Results tagged ‘ ERA ’

How to Catch Up in ERA in Fantasy Baseball

By Eriq Gardner //

Let’s assume for a second that your team needs to improve in pitching for you to win a championship. You basically have three options:

  1. Hope your pitching staff gets luckier from here on out
  2. Hope your pitching staff improves via prospect call-ups or additions off the waiver wire
  3. Make a trade

Most owners will choose of the first two options. But maybe, you’re clear-headed and know that your current pitching staff just doesn’t have the stuff to improve. You don’t want to risk your season in the hands of a prospect. Maybe streaming is not very enticing either.  You want stability, so you start thinking of a trade.

But what kind of trade do you need? Most owners may have a vague idea they’d like to improve pitching, and will shop around for great pitchers on other teams who can be helpful in attaining the goal of improving pitching. But then again, why pay for Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Johnson if you only need Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda? Sure, you may accomplish your goal of upgrading pitching, but by sacrificing too much to plug the leak on one end, you may cause the dam to burst on the other.

Let’s assume team is targeting 1400 innings and has 850 left to pitch in the season. (Depending on your innings limit and your current pace, this might not be completely accurate, but should be close enough for this kind of exercise.)

Here’s a table showing how many earned runs you need to shave off from your current pitching staff the rest of the way:

So how do we save those runs? OK, here’s some ideas…

To save 8 runs:

Frankly, if you only need to diminish your team ERA by 0.05, you’re better off hoping the gods of fantasy baseball luck cooperate. Eight runs over 850 innings is simply within the margin of error of any projection.

That said, for the sake of fun, let’s take a look at some swaps that would yield 8 runs saved. To do this, we’re going to use ZIPS rest-of-season projections.

Eight runs is not a lot. It can easily (and best) be done by upgrading a closer. For example, going from Matt Capps to Brian Wilson or from Kevin Gregg to Heath Bell. Your trading partner may shrug off this exchange because he’s not giving up a ton of saves, but there’s an ERA benefit in making such a swap. If you’re doing well in saves you might also consider trading your back-end closer for an upgrade in hitting, and replacing one of your closers with a top middle reliever or set-up man. For example, going from Arizona’s shaky new closer Aaron Heilman to Luke Gregerson would do the job.

To save 16 runs:

If you want to diminish your ERA by 0.1 the rest of the way via trade, you can get creative with your bullpen by trading for two closers, or punting shaky closers and saves and going with middle relievers. More likely, you’ll be looking at the starting pitching market.

What kind of starters need to be exchanged to yield savings of 16 runs? You’ll probably need to upgrade two or three slots, meaning exchanging a #3 or #4 for a #1, like Ricky Nolasco for Cliff Lee or James Shields for Tim Lincecum. Buying those two pitchers would probably be expensive, though. So a better strategy might be looking to drop your #5 and acquire a #2 or #3: Getting rid of someone like Wade LeBlanc/Mike Pelfrey/Barry Zito/Fausto Carmona and trading for someone like Roy Oswalt/Hiroki Kuroda/Clayton Kershaw/Ted Lilly should be good enough.

To save 24 runs:

We’re now at the point where teams need to be looking at drastic upgrades.

To give you an idea, going from Paul Maholm to Cliff Lee saves just 19 expected runs. Going from Kyle Kendrick to Tommy Hanson saves 22 expected runs.

In other words, to diminish your ERA by .15, you probably need to trade for an ace and hope the acquired pitcher can get a little bit lucky the rest of the season.

To save 32 runs:

To diminish your ERA by 0.2 via trade, you’re probably looking at multiple player swaps. If you’re looking at the standings and see a gap this large,  you may want to consider combining some of the strategies outlined above.

For instance, when you ask for an ace pitcher in a trade, you may also try to press your trading partner to include a closer swap too. So for example, a trade might look something like this: Alex Rios and Matt Capps for Cliff Lee and Joakim Soria.

At a certain point, catching up in ERA is going to either be too difficult or too expensive. At that point, it might be a better strategy to look the other way by deciding to sacrifice some ground in ERA for greater potential gains in other categories. We’ll have more on that in a future post. 

To get more trading ideas, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools

Livan Hernandez Is a House of Cards

By R.J. Anderson //

Livan Hernandez has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.06 and an ERA of 1.62. Having a good strikeout-to-walk ratio doesn’t guarantee a low ERA; evidently having a low ERA doesn’t always mean you need a killer K:BB rate either.

Still, recent history tells us that Hernandez is playing with fire. Twenty-five starting pitchers have posted full-season strikeout-to-walk ratios between 1.00 and 1.10 since 1990. Of those, exactly two finished with an ERA below 4.00. For the wave-riding owners of Hernandez’s shiny ERA, that’s bad news, unless the belief is that Hernandez can replicate Kirk McCaskill’s 1990 or Pat Rapp’s 1994. The cumulative ERA of those 25 pitchers is a less-than-stellar 4.79.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of those pitchers is some of the win totals racked up. Hernandez currently has four wins, but there’s a chance he could join the 17 of 25 who won double-digit games. Kevin Ritz won 17 games in 1996. Omar Olivares, Scott Erickson, and Steve Trachsel won 15. Three others won 13; two more won 12; three won 11; and then the rest won 10 games.

