Second Half ERA Value Fades

We’re over halfway through the season and have entered the prime trading season, with many deadlines coming at the end of July. Which means teams that are contending but not cruising, will likely need to make some moves to address their deficiencies by (hopefully) moving their surpluses.

Whether you’re one of the lucky ones who are stacked on pitching and need to trade for an impact bat, or someone running the opposite, you need to know who to trade, who to fade, and who to trade for. Because is there really anything worse than trading away someone who blows up, or trading for someone who blows up your team? It’s really just the worst.

With that in mind, let’s look at starting pitchers who have significant differences between their ERA and their ERA evaluators. This way we can see who could be the most vulnerable to a rising ERA and whether their overall value could take the hit. This isn’t necessarily about saying that Player X is going to be worse at baseball in the second half, it’s about baking in regression to your expectations for the rest of the year.

For example, you’d have a hard time finding a bigger fan of Kevin Gausman ($34.9, SP 2) than me but a large chunk of his overall value comes from his 1.84 ERA over 117.2 IP ($8.5, second-highest) and his evaluators say that number is unlikely to stay so low. Make no mistake, even if you swapped out his 1.84 ERA for his 2.82 FIP, Gausman would still be outstanding. However, it’s still a run higher than his ERA, while a 3.41 xFIP and 3.38 SIERA are over 1.5 runs higher.

Does that mean sell Gausman? No! But when evaluating your needs for the rest of the season, I think it’s wise to acknowledge a pitcher who has gotten a majority of his value from his ERA and who could see a dip in that category in the second half. And then adjust accordingly.

So let’s look at the 53 starting pitchers that are currently above replacement according to the FanGraphs auction calculator for 12-team leagues through Tuesday’s games. Included is their total value ($ Value) and rank (SP total value), ERA value (mERA), and rank (ERA only), as well as their ERA evaluators.

