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September Duds: Mining K-BB Differential for 2020 Busts

Last week, I introduced a series I plan to showcase over the course of the off-season, looking at the September studs and duds in a number of different metrics. I began looking at the extremely simple but powerful statistic of K-BB with the surgers and I this week I am looking at those who were lagging to end the season.

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Falling Off the K-BB Cliff

Below is the list of all qualified pitchers who saw their K-BB drop by at least 10 percentage points:

NameK - BB Diff
Kyle Ryan-20%
Ross Detwiler-16%
Wade Miley-14%
Dillon Peters-13%
Matthew Boyd-13%
Wander Suero-13%
Caleb Smith-12%
Matt Barnes-12%
Kyle Gibson-11%
Luis Perdomo-11%
Giovanny Gallegos-11%
Luis Cessa-10%
Aaron Brooks-10%

Unlike the studs list, there are very few fantasy-relevant names on the duds list. However, there is a trio of 2019 late-round gems in Boyd, Smith, and Gibson.

Boyd was one of the best bargains of 2019 and started off his season as a fantasy ace. His high strikeout, low walk approach led to incredible success, however, there were warning signs that things were going to take a turn. Despite his elite skills, he was one of many arms who were victimized by the juiced ball. While his overall splits seem concerning when looking at things from the K-BB perspective, he was still able to maintain a double-digit K/9 and kept his BB/9 below four. If the league shows signs of using a less juicy ball, Boyd could show some serious upside. However, that is not something I want to be gambling on.

Another late-round stud was Marlins’ left-hander Caleb Smith. Smith was much like Boyd although each of the skills were just a touch worse. Smith strikes out fewer hitters and walks a few more all while allowing a few more homers. However, unlike Boyd, his splits were drastic from early season to late. The strikeouts nearly evaporated and the walk rate rose even higher. Yet, for Smith, there is a clear reason for his struggles. Early in June, Smith was placed on the IL due to left hip discomfort and then struggled upon his return. The issue was recurring in nature and could be an explanation for the lack of success down the line. If proves to be fully healthy he should once again be a cheap source of strikeouts.

The last notable name on the list is Kyle Gibson. Gibson was solid for his owners for much of the season but things took a turn in August and September. His September numbers look extremely poor but are maybe tied to the time he missed while dealing with ulcerative colitis. The right-hander was in the midst of another solid but unspectacular season and was proving to be a solid streaming option before the wheels fell off. He will always seem to be a frustrating pitcher to own as the underlying skills are there but the actual numbers do not seem to want to follow.

For all three arms, the question of price is the key. Boyd went at pick 296 in Main Event leagues last season, Smith went at pick 331, and Gibson was the high man at 274. Thus far on Fantrax, Boyd has an ADP of 168, Smith 189, and Gibson comes in at 212. Those are mainly in best ball drafts which may skew the prices a bit, but they have clearly all seen a jump in ADP.

According to the Razzball player rater, Boyd was the 170th most valuable player (15 team leagues), Smith was at 212, and Gibson was 262. At their current prices, I believe these are players I would be avoiding if drafting today. While I think all have a valuable spot on a fantasy roster, I like several of the other arms in the tier better. For example, at current prices German Marquez and Dinelson Lamet are two arms I think offer significantly more upside than Boyd. Those are players I would much rather invest in than Boyd at that time in a draft.

Each of these three pitchers discussed has shown reason for concern but also very positive signs of growth in 2019. While many people may be willing to go back to the well on their successful buys of last year, I will likely be avoiding them at their current draft day costs.

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