2022 Pod vs Steamer — ERA Upside — A Review

Let’s continue reviewing the results of my Pod vs Steamer series by switching over to starting pitchers. Today, I’ll review my list of six ERA upside guys, or those whose Pod Projections were significantly better than their Steamer forecasts. Leaguewide starting pitcher ERA was at its lowest since 2014, so a list of pitchers with ERA upside should look better.

ERA Upside
Name Pod ERA Steamer ERA Diff 2022 ERA Winner
Noah Syndergaard 3.74 4.58 -0.84 3.94 Pod
Walker Buehler 3.23 4.07 -0.84 4.02 Steamer
Kyle Hendricks 4.11 4.92 -0.81 4.80 Steamer
Elieser Hernandez 4.08 4.86 -0.78 6.35 Steamer
Rich Hill 4.17 4.95 -0.78 4.27 Pod
Josiah Gray 4.25 4.93 -0.68 5.02 Steamer

Ughhhh, so much for the advantage of a better league ERA dragging down all ERA marks! But as usual, there are caveats here. Let’s dive in.

Noah Syndergaard missed the vast majority of the 2021 season after recovering from TJ surgery, so it was really a crapshoot what he was going to produce. What ended up happening was he lost some sinker velocity, threw his four-seamer less frequently, and upped the usage of his changeup and slider. The velocity loss was likely a killer, as his strikeout rate plummeted to a career low, driven by his first single digit SwStk%. Yet, he managed to post a sub-4.00 ERA, closer to my projection, thanks to a single digit HR/FB rate, fueling a SIERA outperformance. He can’t continue to succeed with such a weak strikeout rate, but it’s anyone’s guess if that will rebound any.

Walker Buehler lasted just 65 innings before his season ended to undergo TJ surgery himself. Remember how good I have been at including players on my lists that miss a significant chunk of time due to injury? Add his name to that group! Buehler’s strikeout rate was well down during his time on the mound, but his SIERA sat right where it has the previous two seasons. The difference this time was a BABIP that skyrocketed to a career worst of .312, the first time it was above .290. It’s anyone’s guess how long he was affected by the injury that ultimately cut his season short, but you have to assume that it affected his metrics and performance.

Kyle Hendricks always appeared on these lasts as he was a consistent SIERA beater. In 2021, his skills imploded and he finally posted an ERA just above his SIERA. In 2022, his skills improved marginally, but his ERA didn’t move and he actually underperformed his SIERA by a wider margin, despite posting a below league average BABIP as usual. His SIERA ended up closer to my projection, so I’ll take a fractional win here. Also don’t forget he only pitched half a season due to a shoulder injury, and it’s possible that affected his performance all year.

Gosh was this a partial season to forget for Elieser Hernandez. I thought he had some strikeout rate upside, but instead, his strikeout rate fell to its lowest since his 2018 debut. He also continued allowing a ridiculous HR/FB rate, which was exacerbated by an absurd 57.4% FB%.

So based on my original comments, Rich Hill outperformed Steamer’s pessimistic strikeout rate forecast, but underperformed mine. That said, he still came pretty close to my projection and hasn’t come anywhere close to that Steamer forecast since his renaissance starting back in 2015.

Man, Josiah Gray really disappointed me. I loved his strikeout potential and figured he would improve his walk rate given his minor league track record. Sadly, his strikeout rate declined, his walk rate remained in double digit territory, and he never received the memo that leaguewide HR/FB rate was down. His 18.6% mark matched his 2021 season and was significantly higher than the league average. All those flyballs, plus the rate at which those flies left the park, led to 2.30 HR/9, and explains how he underperformed his SIERA so significantly. Once again, I nearly nailed a pitcher’s SIERA, but some combination of a high BABIP/high HR/FB rate/low LOB% has conspired to inflate the pitcher’s ERA. I call that trio the “luck metrics” for a reason, because they bounce around every year and there’s far more luck involved than in other metrics, like strikeout and walk rates, along with GB%. He should have really benefited from this lower HR/FB rate environment. But hey, it just makes him even cheaper in NL-Only and deeped mixed leagues in 2023!

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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26 days ago

Trying to decide if Gray is worth keeping at $5 in a NL only league for 2023. His ERA/WHIP just killed me this year.