2017 Bold Pitcher League Leaders – A Review

Last week, I reviewed my 2017 bold hitter league leaders. Not surprisingly, I went 0 for 10, but earned a couple of “spirit wins”. Since these are far more difficult to get right than bold predictions, a spirit win is still a positive result. Let’s see if I performed any better on the pitching side. Here is my original article and explanations.

American League

ERAJames Paxton

Once again, injuries robbed Paxton from qualifying for the ERA leaderboard, but he actually finish with the fourth lowest mark among AL pitchers with at least 130 innings pitched. So this was most certainly a breakout, though his SIERA barely dropped from his 2016 mark. The difference was his BABIP dropping back to league average and LOB% jumping into the range it should be. Better luck = better results. Health is probably going to remain a continuing question mark, but at least when he’s on the mound he should be fantastic. A spirit win.

0 for 1

WHIPMatt Shoemaker

It didn’t take long for the bold prediction injury curse to show its face. Shoemaker was limited to just 14 starts due to a forearm injury he eventually had surgery for. That issue likely led to the decline in his control, as his walk rate jumped to a career high. His WHIP, therefore, also spiked to a career worst of 1.30, making this an absolutely terrible prediction! I’m willing to buy him in AL-Only next year assuming he’ll come cheap.

0 for 2

WMarcus Stroman

So the thinking behind going with Stroman here was the breakout potential (success!) along with the expectation of strong run support from a powerful offense. As alluded to, the breakout occurred, but calling the offense a disappointment is actually an understatement. After finishing with the fifth most runs scored in the AL last season, the Blue Jays scored the fewest in the league this year. They were just one of two AL teams to score fewer than 700 runs. Though, he actually received 5.18 runs of support in his starts, so it would appear the Jays used all their runs for Stroman and no one else. Either way, he recorded just 13 wins, which trailed a trio of leaders with 18 apiece.

0 for 3

SOLance McCullers

I was worried this wouldn’t seem bold enough, but clarified the boldness coming from his health, rather than performance. And would you look at that, health once again betrayed McCullers, who was limited to just 22 starts and 118.2 innings. In those innings, he recorded more than a strikeout per inning, finishing with 132. However, even if he had stayed healthy, he had essentially no chance to lead the league in strikeouts with Chris Sale punching out 308 batters. He should come far cheaper in drafts/auctions next year and given his ERA/SIERA gap and strong underlying skills, I’m buying everywhere.

0 for 4

SvSean Doolittle

Typically, I name a bottom tier closer with strong skills but no closing experience as my pick. Not this year. I ended up going with Doolittle, a guy who didn’t even enter the season as the favorite for saves on his team. Eventually, he was traded to the Nationals as the team collected middle relievers, and seemingly earned a save every other game. Amazingly, he saved 21 games in about two and a half months, pacing for around 50 over a full season. A loss, but a clear spirit win.

0 for 5

National League

ERAAaron Nola

Surprise, surprise, some guy named Clayton Kershaw won the NL ERA title. Nola’s luck metrics did correct as I predicted, and his ERA nearly matched perfectly with his SIERA. But that wasn’t good enough, even though he likely earned a tidy profit for all his drafters.

0 for 6

WHIPJacob deGrom

I was encouraged by spring training reports about deGrom’s velocity bounce back, and sure enough that stuck into the regular season. It led to a strong skills rebound, including a career high strikeout rate. But it barely moved the needle on his WHIP, which finished at 1.19, good for eighth best among qualified NL starters.

0 for 7

WJon Gray

Could you believe it? Another of the injured on my bold prediction list. Gray managed just 20 starts and 110.1 innings, making leading the league in wins essentially impossible. He did enjoy the breakout that this prediction was predicated on though, as LOB% jumped into the mid-70% range, pushing his ERA down about a run, even as his SIERA was unchanged. He did win 10 of his 20 starts, a pace that would have made him a candidate to lead the league in wins if he pitched a full season.

0 for 8

SOTaijuan Walker

Gosh, I really loved Walked heading into the year. He only ended up pitching 157.1 innings though because of missed time to injury, and his strikeout rate barely rose in his first full season in the National League. This had no chance of happening and I’m slowly jumping off the Walker bandwagon. His stuff just isn’t all that good (just one pitch with a double digit SwStk% in 2017).

0 for 9

SvRaisel Iglesias

This was my standard bottom tier closer choice with no experience and we weren’t even sure he would be the favorite. While he failed to save even 30 games, he did deliver on the performance front. It’s probably silly to confine him into such a strict role, as he has the ability to go multiple innings, and the Reds did use him in such capacity often. But they should probably just use him in high leverage situations for multiple innings and completely forget about getting him the almighty save.

0 for 10

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.

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4 years ago

I appreciate the effort, but how could anyone reasonably expect to get any of these correct! An inherently difficult task, calling for a bold league leader.