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By the Numbers: Specialists for hire

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Whether you pick pitchers for your Fantasy roster primarily by ERA or WHIP, chances are slim that you will go wrong. Not surprisingly, they correlate strongly with each other, as more than two-thirds of the variation in ERA from pitcher-to-pitcher can be explained by the variation in their WHIPs.

Yet if you ranked starting pitchers according to ERA, you would see some different names near the top than you would if your were ranking them by WHIP. Some pitchers have a proven ability to prevent runs, even though they are not among the best at keeping baserunners to a minimum. These hurlers may pitch to contact or hand out free passes with regularity, but if they keep extra-base hits to a minimum, their ERAs won't suffer much. There are also those who excel at keeping the runners off the basepaths, but because they give up too many homers or have trouble with stranding runners, their ERAs fall short of their WHIPs.

If we took a poll, probably 10 out of 10 owners surveyed would prefer pitchers who could help with both ERA and WHIP. The likes of Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw don't come cheaply, though, and neither do solid second-tier starters like Daniel Hudson or Matt Cain. Someone like Jair Jurrjens (86 percent ownership rate) can come as a relative bargain, yet he has posted similar ERAs to those of Hudson (97 percent) and Cain (98 percent). Jurrjens is affordable, because he has been a liability in the WHIP category.

Just as Billy Beane's Moneyball A's replaced Jason Giambi with an hodgepodge of players with good on-base skills, you can create a solid staff on the cheap by mixing and matching ERA and WHIP specialists. In standard mixed Rotisserie leagues, a starter who represents a 50-point upgrade in ERA will more than compensate for another starter's 10-point uptick in WHIP, all other things being equal. That's how a pitcher like Jaime Garcia can come close to Matt Garza in value on a per-start basis, even though Garza gets more strikeouts and has compiled substantially lower WHIPs. Garcia's strong ground ball tendencies and pitcher-friendly home park have helped him to keep his ERA well below Garza's over the last two seasons, even though he allows batters more frequent contact than Garza does.

ERA and WHIP for Low-ERA Pitchers, 2009-2012
Pitcher ERA WHIP
Tim Lincecum, Giants 2.99 1.19
Jaime Garcia, Cardinals 3.20 1.33
Jair Jurrjens, Braves 3.23 1.27
Clay Buchholz, Red Sox 3.24 1.29
R.A. Dickey, Mets 3.30 1.27
Wandy Rodriguez, Astros 3.34 1.28
Johnny Cueto, Reds 3.46 1.24
Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies 3.59 1.32

Below are lists of starting pitchers who have been much better in one of the two categories than the other. Because of their lopsided statistical profile, they may not fully get their due, but if you need to upgrade your rotation or fill a hole left by an injury, these are pitchers who can help your squad without bankrupting it.

Help with ERA

The pitchers on the first list can lower your staff's ERA, though it could come at the expense of WHIP. With diminished velocity and poor performances in his first two starts, Tim Lincecum is a risky pick-up right now, but he may also present a good buy-low opportunity. For those looking for encouragement, Lincecum is still getting batters to whiff (13.5 swinging strike percentage), and he has 10 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings. Line drive base hits have been a problem -- at least in his most recent start -- and if that persists, he won't be much help with ERA going forward. Over his career, Lincecum has managed to avoid extra-base hits, which has allowed him to get away with high walk rates.

As mentioned above, Garcia has used low home run rates to bolster his ERA, as have Jurrjens, R.A. Dickey and Johnny Cueto. Of this group, Garcia is the best target, as he may not be a risk to WHIP for much longer. Last season, he decreased his walk rate, but a .327 BABIP kept his WHIP above the league average. With a little more help from his defense, Garcia could see improvements in both ERA and WHIP this year.

Clay Buchholz, Wandy Rodriguez and Jhoulys Chacin have allowed their fair share of homers, but each has still been a good source of low ERA. Buchholz doesn't allow many line drives, and as a result, he hasn't allowed opposing batters to slug any higher than .404 in any of the three previous seasons. Rodriguez and Chacin have demonstrated a consistent pattern of stranding baserunners, so they have been able to work out of jams. Jeremy Hellickson (96 percent ownership rate) and Vance Worley (92 percent) are likely to wind up with lower WHIPs, and maybe that's why they are more popular, but Rodriguez (89 percent) and Chacin (81 percent) have just as much value thanks to their skill in stranding runners.