2021 Value Leaders and ERA Evaluators
Name Rk $ $ Val Rk ERA mERA ERA FIP xFIP SIERA E-F E-xF E-S
Jacob deGrom 1 $44.3 1 $11.8 1.08 1.24 1.63 1.73 -0.16 -0.55 -0.65
Kevin Gausman 2 $34.9 2 $8.4 1.84 2.83 3.42 3.39 -0.99 -1.58 -1.55
Brandon Woodruff 3 $31.5 3 $6.8 2.04 2.69 2.99 3.25 -0.65 -0.95 -1.21
Walker Buehler 5 $27.8 7 $3.9 2.37 3.35 3.72 3.72 -0.98 -1.35 -1.35
Carlos Rodon 6 $26.9 5 $4.7 2.14 2.21 2.93 2.76 -0.07 -0.79 -0.62
Freddy Peralta 7 $23.8 10 $3.1 2.39 3.25 3.72 3.48 -0.86 -1.33 -1.09
Lance Lynn 10 $22.6 4 $6.2 1.94 3.29 3.98 3.83 -1.35 -2.04 -1.89
Max Scherzer 11 $22.1 27 -$0.1 2.83 3.49 3.39 2.92 -0.66 -0.56 -0.09
Trevor Bauer 12 $20.3 14 $1.7 2.59 4.04 3.71 3.47 -1.45 -1.12 -0.88
Anthony DeSclafani 13 $19.0 22 $0.3 2.78 3.64 3.96 4.06 -0.86 -1.18 -1.28
Trevor Rogers 14 $16.3 8 $3.5 2.37 2.56 3.46 3.68 -0.19 -1.09 -1.31
Chris Bassitt 18 $14.5 70 -$4.6 3.31 3.47 3.93 3.81 -0.16 -0.62 -0.50
Luis Garcia 20 $11.7 42 -$0.3 2.86 3.35 3.92 3.68 -0.49 -1.06 -0.82
John Means 23 $10.4 12 $0.5 2.72 4.43 4.25 3.98 -1.71 -1.53 -1.26
Jack Flaherty 24 $10.2 30 -$0.4 2.90 3.74 4.00 3.92 -0.84 -1.10 -1.02
Aaron Civale 25 $9.4 59 -$3.7 3.32 4.28 4.22 4.36 -0.96 -0.90 -1.04
Lance McCullers Jr. 26 $7.9 26 $0.0 2.80 3.45 3.89 4.15 -0.65 -1.09 -1.35
Wade Miley 27 $7.6 25 $0.7 2.72 3.27 3.76 4.17 -0.55 -1.04 -1.45
Taijuan Walker 28 $7.5 41 -$1.2 2.99 3.30 4.09 4.28 -0.31 -1.10 -1.29
Jose Urquidy 30 $6.5 54 -$3.2 3.38 4.03 4.32 4.19 -0.65 -0.94 -0.81
Kyle Gibson 31 $6.2 33 -$0.3 2.86 3.62 3.95 4.24 -0.76 -1.09 -1.38
Hyun-Jin Ryu 32 $6.2 64 -$4.0 3.32 3.97 3.98 4.22 -0.65 -0.66 -0.90
James Kaprielian 34 $5.9 31 $0.9 2.65 4.18 4.39 4.11 -1.53 -1.74 -1.46
Marcus Stroman 35 $5.7 23 $0.2 2.78 3.61 3.64 4.04 -0.83 -0.86 -1.26
Zack Greinke 40 $3.7 98 -$6.9 3.58 4.15 4.17 4.43 -0.57 -0.59 -0.85
Spencer Turnbull 41 $3.5 28 -$0.2 2.88 2.96 3.79 3.81 -0.08 -0.91 -0.93
Wily Peralta 43 $2.9 11 $2.9 1.64 4.24 4.51 4.79 -2.60 -2.87 -3.15
Danny Duffy 47 $2.4 16 $1.4 2.51 3.40 4.26 4.13 -0.89 -1.75 -1.62
Kyle Hendricks 48 $2.2 97 -$6.8 3.65 4.76 4.46 4.53 -1.11 -0.81 -0.88
Chris Flexen 플렉센 50 $2.1 63 -$4.0 3.35 3.68 4.46 4.62 -0.33 -1.11 -1.27
Sandy Alcantara 52 $1.4 60 -$3.8 3.23 3.56 3.84 4.09 -0.33 -0.61 -0.86
Zach Thompson 54 $1.0 13 $1.8 1.93 2.46 3.84 3.62 -0.53 -1.91 -1.69

 

Walker Buehler, LAD, SP 5

121.1 IP: 2.37 ERA – 3.34 FIP – 3.71 xFIP -3.71 SIERA

Walker Buehler has given us little besides fantasy goodness in 2021, currently cracking the top-five starters by overall value. And while his ERA evaluators point to an increase coming, he should perform well enough in the other categories to carry him over any hiccups.

However, he is a Dodger and that means I’m paying extra to his spin rates since June 3*, looking for trouble.

*The day of the meeting where owners were presented with evidence of the prevalence of foreign substance use and its effects. It is also the day after three minor leaguers were suspended for 10 games each for foreign substance use.  

And trouble there be.

 

Looking at Buehler’s results since June 3, it’s hard to make a case that his performance has suffered as his spin rates have mysteriously dropped. In fact, his eight starts since have arguably been his most dominant stretch in 2021, going 6-1 while posting a 1.76 ERA and 0.86 WHIP over 51 IP, striking out 52 batters.

It’s hard to question that much excellence but it is worth noting the low-quality offenses that he’s faced over that stretch, with only San Francisco putting up good numbers against right-handers. But even they still have a 25.1% K% vs RHP that is the 7th-highest.

As for the rest?

Walker Buehler Since June 3rd
Date Opponent wOBA Rank OPS Rank K% Rank
6/8/2021 @PIT 22 24 3
6/13/2021 TEX 25 25 20
6/19/2021 @ARI 29 30 19
6/24/2021 CHC 23 22 30
6/29/2021 SFG 4 4 24
7/5/2021 @MIA 26 26 26
7/10/2021 ARI 29 30 19
7/17/2021 @COL 24 23 10

He can’t help who he faces but Buehler’s recent fortune in the opponent lotto helps adds some needed context to his recent numbers. However, while the overall results have been excellent, the strike-getting ability of his individual pitches has been dropping right along with his RPMs.

