Starting Pitchers: Regression Candidates (Part 2)
In part one last week, we looked at 20 starting pitchers whose underlying numbers showed potential for negative regression, based on the metrics of FIP, xFIP, and SIERA. With apologies to the oxymoron police, today I’ll review the starting pitchers who are on the opposite end of the spectrum with potential for “positive regression”.
FIP: a pitcher can only control his strikeouts, walks, hit batters, and home runs allowed. He cannot control what happens behind him.
xFIP: FIP with the league average HR/FB rate replacing the number of home runs the pitcher actually allowed. The pitcher cannot control what happens behind him, or if the fly ball he gives up goes out of the park or not.
SIERA: Strikeouts are good, walks are bad, balls in play are complicated.
As a cutoff point, only pitchers who pitched a minimum of 50 innings with an ERA of 5.50 or lower will apply to this list. If you are interested in why Drew Smyly’s 8.42 ERA this year should be closer to 6, then please stay tuned for Drew Smyly Week at The Dynasty Guru, coming in late July [There is no Drew Smyly Week forthcoming- Ed., who is also a lawyer and doesn’t want the site sued for false advertising]. The pitcher also needed to have at least TWO of the three metrics (FIP, xFIP, and SIERA) to expect at least a 0.40 decrease in ERA. This provided us with a solid list of 16 pitchers. A few of these names are worth a deeper dive, while in other cases the track record seems obvious of whether to trust or not.
(All statistics as of the start of day 6/25)
|Gerrit Cole||Astros||3.54||3.11||0.43||2.55||0.99||2.72||0.82||Trust your studs.|
|Chris Sale||Red Sox||3.59||2.90||0.69||2.99||0.60||2.92||0.67||Trust your studs.|
|Shane Bieber||Indians||3.86||3.68||0.18||3.23||0.63||3.27||0.59||The real deal.|
|Brandon Woodruff||Brewers||4.01||3.07||0.94||3.36||0.65||3.52||0.49||The real deal.|
|Sonny Gray||Reds||4.03||3.58||0.45||3.62||0.41||4.02||0.01||Doesn't pitch deep enough into games, on a subpar team.|
|Lance Lynn||Rangers||4.32||3.07||1.25||3.87||0.45||3.89||0.43||A shocking transformation.|
|German Marquez||Rockies||4.32||3.61||0.71||3.44||0.88||3.7||0.62||It's complicated.|
|Blake Snell||Rays||4.40||3.38||1.02||3.15||1.25||3.50||0.90||Trust your studs, hope he's healthy.|
|Noah Syndergaard||Mets||4.55||3.62||0.93||4.01||0.54||4.05||0.50||Need more K's to get back to top tiers.|
|Zack Wheeler||Mets||4.69||3.74||0.95||3.89||0.80||4.03||0.66||A solid pitcher in an unreliable SP landscape.|
|Eduardo Rodriguez||Red Sox||4.87||4.20||0.67||3.98||0.89||4.07||0.80||Might not ever make The Leap.|
|Ryan Yarbrough||Rays||4.87||3.92||0.95||4.52||0.35||4.43||0.44||Trip to minors did him some good.|
|Carlos Carrasco||Indians||4.98||4.11||0.87||3.40||1.58||3.39||1.59||Would have been best buy-low candidate before illness.|
|Michael Pineda||Twins||5.02||4.57||0.45||4.63||0.39||4.43||0.59||Low Ks, High HRs, not enough here to trust.|
|Jakob Junis||Royals||5.18||4.92||0.26||4.59||0.59||4.60||0.58||He'll help you field a team.|
|Wade LeBlanc||Mariners||5.44||4.88||0.56||5.03||0.41||4.63||0.81||As mediocre as a track record can get.|
Gerrit Cole: On pace for 305 Ks. A bit unlucky with peripherals, a bit unlucky with win-loss (7-5) on a team with a 100+ win pace, and an 18.6 HR/FB rate that won’t last. I would rank Cole #3 the rest of way behind Scherzer and Verlander. If Cole stays in Houston, you could argue that he will be the #1 dynasty SP over the next few years.
Chris Sale: A 3-7 record at the half-way point was not in anyone’s plans, and the decrease in velocity by two MPH from 2018 (and prior) has caused increased reliance on the slider. However, the Ks are still there (steady at 13+ K/9), and a LOB% of 69% that isn’t nice at all, has contributed to the bad luck. I can’t keep Sale in my top-5 rest of season with the inconsistency so far, but he’s still top-10.
Brandon Woodruff: First impressed me with four excellent appearances in the playoffs last year, including being trusted as the Bulk Guy in game 5 of the NLCS against the Dodgers. FIP believes Woodruff has been about a full run better than he appears, with a .323 BABIP likely to improve. He’s made strong strides in K and BB Rates and pitches deep enough into games to have a 9-2 record on a solid team. Whether dynasty or redraft, he seems for real.
Sonny Gray: Looking at Gray’s game logs of 5 1/3 inning appearances infuriates me. Pitching on a 36-41 team (as of 6/26), Gray’s 76 innings pitched does not even qualify for the ERA title (fewer innings pitched than team games played). And yet Gray has not been injured, he has made his turn in the rotation every time. I can’t recommend a pitcher who has 4 out of 15 quality starts and plays on a .500 team.
German Marquez: I won’t try to intrude on Adam Lawler’s territory, but just remember that June 30th of last year was the date that Marquez started an epic run of 17 starts: 9-3, 2.47 ERA, .207 Opp BA, 113 IP, 146 Ks. Coors Field complicates the advanced metrics, so I wouldn’t describe Marquez as a 3.50 pitcher so far, but the WHIP is only 1.19 and the K and BB Rates are good enough. His next start is at Houston, and if it doesn’t go well then the All-Star Break might be a great time to buy from a frustrated owner.
Lance Lynn: Honestly, what’s going on here? After Texas signed the 32-year-old to what seemed like a reckless 3-year contract in the offseason, Lynn has the second highest WAR for any starting pitcher in baseball, per FanGraphs. Yankee fans may not agree with this, but Lynn’s improvements started when he got to New York in the second half of last year. A 5.5 BB/9 in Minnesota dropped to 2.3 in New York, where it has stayed in Texas. Lynn’s FIP was 2.17 in New York, despite a 4.32 ERA there, and the FIP is now 3.06 in Texas. A BABIP of .338 should come back down to earth, and amazingly Lynn’s season could get even better.
Ryan Yarbrough: After a miserable April, complete with a demotion, Yarbrough has made 7 “starts” since (three following an opener) and is 4-2 with a 3.54 ERA, with a .209 Opp. BA, going 7+ innings in three of those starts. The K’s are weak, but you can do worse in a deep league.
Carlos Carrasco: Worth highlighting because Carrasco would’ve been the perfect pitcher to discuss had he not been diagnosed with a blood condition in late May. Partially a result of fatigue it turned out, Carrasco had a 4.98 ERA in 12 starts. However, with an xFIP and SIERA expected to be a run-and-a-half lower than his ERA, it’s amazing that Carrasco had his best strikeout (10.9 per 9) and walk (1.52 per 9) rates of his career. Here’s to seeing Carrasco healthy and back in an Indians uniform at some point this season.
(Follow Bob on Twitter @BobOsgood15)