If you have a young son the first thing you need to make sure of, besides that he has all his fingers and toes, is that he does things left-handed. Why? You know why. In sports it seems like the keys to success are often controlled by port siders, and nowhere is that more apparent than in baseball where lefty hurlers seem to last forever despite less than ideal skills. Ross Detwiler may be 28 years old and in his athletic prime, but he also pitches like an old lefty with his dizzying array of sinkers inducing contact away from the fat part of the bat. Looked at as somewhat of a spare part type/swingman for the Nationals in 2012, Ross ended up making 27 starts (33 appearances) during which time he displayed a penchant for getting batters out. So let’s take a look at the lefty and see what’s what.
In six appearances out of the pen Ross pitched 13.1 innings with a 1.35 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, better numbers than he posted while working as a starter (3.58 ERA, 1.25 WHIP over 151 IP). Still, it’s not like his numbers as a starting hurler are anything to turn your nose up at – they’re pretty darn solid numbers actually. In fact, if you add it all together you end up with a 3.40 ERA, better than Mat Latos (3.48), an a 1.22 WHIP which was better than Ryan Vogelsong (1.23). Ross also wasn’t that easy to hit as his .240 BAA was 14th in the NL among pitchers who threw at least 162 innings. That ain’t bad at all. In addition, he generated a 50.8 percent ground ball rate that was 9th in the NL. Detwiler also walked 2.85 batters per nine innings, and while that isn’t a mark that is going to cause anyone to buy stock it’s a solid mark nonetheless (the NL average was 3.08 in 2012). All in all, that’s a pretty darn good season for a guy who was most certainly not drafted in mixed leagues.
So what’s the problem? Well, from a fantasy perspective there is one big time issue – Detwiler doesn’t strike anyone out. He had 105 Ks as a starting pitcher which was just 21 more strikeouts than teammate Tyler Clippard who threw 91.2 fewer innings as Detwiler posted a 5.75 K/9 mark which was nearly two full batters below the league average of 7.69. Moreover, despite the complete lack of excitement for his K-rate, it should be noted that it’s actually a four year best. Yeah, not good. The result was a 2.02 K/BB mark, again well below the league average of 2.50. Put simply, he doesn’t miss enough bats and therefore he’s really only going to be able to help anyone in three of the five fantasy pitching categories at best (ERA, WHIP, Wins).
Let’s hit on those ratios for a moment. Put bluntly, his ERA should have been a run higher if you ask xFIP (4.34). That’s not hard to understand given his less than league average K/9 and K/BB. He also had a league average left on base percentage of 70.8 percent which doesn’t excite, and the same can be said of his league average 9.0 percent HR/F ratio. Add to that party a somewhat advantageous .263 BABIP, .019 points below his career level and a career best, and the picture starts to come into focus. The cherry on top is that a guy who owns a 20.2 percent career line drive rate somehow held batters to a 16.4 percent mark in 2012. I’m not in the habit of calling anyone lucky, but let’s just say that Ross was rather fortunate in 2012.
A lefty who is capable of eating up innings out of the bullpen or taking the bump every five days as a starter, one who can induce a crap ton of grounders, is going to have a job in the big leagues for a long time. However, Detwiler is likely best served as a league only option in 2013. He doesn’t have the stuff to rack up even league average strikeout total, and with that being the case wins become a huge part of his fantasy outlook, and we know how random wins and loses can be. It’s also fair to posit a regression in the ratios categories, and if that happens he’s nothing other than a league average arm making him, well, pretty darn average in the fantasy game.
By Ray Flowers