Updated RAW Pitcher Ratings: Trends to Buy or Sell

First of all, sorry for not posting any content since Thursday, but I have a good excuse. One of my best friends got married over this weekend and that, of course, takes priority over analyzing baseball happenings. However, there was plenty of fantasy trade talk going on between groomsmen. It sort of felt like our own little winter meetings. Some GM’s –you know who you are– were pushing hard to get a blockbuster done. No deals went down, but there were plenty of good times.
 
Congrats on a great wedding Steve. When you come back from the honeymoon we’ll talk trades.
Now, onto the fantasy baseball stuff…
 
A couple of weeks ago I released FB365’s exclusive RAW Pitcher Ratings, then followed up with an article explaining the reasoning and looking at some high and low scores that were somewhat surprising. There was, however, a small glitch in the last spreadsheet as I didn’t paste the altered formula to all of the players. This week, everything is good to go. We’ll look at some of the trends from the last update and try and decipher who to buy and who to sell.
 
You can download the RAW Pitcher Ratings spreadsheet here.
 

In the last spreadsheet, Francisco Lirianoranked first with a 103.12 RAW despite an un-ace-like 3.86 ERA. How quickly things can change. Liriano still leads the RAW ratings and has actually improved to a 107.3 RAW while lowering his ERA to 3.16. His BABIP against also dropped from .361 to .343.

 
Hiroki Kuroda jumped from an 81.01 RAW last time to 85.33 RAW currently. That ranks him tenth and just above Tim Lincecum (85.32 RAW) and Cliff Lee(84.28 RAW). As crazy as that sounds, the numbers back it up. Kuroda has the best whiff rate, the best chase rate and the best ground ball rate of the three. While he lacks the fanfare, Kuroda is and has been a reliable fantasy starter. Instead of paying top-dollar for a big name, buy Kuroda at a lower price
 
New to the list this week, having crossed the 80 innings pitched minimum, is Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin checks in with a strong 81.83 RAW mostly due to an outstanding strikeout rate and whiff rate. Clearly, Chacin has the stuff to miss plenty of bats, but he also has a problem controlling his “stuff”. The walks are his biggest problem and just about the only thing keeping him from achieving big-time fantasy value. If you need some strikeouts, Chacin is a pitcher to buy low on due to his 4.00-plus ERA.
 
Two of the biggest drops in RAW from July 13th are Clayton Kershaw and Ryan Dempster. Kershaw ranked ninth on the list last time with a 90.37 RAW and Depster ranked eleventh with an 89.46 RAW. Since that time, Kershaw has had only one poor outing in which he allowed eight hits and four runs in 4.1 innings with only one strikeout and three walks. His strikeout rate has gone down while his line drive rate against has risen from a very low 15 percent to a still low, but much closer to league average, 18 percent. It seems as if Kershaw may be wearing down a bit as his velocity has been on a slightly downward pathfor a while now. This is worth monitoring as we move into August, but it is important to note that even with a drop in RAW rating Kershaw still ranks in the top 20.
 
Dempster has hit a nasty little rough patch allowing 12 earned runs in his last 16 innings. While he hasn’t showed great command this season, Dempster’s walk rate has not been an issue until recently as he has posted a 10/13 K/BB ratio in those last 16 innings. The 22 walks allowed in July were the most in any month and his BABIP against was .361 (with a 16 percent line drive rate against), so there may have been some bad luck involved here.
 
Given what Dempster has done this season and the fact that his current 81.44 RAW is still very good, there is reason to believe that this is just a minor slump. Perhaps there is a chance to buy low right now.
 
In the previous RAW update Ricky Nolasco had a 4.55 ERA, but his 76.09 RAW suggested better results were ahead. Nolasco has allowed 10 runs in his last 28 innings while posting a spectacular 30/5 K/BB ratio. His current 79.49 RAW puts him in the same range as Clayton Kershaw, Shaun Marcum and Cole Hamels.
 
Hisanori Takahashi makes his debut on the RAW pitcher ratings and comes in at a solid 75.95 RAW. Takahashi has had his struggles this season, especially with the home run ball, but his numbers suggest that things could improve. Overall, Takahashi has had success generating swings and misses (25 percent whiff rate and 8.56 K/9) which is a key factor going forward. A lot of his strikeouts have come against left-handed hitters, but he has posted a 8.05 K/9 against right-handed batters as well. Righties, however, have accounted for all 12 of Takahashi’s home runs allowed.
 
Being a fly ball pitcher, the home runs should continue to be an issue, but that statement carries much more weight away from Citi Field. Takahashi has allowed only four home runs in 46.1 innings and has posted a 3.78 xFIP at home.
 
Though he came close to being demoted to the bullpen, the Mets failed to add a starter at the trade deadline and Takahashi will have a chance to continue to take the ball every fifth day. There is a buy low opportunity here in deeper leagues, especially if you can afford to only use him only when he pitches at home.
 
CC Sabathia, who had a low RAW rating last time, was a victim of human error. When I went back and plugged in the proper formula, Sabathia’s RAW went up to 77.52, which is a well above average score. This mistake is fixed now and won’t happen again.
 
Johnny Cueto is the current owner of a sparkling 3.32 ERA, which gives his fantasy owners a great opportunity to sell high. Cueto’s 58.24 RAW is below average and two factors could be working against him going forward. First, while Cueto has done a nice job of limiting home runs this season, his track record shows issues with home runs allowed for the previous two seasons. Given that there has not been a big improvement in his peripheral stats, there is reason to think that a career low 6.6 HR/FB rate could regress. Second, Cueto is on pace to approach 200 innings this season, which would push him past his career high by roughly 30 innings. That could lead to some late-season fatigue. Take the value you have received from Cueto and sell.
 
At this point, C.J. Wilson might be the ultimate sell high. He has a poor 1.61 K/BB rate and a ground ball rate that has been regressing every month this season. Wilson has thrown 133.1 innings so far, which is almost double the number of innings he threw out of the pen last season. He hasn’t thrown a full season as a starter since the minor leagues, so fatigue, especially in August in Texas, could be a major factor going forward. As Wilson wears down and those ground balls turn into fly balls and line drives, we should see a spike in ERA and WHIP.