Although a staple fantasy stat, ERA is a noisy measuring stick that is impacted by all sorts of external factors such as hit sequencing, defensive play, and park effects. Fantasy gamers can often make smart lineup, roster and trade decisions by looking at the gap between each hurlers’ ERA and FIP.
Here are the 10 qualified starters who have the largest gap between their unimpressive ERA and more hopeful FIP.
Eduardo Rodriguez (4.88 ERA, 3.55 FIP)
Rodriguez can make a good case to be baseball’s least lucky starter, as he ranks among the bottom-10 in BABIP (.346) and strand rate (67.6 percent). His poor fortune is hiding some solid skills (3.7 percent K:BB ratio) and an elite ability to handcuff hitters (28.4 percent hard contact rate). Gamers who have had their fill with disappointing starts from Rodriguez need to close their eyes and leave him in their lineup a little longer.
Noah Syndergaard (4.83 ERA, 3.60 FIP)
Syndergaard has been unlucky situationally (64.5 percent strand rate) and overall (.323 BABIP). But Thor is absolutely dominating opposing hitters, as is evidenced by his 4.1 K:BB ratio and 30.5 percent hard contact rate. While injury concerns will always linger over Syndergaard’s long-term outlook, he has the ability to be one of the best fantasy starters on a per-inning basis.
Lance Lynn (4.39 ERA, 3.17 FIP)
I have to admit that I struggle to get behind Lynn as a shallow-league option. Still, the righty has collected plenty of whiffs (9.6 K/9 rate) while showing solid control. But he gives up too much hard contact (39.1 percent) to have sustained success in Texas’ offense-inducing venue. I need to see Lynn in another uniform before I view him as a set-and-forget option.
Ivan Nova (6.28 ERA, 5.18 FIP)
There isn’t much for gamers to see here, as Nova’s bloated FIP may be better than his ERA but is still a depressing mark. The veteran simply lacks the strikeout skills (5.8 K/9 rate) to take full advantage of his solid control numbers. Nova should stay on waivers in all leagues.
Zack Wheeler (4.61 ERA, 3.56 FIP)
Wheeler opened the season as one of baseball’s unluckiest pitchers before enjoying better fortune of late. The 29 year old has been dominating the strike zone (26.4 percent whiff rate) while also limiting opposing hitters to a 30.0 percent hard contact rate. His 3.56 FIP is an accurate indicator that he could be a No. 2 mixed-league starter once he experiences positive regression on his 68.9 percent strand rate.
Max Scherzer (2.83 ERA, 2.04 FIP)
Scherzer may not have produced the best fantasy stats thus far, but he remains the starter I would want to own from this point forward. His .352 BABIP is bested only by Nova and Carrasco, and his 2.04 FIP is by far the lowest mark of any qualified pitcher. Currently sitting in the top-5 in K/9 rate and K:BB ratio, Scherzer continues to show the skills that will eventually result in a memorable hot streak.
(Note: Carlos Carrasco would have appeared at this spot on the list, but I left him out due to his long-term absence)
Jakob Junis (5.63 ERA, 4.77 FIP)
Junis has really struggled in key situations, as his 65.8 percent strand rate is a bottom-five mark among qualified hurlers. But even with better fortune, a starter with a 2.4 K:BB ratio and a 41.5 percent hard contact rate would belong on waivers in mixed formats. In fact, this is the second straight season that Junis has been among the worst in baseball at limiting hard contact.
Brandon Woodruff (3.87 ERA, 3.09 FIP)
Woodruff is absolutely dominating the strike zone (4.5 K:BB ratio) while getting slightly unlucky on batted balls (.322 BABIP). Bad luck isn’t the whole problem, as the right-hander has allowed too many hard-hit balls (38.2 percent), but he is someone who is on the verge of taking a major leap on the strength of his plate dominance. Gamers who can add Woodruff for a reasonable price would be wise to make the move.
Pablo Lopez (4.52 ERA, 3.82 FIP)
Lopez is struggling in key situations (67.9 percent strand rate), but the biggest reason for his ERA-FIP gap is a three-inning, 10-run outing against the Mets on May 10. If it were not for that start, the right-hander would be a fantasy darling with a 3.26 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. He shows plenty of dominance over the strike zone (3.9 K:BB ratio), and his batted balls rates are good enough, especially when factoring in his pitcher-friendly home park.
Chris Sale (3.84 ERA, 3.16 FIP)
Gamers who value Sale as anything less than a top-three starter are making a mistake. The southpaw got off to a well-publicized slow start before returning to his dominant ways (2.43 ERA, 0.83 WHIP) across his past nine outings. And his trademark swing-and-miss skills have returned as well, as Sale has posted a double-digit whiff total in seven of those nine starts. The lanky lefty will be even more fantasy dominant when his talented teammates do their part to improve on his undeserved 2-7 record.