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March 25, 2014

The Darkhorses

ERA

by BP Fantasy Staff


One of the fun ways we all try to outsmart our opponents in fantasy is by searching for hidden value in players who, for one reason or another, we suspect have the ability to outpace their projections (and, relatedly, their draft cost). Our Darkhorses series features staff picks for players who could very well outpace their PECOTA projections for the year and provide the top overall production in one of the standard five-by-five categories. We’ve all picked one player currently projected by PECOTA to fall outside of the top 10 and one longer-shot player currently projected outside of the top 25. We’re taking a look at pitching this week, following our run on offense a week ago. To read the earlier editions in this series, click below:

In this edition, we attempt to weigh contextual factors and individual pitcher trends as we examine ERA.

OUTSIDE THE TOP 10

Madison Bumgarner, Giants
A trendy Cy Young sleeper pick, it's not entirely surprising that Bumgarner is projected to have an ERA in the low-3.00s (3.16 to be exact), but is no shortage of reasons that could end up in the mid-two's instead. First of all, Bumgarner took a slight step back in his walk rate last season (7.7 percent), which was out of line with his first two full seasons in the Giants' rotation (5.5 and 5.8 percent, respectively). Secondly, the combination of what is a very strong pitchers' park and what should be a strong defense behind him can be factors that make him more likely to outperform his peripherals (which are pretty outstanding anyway). Finally, Bumgarner saw a big spike in his swinging strike rate in 2013 (11.1 percent--nearly two percentage points higher than his previous high) without a much of a jump in strikeout rate. If this holds, his K% could take a jump in 2014, and fewer balls in play is obviously a very good thing for ERA. —Bret Sayre

Matt Cain, Giants
Cain has an amazing park for about half of his starts, a strong track record, and a second half improvement that can be traced back to a tangible mechanical adjustment that led to a resurgence of the Matt Cain of old and then some. Clayton Kershaw is probably an insurmountable ERA obstacle, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Cain captured some of that pre-2013 magic and snuck away with an ERA title. —Mike Gianella

Gerrit Cole, Pirates
Cole put up the 35th-best ERA among pitchers who threw at least 110 innings last year, but he showed the kind of steady improvement you want to see out of a young pitcher in his rookie season. His FIP- pointed to a pitcher who was better than his ERA, and the strikeout increase down the stretch last year is a welcome harbinger for his future potential. He’s got the talent and workhorse physique to pitch deep into games, and the Pirate offense should help reward him plenty. —Wilson Karaman

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<< Previous Article
Prospectus Preview: NL... (03/24)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article The Darkhorses: Wins (03/24)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article The Darkhorses: WHIP (03/26)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article Daily League Strategy:... (03/25)

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