“This player sucks.”
“Why did I draft him? I never want him on my team again.”
We have all either heard or said these phrases about a struggling player on our Fantasy teams. It is no fun drafting a bust but we have all been there. However, a slow start does not mean that a player is this year’s big bust. In fact, a slow start often times creates opportunity, as a panicking owner will look to sell the struggling player while they think they are still getting some value. Now, all you have to do is project which players will get better or worse going forward. I mean, Fantasy Baseball is all about projecting a player going forward.
But wait… you don’t have a crystal ball? So what can you do? I guess you will have to use different stats to make a well thought out projection. A great starting point to project pitchers going forward is Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). Using this, along with some other metrics, I will attempt to help owners project their pitchers, or pitchers that they should be trying to Buy/Sell going forward.
Pitchers With a FIP Lower than their ERA
Everyone loves to freak out about Kluber, and so far you could say it is rightfully so. Currently, Kluber has a 4.30 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP, which would be the highest he’s posted since 2013. His velocity is down one
mile per hour on his fastball, and his strikeout rate has dropped three percentage points, from 27.7 percent to 24.5. However, there are still reasons to be optimistic. His K-rate is still the 27th best among all qualified starters. His FIP is currently 2.94, indicating that luck has not entirely been on his side. You could make the argument that Kluber will always be a pitcher with a lower FIP than ERA. That has been the case every year he has been in the bigs, including his CY Young season. However, the gap has been smaller each of the past two seasons, giving me reason to believe better days are on the horizon. Owners should look to buy low if given the opportunity.
Eickhoff currently sports a 4.43 ERA, but besides the way he spells his first name there is a lot to like here. He has good command, evident in the 4.7 percent walk rate that he pairs with a 20.9 percent strikeout rate. His 3.57 FIP shows that he has been unlucky. This becomes clearer in his 65.9 percent Strand rate. That is much lower than last year’s mark of 80.4 percent. A happy middle, of say 73 percent, would help his ERA move closer to his FIP.
The jump to the National League has not paid off, as many would have expected. Last year his 3.34 ERA was much lower than his 4.16 FIP. This year, the reverse effect has happened. His 4.40 ERA is nearly a run higher than his 3.54 FIP. That should change, as he is picking up more strikeouts while allowing fewer walks and home runs than last year. His 70.8 percent Strand rate and .323 BABIP are both well above his career norms. A decrease in those two categories will help his ERA drop into the mid-threes.
Greinke currently has a 3.60 FIP. Is that what owners were hoping for on draft day? Of course not. But they will gladly take that over his 5.26 ERA. The FIP is not the only indicator that luck hasn’t been on his side. His 68.6 percent Strand rate is the lowest it has been since 2010. Only three times in his career has he finished with a strand rate below 74.5 percent. His .359 BABIP is by far the highest mark of his career. Greinke has been extremely unlucky and things should begin to even out. Will he finish the year as a top pitcher? Probably not. But can he perform like a SP2 going forward? Yes.
Owners may not be too happy with Fernandez’s 3.21 ERA. But they will enjoy hearing that his 2.57 FIP is the eighth lowest among all qualified starters. Fernandez may not lead the league in strikeouts, but his 35.2 percent strikeout rate is the best in baseball. He is an elite ace and if an owner is willing to sell him for say, Jon Lester, they should.
I have written a ton about David Price this year, so I didn’t want to go too in depth and just end up repeating myself. However, I must say that I expect better days ahead. Price has an ugly 6.00 ERA, but his 2.51 FIP is the sixth-best among all qualified starters. A big talking point has been that his velocity has been down nearly two miles per hour on his fastball. It has. But Price has struggled in the cold at times, according to the team’s announcers. Also worth noting, April and May have been Price’s two worst months over his career. Buy now.
Pitchers with a FIP higher than their ERA
Zimmermann currently sports a 1.50 ERA, which is second in the league behind only Jake Arrieta (1.29). That’s right, he has a lower ERA than Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale and former teammate Stephen Strasburg. His 3.41 FIP, however, ranks 33rd among qualified starters. While he has never been a big strikeout guy, he is punching batters out just 14.6 percent of the time now. That number is extremely low. He has been lucky, given that his 88.1 strand rate is by far the highest of his career. His .260 BABIP is well below his career mark of .291. Those numbers should begin to regulate and as they do, his ERA is sure to rise. Owners should look to sell high now, while they can.
It could be especially difficult for Fantasy owners to value pitchers from overseas in their first season, as there is no previous information to go off of. However, there are reasons to think regression will hit Maeda in his rookie season. Currently, he sports a 2.30 ERA, but his FIP sits at 3.80. He has been fortunate with a .237 BABIP and an 89.7 strand rate. However, those will not last. How am I so sure? Well, between 2000 and 2015, no pitcher has finished with a strand rate that high. In fact, only three, Pedro Martinez in 2000, Greinke in 2015, and J.A. Happ in 2009, finished with a strand rate over 85 percent. His BABIP would be the 12th lowest during that stretch. Maeda is good, but he is not that good.
Estrada is an interesting case. He has reinvented himself, relying on his fastball less and less in place for his cutter. He has also been targeting the upper part of the strike zone more than in the past. While his 3.62 FIP is higher than his 2.89 ERA, he managed to be successful in 2015 despite a higher FIP, and he is missing even more bats this season. Estrada is a difficult one to figure out. I would advise owners shop him, but do not accept the first offer that comes your way. Even if he were to regress, he would still hold value in 12-team leagues.
Happ has been a nice pickup for anyone that has added him off of waivers. He has pitched to a 2.05 ERA, but yes, it is too good to be true. He has a 3.90 FIP, and just like Maeda his 89.9 Strand rate is too good to be true. Add in that he only averages 5.59 K/9 and it is easy to see that the clock will soon strike midnight on Happ. Owners should try and ship him out for a middle of the rotation arm, like Kyle Hendricks.
Well, isn’t this surprising. Arrieta is 7-0 with a league best 1.29 ERA. However, his FIP sits at 2.59, largely due to the fact that his .203 BABIP is unsustainable as it would be the lowest since Dave McNally (who?) posted a .201 mark in 1968. His 86.3 percent strand rate would also rank as the sixth lowest since 1960. Arrieta is amazing and a top-two arm in baseball, but Fantasy owners should not expect him to rewrite the history books. There will be some “down-starts” for Arrieta at some point this year. Don’t take this as me telling owners to sell Arrieta either, unless of course they could get Kershaw for him. Then yeah, sell Arrieta.
Just wanted to point out some other stats that stood out to me:
- David Wright has the highest hard hit rate in the league at 47.7 percent. He strikes out way too much, 32.6 percent of the time, and sits too often to be valuable in points leagues. However, in Roto formats that use OBP instead of average he is a serviceable third baseman or corner infielder.
- Corey Dickerson has the lowest BABIP in the league at .164. Unless you think he is the worst hitter in the last 50 years, that is sure to improve. The lowest BABIP of any qualified hitter in any season since 1960 is .196. In fact, only two hitters had a BABIP below .200. Improvement is coming. The same goes for Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Yan Gomes, Chris Coghlan and Nick Ahmed, who all currently have BABIP’s below .200.
- Troy Tulowitzki (.213), Prince Fielder (.212) and the aforementioned Pujols (.172) all currently have the lowest BABIP’s of their careers. While each has cause for concern, if the asking price gets low enough, owners should buy.
All stats entering Monday, May 16th.
If you have any questions make sure to follow me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.