Today, I finish my comparison of Pod ERA projections vs Steamer with the downside guys. Given that league ERA was at its highest since 2006, this should be an easy win for Pod. But, I only listed and discussed four pitchers, probably because on the whole, Pod was more bullish on ERA than Steamer was (oops), so there were fewer pitchers I was projecting for a significantly worse ERA. Let’s see how the for performed.
It’s a clean sweep! This time, Pod made up for its losing showing with the ERA upside guys by going undefeated, albeit over a tiny sample size.
In 2018, Joey Lucchesi was one of the season’s surprises, posting an acceptable 4.08 ERA, with well over a strikeout an inning. Interestingly, I projected Lucchesi to post a nearly identical ERA in 2019 as in his rookie campaign, but his ERA actually rose marginally thanks to a dip in strikeout rate. Oddly, his BABIP and HR/FB rate improved dramatically, but that wasn’t enough to push his ERA below 4.00 as Steamer had projected.
Blake Snell was sensational in 2018, but the magic couldn’t last. Instead, his luck went in the complete opposite direction this year, as both his BABIP and HR/FB rate skyrocketed, while his LOB% plummeted. This is precisely why I call them luck metrics, because they typically bounce around greatly from season to season. So believing one season of a suppressed BABIP is proof of skill would be a mistake. That said, assuming Snell is fully healthy heading into 2020, you might get the opportunity to buy him at a nice discount with a far greater chance of profit potential than he had going into the 2019 season, given his redraft price then.
Robbie Ray made his way onto this list because Steamer was assuming better BABIP and HR/FB marks than Pod projected. Ray’s BABIP issues returned, as he posted a mark above .300 again, while his HR/FB rate jumped another notched to an absurd 20%. He also continued to allow hard contact, marking his third straight season of a Hard% above 40%. I still wonder what it is about his stuff or the way he pitches that batters tee off against him…when they manage to make contact.
German Marquez as a bust was an easy call, as it’s just not often you see a Rockies starter post a sub-4.00 ERA in two straight seasons. Despite a slight increase in SwStk%, Marquez couldn’t hold an elite strikeout rate, but he did do his best to offset the decline by improving his walk rate. This remains a very solid skill set, but unfortunately Coors Field wreaks havoc on all pitchers’ results, so unless and until he finds himself on a new team, he’s a guy to start in away games only. If you own a pitcher to only start half the time, it hardly seems worth it to roster him at all.
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.