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Buy-Low and Sell-High Pitchers for the Second Half!

Yesterday I wrote about the batter trends from June, plus some hitters you should be looking to buy or sell. Today is time for the starting pitchers! You may notice that the month was completely dominated by one pitcher in particular… Of course, he is not one of my buy low starting pitchers.

Five Category Leaders in June:

ERA- Max Scherzer – 1.00

WHIP- Scherzer – 0.67

Strikeouts- 68 – Scherzer

Wins – Scherzer – 6

Saves- Sean Doolittle/Brad Hand/Ian Kennedy/Will Smith – 8

Yeah, it was a pretty dominant month for Mad Max. Scherzer led starters in the four Roto categories that they contribute too, as well as leading all players in points scored over the last four weeks. He is once again the second-best pitcher in fantasy and is likely on his way to overtaking the top spot. If you have this guy, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

June Fun Facts:

  • Shane Bieber and Chris Sale tied for the lowest xFIP in June, at 2.14.
  • C.C. Sabathia and his .392 BABIP just edged out Max Fried (.391) for the highest in June.
  • Luis Castillo and Yu Darvish both tied for the lowest BABIP at .188.
  • Jacob deGrom and Anibal Sanchez each made batters chase pitches outside the zone 40.6 percent of the time, the highest among starters in June.
  • Max Scherzer led all starters with a 18.3 percent swinging strike rate. Next closest was Justin Verlander at 16.6 percent.
  • Yu Darvish had the strangest month of all… having an insanely low BABIP (.188) and strand rate (62.5 percent). He finished the month with a 4.91 ERA, 5.05 FIP, and 3.94 xFIP.

Buy Low Pitchers to Try to Trade For:

Marin Perez finished June with a 43.9 percent strand rate. That is absurdly low. In fact, the second lowest amongst qualified pitchers was German Marquez, at 57.4 percent. That is nearly a 14 percent difference. He finished June with a 5.08 ERA, 3.67 FIP, and 4.19 xFIP. That reinforces what the low strand rate tells us- Perez has been pitching better than the ERA indicates and better results should be ahead. His FIP has been below 4.00 now in every month this season, while his xFIP has been between 4.10 and 4.20 in each of the last two months, which is still above league-average for starting pitchers this season (4.45). As the strand rate climbs back to what it was in previous months (between 72.1 and 79.9 percent) his ERA should look more like it was pre-June than post. Many likely lost faith in Perez in June, but you can acquire him for cheap and take the shot that his numbers normalize for the better.

Brandon Woodruff finished June with a 63.9 percent strand rate, the 10th lowest among qualified starters. Not only that, but he also had had the fifth highest BABIP last month, at .361. That explains the 4.78 ERA, but you got to love the 2.65 FIP and 3.01 xFIP. Those numbers are elite in 2019 and more indicative of the type of results we could see going forward. In fact, Woodruff made positive progressions in June, allowing hard contact just 34 percent of the time, while raising his ground ball rate to a season-best 47 percent. Woodruff is going to give you high strikeout numbers every time he steps on the mound, but everything indicates that the ERA should be much better going forward. Try to buy low after June, there may never be a better time to do so.

Sell High to Try to Trade Away:

Mike Minor had a 95.7 percent strand rate in June, second behind only Max Scherzer. However, unlike Mad Max, Minor did not dominate hitters. He finished the month with a 1.70 ERA, despite a 4.21 FIP and 4.80 xFIP. Minor also had just a .200 BABIP, which was the third lowest amongst qualified pitchers in June. He pitched this well despite seeing his strikeout rate come crashing down to just 20.8 percent, after sitting over 25 percent in the first two months. Minor has been a very reliable pitcher this season, but he currently has a 2.40 ERA. If there ever was a time to sell it is right now post-June, which will likely be his strongest month of the season.

Zach Plesac finished the month with the seventh-highest strand rate at 89.2 percent and the fifth-lowest BABIP at .215. His ERA in June sat at 3.89, but he had a 5.96 FIP and 5.07 xFIP. He also had a 20.9 percent HR/FB rate, to go along with a 36.3 percent hard-hit rate and a 42.6 percent fly ball rate. Plesac came up with some hype, but the surface results have been much prettier than the advanced stats. Plus, the Indians rotation may be very crowded in the second half as Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and even Danny Salazar (remember him) could be back in the picture. Try to sell him while the name is hot!

Anibal Sanchez finished June with a 92 percent strand rate, the third highest amongst qualified pitchers. He finished the month with a 2.76 ERA but with a 4.33 FIP and 4.04 xFIP. He has been pitching better and beginning to make up for the awful month of April he had, but there due to the very high strand rate that is unsustainable, the ERA should be expected to look more like the FIP and xFIP. Not that a low four ERA is bad in 2019, but if you could ever sell high, now is the time.

Are you onboard with Michael’s buy low pitchers? Is he all wrong on his sell-highs? For more from Michael check out his full archive.

Michael Florio is the winner of the 2018 FSWA Baseball Article of the Year and was a finalist for the 2017 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year. He has hosted video/radio shows, written for a number of print and web publications including the AP, NY Daily News and much more!

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