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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
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen avoids trouble, picks up 19th save
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7:05 pm ET) Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen didn't have his best stuff on Saturday, but he managed to escape his team's matchup with the Angels with his 19th save of the season.

Jansen gave up a run on two hits and walked a batter during an uneasy ninth inning. He managed to strike out two batters in the process.

Jansen now has a 3.04 ERA in 26 2/3 innings this season.


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by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7:03 pm ET) Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw was simply dominant during his win against the Angels on Saturday.

Kershaw (9-6) tossed eight scoreless innings, while allowing just two hits and striking out seven batters. He seemed poised for a complete-game shutout, but he was pulled from the game before throwing a pitch in the ninth so he could receive a much-deserved standing ovation from the home crowd.

Kershaw has tossed 37 consecutive scoreless innings, striking out 45 batters and giving up just one walk during that stretch. 


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(6:33 pm ET) Mets rookie outfielder Michael Conforto was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas on Saturday. Conforto's demotion clears space for the newly-acquired Yoenis Cespedes, who was officially added to the roster.

Conforto went 4 for 19 in the first six games of his career. He looked fairly comfortable facing big-league pitching for the first time, so there is a good chance he will be back up with the Mets at some point this season.

The youngster has never played at the Triple-A level, as he was promoted straight from Double-A to the majors on July 24. 


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(6:30 pm ET) Mets outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been suffering from a pinched nerve in his upper back, which caused him to be unavailable for Thursday and Friday's games, according to ESPN.com.

However, Nieuwenhuis appears able to play through the injury, as the Mets optioned rookie outfielder Michael Conforto to Triple-A in the wake of the Mets' acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes.

Nieuwenhuis was listed as a reserve on the lineup card for Saturday's game against the Nationals.


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by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(6:14 pm ET) Rays starting pitcher Drew Smyly was roughed up during a Class A rehab start on Friday, per MLB.com.

Smyly allowed five runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings of work. He struck out four batters and allowed a home run.

"It wasn't good," said Rays manager Kevin Cash about Smyly's line. "I heard everything from a health factor was fine. I don't know about the game report. I know he gave up some hits. The velocity was good. He got his pitches in. So that was the priority. We're really not going to start evaluating the numbers right now. We need to keep him going. He got his pitches, he threw close to 70 pitches."

Smyly will continue to throw every five days. He will have a rest day on Saturday before throwing another bullpen session and another rehab start. The Rays, though, are not sure about how soon Smyly will return to the team.

"I think that all kind of goes in part with where we're at in the season with the off-days, we have to factor that in," Cash said. "I know he's itching to get back, but we have to make sure he's ready before we commit to having a set time."


Tale of two Nicks: Rumbelow up, Goody down for Yankees
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:58 pm ET) The Yankees have recalled Nick Rumbelow from Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre and optioned fellow reliever Nick Goody to the same team.

Rumbelow hurled 3 1/3 innings for the Yankees in late June and early July and allowed one run. Goody got into two games after his Thursday call-up and gave up a run in 1 1/3 innings.


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by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:58 pm ET) The White Sox have reunited with third baseman Dayan Viciedo , who played for Chicago from 2010 to 2014, according to ESPN Chicago.

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by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:50 pm ET) Rays outfielder Steven Souza was hit by a pitch in the left hand in the fifth inning Saturday's game against the Red Sox. He was able to stay in the game, but was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth.

Souza was diagnosed with a fractured left hand, and he is expected to land on the disabled list, according to the Tampa Bay Times


Cubs option RP Yoervis Medina to Triple-A Iowa
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:43 pm ET) The Cubs optioned relief pitcher Yoervis Medina to Triple-A Iowa on Saturday, the team announced.

Medina has a 4.71 ERA with 16 strikeouts and 11 walks in 21 innings with Chicago this season.


SP Luis Severino to debut for Yankees on Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:43 pm ET) Yankees prized rookie pitcher Luis Severino will make his Wednesday at home against the archrival Red Sox, per WFAN.

Severino, who has allowed more than two earned runs just once in his last 14 starts for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, sports a 9-2 record and 2.45 ERA on the year. He has 98 strikeouts in 99 1/3 innings.


 
 
 
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