Week Ahead: It's Not How It Starts

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The first half of the MLB season has been a war of attrition. That’s not particularly surprising after last year’s truncated 60-game season, with players shocking their bodies with full workloads and already pushing beyond what they did in 2021.

One year removed from a full season, it’s been difficult for fantasy managers and MLB fans to keep the full season in perspective. A few poor weeks in a six month season can be easily overcome, and a fast start or a hot streak by a player doesn’t necessarily indicate a forthcoming breakout season.

More than any other sport, fantasy baseball is about practicing patience due to the long year. Fortunately, baseball also has more public tools and data at its disposal to help predict future player outcomes, both in the short- and long-term. One of many stats we can view for pitchers after the first half of the season to predict whether they will have a better or worse outcome in the latter half is ERA minus FIP. There are better measures, but a substantial positive or negative difference at this point does give fantasy managers a simple measure of which way to expect pitchers to trend in the second half of the season.

For review, FIP is a basic formula based on home runs, strikeouts, and walks, and is derived from the concept of defensive-independent pitching stats.

Here are the top 10 positive ERA-FIP starting pitchers (underachievers in the first half):

RankNameERAFIPE-F1Brad Keller6.675.171.492Luis Castillo5.083.951.143Mike Minor5.334.211.124Corbin Burnes2.411.440.975Aaron Nola4.443.470.966Nathan Eovaldi3.412.560.857Frankie Montas4.724.030.708Zach Eflin4.203.540.669Merrill Kelly4.674.020.6410Jordan Montgomery4.063.550.51

 

Fantasy managers who invested heavily in Luis Castillo and Aaron Nola but haven’t seen great return on their investments can take some solace in a possible improvement forthcoming. Those two aces will cap off their first halves with scheduled two-start weeks, and both have shown recent flashes of improvement.

Among the other standouts are two Royals (Brad Keller and Mike Minor) in the top three. Of course, their FIPs still aren’t all that impressive even though both pitchers have underachieved to this point.

Zach Eflin and Jordan Montgomery were popular preseason sleepers who have had satisfactory starts, but there’s reason to hope that the best is yet to come.

The fact that Brewers breakout ace Corbin Burnes has actually underachieved is telling. Jacob deGrom appears to be the runaway favorite to win the NL Cy Young, but Burnes is still in the picture if the knee injury he suffered on Thursday isn’t serious. If you’re wondering, deGrom’s FIP currently stands at a ridiculous 1.00, similar to his 0.95 ERA.

 

Here are the top 10 negative ERA-FIP starting pitchers (overachievers in the first half):

 

RankNameERAFIPE-F1Trevor Bauer2.594.02-1.432Kyle Gibson2.003.32-1.323Walker Buehler2.353.57-1.214Casey Mize3.464.65-1.195Marcus Stroman2.443.60-1.166Yusei Kikuchi3.184.28-1.107Kyle Hendricks3.985.08-1.108Kevin Gausman1.682.67-0.999Aaron Civale3.324.27-0.9510Max Scherzer2.143.08-0.94

 

Names like Gibson, Mize, Stroman, and Gausman probably don’t surprise many fantasy managers. While all are quality pitchers, these four are easily having career years, and the results aren’t backed up by the stats quite to the level that we’ve witnessed in the first half. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should take the first offer you can for them in a trade. After all, ERA-FIP is just one indicator, and the course correction doesn’t always come in the same season. Still, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise if we do see some ERAs inflate.

Is it telling that there are two Dodgers pitchers in the top three on the overachievers list? The Dodgers do rank in the top 10 in defensive runs saved, and the bullpen also has the ninth best ERA in MLB. Certainly, the supporting cast hasn’t hurt.

Kyle Hendricks is an interesting case study, as he’s righted the ship after a terrible month of April and is a remarkable 9-1 with a 2.83 ERA over his last 11 starts. Still, he leads the NL with 20 home runs allowed and has a groundball rate that’s down significantly from previous seasons. It also should be noted that Hendricks’ FIP has been sub-4.00 in every year of his career until this season.

