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As of Monday night, there are nine starting pitchers (with at least 40 IP) that are in possession of a sub 2.00 ERA. While it is a very good bet that most of them will not stay below 2.00 all season, some will be hard pressed to come even close to 3.50 the rest of the way. If you are an owner of one of the six pitchers listed below, you should start looking for a trade partner and sell high before it's too late.
Note: ERA numbers reflected before yesterday's games
Jaime Garcia: 1.42 EA
The young rookie left-hander is doing amazing things for the Cardinals. Garcia hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any outing and has only allowed 31 hits in 44.1 innings pitched. Both his strikeout rate (7.31 K/9) and walk rate (3.25 BB/9) are slightly better than the league average, but he has been an absolute ground ball machine. Almost 58 percent of Garcia's balls in play have been of the ground variety while holding opposing hitters to a 16 percent line drive rate. He has also been impressive getting hitters to swing and miss on 24 percent of his offerings. Heck, I liked Garcia as a late round sleeper this preseason , so why sell high?
Innings. Garcia has already topped his innings total from last season (37.2) when he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. The year before Garcia logged a total of 122 innings. His professional high in innings pitched is 155, back in 2007.
It's going to be a tricky situation for the Cardinals, who expect to be playing ball in October. They've done a decent job so far of monitoring Garcia's workload; he has only gone seven innings once, and the Cardinals have only let him throw over 100 pitches twice. It's not so much a re-injury that worries me for fantasy purposes, but the problem is how his stamina will hold up (both arm and legs) once he crosses the 100-inning mark.
He's been recently traded for impact hitters like Shane Victorino and Andrew McCutchen.
Livan Hernandez: 1.46 ERA
Good ol' Livan! Who needs strikeouts when you've got magical power that make baseballs head straight toward the gloves of your defense. Nothing that Livan is doing can hold for much longer. Despite hitters making contact on over 90 percent of his pitches, he has been able to bring his BABIP against to a crazy low .197. Not only that, but when base runners have been on, Livan has stranded them 98.6 percent of the time.
Those are some extreme numbers and are all but guaranteed to regress big time. Unlike some other pitchers with low BABIP's, Livan does not have the pure stuff to maintain respectable peripheral stats. In other words: When he falls, he will fall hard.
Despite being the proud owner of a 1.46 ERA, Livan's FIP is a frightening 4.90, and his xFIP is an even worse 5.09.
C.J. Wilson: 1.48 ERA (when I started writing this article)
Wilson has done some very nice things in his conversion to the rotation. He's not walking too many (3.33 BB/9), and he's keeping the ball on the ground for the most part (54.3 percent ground ball rate), but there is a lot that will eventually work against him this season.
First of all, Wilson hasn't thrown over 100 innings since 2002, which occurred in the minor leagues. That is going to be a factor as the season moves along. Second, he has been a bit fortunate as far as BABIP against (.253) and strand rate (82.8 percent). Third, his stuff is not as effective as a starter. His current K/9 of 6.29 is below the league average. His fastball velocity is also down about three mph. Lastly, Wilson has been very hittable (84 percent contact rate against), and he is not getting hitters to chase his outside pitches (21 percent chase rate).
Update: As I wrote this article, Wilson got tagged for seven earned runs and two home runs in 4.1 innings against the Angels.
Doug Fister: 1.72 ERA
The surprise in Seattle this year has been this 26-year-old control artist, Doug Fister. Last season, Fister made 10 starts with the Mariners with decent results (4.13 ERA, 1.28 WHIP), but he made little fantasy impact outside of AL-only leagues. This season, he has been one of those waiver-wire wonders that has come out of nowhere to put up valuable numbers.
Just looking at peripheral numbers, Fister is dangerously close to Livan Hernandez in some key categories. While Fister's command has been great, his strikeouts are extremely low (3.83 K/9), and hitters are having no problems making contact off of his offerings (91.2 percent contact rate against). Pitchers with these type of numbers are extremely risky as they rely so heavily on defense.
Due to the low strikeout totals, you're probably not going to get a big impact player in return for Fister, but he is certainly a piece you can use to fill a category need via trade.
Andy Pettitte: 1.79 ERA
Peittitte has had his effective streaks over the past few years, but he has ultimately ended every season since 2006 with an ERA over 4.00. He'll be 38 next month, so there is plenty of mileage on his arm.
Right now Pettitte is getting by with a below average K/BB rate and a low .262 BABIP against despite allowing line drives at a 21 percent rate.
He has recently been traded for players such as Vernon Wells, Marlon Byrd and Rafael Soriano. If you can snag an impact player like that, now would be the time to send Pettitte packing.
Jon Garland: 1.88 ERA
As far as luck goes, there may not be a luckier pitcher in the Major Leagues right now than Jon Garland. Not only is Garland sporting a horrible 1.08 K/BB rate (5.06 K/9, 4.69 BB/9), but he has allowed a 21.3 percent line drive rate as well. Despite all that, Garland has an extremely low .233 BABIP against.
Use his 4-2 record and 1.88 ERA against an unsuspecting owner in trade talks and try to get what you can while you can. It would be amazing to see Garland keep this pace for much longer.