Yesterday, I reviewed my preseason list of starting pitchers composed of guys my Pod Projected ERA was significantly better than Steamer’s forecast. They were my upside guys. Today, I’ll recap how the guys my projections considered as having ERA downside ended up performing. You might notice that this is half the size of the upside list, which likely owes to my projections being more optimistic on ERA on the whole.
Steamer was clearly excited about Bryan Mitchell’s move to the National League, even though his plus velocity has failed to generate strikeouts. Amazingly, not even a move to the NL cured him of his inability to induce whiffs, as his strikeout rate sat just above 11%, which is positively terrible. His SwStk% actually slipped to a career low of just 5.9%. It’s crazy that a guy who throws in the mid-90s has had so much trouble missing bats.
Steamer was more optimistic about Clayton Richard’s strikeout rate spike from 2017 being sustainable, but turns out, I almost nailed the forecast. Richard remained a worm’s worst enemy, but another season of his fly balls rocketing out of the park at a high rate, combined with an inability to strand runners, ruined his year. Not that his skills were any good (4.51 SIERA), but it explains how his ERA climbed above 5.00.
Yup, totally missed on Walker Buehler, but that’s mostly because I like to remain conservative with rookies. Buehler outperformed both my strikeout and walk rate projections, the former because I was concerned about a mediocre SwStk%. He ended up raising that SwStk% marginally, which led to a small jump in strikeout rate. However, his strikeout rate was largely driven by an inflated foul strike rate. Is that sustainable? Do you really want to bet big bucks on a high strikeout rate when you know that pitcher is relying on batters fouling off his pitches? I don’t. I don’t know what he’ll cost in 2019, and I do genuinely like his skill set, but there’s hidden strikeout rate risk here.
Jose Quintana was my most obvious strikeout rate decliner heading into the season, but Steamer clearly wasn’t looking at the same metrics as I was, projecting a mark 2% higher than mine. Sure enough, Quintana’s strikeout rate regressed right back to his pre-2017 days and even my forecast proved slightly optimistic. This was surprising though considering this was his first full season in the National League. Career worst walk and HR/FB rates kept his ERA above 4.00, though a career best BABIP allowed him to outperform his SIERA. He’ll never appear on my fantasy teams.
Alex Reyes was supposed to return from TJ surgery, which made projecting his rates a crapshoot. Sadly, he ended up throwing just four innings. Now he’ll be returning from another injury — a torn lat muscle — so once again, he’s a high upside gamble and no one really knows what’ll he do.
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.