Apr 10, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcherMike Fiers
(50) pitches in the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
I decided to go on to www.fangraphs.com and sort the pitching league leaders by K-BB% to get a solid gauge of some of baseball’s top performers. Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber ranked first and second, respectively, and this stat serves as a great in-season gauge of performance.
However, I did not have to look that far down to find a player whose skills are far exceeding his results and fantasy value. Mike Fiers of the Milwaukee Brewers ranked 16th among qualified starters with a 19.6% K-BB%, but his 1-4 record, 5.00 ERA, and 1.54 WHIP would look terrible on any fantasy team. His poor fantasy stat line masks very strong peripherals, which makes him a terrific buy low.
In eight games, Fiers only has two quality starts, but he has given either one or two earned runs in four of his five last starts. In this very small sample size, Fiers seems to be going a little deeper into games and definitely recording more whiffs as the season progresses.
Even if his ERA and WHIP have been weak, Fiers does have a 11.23 K/9 thus far, and his peripherals are not too shabby. His 3.74 FIP, 3.37 xFIP, and 3.29 SIERA are all very encouraging signs. Just at a cursory glance, these metrics shows that his early fantasy results are below his skill level.
It would be fair to say that Mike Fiers has been a little unlucky with a .372 BABIP. An 8.9% infield hit percentage is not great, but Fiers has allowed a lot of hard contact. Fiers is also giving up a miserable 1.30 HR/9, and that does not even factor into his terrible BABIP. He certainly has not been lights out, but there is no doubt that his numbers should improve.
Besides a .372 BABIP and a homer problem (that could be tough to fix in Miller Park), Fiers has a LOB% of 67.1%, which is a little worse than the league average LOB% just above 70%. All in all, hits are falling in and more runners than average are scoring once they get on base. While a few of the issues are skill related, Fiers is faring terribly in many luck-driven statistics.
Another good sign is that Fiers is not suffering from a velocity decline from 2014 where he is virtually mirroring his numbers from last season. Even so, Fiers has always had below average velocity, especially for a righty. Nonetheless, he has managed to post a very impressive 9.50 K/9.
His strikeout prowess goes beyond his K/9 as Fiers has a 10.0% in 2015 that ranks 33rd among MLB starters. Regardless of the fact that he barely eclipses 90 on the radar gun, Mike Fiers can simply miss bats. It is the number one thing that I look for in fantasy baseball pitchers. When you can buy a pitcher with a great strikeout rate under market value, then it is a good idea to take advantage of this window of opportunity.
Multiple rest of season projection systems listed on www.fangraphs.com are fairly positive about Fiers going forward. He is projected to have anywhere from a 3.47 to 4.07 ERA for the rest of the season depending on which system you use as well as an 8.69 to 9.43 K/9 and 1.16 to 1.20 WHIP. I would tend to stay on the optimistic end of those projecting as I believe Fiers will have roughly a 3.60 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and just above a 9.00 K/9 going forward.
Remember, when you are trading for players, you are trading for future performance, so the 4.75 ERA and 1-4 record are of no worry to you. They are just bargaining chips to lower the price of a mid-level starter with a penchant for K’s.