By The Numbers: Shane McClanahan, Shane Bieber, Aaron Nola (2022 Fantasy Baseball)
There will always be debates about who the best players are at each position. Everyone has their own arguments for why one player is better than another.
One way to make a case for who is the best is to present stats and data. On Fangraphs, anyone can view league average statistics. By taking the league averages of K/9, BB/9, K/BB, K-BB, K%, BB%, AVG, WHIP, BABIP, LOB%, ERA, xFIP and SIERA and filtering for players who are league average or better, only 17 qualified pitchers are left.
Those pitchers are Carlos Rodon, Shane McClanahan, Aaron Nola, Shane Bieber, Justin Verlander, Zack Wheeler, Corbin Burnes, Yu Darvish, Nestor Cortes, Joe Musgrove, Julio Urias, Zac Gallen, Chris Bassitt, Pablo Lopez and Kyle Wright.
But how can anyone argue that any of them is better than the other? Measuring each pitcher’s ERA against their xFIP and SIERA, two of the most accurate advanced ERA metrics, only four pitchers had an ERA that was the same or higher than either their xFIP or SIERA. Only one pitcher had an ERA higher than both.
Below are arguably three of the best pitchers in baseball this year (honorable mention to Pablo Lopez).
Shane McClanahan (SP – TB): 2.24 xFIP
Shane McClanahan is having an incredible season and is one of the best pitchers in baseball this year.
His ERA has not gone above 3.00 since May 5, and he kept his ERA under 2.00 from June 9 until a five-run clunker against the Guardians on July 31.
In 22 starts, he has allowed more than two runs in just four games. He has more strikeouts than hits, walks and runs combined. He is far above average in nearly every significant statistic.
McClanahan’s 2.24 ERA matches his 2.24 xFIP and is slightly under his 2.43 SIERA, two sabermetrics that attempt to drill ERA down to what is only in the pitcher’s control.
He also has an 11.29 K/9 rate, tied with Carlos Rodon for third best in baseball behind Dylan Cease (12.18), and Burnes and Gerrit Cole (11.58). Rodon and Burnes both have ERAs that are higher than both their xFIP and SIERA, while Cole and Cease are below average in some of the categories mentioned above.
Shane Bieber (SP – CLE)
Like McClanahan, Shane Bieber meets the criteria of being above league average in a number of data points.
Among the 17 aforementioned pitchers, Bieber is top-eight in all of them except AVG, WHIP, LOB% and ERA. McClanahan, Burnes, Wheeler, Nola and Verlander are the only other pitchers who are among the top eight in all but four or fewer categories; however, Nola and McClanahan are the only ones who have a higher ERA than xFIP, SIERA or both.
After missing a large chunk of last season due to a shoulder strain, Bieber has become a workhorse for the Guardians in 2022.
He is tied for the fourth most quality starts with 15, and is top 20 in innings pitched, neither of which can be said for McClanahan or Nola.
Aaron Nola (SP – PHI)
Aaron Nola is also among the best pitchers in baseball this season. He is the only pitcher who is above average in all of the aforementioned categories and possesses a higher ERA (3.17) than both his xFIP (3.00) and SIERA (2.95), meaning that there likely is more good to come from him.
While he does not carry the same K/9 as McClanahan, his 9.77 rate is good for the ninth-best in the game.
His 8-8 record does not reflect how impressive he has been this season.
He has 13 quality starts and has had most of his worst games against very high-powered offenses like the Dodgers, Braves, Cardinals and Mets.
He is absolutely a player that fantasy managers should attempt to acquire prior to their leagues’ trade deadlines, and a player who should be targeted for next season as well.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you navigate your season. From our Lineup Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team, and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball season.