Selling high or buying low used to be tough. I mean, the constant self-doubt about whether or not you were making the right decision could cause you to hover over the "Accept" button with your mouse for hours, unsure of whether or not you were doing the right thing. Would he bounce back? Would he suck again? You just couldn't be too sure.
Luckily, this day in age you can be more prepared than that. Given the right tools, you can have a better idea of who was going to improve and who was not. It's no longer just a gut feeling. There's statistics out there that can help you be the Nostradamus of your league, and hopefully others aren't so sure.
We've used ERA-FIP in the past to identify candidates that were unlucky in The Ricky Nolasco All-Stars articles, now is a good time to look at the opposite end of the spectrum. Who are the luckiest pitchers in the league? Or at least, who has been getting more help than they may continue to get for the rest of the season? Let's take a look:
2.10 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 3.66 xFIP
Ogando has been talked about a lot this year. Not just because of how he has performed, but because of his unusual path to the big leagues. At first glance, he is old for a player just starting out, which usually raises red flags but Ogando has a good excuse.
As the story goes, Ogando was an outfielder in the A's organization who was eventually banned from the US for 5 years after being involved in a human trafficking ring. The Rangers selected him in the Rule 5 draft and converted him to pitcher. Now he's flashing mid-90's heat and been a fairly dominant starting pitcher. But how dominant will he continue to be?
Currently, Ogando is stranding 88% of batters, which just isn't usually a sustainable number. The highest LOB% last season amongst qualified pitchers was 82.7% by Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay. Good pitchers should strand more batters because they are good and don't allow runs to score as often, but 88% is too high for Ogando. Additionally, Ogando has a .210 BABIP against, another number that is not sustainable.
If Oganda's ERA sits in the 3.50 range for the rest of the season, that still makes him a solid option in fantasy leagues. It's just up to you whether or not you want to try and flip him to another team for a position of need. It's also important to wonder how many innings the young hurler can go this year.
2.65 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 3.30 xFIP
Cahill has kept his ERA pretty steady, but has really had a bit of an up-and-down season so far this year...
In his first 4 starts, Cahill was striking out batters like he never had before: 25.1 innings, 27 K's, 7 bb's. Pretty stellar stuff from the potentially developing ace. Cahill stopped striking as many out over his next 5 starts, but still had good results: 34 innings, 19 k's, 11 bb's, 4-1, 1.32 ERA. However in his last 4 starts since then, he is 0-2 with a 4.56 ERA.
Cahill is still a very young picher, and growing pains should be expected. He's a smart guy (turned down Dartmouth to sign with the A's) so I'm sure he'll eventually figure out a way to provide good results, but there could very well still be some regression that could raise his ERA by a half-run or more.
If I was in a league that emphasized strikeouts, I'd probably move Cahill while I could. He's still a very good pitcher, but it's still an unknown if he can be a good strikeout pitcher.
1.75 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 3.44 xFIP
What's the secret to Jurrjens? Through 10 starts, his 1.75 ERA is, in a word: Ridiculous. Jurrjens is not prime Pedro. This year, he's been more of a guy who limits walks, has limited home runs, and has kept runners on base. Perhaps limiting the walks is a sign of things to come, but it is unlikely that he will continue to keep all the runners from scoring or from a few more balls leaving the ballpark.
Jurrjens so far has a .266 BABIP against and is stranding over 83% of runners. If his xFIP is any indication, he could return to his 2009 form, which wouldn't be bad at all. He's already matched his win total from last season, and is a fine pitcher. Just not a 1.75 ERA pitcher. If you can get another owner to buy the sub-2.00 ERA, then awesome. But most likely you'll be swapping the good version of Jurrjens and not the bad version - which is fine if you need to fill out another category.
2.64 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 4.32 xFIP
Hellickson was a Rookie of the Year candidate going into the year and sports a shiny 2.64 ERA but a not-so-good 4.32 xFIP, which would represent his potential ERA going forward. That makes him an excellent trade candidate right now.
Hellickson was and is deserving of his high praise as a potential number one starter, but he is not yet there despite his 7-3 record. He has a .229 BABIP against and is stranding just a hair under 80%. He is not displaying the same kind of K and BB numbers that he had last year, and that may not be something he quite works out this year. Much like former Rays top prospects like David Price and Wade Davis, he will probably face some bumps in the road during his first full season as a starter. That's why I would encourage floating his name around to other owners while his ERA still sits below 3.
If you are in a keeper or dynasty league, there's more incentive to keep the young hurler around. Otherwise, he makes an excellent sell-high candidate.
3.19 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 3.35 xFIP
I see a lot of talk about Chacin this year, and being a trade candidate whether or not he's coming or going from your team. The numbers are quite interesting, because they imply that Chacin has been a bit lucky, should have an ERA higher than it is now, but going forward should have an ERA near what it already is.
He has a .229 BABIP against (unsustainable) and a 77.6% LOB (somewhat sustainable) with a 15.6% HR/FB rate (should actually improve, though in Colorado anything is possible.)
Chacin was a better strikeout pitcher last year, but has improved on his walks in 2011. I think whether you want to acquire or trade away Chacin, you are probably right. He's a good pitcher and his ERA may be indicitive of the type of season he is having. It's a risk you take either way, much like what selling high and buying low used to be! The most telling stat may be whether or not Chacin is able to surpass 180 innings this year and what kind of a pitcher he'll be during fantasy playoffs. He's been right around 170 innings at his peak in the past in the minor leagues and majors.