Granted, by restricting our search to pitchers who lasted a full season, we’re sure to see higher win totals than you’d expect from pitchers with lower innings totals. Those innings totals, the ability of teams to overcome iffy starting pitching, and the questionable real-world value of Wins as a pitching stat, say more about these pitchers’ ability than any dubious claims of pitching to the score ever could.

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Dave Cameron of FanGraphs recently pointed out that Hernandez’s performance with runners on base isn’t even that good, yet somehow runs just aren’t being piled on…yet.

If you own Hernandez and can get any type of return on him, do it, and do it now. It’s a very safe bet to make that he will not continue to have this level of success with the way he’s pitching. If you can’t find a fool on the market, then the choice to attempt and milk out one or two more solid weeks is up to you. But be warned, when regression catches up, it will take no prisoners.

For more on Livan Hernandez and other lucky dogs, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

True Value of Great Relievers, Part 1

By Eriq Gardner
One myth that is constantly perpetuated in the echo chamber of fantasy baseball analysis is that relievers are one-category players. Quite a number of very smart analysts have been telling competitors for years that relievers are good for saves and hardly anything else.
This analysis may be true for Head-to-Head leagues with short scoring periods and Roto leagues with high innings maximums — where ability to dominate often depends more on the bulk rather than the quality of innings pitched.
But in the vast majority of rotisserie leagues, the notion that relievers don’t contribute value beyond saves just doesn’t hold any water. In fact, people may be surprised to learn that a great reliever can contribute just as much value in ERA and WHIP as a good starter.
Let’s take an example from the 2009 season.
Pretend two competing fantasy teams each finished the year with 1200 innings. The pitchers on Team A let up 500 earned runs. The pitchers on Team B let up 520 earned runs. Doing simple arithmetic tells us that Team A wound up with an ERA of 3.75 whereas Team B wound up with an ERA of 3.9.
In other words, Team A was superior in ERA based upon those 20 earned runs saved by his pitching squad.
Now, here’s what most people miss: Great relievers have the ability to save just as many earned runs as good starters.
Don’t believe us?
Let’s take a comparison of two closers last year — Jonathan Papelbon and Fernando Rodney
In the minds of some, the fact that Papelbon ended up the year with 38 saves and Rodney finished with 37 saves makes them roughly equal and proof positive that it’s foolish to invest a high draft pick on Papelbon when a fantasy team could have gotten those saves from a guy who was hardly drafted before last season. But what about the ERA and WHIP contribution? Let’s take a look at how many earned runs, walks and hits these two relievers allowed last year:
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As you’ll see above, Papelbon saved 23 runs and 33 H+BB over Rodney. 

Now let’s compare two starting pitchers from last season: Wandy Rodriguez and his spectacular 3.02 ERA versus Jon Garland and his decent-but-not-great 4.01 ERA. Both pitchers ended the season with about 205 innings. How many runs, hits, and walks did Way-Rod save over Garland?
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The answer is just 22 earned runs and 31 H+BB.
This means that having the combination of Jon Garland + Jonathan Papelbon instead of Wandy Rodriguez + Fernando Rodney was very slightly more beneficial to a team’s ERA and WHIP in 2009. Stated another way, a team that decided to draft Papelbon very high in drafts last year instead of waiting to fill the closer spot with someone of Rodney’s caliber managed to boost his team’s ERA and WHIP about as much as having one of baseball’s top starters from the previous season instead of Garland.
I know this conclusion may be hard for some people to stomach.

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Yes, a starter who puts up a 3.75 ERA is more valuable than a reliever who puts up a 3.75 ERA. But what about a reliever like Jonathan Broxton who is projected at 2.76?  How do we weight his contribution?
If we figure that teams will roughly wind up with the same amount of innings pitched in total, the real question becomes how many runs will be saved by Broxton against inferior relievers. By our math, an ERA difference of 1.00 for a reliever in 75 innings translates to 8.3 saved earned runs over the course of a season. That’s about the difference we see when looking at Bloomberg Sports’ projections on Broxton versus Leo Nunez.
Eight runs might not sound like a lot, but it’s the equivalent of an ERA difference of .36 for two pitchers who are both expected to reach 200 innings. The difference between Broxton and Nunez is the difference in ERA value from a 3.75 starter (Justin Verlander‘s 2010 Bloomberg Sports projection) and a 4.12 starter (like Aaron Cook‘s ’10 forecast).
Of course, there are other factors such as variability and scarcity to consider too. In Part 2 of this study, we’ll examine those variable, and also discuss the implications on a fantasy team’s strategy when it comes to drafting relievers. Does it make sense to draft a stud closer high? If relievers bring ERA and WHIP value to the table, does it make more sense to draft a great middle reliever over a shaky closer? Stay tuned.
For more information on Jonathan Papelbon, Jonathan Broxton, and other top relievers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit.
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