John Danks went 8-12 last year with a 4.33 ERA which is apparently causing a lot of people to be wary about rostering him in 2012 (how else can you explain the fact that guys like Hiroki Kuroda and Trevor Cahill are being taken ahead of him according to ADP numbers?). Hopefully I will be able to lay out a convincing case that Danks is not someone you should be fearful of rostering in 2012.
First off, win-loss records are terrible ways to look at a pitcher and try an decide how he performed. Trust me on that one. Even with eight victories last year Danks has still averaged 12 wins the past four years. That’s a solid total even with last years single digit mark.
Danks has a durable arm. Even last season when he struggled with performance an injury he still tossed 170-innings for the fourth straight year. The previous three seasons he threw at least 195 innings each season.
Danks had averaged 157 strikeouts from 2008-10. Last year he dipped to just 135 punchouts so the natural inclination is to think his K-rate slumped so you should be concerned. That’s not the case, an I’m sure that BaseballGuys.com readers already know that. In fact, Danks produced a 3-year high in his K/9 rate in 2012 at 7.13 (his mark the previous two years was 6.69 and 6.85). There’s no concern here.
Danks walk rate last season was 2.43 per nine innings. Guess what? That’s a career best number, half a batter below his 2.94 career rate. Danks’ 2.93 K/BB ratio in 2011 was also a career best mark by the way.
Danks had a 43.8 percent ground ball rate in 2011, his third straight year over 43 percent and slightly above his 4.26 percent career rate. The result was a 1.20 GB/FB ratio just one hundredth off the best mark he had ever posted (1.21 in 2008). Danks actually allowed the second fewest fly balls of his career, percentage wise at 36.4 percent, and his HR/F ratio for the year was 9.9 percent, a direct match for his career mark.
So let’s see if I have this straight when it comes to Danks’ performance in 2011.
A 3-year high in K/9.
A career best BB/9.
A career best K/BB.
A better than career number in GB/FB.
An average HR/F rate.
So why/how were Danks. ERA (4.33) and WHIP (1.34) at four year worsts?
(1) Danks’ left on base percentage was 70.1 percent. That’s a career worst (career 73.3 percent).
(2) His batting average on balls in play was .313, a career worst (career .290).
(3) He was unlucky. I know that’s a simplistic way to look at any scenario, but it certainly seems that bad luck may have played a part in Danks’ fall last season in the ratio categories. Take a look at the xFIP of Danks last year (xFIP is normalized to the league level of homers and tracks those outcomes that a pitcher directly has in his control). Danks posted an xFIP of 3.79 which actually is a career best number (career 4.12).
So what do we have in Danks? I believe we have a hurler who is being somewhat overlooked in some respects because people perceive that his performance last year was poor when in truth that simply isn’t the case. If people in your league make the mistake of overlooking Danks consider yourself lucky because you’ll have a shot to roster a pretty darn good hurler on the cheap.
By Ray Flowers