Lost password?

Don't have an account?
Gain Access Now


Receive free daily analysis


Already have an account? Log In


Forgot Password


Expert Advice
Articles & Tools
Import Your Leagues
Daily Stats & Leaders
All Pitcher Matchups
Compare Any Players
Player Comparisons
Rookies & Call-Ups
24x7 News and Alerts

Three Up, Three Down: Pitchers to Buy & Sell

Zack Wheeler - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury nNews

The pitching league leaders are about to cross the 100-inning mark of the year, which means we have accrued quite a bit of data to analyze. We can now have a significant amount of confidence in our data analysis given that we've seen guys on the mound for nearly three full months.

A huge key to winning your fantasy league is knowing when to acquire a starting pitcher and when to deal one away. In this post, we will look at some indicators and give six recommendations on starting pitchers.

When I do analysis like this, I tend to strip off a lot of the new fancy numbers and focus mainly on four things: strikeouts, walks, ground-balls, and home run luck. This is pretty old-school stuff. When you see ERA indicator stats like FIP and xFIP, those numbers are based on strikeouts, walks, and home runs. Those three statistics are simply, but really powerful. Let's start with our three down, here are three pitchers I would be looking to sell right now.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:


Three Down

Kyle Gibson, Texas Rangers

If you had to pick one statistic to judge a pitcher based on to get the best predictions about the future, for me it would be K%-BB%. This is a single number that shows how far apart each pitcher's strikeout and walk rates are. As a general rule, as your K-BB ratio gets bigger (meaning you have way more strikeouts than walks), your box score statistics will improve. Here's how the relationship between this statistic and ERA so far this year (40 inning minimum)

What we see here is a somewhat linear relationship. As K%-BB% is increasing, ERA is generally decreasing. The pitchers that would stand out here would be the ones that fall furthest away from the trend line. Pitchers well below the trend line very well may have their ERA on the positive luck side, and vice versa.

The furthest dot below the line is Kyle Gibson. So far this year, Gibson has a 2.17 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP to go with his 19.3% strikeout rate and a 7.6% walk rate. Those numbers don't seem to make sense together.

To test this a bit further, I consulted data from 2015-2019 to find comparables. I filtered down to only pitchers with this criteria

  1. More than 100 innings thrown
  2. K% between 17% and 22%
  3. BB% between 5% and 9%
  4. GB% between 45% and 55%

Gibson's numbers are all right between these ranges, so it's a pretty comparable group of pitchers. What I find is that no pitcher has been able to post an ERA anywhere near Gibson's 2.17 while checking all those other boxes. The best ERA we find is Mike Soroka in 2019 who had a 2.68 ERA (20.3% K%, 5.8% BB%, 51.2% GB%) over 174.2 innings. Soroka showed elite command that season and benefited from quite a bit of luck as well, and he still could not get anywhere near a 2.09 ERA mark.

When I look at the whole group (79 pitchers), the average ERA is 4.13 and the average WHIP is 1.32. Gibson is smashing both of those numbers.

Now it doesn't take a genius to know that Gibson is overperforming this year. I doubt there are many leagues out there that have a manager that will give up a top twenty starter for Gibson. I do think there are leagues that would give up a solid hitter or a pitcher with much better skills but disappointing numbers thus far.

Sean Manaea, Oakland Athletics

The Athletics' lefty had an outstanding outing last Sunday, striking out 11 Yankees over 5.1 innings in a losing effort against the Yankees. He gave up just three hits and two runs, and for the year he's been very solid with a 3.01 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP to go with a 24.9% strikeout rate.

The advanced numbers on Manaea don't raise any flags, as his FIP sits at 3.08 and his xFIP is at 3.69. We already know that those numbers are heavily dependent on strikeout rate, and that number is the one I don't really believe in.

Manaea is a sinkerballer. He has thrown 826 sinkers this year, making up 59.4% of his arsenal. League-wide, the sinker is the best that generates the least swinging strikes, and it's not particularly close, here's the SwStr% breakdown by pitch type:

Pitch Type SwStr%
Slider 16.3%
Changeup 14.5%
Curveball 12.5%
Cutter 11.9%
Four-Seam 9.5%
Sinker 6.4%

Manaea is outdoing that 6.4% by 3.6 points as his SwStr% on the sinker comes in at 10%. Only Jose Alvarado's sinker beats that number at 10.6%, and Sandy Alcantara is tied with Manaea for second at 10.0%. There is a significant difference between Manaea's sinker and these other two, as both Alcantara and Alvarado average more than 98 miles per hour on their sinker while Manaea comes at 92.

