Pod vs Steamer — ERA Upside — A Review

Let’s flip back to evaluating my preseason pitcher projections. I compared my Pod Projected ERA with Steamer’s ERA projections and discussed 11 I was most bullish on. Let’s see how they performed. Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself. Also, be aware that these were the projections as of the date my post was published, which was March 6. It’s very possible that my or Steamer’s ERA projection changed from then through the beginning of the season.

Pod vs Steamer — ERA Upside
Player Pod Projected ERA Steamer Projected ERA 2018 ERA Closer?
Taijuan Walker 3.65 4.55 3.46 Pod
Ervin Santana 3.96 4.81 8.03 Steamer
Andrew Triggs 3.99 4.67 5.23 Steamer
Kyle Hendricks 3.39 4.05 3.44 Pod
Sean Manaea 3.81 4.44 3.59 Pod
Brandon McCarthy 3.86 4.46 4.92 Steamer
Michael Fulmer 3.78 4.33 4.69 Steamer
Sonny Gray 3.72 4.26 4.90 Steamer
Zack Greinke 3.31 3.84 3.21 Pod
Nathan Karns 3.93 4.45 N/A N/A
Rich Hill 3.10 3.60 3.66 Steamer

Ehhh, certainly not an embarrassment, but in no way a performance to be proud of, with just four out of 10 wins. Note that Nathan Karns failed to even pitch an inning, so he’s an N/A. Also remember that Taijuan Walker made it just 13 innings before succumbing to an elbow injury that ultimately required TJ surgery. So that’s a pathetic win.

Hmmm, so naturally with an 8.03 ERA, whoever projected the highest mark for Ervin Santana was going to be closer! He missed the majority of the season to a finger injury and was horrid over the short time he spent on the mound. His small sample win for Steamer cancels out mine for Walker.

There was a point early on I was feeling good about Andrew Triggs as a sleeper pick, but his season ended up being ruined by injury too! It can’t be easy to pitch through thoracic outlet syndrome and as we’ve seen from the few that have returned from the surgery, his future is highly questionable.

Kyle Hendricks is precisely the type of pitcher Steamer is going to routinely get wrong. Hendricks continually outperforms his underlying skills and Steamer ends up over-regressing. I almost nailed his actual ERA, as he outperformed his SIERA by a significant margin for the fourth time in five seasons.

Sean Manaea was a win, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, his season was also cut short by injury. And, his strikeout rate was highly disappointing, so although he earned more than Steamer forecasted, he didn’t exactly deliver the breakout I was hoping for.

I almost nailed Brandon McCarthy’s strikeout and walk rates, but his BABIP skyrocketed and HR/FB rate was over 20%. It’s amazing that he managed to keep his ERA just below 5.00!

Aaaaaand Michael Fulmer was yet another injury victim, but his problem is that his HR/FB rate surged, meaning his ERA finally climbed to meet his weak SIERA. I wonder how much of that was injury and how much was simply regression to the mean.

Ughhhh, don’t even get me started on Sonny Gray. He crushed several of my teams and I just don’t know what happened to him.

After a 4.37 ERA posted in 2016, Steamer wasn’t buying Zack Greinke’s 2017 return to glory. I was and I was right. Though his strikeout rate declined back toward his career average, his SIERA barely rose. However, rapidly declining fastball velocity is cause for major concern. I’m not touching him in 2019 at his likely cost.

I mentioned in my original article that Steamer was projecting a dramatic regression in Rich Hill’s strikeout rate. I didn’t indicate what that projection was, so I don’t know, but I would imagine it was much lower than what he ended up posting, 27.4%. While I ended up overprojecting his strikeout rate, it was really a HR/FB rate that suddenly spiked to its highest mark since…EVER! Amazingly, Hill has never posted a HR/FB rate above last season’s 12.5% mark.

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So hey, if you remove all the pitchers who posted poor results and missed significant time with injury, we’re left with just five names, and suddenly I win 3-2! Hooray. The Pod injury curse lives on. All it takes is a mere mention of them in a positive article to ensure they miss a big chunk of the season. I’ll keep quiet from now on.

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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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