2019 Pod vs Steamer — ERA Upside, A Review

Today, I review my ERA upside guys, which included 13 names I was projecting for an ERA significantly better than Steamer. Let’s find out how these pitchers performed and which projection was closer.

ERA Upside
Player Pod Projected ERA Steamer Projected ERA Actual ERA
Yusei Kikuchi 3.76 4.56 5.46
Kyle Hendricks 3.42 4.05 3.46
Alex Wood 3.55 4.15 5.80
Collin McHugh 3.82 4.35 4.70
Clayton Kershaw 2.77 3.29 3.03
Stephen Strasburg 3.15 3.63 3.32
Ryan Yarbrough 3.95 4.39 4.13
Jake Arrieta 3.81 4.25 4.64
Jose Berrios 3.85 4.28 3.68
Touki Toussaint 3.95 4.37 5.62
Zack Godley 3.80 4.22 5.97
Aaron Nola 3.16 3.58 3.87
Zack Greinke 3.57 3.99 2.93

So overall, Pod was closer on five pitchers, Steamer was closer on seven pitchers, and we tied on Clayton Kershaw.

I already reviewed my Yusei Kikuchi Pod Projection, so this is another reminder that he was a major disappointment.

Kyle Hendricks continues to confound Steamer with his strong luck metrics, as the computer badly wants to regress those to the league average. Hendricks laughs and just keeps posting suppressed BABIP marks, while his low fastball hasn’t hurt his strikeout rate yet. That said, his skills are clearly slipping, so I don’t want to be owning him in 2020.

Alex Wood’s season was marred by injury, which limited him to just seven starts, so Steamer’s win here gets an asterisk.

Steamer missed Stephen Strasburg because of its baffling strikeout rate projection of just 25.9%. That would have marked a career low. Instead, Strasburg pumped up his strikeout rate to a three-year high.

For the first time since 2012, and only the second time in his career, Jake Arrieta posted a BABIP above .289. And this was way over .289, all the way up at .316. His skills are in free fall, while his HR/FB rate spiked to 19.4%. If he no longer owns BABIP suppression skills, I don’t think I even want him in an NL-Only league.

Touki Toussaint came into the season with just 29 Major League innings, top prospect status, and solid minor league rates. But he was atrocious in 41.2 innings, which mostly came in relief. His control has deserted him, so that’ll be the key to his future success, if he has any.

Man, what the heck happened to Zack Godley?! He went from an intriguing strikeout pitcher with a high ground ball rate to not a strikeout pitcher with a league average grounder rate. Guess that’s sometimes how it goes with pitchers.

Steamer was the highest ERA projection for Aaron Nola, and yet, it proved too low in the end. Nola suddenly struggled a bit more with walks, posting a career worst walk rate, while his HR/FB rate surged, like many others. He also couldn’t sustain that low 2018 BABIP, which is no surprise. Don’t let 2018 set your expectations for what a rebound season could look like. This is a good, not elite, skill set with upside of a low-to-mid 3.00 ERA, assuming neutral luck.

After a hiccup in 2016, Zack Greinke has fully rebounded back to previous top tier levels, even as his fastball velocity has tumbled. I’m not paying the price in any league given that trend, and that his SIERA has now risen a second straight season.

We hoped you liked reading 2019 Pod vs Steamer — ERA Upside, A Review by Mike Podhorzer!

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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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David Chenok
David Chenok

Here’s another way to look at it: Pod’s simple average ERA projection for these pitchers was 3.58; Steamer’s was 4.09; and actual was 4.35. I’d sort of have expected POD and Steamer to be similar, at the aggregate level, possible bookends around an actual mean. I’m assuming the lively ball has something to do with the simple average actual being so much higher than Steamer OR Pod.


And POD predicted a lower than actual ERA for 11 of 13 pitchers (vs. 7 of 13 for Steamer).