2023 Projection Showdown — THE BAT vs Steamer Starting Pitcher Projected $ Value, Part 2, A Review

Today we move on to reviewing Steamer’s favorite starting pitchers compared to THE BAT. As a reminder, Steamer actually proved closer in projected dollar value than THE BAT for all six of the latter’s favorites. Will THE BAT sweep Steamer’s favorites? Let’s find out.

Steamer’s Undervalued Starting Pitchers
Name THE BAT $ Value* Steamer $ Value* Actual $ Value Closer System
Blake Snell 7.52 22.08 32.86 Steamer
Chris Sale 6.24 18.97 4.09 THE BAT
Alex Cobb 0.55 12.81 -5.82 THE BAT
Shane McClanahan 25.90 37.43 12.63 THE BAT
Hunter Greene 1.00 10.57 -13.27 THE BAT
Nick Lodolo 5.86 15.39 #N/A THE BAT
*Updates to the default FanGraphs auction calculator as follows: 6 SP and 3 RP

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

It was almost another clean sweep, once again for the system that was more bearish! But the one win for Steamer was quite an impressive one.

In his third season with the Padres, Blake Snell posted the second lowest ERA of his career and second time it finished below 3.00. However, it’s interesting to note that he also posted his highest SIERA since 2018, which is the year before his strikeout rate took off! His xERA was a bit better, but still tells of a pitcher who benefited from significant good fortune. His .256 BABIP was his second best, only trailing behind the mark he posted in 2018, his first sub-3.00 ERA (and sub-2.00!), while he posted the second highest LOB% over a full season in his career, far higher than his career average. His strikeout rate remained stable, but his walk rate skyrocketed to a career worst.

Obviously, the projection systems could not forecast such good luck here, and it’s possible THE BAT would have proved closer if Snell had posted luck metrics closer to his career averages, along with an ERA closer to his SIERA and xERA marks. As much as I love his stuff given consistently strong SwStk% marks, he will almost surely be overvalued next season.

Another year, another chunk of missed starts for Chris Sale. He managed to make just 20 starts this year thanks to shoulder inflammation, but a low LOB% inflated his ERA. The good news is that excluding last year’s tiny sample size, his fastball velocity was up, at its highest since 2018. With an above career average SwStk% as well, his stuff seems to have remained excellent. I’m buying next year, especially in shallow leagues where it’ll be much easier to replace him when his annual IL stint strikes.

How did Alex Cobb post a 3.87 ERA, just barely worse than the previous two seasons, and still finish in negative dollar value territory? Well for one, his strikeout rate slipped after his two highest marks the previous two years. His SwStk% dropped to its lowest since 2018, despite maintaining his velocity gains experienced in 2022. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the Giants offense clearly bet the Under on his Win total. Recording just seven wins over 28 starts, despite a sub-4.00 ERA, is sad. It’s unfortunate it has such an impact on dollar values earned given how much luck influences the total. He underwent hip surgery on Halloween and figures to miss most of the first month of the season. So in shallow leagues, he’ll likely end up undrafted or a late reserve pick. While I like him to earn more value per start than he did this year, the meh strikeout rate means I’m not really interested.

Even over just 115 innings, it’s hard to believe that Shane McClanahan earned just about half of what THE BAT forecasted over a full season. But, he was actually relatively disappointing, at least for him, before injury struck, and ultimately ended his season early, requiring TJ surgery. While his walk rate did jump to a career worst, the drop in strikeout rate was more surprising. It’s bizarre too because his SwStk% was ever so slightly higher than his 2022, which represented a new career high. His called strike rate dropped, but CSW% was almost identical to 2021 and not that much lower than last year. So I think he deserved better results. Still, it’s shocking to see both SIERA and xERA marks just over 4.00. Here’s to hoping he returns from the surgery as good as ever, but it’s anyone’s guess how he’ll recover.

After a strong September in 2022, Hunter Greene pushed himself onto sleeper lists everywhere. Because he dramatically underperformed his underlying skills and SIERA, Steamer was a big fan of his heading into 2023. Instead, he dealt with injury, but disappointed again while taking the mound. For the second straight year, he significantly underperformed both his SIERA and xERA. While those two metrics diverged in 2022, with xERA suggesting his contact against made him more deserving of the 4.00+ ERA than SIERA suggested, the two systems mostly agreed on where his ERA should have landed this year. While he once again allowed an inflated HR/FB rate, this time his BABIP ballooned, jumping from better than league average in 2022 to far worse this year. His strikeout and walk rates remained pretty stable, but the extreme FB% meant he deal with a case of gopheritis, which makes his home park a bad spot to pitch in. I think he clearly needs a third pitch, but I still have to think that his ERA will move closer to his skills as his luck neutralizes, making him a sleeper yet again.

A leg injury cut Nick Lodolo’s season short, limiting him to just 34.1 innings. He was so bad in those seven starts that he didn’t even make the top 230 starting pitchers in the auction calculator! Like Greene, Lodolo was also seemingly let down by the Reds defense, as his .435 BABIP was absurd. Sure enough, the Reds ranked 26th in DEF rating, 19th in UZR/150, and 20th in BABIP allowed. So it’s clear that the defense wasn’t helping here, but you gotta assume with a larger sample, Lodolo’s BABIP would have improved. With a killer slider and a changeup that generated a higher SwStk% this year, I’m a fan here. I was actually verrrrrrrrry closer to trying to buy low on him this season while he was on the IL, but ultimately failed to make an offer as his return date was up in the air. I’m a buyer in 2024.

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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