By Fred Zinkie
Special to Yahoo Sports
Last week we broke down the pitchers who have shown better skills than their surface stats indicate, by listing the hurlers with the biggest gap between their ERA and FIP.
This week we will go in the other direction and identify the 10 hurlers who have posted an ERA that is much better than their FIP. These are the starters who gamers should keep on a short leash, as they are likely due for a luck correction in the near future.
Zach Davies (2.60 ERA, 4.27 FIP)
Although Davies has been a fantasy stud (7-1, 2.60 ERA), his advanced stats do not support having any significant measure of success. The right-hander is rarely dominating hitters (2.3 K:BB ratio) while giving up his share of hard contact (32.7 percent) and line drives (22.9 percent). Davies’ HR/FB rate (10.5 percent) is slightly favorable and his 82.8 percent strand rate is unsustainable for someone with his skill set. In fact, his xFIP (4.89) and SIERRA (5.15) are even more depressing than his FIP.
Dakota Hudson (3.47 ERA, 4.81 FIP)
Hudson’s solid ERA is hard to trace, as he is one of the least dominant pitchers in baseball (1.6 K:BB ratio) and hasn’t enjoyed special luck on batted balls (.295 BABIP) or in key situations (76.2 percent strand rate). His extreme ground ball rate (62.0 percent) should enable Hudson to outperform his advanced stats, but likely not to the degree that he has so far.
Zach Eflin (2.81 ERA, 4.12 FIP)
Like Davies, Eflin owns an xFIP (4.68) and a SIERRA (4.50) that are even more grotesque than his FIP. The 25 year old has been slightly fortunate with batted balls (.270 BABIP), but it is his luck with runners on base (84.2 percent strand rate) that really stands out as unsustainable. This could be a good time to deal Eflin by advertising him as a low-ratio starter on a winning team.
Luis Castillo (2.20 ERA, 3.50 FIP)
There are some reasons to get really excited about Castillo, namely his outstanding marks in strikeout rate (29.1 percent) and ground-ball rate (56.8 percent). But the budding ace still gives up too many walks (11.5 percent) to join the top tier of fantasy starters. Still, gamers could do a lot worse in the 2019 pitching environment than a starter who is one skill improvement away from being truly special. Castillo is someone to hold onto.
Julio Teheran (2.92 ERA, 4.20 FIP)
I recently listed Teheran as a sell-high candidate, as his stellar success since the beginning of May is simply not sustainable. Overall this season, the right-hander is giving up oodles of hard contact (38.9 percent) and fly balls (37.5 percent) while showing little dominance over the strike zone (1.9 K:BB ratio). His skills are those of a streamer, rather than those of a set-and-forget starter.
Hyun-jin Ryu (1.36 ERA, 2.63 FIP)
As indicated by his FIP, Ryu has used incredible control (0.5 BB/9 rate) and a 50.2 percent ground ball rate to be one of the best pitchers in baseball this year. But his ultra-low ERA is still a bit of a mirage due to his .248 BABIP and 94.7 percent strand rate. Ryu’s stellar success and long injury history make the southpaw somewhat of a sell-high candidate.
Yonny Chirinos (2.88 ERA, 4.05 FIP)
I have heavily invested in Tampa Bay pitchers this year, as the club’s use of an opener enables hurlers such as Chirinos to rack up wins without tossing five innings.
But despite showing excellent control skills (1.7 BB/9 rate), the right-hander has not pitched well enough to merit a 2.88 ERA. Gamers should keep Chirinos active but also anticipate that his .226 BABIP will soon rise and push his ERA closer to his FIP.
Wade Miley (3.14 ERA, 4.30 FIP)
Miley doesn’t really profile as a mixed-league starter. He gives up too many homers (1.3 HR/9 rate), too much hard contact (39.1 percent) and generates too few strikeouts (7.3 K/9 rate). But Miley has some factors working in his favor, such as a pitcher-friendly home park, stellar offensive support and the best defense in baseball working behind him. He may not maintain his current ERA, but he is a strong candidate to outperform his FIP all season.
Justin Verlander (2.41 ERA, 3.55 FIP)
Gamers can think of Verlander as Miley, but with much, much more talent. Like Miley, Verlander benefits greatly from his membership on the Astros. And unlike Miley, the 36 year old helps his own cause by generating tons of strikeouts (32.8 percent) and few walks (5.0 percent). His 40.5 percent hard contact rate and 47.0 percent fly ball rate will sometimes combine to get the righty into homer trouble, but he keeps the bases clean enough to survive the occasional round-tripper. Even with his skills, however, Verlander’s 92.1 percent strand rate and .171 BABIP are unsustainable marks. Expect an ERA around 3.00 from this point forward.
Mike Leake (4.26 ERA, 5.33 FIP)
Leake is unlikely to significantly outperform his FIP for much longer, as he has thrown 1,720.2 career frames with an ERA of 4.04 and a FIP of 4.19. The veteran lacks strikeout skills (6.3 K/9 rate) and this season he has given up more fly balls and hard contact than usual. This change leaves him prone to the long ball, which makes Leake’s fantasy risk greater than the potential reward.