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Positive & Negative Regression: Yu Darvish, Logan Webb, Dylan Cease (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

by Scott Youngson | @jscottyoungson | Featured Writer
May 29, 2022

Welcome to another edition of “Positive & Negative Regression.” Each week we’ll dig into some analytics to identify two players due to heat up and two who are likely to cool down.

This week, the focus is on strikeouts, an important part of fantasy baseball. In standard 5×5 leagues, they count for 20% of a pitcher’s total points. In addition, high K-rates often accompany low ERAs and WHIPs as the strikeout can get a hurler out of a mess in a hurry.

What are you to do if your starter isn’t generating as many Ks as expected? Conversely, should you expect it to fall if you are getting a higher K/9 out of a rotation member than expected? Below are two starters whose strikeout rate should increase in the coming weeks and two whose rate will probably dip. The table below each includes their season-to-date statistics.

The primary stat we’ll use this week to ascertain strikeout regression is CSW%. If you’re unfamiliar with CSW%, it is Called Strikes plus Whiff%. CSW was created a few years back and is more predictive towards K% and SIERA than SwStr% and Whiff%. For assistance with any of the statistical definitions in this article, visit our Sabermetrics Glossary.

Positive Regression Candidates

Yu Darvish (SP – SD)

9 52.2 4 3.76 3.96 1.08 29.3% 7.52

Darvish has been solid thus far in 2022 for fantasy managers. His ERA is a tad high, but he has four wins, and his WHIP is strong. The only blemish on his stat-line is the 7.5 Ks per nine. As Darvish has averaged a 10.93 K/9 ratio over his career, this is a bit alarming. However, his CSW% indicates this rate will go up as the season progresses.

In 2021, when Darvish struck out 10.8 batters per nine, his CSW% was slightly higher than this year at 30.3%. Both rates are well above league average. For comparison, two starters with a similar 2022 CSW% to Darvish are Max Scherzer and Carlos Rodon. Scherzer’s CSW% in 2022 is 29.6%, and he is striking out 10.7 batters per nine innings. Rodon’s ratios are 29.2% and 11.5. As nothing else in Darvish’s profile suggests something is wrong, you can expect those strikeouts to be on the rise soon.

Logan Webb (SP – SF)

9 53.1 5 3.54 3.63 1.26 28.6% 6.75

Webb broke out in 2021 and impressed fantasy managers enough to be the 17th starter drafted on average in 2022. Last year, however, he struck out 9.6 batters per nine – nearly three more than this season-to-date. He did so with a 2021 CSW% of 30.9%. Thus, his rate is down this season, but it is still above league average. His K%, conversely, is below league average.

The most significant change in Webb’s profile this year is that batters do not seem to be chasing his slider nearly as often as in 2021. Last year, his SwStr% on the pitch was 22.1% vs. 11.6% this season. He’s throwing it in the zone slightly more often, so it appears that batters are starting to recognize it. Perhaps Webb needs to adjust his approach, or maybe this is just a tiny sample size anomaly.

Based on his CSW%, Webb should see his K/9 go up to a more respectable level. The two pitchers with the closest CSW% to him are Tarik Skubal and Nestor Cortes this year. These two are off to excellent starts, providing 9.6 and 10.4 strikeouts per nine, respectively.

Negative Regression Candidates

Dylan Cease (SP – CWS)

9 46.2 4 4.24 2.75 1.31 30.6% 13.69

Cease has the highest K/9 rate among qualified starters in all of baseball this year by a wide margin. His rate is almost a strikeout per game better than Shane McClanahan, who ranks second. McClanahan, incidentally, has a 35.3% CSW – nearly five points higher than Cease’s. Several other starters have better CSW% than Cease, and all are well behind him in K%.

These facts don’t mean Cease won’t continue to generate a ton of strikeouts. He will, but he’ll likely come back to the pack. His CSW% is almost identical to 2021, when he averaged 12.28 Ks per nine. So expect him to drop closer to that level. The good news is his ERA looks a bit inflated as it is much higher than his ERA Estimators, and he’s got a BABIP of .352. So even if the K’s come back to earth, he should still be among the top fantasy pitchers in the MLB.

Frankie Montas (SP – OAK)

10 57.2 2 3.28 2.97 0.99 27.2% 10.30

Montas is off to a great start. The only category he’s lacking in this season, wins, is hardly his fault. He’s a great strikeout pitcher. However, his 10.3 Ks per nine would be a career-high outside of the 15 innings he threw his rookie year. Meanwhile, his CSW% is close to league average and two percentage points below 2021, when his K/9 rate was 9.96.

Montas’ splitter, which he has been throwing 28% of the time, is the pitch driving his CSW% down. Last season, he generated a 33% CSW% and a 26.7% SwStr% on the splitter. This year he’s at 23.5% and 18.7%, respectively. It’s been effective for him as opponents are hitting a meager .108 against it. But the .174 BABIP suggests he’s had some luck as well.

Montas will be fine, so don’t panic if he’s on your roster. Just don’t expect the K-rate to last all season.

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