The Fantasy Baseball Numbers Do Lie: One of 2024's true breakouts is hiding in Chicago

Jose Altuvé #27 of the Houston Astros

A simple look at a box score or a study of fantasy categories doesn't always tell the whole story of how a player is performing. Dalton Del Don attempts to identify misleading numbers that are worth a closer look.

Yes ... The Numbers Do Lie.

Crochet’s 5.97 ERA is accompanied by a 2.68 SIERA, which is the third-widest gap among starters. His K-BB% (26.6) ranks fourth best in the league, and only Spencer Strider finished with a higher mark last season. Crochet’s ERA hasn’t matched his highly impressive peripherals thanks to an inflated HR/FB% (18.9) and a LOB% (56.3) that ranks last among 81 qualified starters. Crochet’s career HR/FB is 9.0%, and his career LOB% (70.6) is right in line with league average, so both should regress significantly.

Crochet’s surface stats show a 1-4 record and an ugly ERA, but bad luck/timing is hiding one of the league’s true breakout pitchers of 2024. The White Sox will hinder Crochet from racking up wins (he’s averaged just 1.57 runs of support!), but he shouldn’t be available in 50% of Yahoo leagues.

Crochet needs to be rostered in all fantasy formats.

Altuve owns the third-highest wRC+ (186) in baseball, behind only Juan Soto and Mookie Betts. Other than Altuve, the other nine hitters who rank top-10 in wRC+ this season have averaged 25 RBI, so Altuve’s 10 is an outlier on the leaderboard. Situational hitting has been the culprit, as he’s batting .398/.448/.727 with the bases empty but just .200/.317/.229 with runners on base. That drops to a woeful .105/.190/.158 with runners in scoring position, as all seven of Altuve’s home runs have been solo. Altuve hit .314 over 258 at-bats with runners in scoring position from 2021-2023, so his slow start there seems like a fluke. He sports the highest slugging percentage (.585) of his career, so Altuve’s fantasy managers should have more RBI right now.

The Astros somehow rank in the bottom half of the league in runs scored but fourth in wRC+, so Houston hitters should see more counting stats moving forward.

Flaherty somehow has yet to record a win this season despite leading all starters in K-BB% (30.6), CSW (36.3) and SIERA (2.24). To put how dominant he’s been in perspective, Flaherty has a better K-BB%, CSW and SIERA than Spencer Strider (who easily led all categories) did last season. An ERA that ranks 54th among starters is masking one of the best pitchers in the league right now. Flaherty has a 30:2 K:BB ratio over his last three outings and remains winless despite four quality starts on a Tigers team with one of the best records in the American League. He recorded 213 strikeouts with a 2.75 ERA in 2019, and Flaherty is throwing better now. It’s wild he’s currently rostered in just 49% of Yahoo leagues.

Don’t let the win column or middling ERA fool you — Flaherty is pitching like a star.

Nimmo is batting .206 despite owning an expected BA in the top 12% of the league. He has the second-biggest difference between BA and xBA among all hitters in 2024. Nimmo has boosted his walk rate and is hitting the ball harder than ever, recording a career-high average exit velocity that’s in the top 11% of the league. Nimmo’s .250 BABIP is well below his .330 career mark as well. He has strong plate discipline and posted a .278 batting average over his previous four seasons before this year, so regression is coming.

Expect Nimmo to hit .270+ from here on out.

Bednar’s 11.45 ERA comes with a 2.72 SIERA, and he has the third-biggest difference in ERA and expected ERA among all pitchers this year. Bednar’s K-BB% (24.0) is better than it was last season, when he recorded a 2.00 ERA. Bednar’s CSW (33.3) is easily a career-high, but he’s already allowed the same number of home runs (three) this season as last despite owning a career-high GB% (48.5). Bednar’s HR/FB% (23.1) will regress to his career level (8.8%), as will his abnormally high BABIP (.367). And his job security remains, as Aroldis Chapman has lost control and velocity while posting a 4.64 SIERA in Pittsburgh.

Bednar has an ugly ERA after missing time in spring training with a lat injury, but his peripherals suggest he should be an elite fantasy closer moving forward.