On Tuesday, I shared the names of the eight starting pitchers who had seen their fastball velocities rise most versus 2020. Obviously, not every starting pitcher had made their first start yet, so let’s dive into the velocity gainers once more. I’ll exclude the names I discussed the first time, so this is an entirely new list of pitchers.
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Yesterday, I listed and discussed the starting pitchers whose fastball velocities have increased by at least 1.5 MPH versus 2020 during their first starts. This is an early indicator of a breakout, though it requires this new higher velocity level to be sustained. Let’s now move to the fastball velocity decliners. Just like the surgers might not sustain those gains all season, don’t panic just yet about these decliners. Velocity does bounce around from start to start and early in the season, it’s possible these pitchers are still building up their arm strength. However, these are big holes to climb out of, so these could be early signs of a disappointing year.
There’s not a whole lot that we could evaluate after just one pitcher start. However, one of the few things we could analyze and take action on is fastball velocity. Typically pitchers see their average fastball velocity gradually increase as the season progresses, so it’s completely normal if a pitcher is down a tick from last year, as you figure it will improve moving forward. On the other hand, since average fastball velocity immediately means something, it’s worth noting when a pitcher is already enjoying a significant bump. So let’s take a look at all the starters whose average fastball velocity in their first start has increased by at least 1.5 MPH versus 2020.
Typically after just a couple of games, we would be screaming small sample size for nearly every metric quoted as a reason to pick up or drop a player. But maxEV is different. Sure, the more batted balls, the greater chance of a hitter posting an EV that matches his maximum skill. When looking at maxEV declines, sample size definitely does matter, as all it takes is one batted ball to set that maximum. When we talk gainers, sample size is far less important. A hitter could post their max of the entire season with their first batted ball. For that reason, it’s never too early too look at the maxEV gainers so far. That max will remain at least that high all season long and could suggest an increase in power skill, which might result in a higher HR/FB rate. so let’s check out the gainers versus 2020. I required a minimum of 10 “events” last year to qualify here so we’re not seeing a gainer because he only had one or two poorly hit batted balls last season.
Yesterday, I compared starting pitcher spring training strikeout rates to Steamer projected strikeout rates to assemble a list of pitchers with potential strikeout rate upside this season. Today, let’s do the same with walk rate.
We know by now that spring training stats are almost completely meaningless. So stop looking at batting averages and ERAs and using those marks to drive draft day decisions! However, there are some metrics that do matter, pitcher strikeout and walk rates, which I discovered from a study I had conducted. So it follows that pitchers who posted significantly higher strikeout rates and/or significantly lower walk rates, and vice versa, than projected should get slight bumps (or the opposite) in their season projections.
It’s bold predictions time! Last Thursday, I shared my bold hitter league leaders, and then yesterday my bold pitcher league leaders. While those picks should add some insight, they are more for fun given the loooooong odds of getting even one of them right. On the other hand, I expected to hit on several of my bold predictions, aiming for at least two to three correct calls. Let’s dive right in.
On Thursday, I unveiled my bold hitter league leaders, which are all guaranteed to hit. Today, let’s jump over to the pitching side, where I’ll do the same for the throwers. Once again, I’ll use my Pod Projections to guide me toward players I’m more bullish on than the other projection systems. Unlike for hitters, I’ll only be sharing bold leaders in four categories. There will be no bold wins league leader named, because wins are silly and unpredictable.
Every season, in addition to posting my standard bold predictions (which I’ll publish next week), I up the ante with my bold league leaders. If you thought nailing a bold prediction was tough, the bold league leaders are even more difficult! Just getting one right is worthy of celebration. Because these are bold, I automatically disqualify players I don’t personally believe would be considered bold or is already projected to finish top five in the category. So I challenge myself and it typically causes me to bat .000, though I actually have hit on a couple over the years. This is more for fun and dreaming of what could be, rather than any serious attempt at being right. Naturally, I use my Pod Projections to identify players with that 80th-90th percentile upside to vault to the top of the category mountains.
Today, I’ll start with the bold hitting league leaders in each of the five categories, split up by league. Next Monday I’ll move on to the pitchers.
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.