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Advanced pitching stat helps tell the truth about a starter’s actual performance
by Ben Burns

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If ERA is still you’re No. 1 factor when handicapping a pitcher, you’re behind the times. Sabermetrics--whether you understand how they’re comprised or not--are an extremely valuable handicapping tool. Advanced stats like Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and Wins Above Replacement (WAR) produce a more accurate gauge of a game. They’re smarter stats.

When it comes to pitching, the smartest of the smart stats is Skill-Interactive ERA. According to Fangraphs.com’s Steve Slowinski, SIERA is designed to show how well a pitcher actually pitched. It shows if a starter is performing better or worse than his ERA indicates.

A pitcher with a SIERA of three or less is great. Average is about 3.90, and anything over four is considered below average to awful.

With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at a few guys who are actually pitching better or worse than their ERA indicates.

Stats as of Tuesday’s games).

Kyle Lohse: (2.90 ERA / 4.03 SIERA): The Cardinal starter has been a moneymaker with a 7-3 mark and sparkling ERA this season. But be careful backing him as we head into June. His SIERA suggests he’s due for a summer slide. He didn’t record a strikeout in his last outing, so batters are putting the ball in play against him. It won’t be long before some of those find holes and Lohse’s ERA climbs.

Tim Lincecum: (6.41 ERA / 3.86 SIERA): Big innings have killed the two-time Cy Young award winner and boosted his ERA. He’s also been dealing with a blister, so proceed cautiously. But his SIERA numbers indicate better times are on the horizon.

Jarrod Parker: (2.88 ERA / 4.84 SIERA): The Oakland youngster has given up no more than two runs in seven of his eight career starts. Yet, the 2007 first-round draft pick is only 1-2. The A’s have ended up losing four of his seven starts. And with Parker’s SIERA approaching five, look for some regression in his upcoming starts.

Max Scherzer (5.67 ERA / 2.78 SIERA): The Tiger starter has one of biggest ERA/SIERA differential in baseball. He’s pitched much better than his inflated ERA indicates. If the Tigers get their act together and emerge as a legit contender down the stretch, you can bet Scherzer’s improved results on the mound will play a role.

David Payne Purdum wrote this on behalf of professional handicapper Ben Burns.

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