Last Thursday, I identified and discussed six starting pitchers worth targeting in trade given their dramatic SIERA underperformance. Today, let’s discuss the pitchers that SIERA is screaming SELL SELL SELL, if SIERA was human. These are the guys whose ERA marks are significantly outperforming their SIERA marks.
It’s pretty amazing that just twice in 13 starts has Zach Davies allowed more than two runs (six runs once and three runs in his latest outing). This is a guy who doesn’t generate swings and misses, fails to strike out batters at anything close to a league average clip, doesn’t induce grounders or pop-ups, and allows line drives at an above average rate. This almost sounds like one of the worst pitchers in baseball. A 5.07 SIERA certainly matches those awful skills. If you’re starting him in anything outside an NL-Only league, you’re playing with fire. Even in that format, I’d prefer a strong middle reliever.
Man, I liked Mike Soroka as a nice sleeper heading into the season, but Spring shoulder issues eliminated him fro my consideration. And now he owns a tiny 1.38 ERA over 10 starts. Amazing. But, it’s not real, of course. His solid minor league control has carried over and his strikeout rate is acceptable, but the real intrigue here is the ground balls. He’s basically Dallas Keuchel, which makes it funnier that the Braves signed Keuchel himself, meaning they will be rotation-mates. This is a nice skill set, but that BABIP and microscopic HR/FB rate won’t last much longer, so that ERA is heading way up. He should still remain useful, however, just be ready for the inevitable regression.
Yes, this may be the best that Jake Odorizzi has ever been, but it doesn’t make him a sub-2.00 ERA guy. As an extreme fly ball guy, it’s scary to think what might happen when that HR/FB rate jumps closer to the league average. Though, he does own a career HR/FB rate just into double digits, typically outperforming the league average. So it’s unlikely it jumps all the way into the mid-teens. But he’s been super fortunate in all three luck metrics, so this can’t continue. That said, I also think he’ll remain solid enough to be worth starting in most formats, thanks to the strikeout rate spike.
I don’t know what Hyun-Jin Ryu, but this is now the second straight season of about 80 innings in which he has posted a sub-2.00 ERA. His strikeout rate surge hasn’t be sustained, but he’s made up for the decline by displaying impeccable control. Just five walks for a minuscule 1.7% walk rate! I’m baffled how he’s managed a .239 BABIP given the inflated line drive rate and low IFBB%. Oh, and that 93.3% LOB% is hilarious. His career mark is below 80%, so he’s going to start allowing more baserunners to score sooner or later. But just like the two above, he’s still worth starting in just about every format.
Add Julio Teheran into the Davies group of pitchers who might very well be worthless in anything outside deep leagues. His skills are the same as last year when his ERA was hovering near 4.00 (and still way below his SIERA), though you have to acknowledge that he owns a career BABIP well below the league average, so he must be doing something we don’t understand. Still, I wouldn’t touch him.
Zach Eflin hasn’t sustained last year’s velocity spike, which is what had made him intriguing, and now his strikeout rate is back down into the high teens. There’s absolutely nothing here to be excited about.
Is Sandy Alcantara, a guy who has touched 100 with his fastball, part of the Nathan Eovaldi and Joe Kelly camp of pitchers who are unable to translate a big fastball into strikeouts? A 15.5% strikeout rate is embarrassing. Its even more dangerous when it’s paired with a 10.8% walk rate. The home park no doubt helps, but that 5.50 SIERA shows you the downside. There’s no reason to own him in any league unless you want to just build your team on blind hope.
I liked Trevor Richards heading into the season, thanks to an elite changeup, but his control isn’t good enough to offset the mediocre strikeout rate and he has become an extreme fly ball guy. It’s just not a good skill set. Like Alcantara, Marlins Park helps, but with a weak offense behind him capping his win potential, he’s no more than a deep leaguer.
This is finally the massive breakout we have been expecting for Luis Castillo! Or is it? While the strikeout rate surge and another step up in SwStk% is exciting, along with extreme ground ball ways, his control has deserted him. That has resulted in his highest career SIERA. With all those grounders and few pop-ups, it’s shocking his BABIP sits at just .243. He’s also highly unlikely to keep a LOB% above 80% all year. Like some of the others on this list like Soroka and Ryu, Castillo is clearly still shallow league-worthy and should remain a solid asset. But don’t expect such elite results to continue, unless he could bring his walk rate back down into single digits again. Even then, his BABIP and LOB% have lots of room for regression. I am admittedly a big fan of his and his skill set, so I would forgive you for choosing to just hold onto him all season.
Spencer Turnbull has been a nice surprise, but it’s unlikely to last much longer. The underlying skills are mediocre and he’s kept his ERA near 3.00 thanks mainly to a suppressed HR/FB rate. It would be a surprise if he remained more than an AL-Only asset the rest of the way.
Mike Minor’s SwStk% is at a career high, driving a return to a mid-20% strikeout rate. Amazingly, he’s posted a sub-3.00 ERA despite an inflated BABIP. That’s because of a HR/FB rate a bit below the league average (though nearly identical to his career mark), but primarily because of an inflated LOB%. Sooner or later he’s going to let allow a higher rate of baserunners to score, and I wouldn’t want to own him during the Texas summer heat.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.