Fielder Independent Pitching (FIP) is one of many metrics we use to measure a pitcher’s success. It’s not a one size fits all evaluative tool, but we expect the best pitchers in baseball to typically score well with this metric. You are rewarded for being able to get key strikeouts, not put men on base, and keep the ball in the park. So, in taking a look at the leaderboard in FIP as of the beginning of this week (June 3, 2019) I think there are some names that will surprise you.
Over 2 months in and the FIP top 10 has some fantastic surprises on it:
1. Scherzer- 2.13
2. Ryu- 2.53
3. Giolito- 2.63
4. Strasburg- 2.69
5. Boyd- 2.76
6. Odorizzi- 2.81
7. Morton- 2.88
8. Montas- 2.88
9. S. Gray- 2.95
10. Snell- 3.02
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) June 3, 2019
1. Max Scherzer:
Are we surprised? His numbers are identical to last year, but he has actually been somewhat unlucky. The ERA will drop back under 3.00 when his .353 BABIP against normalizes. I also think his strand rate of 74% could go up as well. He’s actually inducing more ground balls than last year and there’s just nothing to be concerned about here. Trade for him if someone in your league is valuing him as anything less than the best pitcher in baseball.
2. Hyun-Jin Ryu:
Will he have a 1.35 ERA all year? No. Will he pitch to an under 3.00 ERA from this point forward? Yeah, I think so. Everything is legit. His control is magnificent, walking just 0.56 per 9. His 93% strand rate is unsustainable, but when you don’t allow anyone to reach base… a little regression isn’t going to change the results much. Similar to Scherzer, he’s just not allowing many fly balls. His strikeouts are not spectacular, but the fact that he’s pitching on the best team in the NL makes this one of the best draft day pitching values. I don’t think you need to sell high on him; just hope he stays healthy!
3. Lucas Giolito
Obviously it’s a great sign that this former top prospect is showing up on this list. He had an incredible May and is one of the ERA leaders. The truth is somewhere in the middle with Giolito. The simple explanation is his control has improved dramatically from a year ago. His stuff has always been good, but it’s getting more swings and misses. So, as the walks have gone down, the strikeouts have gone way up. His K/BB last year was a terrible 1.39 and it now sits at 3.90 in 2019.
Giolito is cutting his fastball usage and has been very successful with increased use of his changeup. His swinging strike rate has jumped from 8.3 to 13.3%! However, adjustments will be made. He’s certainly a top 40 (if not top 30 starter), but his SIERA and xFIP sit around 3.6. That full run difference compared to his FIP tells me that regression is coming. I would sell high, but only if it’s extremely high. I would trade him for a Zach Wheeler level pitcher or better. Otherwise, this looks mostly real; albeit surprising.
4. Stephen Strasburg
He has nasty stuff and he’s feasted on bad matchups. This is completely biased and anecdotal, but Stephen Strasburg is still such a frustrating fantasy commodity that I don’t think you should ever pay full price for him. His injury history and inconsistency suggest that I’m right, even though his FIP – so far – says I’m not.
5. Matthew Boyd
There has been a ton of #FantasyBaseball Twitter talk of Matthew Boyd so you don’t need more from me. He pitches in a friendly division with a great home ballpark and he is a legitimate top 25 starting pitcher. Hold him, or target him as his current owner may not believe he can sustain this level of production.
6. Jake Odorizzi
As much consensus as there is on Matthew Boyd, I’m not sure the same is true of Jake Odorizzi. It’s just harder to believe that a pitcher whose flaws were so evident in the past can solve those issues with an improvement to one pitch. He was homer prone and did not get enough swings and misses.
Enter 2019 Jake Odorizzi Fastball… and here we are. He is in at least the 78th percentile or better in every batted ball metric as well as K %. The BABIP, Strand rate, and HR/FB% suggest some regression is coming. His xFIP and SIERA are both over 4.00, but, his fastball velocity is up and it’s not like his pitch usage has change much except for a few more curve balls. The two biggest positive things I see are a 6% jump in zone% and his SwStr% is up to 12.7% from 10.7% last year. He’s clearly confident in an improved fastball and throwing it in the zone and by hitters.
Obviously Odorizzi is not a top 10 or even 20 starting pitcher, but his schedule is friendly and he should get plenty of wins. I’m holding him and maybe even trying to get him for a guy like Mike Minor or Chris Archer.
7. Charlie Morton
This is not a surprise so I’ll keep this very brief. Consistently undervalued, but his stuff is filthy. He produces some of the best @PitchingNinja GIFs of any pitcher in baseball. Don’t expect many Trevor Bauer 110 pitch outings though. We see you Kevin Cash and we’re not sure how we feel about it…
8. Frankie Montas
Lol… what? This one is legitimately shocking to me. Should it be? Let’s split the difference… I’m sorry-I had to. It’s the splitter, guys. He’s throwing it about 18% of the time and it has allowed his Swing% against to stay the same while throwing 5% fewer strikes. So, hitters are chasing a pitch they can’t hit and making Montas a respectable, not great, source of strikeouts. Pitching in his home park and no red flags in the profile, this is legitimate. This could be a 3.40 ERA guy you picked up for free. He will continue to prevent home runs and I think he generally keeps this up.
9. Sonny Gray
Sonny Bleeping Gray! I’m a Yankees fan and I love this pitcher. Last year was brutal, but Sonny is clearly in a better situation with Cincinnati. He’s inducing 57% ground balls and is striking out over 10/9. His xFIP is 3.30, and he actually should gain some ground back on his 70% strand rate. He hasn’t been lucky in any particular area that would sound an alarm. However, his 37% zone rate is a bit concerning. This will mean some inconsistent outings from Sonny; which we’ve seen this year.
Gray has great stuff and I want him on my team, but I think he’s more of the Odorizzi level of this leaderboard than the Mortons of the world. His upside is to continue what he’s done so far, and I think that’s possible if you’re willing to suffer some clunkers along the way.
10. Blake Snell
There’s one thing you need to know. Blake Snell’s swinging strike rate is 3.5% better than any other pitcher in baseball. He is getting swings and misses on 19.7% of his pitches! For me, Snell is a top 5 starter.
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