Almost everyone who plays fantasy baseball follows some numbers in the game. Common statistics that most fantasy baseball owners follow are HR, R, RBI, SB, batting average, W, SV, WHIP, ERA and strikeouts. Winning in fantasy baseball is about finding an edge or information to utilize that your other league members aren’t. This is where next level statistics come into play. These are commonly referred to as sabermetric statistics. Going forward this is what my “Follow The Numbers” posts will be about. Exposing a statistic that says something about the current production (or lack thereof) of a player. All statistics are courtesy of fangraphs.com.
This article will focus on starting pitchers.
Ervin Santana: 0.66 ERA
As a Minnesota Twins fan it’s been awesome to see Mr. Santana have this start to the season. Along with that impressive ERA he’s 5-0 on the season in 41 innings pitched with a 0.71 WHIP and 33 strikeouts.
I wrote that paragraph above prior to his start yesterday. I also was going to say that his FIP tells us a much different story than his ERA. His FIP prior to that horrendous start yesterday (6 innings pitched, 6 earned runs, 4 home runs given up) was 3.01. In short, to start the season he was an ERA Cinderella and it was very likely only a matter of time before his ERA more resembled reality and not a fairytale.
Now, I am by no means suggesting that he was due to completely be destroyed in the way he was yesterday, as a 3.01 FIP is still not a bad number to have as a starting pitcher. His FIP through Saturday suggested that we should expect, at least in his next few starts, a pitcher that will produce an ERA around 3.00. We should still expect an ERA in the low 3’s over his next few starts, even after this disastrous performance.
Gio Gonzalez: 1.64 ERA
In 38.1 innings of work on the pitcher’s mound Mr. Gonzalez has been quite lucky. Oh sure, he has a 3-0 record, 34 strikeouts and a 1.25 WHIP. But, what he also has is a 4.11 FIP. In 2016 Mr. Gonzalez had a 4.57 ERA in 177.1 innings pitched with a 3.76 FIP. No one looks at a mid-4’s ERA and thinks the pitcher is anything special. Don’t buy into him having a bounce back season right now, because the underlying FIP says that isn’t so. He’s merely been very fortunate on the mound in 2017. My suggestion is, if you have him on your fantasy baseball team, to dangle him on the trade block in your leagues right now to see what kind of interest he generates and to trade him away if you are upgrading your team.
Matt Andriese: 3.09 ERA
Mr. Andriese has really had a nice start to the season, and the recent memory of his 7 scoreless innings and 8 strikeouts might have you feeling really good about having him on your team. And you should feel really good about it. Now put him on your trading block and see what kind of interest in him emerges. If you like what you see in an offer then now just may be the time to sell high on him. His 4.66 FIP tells us that during his future starts we should expect a much higher ERA than what his previous starts has produced.
Jeremy Hellickson: 3.18 ERA
Just like with Ervin Santana, yesterday Jeremy Hellickson had a rough start and his 2017 ERA will be higher than 3.18. Those of us that follow FIP aren’t surprised though, as his 2017 FIP prior to yesterday’s horrible debacle on the mound was 4.89. His underlying numbers don’t impress me and his lack of strikeouts makes me yawn. Right now I’m just not a fan of his.
Kyle Hendricks: 3.51 ERA
Fantasy baseball owners that have Mr. Hendricks on their team probably had a sigh of relief when he didn’t allow any runs in 5.1 innings of work on Friday. It was a nice outing for him, but the fact remains that he still has a 4.72 FIP. The game against the New York Yankees produced a 2.85 FIP, so maybe he’s starting to turn things around. He better be because his fantasy baseball owners are expecting his 2.13 ERA that he produced in 2016 (a season in which he had a 3.20 FIP). His breakout 2016 season has earned him another start or two to continue to show that he’s recovered from a slow start. Hopefully he builds upon the great performance he had against the Yankees.
R.A. Dickey: 3.94 ERA
Mr. Dickey obviously isn’t much more than organizational depth in fantasy baseball at this point in his career. With that said, his ERA this season was lower than the 4.46 he posted in 169.2 innings pitched during 2016 and he hadn’t given up more than 3 earned runs in a start this season yet. Then yesterday happened when he gave up 4 earned runs (2 home runs) in 6 innings of work. Those of us that pay attention to FIP knew about his 5.90 FIP entering his Sunday start. We knew it was 5.03 in 2016 as well. We knew that Mr. Dickey’s carriage was due to turn back into a pumpkin.
Jaime Garcia: 3.99 ERA
Mr. Garcia has only given up 6 earned runs in his past 3 starts (18.1 innings pitched). Prior to that over 2 starts to begin the season he had given up 7 earned runs in 11 innings pitched. So, he’s turned the corner and has become a starting pitcher we can rely on right? Wrong! In 2 of his past 3 starts he’s had FIP’S of 5.25 and 5.04 sandwiched around a start that produced a 1.54 FIP. His 5.08 FIP is much more believable as a future ERA instead of the one he currently has. In 171.2 innings pitched in 2016 Mr. Garcia had a 4.67 ERA. I think it’s very likely we see an ERA like this going forward.
The big takeaway for anyone who has read this article is that FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is a much better statistic to use in pitcher analysis. Sure, fantasy baseball leagues use ERA as a scoring statistic, so we can’t ignore that stat. However, FIP is a great predictive statistic to use when analyzing pitchers when trying to figure out how they will perform in the near future. It’s much better than ERA as it only looks at the things the pitcher has complete control over. I do hope you enjoyed this article and this Follow The Numbers series.