Starting Pitcher xERA Overperformers — Jun 27, 2022

On Thursday, I reviewed the starting pitchers that had most underperformed their Statcast xERA marks. Now let’s review the overperformers. This group has likely posted BABIP, LOB%, and HR/FB rate marks significantly better than the league average. So let’s find out who might experience some serious ERA inflation over the rest of the way.

xERA Overperformers
Michael Wacha 18.5% 7.3% 0.227 84.5% 10.3% 2.34 4.39 -2.05
Cole Irvin 16.5% 6.0% 0.281 80.6% 10.8% 3.29 5.27 -1.98
Zach Plesac 16.0% 5.4% 0.275 70.7% 12.0% 4.17 6.10 -1.93
Beau Brieske 16.6% 6.9% 0.239 81.8% 15.9% 4.07 5.87 -1.80
Chris Archer 18.6% 9.9% 0.233 78.9% 11.1% 3.14 4.84 -1.70
Yusei Kikuchi 25.5% 13.5% 0.298 73.9% 21.3% 5.08 6.74 -1.66
Logan Gilbert 24.9% 7.0% 0.276 82.2% 8.5% 2.44 3.99 -1.55

Michael Wacha has posted the fifth lowest BABIP among pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched! This comes after he posted an inflated .312 mark last year, .366 over a small sample the year before, and .313 mark in 2019. It’s shocking, to say the least, considering his high 24% LD%, which is well above the league average. His LOB% also sits at a career high, most certainly driven by the low BABIP. With a below average strikeout rate and the lowest CSW% of his career, continuing to start him is playing with fire. The beginning of an implosion can happen in any start now.

In my AL-Only keeper league, I nominated Cole Irvin for a buck late because I expected someone to go two and I thought it was too early to nominate a pitcher I actually wanted, out of fear I would be outbid. Surprisingly, no one outbid me and I got saddled with him for a buck. I wasn’t happy and dropped him as soon as I was able to. Of course, 12 starts later, he’s made me look foolish by posting a 3.29 ERA. Yet, both xERA and SIERA think his season has been built on a heap of good fortune. With no strikeout ability and a sad sack offense trying to provide him with run support to record a win, I still wouldn’t pick him up if he landed back in free agency in that very same AL-Only keeper league I dropped him in at the start of the season.

I figured Zach Plesac’s strikeout rate has to improve somewhat after collapsing last year post-2020 small sample breakout. It hasn’t happened, and his strikeout rate has fallen even further. Luckily, good luck has been on his side this year, as he’s yet another who has been fooling nobody, but has escaped without completely wrecking his fantasy owners’ ratios. With his fastball velocity down at a career low, I’ve lost any hope that he’ll be a fantasy asset this year. I have no idea where his 2020 came from and what happened to the skills that drove it, but it looks more and more like a fluke at this point.

Gosh, all these pitchers look the same, as Beau Brieske is yet another who strikes out few, but has skated by thanks to some really great luck. It’s hard to believe he has posted a .239 BABIP, though a low LD% and high FB% have something to do with it. And of course, the low BABIP has helped him strand runners at a greater than 80% clip. His ERA is already just above 4.00, so I’d be scared out of my mind if I were an owner to see what happens when his batted ball luck disappears.

Chris Archer is another pitcher I picked up when he returned from injury this year, but eventually dropped him in one league given his awful underlying skills, and the fact he hadn’t pitched more than four innings in a start. That he’s allowed just four runs over his last five starts has now gotten him added in leagues, even while his skills still stink. His velocity, which has remained well down from his peak years all season long, but up a bit from last year, hasn’t improved at all in his recent starts to suggest his better results are driven by an improvement in pitch quality. I’ve been an Archer supported for years now, but his skills are weak, his velocity remains down, and he hasn’t recorded more than 5.0 innings in a start yet. If you’re looking under the hood, you wouldn’t be adding him.

Wow! Yusei Kikuchi has already posted a disappointing 5.08 ERA, and yet Statcast thinks that ERA should be even higher! It’s pretty shocking considering his HR/FB rate stands at an absurd 21.3%, so how much higher could that possibly reach?! I’m an owner in one league that has no bench, so I have to either keep crossing my fingers that he turns things around or drop him. I’ve stuck with the former and will continue to do so, despite his appearance on this list. His command problems seem fixable, though that doesn’t mean they will be fixed.

It’s easy to assume that Logan Gilbert is having the big breakout year we all expected he was capable of. But it’s really been just luck reversion. His underlying skills are nearly identical to last year. Actually, his strikeout rate has declined, while his walk rate has increased, but a suppressed BABIP and surging LOB% have turned his ERA around. I totally understand how hard it might be to trade him if I were an owner. But I think that would be a good move, as I would guess his perceived value is sky high right now.

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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1 year ago

Beautiful stuff☺️👌