Six Starting Pitcher Targets According to SIERA (Jun 2019) — A Review

It’s always fun to look back at early season performances that surprised and check on how those players performed the rest of the way. Did they continue to surprise or regress closer to what we expected to begin with? I would say that the majority of the time, it’s the latter. In early June, I identified and discussed six starting pitchers severely underperforming their SIERA marks that I believed to make for good acquisition targets. Remember that SIERA isn’t a projection, but rather backwards looking. So if the pitcher’s skills deteriorated over the rest of the season, he obviously would not have made for a good target. Let’s see how they performed the rest of the way.

SIERA Underperformers
Name SIERA Through Jun 4 SIERA RoS ERA Through Jun 4 ERA RoS ERA Diff
Carlos Carrasco 3.33 3.64 4.98 6.60 1.62
Chris Sale 3.05 2.81 4.35 4.44 0.09
Gerrit Cole 2.73 2.46 3.94 1.67 -2.27
Eduardo Rodriguez 3.90 4.44 4.88 3.28 -1.60
Noah Syndergaard 3.96 3.95 4.83 3.89 -0.94
Zack Wheeler 3.81 4.37 4.68 3.50 -1.18

Overall, four of the six pitchers posted significantly better ERA marks over the rest of the season than they did through June 4.

I initially kept Carlos Carrasco in the table, because at the time, all we knew is that he was suffering from a blood condition, with no sense of when or if he might return. Now we know that it was leukemia, but he did eventually return, throwing 15 relief innings in September. Obviously, his results here should be ignored.

Chris Sale also had an excuse, as his season was ultimately cut short with elbow inflammation. How long was this bothering him for and how much did it affect his performance? We know his velocity was down the majority of the year, and all the rules are broken when an injury is involved. If we are confident Sale is healthy to start 2020, he will potentially be a massive draft day bargain.

With such sterling peripherals, it was shocking that Gerrit Cole’s ERA stood near 4.00 through two months of the season. Eventually, his bad luck turned around and he posted a microscopic sub-2.00 ERA the rest of the way. And if you thought there was little chance he would repeat that breakout 34.5% strikeout rate from 2018, you were wrong (I was one of those doubters)! His strikeout rate surged even higher to an unthinkable 39.9% for the season, a new single season record…easily topping the now second place mark of 37.5%. Wow.

Eduardo Rodriguez was a nice little under the radar buy after two months as he wouldn’t have cost much and he should have been expected to at least deliver a bit of shallow mixed league value the rest of the way. Instead, while his skills actually declined, his ERA dropped 1.60 runs, and he was a strong asset in all league formats.

Even though Noah Syndergaard was due for some better fortune, which he delivered on, his skills were still far weaker than expected. That rest of season ERA, while improved, wasn’t what fantasy owners paid for. One of his biggest problems right now is suppressing hits on balls in play, as his BABIP has stood above .300 in three of four full seasons, and sits at .314 for his career. You just don’t expect that from a guy with such seemingly quality stuff.

Syndergaard’s teammate Zack Wheeler was in a similar poor fortune situation, and he improved as well, delivering an even better rest of season ERA. But like E-Rod above, Wheeler’s skills actually declined during that time period. With middling SwStk% marks, I don’t see a whole lot of additional upside. As a free agent, his ultimate value will depend heavily on his landing spot, of course.

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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2 years ago

Wheeler’s performances bounced around by month. He had an awful stretch at the beginning of August, after missing two starts at the end of July. He came back strong in September. Pretty much coincided with throwing fewer fastballs.