While Buehler has seen drops in spin rates across his pitch mix since June 3, the SwStr%, CSW%, and Whiff% for his curveball (-240 rpm), slider (-140 rpm), and cutter (-192 rpm) haven’t decreased much, if at all:

Pitch Types Pre- and Post- June 3rd
Pitch % Spin CSW% SwStr% Whiff%
Pre FC 12.4 2808 29.2 15.4 30.8
Post FC 17.5 2616 31.7 17.3 27.9
FC +/- 5.1 -192 2.4 1.9 -2.9
Pre CU 15.3 3054 28.6 14.3 34.8
Post CU 13.6 2814 31.5 13.9 31.9
CU +/- -1.7 -240 2.9 -0.4 -2.9
Pre SL 12.0 2938 24.6 15.9 27.8
Post SL 14.7 2798 27.4 17.1 29.0
SL +/- 2.7 -140 2.7 1.2 1.2

Buehler’s four-seamer and sinker are different stories, however, with both pitches clocking larges drops in whiffery in his eight starts since June 3. His four-seamer (-199 rpm) has gone from a 12.9% SwStr% and 25.6% Whiff% to a 7.4% SwStr% and 18.3% Whiff%. And while Buehler throws his sinker far less, the drop in whiffs has been far more dramatic. A 10.6% SwStr% has dropped to 2.1% and a 20.8% Whiff% is now at 4.3%.

Pitch Types Pre- and Post- June 3rd
Pitch % Spin CSW% SwStr% Whiff%
FF 50.8 2630 34.8 12.9 25.6
FF 44.1 2431 32.0 7.4 18.3
+/- -6.7 -199 -2.8 -5.5 -7.2
SI 8.9 2483 37.2 10.6 20.8
SI 6.0 2302 14.6 2.1 4.3
+/- -2.9 -181 -22.7 -8.6 -16.5

I’m not rushing to sell Buehler, as his win potential remains high, a 6.0% BB% should keep his WHIP in check, and his innings total will help prop up his strikeouts even the whiff trends from above continue. But if I have a pitching surplus and am looking to trade for an impact bat, Buehler would be my prime target for moving. And coming off of a stretch of dominance against suspect competition, there might not be a better time.

 

Lance Lynn, CHW, SP 10

 97.2 IP: 1.94 ERA – 3.28 FIP – 3.97 xFIP – 3.82 SIERA

Similar to Gausman from our example above, Lynn gets a large chunk of his value from his 1.94 ERA ($6.2, 4th-highest) but has ERA evaluators saying that ride might be slowing down. However, like Gausman, Lynn also has a well-rounded categorical profile that should be able to absorb the hit.

Playing on one of baseball’s best teams and only failing to complete five innings in three of his 17 starts, I’m comfortable expecting that Lynn’s wins (9 W, $5.0) aren’t going to drop off. And his innings load, along with a 27.6% K% that is up from 25.9% in 2020, gives him a solid strikeout floor.

While his ERA may rise from its current ridiculous depths, Lynn remains one of the safest starters in the top tiers. He gives you an above-average K%, made more powerful by his bulk innings, and plays for a team good enough to give him plenty of win opportunities.

I’m not looking to move him but acquiring him for less than a king’s ransom may be difficult, considering his current heater, posting a 1.23 ERA in his four starts since allowing 6 ER to the Houston Astros on June 19.

 

Marcus Stroman, NYM, SP 35

 103.2 IP: 2.78 ERA – 3.61 FIP – 3.64 xFIP – 4.03 SIERA

I’m pretty sure that I’m fully on the record in believing that Marcus Stroman is a national treasure but I still can’t help expressing worry for his second-half fantasy value. Looking at his overall value, Stroman is propped up by 6 wins ($0.9), 86 K ($1.0), and the 2.78 ERA ($0.2), 23rd-highest) while being dragged down the most by a 1.15 WHIP (-$4.0).

