2017 Fantasy BaseballAlan HarrisonFantasy Baseball

Using ERA-FIP To Identify Starting Pitchers To Target Or Trade: June Update

In this piece, I’ll be updating one of my favorite strategies to identify starting pitchers to target via trade for fantasy baseball players in 2017.

Each and every baseball site you visit can probably provide you with a strategy to identify players to target via trade. One of my favorite statistics to look at for pitchers is ERA-FIP on FanGraphs. ERA-FIP provides users with the difference between a starting pitchers current earned run average and their fielding independent pitching. According to FanGraphs, Fielding Independent Pitching “measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average.” Moreover, FanGraphs suggests that “FIP does a better job at predicting the future than measuring the present, as there can be a lot of fluctuation in small samples.”

The idea here is to look for pitchers who appear to be performing better than their ERA leads us to believe. These may be players that haven’t been so “lucky” to start the season, but theoretically should regress to the mean and improve as the season wears on. In addition to looking for players with the higher ERA-FIPs, I’ll take a look at the BABIP, LOB%, K%, BB%, SwStr% and SIERA to guide my search. It’s also important to cross-reference this data with pitch velocity and batted ball velocity.

Below is the chart, but you can also download it directly here. Using FanGraphs general guidelines, I’ve used the color green to indicate average or better and red to display below average or worse.

Data was collected prior to the MLB contests on 6/07/17 courtesy of FanGraphs.

Arms To Target

Trevor Bauer | Indians
Jeff Samardzija | Giants
Luis Perdomo | Padres
Sonny Gray | Athletics
Marco Estrada | Blue Jays

Around the industry, many folks have pointed out Jeff Samardzija’s strengths and reasons to target him via trade. Tons of green for him in our chart, FIP and SIERA agree that his ERA should be in the 2.90 range (2.73 xFIP) so positive regression should continue to be in the right-hander’s future. Love the strikeout/walk rates and the velocity looks  good — including a spike of a few ticks on his slider. Buying. This is subjective, but I feel like players have soured on Sonny Gray over the past year or so. His ERA stinks right now, but the other estimators suggest change is on the way. He’s a good buy candidate right now and won’t likely cost you and arm and a leg. Luis Perdomo won’t cost you a think — he’s only 3% owned in the Y! game — so pick him up and stream him in favorable match-ups. Despite pitching his home games at Petco Park — a park that was once considered among the best parks for pitchers — Perdomo’s split’s indicate he’s actually been better on the road.

Arms To Deal

Ervin Santana | Twins

The Twins’ right-hander is off to a stellar star to the season and is currently the fifth-ranked starting pitcher in the Y! game and sixth among starters on ESPN’s Player Rater. His 2.44 ERA and 18.6% K% are considered league-average or better per FanGraphs standards, but all other statistics measured above falls into the below average range. On the flip side, Santana’s velocity looks good and he’s been limiting hard contact (Hard%) and inducing soft contact (Soft%) better than career rates, so that’s something to keep an eye on.

Lance Lynn | Cardinals

Lynn’s K%, K-BB% and SwStr% all look average or better, but he’s surrendering too many free passes and appears to be benefitting from some batting average on balls in play and stranding runners more than average. He’s ranked among the top 25 arms in the Y! game and top 30 on ESPN’s Player Rater, so he’s in good company and you can surely find some arms to target in that range — like Jeff Samardzia.

Jake Odorizzi | Rays

Compared to his career, strikeout rates are down, walk rates are up and he’s benefitted from a .225 batting average on balls in play. Odorizzi is also surrendering hard contact more this season than he has since ’13’s campaign.

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