Yesterday we covered the BABIP Hitter Donkeys. Here we will look at the ERA Starting Pitcher Donkeys of the 2017 season. Do you have the confidence in them to close out the season as the same player they are right now, stats wise? Do you see them regressing to the player they were prior to this season in the second half of 2017? Let your voice and opinion be heard by making a comment on this article!
ERA Starting Pitcher Donkeys:
Gio Gonzalez (WAS) – 2.77 ERA, 4.19 FIP
Mr. Gonzalez has been very fortunate this season. His fantasy baseball owners love his 2.77 ERA, but his 4.19 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is the dark cloud that hangs over it. The 31-year-old starting pitcher has pitched 33.1, 35 and 32 innings over the first three months of the season and he has posted ERA’s of 1.62, 4.37 and 2.53. In March/April Mr. Gonzalez was very fortunate to have that 1.62 ERA as his FIP was over 2 runs higher at 3.84. In May, even with that ugly 4.37 ERA, it could have been worse as he had a 5.87 FIP. In June he once again out-performed his FIP (3.31) with a 2.53 ERA. The time is coming when he will no longer be dodging these bullets. Keep in mind that in 2016 he had a 4.57 ERA, and that ERA was much higher than his 3.76 FIP. The time to sell high on Mr. Gonzalez is now.
Ervin Santana (MIN) – 2.99 ERA, 4.68 FIP
The 34-year-old is having his best season of his long major league career when you look solely at his ERA. However, as you can see, his FIP (which is a great predictive statistic to use in trying to determine a pitchers’ ERA going forward assuming his level of production on the mound remains the same) is significantly higher. It turns out that he just has been very lucky on the mound this season. In fact, last season, even though he finished with a 3.38 ERA, he actually pitched much better. Here’s a quick comparison:
2016: 181.1 IP, 3.38 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 0.94 HR/9, 19.9% K%, 7.1% BB%
2017: 120.1 IP, 2.99 ERA, 4.68 FIP, 1.35 HR/9, 18.8% K%, 8.3% BB%
So, what’s the difference maker? Why is his ERA so low this season you ask? His left on base percentage (LOB%) is at 83.6%. That, simply put, is excellent. It also isn’t likely sustainable, as his major league career LOB% is 73.1% (average) in his 2,292.1 innings pitched. We’ll see where his LOB% ends up at the end of the season, but it should be noted that his previous MLB career high was a 76.9% in his only season with the Kansas City Royals in 2013.
Another difference maker is the Minnesota Twins are eighth in MLB in DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) with 16 and tied for third with three other teams in Fielding Percentage with a .987. A strong defense sure can assist a pitcher a lot and help him to an elevated LOB%.
The problem with Mr. Santana is he doesn’t really have any trade value to the educated fantasy baseball owner currently. In 35 innings pitched during March/April he posted an insanely low 0.77 ERA. He followed that up in May with a very nice looking 2.57 ERA from 42 innings pitched. Then in 34.1 innings pitched during June the wheels completely fell off and he had a 6.03 ERA.
Should fantasy baseball owners have expected to see the wheels fall off? The ones that pay attention to statistics like FIP should have, and they should have traded Mr. Santana when he was producing an ERA that was wildly lower than what his FIP said it should be. I mean, in March/April Mr. Santana had a 3.27 FIP. That is 2.5 runs HIGHER than what his ERA was! Then in May his 5.01 FIP was 2.44 runs HIGHER than what his ERA was! June was a disaster with his FIP getting even worse (somehow that was possible) at 5.86 and his ERA this time around truly reflected how he was pitching (6.03 ERA).
Part of what has hurt Mr. Santana as the season has gone along is his LOB% has decreased by the month: 99%, 86.7%, 73.3%. Part of what has hurt him is his increasing HR/9: 0.51, 1.29, 2.36. The bottom line is this is a starting pitcher I don’t want to have on any of my fantasy baseball teams.
Mike Fiers (HOU) – 3.80 ERA, 5.28 FIP
One simple comparison glance at Mr. Fier’s ERA from this season (3.80) compared to his ERA from last season (4.48) gives the viewer an initial feeling that he is having a better season on the mound. And, well, he is. Even if his FIP says he has been very fortunate in 2017 and should have a significantly higher ERA, well, at the end of the day the ERA is in fact better this season than last season.
The big question is, as a fantasy baseball owner with Mr. Fiers on your team, do you want to double down on the bet that his second-half of 2017 ERA will be the same as the first-half?
Some would say, correctly, that after a very rough start to the season in March/April (5.12 ERA and 8.12 FIP in 19.1 innings pitched) and May (4.86 ERA and 6.42 FIP in 33.1 innings pitched) he really had a strong June (2.32 ERA and 2.61 FIP in 31 innings pitched).
If you want to buy into the notion that he has figured something out and should be fine the remainder of the season, well, I get it. That could be the case. However, I would say his fantasy owners should watch his performances closely as we should not forget that over the previous two seasons this is a starting pitcher that has had seasons of 4.48 ERA / 4.43 FIP (2016) and 3.69 ERA / 4.03 FIP (2015).
Personally, I’d put him on the trade block and see what interest there is. If there is enough interest I’d seriously consider moving him now if I am getting a similar or better starting pitcher with a better recent history (last two and a half seasons) than Mr. Fiers in return.
Mike Foltynewicz (ATL) – 3.83 ERA, 4.67 FIP
Once again, we have a starting pitcher that seems to be having a better season this year than last season. Last year in the MLB Mr. Foltynewicz had a 4.31 ERA and 4.24 FIP. Even though his ERA is better this season we can see by the FIP that really, he just has been very fortunate and actually could very easily have a similar ERA to what he posted in 2016. The K% is down a little bit from last season and the BB% is up a little. Sure, Mr. Foltynewicz has ERA’s of 2.81 (March/April), 6.12 (May) and most recently 2.97 in June, but he has FIP’s of 4.05, 5.79 and 4.34 to go along with those. Maybe he can maintain this ERA. It certainly is possible. However, I think it is more likely that the ERA creeps up closer to 4.00 as the season moves along, as long as he continues to pitch at the same level of effectiveness as his other statistics show.
Lance Lynn (STL) – 3.87 ERA, 5.36 FIP
Don’t be fooled by Mr. Lynn’s ERA. It’s great that he has been able to pitch 95.1 innings in 2017 (17 games started) in his attempt to come back from the Tommy John surgery that he had after the 2015 season. However, that FIP gives me a lot of concerns.
March/April (2.45 ERA) and May (3.41 ERA) were good months for him if you just look at ERA, but the month of June and the 5.68 ERA that came with it has really eroded away any decent trade value he might have had to fantasy baseball owners that don’t look at FIP and other advanced statistics. For those owners that always do look at FIP, well, they see a starting pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery that had FIP’s of 4.45 (March/April), 5.26 (May) and 6.47 (June). This is not a starting pitcher I would want on any of my fantasy baseball teams.