The fantasy baseball landscape has changed in recent years, and it changes on a yearly basis. From one year to the next, groupthink changes, as well as how we attack various positions. One year, shortstops are thin, but top-heavy, whereas waiting on a first baseman was encouraged because the drop-off between the fifth and 12th first baseman was not as steep as other positions.

Approach to pitchers has changed as well. Taking Clayton Kershaw in the first round was not exactly welcomed with open arms, and waiting on starting pitching until a few rounds in seemed ideal. Especially this year, grabbing an ace, or even two in the first three or so rounds is vital. Do not even get me started with closers and saves.

Fantasy leagues have followed suit and each league scores differently and could even change on a yearly basis. Incorporating categories like holds and K/9 may have seemed like a longshot years ago. However, through thick and thin, numerous categories remain stalwarts, including home runs, RBI, strikeouts, etc. However, there are two categories in particular that drive fantasy owners crazy: Earned run average (ERA) and walks/hits per inning pitched (WHIP).

Both statistics paint a story for a pitcher and can be useful when evaluating a pitcher. However, neither statistic tells the entire story and cannot be trusted as the lone metric when evaluating a pitcher. Doing such a thing will lead you astray on numerous players and cause you to misread players for the upcoming season.

Discard ERA in Your Fantasy League

A pitcher’s ERA is a statistic that will never go away, and I do not think it should in reality. However, in fantasy, it certainly can be sent to the minors. For fantasy purposes, it is incredibly flawed, especially if you play in a head-to-head league. In a rotisserie format, it will likely even itself over time, but even with a team of starters like Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Carlos Carrasco, you could lose in ERA that week, whereas over the course of an entire 162-game season, I am rolling with your squad.

So how is ERA flawed? A pitcher’s defense is a huge factor in a pitcher’s ERA over the grueling season. Pitching in front of a good defense can make a sizable impact because that shortstop of third baseman can make plays that a lesser defender can make. A bad defense will wreak havoc on a pitcher.

How many times have you watched a game and observed a seeing-eye single get by everyone up the middle, only to watch the next batter send one 13 rows deep into the left-field stands? That is going to push that ERA north, whereas that sequence may not have happened for Shohei Ohtani with a slick-fielding Andrelton Simmons playing behind him.

With that in mind, here is a rhetorical question: Can you completely evaluate a pitcher completely on his ERA? Heck no. Especially when you incorporate fantasy into the mix, best of luck to you relying on ERA. Consider the following trio of players:



Player A


Player B


Player C


What if I told you that Player C was within 10 fantasy points of Player A in a standard points league? What if I told you that I could guarantee that you would rather have Player C in 2018 compared to the other two pitchers. Here you go, here are the names.

Player A: Marcus Stroman
Player B: Ervin Santana
Player C: Chris Archer

Damn, Santana had a 3.28 ERA last season, so why is he so low on draft boards this season? Well, gee, where to begin. His FIP was well-above his ERA, and that is something we will touch on later. Santana’s career ERA is 4.02 and opponents’ BABIP was nearly 40 points lower than his career average. Analyzing just a player’s ERA from the previous year, or the year before, is trouble waiting to happen.

Looking solely at ERA in the table above would lead you to potentially stray away from Archer, and likely more so if his current average draft position accompanied his ERA. Some bad luck last year did him in, but his excellent strikeout potential offers higher fantasy upside than either of the other two options. One simply would not know that from looking just at ERA. Yeah, Archer’s career ERA is north of 3.60, yet he offers elite fantasy upside. A pitcher’s ERA barely tells a quarter of the story, and even that may be generous.

Furthermore, depending on your league settings, especially in a weekly head-to-head format, the ERA category can easily be manipulated and change the entire landscape of your fantasy league. If you are league does not implement a sizable innings limit, what is there to stop your opponents from grabbing one or two elite starters, then riding five or six top-notch relievers? If your league starts nine pitchers, and by this line of thinking, let us say a person grabs two starters and seven good relievers. They will hover just over the innings limit, and in theory, less innings offer less opportunity for more earned runs to cross home plate. Also, many relievers often come in during the middle of an inning. If two men are inherited for that reliever, they could allow both guys to score, yet their ERA is not affected at all. (Side note: Be sure to install an innings limit that will require your league mates to grab at least four starting pitchers.)

