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.
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.
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.
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.