Playing with Numbers: Earned runs versus actual runs allowed

Several times this season we've discussed that, generally speaking, starting pitchers are not nearly as valuable as hitters in most fantasy leagues. We justify that because, in most fantasy scoring systems, hitters have the potential to contribute in more categories than pitchers, since starting pitchers (with rare exceptions) do not get saves, which account for anywhere from 20-25 percent of a fantasy team's pitching points. This week, we're going to argue that there are some pitchers out there who though on the surface may have been doing quite well for their fantasy owners are, in fact, complete and utter frauds.

Maybe we're being a tad harsh there, but it is true that for a starting pitcher in a standard 4X4 league, one-third of his value comes from his win total, one-third comes from his ERA and one-third comes from his WHIP. Even if we were to include strikeouts, the most common category to add for a 5X5 scoring system, we're still looking at one-quarter of his worth coming from a statistic that follows somewhat arbitrary rules. I'm talking specifically about ERA, which is oftentimes subject to the whims of aging sportswriters.