2023 Projection Showdown — THE BAT vs Steamer Starting Pitcher ERA, Part 3

Today, let’s continuing comparing starting pitcher ERA forecasts as part of our 2023 projection showdown, pitting THE BAT against Steamer. This time, I’ll discuss the next six names on each system’s leaderboard. Today, we’ll jump back to THE BAT’s favorites. If you forgot who their top six bullish names were, here’s a refresher.

THE BAT Starting Pitcher ERA Favorites
Name THE BAT ERA Steamer ERA ERA Diff
Josiah Gray 4.64 4.87 -0.23
Tony Gonsolin 4.18 4.37 -0.20
Domingo Germán 4.26 4.45 -0.18
Joe Ryan 4.03 4.19 -0.17
José Urquidy 4.44 4.60 -0.16
Nestor Cortes 3.81 3.95 -0.13

Josiah Gray was one of my favorite sleepers heading into last season, but he failed to take a step forward. Neither system is projecting him to actually be worth drafting, with mid-to-high 4.00 ERA marks, but that doesn’t mean he should remain completely off your radar. What’s really interesting here is that THE BAT is forecasting the lowest ERA among systems, but also projects the lowest strikeout rate, and it ain’t close! You don’t see that often. The big difference here is BABIP, as THE BAT is down at .262, while the next most bullish system is up at .274. Steamer is all the way up at .287! Gray is an extreme fly ball pitcher, who both induces pop-ups and also has allowed much better than league average LD% marks. All that spells low BABIP and during his short career, his career BABIP sits at .254.

However, he’s been crushed by home runs, as his HR/FB rate has settled at exactly 18.6% in his first two seasons. Both systems are projecting near identical HR/9 rates, so this really just comes down to BABIP. I have a hard time projecting anyone for a .262 mark, but I definitely think his mark will finish closer to what THE BAT is projecting than Steamer. Overall, I easily lean closer to THE BAT’s ERA forecast and still think there’s additional upside here.

Tony Gonsolin has broken SIERA. He has handily overperformed the ERA estimator by an incredible degree in each of his four stints with the Dodgers. He has overperformed his xERA as well, but to a lesser degree than SIERA, suggesting that perhaps there’s some real BABIP and HR/FB suppression skills here. On the whole though, it’s clear that the expected ERA metrics are dumbfounded. The funny thing is that while THE BAT is more bullish than Steamer, the two systems are actually the highest among the projections! THE BAT’s walk rate forecast is highest among all, but what’s pushing its ERA projection lower than Steamer is…you guessed it…BABIP. Gonsolin has posted a microscopic .223 BABIP over his short career, despite only a minor fly ball tendency and actually a rather low IFFB%. It’s a wonder how he’s been able to do what he’s done. THE BAT projects significant regression here, but still gives him some credit, while Steamer completely ignores his history and forecasts a BABIP higher than league average! Again, I have to go with THE BAT here as Steamer is known to over-regress these edge cases.

With the injury to Carlos Rodón (yup, already my LABR team is crumbling!), Domingo Germán now has a rotation spot. His strikeout rate has been in freefall, declining every season since his 2017 debut. None of the systems are particularly optimistic about a big rebound, but THE BAT is a bit more bullish than Steamer, which is barely projecting a bounce from his sub-20% mark last year. In addition, THE BAT is forecasting the lowest BABIP of the bunch, while Steamer is highest. Germán has posted a very similar batted ball distribution as Gonsolin, though with a higher IFFB%, and has posted a career BABIP of .272. THE BAT’s BABIP forecast is just below that, while Steamer is well above. I think I would project somewhere in the middle, but I side with the more bullish strikeout projection of THE BAT just given his history, and THE BAT’s ERA projection as a result.

Joe Ryan enjoyed a nice first full season, with an interesting skillset featuring the second highest FB% among pitchers with at least 140 innings. That came with a high IFFB% too, which means lots and lots of pop-ups, resulting in a low BABIP. With relatively similar strikeout and walk rate forecasts, we find once again that BABIP is causing disagreement. THE BAT is the low system on the totem pole at .267, while Steamer is highest at .282. Ryan actually posted an almost identical xERA as actual last year, suggesting his batted ball profile did justify his low BABIP. He has posted a FB% over 50% for much of his professional career, so I see no reason to believe that’ll come down all that much. So assuming a similar batted ball distribution, I have to bet on his BABIP finishing closer to THE BAT’s projection, which means I easily side with its ERA, though think even that will prove too high.

José Urquidy is yet another fly ball pitcher that has posted low BABIP marks throughout his career and Steamer struggles with. However, the BABIP forecasts are actually not as far apart as the previous pitchers. Still, Steamer is highest here, with a mark that would easily represent a new career high. It’s interesting that all the systems are projecting a career worst ERA. It’s also surprising that he recorded the highest fastball velocity of his career last year, and yet his strikeout rate fell below 20%, while his CSW% finished at a career low. I still feel like there’s strikeout rate upside here, but he’s a big risk if the strikeouts don’t come, as all those flies could lead to a ton of home runs.

Can you guess how Nestor Cortes ended up here? I hope so given the theme of these names! Cortes is yet another extreme fly ball pitcher who has posted a better than league average BABIP throughout his career. THE BAT believes it, Steamer does not. His xERA shows a much smaller gap compared to his actual ERA than does his SIERA, suggesting again that he was mostly deserving of a low BABIP. Obviously, no one expects him to post a .232 mark again or anywhere close, but I think Steamer’s .282 forecast is far too bearish. All the projections forecast some major ERA regression, so picking THE BAT over Steamer to prove closer in ERA is an easy call.

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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