ERA and WHIP for Low-WHIP Pitchers, 2009-2012
Pitcher ERA WHIP
Michael Pineda, Yankees 3.74 1.10
Ted Lilly, Dodgers 3.58 1.10
Josh Tomlin, Indians 4.40 1.14
Shaun Marcum, Brewers 3.60 1.15
Mat Latos, Reds 3.42 1.16
Colby Lewis, Rangers 3.98 1.20
Jake Peavy, White Sox 4.36 1.21
Gavin Floyd, White Sox 4.19 1.25

Help with WHIP

On this second list, you will find pitchers who don't allow many batters to reach base, but once they get there, they have a decent chance of scoring. The common link among most of this group's members is strong flyball tendencies and -- as a by-product -- high home run rates. Colby Lewis, Shaun Marcum and Josh Tomlin are threats to get blown up, especially when they're in good home run venues, but if you're trying to move up in WHIP, they're reliable yet likely to come at a relatively affordable price. Lewis provides the bonus of being an above-average strikeout pitcher.

Ted Lilly should be back in the Dodgers' rotation this weekend, but currently he is available in nearly half of the leagues on CBSSports.com. Any mixed or NL-only league owners looking for WHIP help just may find it on the waiver wire in the form of the Dodgers' lefty. Michael Pineda is available in just a handful of leagues, but he could be a good trade target for owners looking for long-term WHIP improvement. Some of his owners may be frustrated by his shoulder issues and mediocre spring, but he could start contributing in Ks and WHIP by next month.

The flyball tendencies for Mat Latos, Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd are more moderate than those of the others in this group, but their ERAs have suffered nonetheless. Peavy and Floyd have to overcome poor strand rates, but even if they don't, owners can count on both to be better than average in WHIP. With the move from PETCO Park to the Great American Ball Park, Latos' ERA probably won't get better, but his strikeout-per-inning stuff and low WHIP make him as valuable as Dan Haren or Madison Bumgarner, even though both are strong bets to have ERAs in the low 3.00s.

I wouldn't argue that any of the pitchers featured on either list, with the exception of Lincecum, is an elite Fantasy starter, and that is underscored by the fact that each has a substantial flaw. However, the fact that all of them excel in a category makes them worth an extra look when considering how to bolster your staff. If you can afford a slight decline in either ERA or WHIP, it makes sense to pursue one of the specialists featured here to give you a bump in the other category.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

Glossary
xFIP: Also known as Expected Fielding Independent Pitching. It is an estimate of what a pitcher's ERA would be if it were based on factors that a pitcher can control, such as strikeouts, walks and flyballs. xFIP is a derivative of FIP, which was developed by Tom Tango.
Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC/27) -- An estimate of how many runs a lineup would produce per 27 outs if a particular player occupied each spot in the order; ex. the RC/27 for Miguel Cabrera would predict the productivity of a lineup where Cabrera (or his statistical equal) batted in all nine spots; created by Bill James
Component ERA (ERC) -- An estimate of a what a pitcher's ERA would be if it were based solely on actual pitching performance; created by Bill James
GO/AO -- Ground out-fly out ratio
GB/FB -- Ground ball-fly ball ratio
Batting Average per Balls in Play (BABIP) -- The percentage of balls in play (at bats minus strikeouts and home runs) that are base hits; research by Voros McCracken and others has established that this rate is largely random and has a norm of approximately 30%
Isolated Power -- The difference between slugging percentage and batting average; created by Branch Rickey and Allan Roth
Walk Rate -- Walks / (at bats + walks)
Whiff Rate -- Strikeouts / at bats

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Player News
Red Sox claim Luis Jimenez, place Ryan Hanigan on 60-day DL
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(2:49 pm ET) The Red Sox claimed infielder Luis Jimenez off waivers from the Brewers, the team announced on Sunday. 

Jimenez was designated for assignment by Milwaukee after opening the season with a .067 average. 

To make room for Jimenez on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox moved catcher Ryan Hanigan from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list. Hanigan is sidelined with a hand injury. 


Padres reliever Joaquin Benoit's (dead arm) availability uncertain
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(2:42 pm ET) Padres manager Bud Black said reliever Joaquin Benoit's availability is uncertain and that he could be headed to the disabled list, according to U-T San Diego.

