Three 2nd Half AL SP Surgers

Even though the league ERA is at its lowest mark since 1992, fantasy teams can never have enough pitching. And because everything is relative, half the teams are still going to be below average in the category. If you find yourself in that unfortunate situation, here are three potential second half surgers from the American League.

Edwin Jackson

Yes, him again. I know, I know, you all thing I overrate the heck out of him, he’s not a good pitcher, blah blah blah. Of course, the reason many believe he is not a good pitcher is because they are looking at his results. We here at Fan/RotoGraphs look beyond the results and analyze the process. Jackson’s xFIP- is at the best mark of his career, and since May, he has posted a fantastic 60/17 K/BB ratio over 71 1/3 innings. What has killed him is a .341 BABIP, which is not too surprising given the poor Sox defense this year, as they rank third to last in UZR/150. Luckily, he is apparently on the trade block, so he could potentially see a nice boost in fantasy value getting out of that hitter’s park and maybe landing on a better defensive squad. Even if he stays with the Sox, it is likely his BABIP drops some, bringing his ERA down and producing some solid fantasy value.

Brandon Morrow

This one was rather obvious given the huge disconnect between his ERA and xFIP. He suffered similar poor luck last year as well with an inflated BABIP for now each of the past two seasons, along with trouble stranding runners. The Blue Jays defense has been a bit below average this year according to UZR/150, but their team BABIP has been .296, which is below Morrow’s current mark. We know Morrow strikes out boatloads, but the most promising aspect of his season thus far is his improved control. A 3.6 BB/9 over his first 88.0 innings isn’t anything to go crazy about, but it is backed up by a dramatic increase in F-Strike%. His previous career high sat at just 55.3% (versus a league average of 58%-59%), but this season that rate has jumped to 62.0%. So maybe this improved control is sustainable after all and a true change in talent level. If that ends up being the case, he could have a huge second half.

Francisco Liriano

I really don’t know what to make of his continued decrease in velocity from last year. But, did anyone else notice his fantastic June? This was vintage Liriano, posting a 27/7 K/BB ratio over 23.2 innings with a 2.55 xFIP. His SwStk% still remains a fantastic 12.2%, so it is difficult to believe his K/9 will remain below 8.0 for long. The question is that of control, which has been poor for most of the year. In June he corrected that issue, but he walked 4 in 4.1 innings during his last start, so he may not be over those after all. Of course, it could have just been one bad game, but Liriano has made it very difficult for anyone to trust him. He probably makes for a better target for those teams on the brink of contending for a money spot and need that potential ace down the stretch. You should not have to give up that much, and he could vault a team toward the cash. If he doesn’t pan out, well, you weren’t going to win anyway. On the other hand, he might be too risky for owners already in a money spot to take a chance on, unless you have a clear overachiever (Philip Humber comes to mind) you could trade straight up for him.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

14 Responses to “Three 2nd Half AL SP Surgers”

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  1. bucsfan says:

    Ha I have every pitcher just mentioned picked liriano for 1$ after someone dropped him. Hopefully they get better results.

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  2. Dylan says:

    Yes the Bone Morrow is on there! Im riding him out currently as i speak loved him as a sleeper for this year and has been much better of late.

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  3. Sean says:

    Hard to really trust Morrow or Jackson when the sustained success they’ve had in their careers has been very brief.

    I know the xFIP and peripherals are always fantastic for Morrow and they are usually pretty good for E-Jax, but xFIP is not category in fantasy. I can’t see E-Jax putting up sub 1.3 WHIP ROS nor would I bet on Morrow doing it either…

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    • Mike Podhorzer says:

      xFIP is a better predictor of future ERA than actual ERA. Whether xFIP is a fantasy category or not is irrelevant.

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      • Tom B says:

        That’s correct Mike, but you missed his point.

        xFIP-ERA disconnects don’t lower WHIP’s.

        They are simply overrated pitchers.

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      • Tom B says:

        Unless you are trying to tell us that the difference between a .317 BABIP, a .305 career BABIP, and a .295 expected team BABIP are significant.

        If that’s the case I’ll just call you crazy. :)

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      • Jeffrey Gross says:


        Just use xWHIP to figure out future WHIP.

        Morrow’s past 7 have been strong, but it forecasts a 3.6 ERA, 1.30 WHIP with great Ks — thats very fantasy useful

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    • todmod says:

      Brandon Morrow has a 1.28 WHIP right now. He already has the sub-1.3 WHIP, whether you think he’s unlucky or not.

      So I’d feel fine betting on that.

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      • Sean says:

        Yea I missed the boat with the Morrow sub 1.3 WHIP comment.

        I just have a gut feeling that these guys won’t have any significant “corrections” in the second half. I think what we’re seeing right now is who they are.

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  4. Abraham says:

    Edwin Jackson seems like a Javier Vazquez/Ricky Nolasco type. He shows up in these articles every year. At what point do we just take this as a fact.

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    • Mike Podhorzer says:

      This is incorrect. In 2009, he “broke out” with a 3.62 ERA, yet his xFIP was 4.32. So he was actually lucky. The apprent bad luck only started last season, and really just happened with the D-Backs. With the Sox, his 3.24 ERA was close enough to his 3.01 xFIP. So this isn’t an every season type thing where you could label him in that Vazquez mold, always underperforming his peripherals.

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  5. James says:

    I think what hurts Morrow is the fact he throws so many pitches per plate appearance. Sooner or later he is likely to have even just an inning where a small rally is put together (say 2 or 3 runs) and it takes him 30+ pitches to get out of it. This means he can only go 5 or 6 innings whereas a more economical pitcher could get the extra inning, even when he has struggled, and lower that ERA by just a bit. With Morrow if he gives up 4 ER in the first inning he’s done by he fifth because that one inning will have used a ton of pitches.

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