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Sometimes statistics lie

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - With pitching in particular, sometimes wins and losses don't truly tell you the whole story. In fact, the won/loss record can be a complete lie because a pitcher can "earn" a win while pitching badly or get stuck with a loss while pitching great. Wins and losses are really a "team statistic" and should not be the sole determining factor.

If you simply looked at a pitcher's won/loss total, you might be fooled into thinking that Clay Buchholz (4-1), Derek Lowe (5-1), Matt Harrison (4-2) and Jeremy Guthrie (2-1) were pitching well.

And by the same standard, you would believe that Jeff Niemann (2-3), Wandy Rodriguez (3-3) and James McDonald (2-2) were pitching poorly because they don't have a winning record.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

Buchholz is the prime example of won/loss record not being indicative of his actual performance. Any of his fantasy owners would tell you that. Despite his 4-1 record, the Red Sox starter has a ridiculously high 8.31 ERA and equally embarrassing WHIP of 1.974. In 39 innings pitched he's given up 55 hits and 36 earned runs, both league highs. He's won four games because his Boston Red Sox have averaged 8.3 runs-per-game in his seven starts.

In spite of his statistics, Buchholz is owned in my fantasy league and in 40% of all Yahoo leagues. When his owner comes a callin' with a trade offer, don't be fooled by his record.

Next on the list is the Indians' Lowe who is tied with Jered Weaver, C.C. Sabathia, James Shields, Tom Milone and David Price for the American League lead with five wins. And while Lowe also sports a solid 2.47 ERA, his WHIP reveals a problem (1.511) and his lack of strikeouts (13 in 43 2/3 IP) makes him a fantasy liability. When he stops facing the struggling offenses (he's faced Kansas City twice and Seattle and Anaheim once each) his won/loss record is sure to fall into line with reality.

The Rangers' Harrison has a winning record, but a sub-par 5.11 ERA and a 1.432 WHIP. With a strikeout ratio below the league average, Harrison's only true redeeming fantasy value is Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli who have provided him with seven runs-per-game.

And don't even think about picking up the Rockies' Guthrie. His 2-1 record is diametrically opposed to his 5.92 ERA, 1.438 WHIP and minuscule strikeout total (5 in 24 1/3 IP). I'm still trying to figure out why anyone not related to him would have Guthrie on his fantasy team.

On the other hand, Niemann has pitched very well despite his losing record. He's got a solid 3.48 ERA, 1.158 WHIP and almost a strikeout-per-inning (30 in 33 1/3 IP). His three losses came against offensive powerhouses: Texas, Detroit and Toronto. When he faces the Mariners, A's and Twins a few more times, he'll post a winning record. With just a 10-percent Yahoo ownership, he's certainly got fantasy value and should be on your radar should you need pitching help.

Rodriguez is a fascinating fantasy option. He's got excellent statistics (2.14 ERA, 1.079 WHIP), but still just a 3-3 record. And he's available in one out of every four Yahoo Leagues. He should be claimed immediately if you have need for pitching help today.

Finally, McDonald is having an excellent season on the mound for the Pirates with a 2.42 ERA and a 1.030 WHIP in seven starts. The .500 record is the fault of his team who has given him no support - losing twice by shutout with McDonald on the hill. In McDonald's last four starts he's struck out 33 batters in 29 IP. The best news is that he's available in 80-percent of all leagues and should be claimed immediately by those looking down the road at the 27-year- old's bright future.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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