2020 Pod vs Steamer — ERA Downside

Last Thursday, I identified and discussed six starting pitchers that my Pod Projections forecasted a significantly better ERA than Steamer. Now let’s turn to the starting pitchers my projections are forecasting a significantly worse ERA than Steamer. It is important to note that I’m clearly projecting a better run environment than Steamer, so there are far fewer pitchers I’m projecting a worse ERA for.

ERA Downside
Player Pod ERA Steamer ERA Diff
Max Fried 3.92 3.58 0.34
Nick Pivetta 4.46 4.18 0.28
Kwang-Hyun Kim 4.21 3.97 0.24
Kendall Graveman 4.94 4.76 0.18
Wade Miley 4.60 4.44 0.16

In his first full season, Max Fried enjoyed a solid year, with a sub-4.00 SIERA and an exciting set of skills with strikeouts, walk avoidance, and grounders. Fried overperformed his xK% by over a full percentage point, so I’m projecting regression this season, putting my forecast below Steamer’s on the strikeout rate front. Furthermore, this is where Steamer’s heavier regression toward the mean for the luck metrics could lead it astray, as Fried’s .336 BABIP wasn’t all bad luck…his Statcast xBABIP was actually .319. Combined with an astronomical xBABIP in 2018, there’s nothing to suggest that Fried owns even average BABIP skills. So I’m also worse than Steamer in projected BABIP. Those tie together to result in a worse projection, though still a bit better than what he actually posted last year.

Wow, Steamer is super bullish on Nick Pivetta, forecasting the lowest ERA of any projection system! And once again, a lot of that is BABIP as it’s the only one below .300. Though Pivetta has underperformed his xBABIP for three seasons running now, in two of those, his xBABIP was over .300, so it’s surprising to see any projection system, let alone the king of pitching projections, project such a low mark. It’s also projecting a big rebound in strikeout rate and part of that stems from its expectation he’ll spend more time in the bullpen than I’m expecting.

Welp, Kwang-Hyun Kim is really just an educated guess for all the projection systems, and yet it’s amazing that three of the systems (ATC, Steamer, ZiPS) are between 3.97 and 4.00 for ERA. I’m slightly lower on the strikeout rate and higher on the walk rate than Steamer. However, all these forecasts do suggest that Kim, at an ADP of 541 and the 173rd pitcher taken since the beginning of Feb, is an insane value.

Ehhh, you weren’t going to draft Kendall Graveman anyway! He actually does have fantasy potential, though, but he’d need to throw his sinker less often and focus on his secondaries more frequently. That change could result in fewer grounders, but really increase his strikeout rate, which is sorely lacking and makes him useless in fantasy leagues.

Trying to figure out which owner in your 12-team mixed league only looks ERA and doesn’t go deeper into the underlying metrics or even glance at SIERA? That owner is that one who drafts Wade Miley. That’s because Miley outperformed his SIERA by a whopping 0.82 runs last year, making him appear like a decent cheap starter in shallow leagues by ERA, but in reality, figures to be a ratio killer. A move back to the National League helps, though he landed in another hitter friendly venue that inflates home runs. Nominate him in your NL-Only league and then take a bathroom break.

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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Great article but I’d like to point out that Miley actually was considered unlucky by Statcast last year. And apparently he really deserved his awful end of the year results, because he was top 20 starter by xwOBA for the majority of the year. He would be a target of mine if not for the venue change and relatively short history of contact suppression