What To Do With the Other Two Aces: Bumgarner & Syndergard?

The great, powerful, and unbelievably handsome Justin of Friends With Fantasy Benefits (and of course, RotoGraphs) is hosting four early mock drafts. I am participating in one of them.

In each draft, the following four pitchers went first without exception.

Mock Draft’s Top Four Pitchers
Name Draft 1 Draft 2 Draft 4 Average
Kershaw 11 4 8 8
Scherzer 12 12 14 13
Sale 13 15 19 16
Kluber 15 27 15 19

Last season in NFBC drafts, these four were included with the first six pitchers drafted on average. While Kershaw and Scherzer were 1st and 2nd in each draft, Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard were taken, on average, before Chris Sale and Corey Kluber. Both Bumgarner (bruised ribs, strained shoulder) and Syndergaard (torn lat muscle) missed most of the 2017 season. Because of their current injuries and unknown future health, their ADP has fallen in these four mocks.

Bumgarner’s & Syndergaard’s 2018 ADP
Name Draft 1 Draft 2 Draft 4 Average
Bumgarner 31 38 24 31
Syndergaard 36 33 37 35

The trepidation about owning them is understandable but owners still need to value the pair. It’s not going to be easy.

Madison Bumgarner

Bumgarner projection should be easier of the pair to figure out with 13 games under his belt after returning from his motorcycle accident. Overall, his season-long numbers are the worst in years with his strikeouts at a 7-year low and home runs at an eight-year high. His season has been a tale of two halves.

Bumgarner’s Two Halves
Stat Before DL After DL
ERA 3.00 3.43
xFIP 2.60 4.38
K/9 9.3 7.8
FB Velo 92.1 90.6
SwStr% 11.1% 10.0%
BB/9 1.3 1.7
HR/9 0.7 1.6

With his velocity down, his strikeouts are down and his home runs are up as expected.

Now for the good news, his velocity has ticked up slowly and averaged 91.8 mph in his last start.

As his velocity as has increased so has his swinging strikes. If he can keep up the velocity during spring training (pitch tracking available in Arizona for Giant pitchers), I expect him to be fine.

Projections won’t incorporate this improvement into their projections. Additionally, he’ll have his projection regressed more to the league average since he didn’t pitch a full season.

Owners are going to need to give his 2018 projections a manual bump up. I think I may use values close to his 2017 projections.

Bumgarner’s 2017 Projections
Stat Steamer ATC ZiPS Average
ERA 3.20 2.96 2.81 2.99
K/9 9.41 9.65 9.65 9.57
WHIP 1.12 1.06 1.05 1.08

Besides the stats, an injury for a pitcher usually means another injury down the road. I asked my Twitter followers how many 2018 starts they expected.

Over 75% expect 27 or more. My guess was 30, so there is a consensus that he will be back and throwing most of the time. Owners who estimate his games started on the low end should just not expect to own him.


Noah Syndergaard

It’ll be tough for owners to correctly value Syndergaard next year. Owners will have two innings of post-injury production to formulate their offseason projections.

Here’s what we know. In his one inning of work, he averaged 98.8 mph on his fastball with his season average at 98.2 mph. For at least this single inning his velocity was back. I’m not going to predict the small improvement sticks because most pitchers can ramp up the velocity for one inning.

He did drop his release point some but previously he’s effectively thrown from a lower release point.

Besides the extra inning of work he’ll get this weekend, that’s all the info owners will have on his production until spring training.

Like Bumgarner, Syndergaard’s projections will get regressed down more toward the league average because of the time missed. Potential owners may want to bump up his projections.

The biggest key will be going in with a good playing time estimate. Again, I asked my Twitter followers for what they expected and their answers were lower.

I’d eyeball the crowd’s estimate to about 23 starts. My gut would go a few more to the 26 to 28 range.

I decided to take the analysis one step further and find pitchers with torn lats and see how many starts they made the next season.

The Mets pitching/training staff strikes again.

I decided to extend the study out to include any pitcher with a lat issue and here’s the list.

Pitchers with Lat Injuries
Name GS IP DL Season DL Days Lat Injury
Steven Matz 22 132 2015 57 Partial tear
Stephen Strasburg 34 215 2013 15 Strain
Aaron Sanchez 30 192 2015 49 Strain
James Paxton 13 67 2014 115 Strain
Hisashi Iwakuma 33 199 2015 76 Strain
Gerrit Cole 32 208 2014 46 Sore
Matt Garza 27 163 2013 102 Strain
Matt Garza 22 113 2016 72 Strain
Jordan Zimmermann 28 154 2016 32 Tight
Ryan Dempster 29 171 2012 44 Tight
Brad Penny 31 181 2010 134 Strain
Julio Teheran 31 182 2016 17 Strain
Johnny Cueto 34 243 2013 115 Strain
Dillon Gee 7 39 2014 59 Strain
Eric Stults 33 203 2012 96 Strain
Andrew Cashner 26 175 2012 54 Strain
Doug Fister 15 103 2014 39 Strain
Average 26 161 66
Median 29 175 57

The strain numbers make the future look better but it was torn. I’m going to revise my anticipated starts down to the crowd estimates.

With the anticipated fewer starts, his value will fluctuate depending on the league depth. In shallow leagues where the replacement level pitcher is better, he’ll have more value. In NL-only leagues where he’s going to be replaced with a middle reliever, his value drops significantly. His health could make or break a team.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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I am not a medical professional, but is not a strain a tear? So the difference in terminology could be a matter of degree, or simply what word the team doctor (or FO guy writing the press release) wanted to use.