If his ERA rises to the mid-3.00’s and his WHIP doesn’t improve, Stroman will be drawing most of his value from his win total and a substandard 20.2% K% that is being buoyed by his innings total. Obviously, it’s never a great idea to count on wins from the Mets and Stroman’s strikeout rate doesn’t appear to be going up any time soon. Over the last 30 days, Stroman has posted just a 12.6% K%, with a 25.1% CSW% (27.9% for the year) and 11.1% SwStr% (11.9% for the year).

I still see Stroman as a better pitcher in real life than he is in fantasy and would not be seeking him out this trade season. And time is growing short for those looking to move him, as Stroman has hit a slide as of late. In his last four starts (including two against the Pirates), he has a 5.00 ERA in 18 IP, with just 11 K.

 

Wade Miley, CIN, SP 27

96.1 IP: 2.72 ERA – 3.27 FIP – 3.76 xFIP – 4.17 SIERA

The most damning indictment of the aforementioned Stroman might be that it’s hard to tell the difference between his numbers and those of Wade Miley, who gets most of his value from his eight wins and 84 strikeouts while being dragged down by a 1.18 WHIP (that is still a career-low). At this point, we know that Miley isn’t going to go over a 20% K% (18.5% for his career) and while the Reds are second in the division, I’m not sure it’s wise to count on a pile of wins coming his way.

That leaves his 2.72 ERA to keep carrying his overall value; a mark that his xFIP and SIERA think will be closer to a 4.00 ERA going forward. Not that anyone considers Miley a must-start but considering he’s rostered in 75% of Yahoo leagues, he’s still being used heavily. Those who are doing so may want to be extra careful as get deeper into the summer.

But not quite yet, as Miley lines up for a favorable schedule over his next few starts, facing the Cubs (13th in wOBA vs LHP), the same Mets team (22nd in wOBA vs LHP) that he just locked up for one run over 6.1 IP, and the Pirates (29th in wOBA vs LHP).

 

Trevor Rogers, MIA, SP 14

106.1 IP: 2.37 ERA – 2.56 FIP – 3.46 xFIP – 3.68 SIERA

Rogers and his changeup have been positively filthy in 2021, with a 2.37 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 29.1% K% over 106.1 IP. And while his evaluators say the ERA could be on the rise (Rogers does have a 4.01 ERA over the last 30 days) there is little to be worried about on the talent side.

Good luck with this:

Rogers has gotten a great majority of his overall value from his ERA and strikeouts, so an ERA bump will certainly drag him down, even if the strikeouts stay static. But more than that, I’m looking to fade/trade Rogers because:

  1. He’s a Marlin. Rogers may have an impressive (for Miami) seven wins but counting on wins to keep coming in Miami tends to be a fool’s errand.
  2. Rogers is already at 106 IP, after finishing with 28 IP in 2020. His biggest innings total was in 2019 when he combined for 136.1 IP across Single- and Double-A.
  3. While pitcher usage hasn’t been as truncated as some feared heading into 2021, remember that we’re not even in August yet. I find it hard to believe that the Marlins will keep pushing their elite, young pitcher when they’re mathematically eliminated from the playoffs by late August.

If we assume that Roger’s ERA will rise in the second half, the value he’s loses there must be replaced somewhere else if his overall value is to stay steady. His 1.09 WHIP (-$1.9) could improve and given his stuff, a bump in strikeouts isn’t unreasonable. But also, how far over a 30% K% do we think he can get? And as mentioned, I don’t think it’s wise to count on a string of wins.

Add those concerns to what I see his usage being in the second half and Rogers is another high-profile pitcher I’d be more than willing to move to improve.





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Nicklaus GautTheBabboMayday MalonechrisjacobyJim Recent comment authors
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Jim
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Jim

.Stroman threw 8 innings of one-hit, shutout ball today.

TheBabbo
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TheBabbo

And that awful WHIP dropped from 1.15 to 1.08, compared to an MLB average of 1.29 (and his career average of 1.27).