Don't be fooled by Millwood's ERA

July, 2, 2009
7/02/09
12:16
PM ET
Kevin Millwood: All-Star? Yeah, probably.

Kevin Millwood: deserving All-Star? No, probably not. As FanGraphs' R.J. Anderson notes, Millwood has been exceptionally lucky:

    Name the pitchers:

    Pitcher A: 172.2 IP, 17.31% K, 5.85 BB%, 10.1% HR/FB, 67.7% LOB, 5.16 ERA
    Pitcher B: 112.2 IP, 14.64% K, 7.88 BB%, 10.8% HR/FB, 85.9% LOB, 2.64 ERA

    Pitcher B is Kevin Millwood, benefactor of an unsustainable amount of stranded runners, thus keeping his ERA at a comfortable, and easily overrated, 2.64. Pitcher A is also Kevin Millwood, two seasons ago. The differences between the two seasons are minimal. This Millwood walks a few more, strikes out a few less, and has a vastly superior defense behind him, otherwise, they're the same pitcher -- literally and figuratively.

    --snip--

    If you have Millwood on your fantasy team, sell him now. There are some examples of seasons like this actually lasting through October, but don't bet on another Steve Trachsel 1996, just pull the trigger before it's too late.

I cut the part where Anderson gives some credit to the defense behind Millwood, but he dispenses that nugget and then sort of forgets about it, and I wonder if he should. He doesn't mention Millwood's batting average (allowed) on balls in play, and I wonder if he should. In 2007, Millwood gave up an astronomical .340 BABiP ... and last year it was even higher (.358!).

And this year?

.261, the lowest of his Millwood's career.

I'm sure someone's pointed this out before, but a high strand rate isn't completely about good relievers and effective clutch pitching; it's also about BABiP. If you have a low BABiP you're going to have a low BA, and a low BA is going to result in more runners being stranded. Oh, and of course the defense contributes to a low BABiP ... but not nearly enough to explain an 80- (or 100-) point drop in BABiP from one season to the next.

Millwood has been incredibly lucky this season. There's just no way around it. If he's on your fantasy team, you should trade him to someone who doesn't read FanGraphs (or SweetSpot!). In the real world, though, the Rangers are basically stuck with a guy who's going to post an ERA well above 4.00 in the second half of the season.

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