The Fantasy Baseball Numbers Do Lie: Are we missing the right reliever in Detroit?

Alex Lange #55 of the Detroit Tigers
Alex Lange's fantasy value has been on the rise of late. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

A simple look at a box score or a study of fantasy 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.

Pfaadt’s 4.61 ERA is accompanied by a 3.27 SIERA that ranks top-20 among starters. His CSW (29.5%) also ranks top-20, and Pfaadt’s K-BB% (20.7) is better than Corbin Burnes’. Pfaadt posted strong numbers in the minors and recorded a 3.27 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP and 26 strikeouts over 22 innings during the playoffs last season against the best offenses in baseball.

Moreover, he’s stuck on just one win despite allowing two runs or fewer during the majority of his starts on a team with an offense that’s scored the sixth-most runs in baseball.

It should be noted Pfaadt is scheduled to start in Baltimore his next time out, so he could become an even better buy-low candidate in fantasy leagues over the weekend.

Yes, Pfaadt has just one win and an ugly ERA this season, but he’s pitching like a top-20 starter.

Gore’s 1.47 WHIP ranks 69th among 79 qualified starters this season, but his SIERA (3.24) ranks 20th, sandwiched between Cole Ragans (3.38 ERA) and Logan Gilbert (1.69). Gore has a tremendous fastball with top-10 Stuff+ and an average exit velocity in the top 16% of the league. Gore has shown real improvement in control (7.4 BB%) this season, but BABIP (.400!) and a difficult schedule have led to the ugly WHIP.

Only Hunter Brown (.440) has suffered more hits on balls in play than Gore, who entered this season with a career .310 BABIP. Washington doesn’t have a great defense, but the Nationals do possess above-average range. Moreover, Gore has also had to face three top-10 offenses in wRC+ (including the leading Dodgers) over his past four starts. Unfortunately, he’s scheduled to pitch in Boston and Philadelphia during his next two outings, so Gore’s true breakout will require a bit more patience.

Gore is a former top prospect who’s quietly putting it all together and a strong fantasy trade target once his schedule eventually eases.

Seager is off to a slow start at the plate (76 wRC+), but that’s not totally unexpected with him coming off sports hernia surgery at the end of January. His BB and K rates remain mostly in line with his career, and while Seager’s Statcast numbers are down, it’s worth noting that April (.706) and May (.807) are easily the lowest OPS months during his career. Seager also has struggled at home (66 wRC+) this season, where he’s especially thrived throughout his career (146). Globe Life Field is one of the best hitter’s parks in baseball for lefties, so regression is coming. Seager sports the sixth-biggest difference between slugging% and expected slugging% among 275+ hitters this season, when he’s suffered from having the third-most barrels recorded for outs.

Health is always a concern with Seager, but he should return to being one of the best hitters in baseball moving forward.

The Tigers will likely continue to mix and match relievers in closing situations for the time being, but Lange has quietly emerged as the favorite to lead Detroit in saves over the rest of the season. Jason Foley has the sixth-most saves (nine) in the league, but his 2.51 ERA comes with a 1.53 WHIP. Foley has recorded a strikeout during just one of his last five appearances, when his velocity has been noticeably down. Foley pitched in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s game, when Lange eventually took a loss after a single allowed a place runner to score an unearned run in extra innings.

Detroit has the second-most save opportunities this season and 13 more than Colorado. It’s not a perfect stat (like most in baseball), but the Tigers should continue to provide save chances in a weak AL Central. Lange’s 0.64 ERA has undoubtedly been fortunate (he and Foley have yet to surrender a home run), but he’s shown improved control with a 0.62 WHIP over his last 10 appearances. Lange recorded 26 saves last year, and his expected slugging% is in the top 10% of the league.

Don’t let the saves discrepancy fool you — Lange looks like the preferred fantasy reliever in Detroit. He’s available in 56% of Yahoo leagues.

Civale’s 5.88 ERA comes with a 3.71 SIERA, which is the 10th-biggest difference among all starting pitchers this season. Put differently, Civale has the sixth-worst ERA among 79 qualified starters, but his SIERA is better than Kutter Crawford’s, who has the sixth-best ERA (1.75) in the league.

Civale ranks 11th in CSW, sandwiched between Tyler Glasnow and Dylan Cease. Civale struggled in a highly favorable matchup versus the White Sox on Wednesday, but he deserved better while featuring the best stuff in the league that night.

Civale gets a tough matchup in Fenway Park next time out, but his ERA is sure to improve moving forward.