2021 Pod vs Steamer — ERA Downside

On Monday, I shared the names of eight pitchers whose Pod Projected ERA is significantly lower than Steamer. Today, let’s flip to the ERA downside names. Remember that in aggregate, Pod ERA projections are lower than Steamer, so the gap between ERA forecasts below are a lot smaller than on the upside list. Since it’s really relative projections and calculated dollar values that matter (we care how the projections compare to the player pool, not whether the pitcher is projected for a 3.00 ERA vs a 14.00 ERA), try to ignore the small degree Pod’s ERA is higher than Steamer and remember these are the largest outliers, so if put on the same ERA scale, the difference would be greater.

I will only include those pitchers who Steamer projects for a sub-4.00 ERA.

ERA Downside
Player Pod ERA Steamer ERA Diff
Kevin Gausman 4.01 3.73 0.28
Framber Valdez 3.72 3.50 0.22
Blake Snell 3.48 3.26 0.22
A.J. Puk 3.96 3.77 0.19
Dinelson Lamet 3.58 3.40 0.18
Jacob deGrom 2.92 2.77 0.15
Yu Darvish 3.49 3.34 0.15
Jesus Luzardo 3.87 3.75 0.12

I was all in on Kevin Gausman last season and essentially called his breakout, so it’s kinda funny to find his name atop an ERA downside list. The driving force of the gap between the two ERA forecasts is that Steamer is projecting a slightly higher strikeout rate than I am, while Steamer is also by far the most optimistic about Gausman’s BABIP. In fact, it’s the only system projecting a mark below .315! My own projection calls for a .310 BABIP, so a .299 mark by Steamer is quite more bullish. Gausman owns a career .313 mark and he’s well above the 2,000 balls in play required for the rate to stabilize. In addition, his xBABIP marks I calculated from Statcast have validated his high career marks. His lowest xBABIP since 2017 is .315! So while he could surely luck his way into a .299 BABIP like he did in 2020 (his xBABIP last year was .330), and/or benefit from the solid Giants defense, the skills say he’s no sub-.300 BABIP guy.

I was bummed when Framber Valdez got injured. Obviously, you don’t want to see any human get injured, but also because I knew he would be seriously overvalued this year and the injury now reduces that overpayment. Valdez broke out last year over the same exact number of innings that he pitched in 2019. My xK% suggests he overperformed in the strikeout rate department, so already I would have expected regression there. But then add in his history and a drop in SwStk%, and suddenly I’m projecting a strikeout rate below his career average, which has been boosted by all his relief innings. My strikeout rate projection is therefore well below Steamer’s, though offset somewhat by a better walk rate. The overall skill set is still desirable though, as his extreme ground ball rate provides a huge safety net.

Steamer and I are pretty darn close on Blake Snell’s metrics, except for HR/9, where I’m a bit more bearish than them. Part of that is because I’m projecting his FB% to jump back to his career average, essentially ignoring the drop to a sub-30% rate last year, whereas Steamer is averaging out his 2019 and 2020 marks. More fly balls = more home runs, which explains our differences.

With injury after injury ravaging the former top prospect’s career, it’s anyone’s guess what we’ll get from A.J. Puk. So his projection is pretty meaningless right now. However, we know what he’s capable of, and given his cheap cost, makes for one of the better pitcher dart throws right now.

Speaking of injury, how many innings does Dinelson Lamet end up with? Steamer is a bit more bullish on Lamet’s strikeout rate than I am, as I am playing it more conservative given the questionable health of his elbow. Of course, Steamer is a computer system and has no idea there might be issues with his elbow. Depending on his cost and the depth of your league, Lamet might be worth speculating on as there is a huge reward if he remains healthy all season.

Am I the only one who is shocked to learn that Jacob deGrom is already 32 years old?? I definitely would have guessed late 20s. Even at this advanced age, Steamer is projecting the second highest strikeout rate of his career. On the other hand, I’m being far more conservative, with a mark just below 30%, for the first time since 2017. That strikeout rate forecast is just marginally below his xK% marks posted in 2018 and 2019, and higher than 2015-2017. Obviously he was amazing last year, but it came during a wacked out season and just 68 innings.

Yu Darvish suddenly found his control and posted a career low walk rate last year, en route to his second sub-3.00 ERA. Both Steamer and I aren’t buying it though, but Steamer is projecting him to hold more of his walk rate gains than I am, even though he’s already 34 years old. In addition, Steamer is projecting a higher strikeout rate than I am, as I seem to be weighing age more.

Finally, we end with the former top prospect, Jesus Luzardo, who basically performed as should have been expected last year. Both Steamer and I are forecasting a small bump in strikeout rate this year, even with a full slate of starts and no relief appearances to boost it. However, I’m projecting a bit of a worse walk rate thanks to higher xBB% marks than his actuals. In addition, Steamer is fat below everyone else, including me, on his BABIP. It’s odd, as he posted a .317 xBABIP last year, and while he has allowed a high rate of pop-ups so far, the rest of his batted ball profile is fairly league average. I’m not sure why Steamer would therefore project a .288 mark.

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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