To drive the point home, I looked at every starting pitcher whose most commonly thrown pitch is a sinker this year. The highest overall strikeout rate from this group is Chris Bassitt at 25.9%. Only Lance McCullers Jr. joins Bassitt above 25% there, and the average for this group of pitchers is 20.9%. When we look only at starting pitchers throwing a sinker over 50% of the time (that list is short - it's Manaea, Dane Dunning, Brady Singer, Jake Arrieta, Adrian Houser, and Zach Davies), half of them have strikeout rates under 20% (the second half of that list in the previous sentence).

All of this is to say, Manaea's 25% strikeout rate seems to be a mirage, I don't think it will hang around. Add that to the fact that he's never been outstanding at preventing the home run ball (1.09 career HR/9, which is quite high for a guy that throws this many sinkers), and I think some tough days are ahead for the lefty.

Chris Bassitt, Oakland Athletics

We alluded to Bassitt in the Manaea write-up, as he is another guy who throws a lot of sinkers but still has an above-average strikeout rate. His strikeout rate currently sits at nearly 25.8%, nearly five full points above his career average of 21.2%.

Bassitt does have a more diverse pitch mix than most pitchers, throwing six different pitches more than 5% of the time. 75% of that pitch mix is made up by fastballs of one name or the other, so he has a little bit of Lance Lynn in him. Here's how those three offerings have looked this year by the numbers:

Pitch Share SwStr% CSW%
Sinker 37.3% 4.8% 31%
4-Seam 19.4% 14% 22.1%
Cutter 18.7% 9.6% 26.9%

The sinker is the get-me-over, strike one pitch no doubt. The CSW% and SwStr% disparity is crazy there, with a strong CSW% but a pathetic SwStr%. He locates the pitch well and doesn't get many swings. The four-seamer is the only one there with a strong SwStr%, which is a little bit surprising since it tops out at 95 miles per hour.

Bassitt throws two breaking balls that have been great in limited usage. He's thrown 121 sliders (8.7%) for a 24% SwStr% and 90 curveballs (6.5%) for a 20% SwStr%. Those are elite rates, but both well ahead of what he's done in his career.

This guy is number three here for a reason - he does have a pretty solid resume of preventing runs, and I do believe he will be a useful fantasy pitcher in most leagues moving forward. The recommendation here is to just see if you can convince somebody to give you a very good pitcher for him after they see all the success he's had in the box scores. He has given up more than two earned runs only four times, and two of those came in his first two starts of the year.

He's done an amazing job avoiding the barrel of the bat, and it's just not something I think he can keep up long-term. Anybody you would have taken for Bassitt a month ago, I would go ahead and see if you can make that swap now.


Three Up

Shane McClanahan, Tampa Bay Rays

If you haven't watched this kid pitch, I would recommend it. He consistently reaches triple-digits with his fastball, and the pitch has averaged more than 97 miles per hour this year. He also has a wipe-out slider that has a ridiculous 24.8% swinging-strike rate on 298 pitches this year. He has had absolutely no trouble getting swings-and-misses, not having a single start under an 11% SwStr%:

He has been really impressive this year. His 29% strikeout rate and 7.5% walk rate are really impressive for a rookie and suggest huge things to come for his future. The reason for his sub-par ERA (4.03) has to do with the long ball, he's given up 1.61 HR/9 this year. That number is bound to plummet soon and fast - as his HR/FB rate of 24.2% is nearly 15 points above the league average. For the year he has a 49% ground-ball rate, so this guy checks all the important boxes.

The biggest thing that was holding him back early on was the pitch count, as is so common to see with the Rays. However, last Sunday he reached a season-high with 86 pitches thrown, going six brilliant innings against the Mariners. It won't surprise me if McClanahan is one of the best pitchers in the league for the rest of the season - go get him now.

Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies

Only four pitchers have strikeout rates above 30%, walk rates below 7%, and ground-ball rates above 45%. Those names are Zack Wheeler, Brandon Woodruff, Joe Musgrove, and Corbin Burnes. When a pitcher is posting a trio of numbers anywhere close to those, they are going to be wildly successful.

I pick Wheeler from this group to recommend trading for because I think he's probably the most attainable of the group. Now, I'm not saying you're going to be able to get Wheeler cheaply, but I do think he's a guy worth buying high on. He has just looked so, so dominant this year and has such a high floor with the sky-high ground-ball rate we're seeing from him.

I would definitely be willing to give up a guy like Max Scherzer who has more injury question marks as we move forward for Wheeler, and I think that's something a lot of people would do given that Wheeler has not been an elite arm in his career.

Robbie Ray, Toronto Blue Jays

This is a guy that I think is probably still very attainable in most leagues, given how frustrating Robbie Ray has been for fantasy managers throughout his career. He has looked like an elite arm in the past only to regress to being a below-average (that's putting it nicely) arm in short order.

The difference this year is clear, it's all about the walk rate. He's thrown 74.2 innings now in 2021 and has posted a 6.5% walk rate, which is four points below his career average of 10.6%. He hasn't had a walk rate below 10% since 2016, so things have really changed for Ray this year. This was clearly by design, as Ray is attacking the zone like crazy this year racking up a 46% zone rate (43% is his career average and that number was below 40% for the previous three years).

He has been reaping the benefits from all the strike-throwing, putting together a 3.50 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP on a 31.5% strikeout rate. He has given up a bunch of home runs (2.05 HR/9), so you can't really see that getting any worse - especially when you consider that they've recently moved their home games away from that bandbox in Dunedin, Florida. I don't think he'll bring that HR/9 down anywhere close to one, but with how few hitters he's walking, the homers aren't hurting him that much as so many of them are solo shots.

Over the last 30 days, Robbie Ray is behind just Wheeler and Lucas Giolito in K%-BB% with a 28.2% differential. As I said before, anybody doing that is bound to have success. I would be buying in on Robbie Ray, and I imagine the Ray owner in your league would be open to a sell-high situation here.

Download Our Free News & Alerts Mobile App

Like what you see? Download our updated fantasy baseball app for iPhone and Android with 24x7 player news, injury alerts, sleepers, prospects & more. All free!

More Fantasy Baseball Advice


Expert Advice
Articles & Tools
Import Your Leagues
Daily Stats & Leaders
All Pitcher Matchups
Compare Any Players
Player Comparisons
Rookies & Call-Ups
24x7 News and Alerts


