Using batting average on balls in play as an indicator of luck is an inexact science. We learned that in the luckiest pitchers update.
Now let’s look at the pitchers who have had less luck — and less help from their defense.
The unluckiest pitchers in baseball:
Justin Masterson — The highest BABIP in the last five years was a .366 from Kevin Millwood in 2008. The avereage high was around .340. Masterson is hovering at an improbable .404. His 5.87 ERA mirrors the lack of help. His fielding independent pitching — an ERA-like number that factors out fielding — is a respectable 3.80. Masterson is a considerable buy-low candidate at this point in the season.
Brian Matusz — One of the Orioles young gun pitching prospects, Matusz has been the victim of bad luck. He’s not likely to improve as much as Masterson, but Matusz could see a considerable drop in his 5.28 ERA. If he lives up to his expectations, you might not be able to own him at a cheaper price.
Zach Duke — As if Pirates pitchers aren’t unlucky enough just being Pirates pitchers, Duke has a .359 BABIP and a 5.09 ERA. He’s got a high career BABIP (.324) so to think Duke will improve much is a stretch.
Gavin Floyd — Everybody looked at last season and looked at the previous season and expected Floyd to fall somewhere between. However, Floyd was very lucky (.268 BABIP) in 2008, when he posted a 3.84 ERA. He’s a 4.00+ pitcher, easy. His .355 BABIP in 2010 and poor 61% strand rate means he’s a little better than he’s shown. Just don’t get too crazy about it.
Wandy Rodriguez — A great value last season, Rodriguez was a bit overvalued in 2010. He hasn’t helped his cause with a .351 BABIP and a 5.37 ERA. He’s a 3.50-4.00 pitcher, but his last outing — a horrible eight earned runs in 3.1 innings — makes him hard to recommend even if we think he’ll right the ship.
Brandon Morrow — With a 9.54 career K/9 (10.42 this season), I want to believe in Brandon Morrow. His .350 BABIP — more than 50 points higher than his career mark — is another indicator that he’s better than his 6.00 ERA would have you believe. But he’s never pitched 100 innings in a season. Maybe he’ll be an option next season.
Francisco Liriano — Our first “unlucky” surprise. Despite allowing .349 of batters who put balls in play to reach base, Liriano is 5-3 with a 3.29 ERA and his highest K/9 since 2006. What does all that mean? His 2.41 fielding independent pitching rate is closer to how good he’s pitched than his current ERA.
Rick Porcello — Another prospect who has found his way onto this list. Porcello’s BABIP is .345. His ERA is 5.27. There’s not much to go on when it comes to past performance, but in the minors in 2008, Porcello had a .280 BABIP. In the majors last season he had a .281 BABIP. Even if he reverts to some middle ground he’ll be a much better pitcher.
Kevin Slowey — Slowey is no stranger to a high BABIP (career .312 and .352 when he went 10-3 in 2009), so the fact he has a 4.15 ERA despite a .345 BABIP shouldn’t surprise. It also shouldn’t surprise you that as long as the BABIP stays that high his WHIP is going to stay in the mid- to high- 1.40s.
Dan Haren — Haren owners know how unlucky he’s been. He’s on pace to give up more homers than he ever has in his career. It’s been five years since he’s had a WHIP this high. Opponents have a .342 BABIP against him and he’s got a 4.83 ERA. He is on pace to strike out more batters than he ever has in his career, but until he gets his other stuff figured out he’ll be one of the biggest busts of 2010.
James Shields — Despite a .342 BABIP, Shields has been able to keep his ERA around 3.62, thanks in part to a 77.5% strand rate. The extra batters getting on hasn’t helped his 1.30 WHIP. Like Slowey and Liriano, you Shields bad luck hasn’t been very apparent this season.
Scott Feldman — Last season Feldman finished with a .275 BABIP and a 72% strand rate. This season, he’s been less lucky. His .342 BABIP is only part of the problem. He’s also only stranded a little more than half (52%) of the runners he’s allowed on base. He’s not nearly as bad as his 5.84 ERA, but even when the luck turns he’s an AL-only option at best.
Some other noteable unlucky pitchers: Cole Hamels, Randy Wells, Felix Hernandez, John Lackey, Brad Penny and Aaron Harang.
Yesterday we looked at the luckiest pitchers in fantasy baseball.
(Statistics were compiled June 2.)