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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
Fernando Rodney breaks franchise mark for saves
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:21 am ET) Mariners closer Fernando Rodney escaped a rough outing with the save Thursday night against the Angels in Anaheim.

Rodney allowed a solo home run to Hank Conger but struck out Tony Campana looking to end the game. He was charged with one run on one hit and no walks while striking out one in one inning of work, closing out a 3-1 victory. He now holds the franchise record with 46 saves on the year. He owns a 2.70 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP over 63 1/3 innings of work.

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(1:16 am ET) Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario came up big at the plate Thursday night at home, launching a walkoff home run in the ninth to lift his team past the Diamondbacks.

Down one run, Rosaio took Addison Reed deep for a two-run home run with two outs in the ninth to end the game. Rosario also doubled in the second and added two singles. He finished 4 for 5 with a run scored and three RBI in a 7-6 victory. He is hitting .265 with 12 homers and 51 RBI over 359 at-bats.

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(1:04 am ET) Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez put together another gem but didn't receive any run support in a no-decision Thursday night against the Angels. The right-hander permitted three hits and two walks while striking out 11 over seven innings of work.

Over his last four starts covering 28 innings, Hernandez has allowed only three earned runs. He owns a 2.07 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP over 32 starts (226 innings). His next start will come Tuesday at Toronto.

Wade LeBlanc gives five-plus scoreless innings in spot start
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(1:00 am ET) Angels starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc wasn't a factor into the decision in a spot start on Thursday at home against Seattle. The left-hander permitted three hits and no walks while striking out three over 5 1/3 scoreless innings of work.

LeBlanc owns a 5.24 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP over 22 1/3 innings of work. It remains to be seen if he'll be needed for another start this season.

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(12:55 am ET) Indians reliever Cody Allen struck out two and worked his way past a hit in a scoreless 13th inning for the save Thursday night against the Astros in Houston. He has converted 22 of 25 save chances, with a 2.03 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP over 66 2/3 innings of work.

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(12:48 am ET) Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter left the yard at home for the first time this season Thursday night against the Blue Jays.

Jeter took R.A. Dickey deep for a solo home run in the sixth inning inning, ending a streak of 158 at-bats without a home run. He finished 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI in a 3-2 victory. Jeter is hitting .250/.299/.303 with four homers and 41 RBI over 547 at-bats.

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(12:41 am ET) Padres pitcher Robbie Erlin turned in a quality start in a win over the Phillies at home Thursday night, improving to 4-4 on the year. He permitted one run on five hits and no walks while striking out four over six innings of a 7-3 victory.

Erlin owns a 4.53 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP over 55 2/3 innings of work. If Tyson Ross is unable to make his next start, Erlin will like make another spot start on Tuesday against Colorado.

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(12:36 am ET) Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick had some command issues in a loss to the Padres in San Diego on Thursday, dropping to 9-13 on the year. He allowed three runs on six hits and five walks while striking out two over five innings of a 7-3 defeat.

Over his last three starts covering 18 1/3 innings, Kendrick has allowed nine earned runs. He owns a 4.73 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP over 31 starts (192 innings). His next start will come Wednesday in Miami.

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(12:30 am ET) Cubs pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada worked through a sore hamstring in a no-decision Thursday night at home against the Dodgers, per ESPN Chicago. He allowed one run on five hits and one walk while striking out five over five innings of an 8-4 defeat.

Over his last four starts covering 18 2/3 innings, Wada has allowed 10 earned runs. He confirmed after the game that this was his final start of the season. He finishes his first big-league season 4-3 with a 3.22 ERA over 12 starts.

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by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:25 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke took a step back in a no-decision to the Cubs in Chicago on Thursday. He coughed up four runs on nine hits and one walk while striking out five over five innings of work.

Over his last three starts covering 17 innings, Greinke has allowed six earned runs. He owns a 2.76 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP over 30 starts (189 1/3 innings). He will look to bounce back Tuesday at home against San Francisco.

 
 
 
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