We continue to scour Fangraphs for biggest discrepancies between ERA (outdated statistic) and FIP (in-dated statistic?) for pitchers that could possibly be had for discounts if they continue to be unlucky.
Today I am looking at three significant-named pitchers with an ERA over 5.00 but a difference between ERA and FIP (Field Independent Pitching) that is greater than 2.50. These pitchers haven't necessarily had great seasons so far, but they haven't been nearly as bad as you'd think if you were still looking at ERA like it was 2004. FIP and xFIP are far greater indicators of a pitchers success and they could be in line for bigger rewards as numbers regress as the season goes on.
Here's a closer look at three such pitchers:
Tim Lincecum: ERA of 5.74, FIP 3.21, xFIP, 3.40
Early in the year there was a lot of talk about how Lincecum had lost it after he gave up 5 or more runs in each of his first three starts. His ERA sat at 10.54 and he hadn't gone more than six innings in any start. He's dropped his ERA nearly in half over his last two starts (13 innings, 1 ER, 13 K, 9 BB) but it's interesting to note that his K/BB ratio isn't good at all.
Timmy can't be walking almost a batter per inning but he allowed only 3 hits in 9 innings on Saturday and dropped his ERA from 8.20 to 5.74. However, the talk of the town about Lincecum is velocity, so where does it currently sit?
Thus far, Lincecum's fastball is averaging 89.8 MPG, which is 2.5 MPH lower than it was last season and 3 MPH less than his career average. To compensate, he's increased his usage of his change-up and curve, while lessening his FB usage slightly and his slider significantly.
We have to realize that this version of Lincecum is different than previous versions but not necessarily bad. When he won back-to-back Cy Young awards, he was an ace and one of the top five pitchers in baseball, but over the last two years he hasn't been close to that. However, being a 4-5 WAR pitcher (which he was from 2010-2011 and what he's been early in the year) is still being a top-end number two starter.
It's important to note that his swinging strike% of 10.6% is basically what it was last year and what it was when he won the Cy Young in 2009. He's getting players to swing and miss and his first-pitch-strike rate of 64.2% is a career high.
Right now, hitters have a .342 BABIP against Lincecum and he's only stranding 61.2%. When those numbers regress to his career norms (.294 and 75.5%) expect his ERA to drop around the mid-3.00s, though he needs to get his walks under control.
If an owner is really down on Lincecum at any point, feel free to make an offer.
Josh Johnson: ERA of 5.34, FIP 2.14, xFIP 2.85
Johnson is back and to celebrate his health, he's given up the most hits (41) in the league. And only in 28.2 innings! Here's the thing about a lot of hits: They're a product of luck.
By that I mean, good hitters get more hits, but baseball is a game of inches and happy bounces so with a little bit of luck you'll get more hits than with a little bit of bad luck. Hitters against Josh Johnson have had so much luck that you should kiss them because they're Irish: a .436 BABIP against.
While only stranding 66% of baserunners, there's another bit of luck that should regress back to normal.
His strikeout rate (7.85) is a bit lower than you'd expect but not so much lower and he's limiting walks almost like he always has. Despite his 5.34 ERA, Johnson has been one of the better pitchers in the National League, he just needs to hold out for his lucky day when fewer balls fall into play. What'ya say?
Yesterday he allowed 5 R and 10 H in 5.1 innings, but struck out 8 and walked 2. It might not be too late to get him from a frustrated owner.
Max Scherzer: ERA of 7.77, FIP 4.30, xFIP 4.42
Scherzer hasn't pitched as well as the other two and his ERA reflects that too, but he's got the biggest difference of ERA to FIP in baseball among qualified pitchers. He's even more of a bad luck victim than Johnson with a BABIP against of .442 and stranding just 65.6% of runnners.
Where Scherzer is killing himself though is in the walks department: 4.8 per 9 innings compared to 2.6 last season and a 3.1 career average. Yesterday, he walked 7 batters in 4.2 innings against the Yankees. However, he's striking out 10 per 9 and so there's hope that when the balls start falling into gloves instead of bloop singles, he could be very valuable in strikeouts even with a higher than average walk rate (Think Gio Gonzalez production?)
His 10.7% swinging strike rate is his highest number as a starter and even his fastball is a tick faster than it was last season at a very good 93.7 MPH. He just needs to locate it better and the rest of the job will work itself out. Scherzer can be a sub 4.00 ERA, high strikeout machine and don't worry about the 7.77 ERA right now. It will come down.
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