Thirty Something: The Verducci Effect in Fantasy Baseball

Fantasy baseball owners are always looking for an edge. From the latest news to the latest stats, trying to get a leg up on your opponents is often enough to carry you to victory. Predicting the future would be ideal (although highly unlikely) so fantasy owners have to settle for indicators of what the future may hold. Luckily, there are several industrious people out there who have discovered some interesting trends in baseball.
One of these observers is Tom Verducci from Sports Illustrated. Verducci wrote about what he called the “Year After Effect” in which he found that young pitchers (under the age of 25) who experienced increases of 30 or more innings from one season to the next were prone to underperform in the following year. Dubbed “The Verducci Effect” by Will Carroll from Baseball Prospectus, it is worth taking a look at several pitchers who fall into this category in 2012 as potential candidates for statistical regression:

Michael Pineda (NYY) – (Age: 22. Innings Increase: 31-2/3)

Not much has to be said in regard to Pineda. After being acquired by the Yankees in the off season, Pineda struggled mightily in camp this year. He was a candidate for a minor league demotion prior to being injured. Although there are several factors at play here, the increase in innings last season certainly didn’t help his cause.
Jeremy Hellickson (TB) – (Age: 24, Innings Increase: 37-1/3)
A lot has been made of Hellickson’s abnormally low .223 BABIP in 2011 and how he is a candidate for regression as a result. However, of greater concern is the increase in his innings from the previous season. Combine this with a subpar strikeout rate (5.57 K/9) and poor walk rate (3.43/9) and Hellickson has all the warning signs of a pitcher primed for a decline in statistics.

Derek Holland (TEX) – (Age: 24, Innings Increase: 71-1/3)

Sure, he improved his ERA, WHIP and strikeouts and was fantastic in the post-season but the concern with Holland isn’t in his mechanics (although, they are a little unorthodox) but rather in his increased work load. A good sign was his strong second half. However, it will be interesting to see how all those innings affect his performance in 2012.
Daniel Hudson (ARI) – (Age: 24. Innings Increase: 38-2/3)
Armed with a blazing fastball, “D-Hud” followed up his late season 2010 debut with the Diamondbacks with a solid full season in 2011. Manager Gibson is about as competitive as they come and relied on Hudson down the stretch of the pennant race. Will the increase in workload affect his 2012 stats? Quite possibly.
Keep an eye on innings increases from year-to-year. Especially when it comes to young players under the age of 25, they may just be in line to suffer from the Verducci Effect.

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