The Fantasy Baseball Numbers Do Lie: Two starting pitchers are due for a reality check

A simple look at a box score or a study of fantasy baseball 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.

Lugo entered Tuesday’s start ranked a top-15 fantasy player this season, which is pretty helpful from someone with a 248.7 ADP. Any pitcher with a 2.13 ERA is clearly due for regression, but Lugo’s 15.4 K-BB% hints at his being severe. His ERA ranks sixth among 71 qualified starters, but his 3.87 SIERA ranks 38th. Lugo’s 21.2 K% ranks 50th, behind Lance Lynn.

Lugo’s .250 BABIP is well below his career mark (.284) despite his starting full-time and pitching in one of baseball’s most favorable hitter’s parks; Kauffman Stadium has decreased strikeouts an MLB-high 15% the past three seasons. Four of his past five starts have come on the road, with the other against Oakland. Pitching in the AL Central helps, but Lugo has unquestionably run hot with nine wins, and he has benefitted from the 13th-best run support (5.5 runs per start) among qualified starters this season, despite Kansas City having a league-average offense (102 wRC+).

Lugo has been a fantasy revelation, but his peripherals suggest an ERA crash is coming.

Stone has allowed more than one run just once in his past seven starts, and he’ll continue to benefit from pitching for the Dodgers. But he has one of the biggest differences in ERA (2.90) and SIERA (4.26) among all starters. His 11.1 K-BB% ranks 60th among 71 qualified SPs, and his CSW (26.1) is the same as JP Sears (4.01 ERA) and Griffin Canning (4.69). Stone’s 6.6 HR/FB% is the eighth-lowest among starters, despite Dodger Stadium boosting homers more than any park other than Cincinnati over the past three seasons. In fact, Los Angeles has increased home runs an MLB-high 36% this year.

It’s difficult to post an ERA less than four with a 6.82 K/9 rate, let alone less than three. Stone has benefitted from a favorable schedule, but he gets the Yankees’ top offense in New York his next time out. THE BAT projects a 4.58 ERA rest of season.

Attempt to trade Stone before his ERA starts sinking like one.

Bradley was obliterated for nine earned runs in Baltimore during his previous start, and his 5.81 ERA would rank fourth-worst among 71 qualified starters. But his 3.37 SIERA would rank 17th, ahead of Logan Webb (2.95 ERA), Brady Singer (2.63), Corbin Burnes (2.35) and Max Fried (2.97). Homers have admittedly been a problem throughout Bradley’s career, but his HR/FB% (21.2) would easily be the highest among qualified starters. He’s also stuck on just one win, thanks to a lowly 2.6 runs of support during his five starts. Bradley won’t continue to give up this many homers, and his misleading ERA will decrease significantly.

Bradley has too much strikeout upside to be available in more than 60% of Yahoo leagues.

Soler has been a bust over his first two months in San Francisco, but there’s reason for optimism moving forward. He cut his K% (16.4) in May, but a .180 BABIP masked any progress at the plate. He has also improved his Barrel% to 14% since returning from the IL on May 17 but has just one homer to show for it. Soler’s counting stats are also due for a bump, as he has posted an .825 OPS with the bases empty compared to .493 with runners on.

Soler has prodigious power and 95th-percentile Bat Speed, and he never had previous trouble hitting in Oracle Park, but he has struggled badly in San Francisco this season. He has recorded a 58 wRC+ at home versus 121 on the road; in other words, he’s been a top-50 hitter away from home this year. Oracle Park has admittedly destroyed power as much as ever in 2024, but it hasn’t been one of the league’s toughest parks on righties. Soler is a streaky hitter who’s been much better during the second halves of seasons throughout his career (.738 OPS before the All-Star break compared to .886 after).

Oracle Park isn’t helping, but Soler should start launching homers in bunches soon.