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MLB Pitcher Studs and Duds - Advanced Metrics Leaders for ERA-FIP (Week 22)

Carlos Rodon - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MLB Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

Welcome back to fantasy baseball and RotoBaller’s Statcast Pitcher Studs and Duds article series! Each week, I select one advanced metric, choose two pitchers with strong values and two with poor values, and analyze what those values may mean for future performance.

Comparing peripheral numbers to underlying metrics is a great approach to identifying buy-low and sell-high candidates early in the season, but it is still a useful exercise with just about a month left as well. This week, I will be comparing pitchers' ERA to their fielding independent pitching (FIP).

This comparison can generally be used to identify pitchers who have gotten lucky or unlucky based on their underlying performance, although there are some logical explanations for discrepancies, such as defense and home ballpark.

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Fantasy managers have difficult roster decisions to make at this point in the season, but starting pitchers could have four to five starts left. Understanding how they have pitched in comparison to their results can still play a role in making those decisions. With that in mind, let's identify some ERA-FIP Studs and Duds!


ERA-FIP Studs for Fantasy Baseball

All stats are current as of Sunday morning, September 4, 2022.

Carlos Rodon: San Francisco Giants
12-7, 3.03 ERA, 2.41 FIP, 0.62 ERA-FIP

Carlos Rodon has been outstanding in his first season with the Giants, putting together a stellar 3.03 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 31.4% strikeout rate in 26 starts. Even more impressive, his FIP is over half a run lower than his ERA, suggesting that he has pitched better than his peripherals indicate. What should fantasy managers make of this?

As I mentioned, FIP only considers aspects of the game that pitchers can control, including strikeouts. This bodes well for Rodon's FIP, as his power fastball and breaking slider have generated an elite strikeout rate and an overall 13.9% swinging-strike rate.

Things get a little more interesting as you look deeper. Rodon's ERA suffers compared to his FIP because of the poor defense he has had behind him. He also benefits from pitching in a pitcher's park, which does seem to play a part in both his ERA and his FIP.

Rodon has kept the ball out of play with his strikeouts, but his batted-ball profile leaves something to be desired. Both his exit velocity and hard-hit rate are in the bottom half of baseball, and his average launch angle is high at 18.3 degrees. It could be that hitters aren't hitting the ball well enough to get the ball out of the park, as suggested by his 6.2% HR/FB rate and 71st percent barrel rate.

I can buy both Rodon's ERA and FIP based on the underlying numbers but am a little surprised at the lack of home runs given his batted-ball profile. Power pitchers can succeed with high launch angles if they avoid hard contact, but this isn't exactly the case with Rodon.

I don't think fantasy managers will be sitting him given his overall success and Statcast profile (which does have a lot of red in it), but I would not be surprised to see at least one dud start down the stretch in which he allows a couple of long balls.

Kyle Gibson: Philadelphia Phillies
9-6, 4.48 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 0.25 ERA-FIP

Kyle Gibson's peripherals may not get fantasy managers excited, but he has been a serviceable starter at times this season with a 4.48 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 19.6% strikeout rate. Further, his 4.32 FIP suggests that he has been more useful than his peripherals suggest. Could he be worth starting down the stretch?

There isn't a ton to analyze one way or the other for Gibson. He doesn't get a lot of strikeouts, as he relies mostly on various fastballs. However, his batted-ball profile is decent, with an above-average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, and an 11.6-degree launch angle. Gibson does have the disservice of having one of baseball's worst defenses behind him, which could help explain his higher ERA compared to his FIP.

On the other hand, he does have a strong schedule for the rest of the season, at least in the short term. Gibson's next two starts should be against the Marlins and then at the Marlins. Things get tougher with potential matchups against the Blue Jays and Braves, but his next two matchups make him a considerable starter for the fantasy playoffs.

Gibson's peripherals have been less than stellar, and while even his FIP has been okay, okay should be enough to be helpful for the first couple of weeks of the fantasy playoffs. Gibson has put up good fantasy starts throughout the season and has the perfect upcoming matchups to deliver a couple more.

Rostered in 48 percent of leagues, I consider Gibson to be a solid streaming candidate in the next couple of weeks for managers dealing with injuries.


ERA-FIP Duds for Fantasy Baseball

All stats are current as of Sunday morning, September 4, 2022.

Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers
15-7, 2.29 ERA, 3.62 FIP, -1.33 ERA-FIP

Julio Urias has once again been a high-end fantasy option this season, posting a 2.29 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 24.3% strikeout rate through 26 starts. While his peripherals are outstanding, his ERA to 3.62 FIP holds the highest negative differential among qualified starters. Do fantasy managers have anything to worry about for the final weeks of the season?

This analyst certainly doesn't think so. I have always been impressed with Urias' Statcast profiles, and this season is no different. Almost all of his advanced metrics are towards the top percent of baseball, particularly concerning his batted-ball profile. His exit velocity and hard-hit rate are in the 88th and 97th percent of baseball to go with an 18.5-degree launch angle.

Urias' expected metrics are all higher than his ERA to a degree (2.77 xERA, 3.81 xFIP, 3.64 SIERA), which supports his FIP. However, I don't see anything in his underlying profile to worry me. His numbers would still be solid even if he did regress slightly to his FIP, but I do not see any reason to think that he can't continue to be excellent for the rest of the season.

Eric Lauer: Milwaukee Brewers
10-6, 3.54 ERA, 4.64 FIP, -1.10 ERA-FIP

Eric Lauer got off to a hot start to the season and has been inconsistent since, but still owns a solid 3.54 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 22.7% strikeout rate in 25 starts. One of the main indicators of his up-and-down season is the fact that his 4.64 FIP is over a run higher than his ERA, suggesting he has gotten quite lucky. Regardless of what he has done, should fantasy managers trust him in the playoffs?

There isn't much in Lauer's underlying profile to get excited about at this point in the season. His high strikeout rate has come back to earth, which makes sense seeing as he relies heavily on non-overpowering fastballs. His batted-ball profile is that of a middling-to-subpar pitcher as well, with an average exit velocity and hard-hit rate in the 39th percent of baseball to go with an 18-degree launch angle.

This has affected Lauer's results to a degree, such as a career-high 14.0% HR/FB rate. However, his .259 BABIP is much lower than his career mark of .294, and his FIP indicates good luck as well.

All in all, Lauer is a pitcher that fantasy managers can pick their matchups for down the stretch. The problem is, he doesn't project to have many great matchups. His schedule could be at the Rockies, at the Cardinals, against the Mets, at the Reds, and against the Marlins or Diamondbacks.

I would not be starting Lauer in the first three if possible, so fantasy managers would be fine to drop him for a more helpful player (such as the aforementioned Gibson) to navigate the first few weeks of the fantasy playoffs.

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