Alec Bohm3 hours ago

Collects Four Hits, Three RBI Monday
Bryce Harper3 hours ago

Hits 18th Homer, Plates Five Monday
Merrill Kelly4 hours ago

Hopes To Return In Mid-August
Luke Clanton4 hours ago

Making A Start This Week In Detroit
Jonathan Aranda5 hours ago

Going On Injured List With Oblique Strain
Tom Kim5 hours ago

Riding Tons Of Momentum Into Detroit Golf Club
Triston Casas5 hours ago

Gets MRI Monday
Keith Mitchell5 hours ago

Looking To Keep Things Moving At Rocket Mortgage
Gavin Williams6 hours ago

Needs Another Rehab Start
Max Scherzer6 hours ago

Rangers Monitoring Max Scherzer's Thumb
Blake Snell6 hours ago

To Make Another Rehab Start Friday
Christopher Bell6 hours ago

Gets Another Win At New Hampshire
Martin Truex Jr7 hours ago

. Salvages Ninth-Place Finish After Throwing Win Away
Ryan Preece7 hours ago

Delivers For DFS Managers At New Hampshire
Shohei Ohtani7 hours ago

Plays Catch From 90 Feet
Bryan Woo7 hours ago

Injures His Leg On Monday
Starling Marte7 hours ago

Told To Rest For 15 Days
Bo Bichette7 hours ago

On Track To Return Tuesday
Joe Musgrove7 hours ago

To Play Catch On Monday
Yu Darvish8 hours ago

Dealing With Elbow Inflammation, Won't Start Tuesday
Evan Rodrigues8 hours ago

Looks To Join Exclusive Group With Another Goal
Zach Neto8 hours ago

Returns To Angels Lineup
Kevon Looney8 hours ago

Warriors Guarantee Kevon Looney's 2024-25 Salary
Warren Foegele8 hours ago

Enters Game 7 On Career-Best Scoring Streak
Stuart Skinner8 hours ago

Aims For Another Win On Monday
Paul Goldschmidt8 hours ago

Getting An Off Day Monday
Noah Gragson8 hours ago

Bubba Wallace Falls Below Playoff Cut Line After Noah Gragson Wrecked Him
Joey Logano8 hours ago

Crashed, but Still Moves Above Playoffs Cut Line
Minnesota Timberwolves8 hours ago

Timberwolves Give Chris Finch A Four-Year Extension
Denny Hamlin8 hours ago

Won Stage 2, but Struggled in the Rain at New Hampshire
Kyle Busch8 hours ago

Playoffs in Doubt After Crashing Thrice
OG Anunoby8 hours ago

Declines Player Option
Sergei Bobrovsky8 hours ago

Sitting On One Of The Worst Slides Of The Season
Edwin Díaz8 hours ago

Edwin Diaz Officially Suspended 10 Games
Kyle Okposo8 hours ago

Re-Enters Panthers Lineup
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins9 hours ago

Good To Go For Game 7
Fernando Tatis Jr.9 hours ago

Heads To The Injured List
Eloy Jiménez9 hours ago

Eloy Jimenez Remains In The Lineup
Clayton Kershaw9 hours ago

Shut Down From Throwing
Patrick Sandoval9 hours ago

To Have Season-Ending Surgery
Chase Elliott11 hours ago

Maintains His Top-20 Steak At New Hampshire
Cleveland Cavaliers11 hours ago

Cavaliers Hiring Kenny Atkinson As Head Coach
Clint Capela11 hours ago

Hawks Looking To Deal Away Clint Capela
Chris Buescher11 hours ago

Quietly Nabs Fifth Place At New Hampshire
Jalen Johnson11 hours ago

Not Included In Trade Talks
Kris Dunn11 hours ago

Suns A Possible Landing Spot For Kris Dunn
Ryan Blaney11 hours ago

Strong New Hampshire Run Ends In 25th
Keita Bates-Diop12 hours ago

Exercises Player Option
Scottie Barnes12 hours ago

Intends To Sign Max Extension
Kyle Larson14 hours ago

Takes Fourth At USA Today 301
Tyler Reddick14 hours ago

Settles For Sixth At New Hampshire
Alexander Volkov15 hours ago

Wins Four In A Row
Sergei Pavlovich15 hours ago

Loses Second Straight Fight
Daniel Rodriguez15 hours ago

Loses Three Fights In A Row
Kelvin Gastelum15 hours ago

Gets Back In The Win Column
Shara Magomedov15 hours ago

Remains Undefeated
Donovan Mitchell18 hours ago

Cavaliers "Confident" About Reaching Extension With Donovan Mitchell
Mitchell Robinson18 hours ago

Wizards Interested In Mitchell Robinson
Chris Paul18 hours ago

Expected To Draw Interest From Lakers And Clippers As Free Agent
DeMar DeRozan18 hours ago

Future in Chicago In Doubt
NASCAR18 hours ago

Ricky Stenhouse Finishes Seventh In The USA Today 301
Kyle Lowry18 hours ago

Expected To Re-Sign With 76ers
Paul George18 hours ago

Linked With Warriors
Chase Briscoe19 hours ago

Finishes Runner-Up At New Hampshire
Josh Berry19 hours ago

Finishes Third At New Hampshire
Luka Doncic1 day ago

Uncertain For Pre-Olympic Qualifier
Stefon Diggs1 day ago

"Hasn't Lost A Step"
Dallas Goedert1 day ago

Focused On The 2024-25 Campaign
Oshae Brissett1 day ago

Declining Player Option
Malik Beasley1 day ago

Unlikely To Return To Milwaukee
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope1 day ago

76ers, Magic Could Target Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Vlatko Cancar2 days ago

