2023 Projection Showdown — THE BAT vs Steamer Starting Pitcher Projected $ Value, Part 1, A Review

After finishing our review of projected hitter dollar value compared to actual, let’s now skip on over to starting pitchers. We’ll start by reviewing THE BAT’s favorite starters, with projected dollar values significantly higher than Steamer.

THE BAT’s Undervalued Starting Pitchers
Name THE BAT X $ Value* Steamer $ Value* Actual $ Value Closer System
Julio Urías 27.30 7.73 4.54 Steamer
Alek Manoah 21.04 8.75 -31.89 Steamer
Cristian Javier 21.97 10.58 -4.07 Steamer
Sandy Alcantara 29.01 19.48 -2.79 Steamer
Joe Ryan 12.67 4.10 6.67 Steamer
Max Fried 21.37 15.08 11.85 Steamer
**Updates to the default FanGraphs auction calculator as follows: 6 SP and 3 RP

Any pitcher projected for a projected dollar value below 0 was adjusted to 0. We don’t really care if a pitcher is projected for -4 or -12 and it messes with the comparison.

It’s another runaway win for the more pessimistic projection system! This time, Steamer takes the cake on all six starting pitchers. Amazingly, THE BAT did really well at picking a plethora of this season’s starting pitcher busts. Let’s find out what happened.

Julio Urías recorded just 117.1 innings after missing time to a hamstring injury and then legal trouble cut his season short. But when he pitched, he endured the worst season of his career. Despite an almost identical strikeout rate to last year and the lowest walk rate of his career, his ERA skyrocketed and more than doubling. The spike was driven by a HR/FB rate that surged to a career worst and a LOB% that fell back to Earth after a mid-80% mark in 2022. Both his SIERA and xERA agreed he was worse this year, but he probably deserved better results. While I am slightly concerned about his velocity trend, everything else looks fine, making him an excellent rebound candidate.

It was quite obvious that Alek Manoah was quite fortunate in 2022 and was due for some major regression. But no one saw this coming. Sure, his luck metrics turned the other way, but his underlying skills also took a massive hit. While his strikeout rate slipped below 20%, perhaps the bigger issue was his walk rate, which more than doubled to a shocking 14.2%. His fastball velocity was also down a mile per hour, but it’s hard to believe the decline was the sole trigger of the loss of control. There was no word of any arm injuries, so the hope is he could recover.

Cristian Javier had significantly overperformed his SIERA heading into the season, but that all changed this year. His BABIP spiked to a career worst, though still below the league average, while his LOB% fell below 80% for the first time. Of course, it wasn’t just the luck metrics that regressed, his skills did as well. His strikeout rate fell just over ten percentage points, which isn’t great when combined with a worse than average walk rate and a skyhigh FB%. That means more baserunners, so more multi-run home runs, which is a killer. Like Manoah, Javier also lost velocity on his fastball, though being a full-time starter this year likely explains some of that loss. Since he sports a double digit SwStk% on his fastball, the pitch is vitally important to his success, so he can’t afford to lose anything else on it. It’s anyone’s guess if and how much his strikeout rate rebounds next year, but he does have the batted ball profile to maintain a low BABIP.

Add Sandy Alcantara to the list of starting pitchers who overperformed his underlying skills in 2022 and ended up seeing significantly more regression than expected this year. But like Manoah, it wasn’t all luck regression, as his skills also declined. His strikeout rate fell just below 20%, which is really shocking for a guy who averaged 98.1 MPH with his four-seam fastball and 97.7. MPH with his sinker. His 12.3% SwStk% is plenty good, so it’s mostly been a lack of called strikes that have held his strikeout rate back. I do like this skill set, as it comes with a higher than average GB% and good control, and every season is another chance to experience a strikeout rate surge.

Despite below average velocity on his fastball, Joe Ryan has managed strong strikeout rates throughout his professional career. This year, his strikeout rate jumped off his first full season in 2022, while he improved his walk rate. Good news, right? Well, his BABIP surged over .300, despite an extreme FB%, and HR/FB rate jumped into the mid-teens. It all added up to underperforming both his SIERA and xERA by around a full run. I’m not confident he can maintain that strikeout rate given that he posted a 15.5% SwStk% on his four-seamer, which will be very difficult to repeat. However, he should remain good enough in that department, and assuming his luck neutralizes, his ERA should get back below 4.00 and potentially make him a good buy.

Injury delayed the start of Max Fried’s season and he ultimately ended up throwing just 77.2 innings. He was excellent once again, finishing with ratios and a strikeout rate rather similar to his 2022 season. I would imagine if he lasted all year at this performance level, THE BAT would have proven closer in dollar value.

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.

Comments are closed.