However, that certainly can backfire, too. Allowing 13 earned runs in 30 innings comes out to a 3.90 ERA, whereas it would take 24 earned runs in 55 innings to post a 3.93 ERA. More innings offers more opportunity to improve upon an ERA, but of course, offers more opportunity for a blow up or two. On the other hand, less innings means less room for error, but it minimizes risk for blow up.

ERA in fantasy baseball is a flawed statistic to begin with, but relievers can inherit runners and allow them to score without it going against their record. Sure, the runners were on base, but the previous pitcher was not the one to allow them to score. Per, an earned run is “any run that scores against a pitcher without the benefit of an error or a passed ball.” Well, the starting pitcher was pulled before those runners scored, so why do the misfortunes of the reliever cost the starter? Of course, it doesn’t happen all the time with inherited runners, but it does create a discrepancy with the ERA metric.

If a starting pitcher allows one earned run in seven innings pitched, his ERA is 1.29, which we can all agree is excellent. The manager then sends him out for the top of the 8th, where two seeing-eye singles find their way through the infield. The manager pulls the starter for a reliever who promptly allows a two-run double before striking out the side. The ERA of the starting pitcher balloons to 3.86, while the reliever’s stays at a pristine 0.00. In fact, the reliever allowed more runs than the starter! ERA has its problems and they are only magnified in our beloved sport of fantasy baseball.

Ways Around ERA

If your league decides to do something about the ERA epidemic in fantasy baseball, there are ways around it and in fact, you or your league’s commissioner has a couple of options.

1.Replace ERA with Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)

Not all league providers may have this functionality, but this would be the preferred way to go. According to Fangraphs, FIP “measures what a player’s ERA would look like over a given period of time if the pitcher were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing. (FIP) is a measurement of a pitcher’s performance that strips out the role of defense, luck, and sequencing, making it a more stable indicator of how a pitcher actually performed over a given period of time than a runs allowed based statistic that would be highly dependent on the quality of defense played behind him.”

FIP essentially removes nearly all of the factors that influence ERA that are out of the pitcher’s control, providing a number that is more indicative of a pitcher’s performance over the course of an entire season. Going back to Archer, Santana and Stroman, the outlook changes considerably:













Oh, how the tides have turned! The story told by the ERA isn’t an accurate indicator of a pitcher’s performance on the bump.

2.Remove the category altogether

This might be a tad extreme for your league, especially if you don’t have a hitting category to remove to keep things even. However, this option is on the table.

3.Keep ERA, but mandate pitching quotas

You could enact certain quotas, including a rule of starting five starters and four relievers each week. Another option would be enacting a minimum inning rule, somewhere around 40 a week would likely work.

Crack the Whip on WHIP

WHIP can be tricky, too, because while there is a number (ideally around or below 1.00, but around 1.10-1.15 is fine) that tends to state that a pitcher is good, the rest of the stats don’t always follow suit. Especially in fantasy baseball, having a good WHIP doesn’t translate to fantasy stardom, because some pitchers that have a low WHIP, don’t strike guys out, which hurts a fantasy team’s ratios. However, other pitchers can have a higher WHIP, but they aren’t as damaged as others because their strikeout prowess can get them out of some jams.

Of qualified starters in 2017, four pitchers (Corey Kluber, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, and Chris Sale) were under a 1.00 WHIP, all of which were under a 3.00 ERA. However, of pitchers with a WHIP between 1.01-1.15 WHIP (8 of them), 5 had an ERA above 3.00, including 2 over a 3.80 ERA.

