or more starting pitchers. In a 10-team league, this would justify the top 60 pitchers getting the nod. Griffin should simply have double the ownership based on this logic alone.

Moral of the story is don’t let ownership trends dictate a player’s value.


Now, just for fun, let’s look at Griffin’s stats the last two season.

2012: 3.06 ERA, 1.130 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, 7.0 K/9
2013: 3.82 ERA, 1.131 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, 6.9 K/9

The word “identical” will get thrown a lot as an exaggeration to prove a point, but seriously, look at those stats. They’re identical. Except for the ERA. What’s the deal?

Turns out he’s giving up long balls more frequently than last year. Griffin’s an extreme fly ball pitcher — two in three balls put into play are in the air — so he will naturally be more prone to the homer. He’s just running into a rough patch, giving up 2.3 percent more home runs than last year and 2 percent more than the MLB average. He may not be safe to deploy now, but when he settles down, he should be good to go.


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