Inflating ERA Expectations

Throughout the 2016 season there have been many analysts, including myself, that have been screaming from the rooftops that there is no good pitching available in fantasy baseball. We came in to this season with our lists of “aces” and had an idea as to what we thought our team ERA would be based on the pitchers we drafted. Each week we look at the available pitchers out there and among all the stats one we analyze more often than others is the ERA. We see pitchers with a high three ERA and say he stinks I would never want to add him, but he is the best pitcher available.

Our problem is not that these high three ERA pitchers stink, it’s that our perception of what a good ERA is might be skewed. To verify this I took a look at the league average ERA for the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons. Then I compared those numbers to the league average ERA for 2016. I was surprised at what I found.

Starting in 2012 and ending in 2014 the league wide average ERA decreased from 4.01 to 3.74. During those years we were getting use to pitchers with better and better ERAs. Then in 2015 the trend began to reverse, going from 3.74 in 2014 to 3.95 in 2015.

But why didn’t we complain about pitching being worse last year then? Probably because the increase was fairly small. Now we look at the increase from 2015 to 2016, where ERAs jumped from an average of 3.95 to 4.18 so far in 2016. That’s not a significant difference when you look at it compared to the jump from 2014 to 2015, but it is a major shift if we look at from 2014 to 2016. League average ERA is at its highest point that it has been in five years.

Pitching in general is lousy compared to 2014 ERA numbers and therefore when we look at one individual pitcher on the waiver wire who has a high three ERA we say no thanks, but when you realize that is well below what the league average ERA is that pitcher becomes a whole lot more usable in fantasy baseball. Key point to remember her is that there are still players out there like Danny Duffy, Clayton Kershaw or Jake Arrieta who will blow you away with their ERA, but that guy on waivers with a 3.60 ERA is actually a pretty good add relative to the league.

Even more important in regards to this conversation is that when you draft your team next year remember to keep these new norms in mind when setting expectations.

 

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