Fantasy Baseball: Will Jarrod Parker Right the Ship or Continue to Struggle?

By Nick Tom
Rick Osentoski-USA Toady Sports

Sometimes it’s hard to be patient. Whether it’s your girlfriend, your mom, your friend, your dad, your boss, or your fantasy team, a lot of things get very frustrating a lot of the time. The trick is — barring a clinical temper problem — to know when to hold your tongue, finger, fist, or break-up speech. Some situations warrant immediate reaction, but most things warrant weighing both the advantages and the disadvantages. Though sometimes it might seem better to just hang up on the phone on Stephanie and turn on the game, the relief of doing that might not outweigh hugging your pillow all night. Similarly, though you expected a breakout season for Jarrod Parker and he’s currently horrific, the relief of clicking the ‘drop’ button might not outweigh watching him dominate the AL for the rest of the season while he’s on your buddy’s team.

We’re past the point where any roster move would be a heinous panic-induced overreaction. Innings accrue, PAs grow, and things, ever so slightly, get closer and closer to the norm. That doesn’t mean, though, that they’ve reached the norm just yet. All we can do at this point in the season is do our best to look at number that hint at a long-term problem.

Parker’s given the Oakland Athletics 23.1 innings, an 8.10 ERA, and 2.143 WHIP thus far in 2013. He’s 0-4 in five starts, has 14 Ks and 13 BBs. His K rate compared to last year has declined 5.6% and his BB rate’s increased 2.7%. He’s inducing fewer ground balls, serving up more homers, allowing line drives at a higher rate and isn’t getting pop-ups when the ball is hit in the air. You get it; he’s stinking with a very poor smell.

One number that hints toward a turnaround is what is frequently referred to as BAbip. After last night’s 5.1 IP, 6 ER clunker, hitters are hitting .402 on balls hit into play, which is an outrageously high success rate, unfairly high. Last year, BAbip against Parker was .294 — fairly close to the average rate of 30%.

It’s safe to assume that by the end of the year — if he is given the whole year — we’ll see at least a 20% decrease in BAbip against Parker. You’d normally expect a regression to the mean, which would be a 25% dip, but Parker is allowing too many hard-hit balls to assume his BAbip-against will find its way back to the normal .300.

Parker also isn’t helping himself, let alone his pitches helping him. When a pitcher is walking as many guys as Parker is — which means a lot of 2-0, 3-0, 3-1 counts — hitters are able to sit on the fastball, which is something that obviously works in their favor, especially against Parker. After 2-0 counts, hitters are batting .385 with a 1.021 OPS. More importantly, they’ve struck out only once and have walked nine times in the same situation.

Even more importantly, Parker’s only thrown a first-pitch strike vs. 54 of the 117 (one IBB) batters he’s faced this season. He’s falling behind, is forced to lay in fastballs, and is getting pounded. The BAbip isn’t totally random. It’s like saying something stupid when introducing yourself to a girl (or guy) you think is pretty — you’re screwed from the start and it’s your fault. According to FanGraph’s PITCHf/x, he’s throwing 5.5% more two-seamers than last year — 27.9 compared to 22.4 — and hitters are teeing off on it for a .452 clip with four homers. Geesh.

Expect the BAbip against Parker to go down. It’s inevitable. An MLB pitcher is an MLB pitcher for a reason. It’ll go down.

What’s scary, though, is that Dan Straily is burning down triple-A as we speak (and already has a good start for the A’s this year), so Parker might not be an MLB pitcher for long if his struggles continue. Naturally he’ll work on his mechanics, presumably fix them, and come back strong, but you don’t have the time to wait on that and burn a roster spot on your fantasy team. If you need the spot, this isn’t a panic move but a justified one.

Follow Nick Tom on Twitter @NickTomFB for fantasy advice or just to chit chat. He’s friendly. Also, unless otherwise stated, my info comes from Baseball Reference, so thanks to them.

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