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Fantasy Baseball: Why these starting pitchers aren't all what they seem

·Yahoo Fantasy Contributor
·5 min read
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Fantasy managers tend to be more reactionary with starting pitchers than with position players. Hitters let us down slowly, logging several poor performances mixed with decent ones in a given week.

Meanwhile, starters let us down in a hurry, ruining our ratios and then producing zeros for 4-5 days while we nervously wait for their next start.

However, we still need to keep a clear head with pitchers, as they are sometimes dramatically impacted by luck in one direction or another. Here are the pitchers with the biggest gaps between their ERA and FIP since June 1.

Pitchers who have underachieved

Andrew Heaney (5.40 ERA, 3.62 FIP)

I’m fine with anyone who wants to stay away from Heaney, who has posted an ERA above 4.00 in all but one of his eight MLB seasons. But I need to report that the left-hander has produced an elite 20.3 percent K-BB ratio since June 1, and a mark that high almost always leads to fantasy success. At the very least, Heaney and his 10.7 K/9 rate should be of interest to those who need whiffs.

Mike Minor (6.36 ERA, 4.67 FIP)

With a 4.67 FIP since June 1, Minor has been unlucky — but also bad overall. The left-hander was respectable during May (4.19 ERA) but his whiffs have dried up since the beginning of June, and he isn’t good enough to work around that decline.

Chi Chi Gonzalez (7.33 ERA, 5.67 FIP)

Gonzalez doesn’t strike batters out often enough to be more than an NL-only streamer for road matchups.

Brad Keller (6.00 ERA, 4.65 FIP)

Keller has had the same problem all season — his walk rate is up, and he doesn’t have the swing-and-miss skills to work around those free passes. The 26-year-old should stay on mixed-league waiver wires until we see him walking two or fewer batters per start.

Dylan Cease (5.44 ERA, 4.16 FIP)

Wise fantasy managers could make a buy-low trade offer for Cease by using his high ERA since June 1 as evidence that he has hit the wall in his first 162-game season as a Major League starter. But the reality is that his 21.4 percent K-BB rate since June 1 is an outstanding mark and Cease has the potential to turn things around while also being backed by a strong lineup.

Starting pitcher Dylan Cease #84 of the Chicago White Sox
Dylan Cease has the skill to turn his season around. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Frankie Montas (4.22 ERA, 3.12 FIP)

I was on team “drop Montas” in shallow leagues in the middle of June, but he has turned things around to an even greater degree than his recent ERA suggests. The right-hander has been dominating hitters of late, producing a 27:3 K:BB ratio in his past three starts, including a 10-strikeout performance against an outstanding Astros lineup. Montas could make a major impact down the stretch.

Alex Cobb (3.86 ERA, 2.91 FIP)

Cobb has been outperforming his ERA all season, as his ground-ball-heavy approach hasn’t mixed well with the Angels infield defense. I would recommend him for use in almost all leagues if not for a blister suffered in his most recent start. Wise managers will be ready to pounce if he quickly returns from that injury.

Pitchers who have overachieved

Jordan Lyles (4.56 ERA, 6.20 FIP)

Anyone who looks at Lyles’ somewhat respectable ERA in recent weeks and thinks about streaming him in a favorable matchup will likely get burned. Lyles has struggled to strike batters out since June 1 (5.6 K/9 rate) and can’t consistently overcome that weakness.

James Kaprielian (2.51 ERA, 4.02 FIP)

Kaprelian has shown solid skills since June 1 (18.2 percent K-BB ratio) but has benefited from a 92.4 percent strand rate. Overall, fantasy managers should value Kaprielian as a rotation filler and not an impact starter.

Kwang-Hyun Kim (2.28 ERA, 3.69 FIP)

For some fantasy teams, Kim is going to be the right fit during the second half. The left-hander will be helpful in the ERA category, although maybe not quite as helpful as he has been in recent weeks. However, Kim struggles to rack up whiffs (7.2 K/9 rate) which negates some of his value, especially in leagues that have innings limits.

Luis Castillo (1.71 ERA, 2.94 FIP)

The ERA-FIP gap suggested that Castillo wasn’t as bad as he seemed during April and May, but the same pair of stats show that he hasn’t rebounded to as great of a degree as some people believe. Still, Castillo is mostly back to being what we expected — a set-and-forget starter. To get to another level, he needs to drop his walk rate (4.0 BB/9 since June 1).

Anthony DeSclafani (2.15 ERA, 3.37 FIP)

Like Castillo, DeSclafani may not be as good as is indicated by his recent ERA, but he is still pretty darn good. Disco is another in a long line of successful San Francisco starters this season, and he should remain very valuable while being supported by a pitcher-friendly home park and productive lineup. I would only look to trade DeSclafani if the return was at the level of a No. 2 starter.

Freddy Peralta (2.18 ERA, 3.38 FIP)

Because he walks batters at such a high rate (4.1 BB/9 rate in 2021), Peralta is never going to be a FIP darling. I have no reservations about Peralta’s skills and his ratios moving forward, but I do have some concern over his innings and wins. The Brewers are giving him a bit of a July break, as he has thrown just 51 pitches since July 11. But they have indicated that they will soon go back to having Peralta throw 90+ pitches per start.

Kyle Hendricks (2.66 ERA, 3.82 FIP)

Hendricks has made a career out of producing ERAs that are significantly lower than the advanced metrics expect, so I wouldn’t panic about his spot on this list. The right-hander doesn’t strike out many batters but limits hard contact. He should remain productive for the rest of the season.