While I use the Statcast hitting leaderboards and metrics often, I rarely do for pitchers. I think it’s because there has been much less research performed and shared on the explanatory and predictive powers of the metrics. So I’ve just stuck with underlying skills, SIERA, and my xK% and xBB% metrics. I’m not here to run a study, but figured it was still worth diving into the xwOBA to try uncovering some pitchers likely to improve over the rest of the season.
Man, between getting hurt and only throwing more than 155 innings once over his career and posting an inflated BABIP every single season since his 2015 debut, Noah Syndergaard has been both disappointing and not. For all his issues, he still sports a career ERA of 3.11, which is fantastic, to go along with a 27% strikeout rate. But he has posted a BABIP of at least .320 since 2016 and his career mark sits at .315. Aside from the high BABIP, his HR/FB has nearly doubled from last year, while his LOB% has plummeted to below 70%. Luckily for his owners, xwOBA expects much better things moving forward. Remember, if you want to argue that Syndergaard is somehow prone to a high BABIP due to poor command within the zone or whatever, xwOBA already accounts for the quality of contact. A ball isn’t going to fall for a hit more often than another ball with the same velocity, angle, etc characteristics just because the location of the pitch was worse. So yeah, Syndergaard is a pretty obvious acquisition target and RoS improver.
Sure, Ivan Nova deserves some better fate, but even improved fate won’t be any good for fantasy owners. A 15.6% strikeout rate simply won’t get it done.
Geez, Blake Snell is the third unluckiest starter and the baseline is already a low .271 wOBA?! Silly me for thinking he was overvalued heading into the season.
There’s Stephen Strasburg, another in the mold of Syndergaard who seems like a disappointment for his career, but really hasn’t been. Injuries have been frustrating, but this year he has upped the usage of his curve and his strikeout rate and SwStk% have surged. For as long as he’s healthy, I continue to treat him like a top tier starter.
Clearly park plays a role in Dylan Bundy’s underperformance, but a .336 wOBA ain’t very good anyway. It’s dangerous to be an extreme fly ball pitcher in this environment. Combine that with a 20% HR/FB rate thanks partly due to a homer friendly home venue, and you end up with a HR/9 above two! If he ever got out of Baltimore, either to a pitcher friendly park in the AL or in the NL, I’m all over him.
It’s been a true Jekyll and Hyde type season for Carlos Carrasco, as he has allowed six runs twice, four runs twice, and 0 runs four times. His skills are as strong as ever, but the BABIP is skyhigh that xwOBA thinks is a bit of a fluke. It’s probably too late to get him at a discount, but it couldn’t hurt to try.
It’s crazy that Jose Urena, armed with a fastball that averages 96 MPH owns a career 15.8% strikeout rate. He’s been unlucky according to xwOBA, sure, but even a neutral luck Urena isn’t any good. He vastly outperformed his skills the last two seasons, deceiving some fantasy owners into thinking he was worthy of attention. He’s not.
Some bad luck conspired against Collin McHugh and got him banished back to the Astros bullpen. He’s still worth holding in deep mixed and AL-Only leagues as he should still provide value in his new role.
I’ve never been a fan of the fastball heavy Lance Lynn, but there’s some intrigue here as his fastball velocity is suddenly at a career best, while he has swapped out sinkers for non-sinkers. While that means I like him a little better than I did, it still doesn’t make him roster-worthy pitching half his games in Texas.
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.