 

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, July 2, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Jose Berrios: CHW, DET

Dylan Cease: @MIN, @BAL

Chris Bassitt: @HOU, @TEX

Luis Garcia: OAK, NYY

 

Decent Plays

Kolby Allard: DET, OAK

Jameson Taillon: @SEA, @HOU

Mike Minor: CIN, @CLE

Steven Matz: @BAL, @TB

Martin Perez: @LAA, PHI

 

At Your Own Risk

Justus Sheffield: NYY, LAA

Michael Wacha: CLE, TOR

Jose Urena: @TEX, @MIN

Bailey Ober: CHW, DET

Kris Bubic: CIN, @CLE

Cal Quantrill: @TB, KC

Matt Harvey: @TOR, @HOU

Logan Allen: @TB, KC

Wily Peralta: @TEX, @MIN

 

 

National League

Strong Plays

Jacob deGrom: MIL, PIT

Walker Buehler: @MIA, ARI

Brandon Woodruff: @NYM, CIN

Max Fried: @PIT, @MIA

Kevin Gausman: STL, WAS

Luis Castillo: @KC, @MIL

Trevor Rogers: LAD, ATL

Joe Musgrove: WAS, COL

Tony Gonsolin: @MIA, ARI

 

Decent Plays

Aaron Nola: @CHC, @BOS

Ryan Weathers: WAS, COL

Kwang Hyun Kim: @SF, @CHC

Jon Gray: @ARI, @SD

 

At Your Own Risk

Patrick Corbin: @SD, @SF

Jon Lester: @SD, @SF

Zach Davies: PHI, STL

Matt Moore: @CHC, @BOS

Corey Oswalt: MIL, PIT

Vladimir Gutierrez: @KC, @MIL

Jake Arrieta: PHI, STL

Chase De Jong: ATL, @NYM

Jordan Holloway: LAD, ATL

Riley Smith: COL, @LAD

 

Streamer City

The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:

American League

Tuesday, July 6: Dane Dunning vs. DET

Dunning has seen an up and down first half, but caps it off with a very easy matchup vs. Detroit. The Tigers have the ninth lowest OPS in MLB (.689).

 

Tuesday, July 6: Ryan Yarbrough vs. CLE

The crafty Yarbrough has had an inconsistent first half, but faces a Cleveland lineup that hasn’t hit southpaws, with a .680 OPS.

 

Friday, July 9: Griffin Canning @ SEA

The entire Angels starting rotation has been a massive disappointment, including Canning. He’s still worth of using against Seattle next week, who have a sub-.678 OPS against right-handers while Canning is coming off three consecutive strong starts.

 

National League

Wednesday, July 7: Antonio Senzatela @ ARI

Colorado has been baseball’s worst road team, but matchups don’t get any easier than this one for Senzatela. The control specialist faces a Diamondbacks lineup with a .658 OPS and likely without Ketel Marte.

 

Friday, July 9: Tylor Megill vs. PIT

Don’t sleep on Megill. The 25-year-old is having a breakout year with a 4.92 K/BB and 3.35 ERA in eight starts between Double- and Triple-A, and gets the worst lineup in MLB next week.

 

Saturday, July 10: Tyler Anderson @ NYM

Anderson has seen a first half of inconsistency, but he’s been good in his last two outings and remains a quality matchup play. The Mets lineup is getting healthier, but for the year they have the fourth worst OPS against left-handers.

 

Total Games

American League

6: BAL, BOS, CHW, HOU, LAA, NYY, OAK, SEA, TB, TEX, TOR

7: CLE, DET, KC, MIN

 

National League

6: ARI, ATL, COL, SF, STL

7: CHC, CIN, LAD, MIA, MIL, NYM, PHI, PIT, SD, WAS

 

 

The Infirmary

Here’s some injuries to prominent players from the last week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at NBCSports Edge’s Injury Page.

Ronald Acuna: Day-to-day (back)

Corbin Burnes: Day-to-day (knee)

Kris Bryant: Day-to-day (side)

Willie Calhoun: Out indefinitely (forearm)

Bobby Dalbec: Day-to-day (hamstring)

Wade Davis: Placed on IL (forearm)

Zach Eflin: Day-to-day (illness)

Erick Fedde: Placed on IL (oblique)

Maikel Franco: Day-to-day (ankle)

Avisail Garcia: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Hunter Harvey: Out indefinitely (shoulder)

Jake Lamb: Placed on IL (quad)

Ketel Marte: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Yoan Moncada: Status uncertain (hand)

Colin Moran: Placed on IL (hand)

Tyler Naquin: Day-to-day (wrist)

Josh Naylor: Out indefinitely (leg)

David Peterson: Status uncertain (oblique)

Cody Poteet: Placed on IL (knee)

Tanner Rainey: Placed on IL (leg)

Eddie Rosario: Status uncertain (abdomen)

Anthony Rizzo: Day-to-day (back)

Blake Snell: Placed on IL (illness)

Mike Tauchman: Placed on IL (knee)

Jose Trevino: Placed on IL (forearm)

Trea Turner: Day-to-day (finger)

Jose Urquidy: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Patrick Wisdom: Day-to-day (neck/eye)