So far this season I have been highlighting "Buy Low" candidates for starting pitchers that had a FIP much lower than their ERA. With a little more good luck, there are some pitchers out there that can expect to go from zero to hero quicker than Peter Parker. But for every Spidey, there's a guy that can expect to fall from the top faster than Tobey Maguire because what's the last thing he was in?
Time to highlight some really shiny ERAs that are covering up a rusty and moldy interior. Here goes somethin'.
Barry Zito: 1.76 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 5.20 xFIP
It certainly would be a nice, or at least very interesting, story to believe that Zito's 1.76 ERA and fast start are the product of something real, but the truth of the matter is that very little about Zito was "real" even when he won the Cy Young and parlayed his career in Oakland into a nine-figure contract with San Francisco.
When he won that award in 2002, he did have the best season of his career by many standards: 23 Wins, 2.75 ERA, 229.1 solid innings of being a number two starter. But he also posted a 3.87 FIP, 4.31 xFIP and had a .245 BABIP against. Zito has never been an elite pitcher, certainly not one that deserved $126,000,000 (what baseball player actually deserves that kind of money, I don't know) but he could have at least been a number two starter for it.
Zito has posted a FIP above 4.00 in every season of his career since and flatlined in 2011 with just 53.2 innings of 5.60 FIP baseball. Now all of a sudden he's posting a 1.76 ERA in his first five starts? Say what? Oh, he's been incredibly lucky.
Would you believe that for all of his efforts, Zito has been worth a whopping 0.1 WAR based on his 5.20 xFIP? In other words, not only has Zito not been great, he has been pretty bad.
His 4.40 K/9 is the worst of his career and his 3.82 BB/9 is closing the gap quickly on what could be a 1:1 K:BB ratio. Both of which are terrible numbers. In his last start, he went 3.2 innings and walked seven batters. But he only "gave up" 1 ER so his ERA wasn't much worse off.
Behind it all, Zito is inefficient, thriving off of a low BABIP against and high LOB% and is due to be absolutely terrible again. He should absolutely be 100% unowned in anything other than deep leagues and NL-only deep leagues. When Zito was throwing 87 MPH in Oakland, he was decent. His fastball now sits at 83.5 MPH and he barely uses it, relying heavily on his slider. He may not even be in the rotation by the All-Star break and the only hope I can give to Giants fans is this: Just one more year left.
Henderson Alvarez: 2.83 ERA, 5.20 FIP, 4.63 xFIP
There was some love by fantasy owners for Alvarez coming into the season after he's had a pretty solid minor league career based off of strong control (but low strikeouts) and a good effort in ten major league starts but he's been bad to start this year.
2.83 ERA? Cool. Twelve strikeouts in 41.1 innings? Ridiculous.
Nobody can survive those kind of numbers over the long haul. Nobody.
Alvarez has a .200 BABIP against and stranding 87.8% of runners. The Blue Jays defense might be great but it's not going to be great enough to save Alvarez when things fall to earth unless he strikes out 2.5 times as batters as he's currently striking out. 2.61 K/9 is one of the worst rates I've ever seen.
Jeremy Hellickson: 2.75 ERA, 5.09 FIP, 4.85 xFIP
Formerly one of the top prospects in the game, Hellickson struggled a bit as a rookie, even though he did post a 2.95 ERA in 29 starts. His 4.44 FIP reflected his poor K/9, BB/9 and K:BB ratios and he thrived on a .223 BABIP and 82% LOB. This season his Ks are still bad (5.75 K/9) his walks are worse (3.75 BB/9) and he's stranding 88.1% of runners.
Again, Hellickson might survive because of a good defense, but his ERA is not indicative of the kind of pitcher that Hellickson has been in his career thus far: mediocre and a number five starter.
Despite being 3-0 with a 2.75 ERA, Hellickson has been worth -0.1 WAR.
Kyle Drabek: 3.34 ERA, 5.30 FIP, 4.23 xFIP
Yes, three of these guys pitch for Toronto. Yes, that means something. According to DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) the Blue Jays D has saved 29 runs and the Rays have saved 28. Nobody else is even close to that, with the Diamondbacks at third with 14 runs saved.
Drabek, like Hellickson, is another great prospect gone bad so far. Last year he couldn't keep a job after walking more batters than he struck out. This year, he's been better but is still walking to many and has been very lucky.
7.20 K/9 (good) 5.14 BB/9 (bad) with a .263 BABIP against and 86.9% of baserunners stranded (lucky.)
His xFIP of 4.23 is actually encouraging but he'll need to be much better with his control before it's a sign that Drabek can stick in the majors. His defense can only save so much.
Brandon Morrow: 2.38 ERA, 4.32 FIP, 3.75 xFIP
Hey, this actually isn't too bad! But it's not "2.38 ERA" good.
There was the Brandon Morrow that was inefficient but struck out a bunch of guys and now there's the Morrow that only walks 1.73 batters per nine but only strikes out 6.26 per? What?
.202 BABIP against and 88.7% of runners stranded.
He hasn't lost much velocity but swinging strikes are way down for Morrow and fewer batters are chasing pitches against him. I don't really know what Morrow has become but he still hasn't become an ace. Keep in mind that he's certainly good enough to be a player in fantasy, better than the rest of these guys, but that ERA will go up. It will.