Stroman, despite having a solid ERA on the season, had the 23rd-highest WHIP (1.31) among qualified starters. Although the opposition essentially got one and one-third batters on base per inning, Stroman did an excellent job of limiting the damage, en route to his 3.09 ERA.

Jeff Samardzija had the 10th-best WHIP among qualified starters last season. How come he wasn’t a more valued fantasy asset then? Yeah, he was serviceable, but 15 losses and a 4.42 ERA on the season did him in. However, his FIP was 3.61, meaning he was unlucky and was a better pitcher than the stats suggest. Although, having a league that values ERA drops Samardzija down the totem pole a few pegs.

If your fantasy league values both ERA and WHIP, not many guys offer value in both categories. In this type of format, going pitchers early is key, because outside of the top five or six guys, it’s incredibly hard to find a guy that can produce an elite metric in both categories. Of the 27 qualified starters in 2017 with a 1.25 WHIP or less, only one-third of them had an ERA below 3.25.

Referencing the starter vs. reliever demo in the previous section, without an innings quota or a similar restriction, don’t expect many teams who want to gain an advantage to stock up on relievers after grabbing an elite starter or two. With very few guys being standouts in both ERA and WHIP, why not grab two studs early and then load up on relievers to improve upon the ratios that are already going to be solid from the two top dogs in the rotation? It’s something that will come into your fantasy league when someone realizes how to “beat” the system.

Using WHIP to evaluate fantasy players for the upcoming season is dangerous, too. First off, last year is in the past, and just because Stephen Strasburg posted a 1.02 WHIP last season, doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to do it again. He was 1.10 or higher each of the past three seasons. Samardzija has posted a WHIP of 1.20 or less each of the past two seasons, yet you can comfortably draft him as a SP4. Analyzing solely his WHIP may stray your thinking into thinking he could suffice as a SP2. Sure, you’ll likely have a monster offense, but the stress of having Shark as your second starter will cause you to age seven years over the course of the season.

WHIP paints a nice picture, on average, of how many batters get on base via the walk or a base hit against a particular picture. However, it doesn’t tell you how successful the pitcher is in getting out of jams, striking out batters, stranding base runners, etc.

Much like ERA, FIP is a much better statistic to go off, and if your league provider has the option to use FIP as a scoring stat for the fantasy season, implement it immediately.

Despite throwing just 60.1 innings last season, Luke Weaver is soaring up draft boards and people may not know why. An ERA of 3.88 isn’t necessarily exceptional, while a WHIP of 1.26 is serviceable. His K/9 was nearly 11, which is very good, and his 7-2 record was fine, but a pitcher’s win-loss record is arbitrary and fickle, which will be discussed later on in this draft guide. At time of writing, Weaver was the 40th pitcher being selected off the board, behind the likes of Jon Lester, Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Castillo. While a likely innings limit will diminish some of his 2018 appeal, there’s a lot going for him in terms of all of these metrics.

His FIP of 3.17 was well below his 3.88 ERA, meaning he should see a nice decrease from his 2017 mark. The strikeouts will remain above a batter per inning, and his dynamic stuff should give batters fits this season. In turn, his WHIP should likely end up below 1.20 in 2018. By using all of the metrics together, not only can we expect bigger things from Weaver in 2018, but we can project what “could be” in 2018, so jumping up a few spots to take him will be well worth the risk.

Listen, it’s not all doom and gloom for ERA and WHIP in the fantasy world. When using them in combination with other metrics, including K/9, FIP and BABIP, you can get a much better outlook on players for the upcoming 2018 season. When in the draft room, ERA and WHIP will likely be staring you directly in the eyes, so it’s pivotal to do as much draft research as possible, because in the draft room, you don’t see the full picture on the player.

Are ERA and WHIP too antiquated? In reality, not necessarily because they are nice stats to have to quickly analyze and get a face-value synopsis of a player. However, in fantasy, they are outdated at this juncture. These two stats don’t provide a true testament to the effectiveness or success of a pitcher, meaning us fantasy players are not playing with the most current, detailed baseball statistic. Out with the old and in with the new, my friends.