If you’ve been paying attention to our Fantasy Categorical Breakdowns series thus far (which you should, because there’s a lot of really helpful insight written in virtual ink), you’re familiar enough with the general plot that 2015 saw an overall spike in offense amid what has otherwise been a relatively consistent and steep decline over the past decade. As such, we should not be surprised that WHIP numbers jumped correspondingly in 2015. Our own Wilson Karaman provided a smart look at the overall landscape of the fantasy category.
Although the 28-year-old hurler actually saw his WHIP worsen in 2015 from 0.99 to 1.07, his performance still marked his arrival as a top-25 fantasy starter. In other words, he transitioned from second-half surger in 2014 to a bona fide no. 2 starter in fantasy in 2015. The velocity uptick largely proved sustainable, and his 14.0 percent swinging-strike rate was downright delicious. To paint an even rosier picture, his 66 cFIP ranked third amongst major-league starters (no IP minimum). Don’t be fooled by his 3.63 ERA and his BABIP hiccup. Carrasco is poised to be an absolute stud this upcoming fantasy season—perhaps even a borderline fantasy ace, if he can catch a few breaks.
Everything clicked for the right-hander in 2015. His slider became all but unhittable, his walk rate declined, and his strikeout rate shot through the roof. As such, his WHIP fell from 1.28 to 1.14 and his hefty workload allowed him to finish as a top-30 pitcher in the category. Archer continues to show a reverse platoon split, of sorts, but his command against right-handed hitters actually improved enough to make a meaningful difference in his fantasy statistics. If he continues to utilize his nasty slider almost 40 percent of the time—considering the pitch had a 20.99 percent whiff rate—he’ll be an elite fantasy arm yet again. With a 71 cFIP, Baseball Prospectus’ internal numbers like him a lot.
Osuna didn’t just go from unknown to star. The 20-year-old made the startling jump from A-ball to the majors and announced his presence with 20 saves and a 2.58 ERA. He held opposing hitters to a .189 batting average and had the 12th-best WHIP of any pitcher who threw at least 50 innings in 2015. Granted, it was a fewer number of innings, but the rookie had the same WHIP as Max Scherzer—which should just put his nastiness factor (I see you, MLB GameDay) in proper context. Osuna is one of the rare relievers who has three legitimate major-league pitches with his fastball, changeup, and slider. It could make him a candidate for the starting rotation later in his career. For now, though, the Blue Jays will keep him as their closer and make him one of the elite fantasy relievers in the game.
It only came in 133 1/3 innings, but the 2015 season represented the triumphant return of Justin Verlander. He steamrolled the league with a 2.80 ERA in the second half, which came with a massive drop in his walk rate and a correspondingly great 1.00 WHIP. Of course, that was buoyed by a .216 BABIP in the second half. It should make one wonder if his high-end performance was nothing but a mirage. Encouragingly, though, Verlander did see his swinging-strike rate jump back in the double digits after falling to 8.8 percent in 2014. Perhaps that means his fantasy performance is a bit more sustainable than his batted-ball numbers would otherwise suggest.
I recognize that his WHIP numbers only fell a minuscule amount in 2015; however, this second-tier performance is a part of a broader story. I’m tired of waiting for Hamels to take a step forward and become a fantasy ace. His stellar run prevention a year ago made many of us think the moment had finally arrived. Unfortunately, another stretch of bad luck kept him outside the top-30 fantasy pitchers. The velocity looked good. The strikeout numbers actually improved. It was just the home-run rate and the strand rate that abandoned him—both of which kept his WHIP outside the elite level. Hamels is a valuable pitcher, no doubt, but he’s not a fantasy ace. He’s perhaps not even a real-life-baseball ace. And at 32 years old in 2016, it’s getting past the point of no return.
Too many people are attributing Miller’s mediocre fantasy value to his minuscule win total. I’m not about to argue against the fact that six wins with a 3.02 ERA is bullcrap, but many fantasy outlets have ignored his pedestrian 1.25 WHIP. He still doesn’t throw strikes consistently and actually surrendered a higher opponent’s batting average than in 2014, which was considered a borderline unmitigated disaster by the baseball community. I like Miller well enough—his velocity returned, his swinging-strike numbers rebounded, and he proved durable—but he’s been getting far too much attention as a top-end fantasy arm, likely due to the extreme package Arizona sent to Atlanta for him. But, put it this way: I’d much rather have Cole Hamels on my fantasy squad in 2016 than Shelby Miller.
Everyone’s favorite under-the-radar, yet effective, pitcher did his best to prove that his “fluke” .318 BABIP in 2014 should actually be considered the norm going forward. In fact, his .327 BABIP made people yearn for 2014. He’s a statistical darling; however, his mere 16.7 percent “weak” hit rate indicates that he’s perhaps far more hittable than his FIP would like us to believe. Of course, it doesn’t help that the Chicago White Sox were one of the worst defensive teams in Major League Baseball in 2015, and unless something drastically changes (more than just the addition of Brett Lawrie, that is), it should be poor yet again in 2016. That doesn’t bode well for Quintana and his WHIP.
The burgeoning superstar captured the hearts of many fantasy owners in 2015. With overpowering stuff and great run prevention, his penchant for the free pass has largely been overlooked. His 1.29 WHIP was pretty much the league’s average, as was his 45.7 percent zone rate. All of this isn’t to suggest that Martinez is particularly bad in the WHIP category, merely that his inability to cut his walk rate to an above-average level should keep him from being a monster in all four pitching categories. His 4.31 DRA and 92 cFIP make me a bit nervous that these underlying control issues are actually hinting at something bigger, too. Not to mention the shoulder injury is also concerning. Perhaps this isn’t so much “underachieving” as it is worrisome. Perhaps we could say that for every arm on this list of underachievers—though I tend to think this brand of underachiever is a bit more useful to think about.