10 Fantasy Pitchers Who Improved In May

Brian already took a look at ten hitters who improved in May after subpar Aprils, so now let’s do the same with the guys on the mound.

Scott Baker

A: 4.28 xFIP
M: 3.67

Amazingly, Baker’s batted ball data was practically identical in the season’s first two months, but he beefed up the strikeouts (7.82 K/9, up from 6.35) and cut down the walks (1.89 BB/9, down from 2.54). The result was a 3.55 ERA that’s much more indicative of his true performance than his 5.72 April mark. (R) ZiPS sees a 3.88 FIP and 7.00 K/9.

Chad Billingsley

A: 4.36 xFIP
M: 3.50

The ace version of Billingsley showed up in May, flashing an 8.77 K/9 and a 2.31 BB/9, which are much better than what we’ve seen out of him over the season’s first month and the end of last year. (R) ZiPS calls for a 3.49 FIP with 8.60 K/9.

Jeremy Bonderman

A: 4.43 xFIP
M: 3.65

Still just 27, Bonderman might have a big second half contract push in him. The K/9 and BB/9 both improved by more than one in May. (R) ZiPS sees a 4.42 FIP and 6.50.

Johnny Cueto

A: 4.87 xFIP
M: 3.21

Sure, his .244 May BABIP is low, but he increased his K/9 by more than four strikeouts (up to 9.79) and knocked more than a full walk off his BB/9 (down to 1.85). (R) ZiPS projects a 4.17 FIP with 7.62 K/9.

Aaron Harang

A: 4.16 xFIP
M: 3.62

The Harangatang hasn’t been himself for over a year now, but he still has strikeout value. Once he starts stranding more than 6% of the runners that reach base, his 5.48 ERA should start to resemble his defense-independent numbers. His homerun rate returned to normal in May, which is always welcome. (R) ZiPS projects a 4.12 FIP and 7.51 K/9.

Rich Harden

A: 6.82 xFIP
M: 4.63

Yeah, he’s the least economical pitcher in the game at 19.7 P/IP (one-tenth of a pitch ahead of Charlie Morton!), but he stopped walking everyone and their mother last month: his BB/9 rate went from an ungodly 8.75 to a much more reasonable 3.91. (R) ZiPS projects a 4.10 FIP with 9.78 K/9.

Edwin Jackson

A: 4.28 xFIP
M: 3.63

Jackson won’t return to first half of 2009 levels anytime soon, but his strikeout rate jumped up from 5.40 K/9 in April to 9.60 in May, and his BABIP fell back to a more reasonable level (.305). Not all the way there yet, but it’s progress. (R) ZiPS predicts a 4.32 FIP and 6.98 K/9.

Jake Peavy

A: 5.84 xFIP
M: 3.03 xFIP

The former Cy Young Award winner’s ERA was still bad this month (5.09), but Peavy’s K/9, BB/9 and GB% went from 6.91, 6.28, and 31.5% in April to 8.85, 1.11, and 48.3% in May, respectively. He’s not quite there yet, but at least there’s signs of improvement. (R) ZiPS calls for a 3.89 FIP and 8.69 K/9.

Ervin Santana

A: 4.12 xFIP
M: 4.00

The strikeouts climbed to 8.44 K/9, the walks dropped to 2.32 BB/9, and the homerun rate leveled off at 10.0% HR/FB. The (R) ZiPS survey says … 4.10 FIP and 7.98 K/9.

Ben Sheets

A: 5.35 xFIP
M: 3.92

Apparently everything that was wrong with Sheets in April was corrected in May when the A’s realized he was tipping his curveball. Sure enough, his K/9 (9.42) more than doubled last month, and the rest of his peripherals look more like the Ben Sheets we all know and love. (R) ZiPS predicts just 4.31 FIP with 6.24 K/9. I’ll take that bet.

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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.

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Jason B
Jason B

Santana really didn’t have much variation at all between his April and May, at least not judging by the xFIP numbers shown (< 3% variance).

I would imagine Cueto's and Peavy's "true selves" lie in between their yucky April numbers and their stellar May ones.