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Finding Risers with xFIP and ERA

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Within this Internet blog post, you will find a list of starting pitchers with the largest positive gaps between their ERAs and their xFIPs. Let's see if we can spot some underrated guys.

David Price will be just fine. One look at his xFIP vs his ERA shows that. Who else is in the same boat?
David Price will be just fine. One look at his xFIP vs his ERA shows that. Who else is in the same boat?
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

If you've been reading any of my work, you know I love tables. I love stats and I love organizing them into nice tables. Today's post is about a big table. We all know and love good old ERA as an evaluator of pitcher performance. However, it can be very deceptive. A pitcher can have a great ERA even while pitching terribly (low K%, high BB%, lots of hits, etc.) if he strands lots of runners, has an unusual number of balls die on the warning track, or has balls simply bounce right to fielders.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a pitcher can be pitching very well (at least the things he can control) and have a terrible ERA. David Price this season is a great example. His ERA does not really show how dominant he has been with regards to strikeouts and walks. What usually happens in those cases is that the ERA starts to get closer to his "true" ability level as the season goes on. We are seeing that with Price. His last few starts have been much better in terms of ERA and I expect that to continue.

xFIP is a stat that tries to filter out things a pitcher can't control (BABIP, HR/FB ratio, etc.) to come up with an estimate of their "real" ERA. There are certainly some flaws with xFIP, but it is a much better predictor of future performance than a pitcher's current ERA, so it can be used to see if a pitcher is due for some positive or negative regression.

With all that in mind, here's a big table sorted by ERA-xFIP. There are just the top 30 starters on here because I arbitrarily chose to cut it off there. It had to end somewhere. These pitchers are in line for better days ahead. After that, there will be some discussion. Got it? I'm going to assume you answered yes since this is a website and we cannot communicate directly in real time here.

Name ERA xFIP ERA-xFIP
Alfredo Simon 10.16 5.36 4.8
Jonathan Gray 6.75 2.66 4.09
Luis Severino 7.46 3.84 3.62
Michael Pineda 6.34 3.53 2.81
Cody Anderson 6.81 4.03 2.78
Jake Peavy 7.26 4.69 2.57
Matt Shoemaker 6.81 4.3 2.51
David Price 5.34 2.88 2.46
Dallas Keuchel 5.92 3.72 2.2
Wily Peralta 6.99 4.8 2.19
Matt Harvey 6.08 4.19 1.89
Chris Young 6.68 4.82 1.86
Sonny Gray 6.19 4.45 1.74
Ubaldo Jimenez 6.04 4.34 1.7
Ricky Nolasco 5.54 3.86 1.68
Chris Archer 5.16 3.48 1.68
Matt Moore 5.47 3.89 1.58
Jhoulys Chacin 5.11 3.54 1.57
Shelby Miller 7.09 5.67 1.42
Bud Norris 6.21 4.81 1.4
Zack Greinke 4.59 3.36 1.23
Adam Wainwright 5.77 4.55 1.22
Zachary Davies 5.75 4.56 1.19
Collin McHugh 5.13 3.98 1.15
Michael Wacha 5.04 3.96 1.08
Kendall Graveman 5.36 4.34 1.02
Anibal Sanchez 6.04 5.03 1.01
Chad Bettis 4.9 3.93 0.97
Mike Fiers 4.35 3.4 0.95
Chris Rusin 3.93 3.03 0.9

I'm going to make some categories for this list. Hold on. OK.

Previously Elite Fantasy Starters That Aren't THIS Bad But Still Aren't Themselves

Here you will find Keuchel, Harvey, Wainwright, Miller, Wacha, and Sonny Gray. I don't know what is wrong with all of these guys, but I don't yet see reasons for hope. Yes, they're all much better than their awful ERAs, but their xFIPs are all hovering near or above the 4.00 mark, so even positive regression can't help them that much. We know Gray is hurt, Harvey's velocity is down, as is Wainwright's, Miller was actually never much more than a 3.8 xFIP guy in recent years, and the same for Wacha. Keuchel's velocity is also down, but his command has disappeared too. I have no idea what's going on there.

Previously Elite Fantasy Starters That Will Be Just Fine

Step on up, David Price, Chris Archer, and Zack Greinke. These guys still have good xFIPs and elite skills. Just be patient with them and it will be fine.

Guys That Are Interesting

This is a list of players with good xFIPs, bad ERAs that might not have been drafted or have been streaming starters. These guys have upside and may be cheap to acquire. The list: Jon Gray, Matt Moore, Jhoulys Chacin, Mike Fiers, and Chris Rusin. I left off Pineda because he has had stellar xFIPs before with great walk and strikeout rates, but still had a bad ERA due to being very "hittable". Hitters just seem to make hard contact against him consistently, despite his raw skill. Matt Moore and Luis Severino both are intriguing for their strikeout upside, but their xFIPs are just a little high right now and Severino is on the DL.

Jon Gray is very intriguing. He has been actually pitching very well. I would recommend avoiding home starts most of the time, but the skills are there for success as a Rockies starter. Believe it or not. Chacin is still showing a velocity spike (up 1 mph from last year) and is getting tons of ground balls, so he's not a bad streaming option. I preferred him when he was in the NL East and not the AL, but he should be usable with a 3.8 ERA or so in Anaheim.

Fiers has always had the good strikeout stuff, but has been prone to the long ball. This year, he's not striking anyone out for some reason and has once again been hit hard by homers. He has cut his walks down to almost nothing, though, so with a bounce back in strikeouts to something closer to his normal and regression in his 21% HR/FB ratio, I think he can get to his xFIP.

Chris Rusin is actually interesting. That's two Rockies pitchers that have upside. He's getting lots of grounders, has a decent K%, a 2.57 FIP and 3.09 xFIP as a starter, and has simply been a victim of an insane 0.429 BABIP as a starter to go with a 66% strand rate. He's back in the rotation after Jorge De La Rosa has lost his job. As a road-starts only guy, he could be a good streamer with upside for a little more than that.

The Rest

These guys are just awful (I'm looking at you Simon, Peralta, Anibal, and Peavy) or too inconsistent to trust in fantasy.

Check back next time for the flip side: the guys with ERAs much lower than their xFIPs that might be headed for disaster. Tschus!