Black added that Benoit is dealing with a dead arm that is similar is the shoulder problems he experienced last season. 

Benoit has made 12 appearances this season, allowing five runs in 11 innings (4.09 ERA) with one save.


Dodgers reliever Joel Peralta's recover (neck) on hold
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(2:35 pm ET) Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said reliever Joel Peralta's recovery from a pinched nerve in his neck is on hold and that he'll continue to rehab in Los Angeles, reports MLB.com.

Peralta was diagnosed with dead arm that was causing weakness in his shoulder and put on the 15-day disabled list April 26.

He was initially thought to be back by early May but that return date will now be later.

Peralta has pitched in seven games this season, going 1-0 with three saves and has not allowed a run in 5 2/3 innings.

White Sox release Jared Mitchell, sign Tyler Colvin
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(2:33 pm ET) The White Sox released outfielder Jared Mitchell from Triple-A Charlotte and signed outfielder Tyler Colvin , according to a report by the Chicago Tribune

Mitchell was the White Sox's first-round draft pick in 2009 but never made it to the Majors. He was released after opening the season 2 for 40 (.050) at Charlotte. 

Colvin has played in 441 Major League games with three teams over the last six seasons. 


Cubs claim Anthony Varvaro off waivers from Red Sox
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:33 pm ET) The Cubs have claimed pitcher Anthony Varvaro off waivers from the Red Sox and designated pitcher Joe Ortiz for assignment, the team announced Sunday.

Varvaro made nine appearances with the Red Sox before hitting waivers, giving up five earned runs in 11 innings while striking out eight batters and walking six. He posted ERAs under 3.00 while making more than 60 appearances in each of his previous two seasons, both with the Braves, and he owns a career 3.23 ERA, 7.4 K/9 rate and 3.4 BB/9 rate in 183 2/3 innings across 166 appearances.

Ortiz, whose only major-league action came in 2013 with the Rangers, has given up four earned runs in 10 2/3 innings for Triple-A Iowa while striking out just one batter and walking five. He'll likely be reassigned to Iowa if he clears waivers.


Rangers' Yu Darvish out of brace, strengthening forearm
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(2:27 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish, out for the season after Tommy John surgery in March, has completed the range-of-motion portion of his rehab. 

The Star Telegram reported that Darvish is out of the elbow brace he's been wearing since the surgery and is working on strengthening his forearm. 


Tulowitzki, Hundley out of Rockies' lineup Sunday for rest
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(2:22 pm ET) Troy Tulowitzki and Nick Hundley are both out of the Rockies’ starting lineup Sunday to rest against the Padres.

Rafael Ynoa will get his first start of the year at shortstop, batting seventh, while Michael McKenry gets the nod at catcher and will bat fifth.


Dodgers' Yasiel Puig (hamstring) running on Sunday
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2:17 pm ET) Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is testing his hamstring out again on Sunday with some running, according to MLB.com.

Puig was able to run Saturday and his hamstring held up well. This is a good sign that he'll be activated when eligible to return from the disabled list on May 10. This season, Puig holds a slash line of .279/.380/.465 in 11 games. 


Yankees Brett Gardner: Alex Rodriguez is 'all business'
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(2:06 pm ET) Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner isn't surprised by Alex Rodriguez's approach this season. 

"He’s been all business since he’s been back," Gardner said, per the Journal News. "Last year, obviously, was very, very tough for him, and tough for a lot of people, but I think ever since he’s come back he’s been all about working hard and trying to help the team win."

That's in keeping with what Gardner has seen from A-Rod in the time the two have been teammates. 

"I’ve had a chance over the last eight or nine years to really see behind the scenes and what goes into his preparation for the game, and the way that he works in the offseason. He doesn’t need to go out of his way to try to win me over," Gardner said. 


Athletics call up Chad Smith, send down Ryan Cook
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(2:02 pm ET) The Athletics recalled RHP Chad Smith from Triple-A Nashville, the team announced on Sunday. To make room, the A's optioned Ryan Cook to Nashville.  

Smith appeared in 10 games with Detroit last season. He was 1-1 with two saves and a 2.31 ERA in eight relief appearances at Nashville. 

Cook was 0-2, with a 10.38 ERA in four relief appearances with the A's. 


 
 
 
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