Nuggets Decline Team Option Of Vlatko Cancar
Jerami Grant2 days ago

Teams Have "Checked In" On Jerami Grant
Daniel Suarez2 days ago

Is A DFS Risk For New Hampshire Lineups
Tyler Reddick2 days ago

Should Tyler Reddick Be Rostered For New Hampshire Lineups?
Michael McDowell2 days ago

Is A Top DFS Value For New Hampshire
Denny Hamlin2 days ago

Will Compete As A Top DFS Pick For New Hampshire
Ty Gibbs2 days ago

Could Be A Solid DFS Option for New Hampshire
Chase Elliott2 days ago

Could Chase Elliott Win From The Pole At New Hampshire?
Johnny Walker2 days ago

Gets KO'd At UFC Saudi Arabia
Volkan Oezdemir2 days ago

Gets KO Win At UFC Saudi Arabia
Antonio Trocoli2 days ago

Suffers Third-Round Stoppage Loss At UFC Saudi Arabia
Ikram Aliskerov2 days ago

Gets Knocked Out At UFC Saudi Arabia
Robert Whittaker2 days ago

Makes Quick Work At UFC Saudi Arabia
Breece Hall2 days ago

Raising The Bar This Season
Mark Giordano2 days ago

Plans To Continue Playing
Tyler Toffoli2 days ago

Linked With Return To Vancouver
Logan Couture2 days ago

Sharks Plan To Keep Logan Couture
Anthony Mantha2 days ago

Will Leave Vegas In Free Agency
Cam Atkinson2 days ago

Sharks Interested In Adding Cam Atkinson
NHL2 days ago

Alex Turcotte Inks New Contract With Kings
Viktor Arvidsson3 days ago

Heading To Free Agency
Dylan Larkin3 days ago

Expected To Be Ready For Training Camp Following Surgery
3 days ago

Andrew Cogliano Retires From Playing, Joins Avalanche's Front Office
Yegor Chinakhov3 days ago

Re-Signs With Blue Jackets For Two Years
Evander Kane3 days ago

A Game-Time Decision On Friday
Nick Cousins3 days ago

Draws Back Into Panthers Lineup
Tim Patrick3 days ago

Feels Back To Full Strength
Michael Penix Jr.3 days ago

Falcons, Michael Penix Jr. Agree To Terms On Rookie Deal
Ricky Pearsall4 days ago

49ers Sign Ricky Pearsall To Rookie Deal
Alexander Volkov4 days ago

Looks To Extend His Win Streak
Sergei Pavlovich4 days ago

A Favorite At UFC Saudi Arabia
Kelvin Gastelum4 days ago

In Dire Need Of Victory
Daniel Rodriguez4 days ago

Looks To Get Back In The Win Column
Shara Magomedov4 days ago

Looks To Remain Undefeated
Xavier Gipson4 days ago

Takes Leap Forward Ahead Of Year 2
Malachi Corley4 days ago

Still Adjusting To NFL Speed
Rhamondre Stevenson4 days ago

Reaches Four-Year Extension With Patriots
PGA4 days ago

Byeong Hun An Withdraws From Travelers Championship
Jerry Jeudy5 days ago

To Open The Year In The Slot?
George Kittle5 days ago

Loses Significant Weight This Offseason
Johnny Walker5 days ago

A Slight Favorite At UFC Saudi Arabia
Volkan Oezdemir5 days ago

Looks To Extend Win Streak At UFC Saudi Arabia
Antonio Trocoli5 days ago

Takes Fight On Three Days Of Notice At UFC Saudi Arabia
Ikram Aliskerov5 days ago

Faces Former Champ In UFC Saudi Arabia Main Event
Robert Whittaker5 days ago

Faces Replacement Opponent In UFC Saudi Arabia Main Event
Khalil Herbert5 days ago

Could Be On Roster Bubble
Barclay Goodrow5 days ago

Moves Back To San Jose
Ty Dellandrea5 days ago

Sharks Acquire Ty Dellandrea
Darcy Kuemper5 days ago

Dealt To Kings
Wyndham Clark6 days ago

Looking To Stop The Bleeding At Travelers Championship
Matt Fitzpatrick6 days ago

Looking For Consistency In Connecticut