SIERA’s Unluckiest Starting Pitchers

On Monday, I took a look at the five pitchers whose ERAs are most below their respective SIERA marks. Today, I check in on the opposite side of the ledger, those pitchers whose ERAs are most above their SIERAs. These are the pitchers that SIERA would classify as the unluckiest, and might be undervalued in next year’s drafts.

Name K/9 BB/9 ERA SIERA Diff
Jake Arrieta 7.9 2.8 6.13 3.85 2.28
Jeff Francis 6.3 1.8 5.58 3.92 1.66
Scott Feldman 6.8 2.1 5.52 4.01 1.51
Joe Blanton 7.8 1.7 4.83 3.48 1.35
Jordan Lyles 6.5 2.8 5.40 4.07 1.33

Jake Arrieta

Arrieta’s poor luck got him sent back to the minors, and he was recently recalled to pitch in relief. Despite showing much improved skills over his two previous seasons, his ERA was easily a career worst. The terrible Orioles defense appears to have had something to do with it, as their UZR/150 ranks fourth to last in all of baseball at -5.2, likely contributing to Arrieta’s .320 BABIP. Then again, he also allowed line drives at an inflated 24.2% rate, so maybe he does deserve some of the blame. Besides all the hits on balls in play, he once again had trouble with the long ball, and was also unable to strand base runners if his life depended on it.

Pitching in a tough division and calling a ball park that inflates home runs by 9% home makes life difficult, but he clearly didn’t deserve this fate. The good news is that his fastball velocity was up a mile per hour for the season, though that didn’t lead to much of a SwStk% increase. In fact, that mark was actually below the league average, as was his F-Strike%, which somehow led to a better than average walk rate. I expect Arrieta’s luck to improve, however that should be offset by a regression in underlying peripherals. As a result, I wouldn’t look at him as a deep sleeper/breakout candidate for next year.

Jeff Francis

Francis is actually showing some pretty darn good skills, with career best ground ball and walk rates. Unfortunately, he’s back with the Rockies and it would therefore be that much more difficult to get all his luck metrics back near the league average or his career marks. Francis is actually one of those pitchers whose career BABIP is well above the league average, but again, that likely has a lot to do with the fact that he has spent nearly his entire career in Colorado. If he can ever get out of Colorado and stay out, he has a chance to earn some Only league value, but until then, he’s worthless.

Scott Feldman

Feldman’s inability to strand runners and keep them from scoring ultimately got him booted from the Rangers rotation. Before that, he was showing some pretty decent skills, with career bests in both strikeout and walk rates. Unfortunately, he was either leaving too many meatballs over the plate or just suffering from some poor fortune, as his line drive rate was a whopping 26%. He might even consider himself lucky for only allowing a .318 BABIP, but to be fair, he also induced pop-ups at a strong 15.2%. Feldman has been in and out of the Rangers rotation and has typically fared poorly, and at this point of his career, there’s little reason to expect much differently going forward.

Joe Blanton

Blanton continues to confound the stat geeks, now having posted a third straight season in which his ERA was significantly above his SIERA mark. The odd thing is that before 2010, he never had this problem and during his rookie year in 2005, he actually drastically outperformed his SIERA. So this is more of a recent problem than a trend that we could be more confident in our explanation of. The main problems stems from allowing a ton of home runs, with a HR/FB ratio of at least 12% in each of the last four years. That has also hurt his ability to strand runners, especially this year.

His SwStk% is actually up over 9% this year, just like it has been in the last two, which is above where he used to sit, no higher than 7.9%. This supports his strikeout rate spike in recent years. Combine that with fantastic control and a league average ground ball rate, and I struggle to find an explanation here. He has only posted an ERA below 4.00 twice in his career, and one of those times barely so, so it’s hard to suggest that he could be a bargain in an Only league next year. But, he’ll certainly cost you little and at least he’s shown the underlying skills necessary to do so.

Jordan Lyles

The 21-year old is already in his second season with the Astros and has shown some rather intriguing skills. I had no idea he has induced ground balls at a better than 50% clip. His velocity is up nearly two miles per hour from last season, though surprisingly his SwStk% is down to well below the league average. He has been bitten by the long ball and an inability to strand runners, which has killed his ERA and led to a second straight season with a poor ERA.

His minor league history is unimpressive so it gives us less optimism for a real breakout or even a strikeout rate spike. In addition, the Astros’ move to the American League next year will not help him. I think he has the potential to earn a couple of bucks in AL-Only leagues with a tiny chance to be really helpful, but he can be safely ignored in mixed leagues.

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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10 years ago

I understand your point, but the five pitchers listed are objectively terrible and I wouldn’t touch any of them with a ten foot pole unless is were in some bizarro league that put value on giving up tons of runs and hits.

In any case, I’d love to play in such a bizarro league.

Josh G
10 years ago
Reply to  samuelraphael

I’m currently watching the Braves game, so this is on my mind. Earlier in the year, Mike Minor would have been on this list. Sometimes the tons of runs and hits guys aren’t that bad

10 years ago
Reply to  Josh G

I don’t know, I’ve always had a respect for Joe Blanton. He’s a horse and a reliable #4 or #5 guy on most teams on most years. Don’t miscast him, he’s a major leaguer.

10 years ago
Reply to  Josh G

Blanton was actually useful in my Old Hoss League, where runs and hits dont matter, and IP, K Cg, W, and SHO are tracked.

The other guys are kids, who knows what happens.

I only see the upside of Mike Maroth

CJ in Austin, TX
10 years ago
Reply to  samuelraphael

I’ve probably watched all of Jordan Lyles’s starting assignments this year, and I wouldn’t put him in the “objectively terrible” group. He has undoubtedly been hurt by the Astros weak defense (2d worst by UZR and worst in majors by DRS). His typical game consists of very good pitching early in the game, followed by fielding misplays in the 5th inning, which mushroom into a meltdown. His ERA in the 5th inning is over 15 and his BABIP in that inning is .475. Lylles’ BABIP in high leverage situations is .404 with an OPS of 1.012. Lyles is only 21 years old. Lyles was promoted to the big leagues too early by Ed Wade, and now his player development is occurring at the ML level. Most of peers are pitching in AA at this point in their careers.

10 years ago

To be fair, Lyles IS pitching for a AA team right now.

Aaron Murray
10 years ago

But not against AA teams and that’s all that matters.