The Fantasy Baseball Numbers Do Lie: Luck evening out will change fortunes for these 5 players

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.

Justin Verlander’s 3.38 ERA is a lie

Verlander's solid ERA is masking a pitcher in decline. His 5.06 SIERA would rank second worst among 80+ qualified starters, with only Michael Soroka's higher. Verlander's CSW (24.0%) ranks bottom-five, next to Jose Quintana (5.44 ERA) and Patrick Corbin (5.59). His K-BB% (5.1) is bottom-three among starters during May.

Verlander is 41 years old and had to delay the start of his season thanks to shoulder troubles. He's currently sporting the worst walk rate of his career, and his K% has declined four straight years. Verlander is a savvy pitcher who can remain effective with diminished velocity, but the trends are pointing down.

Verlander’s ERA is at risk of imploding if the veteran doesn’t start striking out more batters.

George Springer’s six RBI are a lie

Springer is off to the worst start of his career (69 wRC+), but he’s someone to buy in fantasy. His walk and K rates remain stable, and his BABIP (.229) is sure to improve. Speaking of regression, Springer is hitting .107 with runners in scoring position this season — the second lowest among 200 qualified hitters. He’s walked more than he’s struck out during those situations, making his BA even flukier. Springer has an MLB-low .122 batting average with runners on base (10:10 K:BB ratio), recording just three RBI over 60 plate appearances.

Moreover, Springer has faced one of the league's most difficult schedules, as his opposing pitchers have combined for the fourth-best Pitching+. Rogers Centre has also been oddly tough for right-handed power in 2024, decreasing homers by 11% despite moving the fences in last season. Springer is unquestionably struggling at the plate and is 34 years old, but he's due for much better fortune moving forward. He's hitting leadoff, running more than ever and will soon remember how to hit when pitchers are out of the stretch.

Springer is a buy-low candidate.

Héctor Neris’ 3.00 ERA is a lie

Neris has been a popular fantasy pickup after taking over Chicago’s closer’s role, but his peripherals suggest trouble ahead. Neris has converted all six save opportunities and recorded two wins over the last three weeks, but his 3.00 ERA is accompanied by a 5.76 SIERA that ranks fourth-worst among 200 qualified relievers (Mason Miller ranks first with a 0.58 SIERA). He’s also bottom-10 in WHIP (1.80). Neris has walked more batters than he’s struck out this season, including an ugly 8:13 K:BB ratio since April 3.

Saves are a real commodity in fantasy, but there’s a high probability Neris blows up your ratios soon. Mark Leiter Jr. or Ben Brown could eventually emerge as Chicago’s closer this season.

Lars Nootbaar’s .206 batting average is a lie

Nootbaar's .206 batting average comes with a .270 expected BA, which is one of the biggest differences among all hitters this season. Nootbaar's contact metrics are impressive, and his max exit velocity is in the top 8% of the league. He also has suffered from having the highest percentage of pitches outside the strike zone called strikes against him this year. Abnormally poor umpiring and a lowly .235 BABIP are sure to regress, and projection systems are bullish, with Steamer predicting a 125 wRC+ rest of the season. Nootbaar hits second against righties, and it's safe to ignore his misleading batting average.

Nootbaar is available in nearly 70% of Yahoo leagues and should be a productive fantasy outfielder moving forward.

Jesús Luzardo’s 5.97 ERA is a lie

Luzardo has one of the 10 biggest gaps among starters between his ERA (5.97) and SIERA (3.86). He's yet to record a win this season despite allowing two runs or fewer during half his starts. Pitching deeper into games would help (as would avoiding the IL), but Luzardo has deserved better in 2024. His CSW (29.5%) would rank top-20 among starters and beats Ranger Suárez's, who sports a minuscule 1.37 ERA. Luzardo's Whiff% is in the top 11% of the league, and Steamer projects a 3.77 ERA rest of season.

All starts count, but when not facing the potent Yankees (@NY) and Dodgers' top offenses this season, Luzardo has a 3.68 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP with an 11.1 K/9 rate. He looked strong during his return from the IL last week and is lined up to start three of his next four outings at home, with the other in Petco Park. Miami suppresses homers, which should further help lower Luzardo's ERA.

Luzardo remains a health concern, but he’s capable of being a top-25 fantasy SP moving forward.

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